Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Poker Decision 2012

So it's that time of year again. Doing the research, figuring out where to play, what to play, if to play for the next year.

I've basically been playing exclusively (99%) on Stars for the past 4 years.
A few of the 'positives':
  • Traffic - no one comes anywhere close.
  • VIP program - Pretty much the best VIP program out there when you consider the % you get if you are able to maintain Supernova+ combined with one of the lowest rakes* in the industry (this might be the result of a problem rather than a positive feature). Generally speaking if you can put in 60+ hours a month mass tabling, you're going to get 40%+ effective rakeback. And there's a few other ways to maximize your FPPs further through satellites as well if you're into that sort of thing.
  • Software - So far it's the only software I've been able to look at that doesn't make me want to smash my monitor. Constant player-specific positive improvements as well, although again this might might be leading to a problem. I didn't mind FTP since it was pretty easy to multi-table but it still seemed kind of clunky. Every other sites' software that I've tried is complete shit.
  • Full disclosure: I am part of the problem, sort of.
  • A ton of the cash game traffic is due to mass tabling grinders.
  • imo part of the reason the rake is so low is because there's so many nitty mass tabling grinders not seeing flops.
  • Kudos to Stars for being extremely effective and efficient at upgrading their software according to the wishes and requests of the mass tabling community. They've used a ton of my and others ideas in the official software thread recently and it's easier than ever to play tons of tables.
  • All of the above inevitably leads to the site being a magnet for mass tabling grinders like myself.'
  • The vast majority of these players are either Russian/Chinese 40bb 11/9's with 20% 3bet making a good living for where they live off of FPPs, or 12/10 fullstacked regs who you aren't really going to win a ton of money off of, relatively speaking. There's a few of the laggier 19/15 regs out there like myself that I really enjoy playing with from a learning perspective but there's really not that many.

Simple fish:shark ratio experiment:
  • 100 player pool 12 tables, 90% fish, 10% sharks
  • 90 fish seats, 120 shark seats = 1 : 1.33
  • 100 player pool 24 tables, 90% fish, 10% sharks
  • 90 fish seats, 240 shark seats = 1 : 2.66
  • 100 player pool 24 tables after successful marketing campaign where you bring in 33% more fish
  • 120 fish seats, 240 shark seats = 1 : 2.00

People always said FTP was softer and I'm a firm believer that it wasn't because they were actively doing anything to attract fish. It was simply that they had a 12 table limit with 16 table limit available by request. As you can see, the number of tables you allow regs to play has a way bigger affect on the fishiness of the games than how many fish you actually have. And doubly so, the higher percentage of regs to fish you have in the pool in the first place -- this becomes grossly magnified at a 75/25 split. That's why everyone says the Euro sites are super soft despite the lot of them combined not having 25% of the advertising dollars that Stars has.

Essentially, Stars' games are getting tough. Really tough. And from the looks of the small and midstakes lobby, full ring is dying too. Yeah yeah, people have been saying that for years. But it's become increasingly and obviously so when you have midstakes players dropping to smallstakes and smallstakes dropping to microstakes and it makes me a little bit sick having to deal with and think about proper 3bet polarized vs wide value ranges and appropriate 4bet range responses at 25NL and 50NL. We need a poker boom infusion. Soon.

My best alternative is Party Poker, but based on my current rake/month assuming I could come anywhere close with their software and traffic, I'd only be making 20% rakeback there. So as of now I remain a slave to the Stars VIP machine. I really really want to become one of those 6 tabling phenoms that doesn't care about rakeback and learns quick and moves up and logically it makes a ton of sense but there's just something in me that can not stand sitting there waiting for people taking 3 seconds to decide call or fold preflop and I inevitably go back to mass tabling.

So it's a choice between whether poker should be a passion or a means to an end...

[to be continued]

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Poker Epiphanies

Aha moments.
Eureaka moments.

If you came here based on the post title hoping to find a quick fix to spice up your game, you're going to be sorely disapointed. That's ok. I am too.

Until fairly recently, I scoured the internet, picked coaches' brains, dove into wells and scrutinzed videos waiting for that elusive ephiphany to smack me upside the head and turn me into a good player. Unfortunately it didn't happen, and I think I know why: Magic bullets do not exist.

We all want the quick fix. Do X = profit more. A cookie cutter response that we can implement now with immediate results. It's no wonder late night infomercials continue to thrive when even above average thinkers are looking for get rich quick formulas.

Poker, like most things in life, doesn't work that way. It's a puzzle you have to put together. You have to see the big picture. And some pieces don't fit - yet.

