Friday, December 30, 2005

Master of my domain, err... library.

HighOnPoker just made the best analogy:

"Blogs are like literary masturbation."
Blogs are mostly just to please the writer -- I'm the first to admit that. There's a reason I haven't worked to publicize this blog by posting on forums, shilling it in comments on other blogs, etc. This blog is mostly for myself, and I enjoy the writing of it. Part of me also wants others to read it, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to work at getting lots of readers.

I think there is just too much writing out there now that the electronic revolution allows everyone to publish, and most of it is just noise (this blog included). Poker, in particular, has had billions of words written about it. My friend Rob wrote a scathing article that really brings poker articles into focus. As harsh as he was, it is completely true -- most poker articles just rehash the same stuff. Ultimately, the stuff written here is really only important to me, since similar stuff is written billions of other places.

I've also been hesitant to get involved with the poker blogosphere in general -- honestly, reading blogs, commenting, chatting, and playing poker with bloggers takes a lot of time, and I've already been wasting too much time lately. In a sense, I've been laying low, seeing if anybody discovers this blog on their own (the short answer: no).

I still am undecided if I want to start spreading the word or not. While having readers and interaction with others is nice, I've been hearing about a lot of other bloggers shutting down temporarily or permanently, because the time commitment is too much. I definitely don't want to feel like writing is a chore, like so many other things in my life right now.

So, for now, I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing... literary masturbation. Don't tell my wife!

PS My spellchecker informed me that masturbation has a 'u' in it, not an 'e' (HighOnPoker made the same mistake). Yet another example of people being able to do something they can't spell.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The joys of LHE...

In my last post I mentioned how well I was doing. Well, last night I erased a lot of those winnings with two hours of 6-max 1/2 on Stars while I was trying to burn off the bonus. I lost about $70, up from my low point of $-100, but it wasn't all due to the cards. Same old, same old...

I'm learning though. I caught myself doing a strange thing tonight (when I made $20 back and finished off the bonus):

10 player table, I'm UTG w/ KQs. Relatively tight table but not super tight (~30% VPIP). I come in for a raise like usual, and it folds to the SB who three-bets. BB gets out, and I call. Flop was Q72, nothing to my suit, and he leads out, I raise, and he three-bets. I call, and call his turn and river bet. I'm sure you know what he had: AA.

Notice that I played the hand 'aggressively' (you know, because that's how you play limit, tight and aggressive). Notably, raising first in narrows the field to help my KQ (an argument could be made for limping KQs in that situation) but that was my strategy. The flop raise clarified his hand (and mine). But... Pay attention to this... I played the hand in the way that lost the most money.

When I hit top pair, second kicker on a non-scary board, I have two tacts against someone who has represented a huge hand pre-flop:

  1. Plan to go to the river because my hand is too big to fold and hope to hit one of my 5 outs if I am against the aces he's representing. This means call down unless my hand improves, including the flop, and only lose the minimum (2.5 BB). The disadvantage is, if I have him beat and he has Ax he could hit an ace along the way or draw out in another fashion. He wouldn't have many outs if I had him though, and it is also worth pointing out I might pick up some bets if he continued firing with a hand I beat like JJ or TT (those holdings are less likely in this situation though). An interesting thing to note is this is the approach many fish would take (loose-passive) -- and they would lose the minimum or win a big pot if they were up against AA and cracked it.
  2. Raise the flop to clarify the hand and see if he three-bets (essentially ruling out AK). This is obviously what I did and my usual move when I want to get a better read. When he three-bets, calling the third bet is pretty much mandatory even though I now put him on AA (or possibly KK or AQ). The odds are definitely there to hit my 9:1 shot (12 small bets in the pot). But... If I don't improve on the turn, I no longer have odds to chase (7.5 BB in the pot), and I should fold to his bet. Plus, if I call the turn, I should call the river, and my reverse implied odds are pretty poor. If I fold on the turn, this will cost me one less BB than calling him down, but reduces the chance of catching him bluffing and I see one less card. In addition, it sets me up to extract more money if I do have him beat (and he three-bet preflop with AK, JJ, or TT).
Seems pretty obvious when laid out like that. So, then, why did I raise him on the flop yet still call him down, essentially putting in one more big bet? This hand, I believe, demonstrates why I've been losing money (or rather not earning a lot of money) at limit play. I am being aggressive which gets more money in the pot when I am ahead and clarifies hands, but then I'm not folding when information shows me I am beat. That, coupled with overplaying of small pairs and second or third pair, causes me to put a lot of money into the pot when I don't have the best hand.

