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.

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

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