Doing Their Betting: My Biggest Leak?

Since I last posted I’ve been making a bit of progress.   My bankroll is growing, but only slowly.  But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I think I might have discovered a major leak in my game.  Well, I say discovered, but I guess I always knew it was there. Well, I say always…

I find myself leaking far too many chips in situations where I’ve done the betting for my opponent when I’m behind.  That’s either where I’ve bluffed too far with air, or where I’m behind with a medium strength hand.  In far too many tournaments the significant hand in my downfall seems to be this sort of situation.

I have been aware for a long time that almost all the players who I identify as significantly better than me, are far better at knowing when to check it down and hope to see a cheap showdown.  They also seem to know when to give up a bluff.

I think I find it difficult to strike the balance between hitting value when it’s available and just staying in the pot when I’ve got a hand with showdown value.  Often I think it’s because I’m too scared to give up the lead and give my opponent an obvious opportunity to bluff me off the best hand.

So what does this say about me?  I think the main thing is that I’m not putting enough effort into properly putting a range on my opponent, and figuring out what hands of value I can beat.  Because of this I think that I’m not clearly defined enough in my own head as to whether some of my bets are for value or if they are a bluff.

I’m guilty of betting when I think I might be ahead, I don’t want to give a free card if I am, but I’m likely to only get action when I’m behind.  Stupid really.  No, that should actually read: REALLY STUPID.  Sorry for shouting, but it was directed at me, not you.  Unless you’re guilty too. 

I’ve played a few small buy-in single table tournaments to experiment with improving this aspect of my game.  I think a lot of my approach to these games is fairly sound at the level I play, but I never seem to make much from them in the long run.  I think partly that’s playing too many tables, so I’ve been playing two for these trials.  So far they seem to be going quite well, cashing in both, winning one, or even winning both.  But I’ve only had a few sessions and I need to do more.

I’m not going to be able to play for a few days, but when I get back to the virtual this has to be my major priority.

Poker Outs – No More Cheat Sheets

One of the many things that I want to achieve as I strive to fulfil my poker potential, is a highly in-depth knowledge of the maths involved.  Being an online player for so long, I’ve just got used to taking advantage of my faceless avatar and stowed the odd cheat sheet or two just out of sight of my opponents.  The fact that I can, is however, a lame excuse for a lack of complete knowledge.

I decided last night to try and memorise my outs vs odds table to start me off.  To make sure we’re all on the same page, what I mean is for any particular number of outs, what are my odds of improving on the turn or river.   I decided that the number I should focus on (for ease of use) is what my odds are for improving on the river only.  This is ever so slightly better odds than on the turn because there is one less card in the deck.  I would normally err on the side of being conservative with estimates to make sure I stay on the right side of expected value, but in this case I think it’s balanced by the amount of times you’ll see both cards for the price of a call on the flop.

I’m now going to go through what I remember without looking at the chart.  No really, I’m not going to look.

OUTS
% OF HITTING
OUTS
% OF HITTING
1
2
12
25%
2
4%
13
27%
3
6%
14
29%
4
8%
15
31%
5
10%
16
34%
6
12%
17
36%
7
15%
18
39%
8
17%
19
41%
9
19%
20
43%
10
21%
21
45%
11
23%
22
47%

Yup, checking that over I’ve got it spot on.  At least as spot on as I was aiming for.  As you can see I’ve rounded everything down to whole numbers, to help make it easy to remember.

You might think that I’ve done pretty well to recall all that (if you believe me), especially when I tell you that I only spent five minutes committing the numbers to memory (it actually took less time than creating that table – come on wordpress, sort out your tables).  But it actually wasn’t at all difficult.

Once I rounded everything down I pretty soon noticed that the first 6 are simple – the chance of hitting is double the number of outs.  When it gets to 7 and up it’s just double and add one.  This continues until 16 when it becomes double plus 2 and then 18 it changes to double plus 3.

So all I actually remembered is that it is double the outs plus 0, 1, 2 or 3 with the changes being at 7, 16 and 18.  That’s why it only took five minutes.  Why on earth hadn’t I done that before?

  • 1 – 6  = double
  • 7 – 15 = double + 1
  • 16 – 17 = double + 2
  • 18 up = double + 3

I think that it’s this sort of simple mnemonic that is going to be the key to unlocking the maths behind poker for me.  Maybe it could be for you too.

Hunt The Fish

Instead of going to the pub last night like I planned, I decided to stay in and get going on building my bank roll.  I started too quick out of the blocks, making assumptions too quickly about players.  Eagerness and poker are not usually the best of bed fellows.  Luck was definitely not on my side either and before I knew it I was three buy-ins down (remembering that I only began with five).  I steadied myself, gave myself a bit of a talking to and got back to some decent play.  I was an astounding $1 in the black by the time I powered down.

A side effect of the session is that I went broke in two of my accounts and increased on the third.  This leaves me in an awkward situation, as I didn’t want to deposit into any account unless that was balanced by a withdrawal from another.  I’m starting with such a tiny bankroll (now $29 after last nights blazing glory) that I’m loathe to withdraw down too small in any one account.  So I’m stuck with one account (iPoker) unless I deposit into some others.  I think I should just bite the bullet and invest a little, otherwise I’m going to be stuck in the dark.

“The map is not the territory” ~ Alfred Korzybski, Philosopher & Scientist

Everyone who plays poker on the internet has an idea in their head as to what’s available.  Many recreational players stick to just one site – the one they happened to sign up with first.  As they get better they learn to pick the best tables from that site, the ones that they can beat.  But the trouble is that just one site is frankly not enough if you’re going to get the best from what poker has to offer on the internet.  The table selection just isn’t good enough.

