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, 31 July 2011

Big Weekend and Tournaments

Just come back from a Newquay stag do, pretty hectic but good people and had a great time. Trouble is I feel that I'm getting too old to crash in crappy bed in a small dorm with 3 other blokes and a communal bathroom serving 20+ people. Also spending a good part of the day on the beach without sun cream has given me burns that are causing me a lot of pain. I suppose these things must be tolerated for such a 'good' cause :P

Quick word on the cricket, I thought it was a very honourable decision by Captain MS Dhoni and the Indian cricket team to withdraw their appeal for the wicket of Ian Bell in the Trent Bridge test match. At the time I remember being pissed off that he was out but after seeing what had happened felt that despite the confusion the decision was correct. But doing what they did in the interest of the game was pretty classy. It was just a shame that the batsmen were not sent out first or that there was not even an announcement about what had happened and that the umpires and Indian cricket team had to endure the jeering when they came out after tea.

I just played a few tournaments tonight, no cashes but now I'm on Stars and there are so many running I'll probably mix in a few with my cash game bursts. The reason being that sometimes I just don't feel like grinding cash. Tournaments still feel like fun; I'm not a very good tourney player and I find the preflop equity decisions pretty interesting. There is also so many bad players in the micro tournaments that I'm sure that I could still make money in them regardless of my skill.

Again, making money is about getting in as many hands as possible. In tournaments unfortunately because my mental arithmetic is not that good, I find it pretty hard to do any more than 6 at a time because of the constant calculating that's required every time the blinds change. For anyone who is not an experienced player, strategy is heavily dependent on the size of the preflop pot with respect to the size of your stack. Simply put, the larger the preflop pot compared to your stack then the more looser and the more aggressive you should play.

Tonight there was three close preflop decisions. I checked them all with SNGWiz (a tool which helps to assess strategic tournament decisions) and the only error was a preflop shove where a late position raiser was called by the small blind and I shoved with QJs to try and win the pot without showdown. I knew that the first raiser would be folding a lot due to his wide preflop range and that the small blind caller's range likely didn't have {QQ+, AK} in it so my equity would not be terrible even if I was called. In the hand itself my opponent called with AJ and I was crippled. But SNGWiz made it a very small mistake after I'd adjusted the parameters for the players in the actual hand. The reason why is because I had almost 15x the preflop pot (just blind money) which is a little too much to risk with this hand. QKs would likely have been a certain shove though so it wasn't a large mistake.

Now that I'm back at work I'm sure that I won't be able to play quite as much but I really think that I'm good enough that playing a mix of tourneys and cash will get my bankroll growing in the right direction. GL

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Meh, Variance. Plus a Couple of Hand Histories

Things seem very swingy at the moment (perhaps a consequence of playing more hands?). I'm finding it a little harder to manage my tilt too for some reason. I'm a bit more stressed away from the tables so perhaps that is why. Anyway I'll have to keep a close eye that I don't donate too much $ if and when I do tilt.

Anyway one thing that I'd like to begin to do is post some hand histories to make the blog a little more interesting.

NL Holdem $0.25(BB) Replayer Game#65181485236

pancoor90 ($9.75)
joricho ($25)
pinkneli ($15)
cocker1409 ($10)
Hero ($25.77)
Mossalenko ($29.82)
Aldron30 ($24.40)
POMA3AH123 ($28.70)

pancoor90 posts (SB) $0.10
joricho posts (BB) $0.25
cocker1409 posts $0.25
Mossalenko posts $0.25
Mossalenko posts $0.10

Dealt to Hero Js Qs
cocker1409 checks
Hero raises to $1.25
Mossalenko calls $1
POMA3AH123 raises to $3
fold, fold, fold,
Hero raises to $6.75

Yeah, this decision looks questionable. The thing is villain was playing most hands and had 3-bet over a third of the time facing a raise. A very aggro player basically. I figured that with the dead money the preflop caller had put in the pot, plus my equity against a gigantic 3-betting range (and a hand that will flop pretty well generally), plus fold equity from 4-betting and the fact that I had blockers to QQ and JJ made it OK. Even given all of this though, I wonder if I should perhaps have folded instead and tightened my opening range from early position. I was certainly expecting tons of folds preflop though.

POMA3AH123 calls $3.75
FLOP ($15.45) 5c 6d 4s

OK so I have no fold equity against middle pairs, but perhaps I should just have jammed anyway. If he's called with broad-ways hoping to hit then I can still make them fold. Plus I have six outs versus the middle pairs and also a back door flush draw. The jam only needs to work half of the time. At the time I just decided that my preflop bluff hadn't worked so I'd just check fold.

Hero checks
POMA3AH123 checks
TURN ($15.45) 5c 6d 4s As
Hero bets $19.02 (AI)

I felt that this was a pretty damn good bluffing card so I fired. At the time I still figured most of his preflop calling range was likely to be middle pairs and broadways and only needed to fold out half his range, but perhaps the flop check gives up his range as being more like Ax? I'm sure that he'd have folded some of the time. This coupled with my flush draw equity probably makes my play OK (in that it's not a complete spew) but perhaps I should have checked again.

