Maniac Attack

Any serious gambler knows that the most important fundamental of success is to find a way to get the odds in their favour.  Betting against the odds is a losing proposition.  Any serious Hold Em player knows that having position on a player is a massive advantage, and being out of position is quite the opposite, biasing the odds in the opponents favour.

So why the hell did I sit for about 2 hours last night on the immediate right of a maniac?

Put simply it was that I wanted to beat him, and there was a waiting list of about 10 players.  I didn’t want to throw away the opportunity of playing against such a rare beast, and in doing so I allowed myself to stay in the worst seat at the table.

To be fair to myself I was totally owning him for a while.  I had paid enough attention to see that he had an incredibly high 3-bet and squeeze rate, especially when the original raiser was in mid to late position. They were actually higher than his open raise rate.  I hadn’t seen much of his play post flop (because it didn’t usually get far through the hand before everyone else had folded), but I knew that he was ridiculously aggressive pre-flop.  The first hand we tussled on was very marginal and debatable as to whether I should have played it.  Perhaps not, but the thing was that I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was unknown to him and I’d seen him wildly raise (and usually win or fold without showing) against new players to the table.  I didn’t want to wait too long for a premium hand just to see him fold because he thought I was a nit.

I raised from a late position with ATo and a one early limper.  Exactly as I expected, he quickly 3 bet and it was folded back round to me.  At this point I’m certainly not planning on folding and I don’t think I can really call, because I think I’m ahead of his range and I don’t want to give him a chance to either catch, or blow me off my hand with air and position.  I think I’m better getting the chips in now to maximise my thin value.   It was always the plan to out muscle him.  So I put in a moderate 4-bet, he 5-bets quickly and I shove, with a slightly sick feeling in my stomach that I shouldn’t have got myself into this position.  He quickly calls and shows A9s.  My 10 holds and I double up, putting him back down to just over 100 big blinds and leaving me with twice his stack.

For the next few hands that I raised, even though I was opening often, he became a lot tighter and folded most of them.  After a while though he realised that I was opening pretty wide and went back to his usual antics.  I tried to balance myself between folding and continuing when he 3 bet me which tightened up my opening range.  I didn’t want to 4 bet anywhere near as wide as ATo from then on because I knew he had been hurt by our first hand and had definitely paid attention.  I also knew he was capable of betting big with a medium strength hand but he would probably be quite balanced in that spot against me, as opposed to biased towards bluffing as he was against others at the table.

I took a few moderate pots off him either hitting or outplaying him after the flop but nothing massive, basically because we both knew the other was capable of big bets with a wide range and I felt we were both looking for spots to get it in with a premium hand.

I was outdrawn on by other players a couple of times which kept my stack in check and his aggressive play brought him up to my level.  He was still 3 betting me enough to allow me to get aggressive with slightly less than premium hands and he took a chunk of my stack with QQ against my JJ.

The killer blow came when I opened in late position with T9s.  I called his 3 bet and it went 2 handed into the flop which came T72, giving me top pair with a flush draw.  I felt confident he would bet with any two cards so I checked.  He put about two thirds of the pot in and I raised to about 2.5x his bet.  He thought for a while and re-raised not much more than the minimum.

At this point I thought that it was possible that I was behind but that more often I would be ahead.  Even if I was behind I knew that I had a decent amount of equity.  He had previously seen me check raise and give up on the flop to his 3-bet on a similarly innocuous board so I thought he could push with air.  The time he took to make the shove also gave me the impression he was more likely to be bluffing or semi bluffing because of his previous tendencies.

I couldn’t take over pairs out of the equation but didn’t think it would be the case most of the time.  Top pair with a better kicker was definitely a possibility but of course I had top pair which made it less likely.  Straight draws, even gut shots, and flush draws made up a big part of his range, or even just two over cards.  I took a moment and decided to shove.  He turned over AJs for the nut flush draw.  The flush didn’t come in but that was incidental once an ace hit the turn.

