Saturday, December 31, 2005


State Of The Nation

This month

I stepped up to the plate and bought in to tournaments for a total of $3700, compared to the previous montly maximum of $2000. Thanks to finishes of 4th, 6th, 5th and 2nd (the 2nd being quite a small tournament) I cleared $1600. Can you spot what's missing ? And I don't mean 3rd. I think I have been guilty of playing too passively at a few final tables. My 3 recent place finishes in the Cryptologic £15K guaranteed have been 3rd ($2640), 4th ($1980) and 6th ($1320), total $5940. A 2nd and two 9ths would have paid about the same. A win and two 299ths would have paid $7400 ! There's a big jump from 3rd to 2nd on Crypto (it's the same as the jump from 2nd to 1st). Trying to play for 2nd has, inevitably, resulted in the 3rd/4th/6th finishes. Next time I should keep playing the way that accumulated the chips in the first place.

This year

Overall online figures for the year, 287 tournaments, paid $16800, returned $34300, profit $17500. Online cash/bonuses/live tournaments pretty much break even. I'm very happy with that in my spare time. As I said below, virtually all of that profit was made on Betfair and associated Cryptologic sites. If I can make something similar in 2006, then we might think about career options, because that would be enough in certain circumstances, and how much more than enough do you need ? I read a Q&A the other day where a young player said he aimed to make £150K online next year and I just shook my head, what on earth do you need all that for. Here's to a 2006 of meeting sensible goals to all readers :-)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


No More Secrets

You may have noticed that this blog has been somewhat light on unconventional methods of playing tournaments lately. It's not that I'm keeping anything back. It's just that I've said all of it. Or enough of it to be as good as.

Probably the only point that I haven't explicitly made that's worth making is : don't put more than 1/4 of your stack in and then fold to a reraise. Think about it when you make your first move, and choose from folding ; limping ; making a normal raise and calling the reraise ; and moving in. I believe that normal raise/fold is never the best option when the "normal" raise constitutes more than 1/4 of your stack (possibly even 1/5) . Which of the other plays to make is something of an art, but it comes with practice, and there's often little to choose between a couple of them anyway. When playing with antes, it's never very wrong to just move in.

Everything else I think is here. The short stack strategy (which can be summed up as get it in FIRST dammit) ; just call a raise in position (very profitable for me lately) ; play within your bankroll and play to win.

Anyway, that's about it. Find a game where most of the players are worse than you and put the hours in. It's not magic or even rocket science. It's basic technique, knowing how to play your stack size. Many people think what you do with a big stack is most important. I'd say the opposite. If you have a big stack compared to the blinds, just playing tight is never that bad. Mis-playing a short stack will cost you a fortune in the long run because it comes up so often. If you do it right short-stacked, you can tweak your big-stack play at length while making money.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Out Of It

6th on Crypto last night for $1200, which wipes out the rest of November's losses and puts me back at my peak for the year. What a bizarre final table though. Going in I had the chip leader on my immediate left with 200K and the most active player on my immediate right with 65K. I had 100K and no one else had more than 50K. An hour later, active player was out 9th, chip leader 8th and there were 6 of us left with roughly even chips ! Unfortunately I then lost a huge pot with QQ v AK. I made a normal raise of 9K and he launched 100K all in so I had no option to play the flop. Can't complain though, I was on a freeroll after 66 beat JJ last hand before the antes (it's amazing how often I've gone out just before the antes lately), and I had won two big 50/50s along the way.

I must also admit to winning a seat to the £150K guaranteed in a super at the weekend. I know, I just fancied a change :-). After being gifted two double-ups from 3K to 12K it was very straightforward to win the seat. Oh if only you could take the money, these would be a decent earner. Come to think of it, if you win a seat on Crypto and then play some more, maybe you can, I'll have to find out. Did nothing in the main event though, just to prove my point ...

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Screw The Software, Follow The Money

That's not a reference to my future career options ... or is it ... anyway, I was collating some information (doing some sums for the non-geeky) this morning and while I already knew about this trend, it was quite amusingly illustrated by today's results. I will keep some of the numbers back so as to get it quietly / not steal my end-of-year thunder :

Online Tournaments on Betfair/Cryptologic 2005 :

Played quite a few, Net $ lots, average net per tournament $185

Online Tournaments everywhere else 2005 :

Played 216, Net $7.47, average net per tournament 3 US cents

In fact it's not that bad because

a) rounding to the nearest cent costs me 1/6 of my earn, it's actually 3.46 US cents and
b) I left out a $1600 freeroll win on Blue Square because that would spoil the fun. Freerolls excluded :-)

You don't need to be an expert data analyst to conclude that I ought to play a bit more on Cryptologic and a bit less everywhere else. This is despite the fact that the software is poor. Not quite the worst (I have a particular aversion to Microgaming) but prone to server crashes, jerky with other rooms open (Blue Square in particular seems to interfere) and, most annoyingly, you have to go on to the Web for the cashier. Fortunately cashing out is no problem, in fact Betfair goes straight to switch card which is great.

