Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To The Few of Us Left Who Haven't Seen This...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Week 2 With No HUD....Another $3,000

There are two brand new things to note about this week's results. The first is that I had a brief and unsuccessful venture in $2/4 where everything possible went wrong. Surprisingly, not once did I get in pre-flop less than a coin flip. Being that I have been short stack crushing $1/2 so hard and getting comfortable doing so, I decided that making the instant jump was adding on a level of stress that was not necessary at this point, so I have decided to just sprinkle in a few good $2/4 games here and there until I make the total transition.

The second point is that you will notice that I have decided that I will not be covering up my pre-flop stats anymore, for two good reasons. The first is that I want to shock and appall everyone with how tight I am yet still able to win at the rate of a strong, successful full stacker. In fact, Poker Listings currently has me ranked as the 50th tightest player in the world, a badge that I wear with honor.

The second reason I do this is because I am no longer concerned that anyone can read these stats and steal my game plan. Great short stack play is not a pre-flop shoving contest. It is about staying ahead of your opponents' ranges, finding +EV spots and risking your buy-in to grab them, and making the optimal plays post-flop.

In my next post, I will be introducing a revolutionary concept called the "Range Map" and how that ties in with what I call "Proper Play Theory." The range map is a term I am coining that allows me to consistently beat completely unknown players without the use of any prior statistics or knowledge of them. This is a concept that applies to both live and online play and is adaptable to changes in the future flow of the game and will thus always be relevant.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Triple Lindy Magic Insult Hand

By keeping the chat off, I entertain myself by imagining what they are thinking.


"I'm ahead! Just don't throw that ace!"

The Flop

"Ah fuck! Well, I still have a shot here..."

The Turn

"Shit! I'm dead to a chop..."

The River

"Ah, come on now! Was that shit really necessary?!"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Implied Odds in a Short Stacker/Full Stacker Scenario

This next entry is something that I had written in response to a post about short stack theory that I was reading on another player's blog. Even though it may be the height of egotism to quote myself, I thought that this concept was far too important not to mention here.

I wrote the following response at Poker Anon where the blog author (as a part time short stacker, mind you) recommended making an overcall vs. a shortstacker early open raise and nitty full stacker flat call with 44. Here is my take on the matter:

This is kind of a conundrum. I like the way in which you analyze hands and play, but your short stack theories are wildly inaccurate. I think this mainly comes from a misunderstanding of implied odds and how this applies to full stack play. I consider the concept of implied odds to be the greatest con ever pulled on the poker community at large.

I noticed that you said if you buy in full and a SSer raises 4x and a tight big stack calls, you should call with 44 to bust the big stack. Where to begin here?

The SS range up front is very tight, typically TT+, AQ-AK, and sometimes tighter (like myself). The nitty full stack is almost always re-raising the hands you are likely to bust him with, namely QQ-AA. However, look even further here. He is only likely to stack off with QQ and KK IF no ace hits the board. And given the effects of card removal because of the short stack, he is more likely to contain hands like AQ, AJs, 77-TT. The only way that these hands are likely to stack away against another full stack acting behind him is when he either flops 2 pair (still has 4 outs), pair + nut draw, nut straights, and bigger sets.

And now back to the (very) optimistic scenario that this guy was actually smart enough to cold call with QQ-AA. These hands are just as likely to flop a set as you and if they are going to stack away every time here, guess what? You are right back to being a 4:1 dog with your 44. And that doesn’t even factor in when the board comes really bad and you happen to get bluffed off your set.

In addition, the concept of flopping big and stacking someone is simply the wrong way of looking at things. If you assume that you play your 44 perfectly, you still need to look at what your AVERAGE profit for this scenario is. In a $1/2 game, I would say it would be VERY optimistic to assume that this situation will even net you $3 on average, but the variance you will be taking on to win this $3 is enormous. And yet again, it also ignores the negative psychological effects of missing your set an inordinate amount of time, flopping it and getting nothing in return, flopping it and losing to a higher set, flopping it and getting little because of scary boards, and the worst of all, flopping it, building a large pot and then getting bluffed off it.

