Four SplitSuit Videos -- Thoughts and Arguments

ImperatorImperator Red Chipper Posts: 899 ✭✭✭
As promised in the linked-to post, I am going to "review" poker videos in this forum.

I will always review the Red Chip Pro Videos but I will often connect them up with media (books, videos, podcasts, etc.) outside of the Red Chip Galaxy, though mostly from within our universe.

I put the word review in scare quotes above for reasons that will become clear. These are not going to be "movie reviews" though once upon a time I used to write such reviews for newspapers and mags.

What I wish to do here is to make connections, power-up my notes into my own memory, try out some arguments, and eventually give some examples where I learned or failed to learn. I would also like to throw brains about a little and, maybe at times, get some of the coaches on this site angry enough to tell me how off-base I am. Sometimes I hope they will be proud that they are doing their job well.

Don't be too gentle in attacking my misconceptions and mistakes, but I would ask everybody to keep an open mind because, quite frankly, I am relatively new at NLHE.

My method for posting these reviews will be to try to find congruent media... media that I have both liked and questioned. At times I will gather together things that at first site don't belong together. I will try to see parallels. Sometimes it will be obvious why the media belongs to together.

To make it easier on myself (this is writing I'm not getting paid for after all) I will write about things that help me to learn or to think. I will argue with myself. I will put my notes into thoughtful shape. I will write one "small" post at a time. But as some may have noticed, my posts are never very small.

This thread will be about all four videos: I invite others to watch or rewatch them. Sometimes the posts in this thread will be about only one video and sometimes it will draw connections between all of the videos at once or sometimes the post will be a rant about one particular aspect of a video or videos. I will use this method in all of my "reviews."

All of the videos I will be reviewing here are by James "SplitSuit" Sweeney.

They are the following:

Always, Never, It Depends | Red Chip Pro Video
29 minutes.

Multi Way Pots | Red Chip Pro Video 25 minutes.

Multi-Way Continuation Betting | SplitSuit - YouTube and Poker Bank 35 minutes.

How to play limped pots in poker | YouTube and Poker Bank 30 minutes.

Comments

  • ImperatorImperator Red Chipper Posts: 899 ✭✭✭
    edited May 2016
    So why review these four videos together?

    Because I think Sweeney's methods of teaching can be consolidated into three basic categories:
    1. This is how you plan a hand;
    2. This is how you should study a hand, and;
    3. This is how you think about your opponents when you plan a hand.

    Each of these is a cascade of thought and pedagogy leading one to the other.

    The first video, Always, Never, It Depends, is a little primer on how to study: Why keep hand histories if you are not going to study your hands? Why study them if you don't know how to study them? Why do any studying in the first place if you can't get as much of your thought process into your studying as possible? And if you don't study your hands and look at them in depth how can you ever plan your hands?

    Three of these videos are about multi-way pots.

    Planning and Patterns

    This is significant because a hand in a multi-way pot is one of the hardest kinds of hands to plan. You are often aiming to play against one particular opponent but in order to do that you have to shoot your way through the other opponent or opponents you don't want to play against. This adds an extra level to your plan for the hand because often your 3-bet or C-bet will backfire and you will end up playing against the TAG instead of the potchkie. (Excuse me for using the Yiddish term here for a blundering player, a "fish". I have never liked the derogatory term "fish" and prefer the self-deprecating "patzer." But potchkie has a sort of poker-like resonance, since it also means "splasher," "mess maker.")

    What we are doing here is understanding variations and patterns. It is not unlike what we do in studying chess: We try to understand basic attacking patterns, basic mating patterns, basic tactical patterns, basic middle game situations, and basic opening plans. Many chess players make the mistake of memorizing opening variations like poker players memorize opening ranges. But these openings are meant to be patterns that get us into the middle game situations we like the most. That is what I believe opening ranges should be. Next we are trying to understand how we can calculate the variations that each of the patterns present to us.

    What I understand James Sweeney to be doing (and Ed Miller also) is trying to get us to understand the basic patterns of NLHE. Sweeney is presenting us with tactical situations and trying to get us to understand how we plan our basic strategy around those tactical situations. He is trying to give us the tools to study the specific situation on our own.

    The Multi-polar Understanding of Poker: Strategy/Tactics and Calculation/Psychology

    I would like to make a comparison to what Ed Miller is doing in his books. He is coming at the game from the other end. He is presenting us with basic strategies and asking us to study the tactical situations in relation to those strategies. Miller and Sweeney compliment each other. If I have one criticism it is that I don't think that either of them realize that they are coming at their pedagogy from the opposite end of the strategy/tactic divide. In other words the two of them together would make for an educational little tug-of-war of teaching styles.

    I don't mean to bring this in from the outside but I know that the best chess players are the ones that combine the following into a unified way of thinking -- strategy, tactics, calculation, psychology..... these are the unifying elements of all high level games. I am sure Sweeney and Miller know this, but I wonder if they self-consciously realize that their pedagogical approaches come from specific ends of the strategy/tactics spectrum. And that as far as I can tell each of them come to the calculation/psychology divide through either strategy (Miller) and tactics (Sweeney). These are legitimate pedagogical techniques, but I wonder if they are self-conscious.

    For example my feeling from watching Soto's videos is that he tends to come at these things through the pole of psychology in the calculation/psychology divide.

