Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why Your Hourly Rate Matters

I have always said that my personal measuring stick for poker is dollars earned per hour. This is the way that I compare different games like MTTs, S&Gs, and Cash as well as different buy-in levels to see where I am most successful and can best maximize profit. Playing with this goal in mind and keeping records of your play can tell you a ton about your game. It can also tell you how you are running vs historical trends and makes it easier to see if tweaks to your game are helping or hurting.

Not everyone plays like this. The vast majority of players keep little to no records of their play and the ones that have systems like pokertracker tend to under utilize them or not understand the results. The big MTT score is glamorized by Hollywood and an abundance of TV shows on high stakes poker tournaments. I played in the WSOP, so I myself am not immune to such longings for a big score. The thing is that $/Hr is what really counts, not the value of an isolated big score. $/Hr is the only way you can possibly compare two poker players and end up with who is best. If 100 poker players worked 2000 hours a year for 20 years playing poker who had a more successful career. The player who netted 5 million or the player who had three million dollar+ MTT cashes and netted 2 million overall. The only way that you can really say you are better at poker than someone else is if you $/Hr rate is higher long term at whatever version of poker that you tend to play than theirs. Now stuff like table selection, choice of stakes and game matters, but this is part of the skill of being a good poker player. Who is better the 9th best player who is always seated with the 1-8th best players in the world, or the 10th best guy who is always against the 100,000- best players. 9th best loses money in his game of choice and 10th absolutely crushes his. 10th is actually a much better player, just ask uncle Sam.

So if you want to keep track of how your doing, you keep records that show how much money you won or lost, and how much time you spent doing it. Now Hoy actually thought that I should take my post down. The first ever such request. Let me tell you all that I am not breaking any new ground here. Read any poker book the deals with beginners. Now I know most of us our not really beginners, but too many of you skipped over this very important process that all good poker books for beginners cover. The concept of bankroll management, record keeping, and stakes selection. You are actually supposed to keep track of hours played and dollars won/lost in all of the books. I guess all the authors are wrong here. You are supposed to start at very low stakes, and learn how to beat the low levels. When your records show you are doing well, and your bankroll supports it, you move up to the next level. Not being able to beat low level MTTs is not a reason to take shots at the higher levels. I don't care if we are talking about cash games, Sit and Goes or MTTs, this is the advice that's given by all authors who are trying to help beginning players. And the measuring stick is always dollars/hour. Sometimes BigBets/Hr is used, but that is easily converted. This process is not supposed to end as you get better. There is always a higher level to strive to beat, but you play the majority of your time at a level that you can comfortably beat.

When I am talking about maximizing my dollars per hour when I play poker, I am in line with the vast majority of successful poker players. They think along these lines as well. Any real professional poker player thinks along these lines. If it was your job to play poker, can you honestly tell me you would not be maximizing you dollar/hour rate if you could? Many are interested in getting the "big score". That is fine, but don't fool yourself into thinking that you are trying to maximize your ability as a poker player. When abilities are compared $/Hr is the measuring stick. Remeber that Poker at its heart is a game about money management and limitied information. The measuring stick is money. And the rate at which you accumulate the money does matter.

So when I start questioning the value of satellites (there was a question mark in the post title) I am saying what I honestly believe. Yes, this is heavily biased towards my frame of thought towards poker, but I honestly think more of you guys should think along these lines. This is how the successful think. I started at very small stakes, and moved up level by level. I played S&Gs and did the same thing. I kept records the whole way, and knew when it was time to move up, or move back down and what forms of poker to focus on. I don't play enough right now to keep improving my game, but I am happy with where it is now as a result of this process. When I look at my hourly rates at Cash Games, S&Gs, MTTs, Token S&Gs, MTT sats, it is very easy to see that sats have the lowest hourly rates of them all. I am pretty sure that MTT sats have the lowest hourly rates for most of you guys as well. Though some losing players, can probably beat sats but not MTTs. The thing is that unless your highest hourly rate is in Satellites, and you are also fairly successful in MTTs, you would do better to play something that earns a higher hourly rate. This is pretty simple stuff. The only argument that I can really accept is somebody who can show (or at least has the data to know) that their highest hourly win rate of all forms of poker is in satellites. That would be a pretty good argument against what I am saying, but I am not expecting it. The other argument is that people don't care about hourly rates, and I see this as a problem for a serious poker player.

The other problem with satellites that I mentioned in my first post is Bankroll management. If you Bankroll is 5k it is not a good idea to be taking shots at 1k buy-in MTTs Satellite or not. You guys only remember the sat that you got a seat in. If you are taking 10 to 1 satellite shots at $100 a pop you are doing some serious damage to your roll, and you can't win any cash in a Sat. So even when you get your seat, you still need to cash or better in the MTT to restore your BR. You will also bleed your roll away, when you don't get a seat. These types of shots way above your current level are not recommended by many authors. There is also a fee for a sats of about 10% just like the MTTs charge. The 10% vig, makes it so only about 10% of players can beat MTTs longterm. This applies just as well to Sats. Only 10% of players beat these as well. I don't think I am out of line here, though I may be crushing a dream or two. You will also never know if you can really beat the higher level MTT from a single big score. You need to run the same MTT hundreds of times to see if you can really beat it. You will never find out by satelliting in, as you will never get the 100s of trials. You will find out if you ladder up to the higher levels by beating the lower ones over the long term though.

