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...

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