Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A few thoughts on my current state of poker

Anyone whose read this blog for any span of time realizes that I've been a long-term proponent of tight aggressive play (TAG). Lately (over the past 4 months), though, my style of play has evolved into more of a LAG game. I'm sure, based on the hand histories I post, you can see the transition (steals, 3bets, etc.). I think my LAG conversion has been sped up by Rush poker. Taking complete unknowns, with unknown positions, and applying ranges and cards to them is akin to playing with your eyes closed. I am able to pick up patterns, which, amazingly, most of the players have similarities at all of the levels. I suppose there is a limited number of responses in poker (i.e. bet, fold, check, call), so the patterns are bound to be consistent from player to player.

Hand reading and pokery abilities
Regardless, my hand reading abilities have gone from... let's call it 15% of max capacity to maybe... 60%. My 3betting game is opened up; I'm much more prone to 3betting while in position, against an opponent whose PFR > 10, etc. From out of position, I'm starting to pick good spots to squeeze. In other words, my opponents are beginning to fear me. I view this as a good thing; perhaps the 100NL players are not so much in fear as the lower level players, but I can feel a certain level of respect.

100NL recap
In my first month of full time 100NL, I am just about break-even. I think I may be slightly positive; +2 buy ins or something like that. I am fairly certain I should be up a good deal more, but I keep running into players hitting their river over card (of which I am ceasing to contribute further money; it usually goes check / check which never ceases to amaze me - WHY WHY WHY are you floating with your AK vs. my KK and then checking when you have the winner!?!?!?!?!), set over setting me (when the money is all in on a prior street; 2 outters SUCK!), or generally sucking out once the money is all in. Nevertheless, I am not concerned. I feel as though I am playing the best poker of my life.

However, in striving to be an even better online player, I have decided to get coaching. For a long time, I was on the fence with regards to coaching. I've been reading a lot of material from James "Splitsuit" Sweeney, and find that his philosophies very much jive with mine. He feels that the way to beat the game, nowadays, is by taking a LAG approach. He thinks that in order to play a successful LAG game, you need to understand how to play TAG - I couldn't agree more! At this point, I have the tools to play a successful LAG game; I understand steals, 3bets, hand ranges, etc. I am strongly considering hiring him as a coach - and will likely make a move within the next month. At this point, I think it's only a matter of finding a workable time for the two parties. I think I have numerous leaks in my game (some of which I'm probably not even aware of), and I'd like to close those gaps so that I can become more profitable. I'm hoping that Splitsuit will help me do exactly that.

Pokerstars and my small bankroll
Now that I've completed my Iron Man bonus for the month, I'm taking time to try to build my Pokerstars bankroll of (what sits right now as of last night's session) $~200. Obviously, I'm not playing the same stakes at P* as I do at Full Tilt; the highest stakes I can "reasonably" afford is 25NL. I feel like I'm doing Daniel Negraneau's bankroll challenge, but I'm finding far better results. It is funny; numerous times, I have "run out of money" where I cannot auto-reload or I actually go busto on a table or two, given my limited funding stream. Regardless, taking the time to drop back 2 levels to 25NL has been a huge ego bloat. I never really thought about it prior, but I can CRUSH these guys. Going back to the above paragraphs, the 25NL players (for the most part) are simply not equipped to handle my level of aggression. They don't know what to do when they get 3bet, they can't handle playing big pots without the nuts, and they don't understand what I'm doing. Their lines are easy to pick off... most of the time, they put a story together that does not make sense. It's fun times, and a head swell.

LAG play
In taking advice from Splitsuit and putting it to practice, I have shied away from table selecting the highest players/flop. Since I'm playing at P*, where there are no Rush tables, I'm stuck back at square one - playing standard Full Ring tables. I have now begun to table select towards the tight tables, looking for 16% plrs/flop or less. In a few of his videos, he points out that a LAG wants to avoid a lot of multi-way pots, and is looking to take on a single opponent for HU action for most hands. Tight tables are well-suited for this type of action.

More on 25NL play at P*
Given my LAG play at the standard tables, and my table selecting for tight tables, I am far-and-away out playing these guys, as I talked about in an earlier paragraph. I laughed on more than one occasion, because I can see many of these players grumbling in the chat windows, shooting snarky comments towards me. Some are getting frustrated and moving away from tight play... trying to play more pots against me.

Case in point as far as not understanding what I'm doing: On one occasion, a player with position on me 3 bet me while I held QTs. I normally would lay down, but this was the 3rd raise in a row that he 3bet me. I decided to 4 bet bluff his $2.50 3bet to $7.50 (I was very deep stacked; 200+BBs, and he had 110BBs), to which he flatted. The flop came 3 7 J rainbow, and I donked into him for $10, essentially committing him. As predicted, he folded. And he complained. And complained. He talked about how he always misses his flops, etc. and that I'm always hitting. From the chatter, I could only derive that he folded AK, AQ. Life is easy at 25NL, and I can't wait to build by BR to a respectable $1k so that I can move up to 50NL. In fact, playing Full Ring has me considering venturing into 100NL full ring to see how the players fare there.

Rakeback and tournaments
Wow. At 100NL Rush, you can really crush this rakeback. For the essentially break-even month I've had in the 50K+ hands, I've probably collected around $600 in rakeback. That's a lot of money for doing something I'm going to do anyway... In addition, I'm gathering a lot of extra medals for the Iron Man bonus, enabling me to convert my $75 tokens at a much faster rate.

I found myself in the money for the first time in a long time while playing in the RakeTheRake $35K freeroll. I came in 128th (or thereabout; at work & can't remember exactly how I placed) out of 2500+ for a $42 win. The last large-field tournament I played and placed in the money was the Daily Dollar back in September where I took 60th for around $60. Not that I'm playing large field tournaments, but it did feel great to last that long.

Happy Passover to my fellow Jews out there. This holiday is already starting to make me cranky - AND IT'S CUTTING INTO MY PLAYING TIME. We hosted the first sedur at my house last night; my in laws, my wife's grandmother and my mother helped us celebrate the first night. Tonight, my in laws host my wife's brothers and their families. Perhaps I'll be able to get out earlier than last night... kinda tough to sit down at a computer when company is over :-).


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