Fellowship of the … ring games

Twitter's Update Page
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I googled for the definition of “fellowship” and one of the results that I got was “an association of people who share common beliefs or activities”.

And that is what I think the “Twitter Poker Tour” is – a fellowship of tweeple or tweeters that have an avid interest in poker and communicate via the web’s latest best thing, twitter.

I only just found out about the group earlier this month. I also saw that they have a regular tournament schedule every Thursday night at 9:00 pm Eastern Time. One week it is on PokerStars and the following week it is on FullTilt poker. This was great for me as I have accounts on both sites. The entry fee for the tourney is $5.50 and the prizes are based on how many people actually participate. Usually only the top five winners share the prizes.

The thing is, I have come to prefer cash games over tournaments but the TPT is such a diverse and complex group or fellowship, that I couldn’t help but want to join them. I have learned most of their twitter names from the TPT site and try to follow them using software called TweetDeck, one of many out there, but one that I find very useful.

So far I have played in three tourneys:

Tourney 1:  6th place, season one
Tourney 2: 17th place, season two
Tourney 3: 1st place, season two

So winning one event in first place … very exciting. I am looking forward to next Thursday’s event already. Hope to see you there!

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How much money do I need to play? – Bankroll management made simple (I hope)

Poker night - Who's gonna win?
Image by Philofoto via Flickr

When deciding to play a game of poker, I always base my decision of what game levels to play based on my bankroll size. Your bankroll is the total amount of money that you have available to play poker.  It includes the money that you have set aside strictly for poker.   Bankroll refers to total monies not just what you plan to spend at one session.

I have read lots of differing views as to what your bankroll size should be. The whole idea of having a bankroll is to allow you to play your best but to allow for a streak of bad beats. Even the best of players can get stuck, not winning, for hours, days, weeks or even months.  During that time a sufficient bankroll will help them continue to play until they start winning again.

One thing that a new player turning pro should also consider is that after a few months of straight decline, they might just be a losing player.  Maybe they should consider just playing for fun or very low limits instead. They may just need to change the way they play.

There are so many suggestions by various people as to what the bankroll size should be that I picked the following one. I try to allow myself to have a bankroll worth 4,000 times the big blind.

That size of bankroll would allow me to sustain losses for up to:

20 sessions minimum playing No Limit games with a buy-in amount equal to 200 times the big blind.
40 sessions minimum playing No Limit games with a buy-in amount equal to 100 times the big blind.
100 sessions minimum playing Limit games with a buy-in amount equal to 40 times the big blind.
200 sessions minimum playing Limit games with a buy-in amount equal to 40 times the big blind.

The math is not perfect but the above formula allows the following games amounts to be played based on the following bankrolls. Using a spreadsheet will get you more accurate results.

$100 bankroll allows you to play reasonably in $ .01 / .02 games that have a big blind of .02
$1,000 bankroll allows you to play reasonably in $.10 / .25 games that have a big blind of .25
$5,000 bankroll allows you to play reasonably in $ .50 / $1.00 games that have a big blind of 1.00
$10,000 bankroll allows you to play reasonably in $1.00 / 2.00 games that have a big blind of 2.00

These are just my opinions and I am trying to be conservative as well.

You can always try to play above your level for a session or two, but it is a good idea to stay in your bankroll level or comfort zone even if that level is lower.

If you are on a losing streak, check your bankroll size and move down a level based on the remaining size. This will keep you going longer.

Only move up a level when your bankroll can sustain that level.

Best of luck and be careful out there.

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Book Review – "Professional Poker" by Mark Blade

So far I have read over 29 of the; most popular, interesting, easy, or difficult to understand books about poker and the various forms of the game. Some of these I have read at least three times or more. There is so much more to poker that it takes books, blogs, and actual doing just to get your head around the possibilities, the ideas, the strategies.

Early last year, in my quest for information on becoming a “professional poker player”, I found this book by Mark Blade, entitled “Professional Poker – The Essential Guide to Playing for a Living”. I highly recommend this book for both the beginner and the advanced player who might be considering turning professional.

I am re-reading it for a fourth time right now. I picked it up again out of my meager collection (there is so much more out there to get) and doing so could not have come at a better time. I really need to refresh my knowledge of what I need to do in order to become a “poker professional”

The amount of information and advice in the first five chapters including the “About the Author”, “Introduction”, and “Section 1” are enough to let you know what you might be up against if you want to turn pro. Section 2 talks about money issues such as your bankroll management and how much of a bankroll you need. Section 3 covers the education you need and, yes, more books that you absolutely need to read before turning pro.

