Sunday, May 28, 2006

Don't look a poker player in the mouth.

Last Wednesday I had my usual dental checkup and pretty much everything was fine, except this:

My hygenist: "Do you grind your teeth at night?"
Me: "No, I don't think so. Sometimes I clench my teeth, but I'm still wearing my retainer at night so I don't think they grind." (sad but true about the retainer)
Hygenist: "Hmmm... Well, you have evidence that your teeth are grinding. Your molars are starting to get flatter, and there's <unintelligible dentist speak> at the base of your molars. Usually this means you are grinding your teeth and you may want to think protecting your teeth."
Me: "I doubt it is at night since I wear the retainer."


Hygenist: The other thing I wanted you to look at was this wear on his molars. I think he may be grinding his teeth.
Dentist: Yeah, although I think it is more clenching than grinding.
Me: ?...
Dentist: Do you ever find yourself clenching your teeth during the day? Maybe when you are concentrating hard?
Me: Kind of. Maybe, but I'm not really sure when.
Dentist: Well, bring in your retainer at your next appointment and I'll take a look at it.
Me: Ok.

Thursday night when I'm losing pots at $50 NL ...

Me: Darn it... %$&*$%... #$!@...

So, basically, I'm clenching when I lose pots or I'm frustrated... Which is a lot of the time that I play :)

Since then, I've been consciously trying to relax my jaw when I play. We'll see if I can unlearn this clenching thing.

I have to wonder if I'll pay more in dental bills than I'll win at $50 NL tables :)

Addendum: Turns out I managed to chip off a shallow filling between my appointment Wednesday and today. So another visit to the dentist is in my future -- at least she uses a cool laser and has VR goggles to watch movies on.

I blame the guy who caught a jack on the turn to hit his three-outer.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

World Records and Coincidences

So I was flipping through the 2000 Guinness World Records book we have in the bathroom (an excellent bathroom book BTW) and I noticed something in the Longest Leapfrog record:

"The greatest distance covered by leapfroggers was 996 miles 292 yd. by 14 students from Stanford University, California, who started leapfrogging on May 16th, 1991, and stopped 244 hr. 43 min. later on May 26th."
Great, so 14 crazy Stanford students leapfrogged for 10 days straight and completed their record-breaking hopping the day before my 14th birthday. Hey, I guess they accomplished their goal and set a record (which sadly isn't indexed online).

Out of curiosity, I looked up Stanford in the index and found only one other entry: Smallest Web Server. Coincidently, early in my graduate career I worked for the start-up spun off of that research.

About an hour later my family presented me my birthday gifts, and among them was the 2006 Edition. Funny.

Needless to say, it will soon take it's rightful place in the bathroom. Sadly, both of the records referenced above aren't mentioned.

Nip it in the bud...

My previous post is definitely on the conservative side and to be honest, I immediately regretted some of it right after I wrote it. Whining about a $28 loss is pretty lame. That being said, I continued my losing streak by dropping a whopping $11 (plus a $6 tilt-tourney) last night. I'm definitely becoming a problem gambler :)

Seriously, though, I've been pretty tilted the past two days. This issue is not the amount of money I lost, but how I lost it. To be honest, I feel like I really have a handle on low-stakes NL tables online and it is my strongest game. I definitely am not suprised when I get drawn out on. But, when I make basic mistakes that I know I shouldn't do (calling down with top pair, for instance), that tilts me to no end. It is one thing to lose to bad luck. It is another when I play poorly in an easy game.

Case in point:

$50 NL on Stars last night, $18 effective stacks. I limp in EP w/ Ah Ac, just me and the blinds ($1.50 pot) see a flop of 8h 6s 4s. SB and BB check, I bet $1. SB raises to $2, BB drop, and I need to decide what to do. He had $13 more behind, and I seriously thought about pushing, but instead I just called. Turn was 3s, he bets $2, I raise to $5, and he pushes for $13 total. Again, debate, then call, to see myself drawing dead to his Qs 8s.

Again, my problem with this hand is not that my aces got cracked -- that happens. My problem is I made a number of bad mistakes throughout the hand that caused me to lose the maximum. I probably would have gotten all-in with him on the flop if I played it right (he was loose and called a lot of raises), but what bugs me is I made many fundamental mistakes.

