Friday, March 30, 2007

$300 Bonus Challenge Update

I have been neglecting to do an update on this for reasons that you can probably guess. You see I bragged about how well I was running in a post, and as you know this is exactly what the poker Gods look for before unleashing their wrath. This makes it pretty tough for those of us who do official challenges we are supposed to report on. It sucks to report when you are running bad in a challenge, and if you dare report when you are running good you will be struck dead in your tracks. So if you jump out huge and things are going great, you just keep it real quiet and for the 2 or 3 people who want an update, just let them wait. That's the right approach if you jump out hot. Act like you forgot you were running a challenge, and just post the results when its over with a disclaimer that you could not dare post mid-challenge without killing your streak.

I was real careful in the post, and said that the win rate "was not real", and I would be very happy with "1/2 the win rate". I tried not to brag. But I did get the usual result which was bound to happen anyway. The usual fare of running set into higher set, big pair into higher big pair. Just getting into tough situations that even the best of us can't avoid. I still think I am playing well, though a little too much aggression is probably starting to creep into my game. I am not going to do any screenshots but here is a rough update on the $300 Bonus Challenge.

$200 in bonus cleared. I was at $160 at 7 days so slightly ahead of schedule.
$625 in Profit. Down a couple buy-ins since last weekend.
$825 in total profit.

I am going to need to pound the tables this weekend to clear the bonus and turn things around, poker Gods willing.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Complicated Inner Workings of a Balanced Strategy

The low variance playing style or strategy that I outlined earns me 6 Big Bets/100 hands long term (per PokerTracker). Long term meaning over 25,000 hands. People can run much hotter than that short term or even over 1000s of hands, but 6BB/100 hands at full-ring NL is pretty solid IMO. The truly great can probably do 10BB/100 or possibly 12BB/100, but that's about as much as you can extract long term playing semi decent competition. For me 3-4 tabling 1/2 NL it means about $45-50/hr in profit. While the strategy I am employing is low variance, it is also balanced. Fuel55 mentioned that I could be exploited because I would win small pots with my big pairs and lose big ones. I can get away from over pairs and TPTK post flop. You need to extract the most you can while set mining, yet at the same time minimize the extraction that the set miners can get on you. When you are playing well, the other players are not getting the huge edge with sets against you that you are against them. So doing all these things in combination, makes it difficult to pick a line against me that's profitable. The average line chosen is -6BB/100h for the table as a whole. There are some things that can be done to counter my system by the very skilled, but I don't run into too many of them at 1/2 nl. If you want to suggest a line of attack, I will let you know if it is what I am thinking of. Of course because I know what the main weakness is (at least one of them), it is pretty easy for me to spot someone trying to exploit it, and take counter measures or find a different table. But now to the actual point of the post.

I kind of did a little trick here. I am getting 6BB/100, but 10BB/100 is possible. I need to add variance in very selective areas (so other areas are not broken or overly effected) to start dialing my game up to 10BB/100. So I figured if I laid out a semi-complete strategy for the low variance style, it would get picked apart by the high variance players at its points of greatest weakness. I figured that they would not attack everything, because some of it is required for high profits, but they would single out the area's that I should focus on. So far I would say this is the limp/call line in EP to MP preflop with middle to small pocket pairs. Auto raise all pocket pairs in all positions is the preferred high variance approach. I have to say that this was one of the things I thought would come out, but lets examine this a bit further.

If you tweak one aspect of your style, or strategy it can have profound effects on the other aspects. Making a change to something in one area can improve profitability there, but lower it in other places, possibly reducing overall profitability. Your over-all strategy should be balanced, and you should consider all the different areas that will be effected by a change. So the hypothesis is that raising up all pocket pairs from all positions increases overall profitability for the high variance players, and potentially for me if I only tweak that one area of my approach.

So I am going to look at this from both directions. What if the high variance guys played mid to small pp like me, and what if I played them like they do. My take is that for the high variance (and profitable) players the switch would increase the profitability of the mid-small pairs as a group, and decrease the profitability of the big pairs as a group. Overall profitability would be decreased (if the hypothesis is correct). Why do I think this? It is based on preflop raising percentage. The higher your preflop raise percentage, the more likely that your bet will be called or reraised preflop, and the more likely your continuation bet will be raised or called post flop. The high variance guys are playing looser in the amount of flops that they see, and the number of pots they raise, independent of how they play the mid to small pairs. Intuitively, I see the raise them all up line as not the most profitable, but it must get your bigger pairs paid bigger more than enough to offset lost profits if the hypothesis is true. So for the high variance guys, they will not get quite as much "bang for the buck", by expanding their preflop raising range. Their big pairs are already getting paid. So they make this adjustment, and the mid to small pair profit goes down because their preflop raises and c-bets will be challenged even more, but they squeeze out some more incremental profit with the big pairs.

With my style, I am raising less preflop, so my raises and c-bets earn more respect. It is possible that this adjustment could be win-win for me. I might be able to grind additional profit from the pairs, by winning preflop on the raise, or c-betting it when missed. When the set hits this way the pot will always be big. So my overall profit for mid-small pairs could go up. The profit from my big pairs should go up as well, as my raises preflop and c-bets will get less respect. I may have to give this a shot and see what happens to my win rate. So my point here is that all adjustments to your game should be taken within the context of a balanced strategy. Tweaking one thing in one type of overall strategy may work. The same adjustment for another player may backfire. Grinding out some more profit from one class of hands may mean less profit from another. The inner workings of a balanced strategy are pretty complicated.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

High Variance vs. Low Variance Playing Styles in NL Holdem Cash Games

I don't think too much has been written on this topic, though it has been touched upon by various authors to some extent. I will do my best to explain my thoughts on the matter, and through comments and follow-up posts, I may be able to make some sense out of what I am trying to explain here.

