Saturday, December 31, 2005

Kudos to all the Grinders

A little bit surprised to find I'm having a hard time pushing myself past playing 5 hours a day, as far as trying to amp up my volume of play a bit. I've been taking breaks and playing in 1-2 hour stretches but I seem to hit a wall around 5 hours or so, where it's hard to force myself to keep grinding out hands. Which isn't the worse thing in the world, I guess, and still a decent volume of hands.

Knock on wood, but I've been on a tear the last week or so. I've tripled up my original buy-in at the site I'm propping at, plus should have a pretty nice payday coming from the prop payments. I've been playing 10/20 when there's a game, but a lot of the play is at 5/10, with a good chunk of heads-up and three-handed play thrown into the mix. The site's pretty low traffic, but the general skill level is pretty dang low, so it evens out a bit.

Trying not to get too far ahead of myself imagination-wise, as I'm barely a week into this, but so far things are pretty promising. Even if I play break-even poker the prop payments should be fairly hefty, and it's looking like it'd take some nasty variance for me to simply break even.

I actually managed to get a bit of work done on the project mentioned yesterday, as far as setting up the forum and configuring it. Still messing around with the organization and layout, but it shouldn't be too long before I have a beta version up and running.

Today has apparently been deemed the day of much running around and shopping and eraands and redmeption of gift cards. So it has been decreed, so it shall be.

Friday, December 30, 2005

So What Do YOU Want?

So all the recent driving time lead me to ponder many things in my monkey brain, which inevitably leads to plotting, which leads to me coming up with new projects to keep myself really, really busy with, constantly.

One of the things I was pondering got jogged a bit by a post from Quest of a Closet Poker Player and a comment from fairnbalancd.

I've been thinking about using one of my dormant domains for a site that's geared towards more collaborative, instructional stuff, but in a really nuts and bolts fashion. I shy away from silly Poker Boot Camp/The Crew/Hendon Mob connotations, but I think there'd definitely be some value in setting up a site for serious players to get better. No bullshit, no wearing of kids gloves, no stroking egos. Just very nuts and bolts content and tools designed to help you play better poker.

As far as the focus, it'd be a hybrid blog/forum site. There'd be a fair amount of posting of hand histories and reviewing of play, as well as posting and dissecting of PokerTracker stats. There'd also be the chance to get individualized coaching/mentoring/whatever cheesy word you want to use, as far as shadowing people as they play, reviewing play in general, and other such things.

In the beginning it'd be heavy on the limit HE side (largely since that's the only thing I can pretend to have any expertise in whatsoever), but there'd also be room to discuss anything you wanted, as far as MTTs, SnGs, NL HE, Omaha, Badugi, what the hell ever.

At the moment, I'm seeing as a semi-closed venture, as far as how open it is to the general public. I think it'd be doom to open it up to any yahoo, and quickly degenerate into 2+2 savagery, but at the same time I wouldn't try to be all that cool and exclusive. If you have a blog, cool, you're in. If you're in and know someone else who'd be interested, cool, they're in. That sort of thing.

There also might be the chance to offer rakeback and propping opportunities to members, later on down the road. There's also the potential to pool PokerTracker data and player notes and other such things, as far as fringe benefits for members, as well as member-only freerolls and bonus promotions and what-not.

It'd likely suck up a lot of time, especially in the beginning, but I'm cool with that, especially if I'm not working a day job. I'd likely strongly encouraging people to sign up via my affiliate links if they're trying a new site out, but that's not crucial. As for the individualized coaching stuff, I'm thinking about being a little more hard-assed in that regard, and requiring that people sign up via an affiliate link first, and that they play a minimum number of hands per month. It'd be a low number, like 100-200 raked hands, etc., just something to weed out obvious mooochers who want their play reviewed and want advice but don't contribute back to the site or otherwise make up for the amount of time expended on them.

Here's the part where I need input. First things first, would there be any interest in such a thing? (It's okay to say no, if that's what you think, as my heart isn't necessarily set on this idea.) If such a site was being built, what functions would you like to see, apart from a forum? Is private messaging important? Chatting?

Or, in a more general sense, what would you like to see in such a site, if it was being built from scratch? Are current sites like 2+2 and blogs and others missing the boat in some regards, or do you pretty much get what you want from the online universe, as far as improving your game?

Many thanks for any input.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Not Wearing Pants is Cool

Still at the in-laws, but we're finally rolling back into Austin later today. Travelling is fun and all but man, I'm pretty ready to get home, where I can activate the plan to stay home, play lots of poker, and not wear pants for the next five days, until I'm due back at the monkey factory.

Hopefully I'll be able to just completely check out at work, knowing the end is drawing near, and do nothing to attract attention to myself. Part of me would love to go out with a bang but it's lkely more +EV to just silently keep my head down, do the bare minimum of work to not draw any attention, and work on assorted other projects for the next few months.

Things are still rolling at the tables. Barring anything wacky, December's going to finish up as a pretty damn good month. Which is nice, as November wasn't kind at all, to the tune of a little over -$2,000 when it was all said and done. Sort of nice, in a backward way, to book a reasonably sizable loss for a month, shake it off, and get back to business.

I've also started propping the last few days, which has been interesting. It leads to a lot of heads-up and shorthanded play, which sort of segued nicely into the whole play a shit-ton of shorthanded poker experiment I'm currently undertaking. Can't really go into specific details on the propping publicly, but it's looking like I can fairly easily add another $10-$20/hr to my earn rate, without doing much more than playing 2-3 shorthanded tables at 5/10 and above.