As a foot note to my response, given the negative scenarios that can result even after flopping your set, the potential ensuing tilt probably makes this play neutral EV at best. In a round about way, what I am really trying to say here is that set mining in general is a bad policy and goes against basic good play which requires that YOU be the aggressor.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Quick Quiz...

What is wrong with this picture?

Monday, March 16, 2009

My First Week Without the HUD

Although I am not afraid to admit when I am running good, it is simply hard to imagine how my results could have been any better with some shitty device telling me that I can not trust my own observations....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Case Aginst Using a HUD

As of this past Sunday, after much self-deliberation, I have decided to fully abandon my HUD permanently. Although I do not doubt that there are a few select players out there who can actually put these things to work, my final analysis is that they do far more harm than good for the vast majority of online grinders. Here is my case against it.

First of all, it is important to acknowledge why we actually use a HUD. Here is why: to inform us to make decisions by the use of past player statistics that we would not otherwise make were that information not available. In this regard, it is like a live tell. After all, a tell is only significant when it causes us to take an action that we were not otherwise going to do had we not seen it.

So now that I have defined what a HUD does, let's examine the underlying logic here. In the course of my career, I have played roughly 2,000,000 hands of online poker. Although the overall quality of play has certainly increased in this time frame, one major truth has emerged: most players generally adapt to each other and take on the same tendencies. In other words, if one player open raises by mashing the pot button with his decent hands in early position, most others will be doing the same thing. Likewise, if one player is min-raise opening his marginal hands in late position, I can expect that others who are opening for the minimum in late position are also doing it with marginal hands. And one more, if one person is limp-reraising only premium hands from early position, it is pretty safe to say that others are doing the same thing, a.k.a., they are NOT doing this with hands like 66.

While I could go on and on with a plethora of examples, I would say that the concept is clear here: I don't need stats on players in order to decipher these basic meanings, and reading stats to try and get deeper here could only accomplish one possible thing- to obscure what is already obvious. Be these extreme examples as they may be, most everything else follows suit to some degree or another. Observation is the key. A 6x open raise from early position is virtually always a premium hand, whether it is coming from a 9/6 or 30/20. Period.

So now that I have established that certain tendencies are visible through lone observation, we must now address the logic of using a device over our own observations. Exactly how does this make sense? We are using stats that are, at best, only 30 days old or less. These stats do not capture a person's mood or whether or not they are adjusting to current table conditions or following the meta-game. Ask yourself this: is a player with an “Attempt to Steal” stat of 60% who was just 3-bet off his hand three times in a row still just a 60% ATS guy this time around, or an angry or clever player holding QQ and now HOPING he will get 3-bet again?

By attempting to use these stats rather than our own good judgment, these little nuances are missed. Is the player who runs a 30/20 a real maniac, or is he just some min-betting fool looking to take the initiative in a lot of cheap flops? This information is not clear on its own, but with good observation and note taking skills should be readily apparent.

So I know what you must be thinking. “I am playing so many tables that I just don't have the chance to get this information on my own.” Here is my retort: how can it possibly be beneficial to be piling on more and more tables in exchange for lousy or non-existent information? And that is only assuming that the information that we are getting is accurate! I still have not even addressed the most dangerous aspect of using a HUD. When the information initially loads up, often times it is not correctly lined up with the appropriate player and you are looking at stats that could belong to another player. Further into your session, you will also find that sometimes a player leaves or goes busto and another player promptly sits down and “inherits” the first player's stats. Even though this can be avoided by making sure the names line up, a single slip up has a high price. And how much “good” information is necessary to make up for that single time you stacked away on one bad misread?

