December 19, 2010

This year's poker, and is it getting harder?

This is normally the time to be publishing my thoughts on my years poker, and putting up a nice graph. This is where I was last year, see here. I had really high ambitions this time last year for a successful year, and to move up stakes. I was playing between 30 to 40k hands minimum per month last year, but this year its been 3 or 4k!!! This has been due to becoming very busy in my own business, which in turn has stopped my ability to spend a couple of hours each day playing. So there really is no point in doing a review of my year because of that. It's been disappointing, as I really would have liked to take a shot. Maybe 2011?

This year I have read a lot of posts on others' blogs about how the games are getting harder. Lots of moaning from established players who maybe made a lot through the "party" years as they call it, when the online boom started, who say its all drying up, and everyone knows what they are doing at the tables now . ...Seems a lot of sour grapes to me. Some of these dudes think they have some kind of right to other peoples money. Maybe they are just average players after all.

I don't think the games are getting harder per say, but I do think they are getting stupidly aggressive. Like super stupid. Many competent players at 6max in blind v blind, or 3betting v button will now be content to get into raising wars and all in pre with just baby pocket pairs, and other such their stupid obsession with fold equity giving them no option but to call a shove once they have built up a large pot pre and the odds they are offered. Post flop there is just a ton of non believing going on, which is shifting down from higher stakes I guess. All of these things combined make it harder to dip in and out of the games, as the aggressive dynamic takes some getting used to. The alternative is to move down stakes. My own strategy has been to reduce my bluffing and increase my value betting, as well as just 3betting for value, and just forget about 3bet bluffing.

I just haven't played enough to know how I am doing myself, but one thing I have noticed at 100nl is how the many of the regular players seem utterly incapable of folding. There is definitely a time for making bluffs at these limits, but aside from the "stab-and-give-up-pots", you need to be prepared to barrel your whole stack by the river to get a fold, and it's not my favourite situation.

Here is a hand to sum up, which contains all of the points above, where I am playing a competent experienced player , and where so much value lies. - Hand History Converter

UTG: $252.10
Hero (BTN): $282.95
SB: $100.50
BB: $77.25

Pre-Flop: 8 8 dealt to Hero (BTN)
UTG folds, Hero raises to $2.50, SB raises to $9, BB folds, Hero calls $6.50
Standard Reg stats with 11% 3bet , most of it in the blinds. I would actually fold sometimes in this spot, but not against an 11% range and the now fashionable double barrelling stats, with me in position. I can play quite close to optimally with my position. (Folding to any broadway, bet folding all other flops, or check/calling/folding, depending on the usual stuff)

Flop: ($19) 8 5 4 (2 Players)
SB bets $10, Hero calls $10
I flop the set. All the decision making now is about how to extract his stack.

Turn: ($39) 6 (2 Players)
SB bets $22, Hero calls $22
Villian repping the overpair.

River: ($83) 3 (2 Players)
SB checks, Hero bets $241.95 and is All-In, SB calls $59.50 and is All-In
The only likely 7 he can have here is pocket 7s (I was going busto to 67s no matter what happened), so he either has a hand like AK which will check fold, or the overpair, which might call a shove, and will certainly call a smaller value bet. Having done the maths on how often you need to get a call on the river with an overbet to make it profitable, (the equation hinges on how often you think your opponent with call you ...X%...) the x% calling range has become so high now at 6max, that its a no contest to jam the pot here.
Results: $202 Pot ($2 Rake)
Hero showed 8 8 and WON $200 (+$99.50 NET)
SB mucked 9 9 and LOST (-$100 NET)

September 30, 2010

Table bullies, maths and baby pairs

I normally just up-sticks and find another table when I have a non-spewy aggro donk (meaning, most likely one of the better 100nl players at 6max) seated on my left, but when there's some bad players at same table sitting to left, you just got to hang around sometimes.

That can lead to some interesting table dynamics, which in turn can lead to some high variance pots. As I have a pretty robust bankroll for these stakes, I don't have a problem with adjusting my play to their ranges and betting styles, and the history that develops between us through 100 or more hands, normally too small a sample to make anything clear pre or post based on stats alone.

Here I wake up with AQo in the cut off, and even before I raise, I am almost sure the Mr aggro on the button will 3bet. He has a 15% 3bet, but more importantly, over 283 hands, almost all of that has been against me. I have 4 betted him once, where he folded, but the other six or seven times in this session, I have folded. It's what I do I guess.

