Hello all, welcome to my online poker blog.

I've been playing on and off for a decade after being introduced by a friend.

I played regularly for a few years during the poker boom and had a decent record at the micros, particularly Rush and Zoom No Limit Hold'em games (here's one of my graphs).

Around 2012 I began a new career which involved immersing myself completely in study in my spare time, so I had little to no time for poker. However recently this burden has eased and so I have been gradually dipping back in.

I'm an amateur player who still hopes to some day beat the rake.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

New Beginnings, Aggression Factor vs. Aggression Frequency

Aggression Factor is defined as (% bet + % raise)/% call. This statistic can be a useful measure of how aggressive a player is. However, it can be misleading as it does not account for any other actions (checking or folding).
Consider a player who is tight and aggressive and who bets or raises on the flop an average of 2 in 5 hands and calls with 1 in 5 for an aggression factor of 2 - a common value.
Now consider a much looser player who bets or raises on average 2 in 10 hands and calls with 1 in 10 - pretty unrealistic but you get the point. He would have an identical aggression factor, but his continuing range for the flop is just as strong as the tight aggressive. A consistent mistake that I've made lately is to have no respect for a loose player with high aggression factor. Even though they might only be continuing post flop with a super strong range!
Aggression Frequency is defined as (bet + raise)/(streets) and as such includes all actions. It basically describes how often (when faced with a decision) a player chooses to take the aggressive action. Going back to the previous example, the tag would now have an aggression frequency of 40% for his flop play and the loose player would have 20%. This new number now indicates that he is folding most of the time on the flop.

Returning to the hand I described last post, while my opponent's aggression factor was 2.1, his aggression frequency was 33%. This is very passive, and I think I should have either called and made a decision on the turn or folded.

Basically I intend to alter my HUD so that it only shows aggression frequency in future and hopefully this will allow my flop decision making when facing aggression to be better.

The next time I play, I will begin the new database. I intend to do a lot of hand reviews concentrating on looking at aggression frequency and hand ranges on the flop so that I can begin to hand read better in this critical situation.

Finally, it may be a couple of days before I play again. I think I need a little break from poker - not for too long - and I'm currently enjoying The Witcher 2. GL

Friday, 27 May 2011

Bad Mistake, 25NL Forever?

Just messed up big time. I 3-b an UTG raiser with 130bb stack and I have AA. Semi loose passive villain calls and flop runs TT6 with two hearts. I c-bet and he raises. His aggression factor over a decent sample is 2. Which means that he bluffs sometimes, but more often than not he's got a hand when he bets or raises. The fact that he's semi loose means that 66, TT and probably T9s/JTs are in his range, but at the time I just spazzed out and stuck it in expecting flush draws and KK to be there too (which would actually make this fine - if that were true). But his aggression factor is 2! So Kings would have called more than likely, and probably flush draws too. His raise was for value against my face up hand. Even if he does sometimes bluff raise there, calling makes much more sense because there's more than a pot sized bet left. Even then though, folding is probably best despite the fact that there are only a few big hand combinations in his range. I think at the time I just tilt shoved, and that is just horrible poker.
And then I called him a nasty name in chat, to make me feel even worse - there's no need for that. I'm sure we all feel like it sometimes, but he wasn't responsible for FT dealing that hand, the random gen software was.

Unless I can begin to make logical decisions again and until I can keep it together and the emotion under control; until I can learn to live with the rough end of poker variance; unless I can return to the calm calculating poker player that earned money last year I'll be stuck at this limit.

I'm now back to the bankroll that I began 25NL with. 200k hands of work and even with rake back I have nothing to show for it. It has all become very stagnant, but at least my bankroll is still intact. All I need to do is work out how to win again.

It's time to start again. I will play another 1-2k hands tonight now I've vented a little and then close this database. I will provide a summary blog post of the last two hundred thousand hands with some stats and goals and then take a deep breath and start this limit again. I'll take down the graph pictures for now as they just remind me how badly it's going. And then it's time to learn how to play poker again. Let's go back to the start. GL

EDIT: The last session didn't go too grossly thankfully. I'm going to start my renaissance with post flop aggression factor and aggression frequency. I've become reasonably good at estimating regular villain ranges by looking at vp$ip and pfr (for those who don't understand that's how many hands someone plays and how aggressive they play them). But post flop I've merely been looking at board texture compared to that assigned range and basing my play upon those factors but I've been ignoring the aggression factor. If a tight player raises me on a dry board knowing how to interpret aggression factors properly will allow me to make a much better decision with my over-pair etc. So not only am I going to post my 200k analysis, but also a short article about how I might begin to interpret an opponent's aggression post flop. I'm certain that becoming good at this will allow me to return to winning ways, because recently I've just played a default line based upon how often a player has a hand on a certain board texture. But the equation must have aggression frequencies included. GL

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Leak Fixing 101

At the bottom of this post I have included a video by poker player 'citizenwind' where he reviews a session in Hold'em manager. Alvin is a player who has beaten Rush poker comfortably at all limits up to 200NL over a significant sample, so it will do my game the world of good to compare statistics. My leaks probably lie within the biggest differences.