[Edit] After we finished our movie last night I logged onto FCP last night to play some .25/.5 heads up. I promptly gave back all my winnings, losing $20 over about an hour. Essentially three guys sat down, took $6-8 from my stack, then left. The first two I think I could have won some money back if they hadn't hit and run -- the third guy had a good mix of bluffing, tightness, and mixing up his play that I'm not sure I can beat in the long run. Oh well.

One thing I've noticed in these heads-up matches is that I tend to get down about 10 BB early, but usually I can battle back and figure them out. Last night, I wasn't able to do that since they pulled hit and runs. Furthermore, the real question is why do I get down 10 BB almost everytime I play? I must be leaking or playing too loose or something.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Yay, more charts!

Bunch of poker odds and ends I want to talk about. I haven't updated lately because of holiday business (not to be a grinch, but I'm pretty sick of Christmas) and I decided to spend my free time watching the fifth season of the Sopranos and actually playing poker instead of writing about it.

First, why don't I start with the Artichoke Joe's tourney a week ago. Not really much to report -- I played quite tight, got very few premium hands, but won my critical short-stacked all-ins to make it to about 18th place out of 96ish. The blinds move up very fast in that tourney including some shocking jumps between levels where the ante tripled and the blinds doubled. Surprisingly, Wade, Thuan and I all made it to the final two tables but we busted out one after another in the high teens. With all the money was at the final table, we were pretty forlorn as we looked back at the tourney on our way out. Probably not a tourney I'll play a lot because there isn't a lot of play for the money you put in.

On the topic of tourneys, yesterday at noon FCP had a $30+3 tourney where the top 3 got seats into the 36 player qualifier to the protege contest final table. Wasn't really considering playing it until I saw that there were only 25 people signed up for it. After all, value of the package is $50Kish, value of the final table seat is $5Kish, value in the 36 player tourney is about $140, so it was like $500 was added to the tourney. So, I played, was pleasantly surprised at the relatively low quality of play, and managed to get 4th for a bankroll boost but no seat. Damn, I really wanted a seat. Maybe I'll try it again next week before it starts getting more popular. Making it to the final table of the Protege contest is a bit of a long shot anyway, but sometimes it is fun to try.

Its funny, but I was going through my PokerDominator stats today and I realized that I only played 5 tournaments over the past month! Seriously, that's only the AJs tourney, FCP yesterday, two Wednesday games, and one Stars $10+1. No wonder I'm starting to feel burned out on ring games. But online, the tourneys just don't burn off the bonuses, so I'm better off playing the ring games money wise. Although... my results have been pretty good in tournaments in the past few months, so maybe they would be a profitable thing to do. Since my kids (and wife) get up late over the break, maybe I'll enter one or two large tourneys this week and see if I can hit a decent sum of money. Along those lines, here is a chart of my tourney results over the past six months:

and my ring game results over the same period:

I've earned about the same amount in both tournament and ring play (with 204 hours in ring play vs 149 hours in tourney play) but there is a lot more variance in the tournament play. In fact, 75% of my profit came from that one good run (including the 180 player SnG). No wonder tourneys frustrate people. What's not shown is the bonuses I've earned -- I haven't tallied it up, but I'm sure I've cleared at least $500 in bonuses over the same period (edit: I've got $~520 recorded), meaning my poker playing has yielded about $2,000 over the last six months -- not too shabby...

As I mentioned, lately I've been a bit burned out on full-table ring games. Waiting around for good hands or draws makes you feel pretty powerless. Did I mention the waiting? So, I decided to try something new and I've been playing heads-up hold'em on FCP. The bonus (effectively 50% rakeback) makes it quite profitable and I've yet to have a losing session after four-five hours. Granted, I'm not making a lot and it is a small sample size, but I still feel like I'm pretty good at the game. I may take my 100 big bets at 0.5/1 and see how far I can go with it, moving up whenever I have 100 BB or more. Dangerous, yes, but worth the experience I expect. I've definitely learned a lot about focusing on beating a single opponent and exploiting weaknesses.

