A Rubbish Night

I’m going to (try to) keep this short.  On Thursday night I had my first losing session since starting the coaching with Nick.  Didn’t feel great but it wasn’t like it was a massive hit, about $40.  Last night I made that back on two low stakes soft tables on PokerStars in a matter of 26 minutes.  That made me feel pretty good because I could start the night of tournaments back at my standard bankroll.

Unfortunately, sometimes I am utterly rubbish at taking a step back and looking what I’m doing.  I spent the first half of the night falling into the same traps that I did on Thursday, multi-tabling without proper and considered thought, and being too eager to outplay my opponents and take them on.  It all felt a bit too frantic.  The second half of the night was spent trying to get back to where I started from and failing, in fact falling further behind.  My PokerStars bankroll has been virtually crippled.  I was in profit for my William Hill account (which I discovered on Thursday that I had £30 in that I didn’t know about – better than a fiver in the pocket!) and withdrew £20, more for my own psychology than anything else.   A regular flow of cash into my bank account is definitely a positive thing.  That leaves it with the £30 balance that I started with.

Today, I’m not quite sure how, I’ve managed to arrange it such that I can play all day and all night if I want to.  It’s Saturday, which means in theory there should be lots of soft tables and money to make.  My first goal is to replenish my PokerStars bankroll back up to my standard level, which at the moment is $100.  I’m not thinking about my second yet, that would be getting ahead of myself.

The plan is to take my time and take regular breaks.  I have to make considered decisions and make sure I don’t fall into that trap again.  Right, here goes…

Back To The Books

From the title of this post you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’ve been studying.  That’s exactly what I haven’t been doing.  I’ve had a mildly profitable and short night at the tables, finishing a little over £10 up.  However, I failed to cash in any of three 180 player sit and go tournaments on PokerStars, with the cash tables once again winning out in the battle of tournaments vs cash.  There are probably quite a few hands I could go over and analyse but to be honest, I don’t think it’s the best thing I could do right now.

I’m going to go to bed attempting to feel pleased with a small profit, along with the reminder that I really need to work hard at this stuff, and that striking a balance between table time and study is vital.  I really don’t think I played well in any of the tournaments and I didn’t feel confident.  I may have a little time available tomorrow evening and I think I need to use it to get back to the training program.

A solid night, but should I have bet the turn?

Tonight I was itching to get playing.  Kicked off with a small buy-in 180 player sit and go.  That one didn’t last too long.  There was one hand that pretty much killed me, which I’d like to go through to figure out if I’m right that I played it as well as I could. For context I’ll start with the hand before it.

The guy to my right had started off fairly aggressively but I hadn’t seen any of his cards.  I’d just been moved onto his table and only had stats on 9 hands, which showed he’d seen 6 of the flops including 3 raises.

He raised in second position and I just had a feeling I could squeeze him a little with my Q9s.  I’d been playing tight and I thought there was a good chance that he’d put me on a better hand than his. So I re-raise to a little less that 3x his bet, he calls. Can’t remember the flop but he checks and folds to my bet.

The very next hand he raises again under the gun, and again I re-raise, this time holding a pocket pair 10d,10s. It’s folded round to him and he calls.

Flop comes 3h, Qh, 9d.

He checks and I bet about 60% of the pot which he calls.

The turn hits another queen, Qd.  And here’s the crucial action. He checks again, fairly quickly which made me worry a little that he might be setting a trap.  I mulled it over and decided to check for several reasons;

  • If he had a queen he was trapping and I’d be put to a difficult decision when he check-raised.
  • If he didn’t have a queen he could make the same play which again would be a difficult decision.
  • By checking I thought that I could make a much better judgement as to whether or not a bet on the river was a bluff or not from the size.
  • Checking also gave him the opportunity to make a mistake by bluffing a missed river if he was holding AK, AJ, AT or a smaller pocket pair.
  • My gut had suggested that the quick check may have been a trap.
  • By checking the turn I may make him think I have a mediocre hand, so he would have to bet small enough on the river for value if he really did have me beaten.  That leaves me with chips on the table rather than nothing but virtual felt.