If your motivation is to improve your poker game relative to other players, then improve your $/Hr rate. If you motivation is to play poker for fun only, and look for an isolated big score or two, then take your shots and play Satellites. There is nothing really wrong with the play for fun approach, and you really should not take my posts seriously if that is your motivation. That is not my motivation for poker. My goal here is to get people to improve the measuring stick that matters if you want to go pro someday, or at least see how your game stacks up against the pros. I actually thought this was the goal of at least a subset of this community.

Below are a few examples for those who still don't get the point of my argument here.

Player A
1/2 NL Cash +$30/Hr
$20 S&Gs +$18/Hr
$10-26 MTTs +2/Hr
MTT Sats +3/Hr

This player should earn MTT buy-in by playing 1/2 NL Cash.

Player B
.25/.50 NL Cash -2/Hr
$5-$10 S&Gs Break Even
$10-26 MTTs +4/Hr
MTT Sats +2/Hr

This guy should buy-in direct to $10-26 MTTs, and use his winnings to try higher levels.

Player C
.25/.50 NL Cash -2/Hr
$5-$10 S&Gs -1/Hr
$10-26 MTTs -4/Hr
MTT Sats +2/Hr

This guy should be playing Sats, but will never really make any money by doing it. Needs to improve his Cash, S&G, or MTT games to be successful.

Player D
2/4 NL Cash +10/Hr
$20-$30 S&Gs +8/Hr
$26-$110 MTTs +12/Hr
MTT Sats +5/Hr

This guy should buy-in direct to MTTs.

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MTT Satellites Are For Suckers?

I don't play MTT satellites. This includes token races, token frenzies or whatever you want to call them. There is a simple reason for this. They are a complete waste of time. I play poker to win cash. I don't care how it comes, but $/Hr longterm is the measuring stick that I use. I have been playing MTTs well lately, but I don't bother with the satellites. The reasoning is painfully simple, but you guys just don't seem to get it. I have seen numerous posts about how great getting a token or satelliting in is. Well here is the problem with the concept.

Are you +EV in the MTT you are trying to satellite in to?

This is a pretty simple question. Can you beat the MTT that you are going to try to satellite into long term? If the answer is yes, then pony up and pay the buy-in. If the answer is no, then find an MTT that you are +EV in or don't bother with MTTs. If you are ready to admit that you can't beat poker for a profit and you play MTTs just for fun, then play all the satellites that you want. When you win a seat, I will be looking to take your chips in an MTT that you should not be playing in based on your skill level.

Lets me explain it a bit further. If you can beat the MTT you are satelliting into for a profit, you need to be playing in that MTT, and not satellites to it. The MTT itself can be used as the satellite. You get a decent score and then use your profit rate to keep you above water and freeroll the MTT indefinitely. Now that's better than playing a satellite where you can't win any cash, right?

Now I already know where you guys will object to this argument, and I am ready with an answer. The variance is very high in MTTs. You can go through quite a roll trying to get that first big score. Satellites let you take your shots for less than the full buy-in. Satellites are the way to go.

Lets take a look at that argument. The variance is too high for that level MTT. This simply means that your bankroll is not big enough. If you use the 100 buy-in rule for a MTT like the 50/50 (50+5 buy-in), you will need a $5,500 roll. So lets say your roll is just $1500 but you want to play anyway. So you play satellites. Do you guys keep track of your ROI in these things? Lets say that you could get a 20% ROI on satellites (I question this big time). So you use $1000 of your roll to win $1200 worth of shots at the 50/50. So you have about 22 buy-ins to the 50/50. You are still facing the variance issue here, and it is very likely that you will blow through all of those entries without a big score. You really have not fixed the variance problem of being under bankrolled for an MTT by satelliting in. You are nearly as likely to go busto satelliting into or just buying into an MTT that you are under bankrolled for.

MTT satellites are bad for you game as well. They use a flat payout structure unlike what MTTs use. You must adjust your game to this payout structure to do well in satellites. These adjustments are very harmful to your MTT game. So satellites are not really good MTT practice. You would be much better off practicing in a lower buy-in MTT than a satellite, and using it as a satellite if you must play a higher buy-in MTT.

