Avoiding FPS at the TPT and hoping for a positive EV

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Talk about alphabet soup in the winter, my post contains a lot of TLA’s (three letter acronyms).  It is believed that Mike Caro, aka the “The Mad Genius of Poker,” coined the phrase “Fancy Play Syndrome” or FPS. This almost sounds like a disease and to a poker player, it could be. Try Googling “fancy play syndrome” (with the quotes) to  see over 2,600 additional references about “FPS”.

The basics of FPS is playing in a way designed to lose more than you gain. This includes playing strong when you are weak. Playing good hands as though you are weak and those actions can be very costly over the lifetime of a poker player’s career.

And the interesting part about FPS is that it can be contagious just like the cold that I now have. Tonight at 9 pm EST is the TPT: Tilt Event #9 hosted by the Twitter Poker Tour I am registered and ready to play in that tournament and to try regaining my lead in the leader board with a good finish tonight.

If I can avoid FPS tonight at the #TPT (Twitter Poker Tour), I should have a positive EV or expected value. Briefly, EV has to do with the results you hope to obtain while betting on a certain hand versus what you think your opponent might have. Hands that give you a good probability of winning, are hands you should bet. Hands with a lower probability of winning are hands you should fold. Easier said then done, but those are some of the basics that I need to apply tonight in order to achieve the results I desire.

Getting ready for tonight, I have played in about 10 SNG’s (Sit and Go tournaments) and I placed in the money in 4 of those, ending up with a profit for the 10 tourneys played.

What have you done to get ready for tonight?
Do you have a favorite book that you read to brush up on tournament play with tough opponents?
Are you playing tonight for the fun of it?
Or are you playing to win because that is also fun?

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Favorite Hands vs Winning Hands vs Losing Hands

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I have a group of Poker Twitter friends and they were tweeting about their favorite hands. That got me to thinking about what hands I like to see when I look down at my hole cards. Those cards differ of course depending on the game I am playing, but in Texas Holdem give me pocket Aces every time.  The actual odds of being dealt pocket Aces is about 220 to 1 or once in every 220 hands that are dealt to you. I have not played enough hands yet to say I have a favorite hand other than the Aces.

Using PokerTracker3, I have an overall history of more than 3,500 hands so far of games played. What follows are my best winning hands.

Hand       Dealt        %won         $won    avg. per hand

AA 17 95.83 $59.00 $3.47
A4s 8 50 $51.50 $6.44
QJs 3 66.67 $35.50 $11.83
KJo 13 61.54 $35.15 $2.70
KTs 9 87.5 $33.30 $3.00
AKo 33 60 $33.00 $1.00
K9s 4 75 $32.15 $8.04
QTo 26 50.6 $30.65 $1.17
ATo 24 41.67 $30.06 $1.25
KQs 5 80 $25.40 $5.08

The following hands have cost me the most money so far, hands that I have lost with.
Hand       Dealt  %loss    $loss    avg. per hand

ATs 4 100 ($55.00) $13.75
A4o 13 100 ($29.60) $2.28
99 10 50 ($28.05) $2.80
95s 6 100 ($22.06) $3.68
AJo 20 20 ($21.68) $1.08
QQ 10 40 ($20.82) $2.08
55 7 14.29 ($20.50) $2.93
A9s 4 25 ($20.50) $5.12
KJs 3 33.33 ($20.25) $6.75

Based on the above results so far, my favorite hand in Texas Holdem is AA and my worse hand is ATs. Of course there is a lot more to the results than just the hands. How the flow, the turn, and the river was played after getting these hands helped determine the amount lost or won. I think that this is the fun part of poker. Analyzing results and then trying to apply that knowledge to your game. In all actuality, it is not really the hand you are dealt that makes a difference, it is how you play them and how you play your opponents. You can win pots with a 7 2 hand if you know how.

What are your favorite hands? How do you play them? What is your overall success rate?

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Decisions for a budding poker pro

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What to do, when to do it, how to do it and why do it?

Most of the literature I have read about becoming a poker professional states that I should play regularly at least 40 hours a week, as if poker is my full time job. My thoughts are that I should do this as a part time job and devote no more than 20 to 30 hours a week to poker. That should give me the additional supplemental income that I would like to make. I would be doing something that I love doing; playing poker, reading poker, studying poker, discussing poker, and writing about poker. Hmm. Have I left anything out?

