Lessons From The Vlogs

As I told you in Getting River Value, I love poker vloggers. They provide entertainment and education to the poker community for free; they help our game grow and thrive. Of course, sometimes they monetize their content with ads and/or sponsorships; however, we—the viewers—still get their content for free.

And this goes for any kind of poker content people produce. If you’re streaming poker on Twitch or writing a blog, I appreciate you. Doesn’t matter if you have a hundred, a thousand, or 100,000 viewers, you’re providing a service to the poker community and I thank you.

One of my favorite vloggers these days is a young man named Ethan Yau, who goes by the name “Rampage Poker*.” Ethan graduated from college, and got a regular j. o. b. But pretty quickly he discovered that the 9 to 5 grind wasn’t for him. He quit the safe predictable job and started doing a mix of things to pay the bills—trading stocks, trading cryptocurrency, and playing poker.

He had some very good luck, winning a bracelet in the online manifestation of the World Series of Poker during the summer of 2020. He continues to put himself out there, making videos documenting his poker journey. Whatever happens—good, bad, or embarrassing—Ethan records it and allows his viewers to vicariously take the journey with him. I’m enjoying the ride and I hope he keeps going for a long time.

One of Ethan’s most attractive features is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He routinely says, “Hey, I’m not a poker pro, I’m just trying to learn the game.” And occasionally when he feels he’s really misplayed a hand, his video will cut away to him punting a football. His fans (including me) love those.

In that spirit, I’ll discuss a duo of things I spotted in his vlogs. Maybe Ethan will take my suggestions to heart, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two, perhaps you will all ignore me. Any of those outcomes are fine.

LOGISTICS—TOSSING YOUR CARDS IN

When I was learning to play live poker, the older, wiser folks told me if I had a winning hand, to hang onto my cards until I had the chips. This seemed like good advice, I adopted the practice, and it’s stuck with me ever since. As the veterans explained to me, doing that protects me from angle-shooters who might try to exploit somebody who releases a winning hand too quickly.

Unfortunately, during the poker boom, it became hip to snap-release your cards as soon as the opponent folds. An entire generation of poker players, including Ethan, grew up watching their heroes do that. I was watching one of Ethan’s vlogs recently where the villain bet on the river, Ethan called, and apparently the villain was bluffing; he simply mucked his cards. But we all saw Ethan toss away his cards before the dealer had even begun to push the pot.

Here’s the angle: the villain bets, Ethan calls. Now the villain tosses his cards gently forward face down. Ethan reads that as surrender, so he tosses his cards in too. The dealer, for whatever reason, scoops Ethan’s cards into the muck. Now the villain/angler grabs his cards and says, “I didn’t muck.” Uh-oh.

Here’s what’s going to happen. Ethan will (justifiably) squawk. The floor-person will get called over. There will be a discussion. But at the end of the discussion, the following will be true: there was a bet and call on the river; one player has cards in his hand. That player will get the pot. Even if everybody involved—including the dealer and floor-person—knows exactly what happened, Ethan will be out of the pot; any other result creates more problems than it solves.

Any time I think I’ve won a pot without a showdown, I simply slide my arms apart, giving the dealer a target for the chips. But my cards are firmly held in one hand. The dealer gets my cards when I have the chips. Maybe Ethan will adopt this practice.

STRATEGY—YOU DON’T HAVE TO BLUFF

Occasionally Ethan will get to the river in a large pot and discover he has ten-high. It happens to all of us. Sometimes Ethan will say, “Well, I’m never winning with ten-high at showdown, so I have to bluff.” I cringe every time I hear that.

I mean, the first half of his statement is surely correct—he’s not going to win a showdown with ten-high. But sometimes you just have to lose a pot. You bluff if—and only if—you believe the probability of the bluff being successful makes it a positive expectation (“+EV”) play. After all, you risk more chips to make the bluff, so often you’re better off just surrendering the existing pot rather than chase bad chips with good ones.

Of course, Ethan is not only in the business of trying to win at the table; he’s also an entertainer. His hoodies say, “Folding is boring.” I don’t find it particularly boring to fold; I just think of it as one of the actions I’m allowed to take in a poker game. But I get that it’s more fun to watch high-variance river bluffs than “Ho-hum, ten-high, check/fold.” It may be that the dollars Ethan gains by providing ten-high-bluff entertainment are greater than the dollars he loses with those bluffs. I hope so.

However, to the degree that Ethan is trying to beat the game, and the degree that we’re trying to learn from how Ethan plays, simply a word of caution. It’s perfectly fine to bluff with ten-high. In fact, it’s better than bluffing with a hand with showdown value. But when you bluff, it shouldn’t be because you have no other way of winning, but because you believe you have a +EV opportunity to bluff there.

Keep up the great work, Ethan, and all you other poker vloggers, streamers, bloggers, and content creators. I’m an appreciative consumer of your products and you make my life, and that of many other poker players, better.


Lee Jones has been in the poker industry for over 30 years. He writes at the Global Poker blog, plays poker every chance he gets, and coaches poker. You can contact him at www.leejones.com.

*Global Poker does not endorse, sponsor, nor take any responsibility for any content, views, opinions, statements or functionality of any content not on its site.