The river was the 8d.  He bets around 40% of the pot which was about half my remaining stack.  I thought it was unlikely that he’d hit a flush as he could only really have been holding Ad Kd or Ad Jd to do that. A straight was possible but not that likely. I thought he could have had a queen but he’d been too active to just give it to him.  I didn’t think I could fold, so I called.

I was gutted to see him turn over 8c, 8s.  He’d hit a full house on the river and left me with just over a third of my starting stack, which I never managed to recover from.  My check had allowed him to improve on the river for free.

So the question is, should I have bet the turn?  Writing it out like this has helped me to analyse it a bit more, and my conclusion is that I was probably right to check the turn and definitely right to call on the river.

I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks.

I also played a single table sit and go and despite a run of horrific cards I managed to finish second.  By rights I should have won it, I found myself with AA against Q5, just me and one guy left.  He missed the flop totally but hit a 5 on the turn and again on the river.

I played some cash too which went fairly well but I won’t go through it all.  So it was a profitable night for both cash and tournaments but it was mostly thanks to the cash games.

And oh yeah, think I’ve got to re-address golden rule #3, no multi-tabling.  I think it actually works quite well to play one cash game with a tournament.  Two screens with tables both full screen.  I’m going on the principle that I can stop cash at any time, so put 80% of my attention to the cash table and then move it to the tournament when it gets down to the meat of it.  I’ll see how it goes.

What Should I Be Playing?

After feeling pretty pleased with the results of my experimental single table tournament earlier, I wasn’t sure whether to go play a fixed limit cash game, the format that I used to make all my money on, or further no limit tournaments.  It’s hard to turn down the money on offer on a Friday night in favour of playing tournaments with the main goal being improvement rather than financial gain.

I decided to play some cash games but it didn’t start off too well at all.  I found myself playing differently than I would usually, incorporating tactics that are just not right for those games.  I took a bit of a hit and felt quite annoyed with myself.  But the new me knows how to deal with that.  So I had a short break and pondered the situation over another coffee.  In that time I reset my thinking and decided to focus on the job in hand.  It wasn’t too long before I made back the lost money with a small bit on top.

By that time there weren’t as many soft tables and to be honest, I wasn’t really feeling it.  So I opened up the tournament tab in PokerStars to see what was available.  The ‘Hot $4.40’ was still taking late registrations.  It had already been running nearly 2 hours and registration was about to close.  I knew that buying in would start me off with just 12 big blinds but I thought I’d take a shot at getting lucky.  A few hands in I was dealt a pair of tens with 2 limpers in, so I shoved all in, won the hand and suddenly had just short of the average stack.

I made sure that I was following the rules I’ve made for myself and the guidelines that I have so far uncovered in the Nick Wealthall training program.  I’ve just busted out with about 140 or so players left.  Total entrants 6730, I entered with about half of those remaining.  I felt like I played well although from the point of about 400 players left I was clinging on a bit and didn’t have too much room to manoeuvre.  I just couldn’t get back to the average stack.

Looking at the tournament from a learning point of view, I’m fairly pleased even though I could perhaps have done better, but looking at it from a financial view I only made a rather measly $14, for about 3 hours work.  That’s not exactly the big time is it?

I’ve had the question that this poses rolling around in my head for a long time.  Should I be bothering with large tournaments?  The fields are so big that final table payouts are a very good haul, but a finish like I had just isn’t worth the time if you look at it purely financially, especially when you consider all the times I’ll bust out before the cash.  I could be making more playing other games.

I think I might give some more sit and go’s a chance.  I had some success in the $4.50 180 player tournaments a few months back, finishing 1st, 2nd, 4th twice and a couple with minimum cashes, over the course of about 15 entries.  The thing is that you’re looking at about 4 and a half hours to complete it, which is fine when you finish in the top 5, but lower than that and there’s not a great hourly rate.

I think I need to give some serious thought to the tournaments that I play in.  I also want to start thinking about no limit cash games, especially now I’ve started to get my aggression up.

Before that though, it’s definitely time for bed.

Serious Hard Work

After getting very excited by the arrival of Poker Tracker 4 the other night, I didn’t actually get to use it straight away.  First off I had a slight technical issue, which incidentally would have been solved a lot quicker had I just asked myself the obvious question ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’, and then there was some housekeeping to be done.  It took a long time to import all my data from my Poker Tracker 3 database, so much so that when I woke up in the morning I found my laptop had turned itself off with 10’s of thousands of hands still to be imported.