Once of the first decisions that must be made is to choose the type of game that gives the best chances to win. That decision is not easy and requires some study and decisions. In order to be a well rounded professional poker player, one should know the fundamentals of most of the games available. There will be times when playing a different game may be the only choice available on a given day, so you should be ready.
There are so many poker game choices. The following are just a few of the available ones:
Game Choices:
Texas Holdem
Omaha / Omaha High/Low
Stud Poker, Stud Poker Hiigh/Low
5 Card Draw
2-7 Triple Draw, 2-7 Single Draw

Types of betting limits choices:
Fixed Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit betting each have their own style of playing requirements. Not all poker players do well in all three categories. That is to say, some do better at No Limit, but not at Fixed or Pot Limit. These choices need to be looked at based on your playing results. If you are not sure which is best for you, try playing at least 100 sessions of each and track your results and how comfortable you felt playing that style of betting. Choose the lowest limits possible so that you won’t kill your bankroll finding out which betting limit works for you. Yes, I know, they play a little wilder at the lower limits but at least you will learn how to deal with bad beats and how not to go “on tilt”.

Tournaments versus cash games or both
There is the decision of whether to enter the cash games or the tournaments or both. There are pros and cons to either one of those choices and sometimes it comes down to dollars and cents. If you have a good track record in tourneys, but not cash games or vice versa, your choice becomes a little easier. If you are good at both, then the rate of return might be the determining factor. While you could win larger sums in large tournaments, the time spent might not yield a good hourly earning rate for you. Plus you have to win high enough in position to get one of the top prizes. If you don’t play online, then travel costs and other related items such as travel time and the inconvenience of living out of your suitcase in a strange town come into play.

Choosing where to play can be difficult.
If you play online, you need to be sure that you can get your winnings and be able to withdraw them easily. You need to be sure that the online fees for the winning pots, called the rake, are not so high as to cause you to lose a large percentage of your winnings. Even at a live casino or poker room, you have to contend with the rake and tipping the dealer when you win a pot. All of these are factors that must be considered.

When to play:
You need to consider the day of the week and the time of day that will give you a favorable return. If you play in casinos and poker rooms, you might find that the tight players are there during the weekdays in the early afternoons and stay until dinner time. During that time, you might not win much because of their tight playing style. After 5pm, in come the young guns, a little bit looser and wanting a lot more action. These players might be where  your source of income will come from, as well as your losses. Their loose play could mean they stay in a hand until the last card, even though the pot odds and implied odds do not justify it. The weekend players may be entirely different then the week day players.

All of this is certainly a lot to think about, but if you are excited and interested in learning, playing, and discussing poker, then this just adds to the level of fun and excitement that you can have planning out your professional poker career choices.

What decisions have you made? What games do you play? Why do you play them? What have your results been? Are you playing for entertainment as well as profit? Do you do this full or part time? Do you consider yourself to be a pro or semi-pro?  Any thoughts or questions?

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PokerStars 25th Billion Hand Countdown

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It was a long and sleepless night as I played at PokerStars the last two days. I watched bonuses being handed out to players at tables in which the hand number being dealt to them ended in 000,000.  Every  even million numbered hand was given a special  bonus ranging from $350 to $3000 for the player with the winning hand and a smaller bonus ranging from $250 to $750 for the rest of the losing players at that table.

It was unbelievable just how excited everybody was. At the tables that received the bonuses, they sometimes went a little wild. Everyone at the No Limit table would go all-in regardless of what their cards were, knowing that they would at least share in the smaller prizes and that the winner would take all the money in the pot and the big prize.  Some higher stake table players actually lost more than they got in bonuses because they were not thinking or they were hoping to just suck out and win everything in the pot.

The final hand for the grand prize, the 25 billionth hand, took place around 5:00 am Eastern Time and the game being played was Omaha High/Low No Limit.  The two players having the winning hand each got $50,000 and a tournament package. Three of the remaining three split $100,000 three ways or $33,333 each – one got nothing, not sure why though.

I wonder what the next promotion there will be?

