Monday, September 27, 2004

Whoa, There

There are some hard words in response to my last post, all telling me, basically, slow down there: you might have run yourself up to $250, but it's still only $250, you aren't "back" by any means, get a job, manage the bankroll well.

I don't disagree with most of what was said. I wasn't crowing about "wow, I've got $250," because I understand that in the poker world $250 isn't a great deal of money, even for the casino's lowest-stakes $2/$4 and $3/$6 games. (It would be, if I could play 2¢/4¢ tables, but those aren't much different than the fake-money tables.)

What I was crowing about wasn't the $250, it was the run ... 39¢ into $250 is a hell of a run whether the $250 at the end is a lot of money or not. It still is, and I'm not going to stop being proud of the run whatever comments I get on it.

It's occurred to me that because of my bankroll problems this blog could become (again) the type of blog where I'm reporting my low-limit results and learning the game. That's different from what it's been, but not that different from where it (re)started, and not that different from other well-regarded blogs from people who are learning the game. And hopefully still interesting.

A Response to the Responses

I think the essential point of the responses to my posts was that if I'm a poker pro, I should act like it, and not attempt to press this found money by playing above my bankroll.

But this misses something: I haven't considered myself a poker pro for at least two months. I may return to those ranks, and I hope that I do, but right now I'm basically (as someone said on r.g.p) "an unemployed guy messing around on the Internet." I don't think the same standards apply to non-pros.

As a couple of people pointed out, $250 isn't a lot of money. It's as if I found a quarter on the floor. If I'm broke, it might be rational to stick that quarter into a slot machine. Most likely you'll lose the quarter, and not be any better or worse off than any other result of the experience. But it's just barely possible that you'll hit the jackpot.

Actually, this isn't a bad analogy, because other results can fit in. Let's say the player gets back ten quarters. Now what? This is in an in-between grey area&mash;$250 still isn't a lot of money; what should this hypothetical player do with it? Almost anything he does can't be that far off. He could keep it in play and try to win that jackpot that actually means something, he could go buy a Big Mac, or he could offer it as a sacrifice to his gods. None of those options leave him significantly better off. (Except that a Big Mac sounds kind of good at the moment.)

The problem is that I'm in a different sort of grey area. I didn't win ten quarters, I won 660. This still isn't a lot of money, but it's enough that one can be smart with it, and build it into a reasonable amount of money. However, it's not an amount that by itself significantly changes my "broke" status, so losing that amount wouldn't be the end of the world.

In this case, I think the way to continue is to press the newfound money into a greater amount of money, but to do it with a bit more discrimination. The slots no longer become an acceptable way to build this roll, but if +EV bets can be made, then they should. In fact, if the whole bankroll can be put on a bet that's, say, 60/40, then I think it's appropriate—because like the original fellow who won ten quarters, if the whole stake goes, then I'm not materially worse off.

You know, now that I read what I wrote there, I'm not sure that I'm right. I think that I'm coming to agree more with the responses that said that I should husband my newfound roll and build it up more slowly. I haven't done that, but it hasn't hurt me significantly; now I think it's more the way to go.

(That's an example of one of the things that writing this blog does for me, as opposed to my readers: Having to put things down on (virtual) paper crystallizes my thinking and helps me to examine it. This is useful when my thinking might be in error, as it might be here.)

By the way, my cash play has earned me a zillion "Action Points," which get doled out in each pot by some unfathomable formula. DoylesRoom runs a bunch of "free"rolls for these points, with prize pools from $2 to $2000, and this has given me an opportunity (now that I think of it) to increase my bankroll with very little risk. I actually think that's going to be my focus for the next couple of days rather than cash games at all. The structure isn't ideal, or at least if I were paying $100 to enter, I'd want a better structure, but I've done well in the free versions of these "speed" tournaments, so I can hope to do well in the "action points" versions. Of course, they limit the totally-free-rolls to 162 entrants, and the limit on the action-point and cash tournaments seems to be 630 people. So I might have more people to outlast.

And in Other News ...

Both Saturday and Sunday, Gil staked me into the $3/$6 game in Mt. Pleasant.

On Saturday, the lists were pretty huge when we got there, so we each jumped on a couple of lists to get on a table sooner. Gil joined both the $3/$6 and $6/$12 Holdem lists, and I joined the $3/$6 Holdem and $3/$6 Stud lists. I would have joined the $3/$6 Omaha list, too, but they didn't have an Omaha table going and all the tables were in play. They called me for stud first, so I sat about two orbits of stud before my name came up on the holdem list.

This was a great game, truth be told. Very loose, very passive. There were few raises, and often everybody would be in until fifth or even sixth street. My first hand, I was dealt wired Nines, and hit a third on fourth street, which was good for a nice pot. A few hands later, I was dealt wired Fives, and paired Nines on my board. Nobody seemed very proud of their hands, so I bet it to the river, where my opponent turned over a hand with a lot of possibilities that somehow managed to miss them all. A crummy two pair wins it. At this point they called my name for the Holdem game. I really wanted to stay on the Stud game, but there were at least 30 names on the Holdem list, so I didn't think telling them to roll me over was the best solution. I don't consider that I really know a lot about strategy in Stud, so despite the loose game I didn't feel that my advantage was that great.