The reason satellites are so popular is that most people lose money playing poker. They can't be +EV in the MTT they are trying to get into, but people like to dream of the big score no matter how unlikely. So to limit their losses people play satellites. Lets say your loss rate was $15/Hr in the 50/50 and $2/Hr in satellites. Satellites are the way to go there. You can play for more hours without destroying your bankroll, by playing a game that you lose money less fast. This is why people play satelites. Unfortunately, this puts them in quite a long shot position when they do get thier seat. They will be playing against a bunch of +EV players in an MTT they are -EV in. It will take quite a run of luck to get deep. They keep dreaming though, and that's how good players make money in MTTs. Satellites simply kill your hourly rate.

So what do I suggest?

If you insist on playing MTTs and can't beat the big buy-in ones, learn how to beat the low buy-in ones. Keep records so you will know when it is time to move up. Be honest with yourself, and understand why you play poker. Winning a low dollar buy-in MTT still feels great, and is good experience you can use in the bigger ones. Spending most of your time in satellites is bad for your game and bankroll.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


Nobody would run the numbers so here they are. If you limit Hoy's range to any pair, any ace, or KQ, I have over 39% equity in the pot. Since I paid about 31% for this equity this is a very easy call. If you factor an any chance that this is a resteal the odds get even better for me. Hmm, Hoy only writes about resteals? I think image is very important at this stage (even in Blonkaments), and this is a great image play while being +EV as well. If someone does not believe that this is not an overly fair range for Hoy, you might want to read Harrington II.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Priced In For A Hoy Rant

I did not comment about riverchasers a few weeks back. I had a few huge suckouts, and amassed a monster stack through some redonkulous play. Rather than do my typical coast in to heads-up mode when I have a huge stack in an MTT, I thought it would be great fun to continue to play the opposite of how I claim to play. So I was pressuring the table with my stack, and calling down with some craptastic hands like KJo and A6o when a shorty dare push back. This was just plain working for me, so I had to continue, but I was "priced in" most of the time. Sometimes Hoy will get called down with some kind of crap, and if the crap wins you get a rant. A lot of the time, the crappy hand was making the correct call. It is all a matter of the range you put the guy on, and if you are priced in to that range or not. Below is a typical big stack preflop raise, that is priced in to any push by a shorty. Why not bet more than? Because you want to raise the same amount preflop to disguise your hand.

FullTiltPoker Game #3206450743: Riverchasers Online Poker Tour (24300118)
Table 3 - 500/1000 Ante 125 - No Limit Hold'em - 23:49:17 ET - 2007/08/09
Seat 1: hoyazo (9,778)
Seat 3: stl_phily (29,045)
Seat 4: jeciimd (7,795)
Seat 6: AlCantHang (16,379)
Seat 8: crazdgamer (12,875)
Seat 9: Blinders (38,128)
hoyazo posts the small blind of 500
stl_phily posts the big blind of 1,000
The button is in seat #9
*** HOLE CARDS ***Dealt to Blinders [6h Ad]
jeciimd folds
AlCantHang folds
sircrazdgamer folds
Blinders raises to 3,000
hoyazo raises to 9,653, and is all in
stl_phily folds
Blinders calls 6,653
hoyazo shows [8d 8s]
Blinders shows [6h Ad]
*** FLOP *** [5c 9c 7c]
*** TURN *** [5c 9c 7c] [6c]
*** RIVER *** [5c 9c 7c 6c] [4c]
hoyazo shows a flush, Nine high
Blinders shows a flush, Nine high
hoyazo ties for the pot (10,528) with a flush, Nine high
Blinders ties for the pot (10,528) with a flush, Nine high

So I am calling 6653 to win 21056.
about 3.2 to 1

Poker Calculator
70.5 hoy/29.5 me

These would be the approximate odds for the KK-77 range. (7 hands)

For the 22-55 range (5 hands)

For the AK-A7 Range (7 hands)
66.5/23.5/10 tie

For the A5-A2 Range (5 hands)
24/40/36 tie

For the KQ, KJs, QJ, JTs Range
43/57 (Many hands)

AA and 66 would be pretty rare

Hoy's M for the hand is 4.3 and he is already in for 625, and only needs to deal with me and the BB. He has been pushing quite a bit preflop, and to me his range is easily any pair, any Ace, and a decent handful of middling hands like KQ, KJs, JTs, 98s... This could also be a pure resteal with ATC as this is Hoy right. And he knows how tight I am. I have not been playing that way to this point though. So for the exact match up of 88 vs A6, I laid 31.5% on a 29.5% chance. This by itself it bad, but just barely. If you sum in all of Hoy's range and the odds of him having each hand in his range (remember I have an Ace so his Ax chances are lower) I am getting a great price here at 3.2 to 1. I am not going to do the math, but I think there are some tools out there that could (drop the result in the comments if you want). So I made a great call because I was priced in, and if I eliminate Hoy, I get a rant as a bonus. Hoy in this case is also priced in for a push, so nothing wrong with his move. The dead money, prices us both in and makes both moves correct.

