Sunday, December 16, 2007

What I learned in Vegas...

Ok, finally back to some more poker related stuff. I was in Vegas for a week and before I went there, I had visions. I had visions of raking in some serious cash, pwning all the tourists and Eurodonks and relieving them of their cash. I mean why not? I do fairly well online and my past several trips to Vegas have always been profitable. I'm clearly better than I was before so if I can make money before, I can surely make a lot more money now, right? Well, how wrong I was. I shoulda known that karma was going against me on this trip when the very first hand that I got dealt was AA which got cracked by a flopped set of 5's. By the turn, my whole stack went in since I figured I had 11 outs (9 to the nut flush and 2 aces to give me a higher set) and missed.

I'm not going to go through bad beat stories because that's not my thing. But one thing that was consistent throughout this trip was that whenever I played for a big pot, I missed my draws or my hands didn't hold up. It's variance and it happens. I got aces dealt three times and I had to suck out to win one. I lost the other two. The suckout? 9 high flop, ten on the turn which is when all the money goes in. The guy has pocket tens... but I river an ace.

Really, this isn't a complaint or anything. It was just how the week was going to go. Another hand that illustrates the big pots not going my way was when Fuel and I played at a 1-2NL table and we got all our money in on a 6-9-10 flop with two spades. I had the set of sixes. Turn is a 7, river is a spade. Fuel shows Ts7s and his flush is good. Again, on the flop, I wasn't a significant favorite or anything so this is certainly not a gripe. Just a good illustration of when all the money went in, it seemed like the cards just didn't fall my way. I keep telling myself it's variance.

But, like any diligent poker player, I don't like to attribute my losses to bad luck. Surely, some of it had to do with my poor play. So, I went back and thought through my hands. At least the big pots that I lost. And there were a few adjustments that I failed to make. And in a little bit, I'll go into why in the past, I made money and not this time.

Over the course of the year, I've become a very aggressive player. I don't like to give up on pots and sometimes, I'm caught bluffing on every street and lose a big pot in a hand I had no business being in. Fine. That's a leak and I am trying to plug that but I also get paid on my big hands. Well, online, at least on Fulltilt, raises are generally respected. Typically, you see a flop heads up. Maybe three players if there was a raise. So, of course, that's the mentality I have. I quickly realized that live play is totally different. Let's say I'm on the button with a legit raising hand... for argument's sake, we'll say AK. You see 5 limpers before you and so you bump it up (at a 2-5NL table even though it's the same for 1-2NL) to like $45, 9xBB. What happens? Call, call, call, call, call. Limp call a raise was totally normal. So unless you bump it up to some ridiculous amount where you are almost committing a fifth or more of your stack preflop on one hand, you can't get rid of anyone.

Lesson #2 that I learned. It doesn't matter what you represent because most of them are such donkeys that they don't pay attention to what you do or your betting patterns. They don't care that you raised preflop. They don't care that you are betting big on every street. If they hit a piece of the flop, they're not going anywhere. I think I lost half my stack just to find that out. The live calling stations put online calling stations to shame. You can represent aces all you want. If you don't have it, you're not getting them off their hand... even if it's like top pair, no kicker.

Lesson #3 is something that I knew and yet I failed to adjust. Online, you can multitable. Dealers don't have to shuffle, players only have like 15 seconds to think about their hands, they aren't distracted by waitresses to try to order drinks, etc. In other words, you see a lot more hands online. A lot more hands. In live play, you probably see maybe 20-30 hands per hour... that's my guess. Live players, correct me if I'm wrong. Online, you probably see close to 60 hands per hour. At one table. So, if you are 4 tabling like I do, you see 240 hands per hour. That's an equivalent of 8 hrs in live play. What does that mean? Well, you are bound to see more playable hands online in a shorter amount of time than you do live. Also, even if you are on the bad side of variance, you are bound to get through it quicker.

What do all those lessons mean? Well, I failed to adjust and that was my biggest mistake. When I had a big hand, I didn't raise enough to get rid of most of the players. If you see a 5 way flop, your TPTK is probably no good. Even if it were good on the flop, by the river, it's very vulnerable. Betting big to represent big pairs will go unnoticed. Many a times, I had to muck my hand on the river to a guy who flips over middle pocket pair with two higher cards on the board because he called every bullet I fired. And yet, I didn't adjust quick enough to play patient and wait for good cards. I got involved in way too many pots with marginal holdings.

In the past, the reason why I always came back from Vegas with more money was because I played abc poker. Play tight but aggressive. Wait for big hands, good cards and bet when you have it, fold when you don't. Don't play marginal hands and if you do, don't try to represent something you don't have. Just limp in cheap and hope to hit the flop hard. If you do, you will get paid. In other words, I needed to go back to the basics and yet I failed to do so. When I think of it that way, I can attribute most of my losses to my poor play. Luck is only one part of poker. I gotta control everything else.

10 comments:

Chad C said...

I don't play much cash, but I agree with everything you said. There is no magic number to thin a field in this town. All you can do in live cash (or tournaments) really is play position, c-bet a lot, and pray the limp callers missed......... I firmly believe that as a whole, internet players play better than live!

Shrike said...

Good analysis as I've come to expect. You just can't bluff all that often multiway because live calling stations are ... calling stations.

Mike Maloney said...

Good post, definitely something I'll keep in mind when I get around to playing live.

PoisonedV said...

It sucks when variance gets you, but you just have to get back to playing your game and hope that things turn around. I was getting killed by variance my last trip until the last night. I had a big night and suddenly my hope-to-break-even trip was very successful.

lightning36 said...

oops - that last comment was mine. Since when does my son have a blog? lol

SubZero said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SubZero said...

Some very good points, all of which I'm very familiar with (as my playing style evolution has taken me back time and again to the borders of Maniacville). It's far better in terms of EV to play ABC poker against unknown opponents, and in addition, it's a damn sight easier too!
I like to think of bluffing like telling lies: tell too many and you'll forget one you've told, and then it all crashes down like... err... a house of cards.

If I suspect I am representing hands too often, I just check what happens when people call my river bets with something like 2nd pair 8 kicker. If they are winning those pots, I consider tightening up just a little :- )

Btw, I posted this comment at work. Muah ha ha ha haaaa....

Matt said...

I haven't been able to comment from work & all of a sudden I can again. Woo hoo!

Anyways, just wanted to say that I loved this post. Introspection is so very helpful to improving one's play, regardless of current skill level, and it's something that I see very few bloggers doing publically. Thanks for giving us that insight into your thought process.

Oh, and thanks for the comment on my other blog. Merry Christmas to you as well!

Pete Linkroum said...

Hey, I haven't visited the blog in a while after leaving Richmond, but awsome post! I've played a few times in AC since I moved to Philly and noticed a lot of the same things. First time there I went broke in one night (which for me is like three buy-ins at 1/2!). But since then, like you said, I've tightened way up and have done well. Looks

like you're rockin the PAPT! I hope to make it back down for the next big tourney.

AnguilA said...

Came back from playing quite a lot of live cash game in the EPT and it was ridiculous that you could fold every hand for an hour, then raise it up 15X the BB to get rid of limpers and some would still call.
The poker level online is higher by a mile, which leaves you no other option than to play ABC poker live. And it's more than enough to get nice wins.