Monday, December 22, 2008

Back to school

I was struggling to sleep the other night, so I was running through the days hands in my head, you know to try and work out optimal lines and identify mistakes. Then I started thinking about the nature of the game, because my girlfriends mum was telling me her husband should take the game up to earn some extra cash now that he is retired. At the time I simply told her that I had already offered to help him learn if he so desired, but if he doesn't want to play the game then it would never happen. Obviously there is a bit more to it than this, as even if a person does want to play poker that doesn't necessarily mean they should.

I think learning poker is a lot like being at school. To me, the people who attended school could be broadly grouped into the following categories...

1. The people who are naturally academic and clever, and as such breeze through school getting excellent results without seeming to exert any effort.

2. The people who find school a challenge (but are clever/industrious): studying hard and wrestling with the more difficult concepts as they learn with different people experience different degrees of success. Some learn better from their mistakes and successes than others and go on to become academically successful, but all manage to pass comfortably and generally do well post-school.

3. The people who find school a challenge (but are dim/lazy): wrestling ineffectually with or ignoring the more difficult concepts as they attempt to learn the basic lessons being taught with little success. Some manage to pass, but most get frustrated and leave school as soon as they are able.

4. The problem people. These are the people who struggle to turn up for lessons, or cannot focus for more than 5 minutes before disrupting the class or completely zoning out of what is being taught. They are unable, or are completely unwilling, to learn. These people can sometimes even turn destructive: damaging school property, getting into fights etc.

In the poker learning world, these distinct groups can be re-classified as follows:

1. The natural born pros, who fly through the limits and quickly rise to the top with the minimal amount of study.

2. The winning amateurs: some who play for fun; some for money, but all whom win more often than not. These people tend to study and practice often and diligently, and some of these eventually try going pro after putting in enough effort.

3. The losing amateurs: some who play for fun; some for money, but all whom lose more often than not. Some of these people try to study and improve, but very rarely can they change to become regular winners at the game.

4. You know who these people are in the poker community. They are the ones with severe problems: gambling, discipline, delusional, financial, even emotional. These are the people who play poker when they shouldn't. Maybe they think they are better than they are. Maybe they think poker is rigged. Maybe they think they are owed a big win after losing for so long. Or maybe they don't think at all. They lose big, and they lose fast. More often than not, they also lose time and again, with no ability to stop. Very occasionally such a person is aware they are a huge loser but can either afford it or play only at stakes that have negligible financial impact for them.

I've heard that about 85% of poker players are long term losers, so correspondingly the majority of people would fall into categories 3 and 4. As such, I'd think long and hard before recommending someone attempt to learn poker with the hope of becoming a financially successful player. I'd recommend learning it for fun in a heartbeat, because I still regard it as a challenging, absorbing and enjoyable game, but unless you know that a person belongs in the top 2 categories just tell them where the kiddy game is if they ask.

As for me, I believe I'm in category 2, and even there it's by no means a bed of roses. Just like when I was back at school, I have to work pretty damn hard to do well. I wish it came easier, but I'm glad I can put in the extra effort and (usually) get rewarded for doing so.

Anyway, just thought I'd share my thoughts, hope they get you thinking. Here's a hand from the other day that I'm still laughing about...

Table MAYFAIR DR ($1/2 Real Money)
Seat 1 is the button
Seat 1: RatholinShrtStk ( $42.80 USD )
Seat 2: P1 ( $453.23 USD )
Seat 3: P2 ( $400.00 USD )
Seat 4: Hero ( $408.65 USD )
Seat 5: P3 ( $111.96 USD )
Seat 6: P4 ( $259.16 USD )
P1 posts small blind [$1.00 USD].
P2 posts big blind [$2.00 USD].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to Hero [ 6c 6d ]
Hero raises [$7.00 USD]
P3 folds
P4 folds
RatholinShrtStk calls [$7.00 USD]
P1 folds
P2 folds
** Dealing Flop ** [ Th, 6h, Qs ]
Hero checks
RatholinShrtStk bets [$8.00 USD]
Hero raises [$20.00 USD]
RatholinShrtStk raises [$27.80 USD]
Hero calls [$15.80 USD]
** Dealing Turn ** [ Ad ]
** Dealing River ** [ Kc ]
RatholinShrtStk shows [Jd, Qh ]
Hero shows [6c, 6d ]
RatholinShrtStk wins $85.10 with straight, Ace to Ten

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New or Improved?