But at least, at Stud, I was getting cards. They were cold at the Holdem game. The only big pair I got all night were Jacks, and I got both overcards and action, so they went into the muck. My super-tight image was able to take a couple of small pots with big Aces that didn't hit anything, but that was pretty much it. And so I bled slowly, all the way down to about $20, before a final win brought me up to $69, or a $31 loss for the day.

Gil found a playover on a $6/$12 table, and took it, even though his $160 was a little short for $6/$12. Fortunately, he said, this was a pretty good game. A face we recognized from Manistee (whom we've named "Yukon Bob," which is a great poker name even though it doesn't really fit him) clued Gil in that his $6/$12 table was also a great game, and Gil reported that it was in fact even better than the table where his playover was, the right mixture of loose-passive and loose-aggressive that makes it a great table for anybody who can play tight-aggressive, as both Gil and Yukon Bob can. Gil made over $500, and he said that Yukon Bob also did extremely well. So Gil wasn't too annoyed at my $31 loss.

By the way, I have to say this: The Mt. Pleasant casino was jam-packed at 9:00 or 10:00 Saturday night. The lists for the poker games had over 100 names on them, every single seat at every single table game was full, I didn't see a single slot that didn't have someone perched before it, and the restaurants, bathrooms, seating areas, hotel, everything at the place was filled well beyond capacity. The Saginaw Chippewa Indians, who own and run the casino, are the biggest contributors to every group and organization that opposes the expansion of gambling in Michigan. The ballot issue that Michiganders are voting on in a few weeks, requiring a vote of the whole state before gambling can be expanded anywhere, is primarily the work of the Saginaw Chippewa Indians. (Vote "no," by the way.) Is it any wonder? They've got a captive audience that will wait three to four hours for a seat at a poker table, and will come to the casino despite the limits on the table games being raised from $5 to $10 to $15 to $25 as the place fills up. If this isn't an argument that gambling needs to be expanded in Michigan, despite the Saginaw Chippewa Indians, then I don't know what is.

In any case, Sunday morning bright and early, we left for Mt. Pleasant again, arriving at maybe 10:00AM. This time, the waits weren't nearly as long, and they stayed short. When we left around 4:00, there were still only five or six tables of poker going in the whole room, which was a big difference from the night before. The whole casino was fairly empty, in fact. My guess is that so many people were disgusted by how full the place was the night before, that they went home to watch the football game. (I saw it at the casino; even a baseball fan could tell that the Lions really sucked yesterday.) In other words, the casino's lack of capacity cost them money both Saturday and Sunday.

Although my cards were a little better, the big winners at the table were a loose-aggressive player who was hitting cards, and a player next to him who seemed to be playing a solid game. I had my share of big pairs, including losing a big pot when my AA made a set on the flop, but the loose-aggressive player made a broadway straight on the river. I probably missed two bets by not betting the river on another AA, because the river was the third club; even as I was checking I realized that I really didn't figure either of my opponents were on club draws, but they probably would have called my bet.

But my big loss for the day, the biggest pot of the day, includes at least two mistakes, although I think it's the final result I find so frustrating. I'm in relatively early position with 57♠, and limp in. (Suited one-gappers play similarly to suited connecters, and the odds aren't much worse.) It gets raised and reraised, but this table has shown no sign that that's going to scare any of the limpers out, and with five people in the pot, I call along, with the pot odds to do so. I'm neither surprised nor worried when it's capped—in all likelihood I'm going to be folding after the flop, but if I flop big I'll win a lot of money.

I get what I figure is a great flop for me: 68T, rainbow. I call along as the pot gets capped again, five ways, because at this point I've got more than the odds to do so, I figure. I hit the jackpot on the turn, when I get the Four of Diamonds, although it's the second Diamond to hit the board. This time I raise myself, and although we don't lose anybody, and in fact one player ends up all-in at this point, we're still two more bets each into the pot. I'm dancing with glee, on the inside, because I figure this pot is mine, despite the AA, KK, and random Set that I figure I'm up against. The river is the Seven of Clubs, which I figure is a bad card for me but that I'm probably still good. So when I bet, and it's raised behind me, what I actually assume is that I'll be splitting the pot with the fellow behind me. So, when the opponents after him call along, I put in the third bet, figuring that we'll be splitting more money with him. It's when he raises that I realize my second mistake, and despite the huge pot I fold for the final bet. The only player other than the winner who shows his cards indeed had KK, and the player on my left drags the biggest $3/$6 pot I've ever seen, nearly $300.