I would love to play more on Pokerstars. The software is head and shoulders better than the rest, and so is the customer support. Bottom line though is the tournaments are the least soft (I can't bring myself to say toughest) on the net. Cryptologic's high antes and swathes of rank bad players mean that it's the must-play tournament site IMO, at least for me (the high antes suit my style). And according to results as well as opinion.

Betfair's upcoming split from Cryptologic should be interesting, hopefully it will lead to more choice and more added money all round. I hope they keep the ante structure but we'll have to wait and see. People do whinge about software (see Betfair forum) but the bottom line is as long as it basically works, grit your teeth and follow the money.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Back In Black

4th on Crypto yesterday in the £15K Guaranteed for just under $2000, which got me out of it for this month and half of last month as well. Just in case you were wondering. Learning as always during a bad spell. There are a couple of big guaranteed tournaments this weekend, well 3 counting Pokerroom but that's $1000 so err probably not. There's no need to play outside your bankroll online, and if there's not much extra added to the other two I might not bother. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Running Bad

Here's how I'm running lately : I just played the Betfair "Cryptic Challenge" Freeroll. First prize was £1000 but, in a bizarre twist, the bubble (101st) was an entry into a 12-man playoff to win a £20 grand car. I told you it was bizarre ... anyway I managed to finish 106th. You don't want to hear the rest. But on a moment's thought, my EV prior to being crippled was only about $130. It's nice that Betfair are adding this money but it seems silly to award a "consolation prize" of £1600 to someone because they've just missed out on £5 for 100th. I wonder if there will be any scream ups regarding exactly who "bubbles" in these situations if two people are knocked out on the same hand.

Monday, December 05, 2005


The Second Biggest Game In The House

I was having a flick through Fox on the flight back and something he said rang a bell. Simply, "one should rarely play in the second biggest game in the house". Paraphrasing slightly, the second biggest game tends to be full of strong players, but while the best players in the biggest game are the best around, it may also contain "some very weak players ... who are simply so rich that they don't care what game they're playing in ... Such players may play in the highest game for reasons of prestige, so that they can associate with nationally famous personalities or players, or because they know so little about the game that they think they can win".

Can you see where I'm going with this ? I don't think it's a good idea to play tournaments around the $1000-$3000 mark, whether in Europe or the US, unless it's some kind of main event that will attract the players described above, and is likely to contain many online qualifiers (something that even Fox could not have foreseen).

It's something that I've noticed before in the States, and I did again in the Caribbean, that once you hit a certain level of buyin (it used to be $500 but it may now be $1000) the fields toughen up considerably. It's not that you have more good players, or that the good players are better. It's that there are many fewer bad players filling out the field. I know Neil plays a lot of these and he says they aren't so bad, but I'm not convinced. In any game of poker, you don't make most of your money by outplaying good players. You make most of your money through the mistakes of bad players. This is a cash game mindset, but I think it applies to tournaments too.

So, what I want to do is play within my bankroll for now, and hopefully build it up to a point where I can play $500 tournaments in the US (and £300 / £100 rebuy here if I wish) regularly and without feeling like I'm "punting". How much this is depends on how many runners the tournaments in question have, how big my edge is and how much risk of ruin I'm prepared to accept. All of which cloud the issue, but I will decide on a number. Until I reach that target I will be playing strictly within my roll. Once I exceed it (could take 3 months, could take 3 years) I can gamble any extra off the top by buying in directly to high-prestige main events that will attract a lot of online qualifiers. I'm fairly sure that is the best way to have the best of both worlds.


Secrets Against The Amateurs

Tony Cascarino won the pro-am in St. Kitts for a tasty $100K. He might even have taken away all the money, which I expect wouldn't have been the case if any of the pros had scooped it. Cascarino was the first to admit that he'd never won a trophy playing football, and now he'd won one playing poker !

I played against him in a Sit and Go a couple of days before. He was OK, obviously had a reasonable idea and certainly wasn't a muppet. As is common though with players who have more poker experience than tournament experience, he didn't adjust properly for his stack size. If he liked his hand, he called. If he really liked it, he raised. And if he really really liked it, he slow-played. His standards were pretty much the same however many chips he had in front of him and whatever the blinds were.

There are a few ways to beat players like this. You can trap them when the blinds are small, and you don't need a monster - top pair Ace kicker is plenty. When the blinds are large, you can steal their blind freely and also share the profit with everybody else because they're too tight as the first raiser. What you do not do against these players is move a lot of chips in trying to knock them off the best hand. You only make a big bet against these guys with a big hand. At least that's what you should do. According to Pokerpages, two of Cascarino's pro-am opponents moved in all their chips against him on a bluff ; he called them down with second pair and a flush draw respectively, was a mile in front in each case, and duly doubled up twice.

It's like I said before here (4th paragraph). You have to know when to slow down. Aggression Aggression Aggression only gets you so far. That might be a fair way, with a following wind in terms of luck, but the really good players know when not to do it. And that's the difference.

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