Did any of you get caught up in the excitement? There were extremely long waiting lists at each of the tables in most all of the games. Even empty tables filled up so fast you could not get seated. I tried at least 5 times at empty tables to get a seat and they were gone before I could click on the seat. It was a feeding frenzy during the last hour before the major prizes were awarded. Unbeleivable!

Did you lose $$$ in the process?  I lost $9 overall – during the last two nights. I had been up in money but let my guard down in a triple draw game. I had a 12348 but my opponent kept raising and I kept calling – I should have known that meant that he had the nuts – 23457 and won the hand and I lost about $8 in that hand. Live and learn as they say. Hopefully I did learn from all this.

Nine dollars was a very low price to pay for all of the excitement I shared in during the last two days.  Just watching the news feed screen showing how many hands would be dealt before the next payout was exciting.  With more than 150,000 people playing, the stats changed quickly.  Interestingly, a 1 cent 2 cent table was one of the winners proving that everyone had a chance.  The stakes and type of cash games played did not influence the winning table except that the “head up” tables were closed because they were getting too many wins. The reason for this is that they play many hands quickly and could more easily catch a “bonus” numbered hand.

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Powerplay versus Power Loss – Some thoughts

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The weekly Twitter Poker Tour Tournament is played every Thursday Night at 9 PM Eastern Time on either the FullTiltPoker or the PokerStars site online. I was looking forward to this evenings tourney. I had already pre-registered days before. But this evening turned out to be a little different than the one I had envisioned.

I live in Southern New Hampshire in a small town. My wife and I just moved here from the Boston MA area last September. As I like to say, we went from the frying pan to the freezer.  And something that has happened over five times so far including today are power losses.

The latest power loss happened at just about 8:00 PM Eastern Time, just an hour away from the start of the TPT Stars Event #8. I called the local power company and the automated message said that I was eighth in line, please wait for the next available agent. Fifteen minutes and two power bars less on the cell phone later, I was able to report the outage.

Based on past power losses, I knew that power could be out for at least 1 to 2 hours or more. So I used Twitter to alert the TPT gang about what had happened and apologized if I could not get to the table on time. What would usually happen is that my online player would be timed out and would be put into a “Sitting Out” state until I was able to reconnect.  This would be a little annoying to the other players as they would have to wait for me to time out, which could take up to 90 seconds. Even that amount of time can seem like an eternity when you are waiting to play your hand, even if only to fold it.

Power was finally restored arount 9:30 PM Eastern Time and I was able to log in to PokerStars and start playing at 9:40 PM. By this time my online player, having no guidance from me, was down in chips from the starting amount of 1500  to about 1,200 and the blinds were 50/25 for the big/small blinds.

My first hand reentering the tourney was KK and I decided to shove all-in. I needed to build up my chips fast or lose fast. Everyone folded and I won a small pot of 125. The next three hands I folded.

Then I got AJ suited and again went all in. This time I won 225 in chips.  The next twelve hands, I basically folded to raises if I was in the blind as my holdings were nothing that might win a hand. Then I caught pocket queens. And I went all in again only to be staring at pocket aces held by “AcesFull_369”. This time I lost 875 of my chips bringing me down to 445.

Six hands later I caught AA and again went all-in, putting the pressure on the others. No callers, so I got only 150 in chips.

Four hands later, I was staring at AQ suited and again went all-in. I was called by Panndy623 who held a 54 sutied and my Ace paired, giving me the pot and 695 more chips. I continued to push and shove my way around, picking up a few more chips. But by now I was losing my blinds, having poor hands.

I still had a workable amount of chips, roughly 1600 or enough to last about 10 full circuits. So I would have to take my chances and try to get more chips fast.

My last and 45th hand was a disater waiting to happen. I only had 5 3 unsuited and I was in the big blind and NickRedford was the small blind. He called, I checked and we saw flop. It came out 4 A A. Nick checked so I thought, hmm, maybe I could push him away from this pot, having done so a few times earlier this evening. I shoved all in and he called.

I was trapped as his starting hand held the dreaded Ace. I still had four outs, if any of the four 2’s hit, I would have a straight. But that was not to be. On the turn a 4 hit, given the board  4 A A 4 and Nick a full house. I was drawing dead and ending up finishing in 20th place. The river card was a queen.

