Monday, March 27, 2006

Dime/Quarter: 3 Weeks In

Sometime soon, I suspect there's gonna be some strategy posts around here, but in the meantime we'll have to just be content with general updates.

After blowing off more money than I care to admit through bad beats and bad play, I'm pretty sure things are getting back to normal. I'm not sure really if you should label it "fortitude" or "stupidity", but faced with the previously noted bankroll disaster, I made it a deliberate point to ride it out: give dime/quarter NL a serious go, damn the losses. Part of (perhaps nearly all of) being a winning poker player lies in being able to accurately assess your play and what's going on around you. I looked around, knew the game was beatable, knew I had been playing poorly and trying too hard, made the adjustment, and with a little help from luck I netted five winning sessions (all more than double-ups). Still down from three weeks ago, but nearing breaking even.

Part of my so-termed fortitude was realizing how much more quickly a little tight play at dime/quarter (as opposed to nickel/dime) would regain the losses... making $10 profit at nickel/dime is a double up and can take a while to put together... while $10 profit at dime/quarter is just winning a few small pots, where I really excel.

Most of this is a simple matter of mindset. There's such a fine line you have to walk between pushing every edge with minimal risk to yourself, and flat out overplaying and trying too hard. If you're looking for those big, quite addicting "I have the nuts and two people just went all-in in front of me" hands, you're just going to flat out lose. If you're looking for little wins and stack-protecting play, things will likely come out much better.

A couple of noteable runs/hands to speak of:

Worst three hands in a row EVER (for me): Losing a $55 stack with KK vs AA. Next hand, flopping a Q-high flush, and losing $25 to a flopped K-high flush (same guy again). Next hand, flopping a set, overplaying it HARD (thinking table will think I am on tilt), getting called by an up-and-down straight draw, and losing.
Peace. Out. -$105.

A "what was he thinking" hand: Q5o in the BB, limps, I check. Flop KQQ. I check, button bets reasonable. I call. Turn 5 (sweet.) I check. Button bets half pot. I call. River: x. I check. Button bets $2. I go all in for like $33 more. Button calls $33 into a ~$7 pot with AQ. Granted, this is a little risky on my part, but the only hands to fear are KK and KQ, and reads and style obviously made me pretty confident I had the best hand. Calling $33 into a $7 pot with a paired flop and no boat has got to be a -EV play.

A "haha, don't slowplay" hand: 34o again in the BB, SB only limps, I check. Flop: AQ7. SB checks, as do I. Turn: 5. SB bets minimum... I call. River: 2. SB bets $1. I check the board again, no pair, no flush, no higher straight than my wheel. I raise to $2. SB goes all in for $12. I call. SB shows AA.

Other news: finsihed 10th, just inside the money and 6 places outside a finals spot in the first Blogger Poker Tour event. I was actually the chip leader with 12 players left, but lost 1/3 of my stack when my AK fell to a short stack's J7 or somesuch, and it was all downhill from there.

Aside from a little pre-tourney play-money trial to get used to things, this was the first time I played at and I was reasonably impressed. At first the interface seemed way unfamiliar and entirely too busy, but I soon settled down and enjoyed a lot of the features, such as the ability to "muck and show" where appropriate (they even allow you to only show one card!), and they actually show the hole cards when players are all in with no side pot, along with each player's percentage through the flop turn and river. (Never understood why Stars and others don't show until the hand is over.) Another great feature is the way that they show pot size and bet size during a hand... like: Pot Size + (total bets so far this street), making odds calculations very clear and easy. The ability to "rabbit" a hand in certain spots is less useful, but I'm sure a lot of players find it entertaining, and to the site's credit, they do it very quickly and it doesn't interfere with play. Anything which gets my opponents to show their cards when they otherwise wouldn't is worth two seconds delay.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Blogger Poker Tour

I'm sure you all will be hearing about this from other sources soon enough, but if you run a blog, get on over and sign up for the Blogger Poker Tour. Eight $500 freerolls in which to qualify for the BPT Grand Final, where first place is a $12,500 2006 WSOP package, and third place is a custom poker table built personally by yours truly and Keystone Poker Tables. Other great prizes totalling over $20k. Get all the details at

Monday, March 13, 2006

Growing A Bankroll

So I've been trying pretty hard to crack into the short-handed NL tables online, since about July of last year. My poker history up to this point (especially online) had been up, down, and sideways, like I imagine a lot of players start out doing. I played single-table sit-and-gos exclusively for a while... I bonus whored like mad... I played way beyond my bankroll at times... I dabbled here and there and could never settle down and find a home, or show much of a profit for that matter. I withdrew all my funds early last summer from the various sites, and went outside.