POMA3AH123 calls $19.02
RIVER ($53.49) 5c 6d 4s As Ah
Hero shows Js Qs
(Pre 45%, Flop 30.2%, Turn 20.5%)

POMA3AH123 shows Ac Td
(Pre 55%, Flop 69.8%, Turn 79.5%)

POMA3AH123 wins $51.49

Given what he shows down with perhaps my turn shove is too thin. Sure, the fact that he's called with ATo preflop means he would probably also have called with tons of other broad-ways and middle pairs and folded to the shove but I think there are perhaps too many Ax combinations in his range for it to be OK.

I'm not that happy with this hand, I think the preflop 4-bet bluff was too thin and also the turn shove. I don't think either play was a big mistake though.


NL Holdem $0.25(BB) Replayer Game#65181301722

Tomjibk ($29)
Bornbu ($10.85)
Hero ($25)
vasyaman00 ($27.05)
V-TWIN1340 ($22.39)
ALVIPO ($39.39)

Tomjibk posts (SB) $0.10
Bornbu posts (BB) $0.25

Dealt to Hero Kd Qs
Hero raises to $0.75
fold, fold, fold,
Tomjibk calls $0.65
FLOP ($1.75) Jc Td 3d
Tomjibk checks
Hero bets $1.08
Tomjibk raises to $3

Villain is a regular in the games. For him to check raise an UTG c-bet on this board I figured him for a set basically. I thought there's an outside chance he could be doing this with a flush draw, but what combos could he have given that I have the Kd? Maybe two combinations out of the lot. Anyway I am getting enough direct odds to draw another card so I do.

Hero calls $1.92
TURN ($7.75) Jc Td 3d 4d
Tomjibk bets $4.75

Anything but a diamond and I fold, but now I just think I have enough equity to call again. Any 9, Ace or diamond and I'd figure to be good. Note I have no fold equity so raising again would be horrible. It's one of those situations where I can call if I think I have enough direct or implied odds but I have to fold otherwise.

Hero calls $4.75
RIVER ($17.25) Jc Td 3d 4d 9s
Tomjibk bets $20.50 (AI)
Hero calls $16.50 (AI)
Tomjibk shows Jd Qd
(Pre 29%, Flop 69.7%, Turn 84.1%)

Hero shows Kd Qs
(Pre 71%, Flop 30.3%, Turn 15.9%)

Tomjibk wins $48.25

So he really did have one of the two flush combinations. I remember being very suprised when I saw his hand, given there were so little flush combos that I'd assigned him. Seriously probably AdQd and QdJd were the two combinations of flush draws he could have. The questions arise when considering if he'd perhaps have checked the turn with all of his sets when the third diamond came out. I wouldn't have if it was me, I'd have continued to fire my sets to get value from over-pairs plus diamond draw. I think this stack off is forgiveable.


Before I show the next hand, I had some history with villain in question. He'd called a button 4-bet in the small blind and donked on the flop - a bet that committed his stack so I had no fold equity. I had AK and on a dry board I'd have shoved all day but it was Q98 with a flush draw so I mucked.

NL Holdem $0.25(BB) Replayer Game#65183961506

TorinsBane ($50.44)
88_berkut ($12.25)
Schnurzpiep ($23.07)
tibi_c87 ($25.35)
ChumaV ($11.67)
KrazyBeer ($11.11)
KyzyaMastak ($9.75)
Hero ($25)

TorinsBane posts (SB) $0.10
88_berkut posts (BB) $0.25

Dealt to Hero Qs 9s
fold, fold, fold, fold, fold,
Hero raises to $0.75
TorinsBane raises to $2.25
Hero calls $1.50

So he's 3-betting me a TON from the blinds. At some point I have to start calling. If he'd bet to 2.5 or 2.75 I'd probably have folded but QTs and J9s are mandatory calls against an aggressive 3-bettor and I have the button so Q9s is playable IMO.

FLOP ($4.75) Kd 6c Tc
TorinsBane bets $3
Hero raises to $6.75

I flop the gut-shot straight draw and an over-card to the ten so I bluff raised expecting a lot of folds. But again, he floats my raise out of position and donks the turn...

TorinsBane calls $3.75
TURN ($18.25) Kd 6c Tc 9h
TorinsBane bets $6.75

At the time I expected this to be a bluff some % of the time given the previous hand where I'd folded. He was leading out of position often, not just against me and not always for value. So not only do I have outs to the best hand (I really did think that any Q or 9 would be good enough) but I also have showdown value now too.

