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.

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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.

No Limit Vs Fixed Limit Hold ‘Em: Where’s My Head At?

Hmmm, yeah, good question.  Where is my head at?  Life’s got kinda stressful recently and I haven’t really had the time to do everything that I need to.  Finances are really not going well in life in general (it doesn’t help when your car gets trashed and you get screwed over by those lovely insurance folks) and that has put a lot of pressure on getting results at the poker table.  The end result is that I’m really not doing what I know that I should.  If I have time for anything poker related I feel like that has to be playing to try and pick my bankroll back up from the floor, so I end up playing instead of analysing.

I’m now in the situation that I’ve gone from having a small but consistent trickle of cash finding it’s way into my bank account, to scrapping around a tiny bankroll and not really getting anywhere with the methods that I’m using, and having no money finding it’s way home.  I know really I should deposit, but I think I might just be too stubborn.  I hate putting money into poker accounts, it feels so dirty.

So here I am making no profit at the tables whilst prioritising that over spending time studying and analysing what I do.  I joined the Nick Wealthall training programme a month ago, and I wasn’t too sure about continuing on to the second month because of the cost.  It’s a monthly fee of $47 and I got a free month’s trial.  I said to myself that so long as it paid for itself I would continue to pay for it.  To be honest though, even if I’d had a really lean month and only made the $47 in that first month with nothing else I probably would have convinced myself that it was justified.  I’m a contradiction, I know.

The second month’s materials are about to be released, and my bank account is about to be billed.  I’ve already convinced myself to continue, even though I’ve actually made a loss this month.  As I keep reminding myself though, I am in profit playing no limit, it’s fixed limit that’s killed me.

I do have faith in the training.  What I’ve learnt so far includes concepts that make total sense but I’ve never come across before.  It’s all based around no-limit games.  I’ve got plenty of no limit experience in terms of tournaments, but I think quite oddly, I’m really not that used to playing no limit cash tables.  I’ve got a lot to learn.  Unfortunately knowing that hasn’t seemed to be enough to get me to prioritise studying.  Nor have I spent enough time configuring Poker Tracker 4, so I’ve not always had the statistics that I need to hand.

The consistency of my wins prior to this month has always been propped up by my results at fixed limit, which at the moment I’m really struggling with.  I think that I’ve ended up changing the way I play but can’t quite pin down how to change it back.  I either need to focus on getting that back or embrace the change, and frankly I need a bit of a shake up.

Embracing the change means really concentrating on getting good at no limit cash tables.  I am starting to find my feet and I often realise the mistakes I make.  The next step is not making them.

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…

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.

Where’s the startline?

I haven’t played much for the last month or so.  I’ve got quite a lot going on in my life right so time for poker is limited, which means that I’ve got to be at peace with the fact that this journey is likely to start pretty slow.  But maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe that’ll help me focus on how important learning from each and every session is.

The other barrier, of course, is cash.  I don’t have much to add to a dismally small stake, so I’m expecting a bit of a grind.

Wow! Really starting with a bang then.

There are lots of different things that I need to spending time thinking about in regards to how I play, all of which affect my result.  Eventually I’ll try and get around to addressing all of them.  So…

  • Frame of mind
  • Environment
  • Distractions
  • Tables I play at
  • The type of game
  • Opponents
  • Knowledge of opponents
  • Knowledge of the maths
  • Stakes played
  • How many tables
  • How much time is available
  • Multi-tasking
  • Which site is used
  • Use of tracking software (I currently use Poker Tracker 3)

One of the major things that I want to sort out is to make sure that I play the best table available.  Why play in a tough game when there’s a soft game elsewhere?  Recently, like a lot of players it would seem, I’ve been defaulting far too often for playing on PokerStars. It’s a massive site but I’m limiting myself far too much.

So I need to figure out all the networks that I want to play at, and pick the best site of each.  Of course to play you have to have a bankroll, so every site that I’m expecting to have in my armoury has to be deposited into.  Like I say, I don’t have much cash, so it’s taking winnings from one to feed the next I guess.

For now, mainly because I need to have slept, woken up and got into the frame of mind to entertain a 3 year old in the next four and a half hours, I’m going to leave it there.