    All of these are important and legitimate pedagogical approaches... I would favor "calculation" in my approach and I would guess that is where Doug Hull is coming from.

    But these approaches only come to fruition if we realize that the four poles strategy/tactics, calculation/psychology are only approaches to one unified way of winning.

    In later posts I will talk about some of the limits of these approaches. But let me say that as far as I can see Miller and Sweeney and Hull and Soto are some of the best teachers around.

    The limits of their approach comes from the fact that they are such good teachers. To affirm a tautology -- pedagogy teaches what can be taught. This means that sometimes a teacher errs by forgetting what can't be taught. It is important for a teacher to point to the gaps in pedagogy, to point to what can't be taught so that we understand that we are not teaching formulas for success but rather a process for working. (But I only know these teachers through the mediation of videos and books. Perhaps in person they are able to show us what they can't teach us.)

    I don't think that either Sweeney or Miller are failing to do this, but I do think that at times we students misunderstand the fact that there are no formulas in poker.

    What these videos give us are ways of thinking. But those ways are meant not to be applied rigidly. In fact they are invitations for us to argue with ourselves and even with our teachers.

    I shall do that in future posts about these four videos. I will argue with myself and tweak my teachers.

    Imperator

    P.S. Please excuse any typos or other mistakes. I am typing very quickly putting my scribbled notes into semi-coherent paragraphs. (I think I will always need an editor.)
  • MtipsterMtipster Red Chipper Posts: 131 ✭✭
    Thanks mate, and thanks Splitsuit. Always, never, it depends is really great video, don't know how this gem went under my radar, just watched it and made 2 pages of notes.
  • SplitSuitSplitSuit RCP Coach Posts: 4,082 -
    Thanks for the honest review (and a new word to use instead of fish!)

    What you are describing is the exact reason why it's so tough to teach something that is dynamically complex. Poker is complex and the complexity is compounded by the fact that each situation is unique. A strong mix of the 4 cornerstones you pointed out is the necessary recipe to become a great poker player - and missing any piece can create massive issues. But this is also why teaching it in a static format like videos or books is so difficult because the teacher doesn't know exactly which pieces the students have (or, as is more often the case, don't have).

    I'm all ears if you have suggestions for that!
    📑 Grab my custom poker spreadsheet pack right now.
    📘 Start the Preflop & Math Poker Workbook today.
  • SplitSuitSplitSuit RCP Coach Posts: 4,082 -
    Mtipster wrote: »
    thanks Splitsuit. Always, never, it depends is really great video, don't know how this gem went under my radar, just watched it and made 2 pages of notes.

    You're very welcome!
    📑 Grab my custom poker spreadsheet pack right now.
    📘 Start the Preflop & Math Poker Workbook today.
  • ImperatorImperator Red Chipper Posts: 899 ✭✭✭
    SplitSuit wrote: »
    Thanks for the honest review (and a new word to use instead of fish!)

    What you are describing is the exact reason why it's so tough to teach something that is dynamically complex. Poker is complex and the complexity is compounded by the fact that each situation is unique. A strong mix of the 4 cornerstones you pointed out is the necessary recipe to become a great poker player - and missing any piece can create massive issues. But this is also why teaching it in a static format like videos or books is so difficult because the teacher doesn't know exactly which pieces the students have (or, as is more often the case, don't have).

    I'm all ears if you have suggestions for that!

    I think it is more than likely that you take care of the gaps face-to-face in a way that you can't using the mediation of videos or books. Or for that matter your "master classes" over the web.

    I would interview some of your students to prove it.

    But let me give you something else I am pointing to.

    If I were a really good (or great) poker player I would realize that your strengths as a coach are also a clue to your weaknesses as a player. In chess, what made Bobby Fischer so undefeatable, is that he collected every game, every article, every interview of his opponents to discover his opponents weaknesses. If games were available from his opponent at age 6 he collected those also. Now days all Grandmasters do this as a matter of course. Before the internet this was very hard to do and Fischer developed a large information edge through his habits of analysis. If I were a professional poker player and I was playing against you and a number of other players I would try to get every article, every hand history and every video to analyze you and my other opponents.

    Do poker players do things like this yet? I don't know. I heard Doug Hull mention that he tried to study one of his opponents in a way that reminded me of this method.

    But I would try to do this level analysis with as many players as possible if I was at the level you are at in this game.

    What does this have to do with how you teach? My guess is that you teach from what you love but you also teach things that you were once your weaknesses
    . This is often a key to a good coach, their insights on their own weaknesses and how to improve on them.

    The more I watch your videos and the more I read your articles the more I think I understand how you think. And that is a great compliment for a teacher and coach. It is a testimony to the strength of your coaching.

    I am not through with the four videos above. I have a few more things to say.

    After that I will get to your coaching videos (ChipX videos, Optimizing TAG videos). [That is if I can finally get PayPal to talk to Red Chip again or vice versa!) I also intend to compare some selected videos from Ed miller's "The Course" with what he wrote in the book. I think the differences between the media actually compliment each other.
  • SplitSuitSplitSuit RCP Coach Posts: 4,082 -
    Spot on imo. (and thanks for all the compliments - I very much appreciate it!)
    📑 Grab my custom poker spreadsheet pack right now.
    📘 Start the Preflop & Math Poker Workbook today.

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