Sunday, September 03, 2006

Identifying a Leak, Two Years Later

A conversation with PokerDogg led me to look at the PokerTracker stats I incorporated into a couple of posts. Afterward, I looked at this one, from March 2004. There weren't even 10,000 hands in the database at that time, but when I look at the data, one line jumps out at me:

Since my VP$IP% (percentage of the hands I voluntarily put money into the pot) at this time was only 19.13%, I must assume that a check from the big blind counts as a "call" by this reckoning, but still: I was limping in nearly twice as much as I was raising.

My game is different today. Even if my application of Miller is imperfect, I understand the concepts within it, where my game then was simply rockish, and even then imperfectly so. (I gave no thought, then, to the fact that I'm quite likely dominated, preflop, if someone raises in early position and I find myself with AT or KQ.)

Even if my game is different, though, am I still calling too much before the river? The short answer is yes, in this sense: I'm willing to play a suited connector or a small pair in early position in most of the games I'm in. When I play $3/$6 live, this is often defensible; hands aren't often raised preflop, and when they are, six people take the flop anyway. But even at 50¢/$1 online, most hands are raised preflop, and even if not, not often do I get the volume I need to draw to my hand. I draw the conclusion that I need to adjust my game more when I play online.

I'm beating 50¢/$1 online at a pretty good clip, but it's a different game than $3/$6 live. Generally speaking, the online game is tougher. That said, I often don't do well in tougher games live, at least without catching cards. Gil suggests my game is predictable, but the example he gives makes that a good thing. If it's predictable in the sense that I'm playing my hands face-up against good players, though, that's a bad thing.

In learning the game, I become convinced that one particular play is "right" for a given situation. This makes it difficult for me to vary my play for the sake of variance. I need to develop, for tougher games, a way to vary my play, to make me less predictable. My results in these games tends to make me think I'm being read too well, for I win small pots and lose big ones. I even know, in theory, how to vary my game without giving up much edge: If a decision is close, sometimes do one thing and sometimes the other. The preflop four-bet with AK I talked about a couple of weeks ago is one example; the decision to four-bet or not is a close one. But taking this theory and putting it into practice is another thing, and unfortunately to hone that skill I'll need to sit in more tough games.

The 75% Rule

A week or so ago, I worked a problem using some mathematic estimates and determined that, on the river, when you have to act before your opponent, you need to be 75% sure you're best to bet. I haven't got a lot of feedback to that concept—it is at the end of a very long post—but since I wrote it, I've begun to wonder if I might have something new here: I haven't seen anything like that before in the literature I've read. I'm going to pull that out of the main post and put it into a separate one (dated the same day) in order that I might put it into the "Archive Highlights" section of my sidebar, but mostly I'm interested in feedback. Do I really have something here?