Sunday, January 27, 2008


Things What I Have Learned (3)

I could simply say that I'm finally learning when to put a hand down, but it's a little more subtle than that. After five months of consistent high volume, or high for me anyway, I'm finally recognising the betting sizings and patterns that indicate a very strong hand. Usually Aces pre-flop or the nuts (or at least a set) post-flop. In December I started hearing the alarm bells at the right times and putting my chips in anyway ; now, I'm finally beating my curiosity and/or subconscious desire to say "Look, I ran into Aces again, see how unlucky I am" and just folding.

The real light bulb moment was watching a video by Adanthar where he basically says "There, that's Aces. You should fold Queens here, and probably Kings". OK he's made the video after the tournament has taken place, but even so, having seen a couple of his vids, I trust him enough not to be using the results to make his point. After that, I trawled through a good few hand playbacks on PokerXFactor, basically stopping the action where I thought I saw one of these monster hand patterns and then looking at the result. And it was just incredible how often the tell was correct.

Unfortunately, what I'm not going to do is tell you what the patterns are. The last thing I need is anyone deliberately replicating these against me as a bluff :-). It's not that hard to work them out though. While they're not 100% reliable, they're generally good enough to make you put down your AK pre-flop or your top pair on the flop. If you see anyone making one of these plays without a big hand, you have to note it down immediately ; don't wait until they do it to you, because of course there are a few people around who just do stupid things for no reason. As long as you keep your eyes open you shouldn't mis-read too many of these, because after all, monster hands are quite hard to come by. If someone is making these plays with sub-monster holdings, they'll be doing it a lot more often, and the chances are you'll see them do it to someone else and fold later in the hand or show down some crap, at which point you just make your note.

So anyway, for example, in the Full Tilt $240 tonight I've extracted myself from three hands that I could easily have gone broke on last month : JJ against QQ where previously I might well have smashed all-in pre ; TT with only 9 big blinds against QQ and AA in front of me ; and AK on an Ace high board when there wasn't a showdown but the guy claimed a set afterwards and I certainly believed him. Too often in the past I've used the size of the pot as an excuse to call people down "to be unexploitable" but when people are telegraphing their hands it's your chance to exploit them. Take it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Things What I Have Learned (2)

It's lucky I skimmed through some recent posts, because I forgot that I had mentioned this already, here, where I'm talking about tightening up on final tables. Basically, what I say there.

The interesting thing about this is how it ties in with "conventional" tournament thinking. There are a lot of people out there, especially in live tournaments, who preach "waiting for a better spot", and a lot of them seem to stick around without going busto. I think this is partly because quite often they're making the right play for the wrong reason. In certain scenarios, especially the kind I'm talking about, early at a final table, people pass up +cEV spots [1] "to wait for a better one". What they are actually doing, without realising it, is passing up a -$EV spot because of ICM factors. If this is the case, then it's right to pass. What I'm trying to do is figure out when spots are -$EV and passing because the spot isn't good, not because it is good and I'm "waiting for a better one". I'm not passing because I'm "waiting for a couple of people to be knocked out and then I'll gamble" or anything like that.

Where this falls down for our live draks is when they pass up spots which actually are +$EV. This could be because they're far from the money, in the money but far enough from the final table, short-stacked, or they have their opponent well covered. It's one of the biggest myths of the tournament circuit that a player who often has a short stack for a long time is "a great short stack player". Not so. A good short stack player isn't short stacked for very long because he either pushbots up to a reasonable stack, doubles up or hits the rail soon enough.

I've come to realise, in time, that "I play to win" or "I play to make the top three", while being a better catechism than something like "I make the money and then I can gamble", is still a catechism all the same. It's unnecessary. There really is no need, in tournament poker, to do anything other than make a good $EV decision on this street, on this hand. People set themselves artificial targets and frameworks which might occasionally be helpful (for example that Gigabet theory or variations of it), but so rarely that you're still better off forgetting about it and applying your energy to finding and executing the correct $EV play right here, right now. While it's true that the majority of tournament players would do better if they were more aggressive, or called less often, that doesn't mean that the aggressive option is always correct or that calling is always wrong. One decision at a time, one hand at a time, and count your money at the end of the year.

[1] By which I mean positive chip EV, for example when you're getting 5-4 on an all-in call and you're pretty sure you're flipping.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Things What I Have Learned (1)

I was thinking about making a post every month, along with the monthly profit and loss, about what I've learned that month. There should always be something. In order to come up to speed on that, I should really talk about what I've learned in the last 4 months while I've been putting in (relatively) high volume in online MTTs. There are two main areas, the first of which I'm going to talk about here. This is how certain plays have to be treated differently because they have become common knowledge.

