Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Easy ! Easy ! Easy ! ... Too Easy

One of the more interesting points to arise from the whole multi-accounting business was the villain's rationale for opening separate accounts in the first place. It was that opponents in the $200 Sit and Goes had adjusted to his play, thus cutting down his edge considerably.

The old-fashioned way of dealing with this was to think about the necessary counter-adjustments and stay one step ahead. But who needs to do that when we can just open another account and pretend to be a brand new fish. In fact you're allowed to change your name on Party, once every six months. However the temptation to open multiple accounts, keep them open, and switch back and forward proved impossible to resist, and onto the slippery slope he slid. In some ways, success has come too easily to a few people who weren't mature enough to handle themselves properly when it did. As it is and was and always will be I suppose.

I'm now sorting out my accounts on the various Crypto skins, and also Pokerroom/Eurobet, so that I only play on one of them in games which are common across all the skins. Not that I did anything untoward before, but it's nice to sort it out and have a clear conscience. Then you can preach at everyone else. Joke, I'm not going to do that any more :-). One comment I liked in the thread was "Now I feel a lot better about making $1500 a month on one account". I should feel the same way myself. I feel a strange lack of confidence at the moment because I'm on a bad run in MTTs, and I think I'm making too many poor decisions. Hold on a minute though. Thanks to the S+Gs I'm still $5000 up this year. The bank doesn't ask me what game I won it in. That's not bad for someone playing it straight in his spare time, and I should take more satisfaction from it.


More Gruesome Advice

"When I am completely card-dead, I don’t see the point in risking my chips on a sub-premium hand when my M is around 5. I’d much rather wait a few rounds and push with something better. I’ve found (with an M of 5) that an all-in raise will usually only be called by one person, if at all. If I wait and have good, live cards and an M of 3, I am more likely to win the pot and possibly triple up (or more) since the raise itself is insignificant to the higher stacks."

Wow that's horrible. Nice to see it out there though, and I hope that people will take it on board !

I suppose I should explain why instead of just bitching. Apart from what I've already said throughout this blog, ask yourself this. If I double up with M5, how many will I have ? And if I triple up with M3 ? So why is tripling up with M3 considered better ? Hero is also taking no account of position. There's a world of difference between moving in UTG 9-handed with M5 and moving in two off the button with no one in yet.

As for "good live cards", a hand has to be very good to want more than one opponent all-in. That means better than AK. For example, as I have pointed out before, AK v AJ v 77 is barely +EV. We're talking 33% to treble that M3. Whereas if I move in M5 with K4s and get called by AQ I'm 40% to win. And isn't any hand more likely to be live against one player than two ?

Update : It was only once I had woken up a bit that I noticed the words "if at all". The author seems to think that increasing one's stack by 20% without a showdown is a waste of time. At this point, words fail me.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Just So You Know

Seeing as this blog does mainly concern itself with on-line MTTs and Sit and Goes, you should be aware of the multi-accounting of MTTs that has come to light. Basically people were entering the bigger tournaments online using multiple accounts, at least 6 in this particular case. I didn't think this was too much of a problem before but I have been swayed by the thread, not least the villain's truly woeful defensive post (page 38 or 39 in flat view).

I don't think this is happening at the level I play which is mostly $50 MTTs and S+Gs. The biggest tournament I play on even a semi-regular basis is the £50 on Crypto. However if I'm being naive to think this in anyone's opinion, let me know.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


500 Up

Racked up 500 Sit and Goes in the end for a profit of $6,600. That's probably around par for the course at the $50 level. The last 100 or so was very strange, I was being kicked from pillar to post on Stars, but I couldn't miss on Pokerroom. You can see why people come up with these crazy ideas about cashout curses and so on. Variance plays many tricks.

Hopefully I've learned a few things as well. When it comes to game selection, I think the key is how high are your chances of cashing without ever running an all-in race. That might be because you can fold into the money every now and then, or because people play tightly enough for you to steal your way into contention. In some games, you just can't do it. The 10-handed games on Party for example. 10-handed, not that many chips to play with [1], and they will call you down, which is most annoying when you have JT or something and someone calls off 2/3 of his stack with QT.

For me, I seem to prefer the games in the morning and afternoon. In the evening the players are more loose/aggressive on most sites, which I don't like. You have fewer chances to make the first raise, and they'll call you more often when you do. The question now is whether to have a spin at $100, with say a $2000 stop loss. I might just do that, with careful game selection of course.

[1] Yes, I know they've just doubled the starting chips, but seeing as they also doubled the blinds at every level that didn't really help.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Game Selection Uber Alles

Today I played a $280 satellite online, I fancied a change and naturally there was a 50% overlay in guaranteed seats, I wouldn't have played otherwise ! 40 minutes in I had doubled up by winning 3 or 4 pots and I was looking good. From that point everything went wrong. Every time I raised I missed the flop ; every time I followed up with a bet I walked into a raise. I'd have one stab with A8, get called, check down and lose to A9. One of those days. I outdrew KK with 66 only to have it all happen again. Somehow I still managed to make the last two tables, until I was finally put out of my misery by running into AA.

