Monday, July 31, 2006

Running AWFUL

Not much to say... and I don't want to bore too much and commit the sin of ragging on with bad beat stories, but I can safely say that I've hit the most awful streak I've yet to encounter in my life, and that should probably be noted and talked about a little. I'm not one of those guys that always claims to win, or be always "up", or only talks about good things that he's done.

I'm really just about at the end of my patience. I don't want to hear "that's poker" or "that's variance". I know the goddamn theory. I know what expected value is. I know that 3:1 is not a lock, but it sure as hell means you should win 75% of the time. I need someone to look over my shoulder and say "yeah dude, you're fine, I'm seeing this shit too, hang in there." But I don't have that.

FOUR TIMES in the last two days I've flopped sets. Not "trips" with a pair on the board: SETS, with a pair in my hand. FOUR TIMES the flop has been two-suited. FOUR TIMES I have bet the pot on the flop and turn, and FOUR TIMES the board has gone runner runner putting a fourflush on the board so some donkey's top-pair that he just couldn't lay down can make a single-card flush. Don't get me wrong, I want the bad calls, but look at the math:

A buy in here is $50. Let's just assume the opponent has $50 too. Let's also assume (generously) that he's a 3:1 dog on average. So in this mythical "long run", there's $100 in each pot, $75 of which by the odds, is mine. 4x$75 = $300 expected value (a net profit of $100). In reality, it was a $200 loss, which is a $300 swing down from the expected value. Good poker. Horrible result.

If I flop an overpair, someone flops a set. If I flop a set, someone calls with an overpair and hits. If I'm drawing, well... you know. Yes Chau, poker is nice.

In the beginning of this horrible run, I can't put a value on tilt, but I acknowledge the subtle effects. Still, I think the real effect most of the time is simply overplaying some situations where you're likely ahead (either defending against the draws that you almost *know* are coming, or attempting to double and cut into the previous losses)... and that really doesn't seem like a problem, does it? Getting more money in when you figure to have the best hand can't be bad, can it? ...Except the swings are more brutal... which would be fine if a 3:1 held up once in a while so you could swing positive too. By karma, I have one hell of an upswing coming.

The real point here is that I've checked even the faintest semi-tilt. I play super tight/agressive mechanical poker trying to pull out of this, content to just chip away and make small gains, and over and over the beats still come. Poker is a cruel game... and I know this... I know that that's part of the attraction... I know runs like these seperate the good players from those that can't handle it and can't control their emotion... overcoming the injustice of situation after situation, blah blah long run.

How fucking long is long though?

Monday, July 17, 2006

$1k In 1Year

Goal = ATTAINED. Utilizing conservative bankroll strategy, and finally setting about poker with a solid plan, I turned $50 into $1k in just a week shy of a year, starting at .01/.02 shorthanded NLHE, and now finally bankrolled to tackle quarter/half. It can be done.

Just for fun, the hand that won me the final $16.90 and pushed me over 1k with the nut boat (he mucked QQ after calling my river overbet):


Before I dive into the gritty stats and too much self-analysis, yes, it's an achievement, and I'm proud of it. Was it easy? No. Was it profitable? That depends on whether you think averaging $1.25 per hour is profitable. My main point here is to acknowledge (and caution) that playing poker seriously and coming up from nothing the hard way is far from a get rich quick scheme. Sure, I think if I was to start again today with $50... I could greatly increase my earn rate and make it to $1k a good deal faster, but it would still take a significant amount of time. If you scoff at the length of time it took me, you're either a better player now than I was then, or you don't understand (or don't care about) bankroll management. In poker and life, the lucky few among us may seem to stumble into success, but there really is no shortcut. Easy come, easy go.

Ok, some stats. I predominantly played single tables at three stakes of shorthanded NLHE. (Figured into the 1k total are also some low-level SNG's[net -] and a small amount of bonus money[+], which coupled together almost exactly zeros out.)

StakesSessionsHoursProfitEarn Rate
.01/.02 ($5)2540.58$24.75$0.61/hr
.10/.25 ($25)162322.08$513.98$1.60/hr

Nothing staggering here, other than how you'd think the earn rates would be higher... at least I know I think they should be. In big bet poker, the swings (and the rake, but that's a different subject) can and will devastate your earn rate. The simplest explanation is that the absolute value of a "good" decision you might make, doesn't tend to be as big as the absolute value of a "bad" decision. Interpretation: a mistake often costs more than a good choice earns. Putting it yet another way, you can play good poker and make many correct decisions and earn small solid gains, but you can blow those gains with just one mistake. Opportunities to make a single huge gain with one decision are few and far between, and often difficult and risky.

