January went rather poorly for me, but I am in no way disappointed. I finally found my way into the local network of poker games, and have been playing a .25/.50 cash game in a local bar on Sundays and Mondays. The game is pretty loose, wild at times, and has a heterogenous mix of styles and skill levels that makes for an interesting and profitable playing experience. Though I've taken some hits in this new game, I've also posted some respectable wins, and I am confident that once I've settled into the game as a regular, the swings will even out a bit and the profit will become more steady.
It's been a long journey from my decision to experiment with heads-up NLHE one year ago. My decision to grind low-stakes HU SNGs for my primary source of income may have been premature, but at the time it offered me an escape from a shitty job that provided an even more threadbare source of income. I've grown as a heads up player, but more importantly I've grown as a poker player. The experience of playing so many hands one-on-one has, I feel, significantly augmented my understanding of fundamental and intermediate poker strategy, relative hand values, and equity, as well as my overall "card sense." This overall improvement is evident in my improved results playing 6- and 9-handed SNGs later in the past year.
There have been three things, however, that have held me back from really improving my game: sticking with low stakes, relying on Sharkscope, and, more recently, a lack of study and self-analysis.
My reluctance to play for more than ~$20 a game has prevented me, in both HU and FR SNGs, from really being challenged by more competent opponents. I think that this attitude grew out of the relative poverty that I was living in in Chicago, when $20+ games could easily entail $100+ swings, which could be very discouraging and even scary when I had bills to pay. I was, essentially, playing on scared money, and keeping the opposition weak and the stakes small ensured that the swings were minimal, and my flow of income gradual but relatively predictable. Related to my reluctance to play higher has been a reluctance to significantly increase my volume via multi-tabling. Though I experimented with two-tabling HU SNGs briefly last spring, that experiment coincided with a significant downstreak and was subsequently put on the back burner, so to speak.
"Bumhunting" HU SNGs, and utilizing the Sharkscope Tournament Selector to avoid sharky FR SNGs, has had the same effect as playing low stakes, preventing my from being consistently challenged by tougher, more competent players. I began utilizing Sharkscope almost immediately last January for much the same reason as I listed above; it kept the swings low and the income more predictable. It has retarded my development even more than playing small, particularly for HU SNGs, and I need learn to rely on it less if I am to improve my skills.
My lack of study can be directly attributed to my getting a non-poker job in October. Since then I have not been able to put in the hours necessary to make significant money playing HU, and have had no need to. Poker has gone from being my primary source of income to being a fun and somewhat rewarding game again, and since my results have been positive there has been no urgent need for study. Studying poker books has similarly been replaced by reading literature and non-fiction, which has also been fun and rewarding.
I still don't make much money (~$1100 a month), but I'm living rent-free and no longer playing poker for my income, so moving up a bit should be a little easier. Likewise, since poker income is not so urgently needed, weaning myself off of Sharkscope should also be easier. And putting in an hour or two a week reviewing fundamentals, studying strategy, and analyzing my own play should not be difficult. To whit:
Preliminary Goals for 2011 (in order of priority)
Study more. This includes SNG strategy, HU strategy, and even cash game strategy, as well as reviewing fundamentals and increasing my understanding and application of specific concepts (specifically equity, ranging, and ICM).
Increase my average stake in non-HU SNGs to at least 9 (from ~$6). So long as my ROI remains positive this goal will stand.
Decrease my reliance on Sharkscope. By the end of the year I should be able to maintain a positive overall ROI over a significant sample size without having used the service.
Familiarize myself with the use of HUDs in 6-max and FR games. Though I happily do not needed a HUD to beat low stakes SNGs, I suspect that my failure to familiarize myself with the basics of HUD use will become more of a liability as the stakes rise.
Increase my average stake in HU SNGs to at least $14 (from $11). This may prove unwise in view of my lack of consistent HU practice, but if my ROI remains positive I will hold myself to it.
Play fewer MTTs, unless I study more. The fact is that, if not for my big cash in September, MTTs would have lost me money this year. I'm not terrible at them, but I'm not great either, and without further study I'd rather they didn't drain my bankroll.
