Thursday, May 21, 2009

My In-Hand Thought Process

I thought it might be helpful to any of the poker players reading this blog to get some insight as to what I’m thinking about during the course of a hand.

Preflop I need to know how many positions off the button the initial raiser is. I always check to see if anyone is sitting out. Knowing how many positions OTB my opponent is allows me to assign them an initial hand range. For opponents I have stats on, I will look at their RFI (Raise First In) #’s to get a more exact idea of their hand range. If the pot has been 3-bet then I consider the positions of both raisers, the RFI % of the first raiser, and the 3-bet % of the 2nd raiser. Based on all these factors I make that initial decision of whether to call, raise or fold. It’s very important if I do decide to continue with the hand to keep all of this information at the forefront of my mind as it will play into my decision making later in the hand. Something else I look at is the chip stacks of my opponents; I want to make sure that they have enough chips to play out the hand. On occasion a player will be short-stacked and forced to go all-in before the end of a hand – this also can affect my decision making. It's a good habit to get into if you play no-limit or decide to play NL at some point in the future.

If I am the initial raiser in the hand or deciding whether to raise, I always consider how many positions off the button I am. If I have a borderline decision, I consider who is sitting after me and how likely I am to get called or 3-bet. If tight players are sitting after me, I will add hands to my starting hand ranges. Similarly, I’ll drop hands if loose players are sitting after me. If I’m in a position to steal the blinds I’m always looking at the small blind’s fold to steal % , the big blind’s fold to steal %, and their 3-bet %s. These can greatly affect my stealing hand ranges.

On the flop, turn, and river, I’m replaying the entire hand back in my head and trying to narrow my opponent’s range. I'm doing this after every single decision point in the hand. I’m trying to put myself in my opponent’s shoes and figure out how I would play certain hands in this range if I were them knowing what they know about me based on all the actions to that point as well as the board texture; I’m trying to think like my opponent and make accurate guesses as to what my opponent thinks about me based on their betting patterns and past history with me. Based on all this information I’m trying to determine my best course of action. And when I’m thinking about my best course of action, it’s always in the context of the entire hand. In other words, I may know that I need to raise my opponent but I will play out different scenarios as to how the hand might play out and then figure out where the best spot to raise might be. I’m also using several other stats to aid my decision making particularly when I have a borderline decision. Two big stats for me are went to showdown (WTSD) and Aggression Factor (AF). The higher the WTSD, the less likely I am to bluff my opponent. The lower the WTSD, the more likely I am to bluff. Also, the higher the WTSD, the more likely my opponent is in the hand with something weak or marginal which is incentive for me to bet for value lighter than I otherwise might. The lower the WTSD, the more likely my opponent actually has something if they are calling flop and turn bets. Obviously, the higher the aggression factor, the more likely my opponent is to be bluffing, raising for free cards, making thin value raises, etc. The lower the aggression factor, the less likely are to be doing these things and the more likely they are to have made hands if they are showing aggression.

As all this is going through my head, I’m also keeping in mind my broad overall strategy in similar situations. In other words, I’m trying to keep myself balanced so that I’m not exploitable. This is particularly true when I’m playing against good players. I don’t want to have too many areas of my game that are too predictable otherwise my opponents can develop effective counter-strategies and exploit me. I’m not too concerned about balance against poor players, I’m just trying to exploit them whether it leaves me vulnerable or not, under the assumption they are unlikely to recognize areas where they can exploit me.

This may seem like a lot (and it is) but all this thinking is usually done in a matter of seconds and it’s almost instinctive for me at this point. With practice and repetition I think it would be the same for anybody.

When I have some more free time, I am planning on writing a Part 2 to this blog where I’ll give several hand examples and go through my specific thoughts at every decision point during the hand based on everything mentioned above.

Monday, May 18, 2009

May Update

First, thank you to everyone who helped me with my computer trouble. I ended up buying a notebook cooler thanks to Jim. I'm quite sure heat has been responsible for the demise of at least one of my laptops. I also bought a hard drive repair tool, thanks to Rory. Although it didn't fix my laptop, it looks like a really good product and something that could be very useful in the future. I didn't end up buying a Mac (I rushed out to buy a laptop before I saw the advice) but I plan on buying one the next time I'm computer shopping. I was able to download all my PokerStars hands as well thankfully. I'm missing my UB hands from the beginning of the year, but that's not too big of a deal.

