Sunday, April 26, 2009

State of the Games

The characteristics of the NL games I play on Full Tilt change slowly as the regulars learn new tricks, the fish bust out and new challengers attempt to break through.

What follows are some observations based on my recent impressions, not hard statistics:

I'm seeing more cold-calling preflop in position rather than rampant 3-betting. Players are realizing that frequent 3-bets will get 4-bet by savvy opponents, forcing a fold and sacrificing equity. The value of position is so great that it makes sense to see flops with hands that hold some value. Position is more valuable in a single-raised pot than in a reraised pot.

Postflop play is always becoming more sophisticated. I'm encountering plenty of check-raise bluffs and check-raise value bets, which get very expensive when I incorrectly read one check-raise for the other.

Everyone is trying to play optimally. They all want to make the right move at the right time based on the situation instead of playing the player. There's a bit of both in everyone's game, but more strong regulars are defaulting to the book play rather than making what could be a profitable move against an easy-to-read opponent.

My understanding of optimal play is that it can't be defeated, which means the best strategy against these opponents is to play more optimally than they do. Put simply, that means playing mistake-free poker, which is difficult to do for hours on end.

Fish continue to swim in the 3/6 and 5/10 waters. I don't know where they come from, and there certainly aren't as many guppies as there used to be, but some show up every day. There's still easy money around if you look for it.

Some of the worst players now are those who go off the deep end when it comes to aggression, raising and check-raising every bet they can. Those players may look solid at first, but they almost always end up hanging themselves.

The game is continuing to evolve, which says to me that it remains healthy. Many players are working to learn more and improve their game, but I don't think NL games are too much closer to becoming "solved" (whatever that means).

A solid player will still win, and there are soft spots to be found. But to make the most of the games and maximize your winrate, it's best to change with the times.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Would you rather be able to see your opponent's hand or know the five board cards ahead of time, asks Memphis MOJO.

If you knew the board ahead of time, you'd be able to figure out how strong your hand would be and whether it would be worth it to try to suck out.

But if you could see your opponent's hole cards, you'd know the relative strength of your hand against his at all times.

It seems to me that the second option is far superior.

When you can see your opponent's cards, you suddenly have complete information in the hand. You could reraise and shove preflop with slightly better hands like A2o against KQs. You could rebluff your opponents' bluffs. You'd never lose money against a higher set or higher flush because it would become the easiest fold in the world.

We've seen the value of being a superuser from the UB/AP scandals. With that sort of card omnipotence, I'd never lose if I were careful enough.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Telekinesis would be a fantastic super power to have at a casino.

With the ability to move objects with my mind, I'd walk up to the highest-stakes roulette wheel I could find and put $100 down on the number 4. Then the wheel would spin out ridiculous profits.

Hitting your number on the roulette wheel pays out at 35:1, so I'd win $3,500 on my first spin. But it wouldn't stop there.

If I could somehow find a no-limit roulette table, I'd put that $3,600 down on No. 4 again. This time, my winnings would be $126,000, and that's after just two spins. On the third spin, I'd be rich, with about $4.5 million in profits for maybe 10 minutes of playing.

How sweet would that be?

Until the day I can make the roulette ball land on my lucky number every time, I'll be content to grind out poker.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cold-calling wizards

Among the pros who make coaching videos and play shorthanded 5/10 NL on Full Tilt, you don't see a whole lot of preflop reraising.

They frequently cold call in position rather than 3-bet. Then they gain their edge postflop.

According to my Holdem Manager database:

Leatherass9: 4.8% 3bet, $5,056, 12692 hands
Silentassassin3: 5.2% 3bet, -$3,150, 5,654 hands
Eric Liu, 5% 3bet, $9021, 1554 hands

There are plenty of other players who make a tidy profit by 3-betting more often. In fact, the winningest player in my database 3-bets 8.2% of the time.

Varying styles of preflop raising can be effective. I don't see a trend linking 3-bet percentage to profits.

However, the style practiced by these coaches is consistent.

Friday, April 17, 2009

5 years in the game

It's been more than five years now since I made that first $100 deposit to Party Poker and blew through it in just a few minutes. That second $100 deposit is still paying off.

After playing these countless hands, I ask myself where I should be in the game. The answer I'm getting is that I'm already exactly where I should be -- winning at 5/10 playing three of four tables for 1.5 to 2 hours daily.

Efforts to move up have never paid off. That isn't to say that I won't play higher if the game looks good and my bankroll allows it, but it means that my desire to play higher is fruitless if I can't consistently win there.

I'm thankful that I have enough ability and knowledge to earn as much as I do. But being aware of my limits and accepting them are different things.

A contradiction in my mindset is that one of my biggest leaks is also my strongest motivation. The leak is that I'm jealous of players who win more than me, can play more tables than me and can pull off more creative moves than me. The motivation is that I force myself to study harder and play regularly to defeat those players.

The solution is to be content, focus on the long-term and play more optimally. My new goal is to avoid spews by keeping it simple, concentrating on the hand in front of my and forgetting about irrelevant ambitions.