I was ahead when I shoved, but not by much: according to pokerstove I was a 52.3% favourite.  With the dead money in the pot I’m sure it was the right decision.

I’m not really that unhappy with my play, despite being up over two buy-ins and leaving the table one buy-in down.  The thing that gets me, the thing that I thought about when I was falling asleep last night, was the decision to play him in that position in the first place.  After the first hand I had doubled up from him and introduced a new dynamic.  He knew that he could play in position on almost every hand and he reacted well to my changes of gear.  That made life very difficult for me.

What I should have done is look at the long game.  If I had disappeared off the table straight after that hand he might not even have remembered me next time I sat down in position on him.  I will still make it my mission to find him at a table where I get decent position on him, but I could have done that right from the beginning.  Next time I find myself in terrible position to a maniac, I’ll think a few more times before I get comfortable.

On a more positive note I really feel like I’m starting to make a breakthrough.  For a long time I’ve been confused as to how better players than me can play 4 or more tables and still manage to analyse their opponents well enough to be able to find enough spots to exploit.  I feel like I have an increasingly good knowledge of how to think about different situations, but that I haven’t applied that knowledge well enough.  Multi-tabling leaves me languishing in ignorance and missing opportunities to make notes, and playing just a single table provides the challenge of remaining focused for long periods of time without playing very many hands, which I often struggle with.  

One thing that’s helped massively is my way of analysing hands and what they mean about the players who played in them.  Using Poker Tracker 4 allows me to mark hands for analysis at a later point, which I have been doing more liberally.  The critical factor is that I’m actually going through them all now! If I can make the notes on the fly then I do, but once I’ve got a reasonable number of hands built up I will sometimes sit out or take a break and go through them all before taking my seats again.

At the beginning of the month I went through a period of seriously cold cards.  I was playing single table tournaments on PokerStars, some of the time not playing very well, most of the time finding myself on the wrong end of coolers and getting out drawn.  I’ve had nasty runs like that before, but never so many in a row without a single cash.  That’s put a dent in my bankroll but my cash winnings have put it up to a little over $200.  I started with just $28 at the beginning of August, so it’s hardly amazing, but this is all about building my bankroll in the proper way.  At least it’s going in the right direction.

The fight continues…

Advertisements

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.

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.

Pressure Kills My Poker Game

After a rubbish night on Friday, I set myself up to set things straight on Saturday.  So far, that hasn’t happened.  Playing a mixture of cash and tournaments I made another loss.  That’s three sessions in a row, a very undesired record equalling tally.  Once again everything felt a bit too rushed.  I think I was too eager to get back on terms.

I think the main thing that is going wrong for me at the moment is the influence of my personal life on poker.  Don’t worry I’m not going to bore you with all that, but suffice it to say that along with a large proportion of society right now, we’re pretty strapped for cash, and poker winnings often make a big difference to us.  That pressure is killing my poker game.  The loses that I’ve made recently are only eroding previous profit, but considering what I’ve just said, I’d have to think pretty hard if that wasn’t the case.

This evening I played only tournaments, going pretty deep in a low buy-in, large tournament (2000+ entrants) and ended up being frustrated with an 82nd place finish.  In terms of finishing position I don’t think that’s too bad, but considering the prize and the time committed, I can’t say that I was exactly thrilled.  I played in six tournaments and cashed in three, leaving myself a few quid in profit.

Whilst it was only a dent in eroding the loses of the weekend, in terms of the time committed there is a silver lining.  I had quite a few mundane tasks to complete which I managed to get done whilst the tournaments were in the early stages, and then got more involved with them once it got nearer the money.  There’s no way I would play like that with a cash game, but with tournaments I think it’s more justifiable.  I still felt that I made enough decent moves based largely on the statistics I had for each player, thanks to the Poker Tracker 4 HUD.

So overall a profitable but not overly successful evening.  The fight continues…

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.