Thursday, July 24, 2008

Poker Strategy Change - When To Leave A Table

I’m constantly trying to improve my approach to playing poker online and have been fortunate enough to have received some instructive and insightful comments here on a few of my posts. One of my strategies that I’ve mentioned in the past is leaving the table whenever I make a profit. I’m aware of the downside of doing this but it came down to a money management decision to arrest a long losing streak.

A recent comment by Epoh began a process of questioning this tactic and then I came across another piece on the subject using an example that has struck home with great force.

Essentially, the example asks you to imagine that you are multi-tabling 2 tables. At 1 table you are playing against complete poker novices and at the other one you are playing at the best poker players in the world. Now, using my strategy, I am more likely to play against the novices for a short time while I would be resigned to playing against the professionals for considerably longer (as long as it takes for me to lose my money, I’d suggest). The obvious question follows, why on earth would I choose to play against people I am more likely to win against for only a short time and against people I am more likely to lose against for a long time?

When I read this it made such perfect sense. Of course I would rather play my poker against the weaker players. The smart thing to do is remain at a table until the dynamics of the table changes.

Add this to Epoh’s advice where he cautions against leaving potential goldmines behind and building the small stack into a large stack and I am more determined than ever to turn those short, modest sessions into larger, more lucrative sessions that take advantage of the weaker poker players at the table.

And so this brings me to another related aspect to all of this. I have to identify and acknowledge the stronger poker players at a given table. Being able to recognise those players who are playing good poker should be easy to do, but often I let pride and frustration cloud my opinion of the play of others. Being able to recognise the really good players – and then trying to avoid them – will greatly enhance my chances of being profitable.

Adopting a strategy of chasing the big winning session leads me to muse over what point I decide to take my winnings and leave the table. It comes down to 2 factors: time and quality of opponents.

Time: These days I have less time available to devote to playing poker online with my average nightly session (on those nights I CAN play) only around an hour or so. So the first factor that will rule when I take my profit is giving myself a cut-off time and when the time is reached, I close down my session for the day.

Opponent: If I have identified a particularly weak player or a particularly soft table I need to remain at the table as long as they are still playing. If a table is playing soft I will remain at the table until the dynamic changes as others stand up and sit down.

I wouldn’t mind hearing how others decide that it’s time to move from a table. Do you set yourself a profit target? A time limit? A feel for the quality of your opponents? Something else?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Patient Poker = Winning Poker

Okay, like a reformed smoker or a recently converted Christian I'm going to sound a bit like a broken record by repeating the importance of patience when playing at the Micro Stakes cash poker tables. I’ve just completed my 5th straight winning day and it was the kind of grind that I was prepared to put in 6 months ago. Back then I won, a month ago I was impatient and lost – not a lot of math required there.

The only disclosure I should make here is that I had the Tour de France on in the background to watch how Cadel Evans went in defending his yellow on stage 15 up to Prato Nevoso.

It took me over 130 hands before I ground my way into a profitable position after coming close to losing the lot when my pocket aces were cracked. But rather than talk about me, I want to make an observation about another guy who was playing a couple of seats to my left.

I was at the $10 NLHE table and when I sat down this guy was sitting on around $16 so he had a winning night going. It didn’t take too many hands to work out that this guy liked to play a lot of hands and when he hit anything from bottom pair on up he would play it aggressively or call all bets. It seemed to be going sweetly for him as he proceeded to push others off their hands and moved smoothly up to around $18.

But as the game wore on, the inevitable happened and his stack was whittled away. It took over 100 hands and a roller coaster of a ride, but he eventually went broke as the same players who folded earlier in the session began calling and playing back to him. His problem, apart from his playing style which was the classic short-term winner, long-term loser style, was that he sat at the same table for way too long. Everyone at the table had him figured out after only a few rotations.

One of my strategies in playing at the micro-stakes poker tables is to change tables fairly frequently. Sometimes the playing style of others doesn’t suit my style, sometimes I just don’t feel comfortable at a particular table or, most importantly, I may feel that the other players are reading me too easily. I’m a fairly tight player and if I’ve been sitting at a table and folding often, the moment I call or raise may send my opponents running. I’m not a big bluffer on-line so I prefer to just get up and move to another table. Why not? There are plenty to choose from.

