Life Shouldn't Be A Fuckin' Grind

I will never be a poker pro, but my lifetime poker ledger is positive and I think that's something to be proud of.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Getting Back to Basics

I think I've realized something about my limit hold'em game. Granted, I've been running pretty shitty both in shorthanded and full ring for quite a while now. However, that's not the only problem I have. I think I've been spewing money in a lot of spots with hands like middle pair and Ace-high where it should be obvious that I'm beat. In the old days when I was first start otu playing full-ring and following SSHE like it was the Bible, I wouldn't do this. I'd be very careful about the kinds of hands I played. Of course, I wouldn't fold a good draw in a large enough pot, but I also would routinely muck hands like middle pair in small pots when shown aggression. When I started playing shorthanded, and in tighter (pre-flop) full-ring games, I thought that this might be too weak and I needed open up my game. Here's the problem, I think I opened it up too much.

Sure, at a 6-max table middle pair is going to be good more often than it will at a full-ring table; especially in a heads-up pot. However, that doesn't mean I should raise with A8, bet the flop of J86, get raised and check/call all the way down only to be shown QJ, then curse my luck. When you get raised and the villain bets every street, that's probably a pretty good indication that most of the time A8 isn't much good there. Of course, there are going to be spots where the A8 might be good. For instance, I played a hand the other night where a player open-limped and I raised on the button with A8o, the flop came K83 rainbow, he checked, I bet and he raised. I decided he was FOS, didn't have the King and I was calling down. I think it had something to do with his stats, but I just didn't put him on open-limping with a King. I was right, but unfortunately he spiked two pair on the river with his 53s and kicked my ass. Was calling down there the right play? Probably not actually...if I didn't think he had a King, 3-betting the flop may have been better, or leading the turn. Either one probably works better. The key is that while there are situations where I might be good here, I need to be more careful. I need to pay attention to the type of player I'm up against and react accordingly and I really need to get back to basics and stop going too far with piss poor hands.

Since I won that tournament the other night I've managed to spew off at least hundred bucks, a good chunk of which came at NL cash tonight ($90+). I guess I've only lost a bit in my various other play outside of that. I really need to stay away from NL cash at least for now. Someday I'll probably pick up the Sklansky and Miller NL book and try to figure out how to beat NL, but for now I want to focus on a game that I feel comfortable playing, enjoy and feel like I should have an edge at, LHE. My plan for the time being is to try to hit 1/2 6-max on FullTilt pretty hard over the coming weeks. I'm going to try 4-tabling and try to really tighten up my play from the way I've been playing lately...and see if things go any better. I'm basically looking at it as an experiment. Sure, tight play in SHLHE may actually be sub-optimal, but it's also possible that I can develop a winning style with it. I'm guessing that what I'm going for is something in the 22/14 range or maybe even as low as 20/12 pre-flop, with a 2-2.5 postflop aggression factor. From there, I hope that stats like won $ at showdown and went to showdown fall into reasonable categories. I think I need to go to showdown a bit less often and get to showdown with the best hand a bit more often, but more than that I think I need to start folding more turns. That's probably my biggest leak. I also need to stop trying so hard to run over people. I know that I try way too hard to win every pot I play, especially every pot that I raise pre-flop and that's something I really need to work on. Yeah, if it's folded to me on the button I should be raising a pretty wide variety of hands, but that raise only shows a profit if I don't spew after the flop and that's the biggest thing I need to work on. All of this I think is attainable...and I think patience is the biggest key, which is why I plan to try 4-tabling. I assume that if I'm playing more tables I'll have less chance to get into marginal/bad situations, because I'll be busy playing a hand that's worth playing on one of my other tables. At least that's the hope for now.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Sweet Taste of Success

I hadn't really been having a tremendous poker month so far...until tonight. I'd been losing money in cash games and SnGs, and I'd only played in a couple of tournaments and hadn't had any results worth writing about. All of that changed though.

I'm back in the winner's circle for the first time in about a year. Albeit, a small MTT, but a 180-man SnG is an MTT nonetheless in my book. I just took down an $11 180-man on Stars. What a sweet fucking feeling.

I played well most of the way, but was short to average stacked. Then, in the latter stages, needing some chips for the bubble, I decided to gamble with AK right before the 2nd break. A player in LPish open raised for like 6k and I decided to go all-in behind him, he had 88, I won that coinflip and got to about 15k in chips, well above average. After that I lost some back, but then had a very good bubble and an even better 2nd to last table. On the bubble, I'd been opening a lot of hands and picking up quite a bit of dead money, then with 19 players left I picked up KK and made my standard opening raise. The BB called and the flop came 957 rainbow. The BB bet out about half the pot and I put him all-in (I had him covered) and he called with Q9 (lol), he didn't improve and that put me in solid position for the 2nd to last table. At the 2nd to last table I played solid poker, then doubled up with A7s vs. KQ on a flop of AQx. The very next hand I busted that same player with AK vs. K5 in a blind on blind battle. After that I cruised to the final table and went in with a solid chiplead at 89k.