First of all, I play a pretty low variance form of NL Holdem cash. It was not always this way, but my game has evolved to where variance has been pretty much minimized. This is a good thing in some ways, and bad in others. Playing a low variance style minimizes the swings in bankroll, and keeps you from having lengthy losing streaks that can mess with your confidence. This is a huge benefit. The negative in playing this way, is that it is not the way to fully maximize profit at the tables. I could make more per hour by allowing more variance into my game, but as a result I would have to deal with the bankroll swings that come along for the ride. My game has been criticized many a time, because of my ubertightness. I usually shake this off, because I know that the way I play works and is solidly profitable. The one criticism that has stayed with me, though came from F-train a while back when reviewing some statistics that I had posted. I will summarize what he said (and try to put his exact words here later). He basically said that my post flop aggression was off the chart, and that because of this I was leaving money on the table. I would need to learn how to go deeper into the board (past the flop), and because of this learn how to make some huge laydowns if I wanted to further improve my game. He has a very valid point here, but would it really be worth it?

So before I start lets just talk about the basics of variance. Some charts would be helpful here, but I will try to explain in a way the mathematically inclined will understand. Variance in it's simplest form could be represented by a Sine wave. It goes up and down around break-even at some amplitude, but over time the area under the curve goes to zero (overtime variance washes away). In the real world variance is random and chaotic, but still sums to zero overtime like a simple Sine wave does. A high variance game would have high amplitude in this signal. A low variance game would have low amplitude. The variance signal is then overlaid on your bankroll growth (Profit/Loss) signal. Imagine this as a straight line that slopes up if you are a winning player, or slopes down if you are a losing player. The rate at which you win or lose determines the slope of the line. So your overall bankroll growth is a combination of the variance signal and profit/loss signal. In general, the variance signal has a much, much higher amplitude and tends to drown out the profit/loss signal over short periods of time. Only over long periods of time (when variance washes away), can you see the underlying profit/loss trend.

For a winning player, variance is what makes it possible to lose. Imagine if the pot went to the person mathematically ahead when the money went in (no suckouts allowed), and when hand ranges came in to play the winner got their mathematical equity in the pot. Variance would be pretty much eliminated and winning players would win all sessions that they played in. Losing players would lose all sessions that they played in. Variance is what allows losing players to have winning sessions. Because of the way the human mind works, the losing player selectively remembers the winning sessions, and feels he is better that he really is. Variance keeps the fish coming back so it is a good thing. But, if you are a winning player, does a high level of variance really help. Possibly not. If you can minimize the variance, you can maximize the percentage of sessions that you win, and as a result potentially maximize your enjoyment and confidence in the game. For a losing player the opposite is true. Maximizing variance maximizes their chances that a session will be a winner. Wild play is actually better for a losing player given that the other lower variance choice is neutral on profit/loss. A losing player has no reason to play a low variance style. A winning player does in a way. They can use their profitability to outweigh a low variance signal and obtain much more consistent results.

So what makes one style high variance and one style low variance? Before I get into that, I will talk about how to recognize what type of style you or your opponents are playing. I have played cash games for a long time. I typically do not run my stack north of 2x my buy-in. I rarely "rack-out" (get stacked) in cash games. So I am minimizing my losses and minimizing my wins at the same time. I am attenuating the variance signal in some way. When my good friend smokkee started dabbling in cash games (when he had only been playing for several months), I would see him routinely sitting with 3x, 4x, 5x the buy-in. Levels that I have never got to in a cash game, he was regularly achieving. Of course he was getting stacked left and right as well. He was playing a very high variance form of cash game. I would put lucko, wes, Fuel55 and doubleas in the same category. They play a high variance (and profitable) cash game style. So the signs in general, are how easy and often to you get up to 3x or 4x your buy-in in a cash game, and how often are you reloading your chips. Most people play a high variance style. Nearly all new NL cash game players play a high variance style. NL is much higher variance than limit (obviously).

So now I will try to explain the aspects of a low variance playing style below:

1) Play very tight preflop. The TAG style is much lower variance than the LAG style. TAGs play fewer hands and get into fewer unique situations as a result. LAGs play more hands and push slimmer edges post flop as a result, increasing the variance.

2) Multitable lower limits vs. single table higher limits . If you play 3 or 4 tables at a time, your variance is reduced because you are getting much more hands in to wash it away. If you get stacked on one table, your winnings from the others will offset this. If you play a single table at a higher level for the same profit potential, variance is magnified by 3x to 4x vs. multitabling.

3) Don't limp from early with hands that you normally will not call a raise with. Limp early with small to medium pairs, but not with medium suited connectors. You can usually call the raise with the pair, but not with the suited connectors. Sometimes you will limp with suited connectors, get raised, get some callers, and feel you are priced in for a flop. This is a very high variance play, as it is pretty unlikely you will hit the flop hard. You might also lose a huge pot to a higher flush when you do hit. Suited connectors in general are a high variance starting hand.

4) Don't call big raises with middle pocket pairs preflop. It is ok to call a reasonable raise with a small pair preflop (3x-4x). Be careful when it is raised more than this. Use the rule of 10 (or better yet rule of 15) to see if your opponent's stack, and yours are big enough to "set mine". Avoid the borderline situations by folding, and look for situations that have great implied odds. Playing a pocket pair for a big raise with implied odds barely there is high variance.