Even if I knew that Hoy had exactly 88 (or even QQ), I still make the call even though it is slightly -EV long term. I do it because of what it does for my image as the chip leader. I am raising it up a bunch preflop, and I don't want people like Hoy thinking they can resteal in position on me. Because of this and other calls I made in the same type of situations, the shorties are going to realize that I can and will call their push after I raise preflop, so they better have a lot more than ATC. This will buy me tons of blinds going forward, so who really cares about the actual hand being ever so slightly -EV. The range is very +EV, and the image points are also hugely +EV.

The only real negative was that I did not suck out and get a Hoy rant. I have never gotten one before, but I never suckout as I always have the Nutz.

In closing below is another typical hand where the call of the shorties push is pretty easy because you are "priced in".

FullTiltPoker Game #3206306407: Riverchasers Online Poker Tour (24300118),
Table 3 - 400/800 Ante 100 - No Limit Hold'em - 23:35:42 ET - 2007/08/09
Seat 1: hoyazo (19,963)
Seat 2: PokerKID8umup (5,132)
Seat 3: stl_phily (10,285)
Seat 4: jeciimd (10,870)
Seat 5: PouringReign (9,288)
Seat 6: AlCantHang (10,650)
Seat 7: wwonka69 (10,072)
Seat 8: crazdgamer (10,300)
Seat 9: Blinders (27,440)
jeciimd posts the small blind of 400
PouringReign posts the big blind of 800
The button is in seat #3
*** HOLE CARDS ***Dealt to Blinders [Kd Js]
AlCantHang folds
wwonka69 folds
crazdgamer folds
Blinders raises to 2,400
hoyazo folds
PokerKID8umup folds
stl_phily foldsjeciimd folds
PouringReign raises to 9,188, and is all in
Blinders calls 6,788
PouringReign shows [6s 6d]
Blinders shows [Kd Js]
*** FLOP *** [Qh Kc Jd]
*** TURN *** [Qh Kc Jd] [8s]
*** RIVER *** [Qh Kc Jd 8s] [7c]
PouringReign shows a pair of Sixes
Blinders shows two pair, Kings and Jacks
Blinders wins the pot (19,676) with two pair, Kings and Jacks
PouringReign stands up

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Black and White MTT Strategy Missing Pieces

Sorry, but I was on vacation in Moab, UT for the last 10 days and did not get around to doing anything with the blog. The good news is I have quite a backlog of some really good post ideas, so you can expect lots of new stuff here over the next few weeks. I did a post a few weeks ago about my Black and White MTT strategy. I left a couple concepts out, because it just would have been too much for a single post, so I will get to them now. The two concepts are what I call a "Modified Cash Game", and why tight play gets paid off in MTTs. So without any further build up here we go.
The Modified Cash Game
In the Black and White MTT strategy, I suggest that you play a "Modified Cash Game" for as long as possible. You play this until your M level forces you to switch gears to avoid being blinded out. The modified cash game is basically your best and most profitable cash game with a few small tweaks for MTT play. The tweaks revolve around pushing smaller edges much harder than you (read I) normally would, and adjusting for the uneven depths of the stacks that you get almost immediately in MTTs. As you may already know, I like to play a low variance cash game style. This works great for cash, but can be problematic in MTTs. You only get into a limited number of profitable situations in MTTs and you must take advantage even if this becomes a high variance play. Some examples are getting all-in preflop with a hand like AK or JJ/TT. I really do not like to do this in cash games very often unless my read is very solid. In an MTT, I don't think you can play this way. I think you need to go to the felt with hands like this and hope for the best (push and pray). The pressure of being blinded out is so high, that hand values go up quite a bit, and you will not be in the same situations as a cash game most of the time. When there are multiple raises and reraises preflop, and you hold TT in a cash game, you are very likely behind. This is not as true in an MTT. You are more likely to be ahead, as people push much harder with hands like AK, AQ, 99-22 in MTTs preflop than in cash games. So you play these hands for a higher variance in MTTs than you would in a cash game.

There are also many trouble type hands that can be played for a profit in a cash game, but can't in an MTT. Medium suited connectors and medium to small pocket pairs are good examples. Medium suited connectors are barely profitable (if at all) in cash games. This is true when the stacks are 100x the BB for most at the table. You need the stacks to be this deep to squeeze out any profit from medium suited connectors. Stacks simply are not deep enough in MTTs to play these hands for a profit. 100x deep stacks for some MTTs are never there, and even the deepstack MTTs only have that type of depth in the first few rounds. Medium to small suited connectors are simply not playable in MTTs and should just be folded preflop while in modified cash game mode. Medium to small pocket pairs present a similar problem. You need the rule of 10 to be in place for cash games, but for an MTT I would increase this to a rule of 15-20. I really do not want to put 1/10th of my stack in preflop on a 1/8 chance of hitting the set. There is not enough trials available in an MTT. If you don't hit in your first 5 tries, you just bled off 1/2 of your stack. Middle to small pocket pairs become a push or fold type hand preflop almost from the beginning of MTTs due to the lack of stack depth. If I am in modified cash game mode, I am probably folding these preflop unless the rule of 15-20 is there (pretty rare). If I am in the other gear, you pretty much auto push the same hands if you are first to open.
The last thing that you do is not really a modification to your cash game, but may seem like one if you watch me play. It's how you deal with short stacks. In a cash game, I am much more likely to make a big move against a short stack, or simply give them less credit for a hand than I would a big stack. So if a shorty pushes 15 BB into me, I may call them down preflop with much less that I would ever do against a big stack. I may also just put them in with a preflop raise, and this is only profitable because of the lack of stack size and damage they can do to me if they catch a hand. So you play pretty aggressive against the shorties in an MTT, but I already do this in cash games, so it is really not a "modification".