Here I 4bet to just under one sixth of my stack, as we are playing 140bb effective stacks. I have decided a while back, once we became deep, that there will be no 4bet bluffs from me against him, it's just too likely that he can outplay me if he decides to call or whatever. In other words, unless I am certain he has me crushed, I probably am going with the hand.

Instead of folding, or flatting my 25bb, he insta shoves, which really surprises me. I time bank and finally call all-in.

Pre-Flop: A Q dealt to Hero (CO)
2 folds, Hero raises to $3, BTN raises to $10.50, 2 folds, Hero raises to $25, BTN raises to $199 and is All-In, Hero calls $109.40 and is All-In

The first thing to note here is that hands like AA-QQ I don't believe would normally do that this deep, in position, from a good player. They would think about it first.....,and if including card reduction therefore I think its only around 15% of the time. I would have 24% in that scenario

That leaves AK or a bluff/crazy play with baby pair. He has folded to only one 4bet previously, out of 3 in total. I used to play deep stacks at full ring, and it was rare to see a shove from a good player with AK at 200bb. I would rarely do it. But AK is a possibility, say 15% likely. I would have 27% in that scenario.

So here is where the history comes in. I have set up a "3bet in position" stat on my hud, which showes how often a player 3bets in position. I am amazed to see that over the 200 or so hands we have played at the table, he 3bets my raise from any position a staggering 38%. To assign a proper range to that is difficult, but I think it will be pretty wide, as good aggro players understand fold equity very well against a positional player like me, and I also 4bet-fold too. I think he might do any pair 22-TT, suited connectors and gappers, some Axs hands, and a few random bluffs like JTo, 64o. This is a 13% range, wide because of our history as noted, and his aggodonkishness. I have 58% to this range, and I think its 70% certain he is playing like that based on the above.

our expected value might be something like this therefore:

$EV=15%(24%x270) x 15%(27%x270) x 70% (58% x270) = $130.48

I am getting actual pot odds of 40% to call all in (pot is 162bb, 110bb for me to call) , it costs me $11o and my $EV is $130.48. I think its profitable and a decent call, even though it's a situation I would normally try to avoid even arising.

Full Tilt, $0.50/$1 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players - Hand History Converter
Hero (CO): $134.40
BTN: $199
SB: $100
BB: $101.50
UTG: $73
MP: $26.75

Flop: ($270.30) Q T 7 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)
Turn: ($270.30) 6 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)
River: ($270.30) J (2 Players - 1 is All-In)
Results: $270.30 Pot ($3 Rake)

Hero showed A Q and WON $267.30 (+$132.90 NET)
BTN showed 9 9 and LOST (-$134.40 NET)

Let me know if you think I spewed, or if you think my maths is out, which it could well be. Of course I didn't do these sums at the time, but I do away from the tables, and therefore decisions like this do become easier with a 30 seconds of thinking.

Finally, and most importantly, let me emphasise that calling an all in with 110bb behind with only 25bb invested is, normally a terrible play, and an auto fold. With 75bb behind, without history, I'm still considering a fold, although my 4bet would have been smaller.

August 08, 2010

Bet your strong hands or lose money

One of the very first books I read when I started out in poker suggested that everyone plays quads optimally, and there wasn't much point in talking about it therefore. I don’t think I agree.

Like all our flopped unbreakable nut hands (OK, there's still a str. flush there), we want to extract the maximum, and that’s all we need to focus on, as we cannot lose the hand. Extracting the maximum involves reading the board, and relating it to your opponents possible range of cards.

In this hand I raise 77 and flop the nuts against an aggressive and tricky opponent playing 25/21 who never likes to fold to cbets (0 out of 5 times), and by the turn, I have him drawing dead. The crucial thing of this post is that I opt not to slow play on the drawing stages of the board, which is the mistake I see so often at small stakes (the flop and turn).

Full Tilt, $0.50/$1 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players - Hand History Converter

UTG: $121.70
MP: $98.50
CO: $110.90
BTN: $108.90
Hero (SB): $110.40
BB: $167.20

Pre-Flop: 7 7 dealt to Hero (SB)
4 folds, Hero raises to $3, BB calls $2
pretty standard

Flop: ($6) 7 7 6 (2 Players)
Hero bets $4, BB calls $4
Fantastic flop for me. Yes I have flopped the monster, but even better, against a good player with him in position on a super wet board. That means he will be aware that his perceived range (his actual cards are irrelevant) in the small blind has hit this flop and will hopefully play accordingly. Perceived ranged (what he thinks I think he has) will consist of mid cards such as 45ss, 78ss, 78o, 89ss, 89o, any 7, pocket 6s, gut shots with overs, any pocket pair, slow played preflop monsters v sb, a floated Ace high with overkicker and any spade draw. The fact that the majority of his hands will in fact have missed is irrelevant. This guy likes to take pots down in position, and he will love to bluff when his perceived range hits. To slow play here would thus be a huge mistake. To check raise here would be an even bigger mistake. (You would fold out his air bluffs)
His perceived range is a massive 25% that could float this flop