Conclusion: I am a gigantic CALLING STATION.
I think that I'm putting in too much money on average post flop. Alvin explains in the video that people generally have a value heavy range when they bet so we should generally be folding to bets more often than we probably should in an optimal game. My poker understanding has reached a level where I feel that I have to prevent myself from being exploited in all situations, but of course this is only necessary if we are being exploited in these situations. In the vast majority of cases, it's likely that I'm NOT being exploited, and therefore I should be folding more often. The key statistics where we differ are:
1/ Showdown : Alvin - 22%, Me - 27.5%.
Solution : Fold MORE
2/ C-bet % : Alvin - 60%, Me - 70%.
Solution : C-bet in the most obvious spots only
3/ Fold to Flop C-bet % : Alvin - 55%, Me - 40%
Solution : Bluff catch a little less on the flop, especially against more aggressive players. Let these players bluff off to you when your range is strong.

Basically, over the next few weeks I'm going to doing a lot of work like this to return my game to winning ways. I'll probably find it hard to kick some of the habits I've picked up but to reach the next level it's work that needs to be done.GL

EDIT: This game is fucking ridiculous. I'm now ten buy-ins under EV for the latest 100k hands and that takes my grand total up to around 25 for the last 200k. Enough to drive someone insane, it really is. $600 bucks that should be mine lost to the variance curve. I'm due, poker owes me. Back to Volume, my only friend. Maybe things will turn around for the next 100k? Or maybe poker is rigged after all. On the previous subject I was much better this session I think. I made one suspect call but looking on pokerstove it wasn't a huge mistake.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Another horrible session, where I lost a large pot to a one - outer; four-bet against a fish with KK and after he called, I check called the psb on Axx and he's binked the ace (check folding too weak there??).

I've noticed a trend in my play - since this bad stretch began I have been slowly going to showdown a little more and more (nearly 28% of the time now). I think the problem is that I'm attempting to bluff catch too often. Sometimes I'm right, but more often than not I'm wrong. This in itself isn't a mathematical mistake since we need to be right on average around 30% of the time or more to make calling correct - but I think I'm actually catching a bluff on the river a lot less than 30% of the time. I think I'm beginning to understand why. Well, at these stakes I think that villains don't value bet or bluff thinly enough which leads to them having a stronger than average range when they river bet. I also think that I'm often forgetting that many of the ranges I'm facing literally do not have enough junk in them by the river for them to be bluffing with! Optimal play would require them to be turning hands into bluffs that players at this limit just never do. They'll check back their third pair; they'll check back king high on double paired boards; they'll never fire a third barrel when their flush draw missed. I believe that this bluff catching leak is singularly the biggest drain on my win rate currently. I think that ideally I would be seeing showdown around 25% of the time. In order to begin to get down to that number I'm going to have to begin to play more weakly. I have already begun to c-bet less often. I only need to think twice before calling river bets now and I will hopefully see an improvement.

I'm nearly at 100k hands in my latest database and I'm more or less break - even (a small winner through rake back). I'll start a new one when I get there and really try and focus on this leak for the next 100k hands or so, I really wouldn't care if I started going to showdown as little as 20% of the time. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Most Beautiful Song Ever Written?

God Only Knows

I guess I never really post things about my life and tastes etc. Maybe I should start, talking exclusively about poker is pretty boring I suppose.

To the link, I saw Brian Wilson perform this at Glastonbury a few years back. It took my breath away then and still does to this day. Has there ever been a more beautiful song written? Brings me to tears every time.


To poker, I played a good long session today and created a protected button raising range that worked out at around 48% of hands. By protected I mean that it's not easily exploitable. A player's range is easily exploitable if an opponent can make a positive expected value (or profitable) bluff with any hand e.g. When someone opens 50% of buttons and folds 90% of the time he is 3-bet.

So I now have a protected range for every position. Of course I don't always use the four bet or call ranges, they're just there as a default play against an unknown player or someone who foolishly thinks they can get away with 3-betting me tons. Against someone who is only value 3-betting a tight range, they are already folding enough that I do not need to protect.

The one last range to sort out is my big blind defence range versus a small blind open. This one will be a little more difficult because most of the hands that I use as bluffs for my other preflop ranges will now be good enough to call a loose sb steal. So I'll need to work out a seperate call, 3-bet, felt strategy for this unique situation. However to start with I'll just try and memorise the stuff I've done so far. When it's all remembered then I'll sort something out. Until then, I'm still making it up and still likely easily exploitable in that spot. Come and find me! :) GL

Re-evaluating my Game

For a significant while and over an increasingly significant sample of hands I have only made money through rake-back. I may have run under EV but it's looking increasingly likely that I have a close to break even strategy in these games. I think it's very important that I realise this and accept it, because otherwise I get quickly frustrated if a session does not go my way. I'm fortunate in that I don't become a crazy spew monkey when I tilt, but my game does deteriorate somewhat.

OK, so I'm a break even player. What steps can I now take to bring in an extra buy-in or two per thousand hands and become a winner again?
1/ Continue to actively challenge my strategy and look to fix leaks where possible.
* I believe my blind play has improved lately now that I'm being very careful with what I'm doing, but there have been several large pots where I've got most of the money in as favourite but not ended up winning. I'll review my blinds again after a couple hundred thousand hands to see if my win rate there has improved.
* I'm happy with the ranges I play from each position but there are two shady areas where I can work out a better playing strategy
- the button: This is where I still kind of make it up as I go along. I don't like this approach because it leads to inconsistencies and leaks of it's own. I think it's better to use fixed preflop ranges where possible as a default strategy and then deviate if you spot a clear leak in a villain's play.
- the big blind versus a small blind steal: This is another spot where I make it up as I go along. I think that I currently call too much where I should be 3-betting more often. Theoretically I think that we should be playing around 2/3 of hands versus the small blind (unless they have a very small playing range, maybe less than 10%).
2/ Analyse my post flop decisions critically. I do this sometimes for these blog posts but it's not something that I do after every session. I think I should be looking at every big pot that I play and find out what I did right/wrong. The more that I do this the better my decision making will get during play.