Tight play gets paid off in MTTs

I am not going to go into a ton of depth on this one, because the concept is pretty simple though a bit counter intuitive. MTTs breed very loose and aggressive play, especially in the middle to later stages. People make way more "moves" in MTTs and stealing the blinds becomes much more important than in cash games. Players are looser and more aggressive in MTTs than what would be profitable in a cash game. Some people play this way in cash games, and that is where the tight players make their money in cash games. In MTTs a much, much higher percentage of players are playing loose and aggressive, that tight play gets paid off much better than in cash games. If you can play your modified cash game for as long as possible you will find yourself in some pretty good situations when you finally catch a big starting hand. There are a couple screen shots below that give you an idea, and I am sure you will see this as typical. The loose aggressive MTT players, simply can't be worried about the tight player behind them that never plays a hand. They have to assume that the tight player will not be involved or they would be to limited in the moves that they can make. So they get themselves into some huge trouble when the tight player "wakes up" with a real hand.
Limping a Big Pair Early and Let Them Hang Themselves

If I Have a Hand Here It Will Get Paid

These types of hands are very typical in the mid to late stages of an MTT. This is not rocket science. Sometimes it takes no skill at all to double or triple through because of the action before you even act. You just do not see multiple all-ins preflop in cash games, but not so unusual in MTTs. So you can sit back and be squeaky tight in an MTT and still get your big hands paid off. That does not work quite as well in cash games, because people do not pot commit themselves preflop nearly as much.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Blogger Fantasy Football Battle Update

Some more info on the blogger fantasy football battle (BFFB) that starts September 9th on

I think I am getting close to nailing the structure. This thing looks to be pretty big and I will give you an idea of who is already in, and who is likely to play so far at the bottom of this post.

First of all this will be MTT style Fantasy Football which has never really been done before, and would not be possible the way traditional fantasy football is operated. The reason we can do this is that you will not maintain a fantasy team throughout the season, but simply draft a team for each Sunday's games. Each week, each entry will be able to draft from the same fantasy draft pool using the same draft method, and under the same salary/rank restrictions as all other players. This is truly a level playing field each and every week, and allows us to apply an apples to apples comparison of all entries and treat it like an MTT. The best draft for that Sunday's games get the most points, period. The luck element is minimized, and this will be a great way to find out who's best at fantasy football.

So each week we will run 10-player fantasy leagues with "BFFB" in the title. The league will cost $10 and pay out $90 in prizes. The prizes can be $50/$25/$15 or a more flat $40/$30/$20 for first through third place. So each week you pay the $10 fee and compete for $90 in prizes in a 10 player league. On average this will cost $170 to enter all 17 weeks, and you will win back $153 (on average) for a total cost of $17 which is very comparable to a low end season long contest. I will pull out each of the blogger scores from these leagues and compile them for the weeks results. The leagues will form in real time starting Monday. A new one will automatically form when one fills up until Sunday morning. You can pick and choose when you jump into a league during the week if you have a favorite blogger you would like to compete directly against.

After I compile the results, I will publish them here, with points awarded by the PokerStars MTT leaderboard formula for the top 50% of fantasy scores that week. I will also keep track of the three highest individual weekly scores posted during the contest. Winners of any individual week will also earn a seat in the Fantasy Football Tournament of Champions to be held during the 1st week of the playoffs.

Overall the top three point Leaders will win a $100/$50/$25 bonus

The three highest individual weekly scores (for the season) will win a $100/$50/$25 bonus

Any funds that I win during the 17 weeks are forfeited into the Tournament of Champions Prize pool. If I totally suck, FSL will add enough funds to get this pool up to $150 minimum. Winners from each week get entry into the tournament of champions. You may not win a second entry.

OK, so far that is $500 in bonus money, minimum.

All first time depositors on FSL will also receive an instant deposit bonus when clicking through an ad or using a valid bonus code when opening an account. You can use "Blinders" or click through on my ad, or use any other FSL affiliate's bonus code or ad. You will get $30 for a $200 deposit, $20 for a $100 deposit, or $10 for a $50 deposit. Bonus funds are immediately credited to your account, and can be used to enter the BFFB contests. If you make a $200 deposit, you can freeroll the first three events, and if you don't like it you can withdraw your full deposit amount.