The player on my immediate left was giving me particular grief. He made me put down 3 or 4 hands, and on the two occasions I stood up to him I was again forced to fold and came up against the KK with 66. The problem with poker in situations like this is that it is extremely difficult to know if you've played badly or were just unlucky. Was he picking up that I was betting and folding too much ? Or did the deck just smack him in the face ? We'll never know.

Perhaps the downside of seeking out the weaker games is that when I step into a stronger one, suddenly everything seems off whack. I should probably ease off the Sit and Goes a week or two before my next trip away and try to play some bigger stack tournaments online. What disturbs me most is that the Occam's Razor simplest explanation for all this is that I suck, and I can only make money against people who suck more than me.

Fortunately those people aren't in short supply at the moment.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Is This The Part Where We Go Crashing Through The Barriers

Just like they say in music mags. Who knows where that's from, and it's not googleable ! You cheating scum ! For the first time since I started counting in dollars, my bankroll (which is the total amount of poker profit) has broken $40,000. Which is nice. It's certainly at its maximum in pounds so I'm pretty sure it is a new high watermark. I was $2 short until I counted outstanding bets on Betfair [1] but Birmingham are so going down that I really ought to count the profit from that, not just the amount of the bet.

A few sit and goes helped me over the line today, but the main boost this week was $1400 for a 4th place finish on Blue Square. It could easily have been the lot ($5400) if the Hat hadn't downloaded the software specially to bok me. To be fair he did offer not to do it for $40 but I wouldn't give in to bok terrorism [2]. One Jack high flop holding AJ against an opponent who was playing every hand but turned out to have KK on this occasion and he was able to MSN "my work is done here". Marvellous.

I'm still pondering whether I should set a limit which is deemed "enough" and gamble anything off the top in bigger live events. If I do, I should set it and stick to it instead of doing the old Henry Ford "just a little more". On the other hand I might not because the live tournament circuit is such a jopke. $40K might sound like a lot but it's taken me 8 years and some of these kids nowadays win and lose that every two weeks. I don't envy them. They're much more likely to make their fortune than me, they're also much more likely to go broke. You pays your money, literally, and you takes your choice.

[1] Yes I know sports bets shouldn't count at all but it's all on the same Betfair account so ... erm ... shut up I've got $40K !

[2] I have now thought of a better name for it. Bokmail.


Facing The Allin Re-Raise

Thanks to Paul M for sending me the following in an Email [1]

[In an online MTT on Blue Square] There are 32 players left. 27 get paid, but only $50. If you make 20th, it's $80 through to 11th, then the prizes escalate in the usual precipitous way to $1500 for 1st. With 32 left, you are fifth in chips with 27000. Blinds 600/1200. Folded to you in mid-position, you have JJ. You raise to 4200. Fold fold fold. The small blind, on whom you have no info (you've just arrived from another table), moves in for 17000. BB folds. Do you call ?

As Paul says earlier in the Email, this is a very common situation. Many's the player who will agonise over this call, staring his opponent down for minutes on end trying to get that elusive read (fortunately this isn't possible online). What I'm going to say now may shock you and god knows how many stroppy responses I would have to wade through if I posted it on a forum. It doesn't much matter what you do !

Am I nuts ? 2/3 of our stack ! What if he has Aces ! What if he does. The problem here is we don't know what he has and there's no way to find out. Certainly online there isn't, and don't kid yourself that you can find out live unless you're up against a complete egg. All you're doing is wasting everyones' time so pull your finger out. Sorry, personal bugbear of mine :-). Yes you can factor in your opponent's tendencies, loose/tight and passive/aggressive, but there's usually no point in staring at him all day.

The way you approach this is to put your opponent on a range of hands and estimate your odds against that range. Compare those to the pot odds and decide accordingly. You have to do a lot of this offline. I talk about it here and Harrington also gives some examples. You'll probably have a decent idea anyway if the bet to you is large or small compared to the pot, and when it's in the middle it won't matter all that much. Calling with 2/1 odds when you're actually 3/1 to win the pot is not a big mistake. It's only costing you 1/4 of the call in terms of EV. And very often it's closer than that.

So if it's close you're better to use a tiebreaker. Do I feel fresh ? Am I one of the better players ? If so then you might fold. If you have something else useful, enjoyable or profitable (or any combination of those) to do if you're knocked out, you might call. I should stress that's only when it's close. At the end of the day though, there's no point beating yourself up if you call and lose to Aces, or fold and get shown 99. At the point when you made the decision, you didn't know. It's funny how the players who do agonise over these will often smash it all in immediately in the much more interesting situation where you find JJ or AK after someone else has raised. Even though this situation is much, much more worthy of some thought, depending as it does on position, opponent, stack sizes, other players and more besides.

Paul asked a couple of follow up questions : firstly, if I didn't call with Jacks [I would on Blue Square, they're nuts on there] what hand would I need ? Online I wouldn't pass QQ or AK to a single reraiser however many chips it was for, outside of exceptional final table situations. Secondly, would I call if I somehow knew he had AK ? Come on, you know I would ! In a flash ! He hits it, try again tomorrow.