5) Don't raise small to medium pocket pairs from early or middle position (full ring). It is best to limp/call these hands to minimize variance. Also if you don't hit your set, don't get too crazy post flop. Folding to pressure when you miss your set minimizes variance. Trying to play on with overs on board when you have a middle pair is high variance. You will remember the massive pots that you won when raising pairs and hitting a set, or calling a big raise and hitting, but the most profit is made when you limp multiway and hit over the long term.

6) Be aggressive on the flop. Take your stabs at the pot early, and find out where you are at early before the pot gets too big. Checking, betting, raising, and folding on the flop are low variance. Calling the flop is high variance (in general).

7) Don't be overly aggressive without a made hand on later streets. Double and triple barreled bluffs are high variance. Try more single barreled bluffs, and less of the double and triple barreled types to minimize variance.

8) Don't make heroic calls on the river. When you call the river in NL you should be pretty sure you are ahead. Ace high calls on the river are high variance. Look for a better spot. Call when you pretty much know you have it, or are at least priced in.

9) Don't get cute with big pairs preflop. If you look down at AA or KK preflop, and there are a lot of limpers, raise it up pretty big and take it down right there, or at least get heads-up. If someone raises before you act, reraise them enough that you take away there set mining odds, and push the flop if they call. Don't limp ever with these hands preflop if you want to minimize variance. Make a big raise, and eliminate the competition.

10) Learn how to fold TT-QQ and AK preflop. There are times when these hands are obviously beat. Fold them in these situations and look for a better spot. Going to war preflop with these hands is a very high variance play.

11) Don't slow play or float (too much). Slow playing and floating are both high variance plays. Betting your good hands, and folding your junk is low variance. There are times when these plays are correct (for profit reasons), but they will always increase your variance.

12) Semibluff your draws (especially when in position). Draws in general are high variance. If you can control the betting on draws you can lower the variance. Semibluff your draws, and try to take free cards in position, and take pots down uncontested before your draw hits. Manage the pot size when drawing so that most of it goes in after you hit to minimize variance. Calling with draws all the way down is high variance.

13) Learn to make huge laydowns. Probably the most difficult situation you can get in is when you have a good hand, and are facing a ton of pressure. You may need to fold a set, or a straight, or a flush, when it is pretty clear that you are beat. If you can make these folds your variance will be reduced.

14) Choose tables with short stacks present. If you are playing at a table with all full buy-ins, variance is maximized. As the mix goes towards shorter stacks variance (proportional to potential pot sizes) is reduced.

15) Play full ring vs. short handed. Full ring cash games allow you to exploit bigger edges with bigger hands. Short handed the blinds will eat you up if apply this strategy. You have to push smaller edges with more marginal hands short handed, so your variance will be higher accordingly.

16) Play in position. When you are making moves/playing hands in position you can keep your variance lower by having better control of the pot size and betting. When out of position, the variance goes way up because others can exploit your positional disadvantage, and manipulate the pot size beyond your control.

This is what I have so far and they are not in any particular order. I am sure there are many other ways that I have missed. Let me know if you can think of anything, or if you think I am way off in what I am saying. I would say that most NL cash game players should go through stages. Initially they will play high variance. Then their variance will come down a bit as they become better. The better players will allow more variance back in their games if it means more profit. I am not sure if I am ready to do this yet, but I will be a little stuck in my win rates until I am.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

I Still Got It, and Challenge Profit Goal Exceeded

I continue to run ridiculously well, and run into some ridiculous donks while trying to clear the $300 bonus. My PT stats and earnings chart since last Tuesday night is above. I am not sure if I have ever run better over 2000 hands. I am profiting over 50 cents/hand which is about $100/hr 3 to 4 tabling. If this was real and I could keep it up long term, I guess I would have to quit my day job. I would be very happy with 1/2 that win rate. Total profit (including bonus) for the challenge is now $1,146 in just over 5 days. Things are definitely going my way, and I am even running into some crazy bad play. The hand below is probably the worst I have ever seen someone play preflop at 1/2 NL when they had a full buy-in.
Full Tilt Poker Game #2069286394: Table Revere - $1/$2 - No Limit Hold'em - 19:37:57 ET - 2007/03/25
Seat 1: giveusakiss ($382.90)
Seat 2: oldhelnewm ($138.70), is sitting out
Seat 3: sammyhk ($146.20)
Seat 4: ArtieRufio31 ($196.80)
Seat 5: thamul ($157.95)
Seat 6: bdawg3451 ($200.35)
Seat 7: Blinders ($200)
Seat 8: AUNT CHICHI ($108.10)
Seat 9: svnr2000 ($247.80)
svnr2000 posts the small blind of $1
giveusakiss posts the big blind of $2
Blinders posts $2
The button is in seat #8
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [Ah As]
sammyhk folds
ArtieRufio31 folds
thamul folds
bdawg3451 raises to $8
Blinders raises to $19
svnr2000 folds
giveusakiss folds
bdawg3451 raises to $45
Blinders has 15 seconds left to act
Blinders raises to $104
bdawg3451 raises to $200.35, and is all in
Blinders calls $96, and is all in
bdawg3451 shows [7c 6s]
Blinders shows [Ah As]
Uncalled bet of $0.35 returned to bdawg3451
*** FLOP *** [2h 4d 3h]
*** TURN *** [2h 4d 3h] [Jc]
*** RIVER *** [2h 4d 3h Jc] [Qh]
bdawg3451 shows Queen Jack high
Blinders shows a pair of Aces
Blinders wins the pot ($400) with a pair of Aces
bdawg3451 is sitting out
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $403 Rake $3
lol, still had to sweat it when he flopped a gutshot with his junk.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bonus Challenge Update