One thing that should be really cool about this, is that peoples schedules will not get in the way. You can register/draft at any time between Monday and Sunday morning, and can update your draft at anytime prior to the start of the contest (1PM Eastern, Sunday). You also do not need to be there when the contest runs. Because of this many of our favorite bloggers who could not participate in the BBT should be able to be there every week for this one. Another cool thing is that unlike regular fantasy football, you can skip a few weeks with little punishment. Even people who only play a handful of events can get a seat in the TOC or win the high individual score prize, so I think there is something for everyone here. No need to RSVP, but drop a comment if you are committed to supporting the first annual BFFB.

The following bloggers have already confirmed

Dr. Pauly
Joe Speaker

The following bloggers already have Fantasy Sports Live accounts and are expected to play

21 Out Twice
Donkey Puncher
Instant Tragedy
the Luckbox
Bobby Bracelet
Poker Enthusiast
Iron Girl
Poker Chronicles

The following bloggers are waffling for some unknown reason, but I know we can convince them to play.

Miami Don

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Daily Bragging Rights and the BFFB

Are you guys ready for Fantasy Football? Before you guys get all excited about signing up in the same old year long leagues I have a proposal. I would like to sponsor the Blogger Fantasy Football Battle (BFFB). This battle will be held on Fantasy Sports Live, and will work like this.

Each Sunday we will run a $10 10 player league called "Sunday's with Dr. Pauly". These 10 player leagues will pay out $90 in prizes each week $50/$25/$15 for 1st/2nd/3rd. The leagues will also keep forming after they fill up, so we can handle 100s of bloggers in this battle.

We will award points for the top three finishers in each league each week based on the pokerstars TLB formula. Your first entry is what will count for points, though you may enter multiple leagues if you want. Who ever wins the leader board will win an additional $100 at the end of the season. Also, the top three fantasy scores (from a single week) at the end of the year will also win an additional $100/$50/$25.

Now that's a pretty good deal and should be tons of fun. Plus this is not a regular fantasy league. There is no deadline. Just try to play one per week for your best chance at winning.

Just to make it even better for you guys, hit the link on the FSL ad to the right, and you will get an extra $20 free with your initial $100 deposit, or $30 free with your initial $200 deposit. So with a $200 deposit, you can freeroll the first three weeks of the battle, and if you are any good, you may be able to freeroll the whole thing.

So I am offering up:
1) A 90% return of your fees (much higher than the other sites)
2) An additional $275 added as end of season bonuses
3) Up to $30 free per person to sign-up with FSL and make a deposit
4) The chance to have daily (weekly for FB) bragging rights
5) I will also keep track of everything and post the results right here each week

Edit: I thought about this some more, and think I can make it even better. First, I can pull the scores of all bloggers out of the 10 man leagues and for scoring purposes treat each week like a massive Fantasy Football Tournament. For example if 40 bloggers played in a given week, I would put all 40 individual scores together and list them with the highest score of all 40 players earning the most points that week towards the title. So the scoring would be Poker Stars MTT leaderboard formula with top 50% getting points each week. (don't worry you can't fold into this one). I will also do $100/$50/$25 for both end of season total points leaders, and highest individual week scores as well ($350 free money added). Lastly, I will want to play, but I am not allowed to win money on the site per the rules. So any money that I win over the 17 week season will be forfeited into a prize pool for an end of season tournament of champions for only people who won an individual week. Are you guys ready for some Football?

Let me know if you guys are interested. Also use your normal ID when opening an account so everyone will know who you are, or if you want to take advantage of the availability of almost any name, then enter your blogger name for your team name each week.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

The Black and White MTT Strategy

I think I am finally to the point where I can write down my thoughts on MTTs and the strategy that I employ. I know I am not an MTT expert, as my specialty is cash games. However, I will point out that I am up lifetime in online MTTs as a result of my 50/50 cash (probably very close to break even before that). Something that I would argue most who focus on online MTTs can't say. I am also up lifetime at live tournaments (5k or more), and have bought in directly to a WSOP event, and was still alive after 1000 eliminations. I play cash games because that is where I make the most money, not because I would not be successful playing MTTs.

I am jumping the gun a bit here, and there will be two pieces of the puzzle missing that will be explained in follow up posts. One item is the idea of playing a "modified cash game". A modified cash game is your most profitable cash game with a few tweaks here and there specifically for MTTs. Most of the tweaks involve pushing slim edges much harder than you would in a cash game, but I will leave it there for now. The other piece missing is the concept that tight play gets paid off more in MTTs than in cash games. That is a strange idea isn't it? Everyone thinks that you can play tight (and tight is most correct) in cash games because of the blind structure, but that just can't work in an MTT because of the ever increasing blinds levels. Well I completely disagree. It is much, much easier to get rewarded for squeaky tight play in MTTs than in Cash games. It gets down to the concept of going against the grain of the table. At cash games there are lots of tight people. In MTTs there are lots of loose people. Loose because it is their nature, or loose because they have a stack and are pushing people around, or loose because they are short and desperate, or loose because they are sick and tired of being pushed around by the big stack. It all adds up to much looser play in general than cash games. There is just more preflop raising, stealing, and restealing going on all the time in MTTs that the tight player gets overly rewarded because they are against the grain of the table, especially late in MTTs.