Problem is, I still have about $45 to clear at Stars and $190 to clear on Eurobet, and I just can't seem to motivate myself to two-table 1/2 or 2/4. Stars I may try to do the shorthanded limit since the double points thing is in effect until the end of the month and that should take care of it quickly. But Eurobet will be a grind, and the swings really hurt at 2/4. Honestly, most of it is mental -- I just have to convince myself to play.

I tend to have periods where I'm a bit, ahem, fragile. Basically, I'm more worried about protecting my earnings than increasing my hourly rate. Now, logically I know this is stupid and I should do what it takes to maximize my winnings while playing within my bankroll (generally, that would be two-tabling 2/4). But my recent plateau has felt a lot like a losing streak, and it has been nice to book some consecutive wins even if they aren't huge. Although... Sometimes I wonder if my earn rate is higher at short-handed tables even if I drop down a few levels.

And, on top of it all, I'm just getting a bit burned out. I probably ought to take a few days off and just play when and what I want to play. After all, if I'm not comfortable playing a game, that will definitely hurt my EV anyway. Once January hits I'll start grinding again to earn the family some bonus money.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Another fork...

I've decided to change my poker focus once again. To be honest, LHE has not been treating me very nice and it definitely isn't my best game. In fact, check out my earnings over the last month on the right. This represents 60 hours of poker, probably 40 of that being limit play. The variance sucks, and I think I'll have a much better earn rate at something else.

You know that big run I had on Thursday? Well, I gave it all back and was down $90 before I caught some cards and got $30 back. My cards weren't great and they definitely weren't holding up, but going back to the old post, I was still overplaying unpaired cards and small pairs, plus I had one case where I paid off a flush draw big time. I expect I could have avoided losing $30-$40 of the $60 that I dropped. Oh well.

So, I've decided to switch back to NL for a little while, primarily on Stars or possibly on FCP. The bonus earn rate is low (maybe $2/hr) but I have a much bigger edge at 6-max NL than two tables of limit. I'm not going to abandon limit -- I'll also start up a $200 bonus on Eurobet and two-table $2-$4 to clear it. That's about 20 hours of play, but it expires after 90 days so I can always do it in small chunks if I like. And, of course, if Party has another bonus, I can do limit or NL there to clear it within the week.

Wade, Thuan, and I are heading to Artichoke Joe's tomorrow night for the Sunday rebuy tournament -- unlimited rebuys, but I'm going play relatively tight and only allow myself one rebuy -- so my maximum buy-in should be $150. Yes, that's more than 10% of my bankroll, but I figure its a one-time thing until my bankroll gets larger. I'm really looking forward to it.

In preparation I played a 45 player $10+1 SNG on Stars and took 4th. I didn't suffer any bad beats or cold decks until we were in the money, so I'll be the first to say I was pretty lucky. Probably the hand of the tourney (other than flopping a set and doubling up early after his straight and flush draw bricked out) was with 7 players left right after we got in the money. I had about 2400 after posting the 800 big blind. Button doubled the big blind, and I pushed with 23 of diamonds. My thinking at the time was the huge pot odds (~1600 from blinds and antes + his 2400 = a little less than 2:1) I was getting, and I knew my short stack would get no respect for an all-in raise later. Well, the flop gave me a gutshot straight flush draw, and the turn gave me a straight leaving him drawing dead with A9o. I think he was a little suprised, but I believe I made the right move. Actually, in hindsight, I was probably about even with odds vs pot odds if he didn't have a pair, but the value from almost tripling up was worth it. After that, I didn't get too many hands but stole enough to get fourth when my A5s on the button ran into pocket rockets in the small blind.

It was definitely nice to get back to NLHE and tournaments. It was also nice to have an easy tournament with no bad beats knocking me out :) After tomorrow night I might take a few days off (or play triple-draw or something) and get back to NLHE next week -- I'm actually kinda excited!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Limit Play: Just play my game

I've still been struggling with my limit play lately, and this post has been something I've been planning for a while, but never got around to. In fact, I played two sessions yesterday and had my best results in a long time: ~45BB over 400 hands. Not huge, but a start, and I was feeling much more comfortable at the table.

