Friday, March 27, 2009

Swings, Swings

Here's a quick picture of what March has looked like. Three days ago I didn't think I'd ever have another losing day. Now I can't win a hand. I love this game. Sadly, I really do love poker.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

March Update

I was about 5 days behind SNE pace when I returned from Boston last week. As of right now, I'm at 207,416 VPPS and I'm supposed to be at 219,178 by the end of today. I will likely end the day around 210K which means I'll be about 3 1/2 days behind pace. I don't have any trips planned until the middle of next month so I'm planning on playing as much as possible these next 3-4 weeks and anticipate that I can get ahead of pace.

March has been a tough month so far. I feel like I'm playing the worst poker I've played all year. I've really lacked concentration when playing and have even had trouble following the action at different points. I've also found myself falling into a pattern of predictability where I'm sort of playing on auto-pilot without really thinking through each decision. I think many of the regulars have made adjustments to my style as well. To top it all off, the games have been tougher on average than any other time this year. A lot of good 30-60 and 50-100 players have been dropping down to play 15-30.

So my plan is to make some adjustments to my game in response to some of the regulars. Mostly I just want to add more unpredictably to my game. I have some good ideas on how to do this so I'm looking forward to the rest of the month to see how it works out.

In terms of big bets this month, I'm up 350 after about 37K Hands. I had that one unbelievable day where I won 330 big bets but other than that I've basically broken even. In fact, after that day I went on about a 340 big bet down swing. I've won back about 200 big bets the past day and a half but am still pretty far off my highs of the year.

I may do a blog one of these days on how to avoid falling into the trap of being predictable. I have selfish reasons for it, mostly I want some concrete thoughts in writing that I can look at if I feel myself falling into that trap.

For now I'm off to play....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A good article on balance

I spent over an hour trying to come up with a good answer to this question from Jim on balance:

"1.) At what point does balancing your play cause your play to become "poor"? i.e. How often do you give up some pre-flop equity for future consideration."

I was trying to construct an example of balancing your flop/turn play on a paired board when defending from the big blind and it got way too complicated.

And then I found this article today and didn't feel so bad.

I think this illustrates how complicated balancing can be and finding that exact point of perfect balance is extremely difficult.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Amazing Day

Today was one for the record books. I'm fairly sure I won more in terms of big bets than I've ever won in a single day. I didn't play an inordinate amount of hands either, I was just insanely lucky.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thoughts about balance

Note: If you don't play poker this probably isn't worth reading

With all the literature written about poker, it’s surprising that so little of it discusses the subject of balance. I don’t mean balance as in balancing poker with life, but balance as a strategic concept in poker.

I define balance as weighting your actions or hand range given your range of hands versus your opponent’s range of hands so as to make it difficult for your opponent to discern what you hold. Consequently, your opponent is prone to make more mistakes which leads to an increase in the expected value of your entire hand range. You may even sacrifice value of specific hands in your range with the intention of increasing overall expected value of your range.

For example, let’s say someone raises UTG in a 6-handed game and you’re in the big blind. A typical opponent’s UTG raising range is about the top ten or so percent of their hands. Most players in the big blind in this situation are re-raising with their top 2-3% of hands, maybe JJ+, AQ+, AJs+, and KQ while calling with another 15-20% of their hands. This strategy isn’t very balanced because a re-raising range of 2-3% is transparent and easy for your opponents to play against post-flop. An excellent way to balance this is to always flat call pre-flop. Since most players will bet the flop after being the pre-flop raiser, you can check-raise any favorable flop with your premium hands and build a pot with the same number of bets in it had you 3-bet pre-flop. Your opponent is now faced with the same bet versus 20% of your range instead of verse 2-3% of your range.

Another example of balance is as follows. Assume you’ve raised pre-flop from the cutoff, been 3-bet by the button, and the big blind cold-calls 2 bets. In this situation, there is a lot of value to capping with your premium hands. Calling is an option because it disguises the strength of your hand and you’ll very likely be able to raise the flop. However, I believe you’re giving up too much value by not capping pre-flop. Your equity edge with hands like AA, KK, QQ, and AK is roughly double what it was in the first example and this is a lot of equity to sacrifice pre-flop for the sake of balance. A better way to balance is to add a few hands to your capping range. If you’re only capping with something like AJs+, AQ+, 99+, KQs, then add some more hands. You can cap any suited connectors that are part of your cutoff opening range. So this might include 87s, 98s, T9s, JTs, and QJs. These hands play pretty well 3-handed and although you might be giving up a small amount of pre-flop equity, your range is less “top-heavy” and your opponent’s can’t easily narrow your range. You may even want to add hands like 97s, T8s, J9s to the mix.