So what is my strategy? Lets call it the black and white strategy. It is like a car that only has two gears. You simply play a "modified cash game" for as long as you possibly can, and make zero MTT adjustments beyond that. You keep this up until your M gets down to around 5. When this happens you switch gears into the complete opposite of how you have been playing. You turn into a complete maniac that will open push almost anything for the first-in vig. If you catch a double up, and get back to a semi-safe level (M above 5), you switch right back to modified cash game mode. There are no shades of gray here. You either play ubertight or psyco-maniac, and you switch back and forth between them on a dime.

Why would this possibly work? This works for several reasons. First off tight play gets paid off in MTTs. You are going to have to wait for a follow up post on this, so just trust me for now. Tight play can keep your stack high enough in many cases (especially the deepstack structures), that you may never need to change gears, or only need to late when you are already ITM. Second off, no matter how much the table is paying attention to your play, they will never know when you switch the gears. It is very scary to call the tightest player at the table's preflop push. If you held out extra long to switch gears (which I highly recommend), your first push will be respected. Your second push probably as well. They will think you are not capable of these types of moves, but you are more than capable. If you get called and double through you might have enough chips to switch back to modified cash game mode.

Imagine a sequence like this. You have folded for about 1/2 an hour straight late in an MTT, and through the point where most players would start pushing. You open push and take the blinds. You open push again three hands later and take the blinds. Then you open push with QTo and get called by AJs and catch a Q for a double up. OK, the table is on to you now. They think you must have been full of it on all three pushes. But now you have enough chips to switch back so you do. You fold for two orbits and then open push KK. A big stack with KJo calls you, because of your plays when you were in maniac mode. You are confusing the crap out of the table by playing this way and this is why it works.

It is important that you leave the shades of gray out. I used to do this because I was simply bad at the gray stuff and good at the black and white stuff. Turns out I was doing the right thing all along by accident. If your game evenly flows from black to white, as many good players are able to pull off, the table starts adjusting to you as you flow from one extreme to the next. Don't let them adjust. Keep them guessing. Switch gears on a dime and they will never be ready.

The top pros who play the ubertight style like me play it this way, I am convinced. They have the patience and discipline to keep it up as the pressure builds to switch gears. They fight off the temptation to make a move. They keep playing their "modified cash game", in the face of immense pressure to stop. The pressure comes form the sheer boredom of playing this way, the fear that they will be blinded out, and the fear that good starting hands will never come. Too many people can't do this, and get into push monkey poker way too early. Of course this is what you want as this is even more loose play to pay off your tight style. So the top pros (the tight ones like me) sit back and pick there spots and get their tight style paid off. If they get too low, they completely switch gears, and are willing to switch completely back. Don't believe for a second that the only way to win an MTT is through aggro play and making moves left and right. That is a way to win MTTs, but not the only way.

All this sounds easy, but it also requires expert cash game play. If you can't beat the low to mid level cash games, and beat them well, just go with the aggro style. Your cash game needs to be solidly +EV so that you can continue to chip-up as the blinds increase. If you read my post on the 50/50, it would appear that all I am playing is big pairs and AK. Whats really happening is I am playing those hands for massive pots, when I can. I left out most of the smaller pots that you absolutely must be winning as well to stay afloat. You don't need to win one hand an orbit, you just need to win a big pot about every three orbits, and some small pots here and there. The biggest flaw to this approach is a long streak with poor starting hands, especially later on in an MTT. You just have to fold away, unless you get to the point where the other gear is required. You may also argue that you can't win an MTT this way if you don't get good cards. Well IMO MTTs are generally won by the people who got a disproportionate amount of good cards no matter what style they are playing. I don't believe for a second that you can win an MTT entirely with air.

By using this approach, you will have your share of MTTs where thing don't go right early, and you will need to dig yourself out with the other gear. But, you will also have your share of MTTs where things go well, and you can cruise pretty deep without ever changing gears. MTTs are a game of numbers. With average play, you will only cash 1/10th of the time, and you will only win 1/1000th of the time (1000 player MTT). If you can put yourself deep a bunch of times, you will have a chance to catch cards late and cash much more often than 1/10 and get the win more often as well.