The book is well written, easy to understand, and would make a good addition to your collection. If this happens to be your first book, you won’t go wrong. Mark’s recommendations for both required reading selections and optional ones will help make future book choices easier. This would also make a nice gift for someone who takes their poker seriously.

Poker Chips – Online versus Live

Harry Truman's poker chips
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During the last three years, I have played hundreds of online games of poker and less than seven (7) face to face casino games. I am not counting the thousands of home games I have played with parents, friends and relatives since I was old enough to play. Besides, almost all of the home games were played using cash; pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.

The easiest mode of  betting, calling and raising is online play. Just click those buttons, move those sliders, type in those bet amounts and hit enter. Now, if you don’t pay attention, it is also to easy to call when you meant to fold, fold when you meant to raise, and raise when you meant to check. So maybe online has its own share of problems?

In my limited exposure in live play I have found that using real chips is pretty tricky. First there is the problem of learning how to handle the chips. Forget about shuffling them like the professionals do. Just handling the darn things without tipping over your stack. I have even seen people at the tables knock over other peoples stack of chips. Now, that is a sight.

Next you have to learn the value of chips based on color at some casino tables when playing in tourneys. So depending on your buy-in, you could have up to four different color of chips in front of you of varying value. Picking up and placing the wrong chip out there can be as dangerous as clicking the wrong button.

My very first tourney play was at an event called The Foxwoods Poker Classic at the Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut.  We were given $1,500 in chips using three denominations to start at the early stages of the “Act I” tourney. I fumbled with my chips, threw in large raises instead of calling by picking the wrong color chips. It was quite a learning experience, that first time using chips instead of a mouse. Despite all my mistakes, I got lucky in that event and won a seat to the next level, called “Act II”. I did not fair as well in Act II as luck was not with me. I had no idea what I was doing at that time, especially at live play.

It has taken me a few games to get better at handling my chips. I still have a ways to go. I am not going to try to shuffle chips as I don’t want to hurt my fellow players or the dealer.

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Playing Winning Poker

Poker Texas Hold'em : Shuffling Cards On The Board
Image by brtsergio via Flickr

A recent post I read on another blog, “PokerBankRollBlog.Com” had an article that resonated with the type of playing I have been doing of late and it is based on the following thoughts by noted poker player, Phil Gordon, and an article that he wrote. The basics of the article are that the way you play and the results you get, can be based on how you play. Now, I know you are going to say “duh”, of course. But these levels are good to think about because they can help you be a better player at the table, both online and at face-to-face play at the casinos. The summarized excerpt from Phil Gordon’s article about how expert players think is as follows:

Expert players think four of more levels deep:
Level 1: “What hand do I have?”
Level 2: “What hand does my opponent have?”
Level 3: “What hand does my opponent think I have?”
Level 4: “What does my opponent think that I think they have?”

As I have not played poker full time yet, I realize that my initial attempts at playing are mostly at level 1 and occasionally at level 2. So what I get from all of this is that I need to work on moving up to the next level of thinking in order to improve my playing and my profitability.

This is easier said than done and it goes back to discipline and to practice. Currently my game of choice is Limit Holdem at low stakes, no higher than $5/$10. Right now, I am playing $2/$4 while trying to improve my game and the idea of levels of thinking is helpful.

Just playing at level one thinking can be costly. At that level of thinking, if I have pocket Aces, I bet and raise and re-raise without considering what my opponent might have. Pre-flop, pocket Aces are the winning or tying hand. After the flop, it could be anybody’s guess as to how good the pocket Aces are.

If you are not thinking about what your opponent has after the flop and how it compares to your hand, you might be fighting a loosing battle. And that is where level two thinking comes in. If you can figure out the possible type of hands your opponent has, you can decide to just call, raise, or even fold your hand.

Level three is a little trickier, and involves trying to figure out what your opponent thinks you have. The reason this is important is because he may basing your hand on how you have played prior hands. He may have noticed that once you have any kind of a hand you don’t give it up. He may have seen your hands at showdown time, when you played your AA or AK right to the end, to the river, without regards to what has flopped, turned, or rivered and have seen that you have lost those type of hands when the opponent has two pair, three of a kind, a straight or a flush. 

If you know how your opponent plays and you can play differently than he thinks you are playing, you can gain an advantage over him. That is a lot to think about. I will try to get stronger at level 2 and level 3 thinking and continue to learn and work at getting to level 4 while working at mastering the first three levels.

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