It's Saturday morning, and I have cleared $75.28 in bonus, and won $315.65 at the tables for a total profit of about $391. I am running pretty well, so the profit target of $1,000 seems very reachable. 1376 hands at this point is not a high enough pace to clear the entire bonus, but it is close. I am also falling a little behind the goal of 3ooo FTPs in a week for the WSOP ME freeroll. I will either pick up the pace this week, or try to clear the freeroll and bonus next week. The biggest issue I am having is getting on three good tables at a time. I am loosening up my table requirements slightly to get some hands in, but I hate doing this. There have been a few times where I wanted to play, but could only get on one or two good tables so I quit from boredom. 2-tabling tends to put me to sleep. Besides just updating the challenge next week, I have some pretty good post ideas in the queue so check back.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Quick Challenge Update, and the Dangers of Limping with AA and KK

Below is an update through last night which is about 27 hours into the challenge.

Hands Played 740
FTPs Earned 708
Bonus Cleared $42.50
Winnings $136.55
Total Profit $179.05
Personal Rake (from Poker Tracker) $53.25
Bonus Rakeback Percentage 80%

I am off to a pretty good start after last night. Also, I am going to take Bayne's advice and also try to get 3000 FTPs this week, and qualify for the WSOP ME Freeroll.

Below is a hand from last night, that was like nothing I have seen before. It really shows the dangers of limping with AA and KK, and slowplaying after the flop. In this hand players were dealt AA and KK, but there was no raise preflop, and 6 players got to see it. I am going to show what the key players had, and comment on each of their actions. It would be interesting to see who you think misplayed this hand the most/least.

FullTiltPoker Game #2039910525: Table Lost Miner - $1/$2 - No Limit Hold'em - 20:38:41 ET - 2007/03/21
Seat 1: U2scubal ($255.80)
Seat 2: morty13579 ($51)
Seat 3: S56677B ($307.65)
Seat 4: Not Swift ($195)
Seat 5: sami99 ($205.60)
Seat 6: joanemilie ($68.60)
Seat 7: Blinders ($193)
Seat 8: Cash Dumper ($75)
Seat 9: UrATM ($127.50)
U2scubal posts the small blind of $1
morty13579 posts the big blind of $2
Cash Dumper posts $2
The button is in seat #9
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [6d 6c]
S56677B [KK] calls $2

Limping from UTG with KK. This is a marginal play. I would much rather do this with AA, but I have done it before with success.

Not Swift folds
sami99 folds
joanemilie [AA] calls $2

Overlimping with AA when we already have one limper and a dead BB. He is giving the SB great odds to complete, and the BB obviously will see the flop, so it will be a 5-way flop minimum if he does not raise. This is about as poorly as you can play AA preflop IMO.

Blinders calls $2

I have great odds to set mine. No need to raise.

Cash Dumper checks
UrATM folds
U2scubal [74o] calls $1

Junk hand, but appears to be getting 12-1 odds to call. Completing the SB is the obvious play here even with junk.

morty13579 checks
*** FLOP *** [3c 7s 7c]
U2scubal checks
morty13579 checks
S56677B [KK] bets $8

KK is taking a stab. This is a decent play. If I limp with AA or KK, and nobody raises behind and the flop is 6-way, I am looking to take an inexpensive stab, and keep the pot small. I will be ready to release an overpair pretty easy here, as my limp preflop plan pretty much failed.

joanemilie calls $8

AA overcalls here which is horrible IMO. He needs to reraise right now to see if he is still good. If he does not find out right now things will get real expensive.

Blinders folds

My read on KK was that he was overly aggressive. I was planning on reraising him to see if I was ahead. The overcall + the 6-way flop spooked me, so I changed my mind and folded.

Cash Dumper folds
U2scubal calls [47o] $8

He hit trips and overcalls the two bets. I think you need to raise here to start building a pot with two others already showing strength.

morty13579 folds
*** TURN *** [3c 7s 7c] [Kh]
U2scubal checks

Trip sevens continues with his slowplay. Had he raised the flop, he could have fired here as well and kept building the pot.

S56677B bets $20

KK hits his set, and fires a decent sized bet. I like this a lot.

joanemilie calls $20

AA is still flying blind. A 6-way flop is way too dangerous for this. Might be time to fold, but at least time to finally show some strength. Calling is not a good idea here.

U2scubal calls $20

Trip sevens continues the slow play. Not that bad at this point as it is pretty clear KK will continue to bet.

*** RIVER *** [3c 7s 7c Kh] [Ts]
U2scubal checks

Safe card for trip sevens. He continues to play it slow.

S56677B bets $54

Value bet. Nice play.

joanemilie calls $38.60, and is all in

All-in blind with AA and no help in a 6-way flop with a ton of strength shown by KK. I guess he got himself pot committed without ever finding out where he was at.

U2scubal calls $54

Trip sevens must call this, Pushing in is another valid option.