Friday, March 6, 2009

...And Everything is Illuminated

I dedicate this next post to all of those who feel like they took their shot and missed:

I have recently reached an epiphany.  Poker is only a microcosm of the rat race we call life.  The game is simply not beatable, as you will eventually find out.  The most breathtaking example of this can be found in Dusty "Leatherass" Schmidt's most recent blog entry chronicling his triumphant exit as one of the world's most legendary grinders.  For those of you who have been living under a rock, Dusty is a lead instructor at Stoxpoker.com who has made over $2,500,000 in a storied poker career, with almost all of that in just the last two years alone.  However, despite all of the money he has made and continues to make, Dusty says he has come to loathe this game.  After all, he says, it was never about the money, but rather, the desire to win at all costs.  Once a rising professional golfer, his career was abruptly cut short when he suffered a heart attack at the age of 22.  In order to fill his competitive drive, he quickly took to the game of online poker.  He truly obsessed over the game and slaved away to the top, only to find that 100,000 hand flatline stretches eventually nearly broke his spirit.

I once understood how he felt.  Though never by any means a baller, I have always made far more money than my friends sitting alone in my apartment and toiling away with just a mouse and an unhealthy dose of spite.  I have put my fist through walls, pounded away on my desk until I had to scrap it from the lazy sag that developed in the middle, smashed calculators and TV remotes, clocks, poker tables, and even my last printer, among other things.  I can't remember the day where I first made $1,000, but I remember the feeling well.  It felt like reaching the top of a mountain and finding a solitary paradise at the top.  But a few months later the only thing I felt when winning that much was knowing I could sleep well that night.  The feeling was gone, but I was still chasing the dragon.

Even though I have almost never had a losing month, there came many a time when I felt that crushing weight smothering my very soul but it became so easy to live the lie that this was the life other people dreamed of, so I must be happy right?  But my moods were erratic and my energy levels waned in unison with the fluctuations in my bankroll.  I would run hot for days and knew, just KNEW that everything was finally falling into place and I had finally figured out the whole damn thing.  Then just like that everything would fall apart and I would be left wondering if I had insulted the Poker Gods with my complete and utter lack of humility and would be promptly hit with a flurry of bonecrushing losses.  A day of sleep later and some soul searching would always bring my game back with a fury, but this pattern seemed to keep re-emerging and it slowly drained away my very essence with each new appearance.

Then came last October.  My friend Travis "TheDirrty" Rose and I would go partners in our Sunday tournament schedule.  Our final stop was the Full Tilt 750k.  I was hungover and didn't really care to play, but we had been doing really well in tournaments all year and made this our personal Sunday ritual.  I still hadn't even qualified at 3:55 PM and Travis was nowhere to be found.  When the phone rang, I finally gave him hell.  I didn't even want to be awake and I felt abandoned, but he had only been out coaching his son's flag football game.  He even had the gaul to ask, "you still feel like playing?"  How dare he?

I'm like "yeah!  I've been trying to qualify for this fucking thing for the last 2 hours."

So Travis says, "well ship me some money so I can play a few satellites after I shower up.  I'm sitting in my own filth so deep I can smell my own nutsack."

So low and behold, we both enter a satellite and only Travis is the last man standing.  But now I feel an energy boost and we are ready to run a train on this tournament.  To make a long story short, 9 1/2 hours later, we find ourselves playing heads up at the final table with $80,250 already locked up with our eyes on the 6-figure score that we had fantasized about every single weekend for the past 4 months.  The ending was very anticlimactic but poetic nonetheless, and to tell the truth, there was a certain relief to have it done with and be able to celebrate with abandon the score that almost seemed perpetually out of reach.

With enough money now in hand that my most burdensome debt now no longer existed and a score that soon became legend amongst close family and drinking buddies alike, you would think that the story should end here.  But of course, that wouldn't be appropriate for The Small Stakes Hero.