I made two mistakes here. First, I needed to figure my odds differently postflop because of that Ten. I did indeed have an open-ended straight draw on the flop, one of the best outcomes I could have hoped for with my suited one-gapper. But the high end, drawing to the Nine, was not a pure out, because I wouldn't have had the nut straight. This means that only the Four was truly an out for me, and so I was in error calling all of those bets after the flop. The second error is more obvious. I was so blinded by my straight after the turn that I failed to realize that the Seven completed the straight for anyone holding a Nine, at least until my third bet was reraised on the river. I saved myself $6 by folding after that, but that's hardly any consolation. I was very frustrated after this pot, mainly (I think) because of the river suckout, but further reflection has me much more to blame than I realized at the time—at the time I thought I made only a two-bet mistake after I was sucked out on. So, overall, bleah.

As If This Post Wasn't Long Enough

As I'm writing this Iggy tells me that the Two-Plus-Two fora have an unflattering thread about me. I haven't read it yet, but he's piqued my interest; he says, "I would hate to have my blog dissected like this, by the peanut gallery, that's all I can say." I assume some of the comments I got to my last post came from people who read the thread.

I do want to say, about the comments here and the comments on 2+2, that despite their tone I do appreciate them. As I told Iggy, criticism is valid or it isn't; if it's invalid I should shrug it off, and if it's valid I should listen to it. I'm tempted to include some defensive comments here, but anything I could say I either said above or I said in a post I wrote six weeks or so ago. So I'll read what they have to say without putting defenses up first.

[Edited, 10:30AM] Well, after reading the post, I am (surprise) motivated to respond. I end up without a bad taste in my mouth after reading it, which I expected after Iggy's comment. Most people had the same general comment:

acesover8s: "Not to mention its good for a laugh, and a cry."
Alobar: "That was so pathetically sad ..."
Sponger15SB: "... the rest of his blog is just sad sad sad sad."
AncientPC: "That was so sad..."
VarlosZ: "... someone in this person's predicament saddens me ..."
sonny black: "very sobering content ..."

And, OK, yah, it probably is sad. I know my mood isn't exactly chipper. I hadn't thought of myself as a cautionary tale, but I suppose that I am, and that was the original point of the thread in the first place. And, in that sense, "sad" is probably the appropriate word.

Most people's specific points seem to center around three things. First, that I hop around limits too much. Second, that some of those limits were attempted without sufficient bankroll. Third, that I haven't or don't work hard enough on my game.

The second point I've admitted to a number of times. Particularly when I took the stab at $15/$30, I didn't truly have the bankroll to do it. This was true as well as my bankroll started to dwindle, and I looked for ways to get it back where it needed to be, quickly. I agree that this is pretty tilty behaviour, but such things are always easier to see in hindsight. I've been taught that lesson a number of times, and it seems that maybe my discussion above has finally made me learn it.

The first point, jumping around in limits, is something that I will admit to, with caveats. My earn at $3/$6 was positive but lower than I'd have liked. My jumps to $15/$30 are indefensible, but my occasional jumps to $5/$10 are not: If I was beating the $3/$6 for not quite 2 BB/c, it made sense to try to duplicate that at the next higher level, and I did it in a responsible way. Far from being reckless, that move was responsible. But others were not; particularly the play on the $5/$10 bad-beat tables. The reason I played these was that my observation showed them to be extremely loose games, looser even than the $2/$4 or $3/$6 games I was used to playing. I'm still somewhat mystified by my inability to do well at these games; I've adjusted well to loose games in the past. (I've even considered some paranoid possibilities.) But the fact remains that no matter how good the games are/were, I wasn't bankrolled well enough to lose at them. My thought at the time was that the table was so good that losing wasn't actually possible. Well, it was.

The third point, that I don't work enough on my game, is at least half true. I've read most of the books, but I haven't studied most of the books. On the other hand, I do read and reread them, and I do pick up new things each time I do. And the blogs are another source of information, as is CardPlayer. (Their recent habit of republishing old articles is great, at least except for the time it was all Phil Hellmuth articles.) I even know what the biggest problem with my game is, but I'm a bit stuck for how to correct it; most of the books seem silent on the issue. I think what I've been trying so far, though, has been wrong.

(That problem, by the way, is predictability: If I don't have a strong starting hand or a good drawing hand, I'm not in the pot. This means that I win small pots, when I bet my strong hands, and the occasional big pot, when I hit my drawing hands, but I also lose a lot of big pots, when my strong hands are beat by unlikely holdings by players who are not always weak.)

I strongly appreciated the positive comments I received:

LinusKS: "I thought his posts were interesting, well-written, and honest."
LinusKS: "He took a shot at it. I respect him for that.
       He also published what he was doing, and didn't stop when things went bad (or resort to covering up).
       I respect him for that too."
acesover8s: "... not everyone makes it, but few fail and have the courage to talk about it."

This is mostly stuff I hadn't considered, and so I appreciate the comments a lot. I may be a lot of things, and they may not all be great, but I do take a bit of pride in being basically honest. And so, when things started going south, and even now when they're about as black as can be, stopping writing the blog wasn't something that I seriously considered. I may have gone a couple of weeks between posts, but the blog wasn't going to disappear because I was running bad. And so, I appreciate that people find this to be honorable, and take the compliments to heart.


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