Hero calls $6.75
RIVER ($31.75) Kd 6c Tc 9h Qd
TorinsBane bets $30.21
Hero calls $9.25 (AI)
Hero shows Qs 9s
(Pre 44%, Flop 36.1%, Turn 93.2%)

TorinsBane shows 4d Ad
(Pre 56%, Flop 63.9%, Turn 6.8%)

Hero wins $48.25

At this point if he's got a jack then good for him. I don't think I'd ever have played a hand this way against any one else. I had to use specific player traits to get to this showdown. I think that perhaps raising all - in on the turn may have been a better play. I found this hand really interesting. I'm not thrilled at the way I played it but I don't hate it either.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


So played a few more thousand hands this week and it looks like the heater has ended now. I haven't gone on some tough down-swing (at least not yet anyway), but things have got decidedly less juicy of late. Still, that's how the game is and after all of the bad variance I've encountered before I know that my only friend is volume.

Having adopted a looser strategy, it seems to me that I've sacrificed some showdown equity. Over my entire sample I have won less money on average at showdown than I did in my previous databases where I played a tighter style. On the flip side I have lost less money without going to showdown. So essentially I'm bluffing at more blind money and coming out better off but losing a little more at showdown because my ranges are weaker on average.

The important thing is that I try and keep the gap between the two positive. I'm really trying hard to play as accurately as possible based upon equity and villain's tendencies and over the most recent couple of thousand hands I'm very happy. I managed to avoid tilt and made just a few small mistakes.

A small worry is that I'm going to showdown quite often again, nearly 30% of the time. I don't feel that I'm hero calling too much, but I think a large reason for this is that I'm often checking back flops for pot control which is a style that tends to lead to more showdowns. Also playing against very loose passive players can have this result too. I'll keep a careful eye on this as it could potentially contribute to low showdown winnings.

I am away this weekend and will play my last couple of sessions tomorrow. Then it will likely be Tuesday before I get to play again unfortunately.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

3-Betting at the Stars' Micros

In the Stars' micro stakes games, opponents share a tendency to call 3-bets. In particular when raising from the button villains are only folding around 65% of the time when facing a 3-bet which means that I'm not making immediate money from my bluffs. Not only this, but my continuation bets are working only about 25% of the time.

I seem to have a habit of almost always c-betting in a 3-bet pot. I'm not sure where this comes from, I'd not noticed it before. For some reason in this situation I have this urge that I must win the pot and therefore bet nearly every single time. Clearly given the evidence in my database, this has to be a spew.

In any situation where there isn't enough fold equity we need to be raising a value heavy range. In this particular situation we are often raising a value heavy range preflop which is fine but then bluffing too often on the flop. Flop c-bets in 3-bet pots don't get any credit for what ever reason. So perhaps this calls for a complete change in approach? Perhaps when we play 3-bet pots out of position we should check raise our entire continuing range? I'm pretty sure when our villains call with whatever junk preflop they will nearly always bet with the entire range when we check. So if we decide to check raise around 60% of flops with the hands we want to felt and also those with good bluff potential (that is plenty of good turns to shove on should he call) then this looks to me like a much better approach.

Hmmm, I'm going to mull this over tonight and perhaps trial this method for a few thousand hands. GL

Edit: Well I ran some tighter filters this morning in the database to have a really close look at the board textures I was c-betting on; with the exception of a couple of pretty weak looking folds facing a raise which looked pretty close from an EV point of view I totally agree with my play in pretty much every spot. It looks like over this small sample size I've either flopped good enough equity to c-bet, I've been dealt a dream flop from a fold equity point of view (ace high, king high, paired board etc) or had a dead easy value bet. So as far as my high c-bet numbers are concerned it's just variance.

This doesn't change the fact that my opponents are not folding that often when facing a 3-bet, but it's some comfort that I still seem to be playing OK in that spot. This is something that I'll re-examine once I have a bigger sample of hands.

Monday, 25 July 2011

3 Month Plan, 100k Hands.

Hi, well I have decided to become a little more conservative with moving up and wait until I've got to $1500. The reason is that I'm expecting my heater to end at some point soon so if I manage to reach that figure then I can really feel that I earned the right to move up.

I've been playing around with the bankroll tool over at www.evplusplus.com and I've given myself the target of playing ~100k hands during the next three months. That is, by October 31st I'd like to have played 115k hands, which is approx 8k per week. I don't think that I'll find this challenge easy as sometimes I struggle to motivate myself to grind. Perhaps I can treat myself to something at the end, although goodness knows what. Maybe a new wardrobe, bling myself up a little...

The one thing that I've learned from using that bankroll growth simulator is that volume is key. That is the primary reason that I've set myself this challenge, to try and finally get some real growth going in these games where I think I have a decent edge. I went through a quite significant EV downswing (25 buy-ins) earlier in the year as I blogged at the time. Hopefully this will be the last one I see for a decent stretch of time and I can have some steady returns for the rest of the year. Anyhow, I'll try and post an update once per week and continue to publish my progress, good or bad.

Ouch, just played a meh session and made a couple of mistakes. I definitely still bluff catch way too often, and until I can learn to fold a little more my showdown winnings will get eaten away. I still think that I'll make money but I could be making even more... Still, I'll keep reviewing my sessions after play and hopefully begin to cut out more of the mistakes. This evening is a useful reminder that I'm still some way away from where I want to be with poker.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Stars results so far, signs of improvement

I must begin this post with a large disclaimer: I'm enjoying a heater and these results will be positively skewed. Never the less, I think I'm playing well and certainly profitably.

