Thinking Poker Podcast Episode 4 Featuring Martin Harris

Martin Harris is better known in the poker world as Short-Stacked Shamus, author of the Hard-Boiled Poker blog. Martin is also a freelance writer, contributing to both Poker News‘ WSOP coverage and the PokerStars blog, and an adjunct associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he teaches Poker in American Film and Culture. Last but not least, he’s the author of the novel Same Difference, available wherever fine books are sold online, though you can get an autographed copy if you buy it through Martin’s web site.

We discussed Al Alvarez’s The Biggest Game in Town. At the end of the interview, Martin also recommended Fast Company: How Six Master Gamblers Defy the Odds – and Always Win┬áby Jon Bradshaw.

Half Undressed provided this week’s music. You can learn more about the band and download “Stay Ugly” and more of their music from their website. You can also hear them perform live at New York City’s Cake Shop this Wednesday.

As always, we’re eager for feedback, so please let us know what you thought of this episode here in the comments section or by e-mailing us.

12 thoughts on “Thinking Poker Podcast Episode 4 Featuring Martin Harris

  1. The term meta-rational seems to be pretty technical for this podcast in that to most, who speak in imprecise layman’s terms, it would seem rational to be meta-rational, in the way they use the former. Like your heady clarification of the term ‘commercial’ in this episode, you might just turn your pretentious detector up a notch on that one.

    This was the best episode so far I thought.

    • Do you mean that the on-the-fly gloss was pretentious? Or that we should define other pretentious terms? What should I be detecting?

      Thanks for the comments, especially critical ones.

      • I wouldn’t claim it was pretentious but you should be wary of appearing pretentious. That is one risk you guys are going to be taking in striving to provide more meaningful content than your typical podcast. Using obscure terms when it is unnecessary is a good way to be identified as speaking from upon high.

        The phrase “meta-rational deficiencies,” was just a throwaway this episode. I could be wrong but I believe it was defined in a previous episode but not this one.

        I know using a homespun phrase in place of diction as precise as meta-rational may seem anathema to someone living in an ivory tower… but not all your audience is going to react well to the idea that their subscribing to “philosophical musings from the ivory tower.”

        • Yeah, that’s good feedback. Again, much appreciated. It’s certainly a risk we run, but at some point we have to sit back and have an honest conversation, and at that point you can’t really help but use the words that come to mind. As it happens, “fucking” and “metarational” are two that come to my mind very often.

          • I think it’s part of Nate’s charm that words like metarational spring to his tongue unheeded, but I can also see how some might not find that charming.

            • I too admit I am quite charmed by Nate. What’s not to like? I would only ever offer criticism to something worth criticizing. It is a compliment really. Of course, there isn’t much more fault to find in the podcast :).

  2. Good episode, I like the variety of the guests and the discussion topics so far.

    One comment on playing vs. different positions at the table. What I’ve noticed that happens at $1/$2 tables alot with weak players is that people play more against the other side of the table and you get this left side vs. right side of the table mentality. They play pretty straightforward against the people sitting next to them because they want to get along and be social.

    Interesting comment about bridge players. I would hope that I’m not guilty of what you describe. Although, I would say that your comment applies to the bad and set in your way bridge players. The good players know the situations where you can use deception (legally) in bridge to your advantage. There are a few really good poker players that are world class bridge players (thorladen and johnnykran to name two).

    • Interesting! I’m certainly no bridge expert. Actually I think that a top-quality bridge player will usually be better than almost all poker players at many poker skills. I just mean that as game theorists sometimes fall into the trap of worrying about optimality first and EV-maximization second, bridge players sometimes fall into the trap of viewing betting as a kind of bidding where a primary goal is to communicate.

      Much more could be said here! I wouldn’t be surprised if future episodes discussed the relationships between other games and poker in more detail.

      Thanks for the comments, as always.

    • Thanks, Dana. Your point about getting friendly with people adjacent to you and expecting that from your opponents is a good one. It’s rarely the only reason I socialize with my neighbors at the table, but even so I can’t help feeling a bit cynical when I start thinking things like, “OK he likes and trusts me, now how can I use that against him?”

  3. I don’t know too much about bridge myself, but I thought the idea that bridge players might skew towards being communicative with their moves was really compelling. It got me wondering about similar effects from other games. One admittedly thin one might be that competitive Magic: the Gathering players might skew towards checking back flops/turns with weak or medium-strength hands in position to get free cards, as some prominent heuristics in Magic strategy involve waiting to see what cards are drawn before accounting for them in your planning for future turns, as well as placing an inherent value on drawing/seeing more cards from your deck than your opponent throughout the course of a game. Can’t say I’ve observed that myself, I’ll have to keep an eye out for it, but it’s interesting to think about.

    Martin was a great interview as well, and I too am enjoying the diversity of guests and the substance of the discussions.

    • Thanks Mike! I’m familiar with the concept of “card advantage” in MTG, but I didn’t really follow the other half of what you were saying about strategy in that game.

      • Right, my second point was more of a bias within typical Magic games than an active strategic concept. One is “on a draw” less often in Magic, and often the probability of hitting one’s outs is lower due to there being fewer cards that answer any given situation. So the typical strategy heuristic in a Magic game is to more often count on not hitting your draw (e.g. drawing a card that can remove a specific threat from one’s opponent) and to craft a gameplan that will give you a chance to win assuming you *don’t* hit. My highly-stretched theory is that this might bias Magic players towards wanting to see if they make their draw before they make any move whose value is contingent on hitting that draw (semibluffs).

        I’ve been trying to think of more plausible biases from this or other games and haven’t thought of anything else reasonable yet. There must be more cool ones out there.

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