Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Happy Easter Micro Story

I don't go in for gloating about wins at the poker table very much but there was one hand last night that was particularly satisfying.

It came towards the end of a very long session that I shared with another player who deserves to be outed. If you're planning on playing the micros at Party Poker, keep an eye out for this LAG for some easy money.

First of all some stats about him fom last night's play:
Played 79 hands
VP$IP - 62%
Pre-Flop Raise - 35.44%

This guy's MO was to raise big before the flop - as you can see he raised a massive 35% of the time. I've only come across 1 or 2 people who've raised more often over similar number of hands. He would then follow up with consistent betting at the pot. Basically you knew you were going to get action.

***** Hand History for Game 6895414830 *****
$5 USD NL Texas Hold'em - Friday, March 21, 08:59:30 ET 2008
Table Table 125805 (Real Money)
Seat 3 is the button
Total number of players : 10
Seat 9: pizerule ( $4.66 USD )
Seat 3: Doctor789 ( $1.52 USD )
Seat 2: only4me111 ( $5.86 USD )
Seat 7: vollschiff ( $2.64 USD )
Seat 10: pux13 ( $4.70 USD )
Seat 5: AsXBlood ( $4.72 USD )
Seat 8: SchanzMaN ( $1.96 USD )
Seat 1: DustyDonk ( $6.99 USD )
Seat 4: jodenz ( $4.10 USD )
Seat 6: JamesBlond88 ( $4.96 USD )
jodenz posts small blind [$0.02 USD].
AsXBlood posts big blind [$0.04 USD].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to pizerule [ Qs Qh ]
JamesBlond88 folds.
SchanzMaN folds.
vollschiff has left the table.
pizerule raises [$0.16 USD]
pux13 folds.
DustyDonk folds.
only4me111 calls [$0.16 USD]
Doctor789 folds.
jodenz folds.
AsXBlood folds.
** Dealing Flop ** [ 5h, Qc, Qd ]
pizerule checks.
only4me111 bets [$0.32 USD]
joske987 has joined the table.
pizerule calls [$0.32 USD]**
Dealing Turn ** [ 9s ]
pizerule checks.
only4me111 bets [$0.40 USD]
pizerule calls [$0.40 USD]
** Dealing River ** [ 7d ]
pizerule bets [$0.12 USD]
only4me111 calls [$0.12 USD]
pizerule shows [ Qs, Qh ]four of a kind, Queens.
only4me111 doesn't show [ 8s, 8c ]
two pairs, Queens and Eights.
pizerule wins $1.96 USD from the main pot with four of a kind, Queens.
#Game No : 6895417682

My only regret is that I didn't push for more after the river.

A couple of hands later I ran my A Qo into K K and hit trips on the Turn, whereupon I shoved All-in and had the guy call for a very profitable end to my night.

An interesting little note about the players in my PokerTracker stats is that, of the people with Pre Flop Raises of over 34% only 1 of them are net winners. And they all have a Voluntary Put Money in the Pot of over 66%. Now there's your definition of the Loose Aggressive poker player.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Party Poker | Watch Your Opponents

Always make sure you’re paying attention to what’s going on at the poker table. The micro stakes cash ring games are an absolute treasure trove of money making opportunities if you’re alert and know what to look for.

I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about by using a hand that took place last night while I was playing on a $5 NLHE cash ring table at Party Poker.

I had already folded out of this hand, by the way.

Pre-flop betting had seen 2 limpers enter the pot before the button min. raised and everyone called including the small blind. At this table we’re talking microscopic stakes - .04 to limp, .08 constitutes a minimum raise.

Anyway, there are 4 in the pot and the flop lands A A K.

SB immediately plonks down .24 which is enough to chase the 2 limpers away. The button then doubles the bet to .48 and the SB folds. So far, so boring. Then the button shows the table his cards – pocket A A.

My interest was immediately piqued. The guy on the button had just made the dumbest raise in poker, won himself the minimum pot possible and then was stupid enough to show us what he’d done.