Limping with aces on any table that isn't super aggressive.

Just calling the flop with an overpair on a draw-heavy board.

Not bailing when his betting showed he had me beat and I had improper odds to call.

What bothers me most is that I was creating my own bad luck and playing in a tilted fashion. As a result, I decided to take my own advice and I took today off of poker (boy, it's hard not to play). Tomorrow I'll be running in the 500 fpp free-roll on Stars, so hopefully I'll have a good tourney. I don't have plans to play any cash games tomorrow though.

I can't help but think this is the down streak I usually have after a long period of running well. It will be a big deal if I can break out of the pattern.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

NL Strategy Rule #1

My NL Strategy Rule #1 is don't overvalue top pair.

Sadly, I violated that many times tonight and dropped half a buy-in over 2.5 hours of $50 NL 6-max (one table). In all honesty, I tilted a bit too. While $23 is only a tiny amount, if I want to break into higher NL I need to get rid of this simple leaks. I lost $24 with one pair hands according to poker tracker. Just following rule #1 would have made me winner.

Probably the majority of the money was succombing to calling bets on the river with a weak top pair. Of course, many times the mistake was on the flop, and it just put me in a bad river spot. For instance (all hands at $50 NL on Stars):

Hand 1: After raising pre-flop I end up out of position with QJo, flop is T52 rainbow, and my continuation bet is called. At the turn the pot has ~$9 with effective stacks of $30. The turn comes J (two clubs) and I check-call a $4.50 bet. River is offsuit A, and I check call $6.50 into an $18 pot to see a set of tens. I was very close to a fold on the river -- but I didn't.

There was very little I could beat -- any two broadway cards had me beat (except QT and KT, but I doubt they'd value bet). Plus, my turn play is suspect -- why didn't I lead out w/ top pair? At least then I have a better idea of where I am. Moral: Fold weak pairs to turn and river bets behind me that look like they're meant to be called. One pair is rarely good especially with a dangerous board. Bonus Moral: if I can't reasonably beat anything that would value bet, just fold even if the odds are better than 3 to 1.

Hand 2: Three players see a flop of Kd 8s 6s and a pot of $6. I'm on the pre-flop raiser on the button w/ KQo. Effective stack was $13. Action goes check, bet $1.50, and I raise to $5. UTG insta-pushes, initial raiser folds, and I insta-call. UTG had a set of 6s.

At the time I was in tournament mode -- I have to call the short stack's all-in because I was committed. But, although I was getting better than 3 to 1, what is going to check-raise in that spot? Flush draw? Doubt it. KJ? No way, they'd lead out. I was most likely against a set or two pair. Even against 8s over 6s, I may barely be getting 3 to 1 -- so actually I didn't have the odds to call. Plus, my read on the guy was very tight -- next to 0% that he would even semi-bluff. Moral: Take time to consider my read, my odds, and put the two together. If in doubt, fold.

Hand 3: This is a beauty in terms of my misplay. The big-blind and I see a flop of 6s 5h 9s. I'm in position with T9o, pot is $1.25, and effective stacks are $20. Big blind leads out for $1.50. I raise to $3, he calls. Turn is 3c, he bets $2, I call. River is 6h, he bets $4, I call after much debate.

The really interesting thing about this hand is I believe my best course of action was to fold on the flop. The flop is really dangerous, he overbet the pot, and I have nothing to fall back on and no real idea what hand he has (anything from a straight, two pair, to an uber-draw is possible). In other words, there are no real safe cards to fall, and a better TP than mine is a real possibility (many guys don't raise A9o like him, K9, Q9, J9 are also real possibilities). With so little involved in the pot and no redraws I think it is a fold, even with position. Just too much risk and horrible pot odds.

The small bet on the turn made me suspicious of a draw, but it is hard to raise in that spot. Again, dangerous board, etc, etc. The river bet seemed to be very much a value bet/blocking bet and there was little point in calling it. I just couldn't see that sequence with most drawing hands. Kind of a fold or push situation, although maybe, maybe he'd be betting a busted draw.

