Sunday, December 28, 2008

Random Thoughts

I'll need to earn 1 million VPPS this year on PokerStars. It looks as though I'll be earning somewhere around 1.35 VPPs per hand so I'll need to play about 740,000 hands over the course of the year. This works out to approx. 14,000 hands a week or 2,000 hands a day. In addition, I'll need to play about 150 hands per day on Ultimate Bet.

I'm confident I can average that many hands over the course of the year, I was close to playing that many hands last year. I also realize it will be very challenging at times. I remember feeling burnt out at a lot of points last year and I anticipate it will be the same this year. It is also very difficult to play during those inevitable stretches where seemingly everything goes wrong. I've been through some incredible swings during the approx. 3 million hands I've played including a 500 big bet downswing this past month. I have noticed that I have a lot of trouble putting in hands on days where everything is going wrong. If I get down 100 big bets in a session, my emotions start to take control and I start playing bad. At least I feel like I'm playing bad. At this point I quit and usually for the day. I'm really trying to avoid that this year since I can't afford to be taking partial days off.

About two weeks ago I started taking my dogs for walks through hills near our house. There are some pretty nice views of Oakland, San Francisco, Alcatraz, and the Bay Bridge. It has helped to refresh my mind on those tough poker days and served as pretty good exercise as well. It beats exercising on my elliptical which is what I had been doing. So for the upcoming year I'm planning on taking this walk as much as possible. A typical day should be three hours of poker in the morning and three hours of poker in the afternoon separated by a walk and lunch.

I've been playing pool twice a week and tennis about once a week. I think it's important I keep doing these things to maintain some balance in my life and also to get out of the house :)

I'm off to Vegas this Tuesday for New Years and Jamena's birthday. There's no way I'm going to be able to play 2K hands on New Years day or Friday when we're still there but I should be able to make up the hands within a week or two. I'll try to post some Vegas pics. in my next blog.

Happy New Years everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Game Selection Response

My friend Rory emailed me a good response to my last post:

I think this might be a little bit backwards. Lets say you are sitting in a 6-max game with you, two good players and three bad players. The good players are playing let's say 30% of their hands each, as are you. The two bad players are playing 70% of their hands each. For each hand you play, what is the chance you will be in the hand with at least one good player if you decide to play? It should be 1 - the probability neither of them play. 1 - (0.7)^2= 51% so half of your hands will be vs one of the two other good players. What is the chance that you will be playing against one of the bad players? It should be 1 - the probability none of the three play: 1 - (0.3)^3 = 97% that means the majority of your hands will have at least one bad player in them, and only a very small percentage of the hands you play will be just you vs the good player. What if there are only two bad players? You then have a 66% chance of playing against a good player in a hand. What about the bad players? You have a 91% chance of having a bad player in the hand. So again, only a very small percentage of the hands you play will be just you vs one or more good players only. What about 4 good players? Then it starts to be even, 76% of the time a good player is in the and and 70% of the time the bad player is in the hand. The other problem with the GR-avoidance method of game selection is that just because you identify a no-GR table doesn't necessarily mean there is anyone that plays bad in the game. If you do the reverse and follow around bad players, you guarantee that no matter what you are going to be about 50-50% seeing flops with a really bad player even if all the other players in the game are good. Also just because there are two or more GRs in the game doesn't meant it's a bad game, in fact a table might be especially juicy if there are two or more GRs in the game; maybe they know something about the other players that you don't!


As you always do, you've made a bunch of good points. I think you're looking at this from a different perspective than me. You're trying to play as many hands against bad players as possible (which makes a lot of sense). Essentially what my method is accomplishing is finding tables where everyone minus the GR at the table is at least 1 BB/100 (my win rate) worse than me. If it does this then I should almost always do better than my 1 BB/100 average.

I need to think more about what you're saying and make some changes based on it.

I actually started looking at PTR's own table ratings yesterday. I noticed that I was sitting at almost all of their top rated tables every time I checked which made me wonder if I might just be better off using their ratings since it is less time consuming than my method. I'm trying to figure out how their table ratings are calculated. I got this from their FAQ's:

" uses a massive database of compiled player results to assess the quality of play at online poker tables. The players at each table are evaluated based upon their VP$IP, long term losses vs. long term winnings, and the total amount of data recorded for the players. Each player’s data is then compiled to provide a composite rating for that table. If the rating is high, you can be assured that you will be playing at a soft table with huge potential profits. If the rating is low, you can avoid that table and spend your time in a more profitable game"

Which really didn't help me. I emailed them yesterday and asked exactly what goes into their calculations and unfortunately received a canned response back that didn't answer my question. So, I sent them another email today. I'll post their answer if I get one.

