Friday, December 22, 2006


The Holiday Wrap Up - Past to Present

The Past
This blog is simply an account of a normal dude who is probably only slightly better at poker than you. People wanting to see $$$$$ pots, $$$$$$ tournament scores or televised poker events, will be disappointed. This blog was started as a way for me to be accountable for my own actions. It gave me something to report to every so often. If I donked off my roll, I would post it here and hope to be roasted, or at least feel foolish that my failures were now publicly posted.

This all started when I was playing $50NL 6 max. After some decent success at those stakes, I went on a cooler, got fed up and cashed out a significant profit. In September I got the itch to play again. On September 4th, I deposited $250 on Full Tilt. It's been a mix of HU limit SnG, HU limit cash game, $25 NL, $50 NL, $100 NL, MTT tournaments and a few odd SnGs here and there. Here is what $250 was parlayed into in only 3.5 months:

By my math that's $7,875.73. The two transactions for $25 and $20 respectively, were transfers to my roommate for which he paid cash. The $250-$300 transactions are rakeback. The reason I took out $1,000 and re-upped $750 was to get the reload bonus, which turned out to be another $400ish. All and all, about $5,000 of that is cash game winnings, $1,200 or so in bonuses and rakeback, and the balance in tournament and SnG profits. I had to take some cash out here and there to pay for stuff... like rent, back when I was unemployed.

The point is, it's not hard. Anyone can repeat the successes I've had if they apply themselves. The first thing is bankroll management. If you are struggling to get this right, I don't know what to tell you. Sometimes you have to get burned by the stove before you know not to touch it. Others, you can just tell them to keep away and they will.

Here's my guidelines for casual players (full ring):

Micros: 10 buy-ins is fine for everything up to, and including, $50NL assuming you are obviously a winning player with success at the lessor games.

Low Limits: This starts at $100 NL. I'd recommend 15-20 here, as I found out the hard way, 15k break-even/slightly losing sessions can happen. But the play is so so so bad it's worth sticking out.

The games:
On this last bankroll re-building I started at $25NL. Every stake I have played has been an entirely different animal. The one thing that I have found is true, is that the average good player can expect a win-rate equal to how bad the players are at the stake. For example, the average player at $50NL was a 5 PTBB/100 loser. This means that if you play ABC poker and DO NOT bluff, you should be a 5 PTBB/100. The way you can break this barrier is by exploiting your opponent's weaknesses. If they are aggressive, this would mean trapping. If they are passive, this would mean widening your raising range against them (whether they limp or raise themselves), in order to create profitable situations for yourself.

To Summarize LJ's Theory Of Win-Rates™: If you only played your cards playing a straightforward ABC game, the most you could expect to win is equal to the average win-rate of your competition. In order to break this barrier you must start to exploit your opponent's play-style to create profitable situations.

So here's my breakdown of the games I've spent a decent time playing:

$25 NL:
Obviously this is not a hard game. The one thing to be weary about in low stakes games is that there are some surprisingly good players (albeit, they are in the minority). And there are even more that think they are good. Be it the 75/40 donkey or the 8/0.5 mouse that cries every time they get sucked out on. But the average person who thinks they are good is something like a 18/3 mouse, that plays WAY too passive, but thinks it's correct. The average player, however, is LAGtarded. Seeing way too many flops, bluffing with retarded hands, etc. That's why bluffing (beyond c-betting) is not very profitable here. What is profitable is punishing limpers. Position + Raise + C-bet = profit. Be careful of those who will call down in large pots with middle pair though, they exist, but are not hard to spot if you have PokerTracker. I like to have "Folds to Flop Bet" displayed in my PokerAceHUD display as it tells me who it is profitable to c-bet against. It also tells me that if my c-bet gets called by one of these people, I had better be able to beat TPTK, since that is generally the minimum they will have. Finally, remember that at the lower stakes you can actually make *BIGGER LAYDOWNS* because people play so predictably. I've only folded a set on the flop once, and it was at $25NL (it was correct).

To summarize: Punish limpers in position, practice getting full value out of your monsters (including pushing into someone you know will call with Top Pair). You can make bigger laydowns due to more predictable play.

$50 NL
Again, not a tough game to beat. Very slightly "harder" than $25 NL. You will start to see slightly crazier pre-flop action. I remember my first comment was "Damn, these fools play like it's a tournament." Some folks push with AK pre-flop, etc. However, be aware of those super-crazy people and focus again on punishing limpers. Against 3-4 limpers, AJos even is a nice hand to raise with on the button. You will win the pot right there A LOT and you are in great position to take it down with a c-bet as only a handful will call. Be VERY careful about running this move if you have someone in the blinds who likes to see a ton of flops. Their call might set off a chain reaction of others feeling "priced in" and calling pre-flop, which is not at all what you want with a marginal holding like AJos. Again, you can make some pretty decent lay-downs here as well, as the play is straightforward. Just remember, the average player is willing to get it all-in with just TPTK.