As the final table started I searched the 2 biggest stacks on Sharkscope and found that both were losing players in SnGs, 1 had lost $6k in Stars SnGs, and the other had lost like $200 over 400+ SnGs so he was pretty close to breakeven. At any rate, I knew not to be scared of either of them. I played solid and got down to 4-handed with a chiplead, then I got bluffed out of a pretty big pot when I had top pair no kicker with A3 and a flush came on the river, villain showed JTo for pretty much nothing, then I got down real short when my A5 lost to a shortstack's A7, but I battled back and made it HU at about a 2-1 chip disadvantage. I scratched and clawed to get it to 163k to 106k, then the big hand came opponent min-raised to 8k with blinds at 2k/4k and I re-raised to 20k with Ac3c, he called and the flop came down 7s5s4h, I bet out 20k and he moved all-in. I was getting like 1.8-1 and I decided to gamble with my double gutterball, villain flipped over Ad2d and I was in great shape, almost free-rolling. Turn was a 6 to win me the pot outright and I took a solid chiplead and never looked back.

On the final hand, I had a bit over 200k and villain had 67k, blinds were 3k/6k and I raised to 18k on the button with 66, villain moved all-in and I called and busted the mighty Krablar, Ks3s. And the sweet taste of victory is mine. Now I'm not gonna be able to sleep for a while.

The $540 isn't a ton of money, but it adds like 33% to my roll and turns month where I was down almost 200 bucks into a month where I'm ahead, so that rules. And, I can now say I've won an MTT twice, so that's pretty sweet too. All in all, I'm a pretty happy camper at the moment.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

On Losing Money, Running Bad, Steaming, Etc

I think this topic deserves it's own post, though I guess it really doesn't much matter since I really doubt that I have much (if anything) in the way of readership. I think my blog could be one big long run-on post (or ever run-on sentence) and no one would really care. And, let's face blogs are boring, so it's not like I would blame anyone for not reading. Anyway, on to my post.

I believe that my two biggest problems in poker are focus and tilt. Focus is simple, I don't focus on the game or table I'm on enough and hence make mistakes. I find it nearly impossible to one-table online and even when I'm multi-tabling I still usually have internet windows open to FCP and other stuff. I also have trouble focusing on any one form of poker and that hurts my overall mastery of the game. Anyhow, I know that's a problem, but I'm not really planning on addressing it in this post, so we'll just gloss over it and say it's something I need to work on.

The real thing that I want to talk about in this post is TILT. That 4-letter word that seems to effect everyone who plays poker, whether they want to admit to it or not. Here's the thing...I'm very competitive, intensely competitive. It's part of what drew me to poker and made me want to get good at it. It's also the single biggest weakness I have. See, losing money doesn't really effect me that much. I've learned to divorce myself from the concept of the money in my bankroll being actual dollars. If I drop a couple hundred, I don't think of it in terms of what I could have bought with that money, I think of it in terms of the hit I just took to my bankroll. In fact, my bankroll could probably be all play money and I'd still hate losing and I'd still be in there playing to win.

My big problem in all of this though is that I take losing way to personally and it really HURTS me to lose. When I take a bad beat, I'm in pain, when a player sucks out on me I take it personally. When I start running bad, I start getting pissed off. Then, I make "fuck you" raises in places that I shouldn't, I try to wrestle pots away from people in spots where I shouldn't. I try too hard to MAKE something happen. I try too hard to win in spots where I can't. One of the big things that I feel like I've been doing wrong the last few months is trying to win every pot that I play, especially when I come in with a strong starting hand. I'll raise pre-flop with AK or AQ and get several callers, the flop will completely miss me, and I'll still continuation bet, then I'll miss the turn and still bet into 2 people who called the flop. This is flat out spewage, but I feel that it's MY pot and I deserve to win it because I started with the best hand.

The big downswing that I took at 3/6 and 2/4 SHLHE which caused me to doubt whether I'm a winning player at SHLHE killed my poker confidence, not because I lost like $2k in two months (which is a ton of money for me), but because I wasn't winning. Because I lost. The money wasn't the important part, the important part is that I have a pokertracker database of about 20k hands that shows me as a loser in SHLHE. Now, it's still possible that I was just running bad for a significant portion of the hands and that I'm capable of beating the game over the very long term playing the same game I was playing. 20k hands in shorthanded isn't exactly a tremendously large sample size, however my bankroll and my confidence were devastated and I don't think I've fully recovered yet. Again, I can't stress enough that the dollar aspect of it meant virtually.