After much though, I've narrowed my major leaks in the past few weeks to the following:

  • Following the hand charts religilously. Initially, I used the hand charts to have a solid basis for my game. In fact, all along, I've been checking the hand chart to see if I should call with ATo UTG, or re-raise KQs in late position. I think I was doing a major disservice to myself. After all, I have a lot of time at the tables (especially NL) and I know the pre-flop strength of hands. No chart can capture the exact conditions at the table like I can with the help of PokerTracker. Even $1-$2 Party games can't be considered the no-fold'em hold'em games anymore (that most small stakes hold'em books are aimed at) -- I really feel like the average internet player is still getting better. So I'm tossing the hand charts, and just using my judgment -- I definitely think this is a +EV move.
  • Over aggression. Often people demonstrate they can't be bluffed and I don't listen and keep firing, including reckless bets on the river if a draw gets there. Kind of a "I can only win if I bluff, so I bet" type of thing. Instead, I should slow it down if I don't improve against a known calling station. After all, if I save myself a bet on the turn and the river, that's two bets, or my expectation for an hour of play! Saving bets is just as important as winning them. Don't get me wrong, aggression is very, very important, but not at the lower limits. Low-limit players will just call you down if they get confused (and many of them are constantly confused :) ). Being able to fire bets on all streets as a bluff is good though, especially at higher limits, and I think that is one of the reasons I picked it up (shorthanded at Stars I had a lot more success with it). In fact, ScurvyDog has a great post about the profitability of continuing a steal to the river -- it is surprising that it is profitable as long as people fold approximately 50% of the time (not to mention the ability to hit your hand). But continuing a bluff to the river at Party is just stupid.
  • Listening to my reads. I am an above average player for the limits I play. Why, then do I automatically call when someone raises me and I just have top pair? C'mon, how much do these guys really bluff? Well, a lot actually, but very little when someone else has shown strength. So why pay them off? If I think I am beat, I should consider the odds and lay it down if I don't have a draw or I suspect I am drawing dead. You know, one of my guiding rules has been "bets are cheap on later streets, so call them down if there is any chance I have the best hand". Kinda silly, isn't it? Kinda makes me a fish, doesn't it? I believe this came out of the big mistakes vs little mistakes argument, but I've taken it too far. Especially if I bet out the turn with TPTK, get raised, then call two bets even though my gut tells me I'm beat. Those two bets, like the overaggression above, are my hourly expectation -- poof! Yes, people can bluff-raise, but I can't remember seeing it at the $1-$2 tables.
You know, looking back at what I wrote, I think I can summarize the above points into one phrase:

Play my own game.

My biggest leak since I've returned to low-limit hold'em is expecting to be able to beat the game by playing roboticly without thought. Playing set pre-flop hands always in the same way. Calling to the river with top pair or better to pick off bluffs. Yes, fixed play at low limits will get money in the long run, but not much. And don't get me wrong -- I still did a lot of things right (folding when I was clearly beaten, etc) but my attitude manifested itself most in hand selection and ignoring reads when I had top pair. Those leaks, along with a run of not great cards, caused my recent plateau.

Last night it was actually quite liberating to realize that I do have control and I'm not completely at the mercy of the cards like I thought I was. For instance, I was able to make some steals in late position. If my top pair was no good and I knew it, I considered laying it down. Those laydowns define good players more than hand selection. It has been an important realization for me.

Oddly enough I also had a run of good cards, or rather, very top pair/overpair hands that got chased down. We'll see how I feel after a little more time, but I really feel like I've turned a corner in limit.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bay 101: Misery, Misery Everywhere!

So Wade and I went down to Bay 101 last night and I finally got to play in a cardroom. I played $2-$4 about 3.5 hours, started out up $20-$30, went down to -$80 about 2.5 hours in, but ended up -$13 thanks to some big pairs and a set that actually held up. Considering making up the sixty bucks at the end of the night, I feel like it was a win (my stop-loss was $120 -- if I lost that, I was leaving).