A hand that I butchered earlier (bye bye decent bb stats for the session, sigh.)
NL Holdem $0.25(BB) Replayer Game#30634649332

evgeniy1741 ($9.55)
Hero ($27.80)
Hoppel1980 ($26.30)
survan ($35.93)
CarminNegra ($74.04)
mclaud85 ($40.16)
Stannerz ($35.16)
The Mentalist 7 ($16.62)
affs80 ($32.23)

evgeniy1741 posts (SB) $0.10
Hero posts (BB) $0.25

Dealt to Hero Ac As
fold, fold,
CarminNegra raises to $0.90
fold, fold, fold, fold, fold,
Hero raises to $3
CarminNegra calls $2.10
FLOP ($6.10) 9h Qs 8s
Hero bets $3.75
CarminNegra calls $3.75
TURN ($13.60) 9h Qs 8s Jc
Hero bets $6.75
CarminNegra calls $6.75
RIVER ($27.10) 9h Qs 8s Jc Qh
Hero checks
CarminNegra bets $10
Hero calls $10
Hero shows Ac As
(Pre 88%, Flop 80.1%, Turn 79.5%)

CarminNegra shows Qc Ks
(Pre 12%, Flop 19.9%, Turn 20.5%)

CarminNegra wins $44.75

Ok so it was another example of doing everything right for most of the hand but I'm almost certain I should have folded on the river. Villain was a total fish, playing a huge range of hands from each position. The flop bet is standard (perhaps I should have over-bet/felted since so many turn cards are horrible for me?). On the turn I was going to bet fold. When he calls again I'm sure he has a pair but the river card kills me completely. I should be check folding to that card now IMO. I guess at the time I called due to the insane pot odds I was getting. I only needed to catch a bluff more than a quarter of the time but that's probably a bit thin given the four straight board. So I played it pretty well until villain sucked out, sigh. GL

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Crazy Session and Crazy Life

Had a pretty crazy session yesterday, chips flying about everywhere; I intend to do a hand history diary post at some point with some analysis. Firstly because I played tons of hands terribly and secondly because it will demonstrate the crazy up/down nature of NLHE. I tilted a little after running under EV some more - totally irrational but I don't think I let it affect too many of my decisions thankfully. I won a few buy-ins too which has dampened the damage some what. Which leads me on to my conclusion - the Rush games are very much weaker since Black Friday. I'm going to have to continue to adjust to maximise my win rate in these games. Hint: VALUE TOWN.

The fiancée was rushed to accident and emergency last night with abdominal pain. Nothing to worry about according to the Docs but she is still there now. Friday night A&E - I don't recommend it as a choice of spending an evening's time. Crazy, I have so much respect for people in that job. Don't know how they cope with it tbh, they are better people than me for sure. Naturally poker will be on the sidelines until life returns to normal.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Quick Vent...

Brutal session, total FAIL. Two large pots lost from the bb, one was my fault and the second a suck-out by a complete fish (which is why I need to let off steam).
First the mistake : I check raised a nut flush draw on the turn against a late middle position open who had double barrelled on a queen turn. On retrospect I'm unsure of my play but I felt at the time that it would make a good hand to semi - bluff and rep a slow played set. I figured I'd get tons of folds from his bluffs (which I assumed on that card would be a non trivial number) and would have equity versus any hand in his range that called. When he shoved I should have folded, since I needed about 32% equity given the pot odds but I think versus a reasonable range I was mid twenties at best. So OK, this was a mistake on my part but given that I had reasonable equity and I was taking an aggressive line that balances my range in that spot - I'm not too pissed off.
The second hand I had found a dream spot. A villain who had raised (and 3-bet) almost all of his hands over a sample of 30 raised UTG and it folds to me in the bb with JJ. So I decide I'm not messing and I'm felting this hand. So the money goes in and he's got A4 and binks the ace in the turn. Ouch. Right, vent over back to the tables.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Early Days but... (plus analysis of a hand)

The big blind has been better the last couple of sessions. I'm just being very very careful when I'm voluntarily calling out of position in pots. In multi-way pots I'm pretty much sticking to pocket pairs (which can obv flop nut type hands). The very best broad-ways also make my calling range in these spots since they will get value from dominated hands, but that's it. When I get a meaningful sample I'll say more about this. Another thing I'm doing is 3-betting loose sb openers a ton more. I'd often call IP and see flops in the past but I think 3-betting is just as good. Give them this much hell and they'll start giving you the walk - which is a beautiful situation. Much more on big blind play to come.