One more argument that I am sure will be made, is that it is much easier to win an MTT when you take a ton of chips to the Final Table. I don't necessarily disagree here, but you need to realize how rare it is to take a ton of chips to the FT. There is only one chip leader in an MTT. If you are relying on the being the chip leader when the FT forms to get the win, you are relying on a huge longshot to get the win. If, you can learn how to work your way back late, and sneak up on the final table, this is a much more likely scenario. All it takes is outplaying the chipleader at the FT, which is not very difficult if they are leaning on the table with their stack like most tend to do.

The last argument will probably be that you must abuse the blinds during bubble time to make a solid run at the FT. I see this as important, and may be another flaw in this approach. You will be less likely to have the right size stack at bubble time, as someone who was very aggressive the whole way, and somehow survived to this point. Sometimes you will have chips, and you should switch gears briefly at this point even though your M does not require it. If you are short at this point you will already be switching gears. If you are in the middle stack-wise, there is something to be said about taking a stand against the abusers when this happens to give your self a chance to chip-up and become the abuser. Just make sure you have a solid read on the table, and switch back to modified cash game mode after the bubble bursts. This will also do wonders for your image, and confuse the table even more.

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Final Tabling the BBT, and Almost the 2+ rebuy

Got another rare night of poker in last night. As usual I fired up the 50/50, the 2+ rebuy, and a blonkament (BBT Freeroll this time). That is a pretty good mix. Play ubertight in the 50/50, uberloose in the 2+, and in between for the blonkament. My MTT success continues, though I still need some work on my end game a bit.

In the BBT, I was playing a very aggressive style for me early, and was accumulating chips w/o showdowns. I won two huge coin flips, but I take exception to calling them that. In both cases I was the one who pushed preflop with a semi-big pair (QQ and TT). In both cases I was called and was "coinflipping" against overs. First off, the guy with the pair is a favorite (though not huge) when it gets in like this. Secondly, I get some folding equity here by being the one who pushed. If you add the folding equity to the equity from being ahead and the favorite in the "coinflip", as well as the dead money, this is really not a coinflip and has tons of positive expectation value. After the two flips, I was over 10k in chips and in great position (for me) to go very deep at the FT. I think I got up as high as third semi-late. I then went very cold with two tables left. The biggest problem with my MTT strategy, is that it can't stand lengthy cold streaks (especially late), and when this happens I find myself in a bit of trouble while trying to maintain the discipline to play the way I do. I would arrive at the final table as the short stack, and like the the 50/50 a few nights ago, I would get it in pretty good as at least a 60/40 favorite, and lose to Astin's 96s. So I can't really knock my strategy. I just need a 60/40 to hold up at the FT and I am fine. I felt like I had a huge chance last night, so I am a bit disappointed this morning. I played well though, and that's all that really matters.

In the 50/50, I got an early double up and was cruising. After the break, I was sitting on about 4000 in chips, and got KK. I raised to around 400 to take away the rule of 10 (reverse rule of 10), and got called by a big stack and a shorty. Flop was all low, and I c-bet and was called by the big stack. Turn appeared harmless, so I pushed, and got called by a flopped set (55). I am not overly concerned about how this hand played out. In an MTT if somebody wants to take a flyer on set-mining me when I take away their implied odds, I will go ahead and pay them off if they hit. 1/8 times I am on the rail, and 7/8 times I add to my stack a nice amount of chips. ended up on the 1/8 side last night. With over 1/2 of the field out, I think I could have easily cruised to the money if I win that hand. Oh well. I still love the 50/50 structure.

In the 2+ rebuys I was slow to take the double buy in, and got shut out after I won the first hand. I would double up later (on a donk play), and then start building my stack with more donkey goodness. BTW it is so much fun to act like your donk plays were planned and that you are better than everyone at the table because you know how to suck-out. So easy to tilt these guys in the 2+R it is funny. I would find myself on the FT bubble out of 191 runners. Then I kind of broke down, and lost my discipline a bit. We had a big stack who was doing a ton of limping, and then taking pots away post flop. His limp range was ATC as far as I could tell. Bigstack limps UTG, and it folds to me in the cutoff. There is about 15k in the pot already, and I am sitting on about 55k in chips. Button is short, and the blinds are about my size stack. I have 77. These types of hands become difficult to play in MTTs very early on. If you can't get set-mining odds for these hands, you need to play them as "push or fold" IMO. No reason to limp without set-mining odds and get yourself in trouble post flop. So in this situation, I read the bigstack as weak (he limps with anything). The shorty does not bother me. The two blinds will need a huge hand to call if I push, as it will be for their entire stack or close. I decide to go ahead and push preflop. It folds to the bigstack who insta-calls with QQ. IGHN in 10/191. I pretty much hated the play afterwords, though a bunch of you MTT guys I am sure would back it up. I do best when I avoid these types of moves until absolutely necessary. I don't think I was at the necessary point yet, so I guess I could have folded, or limped (limping probably the best choice as implied odds were kinda there). The elimination cost me my third final table in my last 4 MTTs, so that sucks a bit. Oh well.

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