Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Long Road Back

Three days ago I zeroed out my Empire (where I primarily play) account, and certainly not on purpose. More on this below.

Two days ago I drew a line in my spreadsheet, and reloaded with a comfortable amount for grinding at the $10 SNGs.

Today I'm feeling confident again.

There's a lot you can say about going on a devastating run, and I'm not even sure where to begin. I can make excuses, and indeed some of them are valid: busting out an abnormal amount of times with made set over made set, KK or QQ vs AA... we've all been there. Most serious poker players have attempted to move up in limits unsuccessfully at some point, and a good portion of those probably met with varying degrees of disaster at one time or another. Show me a successful player who hasn't. I'm guessing there aren't many, if any.

But still, bad beats aside, I did this. I'm left trying to find conclusions. Obviously it was a combination of factors. I played recklessly at points... watching the roll shrink and thinking "ok, just one first place and I'm back sitting good"... then pushing way too hard, bluffing way too often, and tilting apparently far enough to think that playing more games, more often was the answer, when really I should have been limiting myself to one game per day or taking a few days off altogether.

I didn't set a reasonable stop-loss limit... a point where I should step back down to the $10 level from the $20 if things weren't going so good. Tilt and related factors aside, I'm inclined to tell you that anyone who says Party's $20 SNGs are no more difficult than the $10 ones is badly mistaken. I'm not suggesting that there's tables full of sharks playing $20 SNGs, but I am definitively saying that on average, the players are markedly better, tighter, and more solid. I saw plenty of fish, but I also saw a significant number of tables that were still very full well into level 4 and 5. That rarely happens at the $10 level. Less idiots = less dead money = less ROI for average-decent players like me.

I still think at some point I can crack the $20 games, but if and when I move there again I'll be armed with the knowledge I paid dearly for: that solid play is required, and most importantly to be at your emotional-disciplined-absolute best when moving up. I wasn't. Blame George Bush and other unrelated depression.

I've been playing around with Poker Tracker, and I've noticed a few things which are pretty apparent:

1. I don't value bet effectively when I have a big made hand (straight, or higher). I'm not some idiot who pushes all-in every time I've made a hand, but the stats don't lie: I'm not seeing big made hands to showdown very often. The advice is simple: if my opponent has been playing reckless, check maybe if I really think he'll push or overplay a small hand, and if he's been decent (or unknown), make bets he'll have to call. Betting T50 and getting the call is better than betting T200 and not. That T50 is a BB I can use later, and the gained table image of someone who makes small value bets with huge hands just might make it easier for me to steal pots for less.

2. Bluff better. This concept is tougher to nail down... how do you bluff better, exactly? The most obvious advice for me to take is bluff less, period. Not often, but too often I end up in a scenario where I make a stab at a loose pot, get called, and then am faced with backing down, or hitting the gas. I think too often I get into the mentality of "when you're in a pot, do everything in your power to win it", and hit the gas. In tournament poker (especially in the early stages) this is most often a really stupid play. Another idea is that I should be exploiting the semi-bluff more, instead of the stone-cold bluff. Big drawing hands, betting on the come, are a far better proposition than betting with nothing or bottom pair.

3. Play the position. Everyone who's any kind of player at all knows you need to play tight in front (and loose in the rear, when appropriate), but I think a lot of people think they're playing position well enough. My stats say otherwise, though the trend isn't terrible. I lose T$ in early position, and win in late. The advice here is simply: up the starting hand requirements for early position.


In some ways I'm proud to have taken myself from so high (for me) to so low. It's a story. And probably a neccessary one. A lesson that you just have to learn from. I had wanted to just take a week off and reflect, but it felt right for me to reload and begin again a few days ago. Simply put, I had mentally put the devastation behind me: I was ready to start playing the game I know I can play at a familiar level. I probably won't break even this year. I'm happy with that. I've let go of the fact that I could have easily celebrated New Years Eve in the black. I'm focused on playing well... seeing how well I can make the rest of this month put a dent in the horrible stats from the beginning. I want to climb my ITM% and ROI higher than I've previously been able to.

Result = Performance ± Luck

Here's to Performance.

Monday, November 08, 2004

17 Straight Tournaments

Zero money finishes. Zero clue what to blame. Zero clue what to fix. It's been a pretty shitty month on the table and off.

Taking a week off to put the almost complete bankroll devastation behind me.

Good luck out there.

Monday, November 01, 2004

October Results, "Moving Up" Followup

October's results are in, and it's been a wild month for me on the poker front. I'm somewhat surprised to report the following:

Month        ITM        ROI        

I'm surprised, because I thought it would be worse. Two percentages hardly tell the whole story.

October definitely saw another few steps forward in my performance. For the majority of the month, my ROI was over 20% and my ITM was less than September's... revealing that I was placing less, but placing higher for more money when I did.

12 Firsts
2 Seconds
8 Thirds

As I've said before, I'm feeling very confident in my ITM play, and the high number of first place finishes confirm that confidence. I would have likely finished the month at or above my year-end goal, had I not moved up to the $20 SNGs in the last few days.

It's been a rough ride in $20+2 land: 10 tournaments, 2 ITM, and an embarassing number of 7+ finishes. There's no easy all-encompassing reason for this poor performance so far. I know I played at least a few games recklessly... pushing for big pots when I should have been trying to minimize pot size. I know I hit a few bad beats. I know I tried bluffing too much and in bad spots. I think overall I've been guilty of a mentality of trying to win the whole tournament on one hand, instead of chipping away (pun intended) at the opponents' stacks.

I still hold to my earlier assumption that the competition is only slightly better on average than the type to be encountered at the $10 level, if at all. It does seem that there are more patient players on the whole... but it should be noted that I'm only basing this on 10 tables so far, which is hardly enough to make a very confident analysis.

I did end the month on a nice positive note: my first first-place at the $20 level. I had been starting to really feel the $22 bankroll hits, and nothing felt better than collecting $100. That confidence boost may have been just what I needed to get my play back on track, and start nailing this level. November will tell.