And then, of course, life got in the way and I didn’t manage to find an appropriate time to play any poker.  Once again I’m looking at that positively because it means I’ve been following my Golden Rules.

So long story short, tonight was the first time I could have a proper play with it.  “But wait!”, I hear my millions of dedicated twitter followers shout, “you forgot about the Nick Wealthall training!”  Ok then, I’ll get to that first.

Last night I signed up for Nick’s new monthly training program, convinced not only by his video snippets that I have been watching over the past few months, but also because the first month was free.

In all honesty I signed up for it fully believing that I would benefit from the first month and cancel before the second month, basically because it’s not cheap, but I generally am!  After my first session this evening, I think I’m in serious danger of paying him a considerable amount of money over the coming year.  That all depends on my results and my profits being enough to justify it.  I’m not going to make my mind up just yet.

Today I watched the first module video, then watched it again whilst taking notes, and watched the second module video.  The first month is entitled ‘How To Play Aggressively Pre Flop And Dominte Aggressive Players’.  I think the title speaks for itself really, doesn’t it?

So, to the poker table.  I fired up PokerStars and the Poker Tracker 4 software and decided to play a low buy-in STT (single table tournament) with a standard structure.  I took it as an experimental game, paying close attention to the techniques that Nick had been discussing.  It started very well.

It was a 9 seater table, 1500 starting stack, 10/20 for the first level.

In the first hand I was second to act with junk, so I was going to fold regardless.  The player under the gun raised, I folded as did the two players to my left.  The next player re-raised and it was folded around to the original raiser who called.  I can’t remember the flop, but that’s what the tracking software is for!  Looking now it tells me that it was a rags flop of 4d 2h 6h.  The original raiser checks and folds to the aggressor’s bet.

In the second hand I found myself with a pocket pair – 66 – and decided to raise to 80.  I would often limp in this spot hoping for a cheap flop and a third 6 to be in there.  But that’s not me anymore!  The same guy re-raises to 140 and it’s folded around to me.  At this point I’m thinking that I have no information on my opponent other than the first hand. He could easily have hit a hand bigger than mine, but my gut said he was one of those guys who likes to start out of the blocks fast. Most likely I was a small favourite to his two overcards.

I could call and hope to hit a set, but that would put me on the back foot and I’d only see that third 6 one time in every eight flops. That’s what I would often have done in the past, arguing that the implied odds were good enough for a call.  I couldn’t do that, not after the training I had just been listening to.

I could fold worrying that I was behind already or that I would be guessing too much when the flop was dealt because I didn’t know the villain’s starting hand range and I was out of position.  I didn’t want to do that either.

So the new aggressive me 4-bets to 380, representing a strong hand, especially considering I was playing out of position, and he had no knowledge of me either.  It didn’t take long for the 5-bet to come and he’d put me all in to call.  I thought for a moment and decided that the most likely hand for him to have was two overcards, leaving it at a virtual coin flip but with me just ahead.

If you look purely at the odds and assume I was right in what I thought he was holding, it’s got to be call.  However, you’ve also got to look at the fact that I would be out of the tournament on the second hand if I called and lost.  On the other hand if I fold I’m putting myself down nearly a third of my chips and leaving myself in an undesirable position early in the trounament.  That’s not me.  Not anymore.

So I call knowing that if I win I’m putting myself in a great position, and saw that I was right, he was overly aggressive with Ace Jack off suit.  Fortunately the odds stuck with me and he missed, doubling me up and giving me a dominating early chip lead.

I could have been out on the second hand but I feel like once I decided to play the hand I played it as well as I could considering the small amount of information that I had on my opponent.  Question is, should I have played 66 up front in the first place?

I went on to crush the tournament playing agressive poker, without sucking out once and I lost chips on several occasions when I had the best of it.  My only real hiccup from that point was when it was down to three players, I did drop down into last place, but not by much and I went on to win.

Until it got down to the last three and my two opponents started getting more aggressive, I felt like the table was scared of me.  I was picking up free chips all over the place, without even really attacking the blinds too much.  I lost count of how many times everyone folded to my big blind, giving me another free round.

