Friday, May 19, 2006

The Friday Ramble

(Couple of shilly, bonusey things, then on to the ramble. Sorry for the prominence of assorted casino bonus talk and lists of late, as I'm compiling and updating assorted lists of such things currently, and the bulk of that will float off of here very soon and into the sidebar and other permanent resting spots.)

CasinoRoom just opened and is offering a special 100% up to $100 signup bonus, if you sign up via selected affiliates. This isn't listed on their site and is a special, one-time deal to promote the launch of the site. No code necessary to get it, just click through any of the links here, sign up, and the bonus will show up as pending in your account (it's towards the bottom on the account info screen on the PokerRoom.com side, listed as a Safepay bonus or something similar.) Clear 700 FPPs and the $100 is credited automatically to your account. If you already have a PokerRoom.com account, you can't get the bonus, as the two sites are linked together and you use the same sign-on info.

Here's the nice thing about the CasinoRoom bonus. It's the casino siser site of PokerRoom, so your log-in works for both sites. A nice side effect of this is that you can sign up at CasinoRoom, but clear the FPPs playing poker, if playing blackjack isn't your thing. (And, honestly, the WR is really high if you do play blackjack, as it will take many, many hands to accumulate 700 FPPs, something that you can do pretty quickly multi-tabling in the poker room). So yeah, you sign up through CasinoRoom, but it's effectively a 100% up to $100 signup bonus for PokerRoom.com, which is pretty juicy.

PokerRoom.com is also running a 30% up to $150 reload bonus right now, which runs through May 21. The bonus code is QUALIFIERS and it's a 10x bonus, with 60 days to clear it.

The other nice bonus that's popped up recently is at Betsson, which is now offering a 50% up to 50 monthly bonus, with a WR of 25x bonus. This one may not last too long, as I imagine they'll get hit hard. They've also got a poker room with some nice bonuses from time to time and are a PokerRoom skin and share the same player base.

Commence rambling.

As for poker, I managed to post some nice cash game sessions last night, but played like a lemur in a few MTTs at Full Tilt. I've been playing a bit more aggressively at the early stages of MTTs of late, with mixed results. I don't normally like mixing it up early and prefer to lie in wait, looking for the big hand to trap with, but that's also a recipe to get 45 mins/1 hour into nearly every MTT I enter, yet be faced with a situation where I'm a 60/40 favorite but playing for all my chips. And it's not the worst spot to be in obviously, and I've had decent success with it, but I need to be more comfortable with switching gears and mixing it up a bit.

I also need to pay more attention in regards to extracting river value bets from crazies that have firmly established that they'll call one final bet on the river with just about anything. It doesn't matter if no sane player in the known universe would call a river bet with a worse hand in that particular spot. That logic ceases to apply when they've demonstrated their insanity, over and over and over.

One last thing about the Whatever mindset from yesterday's post, and I'll put that to bed. I agree that it's pretty dangerous, as the logical extension is to assume that you stop paying attention and just mash buttons and don't question either your play or your opponents' play. And yeah, that's pretty dangerous, and needs to be avoided at all costs. No argument there.

What I was trying to get at, more than anything, is that I seem to have more success when I remove the constant internal monologue that goes on in our head, while we play. At a certain point, either you know how to play winning poker or you don't. Or, more to the point, you're either making +EV decisions at the table or you're making -EV decisions. I think this particularly applies to LHE, where you're faced with the same situations, over and over and over and over, when there are fewer meta-game considerations (whatever the hell that really means) and you're never playing for your entire stack.

It sounds squishy and Miss Cleo-esque, but when I review sessions right after I finish, when I still remember hands fresh in my head, my gut instinct is usually correct, as far as what my instant reaction is to a check-raise, and if he's full of it or if I need to fold. When I'm playing at my best, I'm focused squarely on what's in front of me and reacting nearly immediately, and not spending time dwelling, in my head, about what his raise might mean, what his range might be, etc.

The huge caveat attached to that, though, is that I don't think poker instincts just spring up naturally, and that you're either blessed or not blessed with them. Poker "instincts" are very much learned, through reading books, thinking about poker, talking about poker, and playing an absolute shit-ton of hands. You can probably boil 90% of winning poker down to simple pattern recognition and learned behavior. If responding in a certain way leads to more chips flowing into your monkey paws than flowing out, you learn how to respond that way over time, or you run out of money or interest and quit playing.

Sometimes your instincts are wrong, like my previous example of needing to make more river value bets in highly aggressive shorthanded games, against opponents who will make calls there with just K high. I need to bang my head against the concept, see it when I review hands later, drill it into my head, and work until my "instinct" there, against those opponents, is to automatically bet on the river.

All I'm really suggesting (and I'm pretty much solely talking about LHE here) is that there may be value in divorcing the analysis stage of hands from the time you spend at the actual tables, as wacky and counter-intuitive as that sounds. It's natural to want to approach each hand in a logical fashion while at the tables, to slowly take in what data points you have, to determine your own table image, to work through the possibilities in your head, and to then finally act.

And I can't say that the approach is "wrong", because it obviously isn't. I'm just realizing that for my own personal monkey self, it's sometimes dangerous, as it leads to all sorts of other interior monologues, such as "How the hell can you call with that?" or "What the fuck is the point of playing with people who cap with 84o, then cap every street, only to runner runner a straight to crack my aces, I might as well be playing blackjack..." or "That'll teach you to check-raise me with a flush draw, stupid lemur." Your personal mileage will obviously vary, but I usually find an inverse relationship in my own results, based on the amount of dialogue. The more I talk (either internally or yelling at the monitor) the poorer my results; the less I talk, the better.

A much simpler way of saying all this is that if your best choices are to raise or fold, just pick one. You've usually got at least a 50% chance of being right. Trust that you know how to play winning poker, that your hard work has enabled you to develop winning poker instincts. Don't second guess yourself. Take your best shot and immediately move on to the next hand, the next shot, whatever the results are. Whatever happens will happen.

When you're done, analyze the hell out of things. Find the bets you missed and the ways you need to improve. Ask all of those questions that you'd typically ask and ponder at the table. Find spots where you're making -EV decisions, on a regular basis. Find enough to convince yourself that you need to react differently, until that's your auto-pilot reaction. Tweak the hell out of the auto-pilot system until it works and you have faith in it. Then engage it and sit down and play some poker. Rinse and repeat.

And yeah, I know, any talk of "auto-pilot" and "whatever" and "instincts" is immediately going to cause some gnashing of teeth, as that's not what poker is "supposed" to be. We're supposed to be playing a game of skill that is a rich tapestry of of first, second, and third level thinking, that takes years and years and years to master all of its infinite subtleties, yet the attempt is doomed to failure, as poker is an unconquerable, majestic beast in the end that will always foil us, time after time.

Well, guess what? It ain't. Not LHE, at least. Learn to manipulate a set number of situations that frequently occur, stay within your bankroll, work hard to make sure that you're making +Ev decisions, and you can consistently beat it, like a drum. It really doesn't have to be as hard as we want to make it.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Tellin it like it is.