So, how do I defeat this? How do I stop tilting when I start losing, stop trying to win every pot I play, stop taking poker so personally? I'm not really sure. For one thing, I probably need a confidence boost. If I can get around to it I'll probably PM my SHLHE stats to some of the known winners on FCP and see if they notice anything too out of the ordinary. The main thing though I think is recognition. I need to realize that I have this problem and stop myself when I start steaming and playing bad. I need to realize that beats happen and without them there wouldn't be any money in poker anyway. I need to get in a ton of hands and start winning again. Knowing is half the battle and now that I've identified this problem I need to start trying to identify it while I'm playing and take steps to stop it. If I find myself doing it and not caring I need to just quit. Otherwise I'll never get over the hump and become a big time winner, I'll always just be a micro-limit superstart who couldn't get into the big time.

Some Miscellaneous Items

-I think I have a new favorite poker game. I read Todd Brunson's Stud8 chapter in SS2 a few weeks ago and I've been playing that game alot on FullTilt lately. I think I'm probably up a little bit, but I'm not sure b/c I haven't been keep records (yes, I know I need to start doing that). The other players seem pretty bad, especially at the .25/.50 and .5/1 levels and I'm certain there's money to be made in that game. Unfortunately, I'm not even making all the right decisions on 3rd street yet, so I feel like I have a ways to go in the game, but I also feel like I'm learning and it's a pretty fun game.

-I've also started trying to learn O8. Much harder game, and it's hard to find limit O8 tables even running. Oftentimes when there is one it's pretty nitty and most of the advice I've read in the SS2 chapter (which I'm a little more than halfway through reading) has been geared to loose games. Still, I feel like that's definitely a game that can be profited at, but I have much more to learn than I do at Stud8. I'll keep playing some, but I think it will take me longer to get good.

-My play is pretty scattered right now, I've been playing O8, Stud8, a little Stud Hi, a little Razz, LHE and some NL cash games, SnGs and MTTs. In other words I've been playing pretty much everything and I think that's a bit of a problem. One of my many weaknesses in poker is probably focus. I have a hard time focusing all of my energy on a single form of poker for an extended period of time and that' s hurting me.

-I'm running terrible in LHE and I haven't played very well in NL cash games, but since those are the games with the most players (and probably the most bad players) I feel like I should be playing them more. I really do think that it would be very beneficial to me to try to get good at NL cash. I'm just not sure what exactly I do wrong in that game most of the time. Of course, part of the problem could be that I've been playing $50 NL on Tilt and Stars for the most part and those games seem pretty damn nitty.

-I read a good article on P5's today about goal-setting and I really think that's something I should try to do a better job of. Lately, I haven't really been setting goals for myself and it's causing me to be all over the map and probably spew money. In that vein, I'll probably try to come up with some goals for short-term and long term and post them here soon. Of course, the last time I set a goal it was to play 5-6k hands a month of 2/4 SH on Party for six months and I couldn't even get through the first month. I have a feeling that particular downswing is still going on and I wonder if there will ever be a light at the end of the tunnel. I've been practically spewing money at LHE and especially SHLHE for the last few months, however most of it seems to be losing with sets and big pairs and such, and not making many straights and flushes. Of course, I'm also overplaying some losing hands and paying off when I get beat some, but I think that's stuff isn't going to kill you most of the time, because it helps you get paid off when you do make big hands. Unfortunately, I'm not making enough big hands of late and when I do flop a set, it often loses.

-I'd really like to get back into SHLHE or even just regular LHE, but it's hard when you're running as bad as I have been. I also haven't been playing at optimal hours lately b/c of my job. I generally have been playing in the mornings when I get home from work, instead of the evenings. I think I'll start trying to change that up a little here soon. I have $300 on Bodog and I think I'll devote that to playing .5/1 & 1/2 LHE and trying to grind a bankroll back up.

-I need to start keeping better records. The log book that I've been using works after a fashion, but it's damn near impossible to add things up. What I really need to do is figure out how to use Excel or Works Spreadsheet and set up spreadsheets for each game type (including SnGs and MTTs), then enter every session, it's number of hands and result...and set it up so that it will keep constantly updated stats for me. I could also start using pokertracker again when I play on FTP, but that really only works for Hold'em and when I play on my laptop at home. A good spreadsheet will allow me to keep records of everything.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Argosy 10/20 Game: revisited

Last night (Friday night) I went out to the Argosy to play 10/20 again. I ended up playing about 9 hours and losing money on the night. In fairness, aside from hitting a couple of flops with suited gappers, I didn't run particularly well. I lost with AA at least twice and also lost twice with KK (though one was on a questionable river fold). However, all that said I also didn't play all that great, especially later in the session when I was playing at a table with 3 other pretty strong players. I misplayed a couple of key pots against the good players and kept getting into confrontations with one donkey who probably ended up taking money off of me in the long run. Again, I'm not sure, but I think I misplayed some pots against him too.

