Don’t Forget, We’re in the Minors Here…

I had a couple of revelations yesterday.

I spent a lot of time reading the forums over at 2+2 and DC. I came across this classic Ed Miller post which made me realize I am not paying enough attention to how large the pot is before making decisions. You should definitely read the entire post, but the gist is to be more aggressive when the pot is large, and less aggressive when it is not worth fighting over. Elementary, yet something I wasn’t implementing at the tables.

I also watched the first episode of “Real Life: Microlimit Grinder” at DeucesCracked. The episode wasn’t earth shattering – it is just laying the groundwork of a coaching relationship (learning the player’s history, looking at a few sample hands, making some assumptions based on stats) – but the comments opened my eyes to another concept: putting less importance on the cards you are holding and more importance to the results of your actions.

The example used was a hand like 98s and whether to over-limp or raise. To quote Entity, the video’s trainer/author: “The box you want to get outside is thinking about what you’re holding, and thinking about regardless of what you’re holding, what the likely outcomes of your action will be. Then figure out how your holding plays into those actions and what you should do with it according to that plan.” Again, simple, obvious, yet brilliant and overlooked. I have high hopes for the rest of this video series, and can’t wait to watch episode two tonight!

Finally, the biggest revelation for me yesterday came from a 2+2 newb’s guide to microlimits. The author mentioned that at these levels, you need to just play fundamental poker and look for “fat value” as opposed to “thin value” (deceptive play, bluffing, representing hands, etc…).

BING BING BING!!!!

This resonated with me immensely! I’ve been studying Theory of Poker, Harrington’s books, all kinds of forum posts with these advanced strategies and techniques that are ABSOLUTELY WASTED at the tables I am sitting at! The vast majority of people playing micro limits don’t care about what hand I am holding – only the two cards in front of them. They call down to the river with crap. They chase draws like their lives depended on it. And here I am, trying to push them off hands and bluff?

STUPID.

After I realized this, I sat down at a $0.10/$0.20 LHE table @ FT and played basic, fundamental poker using the three revelations above. I looked at my opponents and what their stats were like when deciding what I should do. I played mostly decent starting hands, chasing draws when the pot was large and the odds were in my favor. It came naturally – sure, I lost a few pots when I called and didn’t complete my flush or straight, but it was outweighed by the number of times I won.

I banked around $3 in 60 hands or so last night – not an epic win by any means, but a positive addition to my bankroll and my confidence. My new pledge is (at least until I move up in levels) to keep it simple and play ABC poker. It should be enough to beat these micros.

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I Am a Loser

OK. Time to fess up and get this out of my system.

My name is Stacks, and I am a losing poker player.

I don’t *want* to be a loser, but I am. The sooner I can admit that and embrace it, the sooner I can become a winning poker player.

I just have too many leaks. They include, but are not limited to: tilt, playing while drunk, playing while distracted, raising stakes to recoup losses, over-valuing top pair, over-valuing two pair, not being able to read opponents, ignoring obvious signs that I’m beat, and playing games I’m not properly rolled for.

Hah! How about that? I have so many problems with my game, it’s amazing I’m not broke! Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve deposited a total of $409 into Stars and FT. I am currently sitting on about $290. So, I am stuck ~$119. Not bad in the grand scheme of things (refer to leak list, above) but not a path to buying a yacht either.

What really pissed me off was yesterday. I was down about $5 for the weekend and was determined to end in the black. After several horrible $2 and $5 SNG showings (didn’t cash in ANY!), I started jacking up the stakes. Lost some money playing 50LHE and then bought into an $11 6-max SNG, went out 5th, and was back to “breakeven” – which means back to being stuck $119 overall, the “breakeven” point being measured from my recent megatilt – I had built up a $40 profit from that point, and gave it all away this weekend.

So how do I fix this? Well, I’ve been reading the hell out of 2+2’s forums and signed up today for video lessons from deucescracked.com. I’m hoping these videos will help me implement some of the lessons I’ve learned from reading books and forum posts – the combination of reading and seeing it explained might be the thing that makes it all click.

I think, looking at things as objectively as I can, that I need to think things through more. I intellectually understand things like pot odds, putting opponents on ranges, value betting, flop texture, etc…, but when it comes time to play, I am making weird decisions without taking all the information into account. If I can slow myself down and LOOK and THINK, I have a feeling I will be on the right road.

I’m going to start with the beginner’s LHE video series on DC called “Real Life: Microlimit Grinder” where a coach takes a losing microstakes LHE player and works through his game, step by step. I think this is going to help me a lot.

More after I watch a few vids.

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Drunken Megatilt; My First Live Game

It was an eventful poker weekend at Casa de Stacks.