So as I said, in July I got the itch again, and decided to set about this thing with a plan: Take a $50 buy in to PokerStars (known somewhat as one of the "tougher" places to play online), and hit the .01/.02 NLHE tables.

As an aside, for-what-it's-worth, I'm going to detail a little basic bankroll strategy here for a second. Feel free to skip ahead.

I think everyone understands that even the biggest donk can sometimes win big pots against a disciplined experienced player, just like how 20% of the time pocket deuces can suck out on Aces. This is generally called "variance"... essentially when the expected outcome of a hand or situation doesn't pair up with what actually ends up happening. In poker, you play your edge knowing full well that there's a chance you'll lose. If you're good, you'll be getting your money in when there's a greater chance that you'll win. But you can still lose. Even as a favorite to win. Over and Over.

To withstand the possibility of this variance, you have to have enough money. In NLHE, you can drop a buy-in (the amount you're allowed to sit down at a table with, usually 100 times the big blind), with just one suckout, or one good hand that doesn't hold up to a miracle river card. What this means, is that to seriously set about maintaining and growing a bankroll, you have to start with enough money for the stakes you plan to play at. Take $50 and try and tackle the quarter/half NL tables, and you might find yourself at zero pretty quick, through no bad play of your own. It happens. Worse yet, now you're probably angry and frustrated and half-depressed that poker has again proven that the world is against you. Some may deposit another $50 and tilt it away overplaying hands trying to make up for the first $50, or worse: up the stakes.

The generally accepted rule, is to put no more than 5% of your bankroll at stake in a day, or something close to this. So you want to play quarter/half? That's a $50 buy in, so really, you should have $1000 in your bankroll. Twenty buy-ins.

On the other side of this, is the "I only have x to play with", which is much more common among the (financially) poor players I know. You have $100? Great. Play .01/.02 where you're properly bankrolled, and grow it until you can play where you want to. Far, far too many people feel that micro stakes games are beneath them (I was one for a long time), and wonder why they can't make it work at higher stakes. I also found a lot of leaks and *a ton* of growth down here, and really can't say enough positive things about the experience.

With a little discipline and growth as a player, you should gradually over time see your overall bankroll increasing, with virtually no chance of ever going broke and losing it all.

If you play well enough and long enough to reach a point where you're properly bankrolled for the next higher stakes, move up and see what happens. If it goes bad, move back down for a bit. There are no shortcuts. Just grind it out.

I've been working hard to turn my original $50 (only half of what you really should have for .01/.02) into $500. There's been a lot of bumps along the way, but I got there. You don't really believe or understand that the system works... until you prove it to yourself.

Then I moved up to dime/quarter and proceeded to blow about $100 in one admittedly tilt-fueled exercise in futility. First, I was playing at a time when I had other things to be doing... when I felt that my time was limited... and I was in a hurry. Bad move #1. Then things got ugly. Kings cracked by A2o (all in preflop). Aces cracked by KJs. Flopping flushes and losing to higher flushes, flopping straights and losing to flushes, flopping sets and folding when the board put up a higher two pair (and thus a boat, for sure). Wonderful hands that couldn't finish. Yet I kept playing. Bad move #2. On top of all of this, I was coming off of a brilliant run of luck and cards, which after two hard falls immediately proceeding, I now realize I need to be very careful with success. Sudden runs of good luck for a few days or a week can shift your perception of reality in a very dangerous way.

Ok. Take a few day break due to other things going on. And I try again, even though I really should just move back down to nickel/dime for a while. Things again go horribly wrong, although this time at least, it's just bad beats. Most of the tilt is in check. I say most, because I still can't seem to just walk away. I tend to think "ok bad beat big deal" but the subconscious "OMGWTF DIE DONKEY" emotion is perhaps more influential than I realize. I really need to start walking away (even if it's just for a half-hour to do something else) when I drop a buy in or at most two.

Then thankfully PartyPoker came to the rescue with one of those free $50 that they drop into your inactive account from time to time. I had to clear 500 raked hands. No problem. Party's lowest stakes is dime/quarter, so off I went, playing "bonus clearing" tight... only to watch $50 whittled into around $20 through hands I don't even remember. Great. $20. I can't even cash that out. I'm also struck by how tight Party seemed compared to PokerStars, and especially compared with the last time I played there.

Eventually, Party's play returned to what I remembered, and $20 is now a healthy $140, still putting me down since the move to dime/quarter, but feeling much better about it. It's also a good feeling to know that I'm certainly good enough to be beating these stakes (something I was confident about before) and that if somehow I can avoid the variance monster for a few good sessions, I'll be in the clear for working towards $1000.