*** SHOW DOWN ***
S56677B shows [Kd Kc] (a full house, Kings full of Sevens)
U2scubal mucks
S56677B wins the side pot ($30.80) with a full house, Kings full of Sevens
joanemilie shows [Ad As] (two pair, Aces and Sevens)
S56677B wins the main pot ($208.80) with a full house, Kings full of Sevens
joanemilie is sitting out
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $242.60 Main pot $211.80. Side pot $30.80. Rake $3
Board: [3c 7s 7c Kh Ts]
Seat 1: U2scubal (small blind) mucked [7h 4d] - three of a kind, Sevens
Seat 2: morty13579 (big blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 3: S56677B showed [Kd Kc] and won ($239.60) with a full house, Kings full of Sevens
Seat 4: Not Swift didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: sami99 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: joanemilie showed [Ad As] and lost with two pair, Aces and Sevens
Seat 7: Blinders folded on the Flop
Seat 8: Cash Dumper folded on the Flop
Seat 9: UrATM (button) didn't bet (folded)

I think KK played it best and was very lucky to hit his 2-outer on the turn. It would be interesting to see what would have happened if the K did not turn. He was in third place on the flop, and had no idea where he was. AA played horrible on all streets. Had he raised preflop, I bet all the money goes in and they lose trip sevens, and me who could have hit a set. Then at least he gets it in ahead, which would have felt better, then calling on all streets with a loser. Trip sevens was in a tough spot here. If the poker Gods were on his side, he would have stacked AA, and got a nice chunk from KK as well. I still think he went too far with the slowplay, but in this case it made no difference. I got out cheap on a flop that there was a decent chance I was ahead on.

Crazy hand. Anyone ever see AA and KK both limp preflop in NL holdem?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

$300 Bonus Challenge

I am a bonus whore. One of the reasons that I don't play much anymore is that without having a deposit method, I can't make a deposit and get a reload bonus. I fund my poker account through my winnings, but I loved to move money in and out to take advantage of bonuses. Well, I got this email over the weekend (anyone else get this?), and it looks like FT has noticed my lack of play and wants to get me back. Well played sir. You win.

So I am challenging myself to clear the entire $300 bonus in the 14 days allowed starting tonight. That's about 350 FPPs/day which is roughly 2 hours/day 3 tabling 1/2 NL. I have never been able to get rakeback on FullTilt, so I feel a lot less "ripped-off" when I have a bonus working there. You get 42% rakeback with a FT bonus. I get raked less than 1/2 of the average players rake based on my playing style, so I will be getting close to 100% of my rake contribution back during the bonus. I have not had a 350 FPP day on FT in months, so my playing habits are going to have to radically change. This may be what it takes to get me back in the game. My goal for the challenge is $1000 in total profit or $700 in winnings + $300 in bonus. Wish me luck.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Live MTT Success

For those of you who read this blog, you know that I am a cash game specialist. Though I can hold my own in MTTs, my win rate/hour is much, much lower. I do tend to do pretty well in Sit and Goes for some reason. My typical MTT strategy is to play an optimal cash game strategy (which I am very comfortable with) for as long as possible. When it gets shorthanded or my M dictates that my strategy must change, I start to make the required adjustments for MTT play. When the play gets down to 3-4 handed, or I get real short in chips, I feel I am making the right adjustments to win (close to optimal). Based on this, I feel my MTT play is pretty strong early and late in MTTs, but is a little weak in the middle where I am delaying the required adjustments better MTT players would be already making.

Online when I play this way, I appear pretty tight for the early and middle stages of the tournament, and I try to exploit this image later on by raising thin preflop and taking down uncontested pots when the blinds matter. I tend to get the credit deserved by playing tight for so long online.

Live games are another story. I have had pretty good success in live tourneys. I am the all-time cash leader on the OCPT ($2,200+), took 5th overall in the Orange Poker League last year (about 60 competitors), and have also won a few one-off large buy-in events. Part of this success lies in the fact that live players just are not as good as online players at similar stakes. Part of the success is that I pay more attention, and make more adjustments based on the other players at the table. Most importantly though, is that the live players I play with don't seem to adjust properly to the table image I am projecting.

Saturday we had a special event on the OCPT with a $1320 prize pool. I ended up taking third for $210 cash. What was interesting was how I chipped up at the final table. I was pretty low for the first three hours. I was not getting anything, and was just folding away. I ran into three flopped straights when I hit the flop myself, and ran TT vs. JJ during the rebuy section of the tournament. Out of those four difficult situations, I got stacked once (rebought), but managed to keep the pots small on the other three occasions. The one hand I showed in the first three hours was AQ, where I got it in on the turn on a AQT9 board and lost to KJ. So I showed top 2-pair and nothing else in three hours. I would finally pick pick up KK and double through QQ to get some chips to work with at the final table. So I had shown KK and AQ up to this point.

Now for the key hands. Both were against players that were from my original table, and should have had some sort of read on my play.

Hand 1:
Shorty pushes in for T210. I look down at AQs in the cutoff, and push-in T800 to isolate. Victim #1 overcalls my all-in with A7o for his entire stack of T800. Victim #1 is second all-time in earnings on the OCPT. This was a horrible play, though he justified it by saying he knew I was trying to isolate. I either have a Pocket Pair or a better Ace, as I had made no moves to this point. Shorty had KQ and my hand would hold up knocking both players out of the tournament.

Hand 2:
I pick up JJ and reraise an open of T200 to T600, and get called. Flop comes 6-high rainbow, and I push-in for T1400. Victim #2 thinks about it, and then calls with A7o (2 overs?). I dodge the ace and get nearly a full double up again and enough chips to make a run at the title, while eliminating another player.

