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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Plan for 2011

In the spirit of New Year's resolutions, I've been thinking about how I can set some more concrete goals for the upcoming year. I've been fiddling around at the micros for several years now and my ultimate realistic dream is to get to a point where online poker can provide a little bit of extra spending money. I don't have time in my busy life with a full-time job and two young kids to play the kind of volume required to make real money playing online poker, but I'd be happy if I can get to a point where I can pull in an average of a couple hundred $ per month. So here's my more concrete plan for 2011.

Jan-Feb 2011
Bring my Stars bankroll over $300 playing mostly $1.10, 45-turbos. I think I can average 20-25 tournies/week, and although I know I can't maintain the ROI clip I've been on thus far (I've been absolutely killing these things since I returned to them a few weeks ago), I don't think it's unreasonable at all to think I could hit my goal within the next month or so. I'm currently at $241.95. I also plan to throw in the odd $1.10, 90-turbo and maybe some of the $2.20, 180-turbos as well.

Feb 2011
Before making the move to $3.25, I'm going to take some time to observe some of the games to see what the play is like. This is where my first poker New Year's resolution comes into play: there is no rush. By setting myself very realistic goals I will now enable myself to take the time I need to play the game properly. If I'm tired or in a bad mood, it's okay to take a night off. Rather than jumping right into the $3.25's and learning everything the hard way, take some time to observe and study my opponents. Then I'll move up and give it a shot.

Spring 2011
The next step will depend in part on how things go at the $3.25 level. If I'm doing okay and I'm satisfied with my returns, I'll probably just stick around and keep focusing on the 45-turbos. I've been reading quite a bit on one of the poker forums about how "reg-infested" the $3.25 and higher levels are in the 45-turbos, and lots of experienced players seem to be suggesting that it's very difficult to put up a solid ROI over a decent sample at those levels.

If I'm not satisfied with how things are going there, I will probably move back to the $4.40, 135-turbo Rush tournies on Tilt since I really enjoyed those and had some decent success when I played them. I stopped only because I started chasing a bonus and ended up spending some time at the cash tables.

There are a couple of other things I'd like to do in the spring of 2011:(1) As I have done every year for the past couple of years, I'd like to spend a bit of time trying to score a seat to the WSOP ME. I usually try the steps and I don't usually get very far, but I always like to take a shot anyway. (2) At some point I would like to take a few shots at a large-field MTT. I've only done it a couple of times in my online poker career simply because I don't have the time in my schedule. In order to fit this goal into my schedule what I will likely do is try something like the 8pm $1 turbo rebuy on Stars on a Friday or Saturday night.

Here is also where my second poker resolution comes into play: focus on the game. It is incredibly difficult to play online poker and resist the temptation to check email or play silly games on Facebook at the same time. It's also pretty easy to be successful at the $1 level while doing those things. But once I get to the $3.25 level and/or the $4.40 Rush tournies, I'm going to make a real effort to focus on the games and the games only.

Summer 2011
Play in the WSOP ME?

Summer-December 2011
Continue making some money playing online poker.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Back to the blog

It's been a while since I updated this blog. Six months to be exact. So what have I been up to at the poker tables during that time? Well, the usual - bouncing around, trying different things. I did get sick of Rush poker, both cash games and tournies. I found that poker in the Rush format just became robotic and boring because you couldn't really get to know your opponents in the same way. I decided to give Limit Holdem a try for a while, so I did some reading, played some micro stakes, and it nearly caused me to slit my own throat. I was playing .10-.20 LHE and just got slaughtered. No matter how much I read about the game and thought I had a good handle on it in theory, I just couldn't figure it out in practice. There are only so many times you can lose to someone calling a raise with J7o, a bet on the flop and turn with 3rd pair, and then rivering two-pair, before you just want to jump off a building.

So then I decided I would go back to good old fashioned non-Rush cash NLHE, starting back at .02-.05 to get back in the swing of things. But after a few thousand hands I just couldn't keep it up. I have come to the conclusion that trying to make money grinding micro stakes NLHE is a lost cause if you don't have the time (or multi-tabling skills) to play a high enough volume.

And that brings me up to the present. What am I playing now? I've gone back to my first love, and my most reliable source of profit: the turbo MTT SnGs on Stars. Mostly the $1.10 45's with some $2.20 180's thrown in. Doing well, too. I play somewhere between 15 and 20 of these per week and over the past couple of weeks I've grown my Stars backroll from ~$180 to ~$215.