Watching him further I noticed he was entering a lot of pots, so I checked my PokerTracker stats and sure enough, he’d Voluntarily Put Money in the Pot (VP$IP) over 80% of the time, but raised pre-flop (PFR) only 5%.

Regular as clockwork this guy would limp into a hand and then bet big after the flop or turn, invariably chasing off his opponents. He was taking a lot of small pots and there was some serious daylight robbery going on. It was bound to end badly for him and it did when he ran into someone who flopped an Ace-high flush. This particular person was a little more savvy and simply called every one of our friend's extravagant bets before raising after the river. With any luck he didn’t learn from it and he’ll be back tonight. (They usually don’t learn).

The point I’m labouring to make is this. Watch what’s going on even when you’re not in a hand. At the micro cash tables there are a huge number of inexperienced players who play far too many hands and are going to set themselves up as easy targets in the long term. PokerTracker is very useful for highlighting these people but if you don’t have any poker software, keep a notebook open in front of you and make note of the number of hands people are playing.

I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating, there are endless opportunities for making money at the micro stakes poker table. You just have to know what to look for, exercise some patience and then strike.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Playing Poker | Beating Mr Poker

There’s no doubt about it, there’s always something to learn at this often times frustrating, sometimes rewarding game of No Limit Hold Em. I’m pleased to report that after my recent run of coming second to a bunch of Party Poker Micro Table fish that I have made a slight adjustment to my game and am back on the winners trail again.

Actually that’s probably not fair on the try-hards who are collectively boosting my bankroll at the .02/.04 level. In fact, what I’ve done for two nights in a row is carefully fold any suspiciously constructed raise which just about always signals someone has hit their two-outer.

Beating Mr Poker

Last night I was given a gift from the poker gods at a short-handed micro table. There was a guy who was cutting everyone up with aggressive pre- and post flop raises, basically dominating the table, catching asome lucky cards when he had to (he hit runner-runner 3’s to show down quads at one stage). Anyway, this guy obviously thought he was Mr Poker, taking down blinds with successive blind steals, pulling down tiny pots with continuation bets, you name it. His problem was, he was playing every single hand and it was obvious there was no way he was making the hands he was representing.

So I bided my time and waited for a hand. Finally, I picked up K K in the small blind and took a chance by only calling the limpers before me, indicating to Mr Poker that, once again, I was weak. He, of course, would be compelled to demonstrate what a Playah he is if he played the hand true to form. Sure enough, the uncoordinated flop had him betting post-flop and turn and then, he jammed All-in on the river. I’d seen him do this hand after hand, so his recent betting history had me very confident with my call and I was very pleased to see him turn over 9 9.

So, after acting the Big Man On Campus (to use a Brady Bunch quote) and winning lots of small pots, the guy lost it all on one over-aggressive play too many.

The big point to remember out of this is that it’s not the number of pots you win that’s important, it’s the size of the pot that matters.

Deviating From the Strategy

Don’t mind me, this is simply a reminder to myself that there’s a damn good reason why I devised a set of poker rules to follow…and when I follow them, I become a profitable poker player.

It seems that every time I stray from my carefully laid strategy I am reminded why I put the rules in place to start with. I think we humans are naturally prone to self-destruct even when we are aware of the consequences for breaking the rules. It’s all too easy to tell yourself, this time it’s different.

I’m in the middle of a 3 day losing stretch at the moment and I’m hoping it doesn’t stretch to four. The disappointing part of this is that 2 of those losing days would have been winning days if I had have adhered to the rule that underpins my entire profit stratgey – leave the table as soon as a profit is made.

I played only 3 hands at one $5 NLHE cash game, starting with an opening stake of $2 (as is my norm) and had just taken down a pot to take my stake at the table to $2.88. A handy little micro-table profit that I should have stashed away into my bankroll. My mistake – I allowed myself to be dealt into the next hand which happened to be J J. Well, I’m not folding those and naturally, by the time the hand was over, I was behind and chasing that profit for the session.

Within half an hour I had whittled my way down to broke and was more annoyed with myself than I was with the god-awful calls that were being made by fish who kept hitting on the river.