I guess the point of all of this is not anything new. Your table image only matters to those who are paying attention. If you make a play based on your image to someone who does not care, it will not work. If your opponents are not paying attention, it is best to wait for a big hand and play it big. They will think you are making a move, even though there is no evidence that you have made any moves up to this point. This kind of sums up how I play live MTTs, and it tends to work. I sometimes use my tight image to steal late (like in online tourneys), but more often then not, I just get my big hands paid off, by playing them big.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bloggers Invade The OCPT

The latest stop on the Orange County Poker Tour (OCPT) was last night. Since smokkee dropped off the tour to play cyberpoker instead, the field is pretty unbloggerly. Joe Speaker showed up for last years championship and did a nice write-up, on what is arguably the best run underground tour in central O.C. It appears this is finally paying dividends as yosoyveneno and High Plains Drifter made surprise appearances at last nights event. HPD also brought Jeff from TustinRounders to compete for what would be a $570 prize pool.

Veneno would play well, but just could not get anything to hold up against the various suck-out artists at her starting table. She ended up getting knocked out first from the 16 competitors when once again her money went in ahead, and a flush was promptly rivered. The new guys from TustinRounders would do well, both making the money. As the blinds escalated late on the bubble, I got it all-in against the big stack preflop with A9o. He would have AA, but I would river a 4-flush for new life. I would make it past the bubble, but was out in 5th. High Plains Drifter had a nice stack throughout the final table play, but would succumb to the ever increasing blinds and be out in 4th. Tony was out in 3rd leaving newcomer Jeff and old timer Tom (T.A.) Andor to compete for the title. It would be over quickly with T.A. taking 1st for $230, and Jeff 2nd for $140. Above you can see them after the final hand. Saturday night is a double stakes tourney in Lake Forrest. If you are in So-Cal you are welcome to make a guest appearance on tour.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Royal Suck Out

This was to close out a single table S&G. Rivered the poor bastard with my second royal ever.

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The Check/Min-Raise in NL

The check / min-raise in NL Holdem is something that has very little utility. If you find yourself doing a lot of it, something is probably wrong with your game. I rarely check raise in cash games, mostly because I don't like to slow play a lot. If I did go for a check raise, it would be for much more than the minimum raise amount in nearly all cases. I like to try to get bad players to make very poor decisions. When you minimum raise someone in NL, you are taking the minimum amount of odds away from the other player. This makes their decision to call the the bet, minimally wrong. I do slow play some of the time in very specific situations. The hand below is very interesting because not only did I slow play it (twice), I check/min-raised twice in the same hand. It appears to have worked pretty good for this exact situation, but let me know what you think.

Full Tilt Poker Game #1980865537: Table Lineshack - $1/$2 - No Limit Hold'em - 15:46:50 ET - 2007/03/13
Seat 1: swinggdoc ($100.65)
Seat 2: camdogg29 ($83.50)
Seat 3: JHarr1219 ($213.35)
Seat 4: gadman122 ($210.50)
Seat 5: TheStudentJones ($171.50)
Seat 6: HoldemPop ($92)
Seat 7: Blinders ($194.40)
Seat 8: tiger247 ($120.95)
Seat 9: JUST_GILBEAR ($143.15)
TheStudentJones posts the small blind of $1
HoldemPop posts the big blind of $2
The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [6d 6s]
Blinders calls $2
tiger247 folds
swinggdoc folds
camdogg29 folds
JHarr1219 folds
gadman122 raises to $8
TheStudentJones folds
HoldemPop folds

Set mining opportunity against a well-stacked opponent.

Blinders calls $6

*** FLOP *** [3s 3d 6h]

Now that is a monster flop. It meets enough of the criteria where a slow play could be right.

Blinders checks
gadman122 bets $14
Blinders raises to $28

It is going to be hard for this guy to believe I hit this flop hard. I go for the min-raise because I do not want to scare him off if he is c-betting with overs. If he has a strong hand, I am giving him the chance to pop me back. I want to look a little weakish here I guess.

gadman122 calls $14

At this point, I am planning on leading out for 1/2-2/3 the pot no matter what turns.

*** TURN *** [3s 3d 6h] [Ac]

Change of plans. I want to look like the Ace scared me. If he has the Ace he will certainly bet, or he may bluff behind without an Ace.

Blinders checks
gadman122 bets $44

He has the Ace or is bluffing. I go for the min-raise again, because I think he will call it if he has the Ace. If he is bluffing, I doubt I can extract anymore. The second check/min-raise of the hand really has to confuse this guy as well. He might put me on trying to push him off and call with 77-KK.

Blinders raises to $88

gadman122 folds

Uncalled bet of $44 returned to Blinders
Blinders mucks
Blinders wins the pot ($160)
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $163 Rake $3
Board: [3s 3d 6h Ac]

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Art vs. Science

Hoy's question on the difference in skills between cash game and MTT players got me thinking. I think it comes down to the difference between art and science. Now before anyone gets too offended, I am not saying one is all art and one is all science. There are elements of both in both. But I will argue that one type is more of an art than the other, and one is more of a science then the other. Can you guess which one is which?

Lets say you were trying to scientifically analyze poker. Like what they tried to do in the mathematics of poker. It turns out, it is not that easy to do. The math gets very complex if you try to take everything into account. So they did what all good scientists would do when analyzing complex phenomenon. You freeze as many of the variables as possible to simplify the mathematics. So what is the difference between a cash game and a MTT? If you freeze the blinds in an MTT, it starts to look like a cash game. If you freeze the blinds at the start of an MTT and people are about 100BB deep, it starts to look a lot like a cash game. If you do this, require people to pay real cash for the tournament chips, and allow people to exit the tournament at any time and cash out, it is a cash game.