'Tis kind of interesting, reading assorted mainstream articles here and there, announcing that the poker fad is waning, that retail merchandise is being deeply discounted and shoved to the back, ratings of televised poker are flat, growth of signups at online sites is slowing, all with the non-subtle implication that (insert Nelson voice) Ha ha, all you poker freaks are finally going to be relegated back to the dark, smoky regions from whence you came.

And there's some truth in that, all the way around. Anyone who thought that new people would keep piling into online sites and that televised poker would continue to add millions of viewers each year was (and is) crazy. Whether you use the "fad" word or not, poker grew at a completely unsustainable clip for a few years there, and is doomed to give back a lot of those gains.

That said, I think the implied assumption that things will now return to the way they were before the boom is just as crazy. If you haven't noticed, people like to gamble. Even when they can't physically make it to Vegas. And whether we like to admit it or not, people are addicted to gambling. And yes, indeed, poker is gambling.

Who knows where things level off at, but wherever you spread a game, you're going to attract the sharks, fish, and hopelessly addicted. And once you pass a certain critical mass of general awareness (which we shot past long ago), there's no turning back the clock and returning poker to a dusty little corner with a sparsely populated table and rocky, calloused asses. Whether you like it or not, poker is here to stay.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Return to Internetlandia

While I like many things about life in the country, it better be accompanied by a decent high-speed Internet connection, or else I go nuts.

We managed the trek to Tennessee and back with no major explosions. Which is good, as it not only was the first time ScurvyWife set foot in Tennessee, but it was also the first time she met my extended redneck family, in all their glory. To be fair, they're not that bad, especially these days, as the deer hunting crowd has chilled a bit, and people have gotten a wee bit more open minded in general.

It also was nice to back for Christmas as an "adult", as far as being married, and actually being able to afford to buy everyone decent Giftmas presents, and all that jazz. Sort of a dumb thing to be proud of, but hey, there you go.

I did broach the subject of possibly being self-employed soon, and both my mom and dad didn't seem too shocked or surprised. They've always pretty much let me do my own thing with a minimum of hassle, so I didn't expect them to freak out too much as the possibility of their son playing poker full-time. It was also interesting as my dad told me a few stories I didn't know about my grandfather on his side of the family, who I only met a handful of times before he died seven or eight years ago. He was an engineer in the Army during WWII, and basically ran around Europe blowing up and/or building bridges to move troops around. What I didn't know is that he also was apparently a good poker player, and won enough money (and sent it home) to start up a successful business drilling water wells after he returned to the States.

(Of course, he also went on to gamble away a nice, lucrative stable life of profitably grinding away digging water wells by venturing out and trying to find oil, getting divorced because he was never around, living in a trailer and moving from state to state for most of his adult life, never striking it rich.)

But it was cool to hear the poker part of the story, as I never knew that, and just assumed I was the oddball of the family, as I didn't grow up learning to play cards with my family at all, as none of them are into such things or gambling in general at all.

Had a lot of dead driving time to ponder the whole full-time poker thing, and I'm going to give it a whirl. For most of the reasons mentioned previously, but also for the sheer hell of it. I never saw myself as someone who'd stay at a dead-end, unfulfilling job for five years and counting, for no reason other than the size of the paycheck received every two weeks, and lo and behold, that's exactly what I've become. Pardon my French, but fuck that. Absolutely nothing wrong with grinding until something better comes along, as we all have to spend a good chunk of our lives grinding, but if you have other options, well, that's a different story.

It helps that I'm running pretty damn well at the 10/20 shorthanded games this month, which is pretty much all I've played. I sort of backed into the decision to focus on getting better at shorthanded play, but it's one of the better decisions I've backed into, as I'm enjoying playing a good bit more, and thinking more. Doesn't soften the inevitable blows to the junk and variance, but it's making poker more enjoyable and engaging.

One interesting thing is that I've been solely playing on sites that don't support PokerTracker or GameTime+ or PokerAce, so I've been flying completely blind as far as tools go. Which kind of sucks, and I'm obviously choose not to do it that way, if I could, but it's also been nice to get back to the basics of having to pay attention and develop good reads and take good notes. Limit HE doesn't exactly lend itself to creative play for the most part, but getting off auto-pilot has been good for me, as far as slowing down and thinking things through, and not always playing hands the way I might normally default to. There's also some larger value to playing without aids, as far as forcing you to pay closer attention to the action, especially if you ever want to dip your toe into bigger live cash games one day.

I'm going to try to amp up my volume of play over the next few months, so that I get closer to what I'd need to be putting in if I were doing it full-time. Lately I've only been getting in 10-15 hours a week, which won't cut it. With telecommuting two days a week (and not giving a flying fuck about my production at work, for obvious reasons, as well as for it being a new year as far as out goals and what-not), it shouldn't be too hard to get that up to 30 hours a week, without stressing myself out too much. I may try banging out lots of hands Thursday-Monday, as that hits both telecommuting days and the weekend sweetspot, as far as juicy tables.

Congrats to the Puncher of Donkeys for taking down the FFL championship. After dominating the regular season my whole team decided to collectively take a simultaneous nap in the playoffs, bumping me all the way down to 4th in the final standings. Way to finish, you bums.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Outta Here for a Bit

Many thanks to everyone for the feedback and encouraging words on yesterday's post. Can't say I'm 100% pot-committed to the idea but I'm tilting, err, leaning in that direction.

Going to be out of the loop for awhile, due to traveling and visiting family and what-not for Giftmas. Everybody be good, gamble good, and don't burn the house down.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Just One More Day, Just One More Day...

One last day to kill at the day job before fleeing for the holidays. I'm taking off a week and a half to burn unused vacation days that I'll otherwise lose, which combined with company holiday days means I won't have to step foot in this place for about 15 days or so after today. To which I can only reply: sweeeeeeeeeeeeet.

