Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Return of Small-Ball

I'm happy to report that things have evened out for me lately. Playing less poker has probably helped. I've had a lot on my mind this month, as I am leaving Chicago, my girlfriend and I are breaking up, and I have no idea what to do with myself at this juncture. As a result of this general life-turbulence I have not felt ready to play my A game very much. Although that hasn't *always* stopped me from playing, it has made it easier to take breaks, which has had the effect of pulling me back to a more focused, emotionally-detached mind set when I do play.

By the way, Lorin Yelle recently wrote me an open letter on his blog, in which he expressed his concern over my use of the online EV calculator at He made some interesting points; I suggest you check it out.

One thing that I believe has helped smooth out the luck factor has been a renewed effort to play small-ball poker, chiefly by keeping pots small early and by stabbing out at a lot of small pots when I feel I have a good chance of picking them up. By playing out more streets I'm better able to control pot size, avoid paying off draws, and get away from hands that were strong on the flop but clearly losers by the river.

I have started to notice a link between my level of aggression and that shown by some of my weaker opponents at the low stakes; the more aggressive I get, the more aggressive they get. These opponents usually start off playing passively (loose- or tight-passive), but begin to play back and get aggressive when I turn my own aggression up (they don't want to feel "pushed around" or "run over"). This has the effect of making them harder to play against, and of bloating many pots early on (the result of 3betting, as well as raising 3-4x instead of 2-2.5x) -- exactly what I'm trying to avoid. By making smaller raises and widening my limping range I accomplish two things against these players; a) I create more small pots (in position) that are easier and less risky to steal, and b) I preserve their passivity, which, whether loose or tight, makes for an easier opponent.

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