Friday, May 27, 2005


Chicken Buk Buk Buk

Predictably enough, once I drop $400 I contract a case of cold feet and start to chicken out of cash games online. They really don't suit me - or at least I need some solid practice. I have managed 2700 hands of short-handed limit hold-em and while I can't see what I'm doing wrong, I'm 90 big bets down. Drives me mad when they outdraw you, and then they're betting with nothing all the time, and when you call them down, they have two pair ! Aaaaaaaarghhh ! Argh ! Must kill everyone !!

Hmm, maybe tilt is my problem. I'll just practice at low limits until I think I have a better feel for it. It racks up bonuses pretty quickly if nothing else. Quick question for any limit HE experts (cough Pete B cough), if I put some time in playing really small like $1-2 am I going to pick up bad habits that will hurt me at higher levels, or is it all much the same ?

Anyway, enough of my moaning about rinky-dink games, let's try some tournaments again.

A bit later You know, maybe I'm just running bad. And if I'm going to take bad beats and learn how not to go on tilt, $1-2 limit's probably the best place to be. So what happened was I was knocked out of the $50 PL on Stars with QQ v 22 on a flop KQ2, 2 on the turn. Marv (OK it all went in on the river but how was I to know). I then lost two hands in the limit cash, both times with top two pair, to a 2-outer and a runner-runner flush. Marrrrrv. Not to tell bad beat stories, this is just to explain why I was on red raw raging TILT. So then I picked up AK in the SB (cash), raised, one caller, flop T52 bet call, turn J bet call, river irrelevant, check bet and I said out loud, "I know I'm beat but I'm going to call just to see what filth you have". He had 43, I win. Simultaneously I raised on the button with A9s in the other cash game, flop T9x bet I raised, turn 9 and I won a big one (well in terms of big bets). My next comment was "there, you can shove that up your arse". At this point I figured I'd better calm down and concentrate on the tournaments I was still in.

A few minutes later it occurred to me that maybe I play better limit Hold-em when I'm on tilt than when I'm trying to concentrate.

I don't think that you will pick up too many bad habits playing at the lower limits. One of my faults is that I give people at higher limits too much credit. This gets me into battles when in fact the opponent is just a multi-tabler who only three-bets monsters, will always bet out when he hits a hand and never, but never, tries a steal on the river even when it is blatantly obvious that this is the best EV play.

Once again the style of game can vary according to where you play, when you play, and what type of players you happen to be up against. But the general rule in limit seems to be that, as you move up in stakes, people become gradually less stupid, you get a few more professionals, and you get a few, but just a few, more very clever players.

Even at $1-$2 you will get 14% flop players (probably sitting in the Linkoping warehouse playing 12 games on three screens).

In this sense the rules are the same as before. Take notes on players. See what they do. Develop the best strategy to beat that player.

Limit can be like Puerto Rico or Tikal or any other Reiner Knizia game in this respect. Often there will be three opponents in and you want to one thing against one player, but another thing against, say, the big blind. There's no easy solution to this. Getting that bit right is one of the skills of limit.

If you can't see where you are going wrong, that's a bit worrying. Maybe it is just a bad run. I'm not that hot at short-handed myself, but two strategic options are (a) try to get the best hand at the end and (b) try to play so that usually you don't get that far.

As long as you don't fall between those two stools when you start the hand, being one kind of player on the flop and then the other kind on the river, then, if you carry on losing, it will at least be easier to see where it's going wrong.

Galloway, I suspect, is a great one for not wanting to see too many showdowns, and I suspect that he quietly folds up the hand when he runs into resistance. A few more raises on the turn (or reraises) might smell out the stealers.

Other tricks are to slow-play marginals right to the river (but this may be best held back for ring games). People (particularly stealers) usually expect a raise on the turn from this kind of hand, so when you meekly call they think that you are on a weaker marginal. This can often elicit one or two extra bets out of them on the river, whereas if you had raised on the turn they would have quietly folded.

If it's going wrong at the higher stakes, try an hour or two just playing one table, and focusing very hard on each hand. It might at least give you more of a feel for the tone of the tables. Having said that, I should note that my results improved when I went from one table of 5-10 to two tables. Perhaps, as DY observed, this stopped me from reading too much into things that weren't there.