So I have to admit that I'm seriously considering giving the full-time poker gig a go, when I slip the surly bonds of the day job in a few months. I've tried to avoid that line of thinking in the past, for all sorts of reasons, but I'm reaching a certain point where I think it's equally foolish to rule it out. Especially as far as doing it as a three month trial run, after which I'll reassess everything and see where I'm at.

Reasons to Give Playing Poker Full-Time a Whirl for 3 Months When My Current Cube Monkery Existence Ends

1) I'm clocking in at 1.67 BB/100 at 15/30 and above, over 31,928 hands. I completely and utterly realize that's not the largest sample size in the world, and that I shouldn't draw any conclusions from it, for that reason. Completely understand that. That said, as much as it pains the modest side of me to say this, I know what I'm doing, and I just can't see that number dropping below .75 BB/100 (especially if you add in rakeback-propping), which is about what I currently make, on an hourly basis, playing 15/30 and above.

2) My eyes are pretty wide open. Grasp what a grind it'd be playing full-time? Check. Understand the realities of variance, taxes, etc.? Yep. Willing to simply grind online with no notions or desire of fame and taking shots at much larger games? Yep. Understand the horribly unfulfilling nature of clicking buttons all day? Yep. Have the ability to park my ass in front of the comupting box for ridiculous lengths of time? Yep.

3) I've saved enough money and have enough supplemental income streams from my freelancing/Web endeavors to simply not work for three months, at all. Aside from that, I'm adequately bankrolled to play 30/60, as far as what's currently in the online bankroll. There's absolutely no external pressure to make a single solitary dollar from the three months of full-time poker play, as far as paying bills and what-not.

4) Why the hell not? If there's any time in my life to do something like this, now is it. I can get health insurance via my wife's plan for pretty much the same price I'm currently paying. I don't sacrifice anything, as the only bright spot of my current job is the flexible scheduling and telecommuting two days a week. In the grand scheme of things, I really don't make that much money, nor do I have any career with this company or within this industry. If I were making $150,000/year or had an MBA or any other professional bankroll built up, then yeah, I'd have to ponder long and hard on turning my back on that. As is, there's really not much that I'm giving up.

5) I'd also have more time to devote to other personal business ventures, as I don't necessarily envision myself playing 8 full hours every day. The ability to generate some income from poker would make the potential transition to being self-employed that much easier and provide a bridge that would make the sudden cessation of a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks much less traumatic.

6) When I exit Cubelandia, my payout for our annual bonus + accrued vacation time will be close to three month's salary. So, in many ways, taking three months off to play poker is a freeroll, if you use a little imagination.

7) While not 100% gung ho, ScurvyWife has given the plan the official thumbs-up, if I choose to pursue it.

8) This sounds bad, but there's little danger in this resulting in poker becoming a grind for me, and not as much fun as it once was. That train left awhile ago, as far as the joy produced from simply playing poker. I like the competitive side of it, true, but there's not much simple pokery joy left to grind away.

Reasons Not to Give Playing Poker Full-Time a Whirl for 3 Months When My Current Cube Monkery Existence Ends

1) Stability. A guaranteed paycheck is very nice, especially when I supplement it with poker winnings and other income. It greatly accelerates the curve towards potential early retirement, especially since it's injecting principal more rapidly early on.

2) If even reasonably sucessful, the three month stint might ruin me as far as getting another similar day job, in the corporate world. This one I actually worry about, as a job like my current one is only barely tolerable because I've conditioned myself to accept it. Three months of not wearing pants and sleeping and waking up whenever I want would make it very, very hard to even grudgingly re-enter the workforce. This actually worries me more than anything, as the long-term goal is to one day get another job, at some point.

3) Stress. My life is really, really low stress right now. And pretty damn happy. Part of me wonders about the wisdom in rocking that boat, especially in relation to playing poker and exposing myself to potential stress-inducing events like dropping 150BB in a month, due to nothing more than plain ol' variance. I could get another day job, be much happier working for a sane, reasonable employer, and continue to motor on stress-free, as I've been doing.

I'm sure I'm missing a few, but that's basically the pros and cons rolling around in my head. Any thoughts or comments would be highly appreciated, as I'm sure I'm overlooking more than a few things. Any decision is still a few months off, so I'm still very much in the roll-things-around-in-my-head-stage.

Edit: helixx does raise the very good point about the potential con of a gap in my resume, if/when I do re-enter the workforce. I hadn't considered that, honestly, but it's sort of a weird simultaneous pro/con. I touched on this briefly in another post, but one potential plan that my wife and I have been discussing is living in Curacao/Belize/Costa Rica for a year or two, and the possibility (probably a small one, but there) that I could land a gig with an online operator based there, doing affiliate manager/SEO/content creation/player retention work. So while resume gaps could be a real concern, it also could potentially be a resume booster (or at least something that wouldn't hurt me to list), as far as taking time off to play poker full-time, given the nature of potential jobs I might be pursuing.

I also have the MFA gathering dust, and one potential way of filling a resume gap is through the trusty saved-up-money-and-took-time-off-to-write-the-great-American-novel river bluff that many people seem to respect, whether or not it's actually, you know, true.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I Hate You, Stupid Anonymous Man-Girl with a Puppy Dog Icon

Climbed out of the shorthanded hole in a big way yesterday, nearly tripling up on both the tables I popped open for one last session before bed. 'Tis a nice thing, indeed, to flop quads against an auto-capping maniac, especially when a third player gets caught in between.