How many times have you opened a well thread and skimmed to the part where the OP states what concept turned them into a poker monster only to be left thinking "How is that an epiphany?" leaving the thread once again disappointed.

Their statement is still true - for them. For you it's not because what you're trying to glean from it is akin to pulling a single puzzle piece from the box, turning it over and over and wondering how is this supposed to be a horse standing in a pasture?

You're not looking at the big picture. When you start a puzzle, it's tough to figure where pieces go. You pick one up, try a few places, and usually put it back down planning to pick up later. But then as you progress it gets easier and easier to figure out where the next one goes and your success rate increases. And all of a sudden you fit the one key piece - eureka! - that watershed moment when you know where everything else goes and rapid fire them into place.

Your poker game growth is exactly the same. You need a base to build on and the more you understand, the easier it is to understand new concepts and how to implement them. Trying to track down poker epiphanies is a lost cause because you won't have the same moment as anyone else - you're putting the puzzle together differently than they did and your key piece will be different as well. You work on the 3bet part in the bottom left corner a bit, you work on postflop lines against TAGs over here a little bit, you work on hand reading in the top right corner, back to 3betting, join the postflop plan with the preflop plan, join the hand reading with the postflop lines and the range manipulation and all of a sudden you fit those few key concepts into your big picture. You step back wondering how you didn't see all of this before. It all makes sense now.

The path to poker enlightenment is not through finding the right piece to make everything clear. It is about working on your understanding piece by piece so that those eureka moments have the opportunity to occur.

Stop trying to have an aha! moment and have an aha moment!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Thoughts on becoming a dinosaur

As far as the average age of online poker players goes, I'm getting pretty old nearing 30. I'm sure there must be a bunch of guys my age that still play poker online but they generally don't seem to participate in the community as much and probably just go back to lurking. It kind of seems like once you've been around for a while, you lose a bit of interest in active participation and have some forum burnout so I'm holding out hope that it's not just the decrease in age related brain function that leads to the community being swamped by people born shortly before Justin Bieber and after I learned my multiplication table.

Several things got me thinking about this this week:
  • I have a Facebook account. I don't Facebook. Ever. People will call me and say "Where are you staying I left you a message." To which I respond, "No you didn't, I just checked my answering machine." To which they respond "facepalm.jpg." I find the entire concept frivolous. I'm a minority
  • I have a Twitter account. I've never tweeted anything. It's a bit of a paradox in that it doesn't have all the frivolty of FB, yet people's tweets are even more trivial than status updates. One day I will start using this once I figure out what I want to randomly say to the world.
  • I finally became curious about all those cartoon faces plastered around the forum and discovered Rage Comics. I've been reading them non-stop for 2 days. Funny stuff, but apparently there's this thing called reddit and I am the only person alive that has no idea what that's about yet.

So here are some things you have to look forward to as you pass a quarter century on the planet:
  • The music you listen to starts to stay the same. And your playlist slowly trickles into the classics sub-category.
  • If you're a video game addict and find anything at all to do instead for even 6 months, there's a very good chance you'll never go back.
  • You start to realize that your parents were a lot more right than you thought they were when you were younger. Don't worry, you still think they're wrong now.
  • You can keep up with the lingo since you're surrounded by people 33% younger than you but it just sounds lame when you try to use it.
  • You realize that you've become boring and logical and think back to how much fun it was to be an irrational idiot. But you can't go back to this either because you'll just look like you're trying too hard.
  • You mellow out. A lot. If you've got massive tilt problems, don't worry they will go from 3-10 outbursts per day to twice per week in a matter of 5 years.

If you play this game long enough:
  • Every decision in life becomes based on + or - EV. And then that progresses along with your game exploring flop and conversation lines thinking about what's going to happen on future streets to manipulate range and maximize expectation. And you learn how to avoid shitty spots. Learn to fold. Some things are better left unsaid.
  • If you manage to move up at all, the highs and lows aren't as extreme even though the variance is larger. You start to separate yourself from the money even though for the longest time it seems like its an impossible task. But one day you wake up and realize it hasn't bothered you in months even though you're breakeven. You're ecstatic about a $30 day at 2nl. After a while a +/- $300 day at 100nl is just meh. It happens shortly after you start to disregard the cost of buying something irl because it's only a big blind.

Thinking back to how I got into poker is quite interesting. I didn't really know anything about the game outside of hand rankings when I started playing freerolls but it's amazing how my personality, skill sets and interests all collide in this game. It has a mind of it's own and seeks out people that fit the criteria. I'm sure most winning players have some combinations of these and it's what keeps them interested. I'll list a few of them:

Creativity: I've always loved being creative whether it's coming up with new ideas like the ones I've submitted in the Stars software thread (one click popup color coding, sit out next bb and close this table, efficient no-rake or time added run it twice), my music as a classicaly trained pianist, or art (even though my skill here has dropped off dramatically).