Head down, teeth gritted, and don't feel too bad about blowing off steam when you stitch someone up. I particularly recall when my JJ only managed to beat 47-off (he limped with this powerhouse under the gun) when the board came 447 - T - J.

He then moaned about how unlucky he was, to which I think that my reply was, "To be frank, your hand was shit and your play of it from flop onwards was also shit. You also got your best possible flop, and still lost, which is why your hand was shit." Perhaps not clever, but I'd been running bad :-)

That's good stuff thanks very much Pete.

The great thing about playing at small stakes is that you can experiment with different styles cheaply. Since posting the above whinge I tried a style whereby I would just try not to ever call, except in specific circumstances like :

- I'm setting up a raise on the turn
- I have a big enough draw to call for the pot size and raising has no strategic advantage

So for example I raise pre-flop with KQ, I get reraised and then I cap it. An extra small bet takes the initiative.

This seems to be working much better. It certainly helps avoid "I don't know where I am, I'm just going to call on the turn and river". And I have surprised myself at some of the pots I have taken down without much, whether in a showdown or by making opponent(s) fold.

Also two tables seem to suit me better than three, although I still find it hard to adapt to individual opponents when double-tabling. Maybe that's just practice.

I know you like poker as a solo sport, but why not invite Pete or someone to watch your table for a while and run an IM session to get an idea of what he's thinking? Can't hurt for 30 minutes and the price of a lunch?

I seriously had trouble playing 1/2 because I found very few manouvers worked and it was show and take all day. Moving up to 5/10, I started to notice that people could be check-raised off an Ace-rag-rag flop etc and all of a sudden you didn't need good cards to make money. There are dream tables out there where you can just bet and win short handed. If I do get played with, I will often close down. A) because I probably haven't got a hand and B) because you just get on with bet and win on the next hand.
The only time I will ever check and call is when I think it's the only way I can get the other guy to put anything more into the pot. It's a very rare 5/10 player that will 3-bet on the turn with tat. When they do, it is usually a steamer rather than a tactically sound play.
Unlike Pete, I have found plenty of bluffing on the river - it just depends whether you think you have induced the bluff or not. At many tables where your value bets on the end aren't getting paid off, it often pays to switch to checking it to them so they feel obliged to nick it.
Yeah, one of the problems I have with limit is that people don't all-in that often, life would be so much easier.

Maple Leaf
One of the problems with "looking over a shoulder" is that you tend to enter the social phenomenon known as the "risky shift". Because a responsibility shared is a responsibility halved, two people tend to take more risks than one person does.

Of course, this will not necessarily lead to worse results! It would be an interesting phenomenon to study. I suspect that a lot of the success of the young Swedes a few years ago was down to the fact that the college kids basically pooled their knowledge and winnings, enabling riskier plays because of other "encouragement" from people in the same college computer room.

Who knows.

Andy, I think that another thing with limit is that you really need to focus just on limit. I wouldn't expect to see subtle possibilities in tournaments that you see, because I play fewer tournaments. Similarly, there may be situations that crop up, not all the time, but not infrequently, that you only learn how to react to correctly because you have seen them before, at this level, on this site, in just this situation. Experience allows you to multi-table at limit.

It's a bit like the MOGs you come across quite often. They have the intellectual capacity of a gnat, and yet some of them are winners in their club/casino. Why? Because nearly every situation that crops up, they have seen before. They have very little thinking ability, but they remember that when the master comes down the stairs in his boots rather than his slippers, there is a good chance that he will be going outside and that this is an opportunity for walkies.

I've rambled here 'cos i'm on Stars at the same time. Hope that it's vaguely comprehensible...
Thanks Pete,

That all makes sense. When I consider how long I have spent playing and (more to the point) thinking about tournaments, to get to the level where I am, it's foolish to expect to just start playing $5-10 limit and walk over the game.

I am now putting the hands in, mostly on Party - I didn't realise how good their bonus was till I tried it, 10c a hand makes it very very hard to lose playing $1-2 ! It feels a lot better now I am in "only call for a damn good reason" mode and, while short term results are an illusion, I have clawed quite a few BBs back this weekend.


PS MOGs - Miserable Old Gits ?
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