One sort of interesting thing I've noticed with the shorthanded play is that I'm much more prone to fixate on one player, often to my detriment. It's no less annoying in a full ring game when the same lemur with a VPIP of 78% keeps taking your money, and you notice it just as much, but the opportunity to engage the lemur enemy and get your money back simply doesn't arise that often, given that you're playing a relatively small number of hands. So even if you start steaming in their particular direction you usually have time to settle down and get your head rearranged correctly.

Not so much with shorthanded play, though. Not only do you often not have time to cool off and settle down, but the odds are greater that you'll be involved with that same freaking luckbox that just hit three consecutive gutshots against you to take down huge pots. Since you should correctly be playing more marginal hands, and playing them faster, you're inevitably going to tangle with that doofus much more frequently.

So yeah. I've found myself occasionally tilting in a fairly specific way, making sub-optimal plays in an attempt to "punish" a particular player at the table. While this isn't the worst thing in the world, as far as one side effect being to isolate a weak player and get it heads up, it can create a negative feedback loop. You're simultaneously playing more marginal hands, playing them fast, and often not giving your opponent credit for when they really have a hand. Plus it's hard to play your A game, or even your B game, when you play pissed off.

The more poker I play, the fewer arguments I can find for slowplaying to ever be correct. Let's say you have AA and raise UTG, and only MP and the button call. The flop comes AA5, rainbow. I would wager a decent sum of money that against typical opponents you'll make more money, in the long run, by simply betting out, and continuing to bet out on each street. Either someone tries to make a move on you or look you up or they don't. The aggregate money you make on the relatively rare occasions they do is very likely > the aggregate money you make by occasionally inducing a river bet by checking it down.

I got Stewart Reuben's How Good is Your PLO? as an early Christmas gift, and the verdict so far is: not good at all. I sort of like the quiz format and self-deprecating writing style, although it's annoying that the pagination breaks it up in awkward ways at times. My biggest downfall with PLO is correctly manipulating pot size on the flop/turn, and I manage to mangle almost all the decisions in the book as far as jamming early in hands. I suck.

I managed to discover a pretty embarassing sum of money in a sportsbook account last night, that I somehow managed to mark the account as zeroed out in my spreadsheet, when, in fact, it was pretty far from zeroed out. This prompted me to go through all 172,192 of my online poker and casino accounts, leading to me rustle up an extra $200 or so in funds that I had no clue were lying about in the world. So if you're a degenerate like me, it might be worth your while to run a quick check of all your accounts.

On a related note, I'm also in the process of putting together a spreadsheet with all of my account info and logins, as far as Neteller and online sites. The plan is to compile it, print a hard copy, and then delete the original file, as it's obviously not the best idea to have all that info lying around together in a virtual world. The whole morbid point is to give the hard copy to my wife to secure somewhere safe, so that if an anvil dropped on my head tomorrow, she'd be able to identify and get to all the funds I have squirreled away in assorted places online. Call me crazy, but I can only imagine how difficult it'd be dealing with Party customer support, trying to convince them to transfer funds in her poor, deceased anvil-struck husband's account to her checking account, despite the fact that she doesn't even know my screenname, etc.

And just to cover the paranoid bases, I've been in the process of deleting all account-related stuff from my Web-based email accounts, just so that on the off chance that someone who gained access to my email account wouldn't be able to do any further damage, as far as logging on to financial or online gambling sites. Email accounts can get hacked and it's obviously not the best idea in the world to leave bread crumb trails to accounts where you have money, even if it'd be relatively hard for the average hacker to recognize and follow through on the opportunity to empty out your online poker accounts.

If you do use Web-based email for such things, at least be sure not to use the same password for your personal email when you sign up at gambling sites online. Maybe it's the evil schemer in me but if I wanted to cause some people some serious financial pain in highly illegal ways I'd bribe some schlep working customer service at online gambling sites to pass along all the customer email addresses and passwords that they used when signing up, as I'd bet that a fairly large number of them use the same password for their personal email account, and use their personal email account as a repository for all sorts of other passwords and logins, and so on and so forth.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Great Shorthanded Experiment of December 2005

I continue to crank out a ridiculous number of hands of late (well, for me), trying to get the shorthanded monkey off my back. I'm still in the hole for the month, but it's a pretty shallow hole, and partly due to not running so well in general.

Yeah, I know, show me a poker player that's running well and in a hole. Shaddup.

I know it should be filed under "Good Things" that people will cold call three bets with 46d, then hang in there until the river, at which point they hit their gut shot, but it's hard to find much joy in filing when those hands hit, time after time after time. I suppose the lesson is that shorthanded play magnifies everything, both good and bad, due to an increased number of hands seen per hour.

About half done with Christmas shopping for the year, which is actually pretty damn good for me. I've been mocked at various times in my life for doing 99% of my shopping the day before Christmas, but hey, it works. And I'm a big fan of things that work. But ScurvyWife actually got her birthday/Christmas present back in June when she get her laptop, plus I'm making/have made coppery presents for other assorted people, so it's been a pretty easy Giftmas season, as far as shopping.

I'm going to start stabbing people in the eye if I have to hear any more talk about the "war" on Christmas, as far as the horrible, evil attempts by the heathens to secularize Christmas. Sorry, but fuck off. You don't get to bitch and moan about trivial shit like that when there are real, actual wars going on. Somehow I think Jebus isn't the type to cast you out into hell just because someone, somewhere said "Happy holidays" and you stood idly by.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bring on 2006, Baby

I basically finished up any and all work I have remaining for 2005 yesterday, so we're looking at four straight work days at the monkey factory with absolutely nothing to do, whatsoever, other than to occasionally bang on these keys in a pitiful attempt to simulate actual work.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

The lemurs bested me last night, but man, there are some soft games at Doyles/Tribeca. It can get low traffic at times, though, especially at higher limits, so it's pretty hit or miss, as far as the quality of games, without a ton of alternatives if you can't find a good table.

