Thursday, July 5, 2007

Half year review

As we enter the second half of the year, I figured this would be a good time to do a quick review of how I've done in the 1st half of 2007. Based on PT, my cash game stats look as follows. For some reason, I couldn't just filter it to be for 2007 so it includes all of 2006 and it's on all sites and not just FullTilt.

Not bad huh? Well, in order to give you the full picture, I would have to post my embarassing tournament results as well. And this is what that looks like.

Pretty ugly, if you ask me. The BBT, as fun as it was, is clearly -EV for me even though I ended up in 6th place on the leaderboard. Goes to show the points aren't indicative of how good a tournament player you are. This isn't meant to be a knock on the point structure. But it is clear that it masks the importance of the late to end game strategies which I know is clearly my weakest area.

In looking at the above two graphs, one might wonder why I still play tourneys. And quite frankly, I really don't. I tend to play in some of the bigger ones once in a while but since I know that it's -EV for me, I generally stick to cash games where I am clearly turning a profit. But then again, once in a while, I think to myself that it would be cool to have a nice score in a tournament so I take a shot... and generally, I fail.

Well, as I move into the second half of the year, I want to continue to let my bankroll grow by playing the cash games but I also would like to see an improvement on my tournament results. In both instances, there are major holes in my games that need to be addressed.

My goals for the cash games would be to move up to higher levels and see if I can compete and how I do there. I dabbled in some 5/10NL and I was actually surprised with the level of competition... or the lack there of. I was expecting a totally different ball game and yet... some tables played like 1-2NL. Also, I was worried that having a big amount of money on the line would affect my play because I might be nervous about my bankroll... instead, I noticed that I almost didn't care about the money... because it felt more like a tournament with a $1,000 starting stack rather than $1,000 of my own money. I sometimes hestitate to call a $22 raise preflop on a 2-4NL table and yet, a $35 raise on the 5-10NL felt like nothing. Very strange... Well, in case you are wondering how I did, I didn't do so well. I was profitable, don't get me wrong. But I only made approximately $200 over the course of 200 hands (approx 3 hours) and the win was mainly because I doubled up almost my entire buy in when I had AA and the other guy who had me covered had KK. (It was the biggest pot ever but I didn't post because I felt lame). But, one thing I know is that I think I can play at that level. I just need to build my bankroll a bit more.

Well, as I reviewed my hand histories, I noticed that the biggest leak in my game is that I am overly active in pots at times. For example, I would start tight, loosen up in right situations, and build up a stack. So, if we're playing 2-4NL, I'd start with $400 and get up to $600. But then I loosen up even more. Even more to the point where it becomes detrimental. Another hour or so later, I might leave the table down some or maybe not up as much as I should have been.

One thing I do is that I take stabs at pots when I have no business making them. I was reading the FullTilt Poker Guide this weekend at the beach and I read something that was very interesting. I don't have the book on me right now so I am going by memory but it was something along the lines of betting at a pot when it's likely that no hand better than yours will fold. Here's an example (again from my head, I think the book gave a similar but slightly better one): You hold 99 and it's folded to you on the cutoff where you raise. BB is the only one who calls. Flop comes A-K-T. He checks. This is a perfect example of a situation where the book advises you not to bet. Why? Because the only hands that would fold are probably hands that are worse than yours. What do I do? I bet. I get checkraised. I fold. Awful, awful poker. The book takes this a step further and advocates that with 99, you want to check but betting is more acceptable if you had a hand like 7-8, even with that board. Why? Because now, your bet can make a hand that is better than yours fold. So in other words, if you had 99, the only "better hand" that might fold to your bet is a hand like 9-10. Maaaaaybe, J-10 but it's quite possible that they will call the flop to see another card. But if you had a hand like 7-8 and you bet, any pair below 10's would have to fold, thus making them fold a better hand than yours. When I read that, I thought it was very interesting. I've heard of something like that before (or read it somewhere) but reading it again in the book just kinda brought that back.