Powerplay versus powerloss. Perhaps a smaller probe bet and a fold if I was re-raised or a check down if I was called was in order. I could have waited for a better hand. But…

The power loss however is another concern. We do not have backup power. Even if I had a laptop, I would have needed an expensive cell phone card to connect to the internet. This power loss  lets me know that playing online tournaments is risky for me.. Had the entry fee been higher, like the $100 or $1000 tourneys that are played everyday online, this would have hurt.

At least in a cash limit game you might lose what was in the pot at the time of the power loss but you would be timed out and not lose any more blinds and antes. So unless I had a backup generator that was reliable, I am not too interested in participating in larger tourneys, risking my entry fees to power losses versus poor power plays. Just my thoughts. What do you think?

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Small Stakes Hold'em by Ed Miller, David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth – A review

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I started playing Texas Holdem online about three years ago. I think that my interest in the game took hold as the result of watching the “World Poker Tour” TV shows on the Travel Channel. I would be mesmerized for hours watching the likes of  Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivy, Gus Hansen, David “the Devilfish” Ulliott, Jennifer Harman, Howard “The Professor” Lederer. The game seemed so simple back then … you could see each of the players hole cards and just about knew what was going to happen.

When I started playing, it turned out that it was not as easy as it looked on TV.  It took about 10 sessions of losing my entire stack at each session to realize that if I wanted to continue to play, I needed some help.  I already had a few books on the rules of Texas Holdem but it appeared that I needed to know more. So I started my search for more advanced poker books and I came across one written by a trio of authors; Ed Miller, David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth, titled “Small Stakes Hold’em”.

Some of the earlier books I’ve read said that poker was not gambling, it was a skill, like a sport, etc. But right up front this powerhouse of authors stated that “Poker is Gambling” in no uncertain terms. But the line that really caught my attention was the following: “As long as you understand fundamental gambling concepts and make correct decisions, winning will be inevitable.”  Well, I liked that phrase a whole lot. So I started reading the book and I found out that the book is geared especially for the Limit Holdem player, which I had not played before.

This book covers everything you need to know, from poker theory, poker odds, starting hands based on position, preflop play, post flop play, and river play. There are discussions about pot odds, implied odds, reverse implied odds, pot equity and more.

I believe that the most helpful part of the book is that they have a very defined table of starting hand selections for both the tight tables and loose tables that you might play at.  There are also hand quizzes and answers to many of the types of hands you are likely to run into. Whenever I get into a rut and realize that I am not making good decisions in Limit Holdem, I always come back to this book for a refresher course. This is one book that I heartily recommend that you have in your poker book collection.

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Preliminary Review – PokerTracker3

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I have downloaded and installed a 60 day free trial version of Poker Tracker 3 software. At first glance, this appears to offer me the ability to have my “cake” and eat it too.

This program is advertised as being able to do many things for the fledgling pro poker player including some of the following:

Basic booking:
Keeping track of sessions played, number of hands, wins, losses, rake taken from pot, and more for each session.

Card play:
Track your starting hands, ending hands
Track your wins and losses based on position, value of cards held, highest single win, highest single loss

“HUD” or Heads Up Display of your opponents and your own playing tendencies

And much, much more…

I have barely touched the surface of what it can do.

The best part about the program, if used properly, it can help you find the holes in your playing. You can apply that knowledge to correct these deficiencies. (Of course, you must be open to the fact that you have them).

While the data that is collected is not surprising; it did show that I perhaps have played too many hands of poor value and also out of position. PokerTracker3 showed me that I lost the most when I only had one pair or just the high card, which shows that I did not know when to fold them.

Positionally, I tended to lose the most when I was in the big blind, the small blind and “UTG” or under the gun, the first to act after the cards were dealt. I was an overall winner in all the remaining positions. But the losses as the Big Blind, the Small Blind, and the UTP player were costly enough to practically eat away at all the gains I made at all the other positions.

Record keeping alone is a good enough reason to consider  purchasing PokerTracker3. The I R S can be very picky. Just being given the ability to review my card play, session results, and hand analysis is an added plus that could make my game more enjoyable and profitable at the same time.

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