I've been experimenting with a much more aggressive style the last few days, which has had mixed results. If you wade through all of the number-crunchin' exercises, the numbers are usually a bit surprising, as far as exactly how often a blind steal needs to be successful for it to be profitable, or how often a turn/river bluff needs to be successful, etc. It basically all boils down to the fact that it's good to be the one firing, especially if it's heads up, as most opponents will fold a high enough percentage of the time for it to be profitable, regardless of the actual cards that you both hold.

But we all know that aggressive poker is good, so that's not news, nor particularly helpful. So the real sticking point is correctly picking the times to apply pressure, when to give an opponent who plays back credit for a hand, and myriad other fine details that make poker the wonderful, complicated beast that it is.

Or, you know, you can just ignore all of that and just fire away, at juicy shorthanded tables, with loose passive opponents that like to cold-call too much and call to see the river.

Which isn't a natural style for me, at all, but it's definitely been eye-opening, and a good learning experience, as far as exposing leaks. Far too often in the past I'd fire, miss the flop, fire, miss the turn, fire, then close up shop on the river blank, either check-calling/folding or just checking behind. I tend to selectively remember all the times I couldn't push a calling station off third (or fourth) pair, and let that affect my river play too much, becoming way too passive, especially if I don't have at least A high.

Which is pretty horrible play, given the size of the pot at that point, and just how few pots I need to steal with one more bet, when an opponent folds a winning Q high hand. Especially when playing with loose passive opponents, who'll call down to the river because, hey, who knows, maybe they'll pair that J4s.

You're playing $10/20 6 max, and everyone folds to you on the button. You raise with J4o. SB folds, BB calls.

Flop is Q, 2, 7 rainbow.

BB checks, you bet, BB calls.

Turn is 10.

BB checks, you bet, BB calls.

River is 5.

BB checks. There's $105 in the pot. What do you do?

Or, more accurately, how often does the BB need to fold for a bet to be profitable? Guess what percentage that'd be, then we'll look at some maths.

A few quick ground rules, as far as number crunching. Since it was a rainbow flop with no obvious potential straights, we're going to ignore the possibility that the BB was on a straight/flush draw, and that our chance of winning with J high is 0%, so we lose every time the BB calls and we only win if the BB folds to a final river bet. If the BB check-raises, we fold 100% of the time.

If we bet on the river, it's a $125 pot, in which we've invested $70. Every time the BB folds to a river bet, we net $55 in profit. Every time the BB calls or raises, we lose $70.

If the BB folds 80% of the time, net profit is $30/hand.
If the BB folds 70% of the time, net profit is $17.5/hand
If the BB folds 60% of the time, net profit is $5/hand
If the BB folds 50% of the time, net profit is -$7.5/hand

Which is interesting, really, and not quite as bad as it seems at first glance, if you pull back a bit. One thing to keep in mind is that is pretty much the worst case scenario for your steal attempt from the button, since you didn't take it down uncontested pre-flop, on the flop, or the turn. Even then, all you need is for the BB to fold 60% of the time for an additional river bet with just J high to be correct.

One final thing to ponder is that at the point the BB checks to us on the river, we've already invested $50 in the hand. We can only win by betting. If we check or fold, our net profit is -$50/hand. If we bet an additional $20 on the river, we only lose more than $50/hand if the BB calls ~85% of the time. So we only dig a deeper hole for ourselves by investing the extra $20 on a river bet if the BB calls ~85% or more of the time when faced with a final river bet.

And it's also worth pointing out that the board actually isn't the best for you, either, as far as inducing a better hand to fold. If the river card puts up four hearts on the board and all you have is middle pair, no hearts, can you make that call on the river, faced with a bet? Can you make the call with A high, no hearts? Can you make the call the 50-55% of the time that you need to do to correctly punish the button in that situation?

Stepping back from the raw numbers, put yourself in the BB shoes. Even if you know the button is aggressive with steal attempts and call with a hand like K8o, how often are you really able to call that last river bet? Can you really consistently call it 50-55% of the time, which is the frequency you need to call it with to punish the button for his aggressive play? Can you even call it to the river, faced with a turn bet?

Which is my typically long-winded way of pointing out a very simple fact: I've been abandoning an aggressive stance too often on the river, when faced with an opponent that simply calls me down to that point. Remember, if it's heads-up, most flops (and boards, to some extent) don't hit either player hard. While you may think that the necessary 60% success rate of a river bet causing a fold is too high, the simple truth is that the majority of players won't call you down often enough on the river to punish you. And it's a truth you don't realize (or at least I didn't) until I willfully forced myself out of my comfort zone and started flinging chips.

That said, there are obviously situations where you need to deviate from that. If an opponent has proven that they'll never, ever fold to a river bet, only a very dumb monkey would continue to fire at them. You're not operating in a vacuum.

While it seems a little counterintuitive at first, I would wager that most successful ultra aggressive players actually, on average, pay much closer attention to action at the table, and are much better readers of players than their more traditional tight, selectively aggressive counterparts. Yeah, on the surface it merely looks like they're on autopilot, bombing pots at every opportunity and simply running over opponents, if you dig a little deeper you'll start to recognize that it's only against certain opponents that they behave that way.