I've begun playing more loosely just recently in an effort to make a little more money from the raise/c-bet set up. It's only a small change but seems to have added to my win rate. I have also been trying to plan my hands better and I've an example coming later on. I think this is something that comes with practise; the more hands I put in the stronger I feel that I'm getting. By planning I mean that once I see a flop with my given hand I'll be deciding exactly how I'm going to continue based on what cards turn. As a simple example if I choose to check raise a hand on the flop, I will only do so if I can credibly barrel a ton of cards on the turn. I like to choose at least 20 cards usually unless my opponent folds to a lot of check raises.

Here is a hand I played recently:

NL Holdem $0.25(BB) Replayer Game#64914430683

Gryko13 ($22.04)
HenriMorgan ($10)
PbI6AKPS ($9)
FELIPSON ($19.65)
Gselweckle ($46.39)
hfly0313 ($14.71)
abrar08 ($25.65)
Hero ($28.40)

Gryko13 posts (SB) $0.10
HenriMorgan posts (BB) $0.25

Dealt to Hero 7d Ad
fold, fold, fold, fold, fold,
abrar08 raises to $0.75
Hero calls $0.75
fold, fold,

Well my opponent was a regular who played on the tighter more passive side. He was stealing a decent amount of the time from the cut off so calling with Ad7d was pretty clear in my opinion, we have tons of equity with our hand against his range. 3-betting and bagging the preflop equity would still have been profitable though.

FLOP ($1.85) 9s 5d Th

abrar08 bets $1.25
Hero calls $1.25

The flop misses us completely but I think that often we have enough equity to call a flop bet against a wide cut off range. There are also tons of scare cards on the turn that we can bluff with against a double barrel. I decided that facing that second bet I would raise a 6, 7, 8 or heart for 21/47 possible turns to bluff raise and I've also got three ace outs that will very often give me the best hand. I definitely think that I would be flatting a set on this flop to a c-bet against a cut off range so I can certainly credibly represent a set or straight if any of those cards come in. This is the planning that I was talking about earlier. I'll never run a bluff any more without using it unless villain has shown a clear tendency to fold facing aggression.

TURN ($4.35) 9s 5d Th 8s
abrar08 bets $2.25
Hero raises to $6.75
abrar08 calls $4.50

One of our planned bluff outs comes in so I pull the trigger. I expected a decent amount of folds but when he calls - as a tight passive type of opponent - I'd narrow him down to over-pairs or draws. I think on this draw heavy board his sets and straights would almost always instantly ship so I've managed to narrow his range quite a bit. A hand like JJ would make tons of sense in this spot, but I expect this player would call with QQ+ too.

RIVER ($17.85) 9s 5d Th 8s Kh
abrar08 checks

Now, whether we bet the river is a simple case of whether we can get enough combinations of hands to fold. If his calling range is just over-pairs - as we believe - this river is a good card to fire again on because as well as the fear of being up against a set or straight some of those hands now have to face an over card. I figured we could fold out JJ-QQ and he'd call with KK+. So we can make 12/21 hands fold, and if we bet $10-$11 then our bet has to work less than half of the time. Clearly a bet.

Hero bets $10.50
abrar08 folds
Hero shows 7d Ad (I didn't actually show, Hold 'em Manager bug?)

Hero wins $16.97

Everything works out as I planned. Sometimes we'll run into hands in that spot, but the fact that we constructed a logical plan that was backed up by expected value maths makes a huge difference. In the past I'd just play strong draws and pairs and fold everything else. Good players play hands like this, and while I'm not saying I'm a good player, I'm certainly becoming better. GL

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Confirmed Heater

Despite running an over-pair into the nut flush in a 4-bet pot and another over-pair into quads in a 3-bet pot I still finished the day up. I love it when this happens, it's been a long time since my last heater to be fair.

I also felt that I played my absolute A game today. It was a day off so I had plenty of sleep last night, and I was fresh and made every single decision logically using an estimate of my opponent's hand range. For example I hero folded top pair top kicker facing a min raise in a 3-way pot despite getting tons of odds and was right when he showed a set of tens; I also hero called fourth pair versus an absolute whale and was also correct. Of course on other days they'd have shown up with different hands but both decisions were vindicated by the hands that they actually showed down.

One thing that I think has helped with this patch of run good is that I think my edge is a good bit greater in these games than it was in Rush. These Stars' full ring games are pretty damn soft, I shan't bore you with the inner details only that big hands are getting more value, and weak hands are getting more folds. So it should be expected that a winning strategy would experience more upswings and I think my current run is evidence of this. And yes, while I felt that towards the end my edge had shrunk quite a bit in the Rush games (perhaps due to all of the regs migrating there for better hands per hour ratio?) I definitely 100% feel that I will beat these Stars' games over the long haul.

