FTP Tourney – What happens when 3rd in chips goes against the CHIP Leader!

Gambling man
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I was in a 45 person “Multi-Table Sit and Go” on FullTilt last night. Of late I have been playing a better style of poker. I had worked myself up to the top 5 at least 5 times during the tourney.

Some hands I would bet for value,  some hands were bluffs or semi-bluffs. I even called a short stack with pocket Aces by going all in to prevent anyone else from joining me. I was pleased to see him have AJ off suit. I was still pleased when the flop had a Jack and two blanks. The turn was a blank which was good. But I was not pleased when a Jack hit the river costing me about 15% of my chips.

I brushed off the beat as that is what happens in poker. Two hour later I reached the final table in second position in chips. There was a lot of raising and folding and for the most part I stayed out of the fray unless I had premium hands or a strong draw. The chip leader had almost five times as much chips as any of us and was not afraid to use them to force us to fold small pairs or marginal hands.

My usual strategy at the final table is to let almost everyone beat each other up and then go up against the chip leader head to head. We were  down to five players and all of us were in the money. At this point I caught a pocket pair of tens. The blinds were 500/1000 and I raised to 3,000 from the cut off position. The button folded, the small blind was the chip leader and he raised me 3,000 more. At this point he had 25,000 and I hand 7,900. He had been shoving people around for the last five hands and I thought for about 3 seconds … and shoved all in. He insta-called and showed pocket Queens. My pocket tens did not improve and I was out in 5th place.  Had I folded and ended up in forth, I would have doubled my cash out.

I did not stick to my original strategy and it cost me a significant amount of prize money due to my boldness. At the least, if I had called and seen the flop, I would still have had enough chips to maneuver for an orbit or two more. I could say that I was going for the gold but in reality I did not follow my time proven game plan.

Do  you ever stray the course and let testosterone rule your play? Do you have a game plan going into a tourney or do you just play and see what happens and go from there?

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Using new concepts – before you are ready … results might varp

An image of a person playing the poker varient...
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I am concentrating on playing limit hold ’em in cash games while playing no limit hold ’em in tournaments. I am doing this while reading a series of  “PokerEssays” written by Mason Malmuth. The books I am reading are titled: Poker Essays, Poker Essays, Volume II, and Poker Essays, Volume III.

I am doing this because of my desire to improve my poker skills and the results are interesting in that they are mixed. I have finished reading the first two in the series and have just started the third. What I have been trying to do is to take some of the concepts I have learned to the table while they are fresh in my mind.

Some of these ideas have to do with how to select what hands to play in what position; how to think about what you are trying accomplish with that hand and what actions you should take to accomplish it. Each idea builds on previous ones and the strategy varies as it applies to your opponent’s playing abilities.

The challenge I have run into is trying out an idea, only to find that the next unread paragraph or chapter contained further information that would have further explained how to use that idea or concept properly. But overall, I can see an improvement in my understanding of the poker thinking process. I should be able to finish the series this week and put into practice many of these concepts.

When you learn a new concept or idea, how do you test it out? Do you try it online or at a poker room? Do you test online using the play money games or do you use your poker bankroll to test the theories?

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Reading the "Poker Essays" and thinking a little really does help

Rise Above, Once More
Image by Spencer Finnley via Flickr

As I mentioned in the last few posts, I have been stuck of late, playing poker online. Overall, I am still in the red, but, thanks to the essays of Mason Malmuth, I am starting to overcome some of my numerous shortcomings. The books I am reading are titled: Poker Essays, Poker Essays, Volume II, and Poker Essays, Volume III.

Malmuth has a lot to say about various parts of the game and since there is so much to poker if played right, you need to review each phase of your game.

One of the problems that I was having was leaving a session with less than I started with. I know it is too easy to say that you always should leave the table a winner. That might be the goal of everyone else at the table as well. But in my case, I was playing too many hands. I would win with the good hands and then give back the winnings with the marginal hands.

Just being careful about hand selection has helped both my cash game and my tourney play. Yesterday afternoon, I captured my fourth 1st place finish of the Twitter Poker Tour’s European event played at 7pm BST (2 pm EST) hosted by the Twitter Poker Tour played on PokerStars. While many of the hands were not great, they ended up winning me all of the chips.

I still have a lot of work left to improve in my game including game selection, site selection, and many ideas from the essays to incorporate. This is a start in the right direction.

How do you work to improve your game? Do you think about each move you make before you do it? Does even thinking about folding or calling or raising help? How do  you grow as a player?

One way you can lose money at the cash games – play too many hands

I have been in a slump recently in my cash and tourney play at the felt. It was time to go back and look at what I was doing in order to turn things around. As I mentioned in my last post, I am reading the “Poker Essays” of Mason Malmuth: Poker Essays, Poker Essays, Volume II, and Poker Essays, Volume III.