The point is that I had a lot of hard decisions in that hand which cost me money. I'm better off just mucking the flop and saving my money for better spots. Gambling and moves really aren't needed for low stakes NL. Moral: On a scary board, muck TPWK if I have no re-draws. Even a gutshot makes it worth seeing more cards.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Going to the show... (hopefully)

Poker Tournament

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 7330476

Monday, May 22, 2006

That familiar feeling...

Remember a few months ago when I was on a win streak and I felt something bad coming out of the corner of my eye? Well, I've got that feeling again.

Let me backtrack a bit -- I finally listened to the advice "Play what you are good at." In other words, to burn the most recent bonus at Party, I put in one losing session at 1/2, then realized that I could four-table the $25NL tables with a $12+ clear rate. So I put in another four sessions, earned ~$90, and averaged about 20PTBB/100 (good is considered 10PTBB/100). Yes, it could just be a lucky winning streak (1000 hands is nowhere near enough to draw conclusions). But, unlike many of my limit sessions where I wonder if I know what I am doing, the NL grinding was pretty automatic and I was very comfortable. This is probably the first time I've come out ahead from the poker in the last couple of bonuses I've completed.

So, yeah, I've strung together 6 winning days. And I'm getting that feeling.

Thinking about it, I think the source of the feeling is getting a little too 'comfortable' at the table. In other words, less thinking, less drive, and more autopilot. Especially on the last hour session of four-tabling Party.

Lets be honest, I'm still playing micro tables, my bankroll is a very comfortable $2700, and I don't really have much to worry about. But I would like to ride this winstreak and avoid the 15-20% drop in my bankroll that has happened the other times I got this feeling. So I've got a plan:

  1. Slow down. Play less, don't burn out.
  2. Focus, don't grind. Play when I want to play, and have a goal. Currently, my goal is to better my HU LHE game (burning the Doyle's bonus is great for this) and break into the $100 NL.
As far as the $100 NL, I positively feel that I have the ability right now to thrash that game and I have well over the 20 buyins recommended. From what I have heard, it is one of the last levels where casual players mix it up on a regular basis.

To get there though, I need to become comfortable with the amount of money being pushed around and the possible losses. So I plan to play both $50 NL and $100 NL in the near future with a goal of playing pretty much only the $100 NL in a few weeks. I don't think it will end badly, but I'm not going to run the psychological risk of just jumping in and getting slammed in a few bad sessions, then tilting off more money.

And yes, I know I am being overly cautious, but that is my style (for bankroll at least).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Anatomy of a losing streak...

CC has been going through a losing streak lately and I decided to write him a quick e-mail about some of my thoughts. As usual, 'quick' turned into long, wordy, and a bit lecturing, but I think it is worthwhile to post here (honestly, I should probably go back and remind myself of some of these ideas too).

BTW, I've got to say that CC is probably the best example of a blogger creating a great following by working hard. Posting often, quality posts, and interactive content is the best way to build readers.

Here's the content of the e-mail:

I wanted to comment on your recent troubles -- I could have left this in a comment but it was easier to put in an e-mail. My goal is not to offend you but give you my thoughts as an outside observer:

I think you are on a very slippery slope right now and should be careful in the near future. The comment that really got to me was "I've had very negative thoughts during play, almost feeling destined to lose. This is self-pity combined with a feeling that is reinforced through bad outcomes." For me, my litmus test of whether I should play is an attitude like that -- if I find myself expecting the bad beat, expecting to lose money, and I can't get the feeling to go away, then I am not in the right place to play. After all, those thoughts are self-fulfilling prophecies. Put another way, those kind of thoughts go through my head when I am in that long-term tilt area.

I recommend you take a few days off until those thoughts go away.

Again, I'm not trying to tell you what to do -- but in my history, I've had a few nasty losing streaks and every single time I felt like you do now. In each case, I didn't recover until I had time off poker (at least a few days, sometimes a week). It just took me that long to shake the tilt and play because I enjoyed it.

