Friday, September 24, 2010

Shooting fish in a barrel doesn't improve your aim

I've been thinking a lot lately about what kind of player I am. It's kind of complicated, but one of my most central questions revolves around how skilled I actually am. It's difficult for me to answer this question in any quantifiable way (as it is for most players). Though my win rate is good in HU and even in tournaments when I really focus, my HU ROI is vastly inflated by game selection, as I really only play losing players, and the stakes that I play at are fish-rich and generally not difficult to beat. My math is pretty poor, and I don't make calculations (aside from figuring odds & outs) in-game. The conclusion that I've come to is that I have a solid understanding of the fundamentals (starting requirements, odds, board texture, etc.), a good grasp of some more intermediate concepts (player types & adjustments, equity, assigning hand ranges, etc.), and fairly good instincts. This level of knowledge is plenty to beat the small stakes, and when combined with game selection you have yourself a money machine. And that's the (sort of) problem.

Having the basic tools to make money beating the fish at the low stakes games has retarded my development and probably made me a worse player in some ways, because thinking critically at 100% focus is not necessary. I can play a very straightforward, ABC game, even relatively passively, and still make money, and as a result my focus and ability to think through every hand in a logical way has atrophied.

For example, I often don't even bother assigning ranges to my opponents when they call my 3bets pre-flop, because so many of them with literally call with 100% of their opening range. While I get a somewhat clearer idea of their possible holdings after the flop, the ranges for loose low-stakes players are often so wide as to be of questionable use in the decision-making process. This has led me to play more instinctively, using board texture, coupled with my opponent's general style, calling frequency, and displays of strength or weakness to judge whether or not I have the best hand at the moment (e.g. he has an underpair or a draw; this is second pair or a float with overs, etc), rather than my hand's equity vs his possible range of hands. I also tend to have a relatively tight raising range and straightforward style based mostly on hand strength, because I play so many loose cannons and calling stations that don't know how to fold. I'm usually thinking on levels 1 and 2, and often on 3, but rarely on level 4 or higher. Again, this is enough to beat the fish, but I question whether this style would serve at stakes much higher than those I play.

I'm not sure if I've explained my concerns entirely or even coherently, but my point is that my default style is definitely exploitable, and I'm not sure I'm ready to adjust correctly to a tough, perceptive, and aggressive opponent. I've seen several training videos for higher stakes HU SNGs, and though I understand the logic and reasoning as they are explained by psimalive and PrimordialAA, I'm not used to employing it in-game, and am unsure if I'm even capable of thinking and calculating through a hand with the speed and accuracy of such professionals.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Good Month, New Car, & a Big Score for the Birthday Fish

September has been going very well so far. I've settled into a comfortable routine, have played sufficiently well, and have been winning steadily. Up about $1000 so far in HU SNGs.

I also got a new (to me) car, with help from my parents. Its a 2003 Honda Civic with a book value of $8,220, for which I paid $4,800 at a small dealership in a nearby town. Or, I should say, my parents paid, whom I now have to pay back.

Which should be pretty easy at this point, thanks to a massive score in a $33 MTT I played yesterday. The 14th was my 26th birthday, and as it turned out, my mom needed a ride to the airport for an early flight, so I got up at 5:45 (!) to take her there. Not having anything to do until about 5pm, and not being able to resume sleeping due to my caffeine intake, I had planned on playing the $22 Deep Stack at 8:15am (birthday tournament!), but (as fortune would have it) I was one minute late to register upon my return to my dad's apartment. Disappointed, I browsed the other tournaments running that morning, looking for one with a nice, slow structure, and it seemed the next best option was the $33 500-cap $10K GTD, so I registered for that and began play at 9:20.
For the first few hours, my tournament was uneventful. I didn't see many playable hands, and didn't get much action when I did play. When the bubble drew close, I had just enough chips to squeeze into the money, which I decided to do, as $50 would be a nice bonus to the morning's entertainment, and I had so few chips that a double-up would accomplish little. When the bubble finally burst at 54 players I was in the dead zone, with about $6k (2.5 BBs) left. I managed to put some chips together though, and around 45 players doubled through to a respectable stack of around $30K (M~9). A turning point hand came again when I made the nut flush in a 3-way pot, and with ~80K the final table was now a very real possibility. I continued to nit it up, playing only solid values and preserving my place around the average stack (my nittiness meant that I got very little action when I did raise, and was usually ahead when I got a call). The field played down to the final table surprisingly quickly, and before I knew it I was 6th of 9 remaining and guaranteed at least $250 for my morning's fun. As a medium stack I decided to continue to play conservatively and allow a few shorter stacks to bust before making any big moves. To my delight, they obliged me, as did a few of the other medium stacks.

Suddenly we were 4-handed, and I was guaranteed $1,200, by far my biggest tournament score to date. Here the play became tougher and much more tense, as I was forced to play hands and fight to hang on. I had become the short stack by a large measure, having between 100K and 150K out of the 1.5M on the table. The bigger stacks fluctuated somewhat, but for quite awhile even the second shortest had more than double my chips. As the blinds went up, I took to jamming any pair, bigger aces, and some broadway hands, and took a few pots by limping my SB and betting the turn. After what seemed like at least an hour, I had managed to build up to 350K after winning a flip and also being fortunate enough to pick up AQ against an opponent's AJ. An altercation between two of the other players soon left one at 180K, after his TP lost to a flush draw. This guy's stack shrunk further after he raised 1/3 of it preflop, then folded when I jammed (A6s) from the BB. The next hand he jammed 33 but ran into the BBs KK, and suddenly there were three. At this point I had begun to get walks in the BB, which helped to keep me alive as the other, larger stacks tangled. Eventually one of them was brought down to about 200K, at which point the chip leader began to apply the pressure with his 1M stack. This was the real endgame, and at 300K I had a choice; I could play back at the chip leader, risk busting in 3rd, and hope to double through to have a chance at playing HU with a 2:1 chip deficit, or I could allow the short stack to take the gamble first, and hope to make 2nd with a larger deficit. I opted for the latter, and soon the short stack's QTo lost to A5o to put me heads up, but behind 5 to 1 in chips. I pulled out my Nash table, but a streak of unplayable hands soon put me out in 2nd as my jammed J8o ran into the chip leader's AK and lost out. I took 2nd for $2,137.50. Sick!

All in all this was an excellent way to spend my birthday. Though I was very lucky, and won several flips, I only really got my money in bad one time, when I jammed T8s and managed to win out over KK.  So, seeing as how I'm a total MTT fish, I'm pretty satisfied with how I played.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August Results

This month went well, but could have been better. As my graph shows, I played a couple of terrible losing sessions mid-week, which cut severely into my profit. Though I ran into some ugly situations these losses were not simple variance; I played poorly. Some factors: I was tired. I was uncomfortable and out of my normal playing environment (on a laptop on the floor vs. desktop at my desk at home). I played a few rematches that I probably shouldn't have, not because I was outclassed, but because I had been tilted. Playing too long at sub-optimal levels, rather than quitting and coming back fresh. Hopefully I'll take these lessons to heart next month and be more careful.

I also played a couple SNGs for fun after tiring of HU, and went 3/18 and 1/27, which, along with Pokerstars' 4000 and 5000 VPP milestone credits ($10 + $50), boosted my total profit nicely.

August Results
Total Games: 365
Heads Up Profit: $696
Hourly rate: $8.01
Other profit: $61
Bonuses: $60
Total profit: $815