Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Year and a new ball game

It's been a great holiday. Not only did I get over a full week off work, but I got to spend loads of time with my girlfriend and our respective families, and I ate a preposterous amount of great food! One thing about the Chinese (and I think I've said this before) is that they love to show affection through sharing food, and they like to make sure their is plenty to share. Christmas day involved a huge buffet of roasted meats and vegetables, along with a smattering of seafood. I don't think I've put any weight on, but it's not for want of trying!

On top of all the eating, visiting and such, I managed to play a lot of poker. And either the skill levels of my opponents has dipped sharply over the past few weeks, or my play has improved markedly. Maybe it's both, but I think that my play has improved a lot, and I think I know why.
Queue Alan, and a comment he left a while back that chimed with me long and loud:
"If you want to control the pot size, then you have to be doing that on every street and I don't mean checking. I just mean that your cbet % doesn't have to be so high, the amount could be about half pot but don't control pot size by shutting down on the turn and the river. Once people start noticing that, they will kill you on the later streets."

Having read this, I thought hard about my style of play, and I realised the following:
1) Don't default to pot size c-bets. I had heard that pot-sized continuation bets were the most effective tool for applying pressure. While this may be true, if you use them routinely they do more harm than good. You can forget that people calling a pot size bet usually have a strong hand, and you should slam on the breaks. Also, the pot can become bloated early on, and if you are raising too frequently with drawing hands then your opponents turn and river bets can cause you to chase with your draws.

2) Don't always c-bet. If you always c-bet the flop, you will be doing so with nothing over 60% of the time you raise preflop with 2 unpaired cards. This will lose you too much money, and gives your opponents an easy means to take your stack by leaving yourself wide open to check-raises and check-raise bluffs. If you always c-bet, your opponent won't know what you have, but that doesn't matter as you still won't be ahead often enough to make money.Couple that with pot sized bets and the situation becomes hugely unprofitable.

3) Build different sized pots. Each flop is different, and as your hand and your opponents hands are in constant flux, taking the same action (ie c-betting) for each different situation is against good sense. You need to mix up your flop action to include c-bets (1/2 bot or higher), probes and checks, so that your opponent is constantly guessing what each bet (or not) indicates, and so that you can build big pots with your great hands, and small pots with your mediocre hands.

So basically I needed to stop c-betting so often, and stop c-betting so much. And just like that, my game came back. My last 10 consecutive sessions have been profitable, and I can count on one hand the number of serious mistakes I've made. So, if you're reading this, thanks Alan. I believe I owe you one! When I come out to vegas next, drinks will definitely be on me!

That said, there are still a few situations that I'm not happy about where I feel I have been leaving money on the felt. Will post them soon. In the meantime, hope everyone had a great xmas and NYE, and I look forward to reading everyones latest posts -soon as I'm back at work of course!


Gnome said...

I have a slightly different outlook.
Of course it depends on your opponents, and continuation bets don't have to be made every time, but they are frequently effective. I've been using 2/3 pot-sized continuation bets over the last six weeks or so with great success.
Another way to control the pot size is to slow play some of your weaker "made" hands in heads-up situations. There are times when top pair or even second pair can be checked behind on the flop in order to extract value and induce bluffs on later streets.
Shutting down on the turn or river isn't always a bad thing. Often, check-folding will save you money when you're behind. Other times it looks like you're slowplaying a monster. The important thing is to balance slowplaying, bluffing and check-folding so that your opponents will have a hard time overrunning you when you check on later streets. Against aggressive opponents, it's easy to extract extra bets if they always read your checks as weakness.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

I'm glad my thoughts triggered some stuff for you. I also agree with Gnome. Basically, it is always situational. However, I do know that I am more cautious on who I cbet against. There was a period where I noticed that my cbets were getting raised with an alarmingly high frequency and that's when I reeled in my cbets a little. Again, varying based on situations I believe is the most important thing. Good luck in 2008!

SubZero said...

You both raise sound points, each regarding the frequency with which I make c-bets. A balance must be attained, and I will post more about this in the future.