And quite frankly, I think that's my biggest leak. I'm not saying that's my only leak. But in many instances, I could defend most of the other "bad moves" I make and since I don't always do it, it's just part of the variation of my play. But, firing out aggressively into a dangerous board is not the smartest thing to do unless you have a good read on your opponent and you know exactly what you are doing.

Another one that I'm starting to notice is the timing of controlling the pot size vs protecting my hand against draws. In other words, you don't want to build the pot too much in marginal situations where you're not exactly sure where you stand. However, you don't want to not protect your hand either in case you are ahead and your opponent is drawing. Having a better read on the opponent is key in these instances and I notice that if I have more than 2 tables up and running, I miss these intricacies. It doesn't kill my roll since I can make a fairly tough laydown but still, I'm missing out on potential profits here as well.

One more thing to keep in mind is to have a plan. Unlike a tournament where most of the hands seem to end preflop or on the flop, in a cash game, it's fairly common that you see the turn and the river. So, when the flop comes, before I act, I need to have a plan. If I decide to bet, do I want my opponent to call? What if he raises? If he calls, what do I do on the turn? What if it completes a flush draw? What if it's a blank? What if it pairs the board? Or, if you have position, and your opponent bets at you, what's your move? Do you call? Do you raise or fold? If you decide to float, what do you do on the turn if he fires another bullet? Is he the type of opponent that will fire two bullets with air? These are all questions that I have to ask myself. All too often, I notice myself making a play at a pot or attempting to make a play without thinking a step ahead. For example, I float my opponent's flop bet with two overcards. Turn is another blank. Another bet is fired. I fold. That's just a bad play. Did I think about what my plan was? Did I hope that by me calling, he'll slow down? He might but again, it's one thing to do it with a plan and another to do it without thinking about it. Poker is all about telling a story. Each street brings a new chapter and so you have to make sure that the story you are putting together is consistent on all streets.

On the tournament side, I think my plan is fairly simple. I mean how can it be complicated considering I can't even win? I need to hit the books and really understand the concepts of the mid to end game strategies. Early on, when the blinds are small compared to the starting stacks, I do well and I find myself generally above the average stack. However, as the tourney progresses, I tend to panic and overplay hands I shouldn't. So, here's a quick and dirty list of what I want to do on the tourney side:

1. Remember that small pairs are garbage late in the game. BEST CASE SCENARIO (when all in preflop) is that you're in a race. So with pairs 88 and below, be very cautious on how to play them.

2. Learn to resteal. I read about restealing all the time. Now I just need to do it.

3. Learn to steal but don't overdo it. And don't just steal from the button or the cutoff. I think this is important. Even though there are more people to act, early position raise also indicates a stronger hand so I need to incorporate that into my play.

4. Pot odds isn't necessarily king in a tournament. I think sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. When you know you are beat, even if you are getting decent odds, it might not be worth callin based on your stack size and your situation of the tournament. Protecting chips is just as important as accumulating them.

I'll soon go back into posting more hand histories and situational analysis but I wanted to make sure that I at least summarized where I am at this point so I can revisit this later and see how I've improved as a player.


Schaubs said...

Great post. Lots of good stuff here that I can apply as well. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Another good post Alan.

I really understand the trying to make a score aspect of MTTs. So often I wonder why I even bother playing MTTs instead of strictly playing cash and the answer is man a big score would be nice.

Continued success in the second half of '07.

Matt said...

The sooner you learn how to fold QQ preflop, the sooner you'll fold your way to an MTT victory!

Good post man. Look for a response to your email soon - I've been mega-busy lately, but will sit down this weekend and get a response out.

AnguilA said...

I'm sure you have thought this at some point during an MTT, because it used to happen to me a lot of times:

"God, that CO raise is for sure a steal. What a shame I just have Q3o...when will I have a hand to stop this guy from raising my blind?"

In case you don't feel comfortable doing it in a big buy-in tourney, move a step down and every time you are in the blinds and you have the read that the late position raise is weak move in with any two cards. The most important aspect is to go with your READ. If your stack is healthy and your image is not ruined, you can pull this off a large percentage of times. And like one of my most loose-aggressive friends says: at "worst" you'll be 40-60 and can always bad beat the guy ;)!