Lesson to self: When you have devised a winning strategy, stay with it to the letter. It’s called a “winning” strategy because it bloody WINS.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Should You Calculate Odds At Micro Stakes Level?

When you read all the poker books written by poker legends, professionals and mathematicians, you will inevitably come to a chapter or two devoted to calculating odds. Pot odds, implied odds, inferred odds, do I have the right odds to call, have I raised high enough to make calling on a draw the wrong play? It’s a very important part of playing poker – live poker or high stakes poker.

When you’re playing poker at the online micro stakes level, calculating odds and basing your game on those calculations is virtually pointless. *Gasp* Heresy in a poker blog. I did say “virtually” so keep reading and I’ll tell you why.

At the higher stakes levels of poker everyone’s pretty well playing by the same rules and those rules are dictated by the odds. If you’re sitting on a draw and the bet is half the pot, you work out the cost of calling and the amount you’d win if you hit and compare that with your chances of hitting. You make your play accordingly. Your opponent knows this and will be betting to try to make that decision difficult or easy depending on whether they think they’re in front or behind in a hand.

At the online micro stakes poker tables, there’s barely enough time to decide on an amount to bet, let alone figure out what the odds for the other guy might be. (And with the newly introduced Speed tables at Party Poker, there’s even less time). Now, I might be completely naive here, but micro limit poker players don’t calculate odds. At least judging by the betting/calling patterns they don’t. If they do it’s on a far greater plane of mathematics than I’ve ever visited. The majority of micro stakes genii play any two cards and if they hit a pair on the flop, they bet, if they’re on a draw, they call (no matter what the price some of them) and if they miss they check and fold.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should leave yourself languishing at the level of the majority of micro stakes poker players – and that’s why I stuck that “virtually” in there earlier. You want an edge when you play poker and the micro stakes level is no different.

Your edge will be gained by committing the basic odds you might come across to memory. It’s handy to know, for example, that the chances of hitting your flush draw is 19% and the chances of hitting your gut-shot straight draw is around 9%. Many micro stakes players chase their draws on a regular basis. Knowing that they’re an 80% dog when they do this should make you a more confident tiny stakes poker player – just don’t bother trying to calculate the odds to try to push them off their draw.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Loosen My Starting Hand At the Micro Stakes Level

I’m typically a very tight player, particularly for a member of the Party Poker micro stakes tables. But I’ve been schooling myself to open up a little bit and widen my starting hand range in order to maximise my opportunities of taking down a big pot.

My usual starting hands consist largely of AK – AJ, KQs, pocket pairs down to 66 and that’s about it. Not very adventurous and the action that comes my way is few and far between at times, but it has worked so far in moving my bankroll from $30 to over $200 in 5 months. I’m looking to loosen up a little so that I can make my game a little more unpredictable.

My new range of starting hands will include A anything suited, as well as any suited connector down to 8-7 and all pocket pairs. I figure I can get more creative with my play as well as the unpredictable aspect it will cause. The way I would be looking to play these hands would be to call small (3xBB) raises or, if no-one has raised yet, make the raise myself. A continuation bet will more often than not be the post-flop play but this will depend on any action before me.

When you play the same stakes limit cash games ($5 NLHE) at the same online venue (Party Poker) every night, you run the risk of becoming known to your opponents. Hell, with the help of Poker Tracker I know my opponents and the type of game they’re likely to play so there’s no reason to think that others don’t have the same read on me.

So I want to change things up, loosen my game and see how it works out. With any luck I won’t be woefully reporting that my bankroll has fallen below $200 the next time I update my progress.

Plus A Word of Advice

I have a small piece of advice that some of you may find useful, particularly new poker players who are trying to build up a bankroll. Playing winning poker is difficult enough with all sorts of pressure placed on you by other players at the table so the last thing you want to do is put added pressure on yourself .

Worrying about your bankroll while you’re playing is a big mistake. It’s distracting, will influence the decisions you make whilst in a hand – usually adversely – and generally make it harder to reach the goals you’ve set yourself. Play each hand on its merits and take your profits when they come and your bankroll should look after itself.