When I’m new to a table I’m an unknown quantity and I find that my opponents will be a little more wary in the first 10-15 hands I play. A new table often means a quick win and I can move on again.

My bankroll is up to $207.91.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Playing Poker with Patience

It 's a new beginning and I'm feeling like a new player at the Party Poker $10 NLHE tables with the attitude that I had when I began with only $30. Last post I explained that I was going back to basics and had set myself a short-term goal of building my bankroll back up to $200. Well, it turned out to be a far, far shorter-term goal than I expected with a couple of very profitable tables catapaulting me straight over the $200 mark.

This has made the 4th session in a row in which I have been profitable and the secret's not really a secret at all. I haven't done anything more than remained completely patient, which may also be equated to playing passive poker. I was careful to fold all but the strongest hands and then play them reasonably aggressively. Micro stakes poker tables are filled with over-aggressive players who believe middle or bottom pair is a strong enough hand to push other players off their hands.

By waiting until I hit sets, straights or even just TPTK I was able to put together a very profitable few days. A couple of good folds increased the confidence level - JJ & AK aren't the easiest hands to lay down, but I did so last night and was right to do so.

So it's more of the same for me in the foreseeable future as I try to keep my head together and not let the winning days go to my head.

I've reached my latest short-term goal so I will set myself a new short-term goal of reaching $210 in the next week.

Bankroll - $206.85

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Starting Over - Pulling My Head In

After a bad run in May and June, not to mention a petulant rant here about it all, I have taken a couple of weeks to take a deep breath, reassess my play and generally decided to pull my head in. I'm going back to basics, in other words, back to a winning style of poker.

As was so rightly pointed out in the comments of my last post, I was letting my emotions affect the way I was playing and consequently was losing the plot as well as my money. In football parlance, I was playing the man and not the ball and this can be fatal.

So, what have I done to repair the damage. Well firstly I've taken a break. I needed to reassess what I was doing and go over how I won for so long before my losing streak. Once I had reconciled myself to the way I ought to be playing I have rejoined the Party Poker NLHE cash ring games, re-entering the $10 tables.

My bankroll had dipped to $192.90 so I was keen to turn things around and get myself back above $200 as soon as possible.

Since restarting I have played for 3 nights and have resolved to once again leave the table as soon as I have made a profit. So far so good, 3 nights of playing for 3 winning nights and I have built the bankroll up to $196.60. I am determined to do this slow and steady because it may seem as though the profits are small, they build up a damn sight more quickly than if you string together a bunch of losing sessions.

So in order to force some accountability upon myself I will be stating my progress once again (something else I was doing when I went on a winning run).

Short term goal is to reach $200.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Solid Poker v Loose Aggressive Donk

It has been a few weeks since I’ve added a post here and there are a couple of reasons for it. The first is that I didn’t want to be one of those bad beat whiners who fill their blogs with endless complaining about the rotten patch of bad luck they’ve been going through. At first I decided I would suffer in silence, take my hits and fight back. But the beats just kept coming so I decided my plan B would involve taking a brief break from poker and come back more refreshed and full of focus.

It was going to be back to basics, take my winnings and move on. Last night I played for the first time in over a week on the $10 NLHE tables at Party Poker. I wiped out courtesy of a guy who far, far outstripped any reasonable stretch of good fortune.

I closed down Party Poker in absolute disgust at the way this guy kept winning with the absolute worst of hands. However, in the cold light of day I realise that this guy could be the best thing to happen to me this year. He played virtually every hand, went completely cavalier with small pairs on multiple occasions and got away with it. This guy was flouting the odds time and again and still managed to win.

At some point the odds are going to rebalance themselves and I need to make sure I’m there when it happens.

So this month I’m going to make SmokingNow my special project. I’m going to hunt this guy down and make sure I play at whatever table he sits at. He took my money and he didn’t deserve it so I’m going to take it back, plus a commission for damages.

I’ll let you know if solid poker beats loose-aggressive donk.