I ended up getting there around 7 pm and got our names on the board -- I was at a table within 15 minutes. Sadly, Wade arrived 10 minutes later than that and had to wait much longer to get a seat in $3-$6. The game was very, very loose with big hands being cracked all the time (just like online). Unlike online though, it was relatively passive game (rarely did people raise preflop, or raise a bet after the flop). We had a wide variety of players -- notables include:

  • The red-faced drunk guy on my immediate left who was hemorrhaging money and very tilted. In fact, he was dropping the f-bomb left and right and abusing the dealers under his breath whenever he lost a pot he 'should' have won. Which was pretty much every pot. Then, after rebuying for $20 about 4 times, it was obvious he ran out of money and didn't want to leave so he nursed his last $15 by tightening up, taking smoke breaks, and working for about an hour to switch tables.
  • The old guy sitting to the left of the dealer who was relatively solid but tended to chase draws and never raised pre-flop. He also showed a general tendancy to get out of my way when I bet. I figured out the not raising part on my one attempt to bluff: four players in (blinds, old guy UTG, and me w/ 97c in late position) and flop came JQQ rainbow (one club). Blinds both checked quickly, so I took at a shot at it and the old guy called. He checked dark and I fired again on the turn -- call, another dark check for the river. I fired again, thinking it likely he was on a draw (he often folded on the river). He picked up his cards with the "I'm gonna fold grip", then tossed $4 in like it was a crying call... He flipped over... KK? What? He also had a friend a few seats down who was relatively poor and called too much.
  • Young loudmouth to the left of the old guy -- the table was quite quiet but this guy made a habit of telling everyone about everything -- like why he folded, or how lucky he was to hit a straight with 23o, 23s, and 62s, or that he got AA and KK. Honestly, the guy was obviously young and happy to be playing, but he clearly annoyed some people (not as much as the drunk guy though).
  • A few statues that said, very, very little and just wallowed in the misery of $2-$4.
  • A middle-aged Italian guy who had wraparound mirror shades and was trying to be very intimidating. He was the only guy who raised and re-raised it seemed, but it was clear he was quite new because kept showing down questionable hands after capping the flop (a pair of sixes, second pair, with a 10 kicker?). 94o that he rivered into two pair? But, he took down a number of big pots and was definitely ahead on the night.
  • A young college guy (probably barely 21 or had a fake ID) with shades. Likely he played online a lot and occasionally live. He seemed to know what he was doing, although he made some amateur moves like getting a little heated about a perceived inference that he didn't know what he was doing, or on one river where a third club hit a paired board he told the guy to his left: "I don't think you have two clubs -- I bet." Yeah, like I was suprised he had a full house.
  • A parade of other guys that came through, bought in short, won a few hands, but ultimately got down to the felt.
All in all, the experience was definitely worth the $13. By the end I felt much more comfortable being there, buying in, etc. Don't get me wrong -- it was obvious I never played at a card room before and was rather nervous (I generally felt like an idiot when I bought in and cashed out). But an important thing for me was to demonstrate to myself that I can beat the game (well, maybe not with $4 coming out of every pot) and that I won't suddenly lose all my money if I go.

Lets see, a few other things. Most of the dealers were competent but pretty boring -- with the exception of the second dealer, the only woman, who responded to my constant smile (nerves, I think) and started a conversation with me. Honestly, though, she was the only dealer that tried to lighten the oppressive, miserable feeling that hovered over the table the whole time. I saw her on the way out and told her that she was the best dealer (I could help but be reminded of Linda at Poker Works). I almost went back and gave her a couple more bucks, but I held back in case she thought I was stalking her :) Probably should have though. It was only after I sat through the other dealers that I realized how nice it is to have someone who is happy.

About the misery. Ultimately, even with the joys of pulling pots, most people were downright miserable. Honestly, a big part of it was that nobody was friends with anyone else, most people were stuck (a factor of the huge rake), and everybody was trying to win (i.e. not there to simply gamble). Big difference from the Wednesday games. Poker is an odd game in that people go out of their way to sit around and NOT have fun the majority of the time. It really isn't that fun because most people lose money and their attitude permeates the table. Just looking around the table, I can only think of one or two people who won a decent amount on the session (the gregarious young guy was the main one I can think of) and the rest were pretty big losers.

I don't think I could ever play at a place like Bay 101 every day -- be a horrible way to live my life. But Wade and I talked about going back maybe once a month, getting at the same $3-$6 table, and livening it up a bit. I think an Artichoke Joe's tourney is in our future too, maybe this Sunday.

With the slower rate of hands, I really got an idea where my leaks are. I'm doing a separate post for that so I can get my ideas in order. So, it really was a worthwhile trip.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What the...