A hand I played (and messed up IMO):
NL Holdem $0.25(BB) Replayer Game#30550196940

AGOULOU ($46.63)
JohnDoe42 ($25.70)
63Viktor ($8.79)
thazar ($34.72)
pagezoso ($46.81)
Hero ($25.22)
zyclop ($61.94)
SPBbob ($20.55)
faxe93 ($23.32)

AGOULOU posts (SB) $0.10
JohnDoe42 posts (BB) $0.25

Dealt to Hero Jd Qd
fold, fold, fold,
Hero raises to $0.75
zyclop calls $0.75
fold, fold, fold, fold,
FLOP ($1.85) Tc Kc 9d
Hero bets $1.25
zyclop raises to $3.25
Hero raises to $7.50
zyclop calls $4.25
TURN ($16.85) Tc Kc 9d 3c
Hero bets $7.75
zyclop raises to $53.69 (AI)
Hero calls $9.22 (AI)
RIVER ($50.79) Tc Kc 9d 3c 5d
Hero shows Jd Qd
(Pre 63%, Flop 63.4%, Turn 0.0%)

zyclop shows 6c 7c
(Pre 37%, Flop 36.6%, Turn 100.0%)

zyclop wins $48.26

Not much to talk about until the turn when the flush comes in. At the time I felt that I should bet for value since I thought that there were more combos of sets in his range than flushes (and I was calling an all-in since I'd put so much money in and I have seen people just do that with hands they'd call with i.e sets). Seeing what hand he has though makes me wonder about this hand. Thoughts anyone?
Basically I'm in a situation where if he's got a flush I have zero equity and if he has a set I'm a favourite but not a certainty. So should I play it more passively? Give him a chance to bluff? I have to pop out right now but I'm going to run this through pokerazor EV software when I get a free hour and try and find out the best line in this situation as I think it will be very instructional.

EDIT: OK I just loaded the information into pokerazor and quickly ran a couple of scenarios. If my initial assumption was that his range includes sets then bet calling (an equivalent action to shoving since I have a pot sized bet left) is slightly +EV. It is only slightly positive expectation due to the nature of the hands I'm up against, as I discussed earlier. If he has more combinations of flush draws in his range then it becomes close to indifferent. How many combos? Well with six combos of TT and 99 we actually need him to have ten combos of flush draw in his range for the effective all-in bet to become a loser - and this is a stretch. However, what if my feeling at the time was wrong and he always shoves 99 and TT on the flop? Well - obv now shoving is very -EV and check folding is the best line unless he will bluff random garbage with a decent frequency (unlikely after calling a flop 3-bet IMO). In my experience in these nitty games while players don't generally fold sets they can play the weaker ones quite passively versus aggression (the fear of the over-set). Without further experience with this opponent I'm only speculating but I think that my shove is OK. At least most of the money went in with the nuts.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Shitty Session. Fixing Leaks.

Just finished a pretty poor session and dropped a few buy-ins. One pot I got stacked when someone hit a back door flush after I'd got the money in with a set vs overpair. I stacked off with KK versus AA against an unknown (standard). Finally I stuck in a large portion of my stack with the nut flush and folded when the board paired on the river. Villain had telegraphed his hand as a set with his HUD range and bet timing and sizing. So I had raised large for value on the turn when my nut hand came in - and he called which is predictable for this type of player when they are holding a set. Then he pot donks the paired river, so I saved myself the rest of my stack.

I began to tilt a little tonight which surprised me since I'd treated the recent large down-swing so calmly. Maybe I'm tired?

I've been looking through my database and have identified a pretty large leak - my big blind play. My win rate from every position is pretty sound over a decent sample now, but my big blind loss is about 30BB/100 or 60bb/100. This is - IMO - way way too high. I need to spend a lot of time learning how to improve my play in this position. Ideally I'd like it to come down under 50bb/100 and I definitely think that this is realistic, I just need to do some work.

What can I do better?

Well, I filtered my DB earlier and realised that I've been cold calling in the bb after a raise and callers with hands that do poorly out of position in multi way pots. The truth is that suited broadways only flop strong hands and draws a fraction of the time and any time they flop pairs in multi-way pots out of position they are hard to play. I have also been calling with weak pocket pairs in the same scenario. Of course with enough players in the pot and getting good odds set mining in this spot is going to be OK. But I think I was often calling in spots where there were not enough players in the pot (or when the villains' ranges were loose) thus rendering inadequate implied odds. So the first thing I'm going to do is to tighten up with the hands that I cold call with.

I have also noticed that 3-bets are being called a ton of the time. I'm sure this is a result of black Friday taking some of the better players (who can fold) away from the games. So I have begun cutting out most of my light 3-bets from the blinds. Hopefully this will lead to me spewing less in 3-bet pots out of position.

OK so I think it's critical that I fix this problem in my game so I'm going to suspend my post flop work until I've at least got a manageable loss from the bb. This will likely take time but hopefully I'll get there. GL

Friday, 13 May 2011

Hmmmmm. I'm a Nit again.

OK I swear I posted something last night and it's not here... I think I'll call the Ghostbusters. (as a side note, that was my favourite film growing up. Awesome. So glad they're making no 3 with original cast members!!)

Just played a good session, 3k hands or so. But just looking at my database I only played around 12% of hands. This is very tight, close to what I used to play at 10NL after I first started out. Whether this is a consequence of variance or whether my hand ranges will converge on this number over a large sample I'm not sure. If I do find that I'm this tight after a few more thousand hands then I'll have to revise my late position ranges somewhat because - while I'm convinced that this is loose enough to make money - I think a more ideal number is 14%. However one thing I have noticed by playing this tight is how much stronger my ranges are on average.

