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.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Quick update...

Just a quick post as I haven't done so for a while. New job is going well so far, I'm learning a lot. The thing is, if I progress down this route and gain qualifications and this job continues to go well then in a couple of years time I'll be in a great place. The down side is that a lot of my time is going to be used up with studying for accounting qualifications so my poker is going to suffer. I love the game and I'll never stop playing but I think that I'll just get a few hours to play per week from now on. On the other side of the coin, if my earnings increase then I'll be able to play higher stakes to challenge myself which I'm looking forward to.

As well as the new job and studying I'm learning to drive and have my test coming up in a months time. I'm so busy it's stressing me out. But once I begin to achieve these goals then my life will have taken a huge step forward compared to where I was at Christmas. My first target is to pass the driving test and get through my work probation period then I can relax and look forward to my September holiday.

As for poker, I'm mentoring a promising young player at the moment. I don't qualify as a coach as I'm hardly beating the games but I do know rather a lot about poker so I'm trying to pass on as much as I can. He's got a maths degree and seems to have an ability to learn quickly so I'm sure it will not be long before he's better than I am. It's amazing to see someone figure things out that took me much much longer.

Right I think that's it, a bit off topic from my usual posts. Unfortunately I think that this is how it's going to be for a while. Come September things should quieten and I'll get time back to play more poker. I can't wait! Until then though, I wish you good luck at the tables!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Improving My Understanding

Having a great month so far, it's great to wipe out a downswing and make a few buy-ins on top in just a few days of play. A while ago I wondered about the profitability of Zoom poker but I think that I'd just encountered some rough variance because at the moment it just seems like fish want to play pots with me.

I believe that I've managed to increase my winning margin by increasing my 3-betting frequency. Back when I played Rush poker on Full Tilt I had a small frequency, somewhere around 3%. The reason that it converged to such a small number is because I was actually using a specific range of bluff hands that balanced the value hands quite nicely. The problem with this approach though is that you ignore too many profitable spots. The opposite approach would be to 3-bet with a random hand any time you find yourself in a profitable spot. But I don't think this is optimal either because you'd end up re-raising too much in my opinion. The compromise that I've come to is to have a bluffing range of hands that include blockers and equity when called but it's much wider than the old set of hands that I used. The last few sessions on average I've 3-bet more like 5.5 - 6.0% of the time which has allowed me to win more dead money than before, perhaps as much as a bb/100 extra. Hopefully this will continue.

I've also corrected what I believe was an error in my thinking. When calculating hands that I can reasonably 3-bet for value I've always used absolute equity versus a calling range. What I hadn't been accounting for is future equity or skill equity. In other words say I've got ATs and a really loose fish has raised before me. My default play would have been to always call in the past, simply because even against the looser calling ranges AT is not usually an absolute favourite. But it doesn't need to be if I'm making that equity back on average by playing better post flop! So I could perhaps be re-raising hands with 45% equity for value in this spot. The recent change in thinking has had me 3-betting much thinner for value in the games as well as my extra bluffing so it has balanced itself nicely.

This month I've also faced a load of implied odds decisions and I've made a couple of mistakes so this has allowed me to refresh my knowledge of that side of things nicely. So many players at these limits don't size their bets large enough. They want to 'suck you in' and then when you are sucked in and suck out, they pay you off anyway. It's great!

Right, that post was quite technical and probably a little boring but I haven't put anything up for ages so I thought I would. Next post will be better, I promise. GL

Saturday, 2 June 2012

New job, plus working on my game.

Have been offered a new job in an accounts office so looking forward to getting stuck in. The hours and pay is better than I've ever had before, so as long as I don't mess up during probation my life should settle down again. I'm also working on an accounting qualification (AAT) and will probably go on and attempt to do a chartered accounting qualification too, which will be very very +EV if I manage to pull it off. Even if I don't I'll get tons of cool things to put on my CV.