Tried to install Multi Table Helper (I'll try to get a link when I can)... Anyway, it decided to install the .NET framework (yippee! -- I love it when a little program requires a huge package to work) and took forever. I was excited when the little progress bar got to the end of the box -- until another window popped up with a new progress bar and the caption:

"The installation is taking longer than expected..."
Brilliant, Microsoft, freakin' brilliant. What a reassuring message to give me warm fuzzy feelings when I install your software on my computer.

In related news, my home machine is running out of room on the main drive. I was cleaning stuff off last night (you know, old poker rooms that I don't visit any more) and after some digging, I realized that 2.5 GB of the 8 GB drive was filled with Windows system restore information with no obvious way to control or remove it.

Thanks again, Microsoft. First you create an OS that needs constant patches, then you create an auto-update system that fixes the bugs but fills up our harddrives with more data than Windows is supposed to take up.

Friday, December 09, 2005

That sucked...

Just finished off the bonus at Pacific Poker and came out 38c ahead after $51 in bonuses... Yes, the players are very weak, but I couldn't take their money (I played mostly 6-max 1/2).

Honestly, I'm just glad it is over right now. Seemed to take all sorts of beats and wasn't playing that well. With everyone so loose you have to watch helplessly as 4 people call your top pair down and invariably hit something. Schooling of the fishes at its greatest. Plus the software is generally slow and disconnects a lot.

One of the reasons I think I did so poorly was playing shorthanded with a nasty rake structure (I payed out $60+ in rake while I was there). Even with a bonus, I'm not sure it would be profitable to play there unless you were up at a higher limit and you had a fast enough computer to run another site at the same time. Maybe I'll visit again, but not anytime soon :)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Limit Poker


I've definitely been experiencing a lot more variance since I've switched to limit and moved up to 1/2. I've been swinging up and down $50-$100 quite rapidly and I'm really not used to it since my emotions have been going along for the ride. I think my wins have been pretty consistent up to now because I play a NL game that reduces variance and the lower limits are much easier and more passive.

It's funny how quickly poker can make you think you are the best player in the world and then slam you to the ground with a siberian piledriver. For instance, I played 4 brief sessions (~2 hours) of 2-7 triple-draw on UB. I was averaging about $30/hr and not finding the games that difficult, until last night. I logged on, trying to pick up $3 to pass the $1300 mark in my BR again, and SLAM! Dropped 40 BB in about an hour. Granted, that was only about $20 :)

The point is, poker quickly reminded me that I'd just been on the positive variance swing and I still had a lot to learn about a new game for me. My experience last night will probably teach me more about good triple-draw play than the previous four sessions combined. Like, for instance, make sure your draw is live.


I wanted to elaborate more on where I think my weaknesses are in limit hold'em and what I should do to improve it. I think this would be a good thing to look at before I play each night -- kind of a cheat sheet if I start running bad.

  1. Overplaying two large unpaired cards (sometimes an underpair).
    • Give up on continuation bets into 2 or more opponents. Just costs me money. Check-fold if I miss and I can't represent anything on the board.
    • Keep making continuation bets against a single opponent or possibly two if I can represent and ace and I have position.
  2. Paying off when I get drawn out on.
    • Not my worst flaw, but I think I still get check-raised a little too much on the river when my top pair doesn't improve. Especially in position, don't bet unless no draws hit and I think they have a second best hand.
  3. Playing a bit too tight on the flop.
    • I think I should take a card off in situations where I make one low pair if my five outs are clean and/or I have back-door draws. Essentially, I'm looking at 1 SB for a possible payoff of 4-6 SB on the turn and river. There's a reason I get nervous when people call the flop when I have top pair -- their draws are usually live.
    • Also, dropping in a raise on the flop will often clarify hands and get dead-money in the pot. Essentially, if I'm going to call anyway, it is worth that small amount more to find out where I am and avoid hard turn decisions.
  4. Chasing past the turn too often.
    • While taking a card off on the flop is good (#3), taking a card off on the turn is bad unless I have a solid draw to the nuts with correct odds. Even worse, I'll usually have to pay off a bet on the river if I have anything, so the reverse implied odds are poor. I think I've been doing this a lot -- making a weak call on the turn and forcing myself to drop two BB in a sticky situation
  5. Bluffing too often and too long (especially blind vs blind).
    • My other big leak -- not check-folding on the turn when my bluff doesn't work and I have improper odds to call to the river. This usually happens when it is blind vs blind -- I try to represent top pair, but they call me down with second or third pair. I'm better off cutting my losses.