This is going to be a lot to tackle at once (particularly moving up in stakes on less practice/studying while simultaneously weaning off of Sharkscope and learning to use a HUD). I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions that any of you might have. Good luck at the tables this year!
My little brother has been home for Thanksgiving for a couple weeks, and we finally made it out to Foxwoods (something we've intended to do for over a year now). For the first time in a long time both of us could stand to gamble a couple hundred dollars, so instead of playing the $2/4 limit tables for fun, we sat at $1/2 NL, which was infinitely more fun.
I ran like God, which helped the fun. In the first 15 minutes I picked up KK, AK, and AA (and stacked a guy with KK), and was up over $200. Through the next 3-4 hours my stack fluctuated between $340 and $460, as I saw several more playable and premium hands.
Two mistakes stood out. In one hand, not fully appreciating the looseness of the table, I flatted the big stack's UTG raise with KK, only to see 3 other callers. I then flat called a small $35 bet on J55, before a guy behind raised, UTG called (with AJ), and I folded to the raiser's trip 5s. I 3bet my big hands every time after this. In another hand I raised a loose limper with 99, checked the flop of A66, but called a 2/3p bet on the turn J. There was no hand I could really beat. I checked the river behind, and she showed A3s. There were a couple of occasions where I missed value bets also, such as betting the river w/AA OOP on Q77JK (vs JT, who very well might have called) after checking flop and betting the turn.
In the end, even after running so good, I ended up $200+, which was a fine score, despite the feeling that I could have won more had I played perfectly. My session culminated, however, with the laydown of all laydowns, in which I folded KK pre-flop to AA. Before you start typing "DONK" in the comment box, allow me to explain my read:
The guy across the table from me opens to $12 or $15 from UTG+1, and it folds to me on the button. I have KK, and make a smallish 3bet to $30. Folds to UTG+1, who shortly and evenly says "Raise," matches my bet, and calmly slides out $80 more. I tank for about a minute and fold. I have three considerations:
This guy was Mr. Weak-Tight. In the three+ hours I'd played with him he hadn't raised pre-flop more than once, and whenever he limped in he had a very sullen, expecting-the-worst look on his face that was the antithesis of confidence. If his limp was raised, he'd fold. The guy had only really been involved in one memorable hand in all this time, which was my next consideration.
About an hour previously, I'd watched this guy *agonize* over calling all-in on the turn with top two pair vs. a loose player. With K8s he'd hit K86 with two clubs, and when a non-club undercard (I think a J or a 3) came on the turn, a loose girl had put him all in. He'd expected a set, and announced "I guess I'm going to regret this" before calling. She had K6.
Given this guy's weak style of play and expectation of the worst, the calm with which he immediately 4bet me was very noticeable. He didn't stop to think, or consider his course of action. He didn't have to. He said the word "Raise," immediately, and was utterly calm and collected in sliding more chips out. I tried to imagine him doing this with AK or QQ, and couldn't. He was just too confident.
I got up from the table about ten minutes later and approached him, asking if he'd tell me what he had if I told him what I had. He said "Sure, why not? I had the aces," nodding his head as if even he knew it was obvious. I thanked him and fumbled awkwardly to shake his hand, obviously feeling much better about my fold. This guy was utterly guileless (as his play, as well as his manner, had demonstrated), and I had no doubts that he told the truth. I decided to end my night on that note.
Mental note: Don't play HU half-drunk (er, three quarters). I made the mistake of forgetting this piece of sage advice at the beginning of the month, and donked off $100 in back to back games before recovering $50. Put a dent in my monthly profit, as did a few micro-stakes 6-max and FR SNGs.
I've been lazy about posting this month because I really haven't been playing. It's for a good reason though; I got a job! Yes, I now actually have a decent job that I enjoy, working as a paraprofessional (translation: teacher's assistant) at a special education program. I work from 2-8pm Mon-Fri, which is an excellent schedule for me. So since I started working the first few days in October, I've had little time for serious grinding and have contented myself with playing micro-stakes 6-max and 9-handed SNGs for fun on some evenings.
Total Games: 132
Heads Up Profit: $135
Other profit: $144
Total profit: $279
It seems likely that this blog will see infrequent updates in the medium term. I'm clearly not done with poker (will that ever be the case?), but my new job is definitely a higher priority right now.