One more example of balance is after you’ve called a raise pre-flop from the big-blind versus the small-blind and you flop a good hand on a low board. For example, let’s say the board is 235 and you have 46 ,35, or 36, or the board is 357 and you have 46, 57, or Q7, etc. In this case I believe it’s almost always correct to flat-call. The reason being is that you should be calling any flop that contains three low cards with nearly 100% of your range after defending from the big blind verse a small blind raise. If you elect to raise all of your good hands on this flop and call with your remaining hands, it becomes very easy for your opponent to play the turn optimally. He/she can bet the turn every time you’ve flat called the flop knowing that you likely have a marginal or weak holding because you didn’t raise the flop. Since your opponent will be getting a 3-1 price to bet the turn, it becomes a very profitable bet. So a good way to balance this is to flat call with all of your good hands as well. Now your opponent is left guessing whether you’ve flopped something or not when deciding whether to bet the turn.

These are just a few examples of balance. There are so many areas where balance can and should come into play. I think it’s important to identify common situations and think about what your actions represent to your opponents in these situations. If your actions are too transparent, then look for ways to cast doubt in your opponent’s mind as to what you hold while increasing overall profitability of your hand range.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Sad Note

One of my best friends, Eddie, lost his brother unexpectedly while we were in Las Vegas. I'm planning on flying to Boston for the services later this week. Poker seems very insignificant right now.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Poker and Vegas don't mix

At least for me anyway. I rarely play poker when I'm in Vegas unless playing in a tournament and this trip is no different. I do play online but it never seems to work out well. Last night I went out bowling. Yes I said bowling. After several beers we stumbled across a 30 lane bowling alley at the top of the Orleans and decided to play a few strings and drink a few more beers. Although it was a lot of fun, I'm paying the price today. I played about 500 hands this morning, couldn't think straight, and lost about 60 big bets. My body doesn't tolerate alcohol well at all. I think I consumed about 8-9 beers over about 12 hours yesterday. My friends wouldn't even classify this as drinking but for me it about doubled my average annual beer intake. I have the tolerance of an 85 pound, 12 year old, alcoholic virgin that hasn't eaten for a week.

Because I'm about three days behind pace now I have the dilemma of playing my D game just to get hands in and earn VPPS or forgo playing at all and fall further behind. What I may do is drop down a limit and cut back a table to see if that helps minimize the damage. I've always had a problem competing at anything when I'm not 100% whether it be pool, sports, or poker. Even if my D game is good enough to break even I have a lot trouble getting over that mental hurdle of knowing I'm playing bad and making mistakes. If that doesn't work I'll take the next two days off and add 30 minutes of poker my daily routine until I'm caught up.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

February Recap and YTD Stats

First, I'm still behind SNE pace, about 3K VPPs or 1 day behind.

February ended up being a good month. I made it through a 340 big bet downswing and ended the month on about a 650 big bet upswing. I think I ran close to expectation and the numbers are probably representative of what my average numbers will look like at the end of year.

I played 52240 Hands, averaged 1.21 BB/100 (630 total big bets) and won $18046. I cleared one $4000 bonus.

My year to date stats broken down by number of players at the table are:

2 Players 6356 Hands $6294 1.43 BB/100
3 Players 8843 Hands $16143 6.16 BB/100
4 Players 14637 Hands $17041 3.35 BB/100
5 Players 33228 Hands ($4962) .11 BB/100
6 Players 51288 Hands $8375 .29 BB/100
>6 Players 6306 Hands $7525 2.43 BB/100

This is a small sample size so the numbers don't tell me too much. I expect that my 2 players stats should average out to about 4.5 BB/100, 3 player stats to about 2 BB/100, 4-6 Players to about 1 BB/100, and >6 player to about 1.5 BB/100. I'm basing this on my lifetime stats.

I hope March goes as well as Jan and Feb have gone. Also hope I'm able to catch up and get ahead of SNE pace, that's going to be tough with my Vegas trip. I start getting "milestone markers" this month as well. My first one comes at 200,000 VPPS and I'll earn an additional $2,000. The markers then escalate $1,000 for every 100,000 VPPS.

Also of interest, I've agreed to coach/tutor my friend Riad who is a host on UB. If you're reading this Riad, be prepared to work! Should be fun anyway, it's a good way for both of us to learn.

Off to play. Here's what my year has looked like: