Friday, September 15, 2006

Blogger Poker Tour, Season 2

Anyone with a blog should sign up for the second season of the Blogger Poker Tour, powered by Similar to the last season, it will be a series of $500 freerolls, in which players can qualify for the Grand Final, with prizes as follows:

1st: A $10k seat in the 2007 Aussie Millions tournament held in Melbourne, Australia + $2,500 travel and spending money.
2nd-3rd: A deluxe 8' BPT poker table(2nd) and a 6' BPT poker table(3rd) built by Keystone Poker Tables and yours truly.
4th-10th: 4GB black ipod nano.
11th-15th: chipset.
16th-20th: Grand Final Ticket (good for entry into your choice of grand final tournament at - Aussie Millions, WSOP, WPT.)

...All free and open to anyone with a blog (any topic).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Climbing Back On

My previously noted disasters seem to be healthily behind. I say healthily, because I'm about 90% of the way to believing recent disasters moved my game forward in surprising ways. Really, as a poker player, if you're not using failure as well as success to learn, I just don't think you're going to make it very far.

I've had little mini bad runs before... and when I say "bad run" I'm talking of bad beats coupled with bad play. It should be noted, and not lightly, that the two come together quite often, and that's probably no accident. The recent events for me (at least online), however were the real thing: not the little mini bad runs that I thought were horrible... but the real deal.

I can too vividly recall at least half-a-dozen stackings, where I was a commanding favorite to win. That happens, as hard as it may seem. But I also am coming around to realize there were a lot of points where I was way off my game... I hit on "pushing" edges in one of my recent posts about my run, asking that getting your money in as a favorite can't be a bad thing... but also noting that it increases variance. Most importantly, I realize now that, no, in theory it's not bad... just one problem: that's not my game, to be risking so much on hands, even one's that are the favorite. Often, I wasn't making bets "outside the box". I wasn't zigging when opponents zagged. I was testing fate and luck and saying "let's see you suck out on this". And then they did. Or worse, already had me beat.

When I'm on my game, I play aggressive, don't get me wrong, but there's a well-noted fine line between aggression and stupidity... between making bets that give your opponents poor odds (that they will call) and making bets that will only get called if your already beat... between playing smart to win, and trying too hard to win.

This is old stuff, really. Nothing new here. As probably all serious (and good) poker players know, poker learning is cyclic. I've noted many times how you learn someting and something clicks and you say "hey, ok, I know that, I get it"... and then a few months later you really learn it, internalizing it in some new way or with greater significance. And then sometime later you learn it again. This is like that.

A big help with these things, are Larry Phillips' books (which I know I've mentioned many times and quoted at length recently) Zen and the Art of Poker, and The Tao of Poker. Scoff at the titles if you will, but there's gold here if you're looking for it. The books have that rare quality of being the kinds of things you can pick up now and again and pick a page at random to read... and come away with a little perspective shift... a little hint at maybe what your problem is... something you need to learn again.

Poker players have a lot of little sayings and truisms, like "top pair is a good hand to win a small pot and to lose a big one" or if you're looking for something more humorous "you can lead a horse to water but a donkey will follow you all the way to the river" or the ever popular "AK: Anna Kournikova: looks good but doesn't win shit".

One of the favorites I often use in my home game is "A fold is a win"... in two contexts: it's always a win for you when opponents fold (hey, 80/20 still ain't a lock, you know? rake the chips- you're a winner), and more importantly often folding yourself is the only way to "win". Phillips says "Learn to use inaction as a weapon." Brilliant. I mean, how defeating is it to an opponent if every time he's strong you withdraw? Putting this in action in a game is really one of the most beautiful things you can do at the table to defeat your opponents.

Anyway, the big kind of overall mantra/focus/truism recently for me, has been a return to the idea that the cards are going to determine if you win or lose a hand, but you are going to determine how much. What separates the long-term winners from the losers is simple: good players lose less than bad players on the hands they lose, and win more than bad players when they win. Simple. Makes sense. A lot like life, try and control what you actually can control. The real game-application of this concept can get pretty subtle, or be as blatant as using good starting card selection.

I think I know this, now, but 6 months from now, I'll learn it again in a new way. Probably so will you.