1) The continuation bet (c-bet for short). Everyone and his dog has read the Harrington books now and while, if you actually pay attention to what he says, he doesn't recommend c-betting indiscriminately, that's how a lot of people have interpreted it. So c-bets aren't taking the pot down anywhere near as often as they used to. There are various adjustments to make for this ; I don't want to make this too long so I'm just going to talk about one. When I raise pre-flop and get called in one spot, I'm basically c-betting when I like my hand enough to put at least some more chips in on this or future streets, and when I'm behind the majority of the villain's range and I'm taking one shot as a bluff. In a nutshell, c-bet your best and worst hands. With the middle hands (especially A-big that misses), I prefer to check most of the time. IMO you should be trying to extract enough value from the pre-flop raise by stealing the blinds, flopping good and occasionally stealing on the flop with basically nothing. Taking down pots when you miss but still have some showdown value shouldn't really factor into it. Which basically means in early position and without antes, tight tight tight pre-flop.

2) The squeeze play. Another Harrington favourite that I was never convinced by from the start. I always felt that the rationale for the play contained an inherent contradiction. Geezer A raises, Geezer B calls and you go for the squeeze. Now, says the book it's hard for A to call because he's worried about B behind him. But you don't have to worry about B because he would have raised with a big hand. Wait, what ? Why does A have to worry about B when you don't ? This penny has finally dropped with a lot of people, and so many villains are calling the squeeze light as A or inducing the squeeze as B that I think the play now has almost no value as a bluff. The corollary to this, however, is that you can squeeze with a lot of hands for value, even TT/AQ if the stacks are right. I've had people call me as Player A with KTs lately.

3) My beloved steal reraise. This is not obsolete yet, but more and more players are catching on. It's now a case of taking careful notes. I always try to note when someone calls a steal reraise light ; when someone makes a steal reraise with a semi-bluffing or complete bluffing hand ; and when someone either repeatedly raise/folds from around 15BBs or raise/folds ever from 10BBs or less. I still think that if you find yourself in a position like I did last night where all the factors line up (button raises, I have A6s in the BB with a 15 BB stack) it's a big leak not to be reraising here, but it is beginning to pay to be a little more careful when one or more of the factors (raiser's position, hand strength, stack size) isn't quite there. Again, I've been called by some funny hands lately, especially offsuit broadway like KJ. When you find yourself facing a smallish late position raise and you have something that can flop fairly robustly a lot of the time [1], like QJs or something, calling and check-raising on a hit may be preferable to a shove at the moment.

All in all I think it's very important to pay attention to the shifting trends in whatever game you're playing as fashions come and go. It helps to stay in one environment as much as possible, especially regarding live vs online which are completely different, each with their own current trends. This is one reason why you won't see me playing live much, if at all, for the next six months. I should also say that this is what I'm seeing in the tournaments I'm playing, which tend to be $20/50 rebuy, $100/150 freezeout plus the odd Sunday warm up and so on. If you're playing higher or lower than that, the trends may be different, but you still have to think in the same way about what the majority of your opponents are doing.

[1] What I mean by this is that there are going to be a lot of flops where you're confident that you're good enough against villain's range to ship in the 15-20BB stacks. With QJs that can be top pair, a draw with overs, pair + draw, etc. Compare with A7 or 44 where you just can't feel so good about many flops at all. Those hands are still raise or fold in a potential re-steal situation.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Sick Laydown

Don't worry Frode, this isn't you laying down Kings in the Warm-up. You can forget about 10% if I catch you doing that again :-). No, this is me in the Party $500 "High Roller" :

I'm not known for my laydowns, especially online, but I was pleased I managed to put this one down and 100% sure I was right. You tell me what he had that I could beat there after small raise pre-flop, check behind AKx flop and small raise turn when he could have gone allin.

Some small consolation after whiffing everything today for -$2000.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008



I only managed to put $16K in play last month, but returned $25K for 9 profit. This was mainly due to a $6K night on Betfair (1st in the small $210 and second in the "Annette Special"), and this result on Party three days later :

As you can see, this is another suckout special :-). I started with QQ > KK and carried on in that vein throughout. Still, it's all allowed. BTW there is a slight problem with this version of the replayer on Party, if a hand looks like there's something missing it's usually that I've reraised allin.

Since I started knuckling down in September I've cleared $40K in four months which is fine, could be better but you can't control the variance and I haven't done anything spectacular on a Sunday so bearing that in mind I think it's OK. Over the next three months I'll still be putting it in online but maybe three nights a week rather than four ; to keep the $ volume up I'll be trying to play every Sunday where possible, which of course will lead to bigger swings, but I can live with that. I certainly have a better idea of the tournaments to play and not to play (cough 100 rebuy) now which should help too.

As for 2007, I don't think it's all that helpful to compartmentalise years and start again from zero. I could go on a $20K downswing at any point, probably more, and that's much easier to deal with if I'm still counting from the start of 2007. Just a psychological trick but I'm sticking with it. For now we can just say that 2007 was a great year, I ran very well in live tournaments considering how few I played, so the other trick is not to expect an automatic repeat.

As for rankings, I have edged up to 11th in the UK on P5s, this is probably improvable by 2 or 3 places before I reach the limit taking volume into consideration. OPR is more of a target now, that result on Party kicked me up to 50th (in the world, or universe if you prefer) on Party, I'm now 62nd but a couple more results could push me quite high in those so that's another incentive. Again, this ranking stuff is just for motivation to keep playing, it's important not to put the cart before the horse here and start chasing points rather than money.

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