Well, I have reached my threshold for moving up to 50NL. Tomorrow I will load up four tables and play a session. Because it's my first 'shot', I will use a single buy-in stop loss before moving down. This is pretty nitty, but as I only have 20 buy-ins for that limit if I don't move back down after losing ~$50 then I could set myself back quite a long way. I will also table select like an utter Ninja. Right now, the games seem easy as pie with no table selection. If I'm careful at 50NL I will lessen my risk even more.

So right now, poker is going great. If you explore my posts from the past, you'll know that it all swings in roundabouts. There will be another downswing. But until then, SHIP IT!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Weird Graph, Analysis of a Leak

Things at 25NL have gone well so far. The games are pretty weak, but I'm pretty sure I'm experiencing a patch of long overdue run good too. I honestly can't remember the last time I had a heater, so hopefully it continues for a little while just yet.

Anyway I've included the graph so far, but as the blog title suggests - it's a little weird. There has been no great change in my approach but yet suddenly my red line (won money without showing our hand down) has rocketed through the break even barrier. This is very unusual and highly likely to be a result of good variance. The unfortunate aspect of this is that at some point I'm going to have a stretch of hands where NO bluff works at all and the graph will correct.

Anyway, the important thing is that I've had a good patch of cards and won enough money that I'm very close to my 50NL switch over threshold. This is quite exciting. If I can play a good volume of hands at that limit I should be able to clear a decent percentage of my milestone bonuses by the end of the year. I don't expect the games to get radically tougher, but I will likely have to table select a little more often than I do currently.

Game Improvement
I have been spending time studying equities - both preflop and postflop; I think my preflop ranges are converging to a pretty solid strategy that any opponent should struggle to exploit. This was a big goal from early in the year and I feel I'm pretty close now. Post flop I am still pretty weak, but I definitely think that I'm improving pretty quickly and session by session I'm getting tougher to outplay.

My biggest leak at the moment is river curiosity I think. Hence the second portion of the blog title. The following is a sample transcript:

me: "Oh shit, he's f*n triple barreled me. WTF? I was so sure my hand was good; I don't think he's got enough bluff combos here for me to call profitably"
devil: "He could be bluffing."
angel: "Trust your instincts Simon, you're probably right"
me: "Shit, but if I don't call, I'll never know and that will tilt me."
devil: "Like I said, he could be bluffing."
angel: "Seriously man, he's got a gazillion more value hands than bluff combos, fold."
me: "... but he could be bluffing, I CALL"

This sort of thinking is going on far too much lately. Twice this session in fact; I think that part of me is justifying the call due to absolute monetary value. Just because it's only a few bb does not make it insignificant. In fact if I stopped calling with pure bluff catchers completely I think I'd do far far better than I am currently from a pure EV point of view so once again, I have to try and temper my calling station tendencies.

Anyway, I continue to strive for improvement. On my A-game, I think I play pretty well. On my B-game, I'm a calling station and likely break even at best. I should try and bring the former to the table more often. GL

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Quick Update

Played 3.5k hands at 25NL now, the games are mega juicy and I think that my strategy should do very well at this limit. There seems to be a high overhead between the money we can win without seeing a showdown (I'm losing about half a buy-in per 1000 hands) and the money we can win at showdown (seems to be converging on about a buy-in per 1000 hands). If this is true over a larger sample then big win rates are very viable in these games which is obviously awesome.

I'm about $70 away from my threshold for moving to 50NL so that's quite exciting, a new limit that I've not played before.

I'll blog in more detail at some point. But things are going well.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Just a Quickie...

Sorry for the second post in a day. Just played a few hundred hands of 25NL Full Ring on Stars and I conclude that these games are just as bad as the lower limit. Yes, I don't know if I've just been ridiculously lucky in the last few sessions to pick ludicrous tables, or if full ring games on Stars were always this good. Well, I'm not complaining.

Just for the statisticians out there, I had hardly any c-bet bluffs work (<30%) and only won 42% of flops. But yet I still made most of my blind money back on the red line! I'm astonished by how weak these games are at the moment, truly. They are also populated by huge loose passive fish who will just call you down and let you know as soon as they have the nuts. Even if Rush comes back, after what I've seen over the last 10k hands I may not go back.

One other thing I'd like to mention is that when the tables break I've been able to dust off my old heads-up tricks and get into some pots with players who clearly have never played the format. I'm certainly very rusty, but a lot of these players seem completely out of depth in those situations. This must contribute to my winnings so far I guess.

Anyway, pretty pointless post. The 25NL full ring games on stars are a lot weaker than the 25NL Rush games. That's all I really wanted to say!

Game Plan

Hey, well I'm just about to upload some more funds to make use of the reload bonus. This will enable me to move up to 25NL full ring. My threshold for moving back down to 10NL will be $500 and moving up to 50NL will be $1000.