One of the ideas that Mr. Malmuth mentions as a possible weakness is playing too many hands. Most of the online sites that I play on record the number of hands that I play, the number of flops that I see, as well as the number of turns and the number of rivers.

While your mileage may vary, in general it is suggested that a good player will only play 17% of the hands that are dealt.  One of the reasons that the percentages might go higher is that you will be in the big and the small blind about twice every nine or ten hands. It is very easy to be in at least 25 to 40% of the hands when you get cards that you think you can win with, along with defending your blinds.

During one session last night I actually played in almost 45% of all the hands dealt to me. Of the 122 hands dealt, I played 54 hands and won with 22 of them. The bottom line after two hours of play was that I was .50 cents ahead.  Had I been more selective, my earnings would probably have been higher. The 32 hands that I lost in were part of the problem. Some of the hands did not have a high expectation of winning.  Although a few of these hands were good, the opponent’s hand was better. For sure I could have played in 16 less hands and had a larger profit at the end of the session.

Do you play too many hands? Do you have a high win rate? Are you selective about entering a pot? Does position matter?

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Poker Essays by Mason Malmuth – A partial review

Cover of "Poker Essays"
Cover of Poker Essays

I currently own Poker Essays, Poker Essays, Volume II, and Poker Essays, Volume III written by Mason Malmuth. I acquired the first volume by purchasing it and I received the other two as gifts from my wife, Diane.

So far, I have read the first volume completely, and 95% of Volume II. These books could not have come at a better time. Currently my results at poker playing are in the red. This can mean one of two things. I am either having a run of “bad luck” (in poker, there really is no such thing as luck so lets say I am have a losing spell) or I am a poor player.

It is entirely possible that both statements are true. I may be having a downturn and I may also be a poor player. The good news is that I have some tools that might help me discover which problem I really have and could help me to turn it around. One of the problems is that poor results can cause a good player to play poorly and a poor player to become a worse one. That is quite a dilemma for the aspiring poker professional.

As I stated, I have help in the form of these essays. Mason Malmuth discusses various aspects of a player’s game. He presents poker ideas in a simple and easy to understand format. He gives examples. He gives quizzes. He instructs and above all he challenges the players who read his books to think. To think about how to act; to think about why you should act. Above all, he also tells  you he does not have all the answers. But many of the answers he does have are worth the cost of acquiring these books of essays.

I also have a spreadsheet showing my results. And I have a plan using these essays. My goal is to be come a more consistent winning player. To do this, I must think about my game and plan to act accordingly. In fact, based on Poker Essays, Volume II, I play to stay at the levels I am currently in, which are the micro levels of .10/.20, .25/.50 and .50/1.00. More than likely, the .25/.50 will be fine unless I continue to loose, then I will step down to the next level.

These problems and solutions come at a good time for me because they give me the opportunity to effect change before I damage my bankroll and before I give up on the idea of poker as a profession. I have these tools and more to help me develop as a player.

Do you ever have losing sessions? Do you wonder about your skill as a player? Do you blame bad luck for your loses? Do you have any tools or aids to help you improve? What do you do to try to turn things around?

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Online Cash games and Note taking

PKR.com screenshot
Image by JohnSeb via Flickr

When I play online poker of late, I take notes about the other players. Their betting patterns, the type of hands they show down. How they enter a pot, how they act after the flop, the turn and the river. Then whenever I play them again I can review my notes in order to make decisions on how to play them.

I do take into account that the last actions I may have recorded might not be how they normally play. So I will add to my observations about them for future reference.  It sometimes helps to know that a certain player will go on tilt when they have lost two or three large pots in a row. You can take advantage of that type of information.

There is one player that I play that I will fold pocket Kings, Queens or Jacks to if he reraises me and I do not improve after the flop. He usually has the goods. As I mentioned, you do have to be careful as some players vary the way that they play.

Do you take notes while playing online? Are your notes helpful to you? Do you ever take notes at a live game?

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Tourneys and Cash Games – Mixed results

Andy Bloch continues his march.
Image by waldo483 via Flickr

Since playing in the #TPT last Thursday night, I have played in three small tourneys, placing third in one, losing in the second one and breaking even in the third one. I think I am going to be more selective about the tourneys that I play in. I certainly will continue to play the #TPTE and on occasion, the #TPT as well as some of the Friday #miniTPT’s.

I have slowly made some gains in my Limit Hold ‘Em cash games, taking back more cash then I started with in the last three sessions I have played in. The last session was in the .50/1.00 levels, where I intend to stay at until the end of June, which is fast approaching. My goal is to work up to the $2/4 and perhaps the $3/6 levels by the end of July or August. In order to do this, I will be reading my new books and watching videos to get pointers about playing at these levels profitably.

Do you have goals for your poker playing? Are there separate goals for cash games versus tourneys? How do you go about organizing your poker career?

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