So now I'm going to set some new goals for myself with these tournies, but I'm going to focus on general bankroll goals as opposed to specific skill goals.

Goal 1: Play $1.10's and $2.20's until my Stars roll reaches $300.
Goal 2: Move up to the $3.25 45's
Goal 3: Finally start making some money playing poker!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My first real score!

It finally happened. I've been playing micro stakes online poker for 4 years and before this my biggest score was taking down a $3.25, 45-turbo SnG for ~$40. That was pretty exciting. But a couple of nights ago I eclipsed that excitement when I took down a $4.40, 135-man Rush SnG for a score of close to $140. What a rush!

I definitely had to get lucky to win, needing a suckout in the middle stages to stay alive along with a string of coinflips that went my way. But it also validates that maybe I do have some skill at this game. It may take a lot of luck to win a tourney, but you also can't win one without some skill and good decision making. I do feel like I played well overall, and was very happy with how successfully I was able to focus on accumulating chips and not think about holding on to my stack. I didn't even glance at the tourney info until we were down to about the top 23, close to the bubble.

Add that score to the handful of other cashes I've had in these 135-man rush tournies and I'd say I've found my new stomping ground. Onwards and upwards!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another goal for Grade 2

While I continue with my Rush game development I've discovered another type of tourney that I really enjoy, but it has also highlighted a glaring weakness in my MTT game. It's a weakness that wasn't as evident in the 45-turbos because those are smaller MTTs that don't go through all the ebbs and flows and stages of larger MTTs.

The tourney I've discovered is the $4.40, 135-man Rush SnG on Tilt. I absolutely love them. Because of the structure, the size, and the fact that they are Rush tournies, these particular tournies have a real MTT feel about them. The major advantage of these over regular tournies is that you can cycle through crap hands much more quickly so you can really play a good amount of poker within the structure of the tourney. And the fact that it only takes an hour and a half from start to finish is great for someone like me with limited time to play poker. These SnGs are the closest thing I can get to playing a large-field MTT within my time constraints, and they are actually enjoyable to play.

So anyway, what I've come to realize about my MTT game is that I have a good feel for the early stages, and a good grasp of shortstack play, but where I really struggle is in the mid-late stages particularly when I have a healthy stack. The last thing I want to do is bust out before the bubble when I'm sitting with a top 5 or top 10 stack, so I tend to become very cautious against stacks that can hurt me. The result is that I miss out on value when I have decent hands and fail to take advantage of opportunities to potentially accumulate chips. In a fast-structured tourney, this can have a disastrous effect one's success - a healthy stack can quickly become a shortstack. So although I've gotten off to great starts several times, and have cashed a few times, I haven't been able to go really deep (my best finish has been 7th).

What I need to do is work at overcoming this psychological barrier and be willing to put my healthy stack on the line late in the tourney, even if it means the risk of busting out. What I need to do is learn to adopt the attitude that my objective in a MTT is to accumulate as many chips as possible, regardless of how healthy my stack is at any point in time. The only times that would warrant a less aggressive attitude would be at the final table and perhaps right at the bubble.

So if that's my goal, the question is how to train myself to change my mindset. What I've decided to do is to find some really cheap tournies to use as a training ground, where I can work on this aspect of my game and not feel the sting of busting out. Unfortunately there are no Rush tournies below $4.40 on Tilt, so I've decided to use the dime, 360 turbos and $1.10, 90-turbos on Stars as my training ground.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A 3-betting experiment

So there I was, playing some $1.10 45-turbos, and after busting out of the first two I decided to play a little 10NL Rush while I was finishing up my 3rd tourney. While I was playing Rush I noticed something that I had picked up on in the past but never gave it too much consideration: 3-betting seems to be very profitable. In particular, I was noticing how often people would fold to my 3-bets after raising. It was a bit frustrating because I was only 3-betting for value but never getting value from my 3-bets because the raisers seemed to always fold. Hmm, I thought to myself, I wonder just how profitable 3-betting can be in micro stakes Rush?