That being said, I don't really have the ability to play my way out of a losing streak. I know some guys can, like Ted Forrest. But deep down, I know I can't, at least not now. Especially internet poker, it all moves too quickly, to easily accessed, and lets face it, we're probably all addicted to some degree. Who knows, maybe its the fact we're always sitting in the same place at the computer -- maybe we should be moving our desks to get out of losing streaks!

I think you have made some good steps to getting rid of the problem, although be careful with multi-tabling. While it does help tighten you up, remember you are giving up some reading ability (i.e. EV) and it can uber-tilt you in minutes when all your tables have bad things happen. The three seconds before each move is an excellent idea though -- when I'm losing I definitely take less time to think things through, and taking three seconds is a great way to break out of that pattern.

Ok, one last comment and then I'll go away. I wrote a lot more than I meant to, so maybe I'll post this on my blog and call it an 'entry'. I never was that good at short and sweet.

One of the biggest dangers of poker is the lack of control we have. For instance, back when I played organized sports (this labels me as a nerd, I played Ultimate Frisbee seriously for three years before I succombed to injury), if something bad happened, I'd usually try harder -- run harder, focus harder, get more aggressive. Essentially use my anger or frustration to channel energy into the endeavour. Win or lose, I was usually satisfied that I did my best.

With poker though, you can't do that. Poker really is a 'hurry up and wait' type of game and trying to take control and force a win usually makes matters worse. But, of course, when I'm losing, my natural tendancy is to kick it in and try harder (usually resulting in playing more hands more aggressively). That also results in playing longer and more frequent sessions (which doesn't help the EV).

I think many poker players are like that -- the type of person attracted to poker is usually relatively aggressive, has a background in sports and competitive games, and doesn't like to lose. I definitely see you as that type of person, based on your blog. And lately, it really seems like the lack of control is getting to you, and maybe the best way to regain control is to take a break from online poker, all poker, even blogs.

Obviously, I don't really know you, and this is just advice. But I wanted to speak up because I've been recognizing a familiar pattern in your recent posts.

Big Win!

I'm going to kill a little more of my precious work time and get this down because it is pretty important.

On Sunday, I won a bit over $1,088. Yes, that is four digits, my biggest win ever.

Thursday I got an e-mail from Poker Club Europe (a B2B site where I just finished burning a bonus). Turns out I had an entry to a 3,000 free-roll because of their Refer-a-Friend competition -- both the referrers and the referrees (?) got entries to the competition (plus the top three referrers split €1,750). Gotta love these new sites throwing around money. The best part was the message had a 'secret agent' feel to it with black text on a black background -- so you had to highlight it to see the info (this was a bug, not a feature).

The complication was that my parents were in town, but I managed to clear a few hours starting at noon on Sunday to play the tourney. After all, with 37 people entered, the entry was worth about $80 which is a decent amount for me, plus the structure really suited my style (decent stacks, long blinds, no antes). Well, when Sunday rolled around, it turned out only about 13-14 people were actually active in the tourney (they probably weren't able to decode the e-mail). I actually had a bit of a bad beat with three other active players on my table -- one lucky schmuck had no other active players at his table, so he just stole blinds with abandon for the first half-hour. By the time the missing people had their stacks picked up, he had chipped up from T2500 to something like T15000. He eventually got second.

As for me, I played my usual 'small satellite' strategy (which I'm hoping to detail in another post in the near future because I believe I have non-obvious information to share). If I remember correctly, I wasn't all-in with the worst hand until we were well into the money (and that was a coin-flip). In fact, although I dropped a decent amount early, I don't really recall being nervous at any one point. I just hammered away and mostly stayed above par (I was 3rd or fourth for most of the final table, 7 paid out).

By the time we got to the big money jump at 3rd place, I had a slight chip lead when I pushed from the BB over a raise by the other big stack with AKo. I thought for sure he would lay down, but he insta-called with JJ (what, you don't even think about it?), and I was fortunate enough to win the race and acquire a 2.5:1 lead in heads-up. I promptly lost it doubling up the other guy with KQs vs JTs (all-in pre-flop), but got a few lucky situations (like 88 vs 77) and pulled out the win.