First, let me say that I love beer (I’m talking about craft beer here, not the piss in a bottle most people drink. Although I’ll drink that swill if it’s my only option). One of my favorite breweries is Dogfish Head (based in Delaware) and I had just picked up four bottles of their Palo Santo Marron. This stuff is crazy strong, and I shouldn’t have had three of them. With some other beers mixed in. While playing poker.

You see, the early morning came and I was still drinking and playing, pretty much not knowing what the hell I was doing. I finally hit the wall and had to bail from a $20 tourney I was playing. When I woke up, I realized the extent of the damage.

I had upgraded my PokerTracker license to allow me to track the (bankroll management be damned!) higher buyin tourneys I all of a sudden found myself playing. I deleted my PT database and started a new one because I was “starting over and getting serious about this shit!” I deposited another $200 to FT (luckily, even in my drunken state I had SOME rational thought left – I was originally going to transfer $500 to FT and $500 to Stars so I’d be “properly rolled”).

WTF!!! Thankfully, it could’ve been a lot worse. I won some of the games I was playing, so I only wound up down around $50 on the night. Huge amount for my bankroll, but nothing I can’t afford. However, this opened my eyes to how quickly this can turn from a skill game to pure gambling. Now, if I’m going to be drinking, I’ll stick to video games and leave the poker alone. That’s exactly what I did on Saturday night, and had a fun time playing Red Dead Redemption.

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Played a few freerolls on Sunday to warm up for the big event: my first LIVE tournament! My friend and his wife visited and we all took a trip up to Mohegan. The ladies went to the spa while we hit up the poker room. I was nervous as hell walking into the room – I’m always intimidated by table games before I play them a few times and get used to them. I was a mess the first few times at the craps table, now it doesn’t bother me at all – so I knew it was just a matter of getting used to sitting at a live table that wasn’t in a friend’s basement.

We bought in to an $85 bounty tournament (you receive $25 if you knock another player out). We got our seat assignments – different tables, I was horrified to see! – and went to claim our stacks. I sat down and started playing. I was terrified I would make some stupid mistake, like acting out of turn, but I just kept folding hands. I wasn’t getting anything worth playing, so fold fold fold.

Finally, I look down and see Q9 in the big blind. There are 2 callers ahead of me and I decide to see a free flop. Flop comes Q-x-x and it checks around to me. I decide to bet, and my damn hands were shaking as I throw my chips in! One guy folds, another calls, turn is another undercard to the Q. No straights or flushes on the board. A bet, a raise, and a call later and the river is a 10. We both check and I flip – to see I won my first pot!

Played a few more hands and won some, lost some. Finally went busto when I was holding KTd in the big blind. Got a few limpers and decide to see the flop. Flop comes 2d-7d-K. First to act goes all in, everyone folds around to me, and I call. Guy flips over Ad7c. I don’t even have time to get excited when the turn comes with the big fuck you 7. River was not a K or diamond and I was dead.

How do you think I played that hand? I can’t see any fault in calling his AI there, although it sucked to go out like that. Didn’t even make it halfway through the field (think I went out around 53 of 80-something).

Anyway, had a great time and will definitely be back to play again. Next time, maybe I’ll be able to actually concentrate more on reading my opponents instead of worrying about acting out of turn or playing the wrong chip (the $100 blacks and $500 purples are close enough in color to be very dangerous).

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I Am My Own Cooler

Wow…never fails. I’m running hot on FT, then I post about it here, and BAM! Into the toilet goes I. I’m getting rocked all over the place – still doing OK in the limit cash games, but have lost a few big sessions and have been getting my ass handed to me in the tourneys. Not sure what changed — well, that’s not exactly true. I know my problem in the losing cash sessions was complete and utter ATC (any two cards) syndrome, where I was playing hands I had absolutely no business being in. I guess I was getting cocky and was lulled into complacency by the capped betting structure.

The tourneys are a bit harder to figure out – but, right now, it’s like I’m playing with scared money. I think that I have a psychological aversion to dipping below my $100 deposit on FT, probably due to my bad run at Stars. The long and short is I’m playing dinky little 1 and 2 table SNGs, and making some stupid moves.

So the question is – why am I afraid to play? It’s not like I can’t afford the losses. Lifetime, I’ve probably spent only about $250 or $300 on poker – that’s nothing compared to what I blow going out to eat or on beer and wine. I think the issue is I really want to be successful at this, and the more I play the more my mind says, “Hey asshole, you should be WINNING, not stuck!”

I know my game isn’t great. I have an understanding of all the different concepts of poker, but need them all to gel together. I NEED to get faster at calculating outs. I NEED to get better at trying to put opponents on ranges and recognizing their betting patterns. I NEED to learn to lay down a hand when the betting frenzy shows me I’m clearly up against something big. And I NEED to start paying better attention to what’s going on around the table and the dynamics of whatever game I’m playing.