So I will be using a '20 buy-in for the next limit' bankroll risk structure. Considering that I have 50 buy-ins for the lowest limit (and that I've seen how soft that limit is) my actual risk of ruin is very likely close to 0%. I've verified this using the bankroll tool at evplusplus.com.

While I do think that my risk of ruin is small enough, I'll have to be very careful and look for indicators in the games that I play that might tell me that my strategy isn't profitable. I'm almost certain that it is at the 10NL limit and I wouldn't expect a huge change for 25NL but I'll keep a careful eye on it. I will also need to switch tables if I ever find a situation where I think there is questionable profit.

My experiences in Rush poker and more recently at the Stars' tables is going to make me look for the following attributes in an ideal table:
* Tight players or fish to my right
-- In Rush poker there was always regs sat in the CO or BTN that would consistently steal my blinds. In these games it seems to happen less often which is good for my profit (I won't go into detail). If I can find tables where players are not stealing very often it will help with my win rate from the blinds themselves.
* Weak players to my left
-- If we have good players to our left then they'll be playing pots in position and 3-betting with a decent strategy. While I think I can largely hold my own against micro regs these days, I'd rather be in pots with fish and messing with regs will not allow this to happen.

So why the change in approach? Well I heard on a forum that the UK government is looking into existing licensing rules for online gambling companies. It's possible that this will be a positive change that gives us extra security and ensures that we are not at as much risk as we are currently (as evidenced by the Full Tilt saga). On the other end of the spectrum they could bring in a taxed and regulated system like France where the high rake makes the games unbeatable. My hope is that they will not move to tax gambling again (since it nearly killed the industry before - and gambling is a big industry in the UK) but merely regulate the market more thoroughly. However, given how the world's governing bodies are currently waging war with online poker I cannot rule out a negative result. In other words I need to try and make as much as I can from the game while I can.

I know that my recent results have not been great, but I'm sure that I can beat the Stars' games at 10NL and providing there is not a significant increase in skill over the next couple of limits hopefully I can make a few hundred bucks.

I guess now would be a good opportunity to use my: ONE TIMEEEEEE!!!!
UK government, please don't kill online poker.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Button Improvement

Well one area where I haven't been that strong over the most recent couple of hundred thousand hands is my button play. Despite opening more hands than anywhere else on the table I'm winning a similar amount of money to what I normally do from the cut off.

So there are two spots I am going to begin to study: playing as the pre flop raiser and also calling a single raise. Being as I am playing the largest frequency of hands from this position it stands to reason that if I can improve my win rate here it will have a big effect on my overall strategy.

As the pre flop raiser (PFR)
I have recently made an adjustment to my c-betting strategy; that is, if my opponent does not show a tendency to fold too much to c-bets (fold to c-bet < 45%) I'm focussing on playing my hands with showdown value passively and betting a polarised range of hands for value and those without showdown value but which still have equity in the pot.

On a Qh7d6d I would be c-betting AQ for value, 9dTd as a bluff (no showdown value but has pot equity) and checking back something like 99 or TT to get to showdown. I'd also be checking back J9o with the intention of giving up and folding to any bet on later streets unless the turn changes things and gives me an open ended straight draw or something like that.

This philosophy is similar to what I was using before but I tended to bluff with a good deal of my hands that had no showdown value or equity, even when villain showed that he wouldn't fold to too many c-bets. I'd also sometimes be betting 99 or TT for 'protection' and I'm not convinced that this is mathematically correct given the fact that we are value owning ourselves if opponent has a better hand. I have to give Matthew Janda (Cardrunners pro) the credit for this improvement in my philosophy. As I said, I still tended to bet a polarised range but also probably spewed a little occasionally with some hands.

Calling a preflop raise on the button
My current strategy is heavily dependent on being the player with initiative in the pot. I'm currently pretty bad when I have position but not the betting lead and I'm certain that I'm folding far too often on the button when facing a single raise. A few posts ago I demonstrated how widely we could realistically call when facing a single raise on the button.

Using 25NL as my example if we face a raise that we estimate is the top 10% of hands and the bet is $0.75 then we risk $0.75 to win $1.10. So our equity must be 0.75/(0.75 + 1.10) = 40% to call. Being in position grants us additional equity, but the frequency we face a squeeze from the blinds takes some away (but in my opinion not as much). So if we grant ourselves 38% to play with my friend HoldemViewer gives us the following range is good enough to call:

{ 44+,A8s+,K9s+,Q9s+,J9s+,T9s,ATo+,KJo+,QJo }

That's significantly wider than I currently call on the button facing a 10% raiser.

The problem comes when sometimes our data is wrong and our opponent doesn't actually raise that frequently. Because against a 5% raiser the hands with enough equity shrinks rapidly to:

{ TT+,AQs+,AKo }

That's much closer to the sort of range I'd be playing facing a single raise on the button. This is obviously too tight against most players who open wider, so I'm certainly folding in some +EV spots. This is something that I need to address, especially since against a 15% open we can suddenly call with 25% of hands and I'm not playing nearly enough in that situation.