So yeah, interesting stuff, despite spewing a few too many chips the last few days. It's nice to engage the brain again, and I'm liking the fact that I'm forcing myself to pay more attention to the actual tables, and think things through and really question some of my ingrained behaviors, instead of just grinding out hands on auto-pilot like I've been doing of late.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Highway to the Comfort Zone

Many thanks for the comments about Gonzo in the previous post. I think there's a lot of value in nearly every suggestion, and likely not one cut and dried answer. After pondering it a bit, I think I'd need one more person aggressively attempting to exploit his play to make it +EV for me to stay at the table, especially given my position relative to Gonzo. That said, it's also a matter of my personal comfort zone, as far as knowing myself and my ability (or lack thereof) to cap the flop and turn with Q high, knowing he's playing a random hand. If you're more fearless than I am, then it might be very +EV to simply isolate him and go to war, every single time, armed with the knowledge that he's playing a truly random hand.

Not too much else of note going on in my wee little world. Play a little poker, working a lot. Enjoying the trip reports from all you gotdamn Vegas attendees.

I'm going to have nearly two weeks off for Christmas this year, which'll be nice. Part of me is enjoying the fantasyland notion of just not, you know, bothering to come back to the day job at all. No exit interviews, no two weeks, no conversations with bosses. Just not, you know, ever showing up again. Not the most mature way of dealing with things and 99% not likely to happen but still nice to daydream about.

ScurvyWife and I watched Man on Fire the other night, which I thought was surprisingly good and entertaining. What's baffling me, though, is that the same director of that movie (Tony Scott) also directed Top Gun, Days of Thunder, and Beverly Hills Cop 2. I mean, I love me some Top Gun (and I own the soundtrack), but I never would have guessed that in a million years, assuming that some hot new hip director was behind Man on Fire.

Blah. So very boring. Nothing to see here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Shorthanded Play: How Would You Counter This Opponent?

You're playing at a $10/$20 6 max limit HE table. You're a good, aggressive player who plays shorthanded very well. You understand the principles and apply constant pressure to the blinds, defend your own blinds well, utlize aggression effectively, yada yada yada.

Four of your opponents are basically nondescript and are largely loose passive. They don't attempt to steal enough and don't defend enough. They aren't terrible but they prefer to limp and see a flop and don't drive the action. They won't often cold-call, though, as they like to limp in cheap.

Your fifth opponent, though, is a different beast. We'll call him Gonzo.

Gonzo sits down and tells the table the following five things:

1) I will raise pre-flop with any two cards if I'm the first in the pot, no matter what position I'm in. Every single time, no matter the cards I hold.
2) If anyone limps in front of me, I will raise with any two cards, except for when I'm in the BB.
3) If I'm first in with a raise, and facing a re-raise from a single opponent and closing the action, I will always simply call, and never re-raise, no matter what cards I hold.
4) If I'm faced with calling two bets pre-flop, 25% of the time I will re-raise, and 75% of the time I will fold.
5) If I'm in the BB and no one raises, I will always check. If I'm in the BB and it's one bet to call, I will always call.

He then follows through on the above, doing exactly that pre-flop. You know, without a doubt, that he will act in the above prescribed fashion, every single hand.

Post-flop, Gonzo is a very good player. He does nothing out of line post-flop and plays a good aggressive shorthanded game.

Gonzo is in the 1 seat, you're in the 4 seat.

The question, then, is how do you adjust your play to take Gonzo into account (and keeping in mind the fact that the rest of the table is generally loose-passive)?

I played with Gonzo for a few hours the other night, and have to admit that I was pretty flummoxed, so I truly am looking for feedback/advice. When I realized he was actually a pretty good post-flop player I was tempted to just get up and find another table, which actually might be the best answer.

My mental thought processes as the session progressed were something along the following lines:

1) That predictable, possibly tilting lemur is raising every single hand when he's first in the pot. And people seem to be getting out of his way too much, as the table's pretty passive. I need to isolate him with any halfway decent hands I have, as the blinds will eat me up otherwise. He's likely just an idiot that doesn't play well post-flop. The table's too passive to wait for monster hands, too, as the eventual pot might not be big enough to offset blind attrition.

2) Hmm. This is actually interesting, as I'm pushing too hard with marginal hands pre-flop, and he seems to play pretty well post-flop. The problem isn't so much Gonzo but when I raise with a marginal hand to isolate and one of the other players wakes up, either cold-calling or re-raising. Since I have to assume that the other players are somewhat aware of what's going on at the table, the next logical step is to assume they have a pretty big hand, so I end up feeling lost post-flop, unable to fire more bullets when the flop doesn't help me, especially when I'm first to act.

I also have to fight the tendency to let his pre-flop play influence my thinking, too, as I keep leaning towards assuming he's full of shit and doesn't have a hand, and am paying him off too much when he does have something. The fact that he simply calls any re-raise pre-flop is interesting, as it disguises his truly big hands, yet his play in general is getting lots of money in the pot.

3) Now I'm overcorrecting too much in the opposite direction, as far as waiting for big cards. I wish we didn't have two players in between us, as this would be easier if he were on one side or the other, preferably the right.

4) Another side effect of his pre-flop strategy is that he gets to see lots of hands free from the BB. While his rules of engagement don't include always raising from the BB, the table often defers to his general aggression and lets him in for free from the BB, when the button or SB would otherwise take a shot at his BB.

5) The always raising a limper no matter what is a bit of a double edged sword. While it discourages limping in front of him (increasing his odds of taking down the blinds uncontested with a raise) it does set him up for the limp-reraise when you have a big hand. Which is easy enough when you have AA, but the difficulty is in defining "big". Is Q9o big enough to limp-reraise with? Odds say yes, as he's truly playing a random hand, but that's taking me outside my comfort zone, as far as my ability to limp-reraise with that and play it aggressively post-flop, regardless of what comes on the flop.