Oddly enough, the win wasn't my most satisfying, probably because I only had to beat a small field and had a lot of things go right for me in the tourney. For instance, the earlier mentioned huge stack really hunkered down and didn't apply any pressure during the critical bubble period. He was on my immediate right, so I ended up getting a lot of walks in my BB. That alone accounted for a lot of my success (and helped me handle my losses to the aggressive guy on my left who kept schooling me with his position). Still though, I have to be happy winning over 50% of my bankroll in one free-roll tournament, and I felt like I played pretty well to get there.

It is nice to be a winner sometimes. Oh, and this makes me positive for online play in 2006 :)

In other news, I still suck at LHE. My first session four-tabling 1/2 at Party for the latest reload saw me lose 15BB over 45 minutes. I keep trying to remind myself that it might just be variance, but deep down I still believe my limit game is flawed. Even worse, now I have the bankroll for 5/10, but I'm nowhere near feeling comfortable playing that high. If I can't beat 1/2, how can I beat 5/10?

I think it is time to pay my family some more winnings.

Monday, May 08, 2006

May update

I've delayed updating, but I think it'd be smart to get down some of the things that have happened lately without stealing too much time from work:

  1. Came close to a WSOP seat at Martinspoker (well, making it to 40th out of 160 where the top 10 get seats). Considering I got in for free (VIP points) and all three tournaments (two satellites) had significant overlays, I'm pretty happy with that. I'll probably take another shot in late May and maybe another shot in June -- the overlays are just too big to pass up.
  2. I'm continuing to have a huge hot streak at the Wednesday games -- 11 of the last 12 tourneys cashed, six 1sts, three 2nds. An unreal run, but I definitely feel like I've been 'dialed in' for the structure of the game. Done pretty well in the cash games, although one night I dropped $60 (mostly kings and littles) :)
  3. Burned a bonus on PokerClubEurope (B2B skin). Awesome signup and referral bonuses, but hard to make a buck at those tables. Dropped almost 60 euros over 6 hours. Ouch.
  4. Burned through two bonuses on Party. The first, a $35 reload, went really quick (too quick, I believe their software screwed up) and I came out ahead at NLHE by $16 or so. The second, a $100 reload, I experimented with 4-tabling 1/2 LHE and dropped about $45 due to a -$60 final session. Gotta love resizing the party tables. Oh well, I still came out ahead at least.
  5. Related to the previous two topics, I still suck at LHE. I think I'm just a bit better suited for big bet games. My latest theory is I've been stressing decisions on the flop instead of the turn (which is ideal for big bet games, but not small bet games). I threw some money back onto UB to try to do some three-tabling in the near future and test this hypothesis. I will try to avoid multitabling LHE on sites that I can't fit all screens up at the same time -- just too much effort switching back and forth.
  6. And, again, I've been noticing a disturbing trend in 2006 of losing money online. Granted, I'm still ahead overall with the bonuses, but I've lost a significant amount since the first of the year (when the slide started). To be specific, it is approx -$650 over 125 hours of play, or about -$5 /hour. It directly correllates to when I've been burning bonuses, so I'm sure I'm modifying my play, game selection (i.e. playing LHE), etc. to fit with the bonuses. Obviously, this is something I'd like to fix, but as yet I haven't truly identified what is wrong.
  7. Played the $100 NL at Garden City a few times and booked a few wins.
  8. My bankroll is scratching that $2,000 milestone. That's pretty cool.
Actually, maybe I should focus on this lost money online. It really is getting pretty bad -- if I had just played break-even poker over that time, I'd be up a ton of money. Looking at the stats and graphs, it really appears LHE is my achilles heel, losing -$460 during that time over 54 hours of play. I did lose ~$160 at tournaments, but that I attribute more to variance than anything else (I had few cashes).

Probably the biggest leak was playing larger limits at the end of a bonus session -- I think I push too much to finish the bonus and it hurts me. For instance, about $400 was lost at 2/4 in two sessions alone (with another $100 at 1/2). That, along with the fact I usually chase bonuses at smaller sites (less fish, more bonus whores) makes sense. I think it is time to strengthen my limit game some more, but depend on NLHE to grow my bankroll. I also think I need to leave the game (or at least switch tables) when I'm running bad, very few times have I been able to turn a bad session around.