$25 and $50 NL commonalities:
First thing that I've noticed between the two is that punishing limpers is very profitable. It is how you can break the "average win-rate" theory that I described a few paragraphs up. The next important thing is that whenever you raise pre-flop, people will put you on AK a majority of the time. I don't know why. They always assume it's what you have. It's very nice as well. Let's say you are on the button with one limper behind. You hold KJ suited. This is a hand I really like raising with in this position as it is probably actually a value-raise against an open-limper. You get a caller in the BB (tight player). Let's say tight player has QQ and made a mistake by not-repopping. The open-limper calls as well. The flop comes A J 2 rainbow. BB checks, open-limper checks, you c-bet. No one can call you here. Open-limper probably has a small pocket pair, or something like JT or QJ. If he does have an ace, it isn't a good one and he may fold it right there (remember, they are super passive). The BB might type something in chat to the effet of "AK?" and fold. This situation comes up OVER AND OVER again. You can win the pot with marginal holdings uncontested a lot of the time. You can make a ton of profit this way.

C-bet, C-bet, C-bet. Even multiway against many passive players with 75%+ fold to flop bet.

$100 NL:
I had a lot of trouble adjusting to this game. I started out $200 bucks in the hole on this one, as I had taken a few shots here and there and had a myriad of 3 outers (with only the river to come), which really made me not look forward to splitting this game apart. Combine that with a 15k break-even session, a brief step down back to $50 NL and a losing session upon return to $100 NL, and I was getting ready to quit poker all-together. But I stuck it out, and here's what I learned:

The players here are SUPER-aggressive. Even the so-called "tight ones." At this level, the bluff is re-discovered. Your best defense against bluffs is to bet monsters and set traps. Also, you do not want to expose yourself to bluffs that you cannot call, such as having to call a push if you value-bet the river with TPTK in position. A lot of the times it's best to check behind.

Some of the best moves to have in your arsenal at this stake is the over-bet. It is deceptive in that it is taken as a bluff a lot of the time. When you re-pop someone, re-pop them strong. If they raise to $4 and for whatever reason, the situation warrants a repop, make it $14, $15, $16... don't pussy-foot around with a min-raise or even 3x there bet. It gets no respect at these stakes. Just the other day I had this doozy:

Full Tilt Poker
$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Ring Game
8 Players

CO: $15.10
BTN: $116.25
SB: $131.45
BB: $99
UTG: $101.25
Hero (UTG+1): $285.70
MP1: $199.30
MP2: $86.35

Preflop: Ks Kd ($1.5, 8 players)
UTG raises to $2, Hero raises to $9, MP1 folds, MP2 folds, CO folds, BTN folds, SB folds, BB folds, UTG calls $7

Flop: 9d 6h 2c ($19.5, 2 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets $15, UTG calls $15

Turn: 9d 6h 2c [Tc] ($49.5, 2 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets $79, UTG calls all in for $77.25
Uncalled bet of $1.75 returned to Hero

River: 9d 6h 2c Tc [7d] ($204, 2 players)
No action

UTG had 9c 6c (two pair, Nines and Sixes) and won $201
Hero had Ks Kd (a pair of Kings)
Final Pot: $201.00 ($3.00 rake)

You may say that my aggression was a bit over-kill. But I will get super-aggressive with donkeys simply because you can't have a clear idea what they hold AT-ALL. The only thing I know is that 85% of the time I have the best hand here and that the sooner I get the money in, the larger my equity edge will be.

I like how I played the hand for the most part, and nearly fell out of my chair when I saw what my opponent was holding. It's the reason why you should stop trying to "disguise" your big hands. Just throw it out there. Bet it hard. You will STILL get callers and a lot of the time they will have the correct odds because you didn't bump it up enough.

The Value Push, The Min-Raise, & You!
You are not the only one getting bombed on in the $100 game, just remember that. This makes the value-push that much more appealing. Anyone who has spent even a few hundred hands at FTP's $100 game has probably seen someone throw all their chips at them on the driest of dry flops while they hold an over-pair, and wonder where they went wrong.

Use this fact to extract value.

Full Tilt Poker
$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Ring Game
8 Players

UTG+1: $142.25
MP1: $132.50
Hero (MP2): $141.50
CO: $98.50
BTN: $100
SB: $89.5
BB: $14.5
UTG: $101

Preflop: Th 8h ($1.5, 8 players)
UTG folds, UTG+1 folds, MP1 calls $1, Hero calls $1, CO folds, BTN folds, SB calls $0.50, BB checks

Flop: As 7d 6c ($4, 4 players)
SB checks, BB checks, MP1 checks, Hero bets $2.50, SB folds, BB folds, MP1 raises to $7, Hero calls $4.50

Yes, it's true, we only have a gut-shot here. I have to call $4.50 to win $13.50. I don't have straight up odds, but I'm sensing that this mouse has a hell of a hand so my implied odds are enormous.