Rush poker is a battle between trying to get your strong hands as much as possible versus not allowing the blinds to eat up your win rate. I have heard the argument again and again that nits will not win at Rush. But I have to disagree. The format of Rush means that folding has positive expected value - whereas normally it would have zero EV. What I mean is that because you instantly see another hand, there is little incentive to play the most marginal hands in your range - unlike normal ring games where it's great to play loose for deception.

Never the less, I think playing just 12% of hands is a little too tight. So I'll be keeping a close eye to see what I'm playing after another 20-30k hands and then I may have to adjust a couple of my ranges. This would be a shame - they are pretty easy to play at the moment.

I'm really enjoying the volume right now, I just got a rakeback payment of $50 which is easily my biggest ever - and all a consequence of the 8k hand session from Sunday. So expect a LOT of hands in the next few weeks. I'm loving the game at the moment. GL

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Long Road Begins... (again, kind of)

Well I didn't smash through another 8k hands as I intended, what I did instead though was begin to study ranges and equity on the flop by generating some random flops using the excellent iPhone app PkrCruncher. I then used some typical ranges and started working out which hands were best to c-bet, which hands were best to call/raise in response to a c-bet range etc.

At the moment I guess it will not help my game at all. But as I generate more and more of these situations I'll begin to get an intuitive feel about how certain hands do on certain flop textures and I think my play will get more accurate. I'm going to treat it like a drill (like doing scales on the piano) and set aside 30 minutes a day. Eventually I'm hoping that I will be confident and knowledgeable enough that I can then begin to study turns in the same manner. The long term goal being - obviously - to become a bloody tough player to be in pots with. The benefit of this is that my opponents will have to felt bluff catching hands and thus enable me to get full value from my made hands.

It's going to be a long and hard road IMO until this stuff becomes second nature but the result will be very very definitely worth it, as I'll be thinking like a mid stakes player then.

I just realised I've let my free ring game tickets expire (that I earned as part of the last bonus) and I'm pretty pissed off with myself. That's half a buy-in I've just chucked away. Not a lot I suppose but if I'd made that sort of mistake in a hand I'd have been rather annoyed and that's what it equates to. I'll not make this mistake again! Right, I do want to play some hands today so back to the grind. GL

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Didn't quite make it, but 8800 hands in a day is quite a lot for me!

So I FAILED in my challenge. In truth I could probably get there playing another hour but I'm mentally tired out and think it would def be -EV. Mind you, it seems that most things I do these days are -EV anyway (or at least even if they're not, the result I don't want to see is coming in). It's hard to be positive about my game at the moment.

IF I had won the money that I should have this year, I'd prob have earned around $1000 including rake back. As it is, I've won $500 - and I shouldn't complain of course. But over the sample of hands that I have it's a pretty low win rate. But I guess that even though I've been absolutely destroyed in all-in pots for 200k hands or so I've still come out a winner so that bodes well for the future.

I've nearly internalised most of the new ranges now, so pretty soon I'll be able to start putting in a lot of time and work on what to do post flop. But this is another story and I'll write a lot more about this in the coming weeks.

One last thing I thought I'd write about was the state of the games after I've played nearly 30k hands since black Friday. Well, it seems that nearly all of the good regs have gone. I've labelled a few players as regs but they seem to have tons of leaks. One thing I've noticed is that preflop aggression gets very little respect. So while I've been using bluff heavy 3-bet ranges lately I think I need to be very careful that I only bluff players who know how to fold. It's a great situation when someone raises 30% of hands on the button and never folds to 3-bets and I have a pure value 3-bet range. So I think that I should be concentrating on value more and more. All of that work I've put in lately in learning to play in a more aggressive way has probably harmed my win rate because the simultaneous weakening of the games has made a value strategy even more profitable than before. So in order to return to winning ways I'm going to be even more selective with my aggression.

Overall despite the run bad continuing I really enjoyed the grind today. There were tons of interesting spots, I made a few mistakes but that's the game. I'll probably try and do another 8k hand day on Thursday when I have a day off. Well I hope that you are running better than I am. GL

Have now reached 21 buy-ins below EV for the year.

I guess this is a useful learning experience, when nothing, absolutely nothing goes right for 200k hands. I'm sure there are players who have had worse down swings before, but being there myself makes me realise how frustrating it really is. Last 30k hands won at showdown 45%, pah. I have certainly made mistakes, and I must continue to work to eradicate these from my game so that the damage is limited. I have no fear for my bankroll, as I will move back down to 10NL if I lose another 20 buy-ins or so and then work my way up from the bottom again. Truly the only thing I can keep doing is playing on. A kind of sadistic pastime where the endless beats just make me laugh because I want to endure some MORE filfth. Oh come on, surely your underset can turn quads can it not - again? MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! OK I need to take a break and I'll play my second session later on once the pain has subsided a little.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

10K hands? I must be drunk.

Yeah well I've had a few beers and I was just wondering if I could do 10k hands in a day. Tomorrow being a perfect trial date. LOL. I will very very probably think better of this in the morning but it seems like a good idea at the moment. I think I could prob do it in about 8.5 hours. I guess it would be a good test of my ability to grind. Who knows, if it went well maybe I could do it regularly. I'd soon clock up the hands then...