So May started out pretty rough - I was down 300 big bets and 9K after about 23K hands. Fortunately things have turned around and I've won about 750 big bets and 38K over my last 13K hands. More importantly, I feel like I'm playing very well. I've really been taking my time and thinking through all my decisions. I think I've done a good job of exploiting the weaker players while mixing things up and keeping myself balanced against the regulars and better players.

On the VPP front, I'm about 1 1/2 days behind due to my laptop debacle. I'm off to Jamaica next week and then the WSOP after that so I expect I'll fall further behind. However, I'll be gaining 100K VPPS once I purchase a WSOP main event package through Stars so that should put me well ahead of pace.

I'll try to post some Jamaica pics next week...

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Bad Beat

My computer suddenly died today for no apparant reason. This is oh somewhere around the sixth computer I've owned in the last four years that's crashed. I do run about 20 different applications 24 hours a day without ever powering down unless absolutely necessary - this may be a contributing factor or I may just be extremely unlucky when it comes to computers.

I was looking at stats in Hold-Em Manager when I realized it wasn't showing about 1/3 of my hands. I couldn't figure out why so I restarted HEM. When it came back up I received some connection errors. I had received the same connection errors in the past and was able to fix them by rebooting so I didn't think much of it. Immediately after though I received a few other windows errors and then the blue screen of death. I tried repairing/restoring the computer, among other things, but I never was able to boot back into windows. At this point I receive a disk error when I bootup so I think it's safe to say it's toast.

I've been using Symantec's online backup over the past year to back up my data - they provide 40 GB of online storage for a small yearly fee. Unfortunately I hadn't specified which folders I wanted backed up in addition to their default folders. I found out tonight that their default folders do not include program files which contain Hold-Em Manager. So, I've lost all of my poker data for the year. I did make a backup of all my Poker Tracker data about 9 months ago so at least all is not lost.

It is my fault for not taking the time to see what Symantec was backing up, it's a lesson learned. It's going to be a costly one since I'm heavily reliant on stats when I play and won't have any on the players I'm playing. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe Stars can send me some or all of the hand histories, I'll find out about that.

This blog was more of a vent than anything else. I'll be spending the next two days installing software and trying to get my new computer up and running. Fun, fun

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

World Series 09

So I've decided to play several events including the main event this year. I haven't played the main event since 06 - I was moving July of 07 and got married last July. I'm really looking forward to playing in the Series, tournaments are a lot of fun especially if I go deep in any of them.

PokerStars is offering 100K VPPs if you qualify or buy-in through them and agree to wear their clothing. Also, you have to sign a waiver which basically says they own you if you were to win the World Series. What that boils down to for me is about 1 month of work that I wouldn't be forced to do. It would take a lot of pressure off of me which would be great. So, I'm planning on buying in directly through Poker Stars using FPPs, this ends up costing me about $8500 since I could have used the FPPs to buy cash bonuses. It seems well worth it to me and playing the World Series is definitely a +ev decision for me given the level of play in it. Ironically, the main event is the weakest in terms of skill level of any major tournament.

I haven't played any no-limit this year and very few tournaments so I'm planning on studying, watching some videos, and playing some tournaments before the World Series starts. I've had a lot of success in the past at the World Series but my style has changed pretty drastically over the years. I'm a lot looser and aggressive than I used to be which means I'm more likely to bust out of a tournament early but also more likely to win one. It all boils down to luck though, a few hundred or even thousand hands that I might play over the course of a tournament is an incredibly small sample. Here's to being lucky!

The events I'm planning on playing are:

June 12th 12:00pm Limit Hold'em (Event 26) $1,500 (3-day event)
June 13th
12:00pm No-Limit Hold'em (Event 28) $1,500 (3-day event)
June 15th
~ 12:00pm No-Limit Hold'em (Event 32) $2,000 (3-day event)
(optional) 5:00pm World Championship Limit Hold'em (Event 33) $10,000 (3-day event)
June 16th
12:00pm No-Limit Hold'em (Event 34) $1,500 (3-day event)
June 18th
12:00pm No-Limit Hold'em (Event 36) $2,000 (3-day event)
June 19th
12:00pm Limit Hold'em (Event 38) $2,000 (3-day event)
July 3rd World Championship No-Limit Texas Hold-Em (Event 57) $10000

If I make it to day 2 or day 3 in any of these tournaments then I of course won't be playing the following one. I'm planning on blogging the tournaments I do play.