Time to test it out. The objective would be to 3-bet a very high percentage of the time in situations where the original raise was more likely to be a steal than a value raise and see whether I could make money doing that. The idea is to test whether a high 3-bet resteal strategy could be profitable on its own. Obviously this would never work in regular cash games because opponents would quickly pick up on my high 3-bet percentage, but Rush is the ideal environment to attempt such a strategy. To minimize the risk associated with my little experiment, I decided I would drop down to 5NL Rush and put in at least 10,000 hands before I analyzed the results.

The parameters of the experiment are as such. If the following conditions hold:
1) I'm either in one of the blinds or on the Button;
2) The original raise is an open-raise coming from a typical steal position (Button, CO, HJ, or an open-raise from the SB when I'm in the BB); and
3) The original raise is not coming from a <40BB shortstacker (more likely to be value raises);

I will 3-bet with any two cards. That's right, any two cards. My hypothesis is that this will boost my overall winrate in large part because a high percentage of the time the original raiser will fold. Of the times I do get called, I will win some pots through uncontested CB's and the times I actually hit a hand and the rest I will lose. I think the pots I win will more than make up for the pots I lose.

We'll see what happens...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Why do I keep making the same mistake?

I can't seem to escape from this self-destructive pattern when it comes to poker. I inevitably get bored playing NLHE, or an irresistible bonus offer comes along, and I get pulled out of my comfort zone into games that hurt my bankroll. I've been playing Rush PLO for a little while now, experimenting with shortstack play after I got off to a rough start with playing fullstacked, and it hasn't gone well at all. I actually got off to a good start with the shortstacking, but then the variance of PLO started rearing its ugly head and I've been in a bit of a nosedive. I don't think I'm terrible at the game but I have a very hard time dealing with the variance. I start to feel uncomfortable with the game and panic at the hit to my bankroll. Since I started playing Rush PLO, I've eaten through about 13% of my Full Tilt bankroll.

So, I'm cutting my losses and hopefully this time I'll learn my lesson. No more screwing around with non-NLHE cash games until both my psyche and bankroll are at a point where I can handle the variance. I'm going to return to 10NLHE, starting with Rush again, to get back in the swing of things and recoup my PLO losses.

At least things have been going decently over at Stars with the 45 turbos. I don't have any stats to post yet, but I know I've been slightly profitable since I started playing them again. Oh, and I do still have a single Step 1 ticket left so my WSOP dream isn't quite dead yet...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

OMG, Rush PLO!!!

My poker ADHD is acting up again. Just as I had started settling back into playing the $1.10, 45-turbos I discovered that Full Tilt has been offering 6-max Rush PLO, at .05-.10 stakes. PLO has always been one of my favourite games in terms of pure enjoyment but I never had the nads to put up with the variance for a long period of time.

If you've never played PLO, the reason why the variance is so high (probably higher than any other mainstream form of poker) is that starting with 4-cards greatly increases the average value of the postflop hands when compared to Holdem. Hands like sets, flushes, straights, and full houses are far more common when you get to start with four cards rather than just two. This also means that the frequency and size of flopped draws is greatly increased. In Holdem a typical draw is an OESD or FD, with a combo straight+flush draw fairly rare. In Omaha, however, an OESD is basically worthless because 13- and 17-out straight draws are far more common. The end result is that Omaha often involves confrontations between big made hands or combo made hands plus draws and big draws, which means you're often putting money into the pot with small edges over your opposition. People who understand the nature of the game also understand that you should pretty much always be betting pot (to charge drawing hands, and to get full value from hands when you have an equity edge), which, when combined with the fact that people love to see flops in Omaha, results in much larger average pots than in NLHE.

Although the variance is high in PLO, there is big money-making potential at the micro stakes because there is a huge gap between the players who understand the game and know what they're doing, and those who don't. The same is true in NLHE, obviously, but the impact of this gap is emphasized in PLO because of the aforementioned factors. The two major mistakes that micro fish make in PLO are: (1) playing way too many hands; and (2) overvaluing marginal hands postflop (sound familiar?). What this means is that if you understand (1) hand selection strategy; (2) how the hand values differ compared to NLHE; and (3) the value of big draws, you can make money off the people who don't understand these concepts. In micro PLO most of your money will come from players who chase baby flushes and stack off to your nut flush, or get their money in postflop with Holdem hands like a bare AA overpair or straight with no redraws, or slowplay bottom set, or whatever.

So, I'm still going to be playing my 45-turbos but I am going to play around with some Rush PLO for a bit. Might also be a good way to accumulate some FTPs for my next run at the WSOP steps...