Long Sessions

Just finished a 4k hand session and it went so so. I want to start putting in much more volume - at least 4k hands on days off and as much as I can on my busy week nights. I've nearly internalised the new strategy and it seems to be pretty much what I want: 14.5% hands played / 12.0% hands raised. In fact most of my stats look reasonable. 3-betting % seems a little low at 2.5% but this is using a very thoroughly calculated and balanced strategy from each position so I'm guessing that the good players have a more bluff heavy 3-betting range than I do - to exploit weak openers I guess. I'll keep an eye on this. I think that I'm going to showdown a little too often at 27% - I'd rather have this somewhere around 25% but it's coming down so I can def see improvement there. The unfortunate thing for me is that since adopting the new strategy I've only won at showdown 44% of the time which is very low and entirely down to bad variance. However, going through my stats I can't find any major leaks so I'm certain that this strategy will be profitable I just need to put in enough volume to get there. So this is what I intend to do! GL

Friday, 6 May 2011

Simon Screws Up (again)

Wow, so many posts at the moment. OK I'm going to share two hands now which I just butchered in the Rush games. They're relatively interesting and illustrate a quirk of my thought process during poker play. Sometimes it can be a real strength, and other times it can be a real weakness and I call it 'tunnel vision'. To start with I will generalise. Have you ever worked through a poker hand and, given all of the information that you have assimilated been surprised with what your opponent actually turns up with? The first hand I play is an example of this. I completely discount hands from ranges sometimes where it would be better to keep them in the back of my mind. Often my system allows me to win hands where villains do weird things that don't make sense, but other times I spew off money because earlier in the hand I'd refined their range to exclude the hand they seem to be representing. Seeing the hands will help this to make more sense:

Full Tilt Poker Game #30336206978: Table Apollo - $0.10/$0.25 - No Limit Hold'em - 14:32:52 ET - 2011/05/06
Seat 1: Gruux ($32.66)
Seat 2: Wiir ($106.07)
Seat 3: dvrf ($29.33)
Seat 4: cyan2k ($11.30)
Seat 5: linara ($8.51)
Seat 6: Hero ($32.54)
Seat 7: buckrogers1970 ($27.10)
Seat 8: janabu1 ($6.56)
Seat 9: Jess366 ($27.16)
Gruux posts the small blind of $0.10
Wiir posts the big blind of $0.25
The button is in seat #9
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [Qd Qc]
dvrf folds
cyan2k folds
linara folds
Hero raises to $0.75
buckrogers1970 folds
janabu1 folds
Jess366 folds
Gruux folds
Wiir calls $0.50
*** FLOP *** [2s 2d 3s]
Wiir checks
Hero bets $1
Wiir raises to $2.75
Hero has 15 seconds left to act
Hero has requested TIME
Hero raises to $6.50
Wiir calls $3.75
*** TURN *** [2s 2d 3s] [4s]
Wiir checks
Hero has 15 seconds left to act
Hero bets $6.75
Wiir raises to $34.85
Hero calls $18.54, and is all in
Wiir shows [Js Ks]
Hero shows [Qd Qc]
Uncalled bet of $9.56 returned to Wiir
*** RIVER *** [2s 2d 3s 4s] [8d]
Wiir shows a flush, King high
Hero shows two pair, Queens and Twos
Wiir wins the pot ($62.18) with a flush, King high
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $65.18 | Rake $3
Board: [2s 2d 3s 4s 8d]
Seat 1: Gruux (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 2: Wiir (big blind) showed [Js Ks] and won ($62.18) with a flush, King high
Seat 3: dvrf didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: cyan2k didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: linara didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: Hero showed [Qd Qc] and lost with two pair, Queens and Twos
Seat 7: buckrogers1970 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 8: janabu1 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 9: Jess366 (button) didn't bet (folded)

So super tight (9/7) villain calls my middle position raise in the bb. At this point (given that he had hardly 3-bet over my sample (1.2%)) I assumed that AA-KK and possibly AK would not be in his post flop range here. So his hand was likely to be pocket pairs - or so I presumed at the time. When he check raises the flop I looked at his overall aggression which seemed very very high. His ratio of raising versus calling or folding was much higher than standard so I assumed that he would be misplaying many overpairs in this spot by raising them. I also assumed that he'd have trouble folding on such a dry board so 3-betting felt like the right play. When he calls I have discounted everything but middleish pairs. I naturally barrelled again versus this perceived range and BANG he shoves. I SNAP called thinking this was probably a play with a middle pair plus flush draw but I was actually drawing to only two outs. I was really genuinely gob smacked when he turned over his hand. My entire thinking through out the hand was flawed and I looked like a sucker. A BAD case of tunnel vision. As far as equity goes, if I put suited broadways into his range then I think that folding is definitely superior to calling on that turn even though it's only a pot sized bet left behind. Why I discounted something like AsQs or even AsKs I'll never really know!

