Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Limit Hold'em is Dead to Me

If I could knock NLHE down in a dark alley somewhere and kick it in the ribs a few times I would. It has definitely worked me over pretty well lately.

Going into tonight's $1/2 NLHE session, these were my goals:

  • Take time with decisions.
  • Consider ranges of hands when making a decision.
  • Raising is power (raise the flop when possible).
  • Loosen up in position.
  • Keep pot small out-of-position.
  • $250 cap (meaning don't buy in more than twice, but reload the second buy-in if I get below $50).
  • Use my tight image.
Overall, I think I failed at every single goal. And I forgot one huge goal:

Don't overvalue top pair.

Well, let me recap.

In the first fifteen minutes, I lost my stack with KK vs 96o. (hand breakdown later). It was at this point that I realized I was in the bottom half of the table in terms of experience at NLHE and was probably not a favorite in the game. But I was there, so I was going to play. Then I lost about $40 with missed flops and things (I can't exactly remember what). I do remember that the most aggressive player at the table got moved to my left. Then I got stacked for $60 when my AK had a flop of AT9 and lost to a set of 9s, (all-in on the turn). I only briefly considered leaving after losing two buy-ins (my original plan) but it was only 8:30pm and I drove all the way out there so I was going to play, damn it! Then, lots of folding and a few little pots won before I missed AKs (seeing all the cards) and lost to A7s for $25. Finally, I lost my stack with KQ on a Qc9c6 flop (up against both AQ and 96).

I'm not complaining saying I had horrible beats and luck out against me. While my luck wasn't great, I think it was my strategy and decisions that got me beat. I just couldn't fold a hand when I needed to.

Oh, and did I mention I even failed to respect my own stop-loss... again?

Needless to say, I'm done with that game for at least three weeks. I'm going out of town, so that will help, but I know I'm no longer a favorite in the game.

And I think my overall strategy is flawed. Losing big in a few sessions is bad luck. Losing big three sessions in a row (plus a number of sessions online) is a sign that my strategy sucks.

Along with that, I've been feeling very lost in terms of reads on other players, and I'm not really sure what that is. It could be tilt, it could... hell, I think it is probably mostly tilt creeping sneaking up on my confidence, hitting it in the back of the head with a brick, and then dragging it into the sewer with me attached.

So, for now, I'm just doing a brain dump of ideas and I'll revisit things in a month or so when I go to play again. Until then, I will only be playing limit if I play at all.

My hypothesis on how to beat the game:
  • Actual cards don't matter much. The game is tight enough that I shouldn't be so focused on my cards.
  • The big pots occur when two big hands run into each other. I want to have the better hand more often than not. Standard raising hands (AK, AQ, AJ, QQ, TT) rarely get substantial action from less than two pair.
  • One pair is not a good hand against someone who raises me. Period. My reputation/image is such that people will only raise me with big hands. No more 'everyone is bluffing me' leaks!
  • I have to play speculative hands (connectors, small pairs, etc.) but I also have to play them confidently. Just playing them straightforwardly is probably a losing proposition in that game, but the ability to semi-bluff raise or float with them pushes them into the profitable range.
  • I should not overvalue suited hands. They go down in value because it is obvious when they hit and most players will protect against the flush draw.
  • I am not managing the pot well. For most of the hands, I was to a decision for the rest of my chips instead of putting that decision to someone else. This may mean raising more pre-flop to cut down the number/type of hands that come after me.
Ok, I'll end the post with a few of the hands that did me in. I can say without a doubt that didn't win a single medium to large pot. Before I do that though, a few stats:
  • I played 27.5 hours in 7 sessions since April. Three winning sessions, four losing sessions.
  • Overall, I won $253 for $9.20 and hour (which isn't bad).
  • My current downswing is $839, or 8.5 buy-ins.