On the smaller end of the scale, networks don’t offer enough of a player pool to choose from.  The Microgamming network is a good example of this, where Ladbrokes poker languishes these days; you can wait all day for a decent table if all you can see is their list of cash tables.

With larger sites like PokerStars, I believe there are actually too many players, especially at the micro stakes cash tables.  When a bad player gets hit a few times he will often disappear to another table, sparking mass table jumping from good players and bad players alike.

Bad players on smaller sites however, who don’t use any other network, feel like the don’t have anywhere to go and are more likely to stay at the same table losing until they go broke.

“If you can’t find a table you can beat, you’re not looking hard enough.” ~ Me

Table selection and player selection are crucial for cash poker players, and only checking out a small percentage of what’s on offer by sticking to one site, could be massively affecting your bottom line.  The smarter and more aware players familiarise themselves with many networks and sites.  And that’s what you should do.  Yes Kid, you.

If you have at least one account with each of the major networks, and open them all up when you start your session, you can get a proper view of what’s there. 

Good tables will occur far more frequently on large sites, simply because of the numbers, but they won’t last as long.  Find a decent table on a smaller site and you might be able to stick there all night reaping the benefits.

I have to admit that I’m not good enough at this.  So this afternoon’s task is to ensure that I’ve got as wide a view of the tables on offer as possible by making sure I’ve got an up to date account with some money in it on all the networks that I want to play on.

Cash Poker – Bankroll Management

Having very limited time to play poker tends to push you towards one particular form of poker: cash.  Tournaments are just too long, and require too much commitment.  Cash is handy because you can drop the game at any point.  It can also be good to see the same players again, which can help the build up of relevant information.

So cash it is.  I’ve never really played much no limit cash until recently (my earnings used to come from fixed limit cash which is too much of a grind nowadays), but so far I seem to be doing okay.  There is massive room for improvement, which I’m the first to admit, but I’m holding my own.  I played a cash game at a mate’s place recently, blinds at 10p / 25p, so I bought in for £25.  I cashed out at the end of the night with £125, and feeling like I deserved it.  I feel more confident face to face than online.  It’s easier to spot the fish.  But unfortunately the games just aren’t available where I live.

Online my stakes are much smaller, especially at the moment.  Coming back to the virtual felt I find myself with little more than a chip and a chair.  I had left a massive $28 spread across 3 different accounts: Pokerstars, Full Tilt and Everest (an iPoker skin).  Truth be told it was more like double that but I’ve blown the rest bombing out of a few tournaments.  Whilst the TV was on.  I mean ffs….

So what can I do with $28?!  Well, start at the beginning I guess.  Let’s say I start right down at 2c/5c.  That’s 5 buy-ins.  I guess what makes sense is to work up to $50 and then start to throw in some 5c/10c.  By the time I get to 10c / 20c I’d like to leave behind at least 20 5c/10c buy-ins, so effectively I need $220 to buy in to a 10c / 20c game.

When people talk about bankroll management they often suggest having 50 times the standard 100 big blinds buy-in at any particular level.  Well if I play at 2c/5c until I have $1,000 to step up to 5c/10c, well don’t expect great rewards any time soon.  Or my sanity to hold.  I figure the best I can do is gradually increase the buy-ins I hold as I go up the levels.  If I hit a rough streak, well I’ll have to dip into my life money.

So I guess the outcome of all that is this:

  • 2c / 5c – lowest level, will buy in regardless until I’m down to the felt
  • 5c / 10c – at least $50 (5 buy-ins)
  • 10c / 20c – at least $220 (11 buy-ins)*
  • 20c / 40c – at least $840 (21 buy-ins)*
  • 25c / 50c – at least $1,050 (21 buy-ins)*
  • 50c / $1 – at least $3,000 (30 buy-ins)
  • $1 / $2 – at least $7,000 (35 buy-ins)

*it’s a psychology thing.

Right now this seems a very long way away.  I don’t even know if I can do it.  I guess we shall find out, gradually, over the coming months.  I nearly didn’t fill that list as far down as that, but I need to realise just how much I need in my bankroll to make a proper go of this.  This little exercise seems to have helped with that quite well.

The Wanderer Returns

Aside

Life has somewhat overtaken poker recently.  I’ve been amazed how little it is possible to play and still remain sane.  I’ve heard it said that some people never play, but I’m far too long in the tooth to believe that sort of rubbish.

But in the last few months I’ve been so busy I’ve barely been able to open the software before I’m called back into action.  I separated from my partner a few months back and ever since I’ve been trying to balance bringing up my daughter during the day, with finding enough work in the evenings and weekends.  I landed myself a job as a roadie which covers most weekends, I’m working ad hoc for a small financial research company (handily owned by a friend) and I’m getting a few life coaching clients too.  It’s all self employed and as far removed from working for the man as makes me happy.

So life feels good, and I find myself daydreaming of the potential my future holds.  The reality is that I have lots of demands on my time at the moment, so the time I dedicate to playing poker, like anything else that I do, needs to be utilised in the best way possible.  I have been guilty in the past of putting the dream of getting back to earning my living through poker, as a priority over virtually everything other than my daughter.  Even over my own well being.  That has to change.  No one should put so many eggs in one basket, especially one that has been languishing so long in the depths of mediocrity, and in the situation, has no chance of escaping.

What’s most significant in poker terms about my change in personal life, is that although I don’t have much money as my working hours are limited, I can just about afford to get through life without skimming off the top of my bankroll.  This is new territory for me.  I want to build my bankroll and move up the levels – something I have unintentionally never allowed myself to do before.

It’s quite exciting…