I barely have a real gambling bone in my body, so jumping up in stakes never really appealed to me.  I still recognized myself as the NL200 player that I was the day before, but it had simply lost all its appeal as that winning "buzz" was now ever further out of reach.  To anyone who has never been there before, this certainly sounds like a good problem to have.  However, any good problem to have is still a problem nonetheless.  I was troubled not by what lay before me but what lay behind me.  How could I possibly break the cycle of manic elation to profound disappoint?  It was pretty simple actually.  Just do nothing at all.....

So that was how the next 3 months went.  Long periods of inactivity followed by spurts of unenthusiastic, though solid, winning play.  I started to wonder if I really cared to continue with this game of poker, but when I was truly staring it in the face, all I saw was a long road ahead with no apparent reward at the end.  Poker was just a rat race, after all.

Was there anything really more to it other than trying to make boat loads of cash and be the envy of my friends and aquaintances?  I did enjoy imparting the wisdom that I had built up over the years on this blog, but that followed the same curve as my successes and failures in the game.  Short bursts of enthusiasm followed by long periods of inactivity.

So then came along short stacking.  I had dabbled with it several times in the past and always with great initial success followed by stretches of laborious conveyor belt type dissatisfaction and apathy.  I would sit down and play and fill my mind with anything at all that would take my mind off the game and make my day go by quicker.  This is just too easy, I thought.

But then at some point in the not so distant past, everything changed across my mental landscape and sliced through all my boredom and discontent.  It was called the Broken Window Theory.  It was a concept that I learned about in Malcolm Gladwell's masterpiece The Tipping Point.  Rather than give a brief description and risk cheapening the experience, I ask all of you to pick it up and just read it.  It opened my eyes to not just everything that seemed wrong with poker, but every single thing I once believed was warped or missing from my life.  Incidentally, I had also stumbled into a book called The Power of Less by Leo Babauta.  Though I never ever got through much of the book, Babauta quickly showed me the fatal flaw of pathological multi-tasking and how that stunts our growth and actually causes us to complete less projects and do so in an utterly forgettable fashion.

All of a sudden everything just clicked.  I started focusing on small expenditures and turning off the lights in rooms that were not in use, buying store brands, etc, and found that this level of thriftiness worked its way right up the ladder.  I started eating healthier, which gave me more energy and clarity of thought.  I started playing better, more focused poker, making more money which led to longer sessions.  You see, I tend to eat bad when I am bored or depressed.  By staying busy with poker, I was able to fire up quick healthy meals and easily wait till the next one, all the while enjoying the focused fruits of my efforts with high mental acuity.  

I started seeing it everywhere.  Your car doesn't get messy overnight.  It starts with one fast food bag left on the passenger seat and then a cup on the floor.  Then the console fills up with paper and there's a newspaper on the floor.  Next thing you know, it is trashed.  But by avoiding that first slip up, you never create that environment when chaos thrives.  Relationships are the same way.  Their decline always begins with but the tiniest moments of thoughtless neglect that eventually begin to snowball.  And poker...it all falls apart once you start taking it for granted.  You start by not taking notes anymore.  You don't give a shit about game or seat selection.  You stop reviewing your sessions in Poker Tracker and posting to forums.  You then watch TV, talk on the phone, and surf the Net while you simultaneously squander all your creativity and flexibility in the game and start using the same plays over and over again instead of seeing new ways to solve unique problems.  And then you blame the beats.  If your Aces had only held up just two more times...if the damn game wasn't so--riggggitttyyy!  Anything that takes the blame off yourself.

But back to my story...

So now my self esteem quickly boosted and I found myself  being more pleasant to be around.  I was more insightful, funnier, and a much better father.  And on and on...

I realized that the rat race is not winable.  The only way you eventually win is by seizing poker as but a single tool in a rich, multi-faceted life.  I use it to generate income, fulfill my intellectual curiosities and now to build bridges with and impact the lives of strangers who share in the experiences of a unique and exceptional game of self-discovery.  If poker is not improving your life, it is slowly destroying it.  Don't be a slave to the grind.  Accept your limitations and strengths, and above all, don't be afraid to be different.  Best of luck to you all.....