As for poker, I've been working hard on my OOP play without the initiative. There are quite a few very good strategy posts up on twoplustwo that have been helping me a ton. Look here if you're interested.

A lot of my strategy playing in the blinds involves flatting pre-flop with the hands that are not good enough to 3-bet but are too good to fold (66-TT, AJ-AQ, KQo, ATs). Then I usually check-call pretty often on good boards, I very occasionally check raise bluff or for value and fold the rest of the time. It's a very passive mediocre way of playing. But I'll explain briefly why my strategy has evolved this way.

The check raise is a very strong move (from villain's perspective). In optimal play our strategy should be such that our opponent has equal expected value from calling down with his bluff catchers and folding. I'll not do the maths here but watch Matthew Janda videos at cardrunners.com if you'd like to know more. When we check raise and then bet turn and bet river it turns out that our opponent only needs to bluff catch optimally with a very small range. So as a result of this our actual value check-raise range is going to be very small too. So if we check-raise with any sort of high frequency (more than 30%, say) then our range is either vastly weighted towards bluffs or we're value cutting the bottom of our check-raise value range because there aren't enough weaker hands calling down to showdown. We obviously want some sort of check raise range but I'd imagine an optimal figure to be somewhere between 10 and 20%.

That leaves check - calling and donk betting. Donk betting or leading is something that I want to work into my game. Grabbing back initiative when our range is likely ahead of villains is going to be super profitable. The trouble is, on so many boards our line makes very little sense. Say we have JJ on A92r. If we ever have Ax or 99 or 22 here then I'll never ever be leading because it's far superior to let villain bluff with his entire range after we check to him. So if I'm never value bet leading here, then I can't realistically bluff (although I know that there are villains who will fold too much in these spots). If I'm the preflop raiser and someone donks on a board like this then I'm raising back 100% of the time for this reason. The ideal situation to donk bet is where we're facing someone who doesn't c-bet very often and we can then reasonably begin to think about value betting three streets with a fairly wide range. Like JJ on a T72 with a flush draw (against a button range, I'd be check-calling an UTG nit). This is something that I do not do enough but I'm working on it.

Lastly I come to my main move, the check-call. It's such a passive way of playing and it's the main reason that I have performed so badly in the past when cold calling in the blinds. The trouble is it's the move that makes the most sense the most often after the check-fold.

A practical solution? A line that I've begun to take regularly is the check-call-lead line. Going back to the example with JJ on the A92r. I'll never be donk betting that flop for the reasons I discussed, but I'll often want to bet the turn with a hand like AQ because I don't want villain to check back weaker hands that might call. So with a pretty wide check-call-lead value range I can now take this line as a bluff too. Whether JJ is the best hand to do this with is open to debate but we should certainly have a check-call-lead bluffing range. A little maths. Assume our hand has no equity at all, and we check call a 0.7PSB on the flop and lead the turn for 0.7*turn pot. Then our bluff must work more than 58% of the time to be profitable. But we'll nearly always have some equity when we make this play. It's my opinion that this is a very underused line but also a line that's very credible. A further benefit is that villains play very honestly against it. A turn raise is almost always the nuts. A turn call is almost always a capped range containing good pairs and draws.

So my OOP strategy is evolving. If I call pre-flop in the blinds in future I'll be looking to do one of four things. Against most regs who c-bet too much I'll immediately be planning a check-call-lead line or a check-raise depending on board texture and hand strength. I'll hardly ever check-call-check against these villains because with marginal hands it's probably at least as good to just check-fold. Slow playing absolute monsters in this way would be a good exploit though. Against a more passive opponent who doesn't c-bet very often I'll be donk-betting pretty wide both for value and as a bluff. I'm going to reserve the check-call-check line for monster hands or when I'm facing villains who play very one and done poker.

In the future I may return to this topic with some results from my database. It could turn out that the adjustment doesn't make a big difference to my OOP strategy, but I suspect that it will do nice things for my win rate. GL