Thread: Confession
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Old Feb 21, 2007, 6:37pm   #1
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Default Confession

I've been trying one way or another to write this for some time. I've started and stopped more than twice. I think I'm an ok writer, but my mind is constantly going off in random tangents, so it's rather difficult for me to keep the pace and flow through a large piece. So basically I'm gonna just start writing and hopefully this comes out ok. If there's an English major reading this, my apologies in advance. This will likely start out as a confession and turn into a strategy article, what fun it will be.

I am a really bad poker player.


When I play live tournaments I'm probably a break even player. When I play limit cash games, I probably lose a couple big bets an hour. When I play no limit cash games, I win until I've got about 2X my buy-in then give most of it away on one hand. I have absolutely NO discipline whatsoever.

I've got some sort of mental something or other, it's never really been diagnosed properly. The most extensive testing I've been through revealed me to be, and I quote the whatever brain doctor guy, "odd and unique, hinting of borderline high-functioning autism". My IQ is between 138 and 153 depending on the test, and I certainly have hints of at least OCD, so suffice to say I need a LOT of mental stimulation.

When I play live, I am at the same time bored out of my mind and filled with an adrenaline rush. Because I'm playing 20-30 hands an hour at best, I can't possibly wait another 3 minutes, I want to beat the other players EVERY HAND. So I play way too many hands and to make up for that I try and bluff my way out of it (usually doesn't work for very long). The only time I'm able to concentrate live is when the stakes scare me a little. Strange that I can be so calm playing at a $5000+ final table, but playing 5-10NL right now would scare the begeezes out of me.

I firmly believe that discipline is the most important factor in any poker player's success, regardless of skill. You could be a good player, but lack of discipline turns you into a losing player. You're a mediocre player, but having discipline allows you to turn a profit. When I say discipline, I mean both in play and in dealing with bankroll management. I'm actually quite good with bankroll management, almost too careful you could say. However, for some reason, I can't simply take pride in playing well. I KNOW what I should be doing, but I don't do it. And then sometimes the stakes are too small and I just don't care, so I make -EV plays just to be in there mixing it up. Otherwise it's booooooooooooooring.

So, if you consider discipline the most important trait of a poker player, than I am really quite horrible.

Luckily for me.........

I'm quite a tournament player.

Note that I differentiate poker player from tournament player, because I really do feel they're quite different. Poker involves having >100BBs in front of you. Tournament poker involves having <50BBs in front. Quite a different game.

Basically what I think I'm trying to say is, there really isn't anything special about what I do. While I have been known to make some sick calls (I bluff induce on the river a LOT), this kind of table feel very rarely comes naturally, it is most often a product of time spent playing. I feel that many average tournament players could become quite good if they just thought outside the box a little, opened up their game and were willing to not play scared. So many of the concepts that are so integral to poker theory are actually backwards when it comes to tournament theory.

Of course, there are periods of the tournament when you should play a pretty straightforward game, but this is not where the money is made. Cashing doesn't mean a THING! Who cares if you make the final table if you don't get top 4, THAT'S where the money is!

So how do you get top 4? Well, you could play tight throughout, catch mad cards and have them hold up, but how often is that going to happen? In a 180-person tournament.............about 1 in 150 times give or take. Yea, you'll make a small profit, but after the rake, you'll realize your edge really isn't that big. It really does seem like a luckbox factory, and unless you're playing huge stakes (and maintaining that small edge), you're not going to get very far. I know what it feels like to think you're spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.

So how do you get top 4? You gamble like a fucking madman. But...when you gamble, you always have the best of it.........even when you don't.

Let me explain that...

8 handed game, 16 players left, I'm on the button. Blinds are 2000/4000/200 and I have T60,000. A fairly tight-aggressive, straightforward player raises to T12,000 from middle position (with let's say 65,000 behind). A good but loose player in the cutoff cold calls (with 50,000-100,000 behind). I move in with most pairs, AQ+, any suited connector JT down to 45, any one gapper J9 down to 46 and any two gapper J8 down to 47. Note that I do not move in with AJ down, KQ, KJ, QJ, or QT. The reasoning behind this is that most of the time, if you push, they both fold, so in those cases, your hand doesn't matter at all. But what hands do they call you with? Of course the big pairs, but you can't assume they have QQ+ unless they have been really really tight, this is just one of the risks I take. Most players also call with AK (quite often the hand that is flipped over when you're called in this spot), some with AQ and occasionally you'll get called with AJ or worse. Whether they call with 99, TT, JJ depends on them and your table image, sometimes you'll even get people calling with small/medium pairs.

