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.

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…

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.

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.

‘My Bad Psychology’, or ‘How I learned to stop worrying and love Golden Rule #1’

Okay, so I just sat down to my first online poker session for the first time in what for me, is a fair old while.  I think I’ve been putting it off.  I guess that it’s because I know that so many things in my game have to change, and that doesn’t fit with how I’ve been using poker.  For far too long and far too often I have played as a distraction from life, facilitating relaxation rather than demanding concentration.  How do I ever expect to make a healthy profit?

I started this session when I had already made the decision to go to bed.  It’s not the first time and it certainly won’t be the last, but I was struck by the desire to play and actually address some of my many flaws, so I thought the snoring could wait.  I have basically no bankroll, and I never like to deposit when I don’t have to, so I thought I’d grab a table at a micro limit game, hopefully bump up the pennies in my Pokerstars account, but more importantly really start to think about what I’m doing.  So I found a seat at a 6 player fixed limit texas hold ’em table.  That’s what I know, it’s the game that’s made me by far the most profit, so by my reckoning that’s the place to start.

Immediately as I sat at the table I focused on the players and what they were doing.  It’s easy to chuck your money away at micro fixed limit table by starting off too aggressively with a too large range of starting hands.  If you discover you’ve got five calling stations, playing tight is the only way or you’re just signing up to play bingo.

So it feels good, I’m watching the hands play out and making notes on what I see, waiting for some suitable cards to play myself.  Oh hang on, I forgot, even though I put that CD in the drive I haven’t actually started copying the files yet.  I’ll just do that. Hmmm, which folder should they go in?  Better make a new one…  BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP!

Before I know it the Pokerstars software is bleeping at me to tell me that I’m nearly out of time to take my turn.  So I fold the Q9s under the gun and start to despair that my attention span has become so small.  In a split second my brain can be distracted by the most inane of things.  My brain is killing my game!  I get bored too easily.  But if I was doing it properly, it wouldn’t be boring!

So here’s the thing.  Poker time has to be poker time.  Nothing else.  No distractions.  No TV, no talk radio, no emails, no blog.  The only thing in poker time is poker.  And maybe some music.

That’s my golden rule #1.

It’s hard to have some time away from any other distractions, so in the interests of sticking to it, I think I need to intentionally make sessions pretty short.  Hmmm, I guess that just means cash games then, no tournaments.

For now I’m off to the land of nod, but before I do I want to make a commitment to you, my loyal and wise followers.  Even though you barely exist yet dear reader, my promise to you is this.  I, the self proclaimed Triple Barrel Kid, do solemnly swear to abide by the golden rules set down herein.  I promise to love them, to cherish them and to live them.  I do.