I also ended up playing more hands than I would normally because I was finding more and more spots where I could push my opponents out without any real resistence.

Ironically I struggled a little with the Poker Tracker 4 software because everything has been moved around somewhat.  But I had enough information on my opponents from the HUD (heads up display) to help me out.  It looks like there’s so many great features on there and I can’t wait to get discover everything that it can do.  There’s lots of hard work ahead of me to study as well as to customise the tracking software to make the most of it, and then of course I’ve got to work on my bankroll.

Well, that entry certainly wasn’t supposed to take so long, but no matter, it’s Friday night and there’s still plenty of play on the tables. Now I’ve just got to decide if I want to do more experimental tournaments or grind out some cash on the fixed limit tables whilst there’s drunks and friday night fools on there.  I’ll grab a coffee to help me decide.

Poker Tracker 4 Has Arrived!!!

It feels like Christmas as a kid, that moment of anticipation before the wrapping gets ripped off a long awaited present when you already know what’s inside.  And it’s not from Auntie Judy, and it’s not another pair of socks.  This is the big one.  The games console.  The bike.  The puppy.  Oh who am I kidding, I never got presents like that.  I’d sob for my misconception of a neglected youth, but I’m just too damned excited.

Not only did I receive an email telling me that the all singing, all dancing, all new version of Poker Tracker had been released, but they also told me I could get a massive discount of 70% because I already have a licence for version 3.  Bargain!

I’ve downloaded the software but not bought the licence yet because I’m hoping (possibly quite cheekily) that they might also let me add the Omaha licence at a discounted price.  I’d like to get into Omaha but I don’t have the licence for version 3 of the software, so the discounted upgrade doesn’t include it.

It’s installing as I type.  It’s also just gone 2am, way too late for a proper game, but I can have a little play with it.  That’s okay isn’t it?  For the sake of my daughter’s morning entertainment, I’ve got to make sure I get to bed before 3am…

Back in the saddle, with golden rules #2 and #3

Well I’m not avoiding playing poker any more, which is definitely a good thing.  What I’m also not doing is consistently playing properly.  At the times when I am following my own rules and obeying winning principles, I feel great, like I’m in the zone.  The problems come on the other occasions.  I’m playing too much at times that are not appropriate or when I’m not able to properly push any distractions aside.  Consequently I’m not actually making any money because during the bad times I’m losing the money that I have made when I’m in the zone.

Golden Rule #2

I watched yet another video from Nick Wealthall yesterday.  For those of you who don’t know of him he’s a poker presenter, player and more recently he has put together a training program to help people with improving their skills.  In the latest video that I have seen he was talking about the psychology of poker players and separating from the emotion of decisions at the table.  He talks about using an inner monologue throughout each of the hands, allowing for a more analytical approach to decisions that are made.

This concept is nothing new to me and is something that I used to use on a regular basis, but I haven’t done it consistently for a long time.  He’s right.  Of course he’s right, it’s common sense.  So if I know it’s common sense it must therefore be illogical not to use that inner monologue.

So that’s going to be my golden rule #2. I must concentrate on each hand that I play and achieve that by using my inner monologue.

An important point here is that I must define each hand ‘that I play’ as every hand that is dealt whilst I am at the table, regardless of whether or not I’m involved in the action.  By constantly observing my opponents I will have far better information to help me make the best decisions when I am involved in the action.

Golden Rule #3

The principle of paying as much attention as possible to each of the actions of my opponents leads very easily on to another conclusion – that I must not play more than one table at a time.

Multi-tabling could be argued to have it’s advantages, and certainly when I was consistently winning plenty of money in the past I did used to play two or even more tables at a time.  When this was appropriate I do believe that it helped me to increase my profits.  However this was only appropriate at times when playing at lower limit tables where I had plenty of information on my opponents already and I knew that a fairly formulaic approach would suffice.  The simple fact is that those tables are far less common nowadays.

I do want to explore multi-tabling in the future, in particular in reference to tournaments rather than cash tables, but for now I want to make golden rule #3 to only play one table at a time.  I cannot justify playing more whilst I’m not crushing the tables that I play.