Finally in the actual event Paul did call, and lose to AK. That's poker baby !

[1] But please don't send me all your hand questions this is a one off :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Making The Rounds

Here's the odd bit and piece that has caught my eye lately. Firstly from Up For Poker, one part of an otherwise mostly sound "Ten Commandments Of Tournament Poker" :

"V. Thou shalt continuation bet. Again, this should be another obvious rule, but it is absolutely essential to playing well in tourneys. When you raise before the flop, you give the impression of strength. There is NO reason to give the other players any other impression until it becomes too expensive for you. Take a stab at the pot, if you get re-raised, let it go, but take the stab nonetheless. Those stack building bets will help keep your head above water until the big hands come."

No, thou shalt not. Someone who always bets after raising pre-flop is much easier to deal with than someone who bets most of the time they like the flop and some of the time they don't. When those big hands do come, you can make many more chips by flat calling with them in position precisely because people play in this "must make continuation bet" mode. When you have a reasonable hand in the big blind it's well worth calling a small raise in the sure knowledge that you'll get a check-raise in if you like the flop.

Secondly some praise, a good article here on Poker In Europe. The key quote I would like to extract is something I've been waffling about for a while without putting it half as succinctly :

"Online poker sites use clever marketing to convince new players that the keys to being successful at poker are not maths, discipline and experience, but bravery, guts and an ability to read people."

Preach it. That they do. Poker on TV also constantly pushes this myth. And long may it continue. Cool nickname this guy has too. If I wasn't such a lean, mean fighting machine I'd like to be the "Piemaster".

Monday, February 13, 2006


Feel The Burn

I did intend to play 500 Sit and Goes in 5 weeks, and I was on course to do that, but I think it's just been too many. They're fine when you're winning but I find them a slog when it's not going so well. Having started to play PLO8 and 7 card Hi-Lo versions out of boredom I have, I think, caught myself in time to say "enough for now".

Overall I trousered just over $5000 in about 420 which isn't bad. Having made $2000 in the first hundred and then repeating the trick in the second, I fell into the trap of thinking that I was the greatest and that this would continue indefinitely. I even had visions of quitting work and playing the boss's head like a bongo on the way out (it doesn't help that his head would make a brilliant bongo). I don't have to tell you what happened after that, although it's some consolation that I made another $1000 despite feeling that the whole world was against me for much of the time. $500 in rakeback and bonuses certainly helped.

Proof of concept and a handy $5000 in fairly quick time is enough to be happy with. I think it has improved my button/SB/BB play as well. Without having the exact breakdown to hand I have a feeling that the games are better in the mornings and afternoons, with more passive players who are just trying to cash. So these are still good for the odd hour of a weekend when there's not much tourney action. But in the meantime back to the MTTs, and now 4-tabling those. I'm moving towards the business end of one on Blue Square as I write, so back to that for now.

Quick update : In fact I've sold myself a bit short there, with rakeback I'm still owed it's about $5400.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Variance vs Expectation

Mason Malmuth may be a bit of a dork (which is pretty good coming from someone who titles a post "Variance vs Expectation") but one thing he said that rings 100% true is that most players have no idea what their variance is, even though the variance is in many ways more important than the expectation !

I have been surfing a few blogs and forums to try to assess what kind of return I can reasonably expect from the Sit and Goes I'm playing. Somewhere around 20-25% seems to be the consensus at the $50 level where I am at the moment. You may well say, what's wrong with the 200s you big wuss ? What's wrong with them is that the variance is too high.

Now, it's not as though I'm in any danger of going broke. My bankroll is many times more than sufficient provided I have a positive expectation. If you have a negative expectation, bankroll becomes irrelevant because you're going to do it all in the end. The problem in the real world is that we can't just sit down and say "ah yes I can expect a 10% ROI here" because without a lot of results to back it up we're just pulling numbers out of the air (or somewhere else beginning with A).

While we are though, just suppose that we did estimate that we could make $70 an hour playing $200 Sit and Goes, or $60 an hour playing $50s. It does not follow that the $200s are the game to play. My two reasons for saying that they aren't are : 1) the variance is much higher and 2) it will be less satisfying because you don't win as often. There's not much need to expand on this. When we factor in the tremendous uncertainty as to what our expectation actually is, the extra stress involved in playing $200 would not be worth the extra money. After all, all we have to do to earn the same wedge is play 10 minutes more in the hour.

I'm more sensitive to downswings than I should be. Much more, considering that I am self-sufficient outside of poker. But if I am sure that I am a winning player at a particular level, that helps a great deal. When I can see people making terrible plays on a regular basis it is a consolation, even when it hurts me in a particular coup. I would find trying to eke out a 10-12% edge playing for $200 very difficult indeed. The swings and the doubt as to whether I was actually winning would play on my mind. And if I was playing at less than 100% I'm sure that would cost much more at $200 than it would at $30.

So you're unlikely to see me in these bigger games. Does that make me less of a player ? I think you'll find I can spend the money just as well wherever I make it.

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