Tournaments are much more complex than cash games because of this. Thus they are much harder to analyze scientifically. For cash games, we can freeze the blinds and start getting into the depths of the analysis. Freezing the blinds allows cash game players to scientifically analyze their play much better. Now I will not say that there is not art to a cash game, but I will say that good players when they are "mixing it up", are doing this for very specific, scientific reasons. They have run the thousands of trials and collected the data, and tweaked their games ever so slightly, and compiled thousands more trials, and tweaked their games just a bit more, rinse repeat. The blind levels being frozen, allows this data to be collected and acted upon.

A new cash game player does not have this data. They are playing more by feel than anything. They are playing by art. But, the good ones learn to trust the data. Trust the trials. Tweak your game. Refine your game. Plug the smallest of leaks. Extract the smallest of edges. Scientifically analyze your game to the point where everything you do has a reason rooted in data. Emotion is not in the equation. This is what the good cash game players do.

Now the tournament player does not have this luxury. He can't run thousands of trials. Things are always changing. M goes up and down. The bubble approaches. The mistake at this point dents my stack. The identical mistake an hour later eliminates me. I don't have the stack to play the way I want to. My opponent does not have the stack to play the way I want to. Because of all this the successful tournament player must be an artist. You simply can't scientifically analyze the play you just made. It was a one-off. It was something that worked that one time for several reasons that you are aware of and a few you don't. You can't run additional trials, because you will never get close to the same initial conditions. You use the information that you have available to you, and make the most creative play based upon it. It is all you can do. You think on your feet, and spontaneously respond to the situation. Then you do it again and again until you get knocked out or win the tournament.

Variance really screws with the MTT players ability to analyze what has happened. With the blinds fixed variance washes away much easier over time for cash game players. For Tournament players variance is much more complicated with the ever increasing blinds. Getting lucky or unlucky late in a tournament can have 100x the magnitude of the same level of luck early in a tournament. Who wins MTTs? A lot of time it is the people who get lucky late. Being lucky early is not enough. You can play great MTT poker for 100s of tourneys, but if you don't get lucky late by chance, you may never get your win. This tends to over magnify certain hands or situations, that would never happen for a cash game player.

Overall, I would say that cash games being simpler, are easier to apply the scientific method to. Good cash game players do this, and as such are able to refine their games much more than an MTT player ever could. Specifically, cash game players are better equiped to make the correct play in a specific situation. MTT players do not have this luxury, so it is more important to be able to creatively adapt to the ever changing conditions, then to tweak your game for a situation that rarely repeats. The type of skills required are different. One is a scientific skill, while one is more of a creative skill. It all comes down to Art Vs. Science.

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Back From Retirement

I have not played a single blogger tourney in 2007. Have not played a lot of cash games either. Last night, with the wife working late and my son at a B-Day party, I had the urge to mix it up a little. I was planning on the WWdN or whatever it is called on Thursday, but I caught in Hoy's blog, that CCs bash was running, as well as Al's riverchasers tourney. I jumped into both and skipped the WW (it starts a little too late). As you can see above, I won CCs Thursday bash for the second time in my last three tries. I took the chip lead early at the final table, and held it until heads-up. It was a very interesting and long heads-up battle with bayne_s. I will summarize the heads-up play below for those interested.

I ended up knocking out the guy second in chips giving me close to a 4-1 chip lead going into heads-up. I thought it would be over pretty quick. I ran A4 vs. 33 for the win, but whiffed the board and doubled Bayne up. Then I flopped top pair with K2. I played it pretty slow, figuring I was way ahead, but there was a flush draw on the board. I hit trip Kings, that completed the flush, and bet more. The river blanked, and Bayne led out for the first time for about 2/3s of his stack. I thought about pushing in, but just called. He had the flush and now the chip lead as well. We were seeing a ridiculous number of flops heads-up. Bayne was completing his SB about 90% of the time, and I was just checking behind a lot. Mainly because I was beating Bayne to the bet post flop and taking down a lot of uncontested pots. I picked up A3o and got it all-in preflop against Bayne's 77. I whiffed the flop, and Bayne caught a 7 on the turn, and I figured I was drawing dead. I ended up rivering the wheel and was back from the dead. At this point, I just turned the pressure up another notch, and started building a chip lead, hand by hand. I was raising and betting at just about everything, and folding to any pressure. I built up a big lead, and eventually took it down after about 20 minutes of heads-up play. Its good to be back!

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Still Some Donkish Play Out There.

I am finally starting to get back to playing some online poker. I played for about 30 minutes today at lunch, and won about $200. Though it is harder to find good tables, if you are willing to be selective there are still some donks to be found. Below are some hands from today (finally some fresh poker content, yeah!)

I think I played this one pretty good.