Of course, I also freely admit that the low earn rates are in part due to a whole slew of tilt and more often the deadly and deceptive "semi-tilt", not to mention outright inexperience. The whole point was to learn the game and master myself (or master the game and learn myself, depending on how you look at it), and that probably takes a good chunk of loss to do.

With all of the above said, it is significant to note that by looking at the graph above, you can see how low my roll was at about 2/3 of the way across. This low point represents yeah, some bad play/beats, but also means that in the last 137 sessions since that point, I made a profit of $736.60 in 244 hours, for a "recent" earn rate of just over $3. Knowing my play, I also know that this was no accident... I simply played better recently.

$3/hour doesn't seem like much, but it is relative: it's IMHO a respectable 12 big blinds per hour. Translate that into playing $.5/1, and you're making $12/hour. Sure the competition on average gets better as you move up through these stakes, and it becomes more difficult to maintain such a relative earn rate, but the absolute earn rate can, will, and should continue to increase.

The goal for me is to keep building my bankroll and eventually move up stakes to the point where I'm paying myself not only a respectable rate relative to the stakes, but one that is also respectable in real-world terms on its own. In hindsight, the $1k itself isn't nearly as significant as what it represents... as termed above, "coming up the hard way"... Putting in the hours, taking the beats, making and re-making and re-making mistake after mistake, realizing just how hard (and easy) it can be, stripping poker down to its essence and slowly layering tendencies, human nature, knowledge, and personal experience on top. It takes balance and instincts to play winning poker, and there has been no better teacher for me than the roughly 75,000 hands it took to build myself $1,000 in a year.

Next up, $2k.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Latest Table

Really like the way this one turned out... great little cash game table (click for more pics/info):

Keystone Poker Tables

Monday, July 03, 2006

BPT: 6 Heads

I managed to qualify for's Blogger Poker Tour's Grand Final on July 1st. With a max of 42 players (39 sat), and a $12.5k WSOP package up for grabs, I managed a 7th place finish, and won a 4GB iPod Nano for my efforts. It's kind of sick to think I was 6 heads from the WSOP, but I am quite happy with my performance and result.

I've rarely seen a better example of bubble play: all players got prizes for making the final tournament, but the difference between 11th place and 10th was gear vs. the start of the iPods. So around 15 players left I found myself ranked 7th in chips, where I stayed despite losing increasing blinds to my make-the-money, tight-weak strategy. The big stacks were just taking everyone else's money, everyone knew it, and nobody cared. I didn't fold everything here, but it was gonna take a pair higher than tens or AK to get involved.

Noteable hands (briefly):

- Early levels, doubled through KK with my AA (all in preflop after multiple re-raises). Maintained the chip lead for about an hour.

- Made two bad moves, both essentially stone-cold bluffs where I felt a lone opponent was weak. Managed to get away with minimal yet significant enough damage.

- Short stacked my AQo ended up all-in pre-flop against AKo, and I spiked a Q on the turn and the river. Didn't misplay the hand, but got lucky.

- Again short-stacked ended up all-in pre-flop with AKo against a big stacks QQ and a very small stack's 22. Ugly Q on the flop, leaving me needing runner-runner (either two running spades, or two running cards to make a straight, namely J and T) to survive and more than double up. Amazingly, the gorgeous two spades came without pairing the board. Didn't misplay the hand, but got really lucky.

- Final hand for me, and by far the most interesting of the tournament from a strategy perspective... I held ATo on the button 7-handed in an unopened pot, and with an effective "m" of about 5 (see Dan Harrington's books). Two options, raise a normal 3-4x the BB, or push all-in. Seeing two biggish stacks in the blinds who are unlikely to have monster auto-call hands, and who just might take a chance on a mid pair or other hands that I would at least be racing with: I opt for the push. The SB wakes up with QQ and of course calls, and I don't improve to finish 7th. My play here is debate-able perhaps, but not really a bad one.

As someone who I can objectively say has gotten rather unlucky in tournaments lately, I feel vindicated with the two big bits of luck noted above. Me and variance are square for the time being.

Congrats to the big winners:

1st: "EgonOlson", who'll be representing, the Blogger Poker Tour, and Denmark at this year's WSOP. Good Luck!

2nd: "OhioMike", who played a great and bittersweet tournament (I sat with him to my left for at least the first hour and a half) and earned a sweet 30" LCD Monitor.

3rd: "Kdollar00", who survived a pressured 4-handed battle to make 3rd place, and earn a custom Keystone Poker Table.

Thanks go out again to and the Blogger Poker Tour for putting on a great series of qualifiers and a really well-paced final event. The 5k starting stacks combined with starting blinds of 5/10 made for a great tournament.

Season 2 of the BPT starts in early September, with the final 1st prize being a package in the Aussie Millions Tournament to be held in Melbourne, Australia January 2007. All you need is a blog (any topic) to play.