Thanks again for the ideas Rory.

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.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My decision

I made the decision yesterday to try to achieve SuperNova Elite status on PokerStars in 2009. It was a difficult decision because I have a 100% rakeback deal with Ultimate Bet and will forgo a significant amount of money, at least initially, by playing primarily at PokerStars. I'm currently at Supernova status on PokerStars which carries over to 2009 and equates to about 35% in rakeback. Once I hit SuperNova elite, assuming I do, I'd be earning 65% or more in rakeback.

A summary of the benefits can be found here: SNE benefits

And some of the merchandise that can be purchased with VPP's (points earned from playing hands) is here: SNE Merchandise

So, why try to attain something that less than 100 people out of 1.5 million have attained in the past 2 years?

The biggest reason is I'm very confident I can do it. As an experiment last week I decided to try to play what I thought would be a typical day for me in 2009, a 3 hour session in the morning and a 3 hour session in the afternoon. I played 5-6 tables of 10-20 and 15-30 and after 5 hours had played 2,395 hands and earned 3006 VPPS. (1 million VPPS are necessary to reach SNE status). I was really surprised that it "only" took 5 hours to reach the approximate number of VPP's I'd need to average on a daily basis through 2009. Since I plan on playing at least 6 hours per day, I don't think averaging ~3000 VPPs per day will be exceedingly difficult. Of course there will be days that I won't play at all or can't play but there should be a surplus from the days I do play that more than compensates for the off days.

The second reason is that the skill level difference between the sites at the limits I'm playing is very significant. Now that Ultimate Bet has merged with Absolute and formed Cereus, the games are very difficult. In fact, as difficult as I've seen them. There are several hosts playing middle to high limits that have been around for years and are formidable to say the least. From my experience playing on PokerStars this past year, the games are significantly easier and this should be a big contributing factor to my bottom line at the end of the year. It's hard to quantify how the skill level disparity at PokerStars impacts my win rate but a rough estimate based on past results would be about 1/2 of 1 big bet per 100 hands. At $10-20 this would be equivalent to $10 per 100 hands which is equivalent to about 35% in what I pay in rake. This incidentally is what I'd forgo by switching to PokerStars assuming I make SNE.

The third reason is that hosting on Ultimate Bet has become very monotonous for me. I play my ~10,000 hands a week, collect my check, and repeat the process next week. It has been this way for years now. The money is great of course but I'm bored. At least by pursuing SNE, I have a clear goal in mind and a challenge. Assuming I achieve SNE and assuming my calculations are correct, I will actually end up making more money at the end of the year. This will be largely due to the fact that I will be "forced" to play so many more hands ~17K compared to the ~10K I'm averaging now.

The fourth reason is that my time will be spent much more efficiently on PokerStars. On Ultimate Bet I'm often sitting on tables waiting for games sometimes for over an hour. This is in part due to the rules I must abide by as a host and in part due to the site being slow at times. On PokerStars I can get in as many games as I can handle in a matter of minutes or even seconds due to their high traffic.

The last reason is that it will be nice to get free entries to tournaments around the world, especially the Monte Carlo and Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Yes, I could buy-in to them now with the money I earn in rakeback but it's just not the same for me. It's so much easier to accept the entry as a reward for doing something than it is to actually take ten or fifteen thousand dollars out of my pocket and pay for the entry. It is essentially the same thing since I am technically paying for these entries (it's included as part of my rakeback calculations) but it sure wouldn't feel that way. I also enjoy playing tournaments and have had a lot of success in them so there could potentially be a big payday at some point in the future (with a little luck, ok a lot of luck).

I will be attempting to keep my host position through all this which requires me to play at least 1000 hands per week at 30-60 or higher. My intention is to play these hands at night or on weekends when there are more games going at these limits and when the games are also easier.

It's going to be quite a challenge. When less than 100 people out of 1.5 million have done it in the past two years combined, that's saying something. I think I'm up for it.

I've already started preparing for what's ahead. More on that in my next blog.