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

29 Days of Shortstack Madness

And the results have finally arrived! I decided to take it from the beginning of February until now because I was forced to take the first two days of last month off due to a vicious ice storm that terrorized all of Kentucky. However, I did get in 148 hours of play in since then and about 111,000 hands. The pictures from my data base can be found below.

In sum, in just under 148 hours of 12-tabling NL200 and a little NL400:

$4,932 in straight winnings
$2,353 in rakeback
$800 bonus for placing 14th in the raketherake rake race.


Total: $8,085.....$40 at a time!

So now to all the naysayers I simply ask, "how much did YOU make last month?" ;)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Seriously, Turn That Shit Off!

The chat function. It is that tiny box in the bottom left hand corner of your screen that spouts worthless blather from bitter and low-minded opponents. Although some people leave it on for entertainment, or "tilt tells," I am about to list the reasons why any busy multi-tabler should leave it off, at all times.

The basic reasoning here is that it is an unnecessary distraction. Any casual observation should reveal that this is obvious. However, most competent poker players feel that this type of advice only applies to others and not themselves. Here is my list of reasons for leaving it on and my objections to these reasons:

Reason: The chat they provide gives me good information.

Objection: This happens only rarely. When players banter back and forth about who was holding what, they will almost always tell you whatever best serves their agenda. Cowardly little poker players hiding behind their monitors and anonymity feel they can be whatever and whoever they want to be. Don't let them. Their play alone and how they deviate from it will let you know more accurately if they are on tilt or not.

Reason: I never participate, but I still want whatever extra information they give out.

Objection: This is what I would sometimes do. The problem here is that even if you are made of steel, at some point in time someone will say something that draws you into a conversation for some reason or another. Specifically to me, I get a lot of shit for short-stacking. I go busto many times over the course of the day but my detractors don't really understand that this is normal and doesn't particularly bother me. Naturally, the dumber the comment, the more likely I am to say something, if nothing more than to make them feel stupid. That might be okay if it just ended there but I have this personality defect that compels me to always seek the last word. I suspect than many of you have this same defect. If the conversation goes on long enough, pretty soon the cards will speak and one of you will do something to look stupid and will now feel the need to justify the play or call, furthering you down the spiral of tilt.

Reason: I find it entertaining.

Objection: This goes straight back to the last point. Eventually it will bring out the brat in all of us and we will feel compelled to needle someone. Often times, someone else will jump to the defense of the needled one and now you are battling your ego against two or more foes, which further distracts you from what you are here to do: make money.

My friend Travis leaves it on for this very reason and I am urging him to turn it off because nothing good ever comes from it and just the fact that he won't do it, tilts me! Even though in the outside world, he is far more level-headed than myself, there comes a time every so often where he tells me what some idiot said to needle him and how it managed to bother him for ahwile, sometimes well into the next day. If this ever happens to you, you have been manipulated!!

Players will often try and tilt you by saying something completely assinine. The will claim up and down about how awful and lucky you are because you hit some 12 out draw where you had more than enough odds to play it out. Often times, these players are perfectly aware that you did nothing wrong, but if they can manage to make you believe that they believe this nonsense, it is liable to piss you off anyway, and if they do piss you off, they have won.

Reason: I want to chat with my friends.

Objection: These whiny, miserable little shits are NOT your friends. You are trying to take each other's money and they can turn on you faster than a $500 a night hooker as soon as you crack their aces with A5s.

So what is the value of that extra attention worth anyway? After all, it only takes a few seconds to read it, so how important could it really be anyway? Well, just earlier today Travis was shorting some NL100 and had managed to double his stack. He was dealt K8o in the SB while talking with his son (in person). He meant to fold but somehow open shoved it over the BB! 95% of the time they would just fold here but the guy happened to wake up with pocket kings! It had a happy ending though, as Travis managed to catch runner-runner straight.

Point taken!