Some hands I'd like to learn from:
  1. KK in EP. I raise to $7, get two callers. Flop comes Q96, checks to me, I bet $17, and one guy calls from the blinds. He's widely known as one of the best players in the game and is very aggressive. The turn is a 6 with about $80 in the pot and he bets $25 (I have about $30 left if I call the $25). I think for a while, then push. He insta-calls and shows 96 for a boat. I feel like I should have folded in this spot (I'm a tight player, he is good at reading hands, and he has to figure I have a big pair more often than not so he wouldn't be trying to bluff me). Let's face it, even with the odds of my stack (2.5:1) he won't be bluffing enough is this spot to make the fold worthwhile.
  2. AKo in MP. I raise to $9 and only the host (in the BB) calls. The pot is $20 and my stack is about $40. The flop comes KsTs9, he checks, and I check behind. This is pretty much my way of inducing a bluff (he can be aggressive). Let's face it, it was a dumb move, even though it wouldn't change the outcome here. The turn is an offsuit 8, he bets $15 pretty rapidly, and I move in for a little over $20 more. He calls, a bit slowly, with a set of 9s. Not a heck of a lot I can do in this hand, other than staying away from the idiot slow play on the flop.
  3. TT in EP. I raise to $7 and the guy in the big blind (very loose, very aggressive) re-raises it to $17. I've got $90 left, and while I can't see this guy re-raising with less than AK or QQ+, I feel like I need to call for set potential. FYI, I've seen him raise light, but never re-raise lighter than AK. The flop comes 862 or something like that. He checks, I check. He's also shown that he likes to check-raise his big pairs on low flops. The turn comes another low card and he bets $20 into the $35 pot. I call. At this point, he could be stealing with AKo. The river comes another blank and he bets $20 again. Again, I think about it, but call because the odds are pretty darn good and he could be just trying to pick up the pot if I have a draw. He shows KK. My analysis: again, his re-raising range is so tight, especially with with me UTG, that I maybe cold have folded pre-flop. Although probably not, because I think I had good odds if I thought I'd stack him if I hit a set (which I think I would, given the stacks). On the flop, I think I needed to put out a probe bet to see if he's got AK or a big pair. If he raises, I fold easily. If he calls, I check the turn or make another small bet (planning to check the river). If I check the flop, I think I need to call the turn bet and, maybe, the river bet (although his pattern of check, bet, bet slaughters me given his re-raising range).
  4. KQo in EP. I raise to $6 (I don't have change to make it my usual $7) and get three callers. The flop comes Qc9c6x, it checks to me, and I bet $15 into the $25 pot with $40 behind. The next guy to my left asks how much I have left, thinks a bit, then puts me all-in. I'm pretty positive I have to call, even though the guy isn't excessively loose and aggressive, when the BB, a very loose guy, cold calls the $60. What? Now I go into the tank for a while, but finally decide to call because I'm getting good odds (4:1 with $160 in the pot) and I don't want to keep playing with a $40 stack (dumb reason, I know). I feel pretty strongly that BB is on a draw since he didn't raise and the guy to my left likely has top pair, so I call. Turns out the raiser had AQ and the BB had 96o. I think I could have folded in that spot, but it is pretty close with those odds. Mostly because I don't think the raiser would have cold-called my raise with QJ or QT and pushed on me with second or third kicker.
  5. AKo in the big blind. I've got $100 in my stack since I recently reloaded. The loose aggressive, good player, to my left raises to $7, the next guy (the raiser in the hand above, but this is when he was a short stack earlier) pushes for $23 total, and it fold to me. After some though, I just cold-call. It felt very weak, but pushing with the original raiser to my left would only get called if I was in bad shape. We ended up checking it down though, and the all-in guy won with A7s (had a 7 on the flop).
I really, really wish I had this night back. I'd love to change my plays on a few of these hands and stick around a little longer. And I hate to take a break, but it is needed. Even if I figure out what I need to do, I've built up enough long term tilt and lost enough confidence that I'll never be able to execute in the heat of the moment.

I can always go play $6/12 LHE, although I need to hit the ATM first...


Anonymous said...

PUN, sorry about your nl probs; some brief advice: capped small-blind nl is basically about limping in, flopping sets and stacking people who overvalue top & 2-pair hands; a lot of patience is required; we get impatient because of the seemingly small stakes involved hand to hand; for your next session, try open-limping w/every hand you decide to play, over-limping 1 caller in any position or 2 early position callers if you're in middle position; this will setup some pre-flop reraise opportunities and other hands where you will be forced to work on your post-flop game; if you're faced w/a raise, keep your position in mind, don't be afraid to help define the raiser's and other limper's hands w/a reraise and keep stack sizes in mind in consideration of the price you're getting/giving for set-flopping

Sean said...

Excellent points, although I'm a little confused by when you say 'over-limping' unless you mean limping with huge hands after other players and then punishing anyone dumb enough to raise.

See my next post!

sickz said...

i enjoyed readin' your evaluations... and commend you for pointing out your faults, few people have this courage. i as well play $1/$2 cap nlhe in my local casinos (los angeles area).

i believe your biggest setback is, you don't fold often enough. as anonymous said earlier, your money is goin' to be made by set mining.. and occassionally backing into a flush or straight. play big pots with big hands, it's that simple.

you really need to use this tight strategy to build up an overwhelming stack (2.5x the buy in). then you can start working on your post flop play, and usin' your stack and position to make the game really unfair.

anyone can sit around and set mine, and play abc poker.. but what seperates the great players from the good, are the ones who wield the big stack profitably.

to put this in perspective, do you want to play heads up against someone who has 10x then amount of your chips? and i say heads up, because that's what big stack play is about, gettin' head ups play to the flop.

convincing yourself to make calls, you know you shouldn't because you'll only have $40 left if you fold (or even 20).. is a serious leak. you're better off sitting around and sticking to your strategy.

and be mindful of aggressive players on your left, it can become a real thorn in your ass, so seek to change seats asap to their left if possible. keep practicing!