Individual Competitiveness: I played sports in high school, but I really enjoyed relying on myself. I played on the varsity soccer team but had no use for playing anything but goal keeper where I was most separated from the team concept. I felt like it was just me vs the ball coming at me. I also hated group projects in school and didn't want to have to rely on other people's incompetence. I would do 5 times the work on my own project if it meant I could blow everyone else out of the water. Poker's like that, it's you against the world.

Analytical Problem Solving: The one subject I really enjoyed in school was math. Nerd, I know. And in particular if I could pick my classes, it would have always been statistics and probability with a small dose of algebra. Those word problems where "train A (40 mph) is travelling towards train B (25 mph) starting 40 miles apart, how long till they crash?" and 10 green, 5 blue, 7 purple marbles in a bag probability questions were the nuts. If only they knew they were preparing me for a life of profitable gambling.

Poker is quite a bit of all three: You're on your own in a highly competitive game. You have to be able to analyze situations quickly, putting the ever shifting concept puzzle together to create a window of opportunity as best and as fast as you can before Baluga Whale and AE &#%*$ Jones come along and blow the whole thing up again. And then the pieces don't fit in the correct places anymore and you come up with creative ways to make them fit somewhere else, or better yet, create your own custom pieces.

My one biggest downfall is that procrastination outweighs competitiveness. If you don't have the natural skill and rather need to learn in order to be competitive, this is what is going to stop you from becoming good at life and good at poker. I couldn't be bothered with soccer practice, give me games every day. I couldn't be bothered to review hands or watch videos, give me 24 tables every day. This has to change but I'm just not sure how.

This is a bit of a rambling post and I don't know if it's of interest to anyone out there, but I wanted to get this written down while I had a moment of clarity and felt like going on an analogy spree.

(That's probably the wrong face. I'm still learning.)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

PokerStars 10th Anniversary

Long time no blog.


I haven't had a lot to blog about over the past month or so. Poker is finally starting to work itself out again and I am finding my thought process changing a lot, seeing a ton more value and bluff opportunities in spots I had never really considered before. So while I'm trying to figure this all out, my graph has been a little swingy but the upswings have been relatively large and I'm happy with that.


There weren't many cash games running last night -- I assume due to the WSOP Main Event Final 3 and it being a Tuesday -- and I think I watched about half of the final table. I was pretty impressed with the overall production: live on a 15 minute delay with every hand shown only after the hand was over and some really great commentary that wasn't dumbed down at all. I think they did go a little overboard with the whole "Does his story make sense?" line being used nearly every other hand and somewhat wrong in the sense that they stated over and over again that betting means you're saying your story is that you have a pair and if it doesn't make sense you probably have a stone cold bluff and they seemed to ignore the whole equity side of things. That said, they did manage to do a good job of explaining ranges.

I have to admit I found the first bit quite exciting, especially the sick hand where Heinz turned bottom 2 pair into a river c/r bluff to try to get everything worse than a flush to fold on a 3 flush QT98x board. After that the match seemed to slow dramatically, probably due to the way the cards were dealt and I decided to maybe watch it later.

POKER -- Part 2

So I ended up firing up a bunch of MTTs and actually played really well in all of them. I think I finished something like top 10% in all 6 and made one deep run in a $1 rebuy (I only play $10 or less MTTs since I'm basically lighting money on fire) where I finished 8th out of 1700 for a decent cash. I just kept telling myself do not get bored and have a melt down mistake like you always do and my chip stack kept climbing. I think if I can maintain that kind of mentality it will really help both my cash and MTT games.

I did end up making a mistake at the end when everyone had about 12 blinds left. I had TT on the button and MP1 shoved. He was running 15/12 but pretty much all of his opens were steals and I thought to myself it's better to open shove with 75s next hand than to call here since his range is like AJ+/TT+ at worst and its stupid to call for a gamble with so much play and fold equity left as I contradictively thought TT 12bb can't fold and clicked call knowing it was wrong.


Pokerstars is having their 10th anniversary celebration and by the sounds of it it's going to be pretty huge. They also have fast moving ring games "coming soon" which could be interesting. I've offered up Pokerstars Tachyon Tables as a name to go with the space theme although I'm sure it wouldn't make sense to a lot of people and they'd have to google it first.

Really interested to find out what #4 is since it's obviously important enough for it's own row in the chart.