Luck and Poker

I'm realizing now that there are many, many important aspects of a LHE poker strategy, all the way from hand selection (which is pretty easy to master) to flop, turn and river play. Sadly, while I believe my pre-flop play is quite strong, I've been giving up a lot of money with poor post-flop play.

Additionally, I'm really seeing the importance of saving bets vs gaining bets. The past few weeks I've actually had some brief periods of running really bad -- bad beats, poor starting cards, second best hands, etc. Its been quite an experience to actually realize that sometimes, there is nothing I can do to avoid taking a loss, no matter how good I play. The important thing is to minimize that loss, which so far, I'm not very good at.

Poker is bad beats and lucky draws. In fact, most hands you'll have a 30%+ chance of not winning even with the best hand on the flop, and when people always call to the river, you'll feel powerless as your hand goes down in flames. The problem is not online sites messing with random number generators but the psychology of the players. Most things in life, if you go in with the best of it, you'll have 95%+ chance of coming out with what you want. Poker happens to hit that sweet spot where things come out badly at a frequency that people find very hard to deal with. I think that says a lot about the human mind.

Now if only I could get my emotions to come to terms with my reason...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Playing in the Shallow End

Pacific Poker 6-max LHE is still kickin' my bum. Played two sessions today, almost four hours, and came out down a bit over a buck. Honestly, I feel like I was fortunate to end up that way...

Let me just say they are generally horrible players -- it is amazing the number of times I folded third pair to heavy action and found out it would have held up to the river. And the number of times my aces got cracked (2 out of 4). But, I don't want to have to put 'BB' in the title of this post, so I'll cut my whining off there.

Quite honestly, this is what I should expect with a no-fold'em game. Yes, there's lots of money to be made, but your good hands will never hold up nearly as much as you expect them to. In fact, top pair or an overpair on the flop will probably only be good 30-40% of the time by the river if 3-4 players are in against you. Honestly, the probabilities hold up like they should, but the outcome just generally makes people suicidal.

I've still got about $300 to wager to clear the bonus (and at this point, I'm ~$40 down so I'll come out slightly ahead if I break even from here on out). But, I'm not sure it is worth playing 1/2 LHE anymore on the site because the swings suck and I don't need that stress. Instead, I think I should finish up with NLHE where I should be able to protect my hands better. It will also allow people to outdraw me a bit more effectively :) Long-handed hold'em is not a bad idea either.

If anything, this has been a good education for me on playing with loose players (they are surprisingly aggressive too -- they'll represent an A with their 44 on the river with 5 overcards on the board and me betting the whole way). These are the lessons I've taken away:

  1. Missing the flop is bad, even if you have overcards. Very rarely will you be able to chase them out by betting it down, and they'll happily show their pair of 2s on the river to take the pot. Continuation bets can be useful, but slow it down on the turn. This was a major leak for my first few sessions -- on Stars you can usually get it down to one player and possibly force them out, no way on Pacific.
  2. Top pair will rarely hold up. Just a reality of 4 players calling the flop bet, one of them is bound to hit on the turn or get enough to chase the river draw.
  3. Lots of variance. You'd think that a huge edge of a good player would help reduce variance, but it actually makes it worse because you play fewer hands and don't get lucky as much.
  4. It is worth calling the river bet (maybe even the turn) even if you don't improve. I've seen a lot of desperate river bluffs or bluff-raises. You'll pretty much always have odds to call, sometimes even an overcall.
  5. Aggressiveness is good, but only if you believe you have the best hand. Otherwise, there is little chance of making a better hand fold.
I learned a lot about my leaks:
  1. Two high cards are my kryptonite. I was too aggressive with overcards when I miss the flop. Less continuation bets unless I have only 1 opponent (maybe 2). Less follow-up bets when I have nothing on the turn and I bet the flop... Less river bets when I still have nothing but try to steal the pot...
  2. I usually pay off draws that beat me (many times I had the right read when they drew out on the turn, but couldn't lay it down because of the bluffing factor at low limits).
  3. Still working on valuations of hands at 6-max.
Anyway, that covers it. I should probably edit this when I'm less tired.