So, academically easy to diagnose some of my bigger leaks. Very difficult in practice to plug them. It might just cost me another few hundred (at least!) until I really have a handle on micro stakes hold’em. I need to look at this money as an educational expense, not necessarily money wasted. That being said, I need to make sure I learn something from these games I’m playing so that it isn’t just cash being flushed down the toilet by another fish.

I hope this blog will be a record of my journey here, a story of getting better and more high-level in my thinking. To that end, posting on here about “I won $5 on FT!” or “On a bad streak!” isn’t going to cut it. I should be posting hands, talking about my reasoning behind them, and maybe then I can start to gain a better understanding of how to put the pieces together and become a successful poker player.

I’d love to hear stories about how poker players out there broke through the “beginner blues” and upped their game. Please, feel free to comment with any advice you might have, and I’ll start collecting some interesting hands to post here and reason my way through.

Thanks for reading!

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Full Tiltin’

When last I wrote, I had taken a beating over at Stars. I had setup an account with Full Tilt awhile back (with rakeback) but had never deposited or played a game there. I decided to give it a shot – they have a 100% first deposit matching bonus (up to $600), and I figured that and the rakeback would at least improve my ROI a bit.

I started off hating Full Tilt – the silly avatars, the cartoony feel of the tables… but, after playing there for almost a week, I think I like it a lot better than Stars. They have some fun challenges in the Academy, a nice selection of SNGs and tournaments, and the fact that I’ve been grinding out some wins doesn’t hurt either.

I am finally making some money, albeit a small amount, at the cash games. Difference? I am playing limit instead of NL. I think at the small stakes I am playing, the reduced variance helps a lot. I’m still getting my NL fix at the tournaments, and I definitely see myself returning to the NL ring games at some point, but for now I’m sticking with what’s working until I can build up a roll.

Which leads me to bankroll management – I’m working on Chris Ferguson’s bankroll management challenge on FT, and it requires me to increase my roll by 25%. That’s as good a place to start as any!

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SPEW!

Ugh – been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve played a bunch of poker – my favorite game right now is the 18-seat SNGs. Nice and quick, and I was doing pretty well with them. I say “was” because I’ve been spewing like a damn fountain the last week or so.

Plus, I am getting abso-fucking-lutely KILLED in cash games. Don’t know why, I’m not stupid enough to think it’s bad beats. Just dumb moves by yours truly.

All in all, I’ve lost almost half my initial bankroll. That means I’ve pissed away my winnings and kept on pissing. Part of me wants to start over – reload the roll, clear the pokertracker, and start playing for real. The other part of me wants to face this setback – claw my way back, keep it real.

I think that’s the only way to do this – if I can’t claw myself out of a $50 hurting and want to hit the reset button, how am I ever going to have a go at the REAL buyins?

I’m going to play through this last $60 or so I have at Stars, and I’ll evaluate where I am when one of two things happen:

1) I run out of money
2) I make back my initial roll

Either way, I’ll let you know what happens. Wish me luck (and skill!)

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My First Comment; Playing in Blogger Games; No Poker Weekend

First and foremost, I got my first comment last week from none other than jjok! If you haven’t checked out his blog, you should stop on over there – it is one of my fav poker blogs, with equal parts hand analysis, humor, and triplet stories. It’s been slow at work lately, and I’ve been killing time by going through all of jj’s archived posts. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks, JJ, for stopping by this little baby blog. I think it’s hilarious that I talk about losing $2 buyins, playing $0.10 BB NL games, and my massive $108 tourney win, and these bloggers are entering SNGs with buyins equal to my total bankroll!! Baby steps… baby steps……

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Speaking of bloggers, I’ve been reading about these poker blogger tournaments and games. There are obviously the big tourneys like the WBCOOP and Battle of the Bloggers, but there are also smaller tourneys like the Mookie and MATH and stuff. However, I’m relatively new to the scene here and have no idea what the etiquette here is. Do I just show up and play? Do I have to have an established blogger vouch for me? If you are a poker blogger and can reply with some info on getting into some of these, I’d appreciate it. They sound like a good time, and I’d love to get some critique of my play (being called a donk by your favorite bloggers? priceless!)

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Finally, I apologize for the lack of poker talk, but I spent a great weekend hanging out with some old friends in Ocean City, MD. Me and wifey drove down there on Friday night, had a ton of fun Friday and Saturday nights getting our drink on, and took most of Sunday to drive back up to CT. We spent about 9 hours getting back, but that included a bunch of stops and a nice lunch, so it wasn’t a terrible return journey.

I did jump on the 10NL cash games when I got home, and promptly lost $3 of a $10 buyin. Still getting killed in the cash games, down $35 so far. Luckily, my SNG and MTT winnings are covering my cash donking right now. Planning on hitting up a few SNGs tonight – I’ll keep you posted!

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