Monday, September 28, 2009

Avoiding Predictability

I really fell into a rut and predictable pattern over the last few weeks. I think what happened is that I ran really poor for an extended stretch, lost confidence, and tightened up my game a lot. With me it's almost instinctual to tighten up and be less aggressive when things are going badly. This is the wrong thing to do though. The cards have no memory, they don't know whether you've been running good or bad, so I should never let past results influence my play at the table.

I always say what separates good players from great players is how they play when everything imaginable goes wrong, as it inevitably does in poker. Well, I played about my C game when it happened.

I didn't even realize what was going on until a few days ago. It dawned on me looking at some graphs that I'd had no big upswings or downswings over the last 50,000 hands or so. Then I started thinking about how I used to play when I first moved up to 30-60 and I remembered that I was much more aggressive and unpredictable. So these past few days I've made an effort to be ultra-aggressive and extremely unpredictable. I've gone so far that I'm probably at the other extreme now, playing like an insane maniac. I'm sure the regulars in my games are convinced there's more than one person using my account.

Since I made the transition to insane maniac, I've been winning a lot more pots with the worst hand, bluffing my opponents off their hands, sometimes in huge pots (no easy feat in limit).

I've noticed some of my opponents are reluctant to get involved with me. They're not attacking my blinds as much and/or folding their blinds to my raises. Both of these things are incredibly profitable for me. I've also noticed players making a lot of mistakes they wouldn't ordinarily make. I've taken a lot of people out of their comfort zone and am putting them to test time and time again. This is a great thing to do and a great position to put your opponents in.

And the super swings are back. Today alone I had a 150 big bet upswing followed by a 110 big bet downswing, followed by an 80 big bet upswing. In dollar terms, I had 5 or 6 $5000 swings today. Good times are here again.

The moral of the story is: avoid being predictable at all costs. Even if it means making outrageous bluffs, or plays you'd never ordinarily make just for the sake of being unpredictable, go ahead and try it. Poker is never played in a vacuum, so even though you might give up some value in a particular hand by doing something crazy, you'll get some, if not all or more of that value back in later hands. Put your opponents in tough spots, make them feel uncomfortable. The game is about making less mistakes than your opponents. The more uncomfortable you can make them, the more prone they are to mistakes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Half a Million Hands

I've played about 500,000 hands this year or about 1.28 hands per minute of 2009. As of writing this I stand at 777K VPPs so it looks like I should hit 1 million and become SuperNova Elite in early December.

I do not plan on doing this again. I repeat, I do not plan on doing this again. Next year I plan on focusing on short-handed play and no-limit cash games/tournaments - more on that at the end of the year.

It's really been an uphill battle the last few months. I think I ran extremely well earlier in the year and extremely poor the last few months. Things have a way of evening out.

Here's what the first 500K hands have looked like:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thoughts on why low limits are virtually unbeatable

I've been tutoring Riad the past six months or so and he's been asking me repeatedly why he can't beat the games he's in - he plays $2-4 and $3-6. He's also asked me whether I think I can beat the games he's in and my answer has been always been I'm not sure but probably not. I'm revising that answer to definitely not unless stringently game selecting or exclusively playing heads up and 3-handed.

We had a chance to look at his pre-rake numbers today and he was about a 3 big bet per hundred winner. His actual, post-rake numbers are about a -1 BB/100 loser. So rake at the limits he's playing is around 4 big bets per hundred hands which is obscene. If I'd been paying 4 big bets per hundred in rake at the limits I'm playing, I'd be down millions.

I can only imagine how many thousands of people have tried to become poker players and quit out of frustration convinced they didn't possess the skill. If they started out at lower limits with a limited bankroll, as most probably do, and practiced good bankroll management skills by not playing higher limits unless adequately rolled, they very likely busted. Or just quit out of frustration.

A lot of people who have survived as poker players probably took shots at higher limits when their bankrolls dictated they shouldn't have (myself included). Some of these players likely survived by unintentionally moving from unbeatable to beatable games. I find it interesting that rake, in a way, causes good players with bad bankroll management skills to progress through the limits.

My experience has been that the skill level difference from limit to limit isn't significant, especially in the current poker environment. There is a difference, but it's a small one. We're probably talking fractions of a big bet if it could be measured. But the difference in rake is significant. As much as a big bet or more depending on the limits and site.

I should mention that this all applies to limit hold-em. I'm not sure what the rake impact is at no-limit but I know much higher win rates are attainable.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

US Open and September Update

September has started like the last two months, even worse given that it's almost half over. At the moment, I'm down about about 5K and around even in terms of big bets after about 22K hands. It's really been a struggle the past 2 1/2 months, at this point I feel like I'm in a slump. Sure I'm running bad, really bad. But there are also days where I'm playing really bad. One day stands out - the first day I got to New York, I was exhausted and jet-lagged and ended up playing about 6 straight hours and losing 12K. I'm not sure why I even kept playing other than I was being stubborn. I knew I wasn't playing well but instead of getting a good night's sleep, I tried to force myself to play through it telling myself that I could fight through the haziness and play better. Stupid idea, forcing myself to play several hours when exhausted only made things worse.

I've also found myself having a really difficult time focusing lately. I feel like I'm playing on auto-pilot a lot, looking at my cards and player stats, and not paying attention to anything else. I'm also losing track of the action from time to time which is a lack of concentration. I don't know exactly what's causing it, I'm a little burnt out, hopefully it's not too much more than that.

So, at this point I've cut back to 4 tables and am quitting sessions any time I feel my focus start to fade. I'm also trying to avoid 5 and 6 handed tables if possible - I'm constantly opening new tables and dropping full ones if I can. Hopefully, I can snap out of this soon. A good run of cards would certainly help.

New York City and the US Open were fun, it was great to watch live tennis. We had different seats each of the days we were there. We upgraded to court side one day and got to see the Venus Williams/Kim Clisters match along with Nadal and Serena's fourth round matches. Other days we were either all the way at the back of the bleachers or down in the loge section which is in the middle of the stadium. After sitting court side, everything else felt like a mile away. I got to see everyone I wanted to see (Serena, Venus, Federer, and Nadal) except Andy Roddick. I'm not a huge Roddick fan but I would have loved to have seen a 155 MPH serve in person.

Here are some of the pictures Jamena took:


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Process Oriented vs. Result Oriented Thinking

As I mentioned in my last blog, I've been playing a good deal of pool lately. I've been doing a lot of reading and studying about the mental aspects of competition in an effort to improve my game. I've found a lot of what I'm reading is also applicable to poker. I thought I'd share one such thing I read from a book called, "Finding Your Zone" - it's a book I highly recommend to anyone in any form of mental competition (I'm reading it for the third time)

Here's a few paragraphs taken from the book:

"Process-oriented thinking is about doing the best you can; goal-oriented thinking is about beating someone or something. For example, if your goal in tennis is to beat your brother, then this result-oriented goal automatically narrows your chances for doing so. If the match is close, you will naturally start to think about the possibility of your pending victory. Your thoughts start to move to the future, and you start to feel that pit in your stomach. This emergence of additional anxiety causes your stroke to become tight and your balance awkward. Your chances for beating your brother lessen.

However, if your goal in playing your brother is to hit the smoothest shots and always maintain your balance, then beating him becomes an incidental consequence and not such a big deal. Your thoughts are much less likely to focus on the future, and you are less likely to choke. When you think strictly in terms of results, you open the possibility of doing everything perfectly and still losing. You may play impeccably and still lose to your competitor who scores better. However, if you focus on your effort or the quality of each shot, then you allow the possibility of winning even if your competitor beats you."