At any rate, while there were definitely donators at the table, it wasn't nearly as soft as the 6/12 game that I was used to sitting in there. At 6/12 I can't recall ever sitting at a table where I didn't feel like I was clearly the best player at the table. At the 10/20 game there were at least 3 players at the table who were at least as good as (and probably better than) me. I know I got outplayed by some of these guys in the pots that I got into with them and all in all I feel like I made some major mistakes. All of this leads me to wonder if I have any business playing this game again at this point in my poker career. Granted, I could probably improve my game by playing against people who are better than me and also watching them, but at what cost. If I have a higher earn rate in the 6/12 game I probably ought to stick with it for a while longer. My live bankroll isn't that large and I'm certainly at risk if I take a big downswing at the 10/20 level. Even though I'm still probably better than half the players at the table, which means I should be able to beat the game, I think the presence of the good players is going to make it tougher for me to win, which will cut into my earn rate and increase my variance. In fact, the only reasons I can think of for staying are my personal pride (not wanting to admit defeat) and wanting to improve my game (and I do believe that by playing with people who are better than me I can improve my game). However, I think the bottom line is that right now I really should be playing to make money first and foremost and I can probably do that better at the 6/12 level.

What I'm probably going to do is go back to playing 6/12, then wait to take another shot at 10/20 until I have at least 100 BB for the game. The biggest key is that I think 6/12 plays to my strengths a little better and I've never been at a table there where I didn't feel like I was clearly the favorite. At 10/20 it was much more marginal. I could identify the people that I was pretty sure I was better than, but I certainly wasn't the best player at the table and I do feel that I got flat outplayed in a couple of spots. Hence, I think I'm better off for the time being sticking to a game I know I'm better than. Down the road, when I have a more stable financial situation and a bigger bankroll I'll probably take another shot and hopefully get better at the game as a result.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Argosy 10/20 Game

This weekend I finally played in the Argosy 10/20 game and I really wasn't impressed by the level of play. I wasn't sure whether it was going to be a good game or not, because I'd heard from a solid player that I played with at Caesar's that the Argosy 10/20 game was populated by the same group of about 15 people and it wasn't a very good game to play in. When I sat down however I didn't really find this to be the case. In fact, the game seemed like it was probably softer than the 6/12 game I'd just left.

It did seem to be the case that most of the players played together a lot and knew each other. When I first sat down the dealer was calling several of the players by their first names and many of them seemed to know on another. That said, it didn't seem to mean that they were good at poker. In fact, I found quite the opposite to be the case; the first several pots after I sat down and while the table was still full were contested multi-way with at least 5-6 people seeing the flop. Unfortunately, I got in very late and the game started to break up and get shorthanded within an hour or so. I actually won several pots early and was up a decent amount, but then lost a bunch back when I had things happen like hitting broadway on the river and losing to a backdoor flush, and having my AK and AJ type hands not end up hitting anything a lose to 95o which flopped a pair. I ended up playing for about 3-4 hours with the last hour at least being 4-handed with one player who seemed very solid, one was probably marginal at best and a total donkey. In the shorthanded game I got down early, but won most of it back and ended up the session down about $50 for the game.

Even though I lost the other night, I think that if I could play that game full-ring for a long session my expectation would be very good. The game was not difficult and the players really weren't very good. In fact, I think that I've played at tougher 6/12 tables at the Argosy than that 10/20 table. Right now, my plan is to definitely head back out there the next chance I get and try to get there as early as I can and get in a long session in that game while it's full. I think I ought to be able to clean up.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I'm a SnG man, Doin' what I can

I think I've decided that I should go back to focusing primarily on SnGs in online poker and here's why. Full Ring LHE has gotten so tight that it doesn't feel worth it for me to play, I'm not enjoying it and it's very difficult to beat. 6-max LHE seems to be where the money is in Limit, but unfortunatley I've never had any luck with it. I still think that I'm mostly just running horrendously in that game. My stats don't seem to be all that far off where their supposed to be and the play is pretty bad overall, but I just can't seem to beat it and it's incredibly frustrating so I think it's best for my bankroll and my psyche that I try to stay away from it as much as possible. I can still go to the Casino a couple of times a month to get my LHE fix and keep my game relatively sharp. I've also never been able to do all that well at NL cash games so I doubt I'll be playing much of that either. I'll try to stick mostly to SnGs and MTTs and maybe mix in a little low limit play at some of the other games as I try to become proficient at the Omaha and Stud variations of poker.

I had a decent month of October despite a sick run at 1/2 6-max on UB the last couple up days. I still managed to move my bankroll up a couple hundred bucks on the month and I'm sitting right around $1400 online right now. I still have money in a savings account that I made from poker as well and I've spent something like $3k worth of poker winnings in the past year, so I feel pretty good about being ahead of the game.