6) This is more difficult than I would have thought, as far as exploiting such a transparent strategy that involves raising pre-flop with any two cards. The fact that the table is passive is the real crux of the problem, I think, as his strategy prevents normal blind stealing and only encourages real action from the other players when they have a big hand. He also seems aware that I'm aware of what he's doing, and applies pressure to me post-flop accordingly, under the correct assumption that I'm isolating him with less than stellar cards.

7) His results definitely yip and yaw all over the place, but he's picking up a lot of uncontested pots and gets paid when he has a big hand. I would think that he'd bleed too many chips from raising pre-flop with any two cards (and he very well might in the long run), but it does build decent pots that are largely heads-up, when the strength of his hand is always completely disguised. He's also good enough post-flop to dump or pump the hands he should.

So yeah. Long-winded way of soliciting thoughts on playing against Gonzo in the above conditions. Suggestions?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Welcome Back, Hungover Degenerate Bloggers

I would attempt to somehow craft an argument that I'm somehow better off for not having been in Vegas this weekend, as far as being well-rested and free from hangovers, but, umm, even I can't muster any pseudo enthusiasm for such a ridiculous claim. Congrats to Glyph for taking down the WPBT tournament. Nice job.

I managed to post a pretty damn good poker weekend and actually got a goodly amount of time in at the tables. In true flip-floppy fashion, most of my play was at the 10/20 and 20/60 6 max tables at Doyle'sRoom.

Yes, indeed, I have confessed on many occasions that I'm not the best shorthanded player in the world, but I started thinking about it, and reading about it, and I can't help but come to the conclusion that it's stupid to dodge it, just because I suck at it. It's pretty hard to avoid the fact that successful shorthanded play is more +EV than successful ring play, due simply to the fact that you see more hands, and have more opportunities to "succeed". If you're better than everyone else at the table, you want to play as many hands as possible, and be faced with as many difficult decisons as possible, as that's when your skill shines and is implemented.

If you see more hands, though, you'll inevitably be faced with more decisions, some of them quite difficult. So it follows that while shorthanded play will almost always be more profitable, it also requires a higher degree of skill, as you're routinely faced with hard choices and can't simply play on autopilot. The bar is actually higher shorthanded, as far as what you need up your sleeve to put it all together and play profitably.

It's that last one, ironically, that I think has been my biggest downfall in the past, as I'm really bad about multi-tasking while playing, doing any number of things in addition to playing poker. And honestly, I don't think that really matters, when you're playing 1-4 ring tables. Yes, paying close attention to players and reads is never a bad thing, and the multi-tasking obsessed likely sacrifice a little EV over the long haul, but the bulk your potential EV from ring games is pretty much exploiting the same situations, over and over and over. And by and large you can do that on auto-pilot after a certain point.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does sort of lead to the dread twins of boredom and stasis rearing their heads more frequently.

Shorthanded games, though, are pretty different beasts. Or should be, if you're playing correctly. With so many pots becoming heads up battles, reads become a lot more important, as you really do need to note if someone is a serial bluffer on the river, to the point that calling one final bet on the river with Q high is correct enough to be profitable.

It also follows that if you want to become a better poker player, you need to put yourself in a situation where you're faced with difficult decisions. If you play shorthanded, you face difficult decisions much more often. So the theory goes that you'll improve more as a poker player playing short than you will in ring games.

So that's all the good stuff. Like anything, there's also the not-good stuff, also known as bad shit.

Variance is pretty high, especially since you need to really amp up the aggression when playing short-handed. Put on your seatbelt, as it's a wild ride. You can't let the swings push you off what you know is correct play, no matter how far down (or up) you are.

You really need to have mastered the fine art of tilt control, as the perceived suckouts are more painful and occur with more frequency. One reason shorthanded play is so potentially profitable is that it attracts action junkies who aren't there to fold. A lot of your long term EV comes from exploiting that tendency and punishing people who play too many hands and play them too far. That said, players who play too many hands and play them too far are going to hit a decent amount of the time, in really frustrating ways. You're also getting more hands in per hour playing short, so the natural distribution of bad, annoying beats is also going to increase.

You also have to unlearn some lessons. Bluff check-raises suddenly become viable, as do bluff river raises on scary boards. Third pairs can become value river bets and slowplaying loses a lot of value, as people don't believe you anyway when you play fast, regardless of the board.

The biggest thing I currently struggle with (aside from avoiding the multi-tasking siren) is playing as aggressively as I know I should be. If the SB and BB are folding too often when you're on the button, you should open raise with any two cards and fire multiple later bullets, until they do something to make you stop. While I can absorb this intellectually, far too often I bail out in practice, unable to fire that turn bet, which is pretty key to the whole aggressively strategy, as far as causing the number of folds and uncontested pots you need to make such an aggressive strategy profitable.

I'm also not yet quite comfortable with my play against the obvious maniacs, as I far too often either degenerate into a mindless raising war with them or tighten up far too much, waiting for a monster to punish them with. Somewhere in there lies a middle ground I haven't yet found.

But yeah, 'tis interesting, and I'm enjoying exercising my poker brain again. There's not a whole lot of material out there specifically on shorthanded play, but you can find some decent stuff if you poker around. Mourn also just put up an nice intro guide, and PokerSweetHome also recently posted about shorthanded play, along with a collection of great links to other material on the Web.

Betfred Poker Bonuses

If you're a fan of iPoker network sites like Noble, Titan, Bet365, you might check out the current signup bonus at Betfred.

The Betfred signup bonus is a 100% match, up to $250. It's a 10x raked hand bonus, so if you deposit $100 and get a $100 bonus, you have to be involved in 1000 raked hands before you receive the bonus. If you deposit $250, then it's 2,500 raked hands.

