Friday, July 11, 2008

Phantom Crossroads

I'm at a bit of a phantom crossroads right now, a juncture that is just an artifact of my mental models. Just like $3.99 seems so much more reasonable than $4.00 for a gallon of gas, numbers in poker change greatly in emotional value for tiny changes in actual value.

You see, I've only got about $350 in my home bankroll. Sure, I deposited profits a few months ago, and my bankroll is a bit over $2,300, but just the idea of withdrawing at the ATM when my family has been short on cash for a while makes me annoyed. And it has put me at a crossroads in terms of poker, a phantom construction that is really only in my mind.

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to keep playing poker.

That was never up for debate.

But there's three options (really, two) open to me right now: I can drop down in stakes (not needed yet, IMO), focus on the Backwoods game ($1/2 NLHE), or focus on $6/12 at the local casinos. While just one decent win will put me in a better head space, I think I'm better off spending a few weeks focusing on one game or another until my bankroll has gone back up or I hit enough of a downswing that I re-adjust my mental limits.

After all, there's two ways away from a mental roadblock -- put it past you, or put it far enough ahead of you that you can't see it.

Well, how about some graphs.

On the left are my results in 6/12 for the past six months (note that 8/16 and even 3/6 don't look nearly as nice, but 6/12 is my sweet spot for live LHE) and on the right are my results for the Backwoods game. In 6/12 LHE, I've averaged around $18/hr over 80 hours, while in the $1/2 NLHE I've averaged $10/hr over 36 hours. Neither figure is statistically significant, although the LHE gives a better idea of my long-term earn, in my experience.

Personally, I think both games are pretty close to each other in terms of bankroll: 300 BB in 6/12 is $3.6K, but I think 200 BB is plenty for a loose, generally good, live game; 20 buy-ins is standard for NLHE ($2K) although I think that should get jacked up a bit because it is only a 50BB buy-in. I also think my earn rate is pretty similar in both (1-2 BB in 6/12, and $10-$20 for an unraked $100 NL game). But I think the variance in the 6/12 is significantly lower, at least by those graphs.

A major factor in determining variance is when I get up from the table: in 6/12, I get up when I've played my time, when the table gets worse (and, usually then only if I'm winning; a leak!), or when I've lost enough that I know I should stop playing (rarely). In 1/2 I get up either when the night is done or I've lost 2-3 buy-ins. I can't really get up early when I'm ahead in the Backwoods game because it'd be frowned upon since it is a home game.

The end result is I usually either log a big win or a big loss in the Backwoods game.

If it helps, look at the graphs again, compensating for number of sessions/$:

Now the variance in the $1/2 NL game doesn't look as (artificially) bad, but still; my biggest downswing in 6/12 was about $600 (only when just starting out), my biggest downswing in NLHE was $900... so far.

For now, I think the answer is clear:

Until I get a little more cushion in my bankroll, I think I should switch back to $6/$12 LHE and see what happens.
And I'll start with a 6/12 session tomorrow afternoon. If I lose big... well, I'll need to re-evaluate. If I win, I'll try to stick with it a few more sessions to build the bankroll a bit.

And, as is the custom, I need goals for tomorrow afternoon. How about these recycled goals:
  1. Play ABC tight-aggressive poker. Let hand rankings come back to me, bet second pair when I might be best, semi-bluff, but generally play a basic value-based game.
  2. Take extra time for my decisions. Don't play on autopilot.
  3. Play against bad players. This means move tables if my table is tight. I play best against loose players (either aggressive or passive) so I need to seek them out.

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