Well it must be that time of the week again, and as usual I am wary of how infrequently I manage to post. It's not that I'm not playing, or don't have lots to say but for one reason or another I just never get round to posting half as often as I intend. I think a lot of it is to do with the fact that either poker is going well and I can't be bothered when things are working out just fine, or that poker is going badly and I'm too frustrated to write about the subject that is currently vexing me. That said, I've just gotten myself a brand new headset and with the wondrous advent of voice recognition software I can now (in theory at least) compose a post without typing a word! Personally, I think it won't make that much difference, because I still have to sit down, think and then correct whatever I manage to get down on the screen. We'll see though, and hope as ever springs eternal...

For those of you looking to get hooked up with the latest in poker software tools (not sites), I've just been alerted to This is actually a pretty useful site, providing a pretty complete listing of all the mainstream and otherwise useful programs available to improve your game; whether that be through having a better designed HUD, improved odds calculation, intelligent data mining or a raft of other poker-oriented facilities. I was impresssed to see that Holdem Manager (as used by yours truly) features as the most popular data analysis program on the Tracking/Analysis page. This assures me that the site is both up to date and is in touch with poker players who know what they're about. I'll have to comment a bit about HEM in a later post. Anyway check the site out, you might just discover something that could seriously improve your current winrate.

As for my game, this week has been rather slow, and I've only just made profit after a poor start on Monday. I don't know why, but I've been getting crushed by shortstacks lately, especially on FTP. I wouldn't mind (they are only shortstacks after all) but I always seem to have them crushed before the flop: JJ vs AJo, A9 vs 98s, AJs vs QJo etcetera etcetera ad nauseum. Combine that with losing more than a fair share of coinflips and I am still in my break even rut on that site. I did go on a mini heater and nearly made it to 17k last week, but once again I find myself back under 16k. No further comment.

Anyway, gonna get back into the fight now, wish me luck, and in return I'll send a prayer to the goddess Tyche on your behalf. Take care out there.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hangovers are good

So I went out last night to have dinner with an old friend and enjoy a few drinks. I ended up completely hammered. I did manage to be home just after midnight, so it doesn't seem like a big session, but given that is started at 6pm and that I am a complete lightweight, I'd say I did fairly well. Was chatting with the person in question just tonight, and we worked out that we each drank half a bottle of red wine and 1.75 litres of sangria. Not bad for a Wednesday.

The interesting thing is that I think the hangover helped me at the tables. I was feeling too rough to contest pots, get angry or try and make any clever plays, and consequently I played a good solid game all day. My reads were pretty good, and the only big pots I lost were in tough spots: JJ on the button vs KK in the BB, and AQ in the BB vs KK on the button in a reraised pot (on a Q high flop).

Anyway, hopefully I'll continue to play more solid poker tomorrow, really could do with a nice solid week to start off December and get me back on track. Hope the tables are kind for you....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Back in the Black

Well, after bending the calendar month of November slightly, I managed to make nearly 1k for the (3-week) month. This just overcame the -700 figure which was my profit for the preceding month, putting me gratefully back in the black.
So this week has been the first for my December earnings, and although it started off badly, I'm in profit for the month and feel pretty good about my game once again. I've taken some horrid beats recently, and have been in sore need of a small good run both to restore my confidence and stop me from tilting. Luckily I've been granted my wish and had a 2 pay period of good play and corresponding results, so hopefully I can make December a month to remember. I'll keep you posted....