The whole point is, they usually fold, and when they do call, your hand usually has a pretty good shot at winning. AKo is only 6-4 to beat 89s. So let's put this all together.

We assume the loose caller is just being loose and calling, but will fold to a push. However, I'd say there's a 5% chance he's slowplaying a big pair. Let's assume that the original raiser will call with AQ+, TT+. Let's further assume that the OR has AK/AQ 20% of the time and TT+ an additional 20% of the time. So the OR is calling 40% of the time and the cold caller is calling 5% of the time. We'll discount the times they both call, because it's quite rare, and offset by the times you win the 3-way pot (often I've pushed something like 89s and gotten called by AQ and AK or two AK's, that's actually an ok spot). So.........

55% of the time they both fold and you collect T31,600 to get to T91,600
20% of the time the OR calls with AK/AQ
------40% of the time you win the pot and collect T79,600 to get to T139,600
------60% of the time you bust
20% of the time the OR calls with TT+
------20% of the time you win the pot and collect T79,600 to get to T139,600
------80% of the time you bust
5% of the time the cold caller calls with JJ+
------20% of the time you win the pot and collect T79,600 to get to T139,600
------80% of the time you bust

(.55 X 31,600) + (.08 X 79,600) + (.04 X 79,600) + (.01 X 79,600) - (.12 X 60,000) - (.16 X 60,000) - (.04 X 60,000) = +8528

This is a rather situational set-up, but you'll run into situations like these constantly throughout any given tournament. Understanding the fold equity is key here, because it decides whether or not a given play has a +EV.

Spot the loose aggressive at the table and go after him. A lot of average-good players open a lot of pots but fold to reraises, but they KEEP opening...and folding, opening and folding. These players are a dream for move-in specialists like myself.

Spot the rocks at the table as well, and do NOT try this against them unless their bet seems weak. It's also a bad idea to pull this against a calling station.

Note that I didn't include AJ, AT, KQ, etc in my list of hands to push. So so often when they call they flip over AQ/AK, and the previously noted hands play so badly hot and cold. Of course you'd rather have KQ than 89 when they call with TT, but big pairs show up less than AK/AQ, and some players will fold TT/JJ (some even QQ). You push with the suited connectors because they run ok-ish against any hand your opponent flips over (assuming it's not 89 vs 99).

This is one example of the move-in specialist play I make often, but there are many more. Squeeze plays, blind vs. blind, button vs. blinds, etc. The point is I use creative aggression (not just opening pots to steal blinds) and gamble it up with the best of it (even when I don't have the best of it).

Mix up the way you move-in. Don't just always push. If I raise to 60,000 of my 140,000 stack, the other 80,000 is going in for sure. Usually raise an even amount, but sometimes raise an odd amount, like 28743. Mix up which sort of hands you do this with. If you just move in all the time, they'll not give you credit, but if something about your line is different this time, they'll sometimes think "maybe he's got a big hand this time."

Sometimes don't make a bet that commits you, but one that makes the other guy think you WANT to put it all-in. Like for instance, 2000/4000/200, a loose but smart player on the cutoff raises to T12,000 (with T80,000 behind). You have T120,000 not including your small blind. Try raising to T30,000 and see how often they fold. It's SOOOOOOOOO hard for them to do anything but fold unless they have a strong read on you or a huge hand. Understand what kind of bets look like big pairs and make those bets with junk.

Whatever you do, DO NOT BLIND OUT. Don't wait for a hand, pick spots along the way to keep you afloat for when you do finally get a big hand.

When you get below 14 big blinds, you need to get your money in fast. Hopefully you get a nice spot or a good hand, but if you don't, I would push ATC from the cutoff with <11BB, from the button with <13BB and from the SB with <14BB. If it folds to the SB and they limp into your BB, I'd push ATC with <15BB.