Full Tilt Poker Game #30336577446: Table Apollo - $0.10/$0.25 - No Limit Hold'em - 14:50:49 ET - 2011/05/06
Seat 1: Hero ($29.23)
Seat 2: Kikomons ($26.56)
Seat 3: Menion87 ($10)
Seat 4: thonga ($10.82)
Seat 5: Artem15 ($87.21)
Seat 6: gwevolution ($25)
Seat 7: deGoochman ($31.91)
Seat 8: Dabovic ($46.82)
Seat 9: IronCross1 ($133.67)
Artem15 posts the small blind of $0.10
gwevolution posts the big blind of $0.25
The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [Th Tc]
deGoochman raises to $0.50
Dabovic folds
IronCross1 calls $0.50
Hero calls $0.50
Kikomons folds
Menion87 folds
thonga folds
Artem15 folds
gwevolution folds
*** FLOP *** [4d Td 9h]
deGoochman bets $1.25
IronCross1 calls $1.25
Hero has 15 seconds left to act
Hero raises to $4
deGoochman has 15 seconds left to act
deGoochman calls $2.75
IronCross1 folds
*** TURN *** [4d Td 9h] [8d]
deGoochman checks
Hero has 15 seconds left to act
Hero bets $6.75
deGoochman has 15 seconds left to act
deGoochman raises to $16.25
Hero has 15 seconds left to act
Hero has requested TIME
Hero raises to $24.73, and is all in
deGoochman calls $8.48
Hero shows [Th Tc]
deGoochman shows [Kd Ad]
*** RIVER *** [4d Td 9h 8d] [3h]
Hero shows three of a kind, Tens
deGoochman shows a flush, Ace high
deGoochman wins the pot ($57.56) with a flush, Ace high
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $60.56 | Rake $3
Board: [4d Td 9h 8d 3h]
Seat 1: Hero showed [Th Tc] and lost with three of a kind, Tens
Seat 2: Kikomons didn't bet (folded)
Seat 3: Menion87 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 4: thonga (button) didn't bet (folded)
Seat 5: Artem15 (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 6: gwevolution (big blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 7: deGoochman showed [Kd Ad] and won ($57.56) with a flush, Ace high
Seat 8: Dabovic didn't bet (folded)
Seat 9: IronCross1 folded on the Flop

This hand was a similar sort of thing but I think that calling the turn is pretty close in this case. Again for my super tight opponent to c-bet into two players I ruled out everything but big pairs, worse sets and AK with the flush draw (so one single combo). With top set on this board against two villains I definitely need to raise for value. When he calls I can't really refine his range from before, it is probably {AdKd, 99, 44, KK+}. When he check raises the turn I thought that this could be KdKx or AdAx plus AdKd (sets almost always draw to the boat on flush boards). Whether this is a realistic assumption or not depends I guess on whether he ever calls the flop with AA or KK. The equity is simple, on the turn - again - I had a pot sized stack left after I bet so I needed 33% or better equity to call a shove. If villain only ever does this play with exactly AdKd then I should fold since my equity actually works out at around 23%. But with only a SINGLE extra combination of AA or KK with a diamond draw it's a snap call. Given the decision is so marginal and dependent on so few hand combinations I think that my turn call is forgiveable in this hand.

Anyway, I regularly suffer from tunnel vision and it's a bit of a leak to be honest. But it can also be a strength because I don't believe many people have so thorough a system of thinking as this during play. Have I begun to over-think my hands? Maybe. Anyway let's hope that I can learn a lesson from this and that my down swing doesn't continue for too long. In truth I'm really enjoying playing at the moment and don't really care if I win or lose. The calculation and analysis is giving me plenty of pleasure as it is. GL

EDIT: Just happened upon the poker room reviews over at pokerscout.com. There are some pretty foolish people out there really. "OMGZ pokerz is so rigggged" - lol.

Does it count if I don't showdown?!

Second Royal, like a light in the midst of a dark downswing. A Beautiful Thing. One day I'll not even blink when I get one I guess, after a couple of million hands more. But I now have two suits to get... and then I have to showdown each suit too. Mini mindless challenges to keep my grind on lol. GL

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Taking one step backwards in order to take two steps forwards

So once again in the light of day after a poor session I have had a chance to do some critical thinking. I honestly think that my strategy has become a little poorer since undertaking the work to improve. I definitely had a poor session in terms of variance too but I contributed with some mistakes.

I'm still happy with my preflop play - my style is converging to around 14.5% Vp$ip and this suits me just fine. It's a little nitty but I know players who are making a very sound return using just such a style. I think that the mistakes are being made post flop.

The State of the Games
The Rush games are undoubtedly weaker since black Friday. In weaker games profit is more about value and less about bluffing in my opinion. As an example of a line I've taken a couple of times in the last couple of sessions: I flat a button raise in the bb. On the flop I hit second pair and knowing that button is stealing and continuation betting with a huge range I call the c-bet. On the turn I make a gut-shot straight draw to go with my pair, villain fires again and I check raise. IF villain is often firing the turn again - the sort of player who is liable to have a good % of bluffs in his turn barrelling range - I think this play is fine. I have raised with a hand that's probably not good enough to call a second bet but has enough equity to bluff with. However at this limit when faced with a second barrel it's often a very value heavy range. In a spot without specific reads that a player fits the 'capable of second barrel bluffing' mould I think that check folding is a better line in terms of EV.

I think that starting to experiment with increased aggression (read increased bluffing) is going to lead me to make a greater number of mistakes than before. Given that poker is basically a battle of mistakes then I will have to accept that until I gain a great deal of knowledge about the correct sorts of board textures and hands that I should be bluffing with in certain spots then I am going to face a dip in win rate. So much so that I'll probably no longer be a winning player. The question is whether I should go back to being a (semi) tight passive player - a style that does work at micro stakes - or continue to grow and improve and accept that at first it will have a negative impact. And to the title of the post. I'm going to continue to try and improve my game so that eventually I'm a much better player. In the mean time I will not expect to do as well as before.

