Friday, December 26, 2008

Game Selection

The biggest step in preparing for the upcoming year has been collecting data on the PokerStars regulars to facilitate game selection. Game selection is my number one priority this year as it will likely be the biggest contributing factor to my win rate (aside from my actual poker skills). Because PokerStars has so many games running at middle limits, sometimes 20 or 30 tables, I have the luxury of being able to pick and choose which tables I want to sit at.

My profit in poker comes from the skill difference between myself and the other players at the table. My goal is to find tables where that skill difference is maximized.

My first step in doing that was running a report in Hold-Em Manager filtered for players on PokerStars that I’ve played more than 250 4-6 handed hands with in the past year. This done in the hope of capturing most of the regulars playing at 6-handed tables. It returned a list of about 300 players that I exported to Excel. From this list I went to PTR and looked up each of the names. I was able to narrow the list down to about 100 players by weeding out all the players that had less than 25,000 hands and/or were primarily no-limit players.

My next step was to determine the players who I would like to avoid if possible. Looking at my own 4-6 handed results this past year:

I played 221,672 Hands on Ultimate Bet that and averaged .54 Big Bets per 100 Hands

I played 37,600 Hands on Poker Stars and averaged 2.69 BB/100

Based on my prior assumption that I’m approximately ½ of 1 big bet better on Poker Stars than Ultimate Bet, I should be about a 1 BB/100 winner in the PokerStars middle limit games with little or no game selection. So the question is, who do I want to avoid? And how big of a sample size do I need to be confident that the win rate of the player I’m looking at is accurate? What I decided is that I’d like to avoid the following people:

Players who have played 100K hands with a win rate > 0 BB/100

Players who have played 50K hands with a win rate >.25 BB/100

Players who have played 25K hands with a win rate of >.5 BB/100

Although 25K, 50K, and even 100K hands isn’t a huge sample size, I do think it is a fairly good representation of a player’s ability. Since I’m estimating that I will beat the games for 1 BB/100, having a player that’s winning > 0 BB/100 at my table is a detriment to my win rate since on average I will only have one big bet or less of an advantage over them. I chose .25 BB/100 for players with 50K hands and .5 for players with 25K hands because the sample size is smaller and less reliable.

My last step was to create a “Buddy” list at PTR based on players that met the above criteria. It really should be called an Enemy list. I remember hearing the winning to losing poker player ratio is something like 4 or 5-1 (It may be higher based on my experience). So why actively seek losing players who comprise the vast majority, and label them buddies, instead of searching for winners who make up the minority, and label them enemies?

Based on my experience at PokerStars , about 90-95% of the tables have at least 1 good regular (GR). So searching for five to six tables with exclusively bad players will likely be a waste of time. What I’m really looking for are tables with only 1 GR. My plan is to open my 4-6 tables with 1 GR and once a 2nd GR sits, I will close the table and start a new one. I’ve found over the past year when starting new tables that the majority of the time I end up seated with 5 bad players. It seems most of the regulars are looking for full tables and they usually add themselves to the waiting list only after the table fills. So, I’m able to get in several hands without any GRs at my table. An added benefit to starting a new table is that I’m able to get some short-handed (2-3 player) hands in where my edge is even greater over my opponents. This is somewhat offset though by the fact that there’s a period of downtime leaving a table, starting a new table, and then waiting for new players to arrive.

I plan on reviewing the regular’s win rates on PTR every two months and making modifications to my list. Undoubtedly, I will make some changes based on in-game observations of players. For example, there are a few players that didn’t make my list that I know play very well and a few who did make the list that I feel I have a big edge over.

Well that’s my game selection plan, at least for now. I’m sure this will be tweaked along the way.

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