Note that it isn't contributed hands, though, simply raked hands, which speeds up clearance a bit. That said, it'll still take awhile to clear, but you have the advantage of playing on an iPoker site, which has some truly bad players in general on there.

Here's the text from the site, as far as details:

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ahh, the Sounds of Heads Popping

Want a sure-fire way to cause heads to explode in Austin, Texas? Mention "freezing" and "rain" in the same sentence.

I mean, come on, people. It's not like I'm from the frozen tundra of Drizzlandia, either, but light freezing rain (when the temperature was +60F yesterday) isn't the absolute worst weather calamity in the world. Your car isn't going to leap from the road and explode into flames. Call me crazy, but usually the current temperature has to be below freezing for, you know, freezing precipitation to be a problem.

And thusly ends my weather rant.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

An Exercise in Nut Peddling

Once again, I find myself in the throes of massive busyness, with poor poker getting shoved on the backburner. Well, that's not exactly true, as I have been playing a goodly amount the last week or so, just not my normal limit HE gig.

I've mainly been playing a single table of .50/1 PL Omaha ($100 max buy-in) at Doyle'sRoom/Tribeca. Just one lowly little table. That's it. On my second monitor. And almost always while I'm 99% occupied with other work, so I'm barely paying attention.

No moves, no reads, nothing tricky, just pure and utter nut peddling, on one table. Not very exciting poker, by any stretch of the imagination. So much folding that even the wee baby Jebus would crack under the pressure and finally get impatient and make a move with less than the nuts. If I don't have nuts or odds for a strong draw to the nuts, I fold. If there's a raising war pre-flop, I fold, even with AA xx. If I don't have position on the crazy that loves to build huge pots for the sake of building pots, I fold. If I have the nuts, I bet.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not pretending, by any stretch of the imagination, that it's optimal play. But it's been an interesting exercise, as far as the combination of bad/crazy play at that level, plus the fact that people seem to choose to ignore the fact that I've folded 162,192 hands in a row, and still give me action when I've got the mortal nuts. I'm up nearly $1K in the last week, all from just that lone, single table, that I barely pay any attention to whatsoever.

Much of that is due to favorable table conditions, and one session in particular with a couple of well-funded drunk lemurs, but it's not the worst exercise in the world to subject oneself to.

One of the harder things for me to balance with limit HE is balancing patience with aggression, as my natural tendency is to lean towards the patient side, so I end up occasionally overcorrecting, knowing my tendencies, and sometimes force myself to play hands too quickly. I also constantly remind myself of the old mantra that to get action you have to give action, as far as justifying aggression that turns out to be unwarranted.

It's good to remember at times, though, that most people are there to gamble, and they want to find reasons to bet. In the right conditions you can sit down, afix a large, hand-lettered sign to your forehead that says "I Love to Peddle Nuts", do exactly that in very obvious fashion, and still get action.

Or, much more simply and with much less babbling, patience is a very valuable asset in poker. Couple it with good reads and selective aggression and hey, that dog will hunt.

In other news, all you other Vegas-attending bloggers still suck. Mightily.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lying Calendars

I refuse to believe that it's December. Stop your lying. It was the beginning of November, like, two or three days ago.

Managed to seal the deal on my first substantial losing month in awhile yesterday. I'm fairly meh about it, as I was overdue, but it's frustrating in that I was flush for nearly the whole month, then hit a pretty wicked downturn the last 3-4 days. Can't blame anyone but myself (well, obviously), as I know better than to play 6 max with the crazies on networks like Prima and Tribeca, yet for some reason I continued to do exactly that, play 6 max with the crazies.

In the long run, those tables have to be crazy profitable, but I'm really not in the mindset to be playing that high variance game right now, as I don't have a ton of time for poker these days, so it reduces things to a bit of a crapshoot. Multiply that by playing 20/40 and, well, it can get ugly pretty quickly.

I don't have the exact numbers, but I think I ended up stuck a little over $2K for the month as a whole. Not good, obviously, but not the worst thing in the world, especially when I knew I was playing with fire and out of element. 'Tis frustrating in that I was up about $3K for the month right before Thanksgiving, but them's the breaks.

I do need to work on getting some focus back, though, as far as what I want and expect from poker play. Part of the reason I was playing with fire at the 20/40 shorthanded games was pure, unvarnished greed, as far as playing what I knew wasn't my best game simply because of the potential rewards. The problem, though, is that as long as I'm playing poker part-time (and investing profits pretty aggressively), I'm much better off playing the low-risk, grind-it-out game.

That mindset has served me very well up to this point, but for some reason of late I've gotten offtrack, trying to hurry things and to force the potential poker rewards into something they can't be, given the limited time I have to play. While I know that slow and steady is the way to go, I've let myself be distracted by the bling lately.

Compounded interest is a beautiful thing, especially if you're in it for the long haul. Let's say you start up an online savings account with ING or EmigrantDirect. You deposit $100 to open the account, and every month you deposit an additional $100 in poker profits. We'll just assume that for the lifetime of the account you get paid an average 4% APY.

So every month you just put $100 in the account and merrily go on your way, using the remainder of your winnings to increase your bankroll for bigger games, cash out some of it buy toys or pay for vacations, whatever. Do that for ten years and you'll have $15,131.65.

If you fund the account with $500 and dump an additional $500 into the account every month, after ten years you'll have $75,658.23. Just from wringing out $500 in profits from poker, each and every month.

Which, to my hoarding monkey mind, is a pretty damn compelling argument for grinding out profits each and every month at the poker table. You can play absolutely break even poker and still clear over $500/month in bonus money alone, if you have a reasonable amount of time to put in at the tables.

So yeah. Need to stay focused on the long run, grinding my way to a much bigger payoff at a later date. Slow and steady wins the race.