Firing multiple barrels
I've increased my turn barrel frequency to around 50%. I think eventually I'd like it to lie somewhere between 45% and 50% so it is possibly a little high. In terms of overall barrelling, the characteristic of these games is such that once a player has called the flop c-bet (the vast majority fold way too much to one) he has a good number of hands that want to see a showdown. Not always but most of the time. So c-betting again on the turn as a bluff is probably a pretty neutral option from what I've observed. It's probably a similar EV return to just checking. However firing the third bluff barrel on the river after being called twice is probably certainly a leak at this limit. This is where a couple of my plays yesterday fall in: Firing a third barrel needing roughly 40% folds in a spot where villain is probably only folding maybe 25% of their range.

General Strategy thoughts
Picking the right spots to bluff in is as important - if not more important - than picking the right sort of hand to do it with. My thought processes have centred around the second part in recent sessions. Spotting a hand that is not good enough to call with but has some equity to bluff with is only worth bluffing with if villain folds enough of the time. So in general terms in these games I think that in any situation where your opponents have a wide range (c-betting, button opening, 3-betting button raises etc) it is standard that you should often be bluffing back. However in those situations where villain's range converges on 'wants to showdown' I think that purely value betting is correct. This has been the style of play that I've had most success with: pretty much c-bet and if called value bet. If I progress through the limits then I fully suspect that more spots will become much better for bluffing as opponents start floating wider and barrelling more often themselves.

Conclusions and Leak Fixing
So although I have gone through some enlightenment lately about aspects of poker I had not quite understood before, it has encouraged me to do things that are not optimal for these games. Such as:
C-betting too often (including turn barrels)
Firing a second street as a bluff after a check raise is called
Firing again as a bluff after a four-bet is called
Going to showdown and bluff catching rivers too often
In order to return back to a profitable style I will need to tone down my aggression. I will still try things out - which will cost me money at first - but a little less often as I'm doing currently. Hopefully I will eventually reach my goal of great play but once again I have plenty of work left. GL

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Link - Black Friday Opinion

U.S. Attorney's Office on Tilt

I'm still following the US developments with interest as it will certainly have a huge bearing on the future of the game. This link is a very well written commentary by a professional criminal defense group. Articles like this make me a believer that the right outcome for everyone will happen eventually.

Well, just when I thought it was safe to go outside SLAM. The all-in EV curse is back with a vengeance. Seriously man, I need some run good soon. I totally understand how long hundred + thousand hand break even stretches happen now. This session I ran 3 buy-ins under EV. Doesn't sound a lot, but that's nearly like 20 buy-ins this year now at this limit which is tons of money. Big sigh, oh well if I can somehow motivate myself to grind on I'll play again tomorrow. It didn't help that none of my aggression seemed to be working today. I made a couple of bad bluffs that cost nearly a buy-in between them. Well, these things happen in this game and I'll just have to play on and hope that somewhere along the line hands start holding up again. They must do, it's a statistical certainty. Just hopefully it happens this side of a mill hands. GL

Monday, 2 May 2011

So no update yet then...

To be fair to Full Tilt they stated 'early next week' but I'd still like to know how things stand. Nevertheless, even if it is play money I'm wagering with at the moment I'm really enjoying myself.

The new ranges are sinking in and after about 5k hands I'm running around 15/13 which is pretty ideal as far as I'm concerned. Hopefully these are realistic numbers. The ranges that I have created are easily remembered from each position and altogether pretty well balanced too. So preflop is nearly sorted (until the next time that I watch a high end poker theory video that rearranges my perception about the game).

The last session didn't go that well - I think I finished up losing money - but I just felt completely on my A game. It's a great feeling knowing for a fact that you're one of the best players currently in your game (of course I mean purely 25NL since the US players left the pool - I'm a decent but not good player IMO). I even managed an over-bet in one pot where it was clear that my opponent had a mediocre hand almost all of the time and I didn't think that a pot sized bet would be quite enough to make him fold with the right frequency. Anyway, hopefully I'm not being delusional about my ability lol. I think I should be up to 50k hands by the end of next week and then I'll be ready for some 50NL. Exciting times, let's just hope that I'm wagering real rather than virtual money. GL

Sunday, 1 May 2011

average session, encouraging volume

Just played a pretty rough session, but didn't tilt so pleased with that. I've sorted out some ranges that I'm comfortable playing with from each position. Not sure what my overall strategy will converge to, if I'm playing any less than 14% of hands then I'll have to rethink a little because I don't want to become so tight that my play becomes obvious. I think that 14% vp$ip is a good minimum number. I'll let you know how it goes but with any luck I'll be able to stop mucking about with the preflop strategy from now on and just concentrate on post flop poker.

Been thinking about how I can encourage myself to play more volume. Not looking at results helps but I also think that I could put aside set times each week to put in a 'shift'. I was wondering whether setting myself a goal of hours to play might help. I'm sure that if I was to target 500 hours of poker in as short a time as I can then I would make a good deal of money by the end. It would also make an interesting blog subject. Ok so here's what I'll do. I'll play a few hours this week until such time as I've internalised the new preflop strategy and then set a challenge like this up. I'll post again in a few days then. GL