Turn: As 7d 6c [4s] ($18, 2 players)
MP1 bets $12, Hero calls $12
Again, our mouse friend makes a gigantic mistake. He offers me nearly 3 to 1, and now my odds are even better as I have an open ended straight draw (about 5.5 to 1 to hit).

River: As 7d 6c 4s [9c] ($42, 2 players)
MP1 bets $22, Hero raises all in to $121.50, MP1 calls all in for $90.50
Uncalled bet of $9 returned to Hero
Teh nuts! This wouldn't have worked so well had the 5 come instead of the 9, but you see how the implied odds worked? I called a $12 bet to win a $250 pot. That's really not bad and that's actually a lot of the reason why you see people call with all sort of ridiculous hands pre-flop, which is why we must raise HARD in situations like this, or pre-flop. You still do want callers, you just want to assure that they are calling without good odds to do so, implied or otherwise.

Not important

We see the same thing again. A terribly played hand by our opponent:

Full Tilt Poker
$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Ring Game
9 Players

UTG: $117
UTG+1: $117.75
MP1: $143.95
MP2: $77.50
MP3: $73.90
CO: $99.75
Hero (BTN): $213.30
SB: $100.4
BB: $75.5

Preflop: Ah Qs ($1.5, 9 players)
UTG folds, UTG+1 folds, MP1 folds, MP2 folds, MP3 calls $1, CO folds, Hero raises to $4, SB folds, BB folds, MP3 calls $3

Flop: As 2c 8s ($9.5, 2 players)
MP3 checks, Hero bets $7, MP3 raises to $14, Hero calls $7
For one, I may have the best hand here. I think AK raises from MP1 always, same with 88. 22 is the only real culprit. If I can narrow it down to only one set out of the possible cards present, I discount it entirely. It's still possible that our opponent has it, but it's so unlikely you spend more money being fearful of the situation rather than going balls out. I have to call $7 to win $30 due to our friend's problem with min-raising (better than 4 to 1).

Turn: As 2c 8s [Kh] ($37.5, 2 players)
MP3 checks, Hero checks
I am not interested in playing for stacks with just one pair. Check behind.

River: As 2c 8s Kh [Qd] ($37.5, 2 players)
MP3 bets $14, Hero raises all in to $195.30, MP3 calls all in for $41.90
Uncalled bet of $139.40 returned to Hero
Value Pushing. For one, our villain really doesn't have much left. For two, my hand is strong enough against the villain's range of raising on the flop. I just can't see a set checking behind again on the turn if they think I really have an ace, which they must at this point

MP3 had Ad 2d (two pair, Aces and Twos)
Hero had Ah Qs (two pair, Aces and Queens) and won $146.30
Final Pot: $146.30 ($3.00 rake)

And for the finale. My favorite hand of the week. I really get a hard-on when every cent I put into the pot was when I was an overwhelming favorite. Basically, I played (and was allowed to play) this hand just like we had our cards face up due to my opponent's mistakes more than my great playing, but I digress:

ull Tilt Poker
$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Ring Game
7 Players

UTG: $52.30
UTG+1: $24.80
MP1: $150.25
MP2: $181.15
BTN: $29
Hero (SB): $99.5
BB: $56.9

Preflop: 6s 6h ($1.5, 7 players)
UTG folds, UTG+1 calls $1, MP1 calls $1, MP2 calls $1, BTN calls $1, Hero calls $0.50, BB checks

Flop: Tc 9d 6d ($6, 6 players)
Hero bets $4, BB folds, UTG+1 folds, MP1 folds, MP2 calls $4, BTN folds

Turn: Tc 9d 6d [8d] ($14, 2 players)
Hero checks, MP2 checks
Obviously that turn was shit. However, since this turn was so good for my opponent, I am very willing to call a bet up to pot sized to try to catch a board pairing card on the river. I feel I can stack someone with the flush almost always, and I can stack the straight (assuming no fourth diamond) enough to make calling profitable. However, our villain is a moron and checks behind.

River: Tc 9d 6d 8d [8h] ($14, 2 players)
Hero bets all in for $95, MP2 calls $95
I'm pretty sure he made his flush on the turn. No one else would check behind. Part of the logic that goes along with always being willing to pay off an overset, is that you must assume that if you boat up you have the best hand (with some very specialized exceptions, this not being one of them). Anyway, this was a great board to do this with since there is a one card straight possible. This play does not have to work very often to be more profitable than a value bet. Let's say I can guarantee that if I bet $8, I get called every time. I only need this play to work 1 in 12 times to be better than getting my $8 called everytime. I know it looks ugly, but at its core it is beautiful.

MP2 had Ad 7d (a flush, Ace high)
Hero had 6s 6h (a full house, Sixes full of Eights) and won $201
Final Pot: $201.00 ($3.00 rake)


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