The one play I'm almost hesitant to tell you about is the 3-bet bluff. It is SO risky and SOOOOOO situational, but in every tournament I've made more than $5000 I've made this play at least once. Basically, you open-raise from late position, someone perceives you to be stealing and reraises you (preferably between 1/4 and 1/3 of their stack). You very quickly push all in with a marginal hand. This play works against good, smart players. They know late position raises are often weak, so they put in feeler raises to get you off your marginal hand, but they're often doing this with a marginal hand themselves (or a goodish one they'll fold to a push). Problem is, sometimes they have KK, like I said, this is VERY situational.

I also like the 3-bet semibluff. This one works best out of position. You hit a big draw and make a <half pot bet, trying to feign some weakness so the player with position raises you (preferably 1/5-1/3 of his stack), and you instantly push all in with huge fold equity and a big draw.

I could probably think of a half-dozen more plays, but they become more and more situational, and come up less and less often.

So just some quickies...

Bet out your strong hands, especially into people who have shown a lot of strength so far. Check-raises are lame and should only be used on a very seldom basis (mostly for semi-bluffs and to shut possible draws out with TPTK type hands).

Take position into account 5 times more than you do right now, regardless of how much that is. Fold your AQ on down and 88 on down from early position but limp/call behind a few players in late position with 45o.


---Focus without focusing. I am far from a zen buddhist monk, but this has started to make sense to me more and more the last 4 or 5 months. I have this thing I do, I couldn't really describe it, but my friends have started calling it "soft focus", which I think is fitting. When I'm joking about it, I say "I just smoke weed all day and stare at the middle of the screen...the answers just come to me." I don't actually smoke weed all day and stare at the middle of the screen (though a few of the tourneys I've taken down have been under the influence). What I do is focus without filtering. Most poker players (most people for that matter) have a filter they put all their input through. This filter is predetermined by their personality, the books they've read, etc. It's good to be yourself, and it's good to read a lot of books, but you have to make sure you don't limit conclusions you come to based on these factors. Understand that you do have biases and understand what those are. Instead of staring at the screen intently analyzing every bit of data, casually watch what is going on (but do actually watch). Try and "feel" the flow of the game. When you put the analyzation and filtering on the backburner, your subconscious takes over. If you do this for a while, you may (or may not) find that you've got this little voice telling you "this is a bad idea" or "he doesn't have anything!" Read a bunch of Daoist philosophy and think over it (for philosophy beginners, The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet will do the trick). Also note that this is not my normal state of play, sometimes I get there, sometimes I don't.

Almost finally, IMPROVE YOUR BETTING LINES. Every bet you make should be for a reason. Every bet amount you make should be for a reason. You're either trying to get your opponent to do something YOU want, or you're trying to do something your opponent DOESN'T want you to do. Stop making bets that don't make any sense. Smart players know they don't make any sense. Get better at reading other people's lines. Not just individual bets/raises/calls/folds but the series of these actions used each hand. As you get better at this, you'll be able to pre-plan lines for future situations, or you'll be able to quickly plan full lines on the spot (good lines have multiple options on each street, depending on the cards, the player and the previous bets). Planning ahead will become a large part of your game, and you will have better results because you are now ACTing instead of REACTing.

Finally, finally finally. Understand that you may or may not be able to be a great tournament player. I'm not saying there are any prerequisites, because there aren't really (I suppose you'd have some trouble if you were blind or couldn't count). What I'm trying to say is that we need to recognize and be aware of our own minds. Everyone is more or less unique when it comes to brain chemistry, and there's only so much you can do to affect the output you produce from the input provided. Some people excel at the numbers side of things, others excel at psychology, few are great at both, and some can't do much of either. All of these people are capable of having success in tournament poker though. What will differentiate between those who reach their potential and those who do not is attitude. The willingness to admit that you're probably doing everything wrong, that you''ve got more to learn than you will be able to in your lifetime. DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING. If you do, you're probably wrong.
Skeptix is correct. - MRVEGAS
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