Monday, February 12, 2007

Ladder Challenge Post Mortem

In general, the ladder challenge for me was a huge success. I had been stuck at .5/1 NL for a couple of years. I would beat .5/1NL pretty good, but get smacked around at 1/2 NL whenever I would try to make the move up. I needed this to force me to move up the stakes. If you take away the recent changes with Neteller that are making the games tougher, this challenge would have (and may still have) made 1/2 NL the lowest level that I play. I would highly recommend to anyone struggling to move up the ladder to give it a try.

A couple changes to the rules I would suggest are stating how many hands you will do the challenge for before starting. Something like 5000 hands or bust would be appropriate. Also, it should be clear that the ladder levels are guidelines. If the challenge says you are playing 3/6NL, and there are no games going at that level, or the only games are too tough, you should be allowed to play the next level down, so you can still play.

I made a few adjustments that helped make me become a winner at 1/2NL and potentially above that. These are not in order of importance.

1) Play with confidence.
I have done this a couple of times when doing challenges that I report on this blog. You cut some sessions short to "book a win" early in the challenge. This is not something that you want to get in the habit of, because it is a bad idea in general. However, when you are trying a new level or challenge, it is great for your confidence to start our strong. So early on, at 1/2NL I would quit when I had won "enough" for the day, and book the win. The next morning you wake up with the knowledge that your challenge is a success, your confidence grows, you play better, and you book some more wins. This can be huge when you try new higher stakes. If you take your first shot at 2/4 NL and during the session you were up $50 then down $50 you will have more confidence the next day if you would have quit up $50. The next morning you will wake up as a lifetime winner at 2/4NL, vs. a lifetime loser. This makes a huge difference in your confidence. I think this played a minor role in my success, and as I said above, it is really a bad habit, but you might consider it early in challenges.

2) Play only when you want to and are ready to play
Only play when you are at your best. Make sure you are rested, alert, and free from distractions before sitting down for a session. Don't play drunk, or tired. Don't play when you don't feel like playing. It is a bad idea to force the hand count up to make some arbitrary progress when you don't feel like it. I averaged a paltry 4 hours a week playing during the challenge, because I would only play when I was at my best.

3) Reduce the number of tables that you play.
I have been multitabling for years. I am pretty comfortable running 4 at a time, and sometimes run 6 at a time. For the challenge, I limited this to 3 at a time max, and less when trying a new level initially. The few extra seconds you get to make decisions, and watch the tables makes a pretty big difference. At the lower levels, ABC will get it done, and decisions can be near automatic. At the higher levels, this stops working as well, and you will need to be more thoughtful in your decisions. 1/2 NL is where ABC poker starts to break down IMO.

4) Table Selection, Table Selection, Table Selection
This I think was the biggest key. Though I always practiced table selection, I was always pretty loose about it with the idea on getting on 4-6 tables pretty quickly. For the challenge I made it a point to be strict with table selection. Good table selection will put you on tables with players that are worse than you (at almost any level), and that is where you make the money. I honestly think a solid .50/1 NL player could beat 2/4 NL making no adjustments other than solid table selection. For me table selection revolves around three key concepts.

a) I want a loose (30% or more of flops) full 9-player ring with no open seats.

b) I want the mix of full stacks to short stacks to be weighted towards the shorties. My rule of thumb is no more than three full stacks (or near full) at a table. With this mix there will be plenty of bad players to take money from, though you will have to double through the better players that have you covered from time to time. In a cash game if you are good, you buy-in for the full amount and reload if you get low. The bad players are easy to spot because the start with a small stack or let it run low. Take advantage.

c) High average pot size.
With large pots you know some people are getting out of line at the table and overplaying top pair and other hands. These tables are easy to beat.


At 8:54 AM, Blogger NewinNov said...

Nice post.


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