Full Tilt Poker Game #1898603898: Table Arlington Bridge - $1/$2 - No Limit Hold'em - 15:34:10 ET - 2007/03/01
Seat 1: GoldPeon ($161.45)
Seat 2: nnelg187 ($23.10)
Seat 3: mdb77 ($330.75)
Seat 4: aciddeathlizard ($95.90)
Seat 5: RussThom ($194)
Seat 6: KarstenK85 ($191)
Seat 7: ScaryMachoID ($215.30)
Seat 8: Zoomba ($38)
Seat 9: Blinders ($217.75)
Blinders posts the small blind of $1
GoldPeon posts the big blind of $2
The button is in seat #8
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [Ad Ac]
nnelg187 folds
mdb77 folds
aciddeathlizard raises to $4
RussThom folds
KarstenK85 folds
ScaryMachoID calls $4
Zoomba folds
Blinders raises to $12

One of the reasons I like playing with shorties is that you can take away their odds of hitting a concealed hand like a set or 2-pair preflop. This is just about impossible to do against a full stack, as you would not want to raise what it would take with a hand like AA. You do want to get called preflop when you have AA. I am hoping to isolate the shorty, and lose the bigstack. If the bigstack calls I will have to play more careful post flop. If I can isolate the shorty, I will be putting it all in post flop on this hand.

GoldPeon folds
aciddeathlizard calls $8
ScaryMachoID folds
*** FLOP *** [7h 3c 3h]

Plan worked, and that is a great flop for me. I would like to get this guy pot committed so I make a weakish bet, that I hope will be called.

Blinders bets $17
aciddeathlizard calls $17
*** TURN *** [7h 3c 3h] [6c]

Now is the time to push. The board has two flush draws and a possible straight. I am going to shove, and hope this guy has an overpair. I push all-in, because it looks weaker than betting the other guys remaining stack.

Blinders bets $188.75, and is all in
aciddeathlizard calls $66.90, and is all in
Blinders shows [Ad Ac]
aciddeathlizard shows [9s 9c]

My boy calls here with 2 outs on the river. Not sure how he thinks he is good here. My bets should be telling him a pair of 9s is no goot.

Uncalled bet of $121.85 returned to Blinders
*** RIVER *** [7h 3c 3h 6c] [Th]
Blinders shows two pair, Aces and Threes
aciddeathlizard shows two pair, Nines and Threes
Blinders wins the pot ($194.80) with two pair, Aces and Threes

Next victim???

Full Tilt Poker Game #1898649703: Table Phil Ivey - $1/$2 - No Limit Hold'em - 15:42:08 ET - 2007/03/01
Seat 1: 2007wsopchamp ($80)
Seat 2: FatherAshley ($89.75)
Seat 3: trespassin21 ($228.75)
Seat 4: Dhanamjaya ($323.75)
Seat 6: Blinders ($215.20)
Seat 7: smalltime84 ($73.05)
Seat 8: IceCremMnstr ($98.20)
Seat 9: gabbis ($273.35)
smalltime84 posts the small blind of $1
IceCremMnstr posts the big blind of $2
The button is in seat #6
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [9d As]
gabbis folds
FatherAshley folds
trespassin21 folds
Dhanamjaya folds

A9o is gold on the button for a steal attempt.

Blinders raises to $7
smalltime84 calls $6
IceCremMnstr folds
*** FLOP *** [4s 5d Js]
smalltime84 checks
Blinders bets $11

I have an over, runner runner nut flush potential, and I raised preflop. Have to c-bet here.

smalltime84 calls $11

Not sure what he is calling with here. If he had a Jack he should have reraised.

*** TURN *** [4s 5d Js] [2s]
smalltime84 bets $12

Floating me and now representing the flush? I have a redraw to the nutz and he did not bet enough, plus I have a gutshot and over. I call.

Blinders calls $12
*** RIVER *** [4s 5d Js 2s] [Ah]
smalltime84 bets $16

Can't put him on two overs (an Ace) here, and it looked to much like he was floating me. I have to look him up with my pair of Aces.

Blinders calls $16
*** SHOW DOWN ***
smalltime84 shows [Qc Kd] (Ace King high)
Blinders shows [9d As] (a pair of Aces)
Blinders wins the pot ($91) with a pair of Aces

Stupid donk is floating me with overs and no draw to the flush (4 0uts), lol.

The hand below is from a couple days ago.

Full Tilt Poker Game #1882610311: Table Shore Haven - $1/$2 - No Limit Hold'em - 2:50:03 ET - 2007/02/27
Seat 1: full_tilting ($232)
Seat 2: jdrocks1967 ($68)
Seat 3: Andy__Scanlon ($197)
Seat 4: Blinders ($199.30)
Seat 5: MadBluffa ($80)
Seat 6: JamesHowlett ($174.55)
Seat 7: Tan Pham ($178)
Seat 8: midnight234 ($200)
Seat 9: Tightline77 ($226.10)
Tan Pham posts the small blind of $1
midnight234 posts the big blind of $2
The button is in seat #6
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [Ac Kh]
Tightline77 folds
full_tilting folds
jdrocks1967 raises to $6
Andy__Scanlon folds
Blinders calls $6

I just call here, though you could argue for a reraise in position with AKo.

JamesHowlett folds
Tan Pham calls $5
midnight234 folds
*** FLOP *** [Qh Kc Ah]
Tan Pham checks
jdrocks1967 bets $12

Pretty scary flop, but I caught a huge piece here. I want to get as much in now as possible. I am dead to JT, but have a redraw to the boat just in case.

Blinders raises to $30
Tan Pham folds
jdrocks1967 has 15 seconds left to act
jdrocks1967 raises to $62, and is all in

I have to call that!

Blinders calls $32
jdrocks1967 shows [3s As]

Stupid donk, nice play sir.

Blinders shows [Ac Kh]
*** TURN *** [Qh Kc Ah] [2h]
*** RIVER *** [Qh Kc Ah 2h] [Ad]
jdrocks1967 shows three of a kind, Aces
Blinders shows a full house, Aces full of Kings
Blinders wins the pot ($141) with a full house, Aces full of Kings

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