I have a couple of days off coming up and I intend to create some standard button playing ranges for tight players, semi-tight players and loose players when facing a single raise. 3 ranges that I can learn and utilise during play. I can create a Hold'em Manager filter that isolates these situations after each session and see what my best play was at the time and what I actually did. I can use Flopzilla (Google it) to help in this regard.

Hopefully after all of this work the button will suddenly become a place where I'm a deadly opponent. I seriously need to improve my win rate in this one spot, and if I do then the only way is up! GL

Friday, 8 July 2011

Results so far.

So more break even play, but I'm really optimistic. I have altered my strategy only slightly since Rush, but I strongly believe it is working much better in these games than it was in the tight aggressive player infested Rush ones.

I often talk about the 'red line' and I've displayed it here. If you don't know what it is, think of my poker strategy like a business. Businesses make profit by maximising revenue and minimising cost. My strategy revolves around showdown 'revenue' - that is making money with my poker hands when I get to showdown (the blue line in the graph). My 'costs' are having to pay a big and small blind per round with mostly garbage hands and also paying to see a flop.

The fact that my red line descent is so shallow means that my opponents are letting me win a ton of flops with shitty hands basically. This is allowing me to minimise my poker playing 'cost'. In every database I have of my play I won around 70 - 80% of a buy-in per 1000 hands on average at showdown. I see no reason why this will change at Poker Stars (over a bigger sample obv) since my strategy is the same as it was in the tougher Rush games. But the fact that my bluffs are working so effectively has convinced me that I will utterly destroy this limit over a larger sample.

So what, right? It's only 10NL, I know. Expect me to be back in 25NL games very soon. GL

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Day of Poker

Well I got up this morning and watched a very instructive video by Mr Matthew Janda over at Cardrunners and I think it has corrected my c-betting philosophy slightly. Just a few decisions per 100 or so flops so only a small adjustment. I hope the US players get a decent internet poker environment back, there is so much expertise there that would go to serious waste otherwise.

On the other side of the coin, that's no one to teach the truly horrible players I seem to be coming across on Poker Stars lately. I played for about four hours today and there's only one player that I considered reasonable (given sample size). I almost feel that it's unnecessary continuing at 10NL; as soon as I get a reasonable sample confirming that I'm crushing - whether that's 20k hands or 30k or more - I'll just move straight up.

More thoughts on the games in general, after today's hands I somehow halved the money I lost without showdown so I've now only lost half a buy-in over 6k hands in this respect. That's pretty crazy as all I'm doing is raising and then c-betting. It's almost like subtracting 5 years of poker evolution from the games. I also played several nice pots where players decided to donate to me, including one hand where someone called my 4-bet with 9 high and shipped on an ace high flop with zero equity. So the showdown curve is increasing nicely again. Before long I'll have a pretty decent win rate imo.

Anyway, check out the ring games at Poker Stars. They are super soft since Black Friday. I imagine the UK gov could shut it down for me too one day, so I intend to really push my volume and try and squeeze the last drops of profit from online poker before it fades away. Because sadly that's the trajectory upon which it now finds itself.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


It has been speculated recently that it won't be long before Full Tilt reopens after having the license reissued by Alderney, and also that there will be new owners in place when indeed this happens.

If it does I've decided that I will continue to play some hours per week on Poker Stars as well as returning to play Rush as well. I would imagine that the site are expecting a 'run on the bank' but I assume the new investors have sufficient capital that they can ride the storm and eventually entice the player base back by showing that they are going to do things differently from now on. This is my great hope anyway; a return to normality where everyone gets paid and can just enjoy the games again.

EDIT: Looks like the 'imminent resumption of play' speculation was just that; there is information leaking that the investors are currently performing due diligence and that licensing and play will NOT continue until that is completed. So it could be a couple more weeks or so before there's the possibility that FTP could begin to operate again.

Back to the Stars' games, they are very soft at the 10NL limit in my opinion. While I haven't won anything so far over 4k hands I haven't altered my strategy at all really but am performing much better on several statistics (than at Rush) and would expect my results to converge upon a very nice win rate given a larger sample which is what I intend to achieve. In particular I have lost less than a buy-in to non showdown winnings over 4k hands. I haven't tried to do much differently to Rush, in fact I'd say I have probably toned down the aggression somewhat but despite that I'm controlling the 'loss' side of my strategy very comfortably. All I need is for my showdown curve to begin to slope upwards again and life will be good.

The reason I've moved down from 25NL is that I didn't want to upload a great amount of money when I redeposited there so I'm just going to move up at 20 buy-ins for the next limit which means I'll need to win around $150 before I get to my move up/move down threshold of $500. But this is fine, I don't think that it will take too long.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Mixed Session. Calling Elasticity

Just played a meh session. To begin with I was being too aggressive I think, I spewed in a couple of spots where I probably had inadequate fold equity. I also played a pot where my opponent clearly had a strong hand on the river and I didn't make the most of an opportunity to over-bet, but more on that in a second.