Turn: ($14) 3 (2 Players)
Hero bets $9, BB calls $9
No change from the above, although by now it looks like he does actually have a draw or is slow playing an unlikely monster like 66. 45o and 45ss got there too. We now also have gutshots with a pair which were called with the 6 on the flop (eg 64)

River: ($32) K (2 Players)
Here is where we have to change tack. River is a huge brick, none of the draws got there. We need to check to let all the busted draws bet, let any K bet, and any of his floated air bluffs bet.

Hero checks, BB bets $15, Hero raises to $32, BB raises to $151.20 and is All-In, Hero calls $62.40 and is All-In
So we opt for a small CR to rep something like AK that is Raise/Folding with plenty fold equity to open the door for his bluff shove repping the 7 and the 66, which he kindly does for us, as he out-levels himself.

Results: $220.80 Pot ($3 Rake)
Hero showed 7 7 and WON $217.80 (+$107.90 NET)
BB showed 9 8 and LOST (-$109.40 NET)

Whilst there is a case for occasional slow play of these juicy monster flops, (super dry boards where its pretty clear he/you has missed might be one, playing against certain maniacs OOP is another) in general you need to be doing all you can to enable all the money to go in, which involves betting the correct amounts and thinking of ranges.

The fact that they will be folding much of the time is no reason to slow play. I hope this example shows why.

June 15, 2010

The Poker Blueprint review

Before I start, I should say, I don’t know anything much about the either of the authors of The Poker BluePrint. Aaron Davies asked me to review the book through this blog. I have never studied the popular, but pricey e-books such as “Let There Be Range” and “Exploiting Regulars” which this book sort of relates to, in that Tri Nguyen was involved in those .

Initially, I struggled to figure out whether “The Poker Blueprint” was for an online beginner, an intermediate player still down at the 10nl to25nl stakes, or aiming at the 100nl grinder trying to make a go of 200nl to 400nl . I think it is aimed at the 100 to 200nl area, but really, I couldn’t be sure. It’s important because we play differently at different stakes. For example, I would never 3 bet bluff below a certain level, and I would change my isolating raises too, depending on stakes.

The authors introduce us to the concept of aspiration of the Learner as opposed to the Grinder. I would have liked to see some more explanation of this, (through card examples eg a “learners” approach to AK versus the auto all-in grinder), as it’s an important point for players, giving an experimentation aspect which is essential to progress, and which few are able/prepared to do.

We then go on to moving up stakes. Aaron and Tri talk about taking shots at 30buyins, taking shots to learn from better players, moving down when losing 3 buyins and Risk v Reward. Whilst I don’t think there is a science to taking shots, I do believe that luck plays a big part in how we end up a “reg” at a certain stake. However, what isn’t discussed, and therefore which renders the argument a little hollow, is that of variance versus volume. It’s frankly the most important topic for shot taking, as it has a significant effect on both bankroll and psychology.

We are then onto Maths and Hand Ranges – with a simplified introduction, probability and odds including the concept of implied odds, I don’t get the point of wasting words on this, given every poker book on the planet goes over it, Harrington style. More should have been spent on hand range analysis, as that is where micro players struggle.

Fold Equity is a concept rarely discussed in books, and it’s a big shame this is not elaborated further, as its one of the most important things in 3 and 4 bet pots, but more importantly, in post flop 6max games in particular. Odds charts are shown, and again, I personally never quite get that in a book that is looking beyond a beginners audience, we all know it already.

Expected value is discussed, and ranges become all important here. Revising ranges based on betting patterns on later streets is not discussed.

A reasonable preflop 3 betting strategy is discussed along with a positional adjustment, and balancing our big hands, with our speculative ones. The preflop opening range is better, as the writer uses poker stove to illustrate ranges and percentages, which is a more advanced and original format for exampling preflop strategy, as we get some logic behind the suggested play.

Postflop strategy is where I feel this text does show some excellent strategy for an aspiring player, where the cbet, paired flops, and checking behind are all usefully illustrated.

No tilt discussion, which again is critical for plays moving from 10nl recreation and upwards. It must be discussed, surely??? This, and the aforementioned variance, are the 2 most important factors in becoming successful at online play in my view, more important in fact than poker skills themselves, which can be learned and honed at one’s own pace. But not with tilt issues, or negative variance, which ultimately translate into the bad beat jackpot mentality which can destroy an otherwise promising player.

