Episode 75: Sam Grafton

Sam Grafton’s post-graduate studies in critical theory make him the first guest capable of schooling Andrew on Foucault. We talk about staking and swapping, the importance of social capital to success in poker, the blurred line between poker and gambling, the extent to which the poker world operates independently of traditional government and economic institutions, and Sam’s political activism.

Sam is a video producer at Run It Once. You can read his columns in UK PokerPlayer and follow him on Twitter @squidpoker.

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0:30 – Hello and Welcome
3:58 -Interview: Sam Grafton
57:30 – Strategy: Queens with a King on the Board


Blinds are 200/400/25 ante. Hero (42,900) opens to 1600 in MP1 with QQ. Villain (57,675) calls in the CO, and the Button also calls.

Flop (5900): Kc 6h 5c 3 players. Hero bets 2500, Villain calls, Button folds.

Turn (10,900): Th (board Kc 6h 5c Th). Hero checks, Villain bets 10,000 into 10,900.

River (30,900): 2d (board Kc 6h 5c Th 2d). Hero checks. Villain bets 20,000 into 30,900.

11 thoughts on “Episode 75: Sam Grafton

  1. This was a really fun episode. Not only because of Sam and you guys, but also because Sam just came up in random conversation with a non-poker friend last Thursday, who knows him from his days in Palestine. I totally didn’t know he was going to be on the podcast, now I can give her a link.

    Sam was delightfully intelligent and thought-provoking, and I think you should try to get him back on at some point: there’s a tonne more ground to cover, and I feel you barely scratched the surface. I think he’ll have great chemistry with Gareth as well. If you do have him back on, I’d love it if you asked him about his experiences in Palestine. It’s a topic that personally interests me, but I think that the discussion of that topic is ridiculously shallow in the media (both mainstream and otherwise) and that it’s a good topic to talk about, because a lot of the things that happen in Palestine then go on to happen in the west: in many ways, the Middle East is western corporations’ testing grounds for techniques of controlling and suppressing population. Basically, IMO, learning from the Middle East allows making predictions and planning ahead for western movements such as the Occupy Movement. I expect Gareth will have many opinions on the topic, especially after his involvement in the refugee camp thing in Thailand.

    Oh, I also didn’t get to say that I was flabbergasted when I heard you guys mention me in the last episode. I was walking home in Tel Aviv after a mediocre non-date, when all of a sudden I get praised in my favorite podcast. Thank you for that, it totally made my week!

  2. *maths nittery alert*

    Andrew said during the swapping discussion something like ‘it’s easy to increase variance with a swap’, but if you do the maths, it’s really quite hard to increase your variance with a small swap. It’s easy to reduce your expectation, but the diversification effect on variance seems to be really powerful.

    As you were.

      • Ian, I’m pretty sure you were correct the first time: swapping pretty much always decreases variance, unless the variance of the player we swap with is more than three times bigger than our own variance (unlikely).

        At an extreme, if I swap with all entrants to a tournament, then I am guaranteed to get exactly 0$ in the end (minus the rake), so my variance would drop to zero.

        Here is a proof that swapping basically always decreases the variance:

        Let X be my profit distribution in the tournament, and Y be Ian’s. For simplicity, suppose we swap 50%, so my profit before swapping was X, and my profit after swapping is Z=0.5X+0.5Y.

        Variance(Z) = 0.25*Var(X+Y) = 0.25*(Var(X)+Var(Y)+2*Covariance(X,Y)).

        But in almost any big-field tournament we expect Covariance(X,Y) to be basically zero, because X and Y are almost independent: my results in the tournament is basically independent of Ian’s. In fact, even in a single-table tournament, the covariance will probably be negative, so it will only help decrease the variance even further, but never mind that now.

        So, we get Var(Z)~0.25*(Var(X)+Var(Y)). So by swapping 50% with Ian, I effectively halve my variance (assuming my variance is similar to Ian’s, which is a reasonable assumption). Note that I didn’t need to consider either of our EV’s at any point in this analysis. So even if my EV and Ian’s are very very different, swapping with him will still lower my variance to about half. (However, swapping might dramatically change my EV, of course.)

        Similar math works for any other proportion of swapping. If I swap away 50% of my earnings with 10 different people, swapping 5% with each, then my variance will drop to around 0.275 of what it was!

  3. That was a really good interview – I was in the same boat as Andrew in having Sam in my twitter lists for reasons unbeknownst to me, and having noticed the odd Frankfurt school related poker tweet but otherwise not knowing anything about him. I listened to Sam’s interview on the pokercast the other day so was half worried that this might cover much of the same ground but in the end it was all new and good.

  4. Excellent podcast, as I had every confidence it would be when I heard Sam was going to be on.

    I was a semi-frequent visitor to the International Club (the ‘Hackney poker den’ as it’s called on the podcast), and also its precursor, the Gutshot club – frequent enough to know who the regular faces were, but not enough to be known by all the regular faces. I played against Sam in both cash games and tournaments at the International and it was clear back then that he was both an excellent player (a cash game hand where he correctly laid down kings to a single raise on a jack-high flop sticks in the memory) and a really good guy, so it’s been great to see his rise in the poker world since then.

  5. Fabulous episode; educational and entertaining as usual. I really liked Sam on the 2+2 pokercast, but getting him to talk about non-poker subjects revealed him to be even more insightful and interesting than expected.
    I remember the break-ins at RAF Fairford (it was a national news story here in the UK; see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2897029.stm) and if I’d been told one of the guys would go on to be a professional poker player, I never would have believed it, because back then I thought all poker players were selfishly-minded degenerates. 😉 Your podcasts give me a weekly reminder that the stereotype is not (wholly) true. Thanks!

  6. Even though Sam’s political beliefs are like kryptonite to me, I really enjoyed this episode. As a humanities major (from Nate’s current academic home–go Big Red!), I love hearing how people with different skill sets can approach the same game and succeed. Did reading Thucydides prepare me for 2-5 NL? Not directly, but it did help teach me how to reason. It was refreshing to hear the perspective of a similarly educated liberal arts guy, even if it was run through an anarchist filter. Troy McClure on the Simpsons said that the unemployment line was made for philosophy majors. Maybe there is a career option out there after all.

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