The more I play the more I think that playing a very value heavy strategy is key in these games. There seems to be a lot less fold equity than I used to have in Rush. Sure, there are still the loose passive 'see a flop and fold if I don't hit de nutz' fish but in most situations, bluffing just doesn't seem to work often enough. I'm thinking of deliberately adopting a strategy where I raise and c-bet on the usual flop textures but then completely shutting down unless I have a clear value betting opportunity. There doesn't seem to be enough regs that would exploit me to be honest. Anyway as I continue to adapt I'll add further comment in this regard.

Calling Elasticity
As I mentioned, there was a spot where I rivered a full house and the flush also came in. I bet, my opponent raised and I made a 3x reraise over the top. I believe that I should have instead jammed all-in, a significant overbet. The reason being that all of his bluffs are going to fold to any bet size, but if he has a flush I think he'll still be calling very often.

This got me thinking about how I could begin to focus on improving my bet sizing which is an area where I still think I am pretty weak.

In an ideal world, as we bet larger and larger our opponents should be folding out an increasing % of their hands in a linear pattern. But often they do not do this. There are two extremes:
1/ Villain has a totally inelastic calling range.
- When we value bet we should bet as large as possible (go all - in)
2/ Villain has a totally elastic calling range.
- When we value bet we should bet as much as we can without making him fold.

The second situation comes up very often. We have a good hand on the river and suspect villain has a second best hand but will not call a significant bet, so we bet like 1/3 pot which is a bet he'd likely call almost always. Villain's calling range is very elastic in this case. A small bet will almost always be called, a big bet will almost never be called.

The first situation comes up rarely, but usually when you and your opponent both have very strong hands and you are at the top end of the scale - as in my example. As far as bet sizing was concerned, I made a very fundamental bet sizing error - typical of my play. In a situation where my opponent had a very inelastic calling range I did not maximise my expectation because I didn't shove all-in.

For the foreseeable future I'm going to really think about range elasticity when I get to similar situations and try and get some extra value from my opponents.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Quick Thoughts on Rake

Well I've spent the day shopping for a new poker site to call home. After playing on Poker Stars for the last couple of days I thought I'd double check that there's not a better option available in terms of rake, rake-back and traffic.

I began by looking into BetRaiser, a unique poker site that charges no rake on games but just takes 10% of any withdrawal less the initial deposit. This means that overall players pay a significantly smaller amount of money to the site than in a traditional online poker room. If BetRaiser ever had any traffic, it would be the ultimate room and I'd play nowhere else. As it is though, at peak times they average ten cash game players all playing 10NL. So despite the brilliant online poker model, it does not currently serve my needs. I will however be keeping a close eye on it in case one day people realise how good this concept is and migrate.

I also looked into signing up for another site and network and claiming rake-back. However when I studied the rake chart over at pokertableratings I realised that I'd likely be paying more in rake than I do at Poker Stars even with the rake-back deal.

Studying those numbers more closely, it's clear that in the full ring cash games Poker Stars provides excellent value in terms of rake. The best in the industry. They also have an excellent VIP scheme. I have come to the conclusion that even without rake-back Poker Stars is likely at the very least an equal to it's competitors in terms of value for money. For this reason I will continue to focus my time and effort on the full ring games there.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

First Couple of Sessions

Made a break even start over the first 1.5k hands or so. This is my fault really for running a couple of bluffs where it was possibly a little bit spewey and also stacking versus a button reg with TT vs AA. I'm sure it's going to take me a little time to adjust.

I do however believe that the games will be profitable for me. I have performed no table selection so far but it's been very easy to control my money won without showdown line. In other words, players are folding more to c-bets than in Rush; they are stealing my blinds less often than in Rush; and there are just as many loose passive players who call to see a flop and then fold to most c-bets. So I think that I will cut out all of the marginal bluffs altogether and just press hard for value. This should maximise my win rate.

I have been playing eight tables. I'm not sure how much I'd be affected by playing more; with an AHK program like tableNinja I'm sure I could play 12 at a time but I would rather not invest in that software until I know what's happening with Full Tilt. I don't want to pay out and then never ever use it. So for now I'll stick to 8 tabling and this allows me to play around 500 hands per hour which I think is an acceptable rate. That means that with a little work I'll be getting through 20-30k hands per month. If my hunch is true and the potential win rates as big as I suspect then with any luck I'll be moving up in no time.

Friday, 1 July 2011

FTP not finished just yet?

In a credible news report from the LA Times it looks like European investors are set to pay back US players (who are collectively owed around US $150m) in return for a majority stake in Pocket Kings, the Irish parent company of Full Tilt poker.

If this all goes through, and somehow they are able to settle the various legal issues that still surround the company and get the site back up again it would be an amazing result for a business that many thought had come to it's end.

The future of online poker is uncertain and in recent months the news has been mostly bad. For once, perhaps a story that will buck that trend. Perhaps I was too hasty to write off my money and perhaps I will be playing Rush again sooner than I thought. GL