Would I recommend it? Well the fact is, there simply isn’t anything much else out there at the moment in a consolidated volume for the aspiring microstakes online player. Ed Millars E-book is the obvious comparison, but it’s coming from a different perspective (primarily from a live low stakes player), and a slightly different era. It’s $37.00 as far as I know , easy to read and interesting.

April 27, 2010

Formula @6max = Being Humble!

I am not sure if there is an easy formula for beating the low stakes online game, but it is true there is a lot to be made if you follow one path in particular. If we can avoid Fancy Play Syndrome, and stay disciplined, and most importantly......we avoid being bothered about being bluffed. I would call this being humble, where you take the ego out of the situation (but not the player, as I think ego is important in poker). I don’t see how you can make at least modest money out of the game at these stakes following this mantra. And perhaps that is the formula.

I played a pot the other day which I thought illustrated just how even supposedly knowledgeable players sometimes just cannot bring themselves to fold in big pots (in small pots, often they will give up, that’s why stabbing at the pot is so profitable if you know which ones to go for) . The thought of being bluffed, even semi bluffed, where they even probably know deep down they are either crushed, or flipping a coin for the remainder of their stacks, is just too much for them. It's important to note these players, as these are the ones where the very over-rated concept of implied odds actually does come into play. And they exist in abundance at 100nl.

Here we have an UTG raiser who I have a note as to being a bit of a regfish, who offers good implied odds when he has a hand such as Aces, and he runs at 17/14 with 73% cont bet.

Mr Rock calls in mid position, running at 14/12 with a 5% 3bet. Probably set mining….

My trash K4s suddenly starts to offer great odds, as we think about how easy it is to play post flop with this, and yet how well concealed it is against these two.

$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
Poker Tools by Stoxpoker - Hand Details
BTN: $132.20 (132.2 bb)
Hero (SB): $122.85 (122.9 bb)
BB: $101.25 (101.3 bb)
UTG: $123.65 (123.7 bb)
MP: $100 (100 bb)
CO: $103.95 (104 bb)

Pre-Flop: Hero is SB with 3 of diamonds K of diamonds
UTG raises to $3, MP folds, CO calls $3, BTN calls $3, Hero calls $2.50, BB calls $2

Flop: ($15) 9 of diamonds J of diamonds 3 of clubs (5 players)
Flop comes down giving me a pair and a flush draw. I am not in love with getting it in with these type of hands, but when Mr rock calls the continuation bet, I don’t think he has a set. Looks to me like some kind of draw, or maybe a weak Jack, say JTs. I think if I can rep a set here, I can get 2 folds much of the time, and if not at least heads up with Mr UTG holding at least a big pair where I have 47% EV.

Hero checks, BB checks, UTG bets $10, CO calls $10, BTN folds, Hero raises to $55, BB folds, UTG raises to $120.65 and is all-in, CO calls $90.95 and is all-in, Hero calls $64.85 and is all-in.

I make a small mistake, check raise is too big, thanks to Full Tilt's Pot button, as I nearly time out from playing other tables and press it quickly.

Then...BANG..... first one, then the next shoves all in, and with 25% equity versus what I presume are their likely sets, or 1 set/overpair and 1 nut flush draw, with pot odds of 18%, I have no choice but to call off the remainder of my stack.

: ($355.65) 3 of spades (3 players, 3 are all-in)
River: ($355.65) K of spades (3 players, 3 are all-in)
Results: $355.65 pot ($3.00 rake)
Final Board: 9 of diamonds J of diamonds 3 of clubs 3 of spades K of spades
Hero showed 3 of diamonds K of diamonds (a full house, Threes full of Kings) and won $352.65 ($229.80 net)
UTG showed K of hearts J of hearts (two pairs, Kings and Jacks) and lost (-$122.85 net)
CO showed Q of hearts T of hearts (a straight, Nine to King) and lost (-$103.95 net)

And here is the point of my post. What we see when the cards turn over on the flop is my actually having a huge 44% equity against some retarded plays. The lack of discipline that sees players who clearly know the game, and yet continue to shove their money in with terrible equity on the tiny premise that they might be being bluffed (although I have to question sanity of the QTs rock overcaller who must realise he has at best only 6 outs with the diamond draw on the flop) makes these games entirely beatable…… provided you maintain discipline when you are put in the same spots.

If you can mentally calculate your equity in these bigger pots, you just cannot go wrong.