Testing results at the SnGs

Image by Jeff Croft via Flickr

I have either been playing poorly of late or running poorly, not catching the cards or playing the players correctly, so I thought I would slow down a little and try a little experiment. My idea was to play  single table Sit and Go’s until I won and then move on to playing a two table Sit and Go, and then a three table, until I reached the 10 table Sit and Go’s.

I played in the “regular” Sit and Go’s versus the “Turbo” version with the shorter time limits when blinds are increased. I was not sure how scientific this approach was but I first played three single table SnGs before winning one. I then went on to the two table SnG’s, not winning either one of them before deciding to call it a night.

So the jury is out on this idea – at least for the time being.

What do you do when your results are not going the way you want? How do you change your approach to winning? Can you really control your results, long term?

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Three tourneys played – no tourney won.

Jack of spades.
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The first tourney I played yesterday was the Twitter Poker Tour’s European event played at 7pm BST (2 pm EST) hosted by the Twitter Poker Tour and was played on PokerStars. While I was hoping for a fourth 1st place finish in a row, that did not happen. I played well enough to make the final table of 9 out of a field of 13 entrants. One bad decision caused me to exit out of the tourney in 9th place. I had three nines and there were three cards of the same suit already on the board after the turn card was shown giving the possibility that my opponent might make a flush if they already had not done so. I made an all in bet and after a minute I was called. My opponent had already made the flush. I still had ten outs, ten cards left in the deck that could make  me the winner but the last card was a blank, and I was out in ninth place. While I could have folded, I was hoping to scoop up a large amount of chips.

Tourney two – was played on FullTiltPoker and was an Omaha Hi tourney that started with 271 entrants. This tourney was unremarkable in that I never got hands good enough to win pots and finished in 74th place. No questionable decisions made.

Tourney three – was also played on FulltiltPoker and was a HORSE tourney that started with 165 entrants. I really enjoyed playing in this tourney and for the most part I was in the top 10% of the leaders. I was in the middle of the pack towards the end of the tourney when blinds and antes were quite high. My best games were played during the Limit Hold ‘Em and RAZZ segments of the tourney. My downfall was in the Stud Hi/Lo segment and I was chasing both the high and the low. My cards ended up not being high enough or low enough and I lost most of my chips and was unable to recover. I ended up finishing 55th.

In spite of the poor finishes, I enjoyed the tourneys and felt that most of my decisions were sound. But in poker, it only takes a few incorrect decisions to cost you a win.

What kind of tourneys to you enjoy competing in? Do you play in games with more than 100 people? More than a thousand? How does that change your approach to the game?

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The dangers of Omaha Hi/Lo

A dealer button or "buck" next to a ...
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I really enjoy playing Omaha Hi/Lo but have not been doing so of late until yesterday. I played in a low limit game of .10/.20 blinds and had been playing for over an hour. My starting stack had been reduced by about 40%. I had won a few small pots and lost a few larger ones when my hand did not improve on the turn or on the river in spite of having 12 outs or more to complete my hand. That is the nature of Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo.

You need to know when to hold them and when to fold them and when to go for the scoop. In Omaha Hi/Lo there is the chance that you will have to split the pot because your hand will win only the high side or the low side. To play Omaha Hi/Lo you really want to scoop up both sides of the pot.

The following hand developed that I totally misread.  I was dealt 4d,As,9h,7d at the dealer button.  Not a great hand, but good enough to see a flop cheaply. But it turned out not to be a cheap flop as one person raised the pot by one small bet. Four of us called and five of us saw the flop of 9d,Jd,Ah. I had hit top and bottom pair and a flush draw. Lots of chances to win, perhaps the whole pot as there appeared to be no low hand possible unless two small cards hit the turn and the river and did not pair each other or the board.

We all checked and the original raiser raised 5BB. The others folded and I just called with my drawing hand. The turn card was a 9s, giving me a full house. I made a pot sized bet putting me almost all in. My opponent called. The river card was a 5h. I raised all in and my opponent called.  He showed down his hand of 2d 7h Jh Jc, giving my opponent a full house, jacks full of nines, while I had the losing full house of nines full of aces.

The problem of the way I played this hand was that I some how thought that my hand was Aces full of nines, giving me the nut full house.  A mistake of this type is not uncommon in Omaha. Players just have to be extremely carefull of knowing what their hand really is. That was my last hand as I had busted out and decided that I did not want to rebuy back in. Lesson learned – I hope.

Do you play Omaha Hi/lo? Have you ever misplayed or misread a hand?  What was the worse situation you placed yourself into in error?

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Pocket nines may be the new "pocket Jacks".

Poker chips
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In the poker community, there is a saying about how to play a pair of pocket “Jacks”. The saying is: “there are three ways to play pocket them … and they are all wrong.

In fact in any hand you have three choices. You can call the previous bet, you can raise the bet or you can fold your hand. In the case of limit poker, unless you decide to fold, you should always raise when you enter the pot. If you are re-raised, you can decide later what to do. Perhaps you just call and see the flop, and if the game is limit hold ’em, it will only cost you one bet if you are playing heads up. If your hand improves after the flop and the other flop cards are not higher than your jacks, and there are no straight or flush possibilities, you are good to go by betting before you see the turn card.

In each stage of play, you have to make decisions based on what the board cards are, the betting pattern of your opponent, and the type of cards he might play in this situation.

In two of the last three limit hold ’em cash sessions I have played, it was the pocket nines that have cost me the most to play. The reason this happened was that I did not credit my opponent with having the hand that their betting represented. I was married to my pocket nines and would not put them down in spite of the building evidence showing me that the nines were not the best hand.

So, in at least two cases, I had played them wrong. Oh well.

Do you get so attached to a hand that you cannot see that you might be beaten? Do you fail to notice that your opponents sometimes will have good or better hands than you do? Are you able to come to decisions that will save you extra bets by folding in time?

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Thoughts on Limit Poker play

Example of position in texas holdem
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So far, of all the different games of poker that I play regularly, the form that I had the best results with is Limit poker. I think the reason I prefer Limit is the fact that I have a reasonable understanding of how to  play successfully.

There is still a lot about limit that I have to learn. Such as when I am being re-raised, I might be beaten. In limit, there is less bluffing than there is in pot limit and no limit. More hands are played right to a showdown. This is because you can only raise the pot by one bet even with the best of hands. And a one bet raise can usually give your opponent the right pot odds to call your raise, while hoping they either have the best hand or make it at the river or the turn.

That is not to say there is no bluffing. Currently, when I am going to  be involved in a hand, I will come into the pot with a raise and I am usually going to re-raise and cap the betting if I am re-raised. This more aggressive style does let me win more large pots when I hit my cards and will sometimes allow me go win the pot uncontested.

Occasionally, I run into the type of player that calls all of my bets even though they have the best hand and they win the showdown. I had been dealt pocket nines and bet out pre-flop and was called by one player. The flop was a rainbow flop, no high cards, no pairs, no straight possibilities.  I bet out and was called. The flop did not appear to help my opponent and I bet out and was called. On the river, the same thing happened. I bet out and was called. At showdown, my opponent showed a pair of pocket Kings. I mucked my hand without showing him my pocket Nines. My opponent might have been able to win extra bets but was happy to take what I give him by my betting.  One element of limit that I have not used much is the check-call, check-raise or check-fold.

Do you play limit games? Does your starting range of cards matter? Does position matter as well?  How to you play limit games?

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Bankroll management

Windows NT 3.
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I started recording my profitability using a new Excel spreadsheet on May 29th and saw all my results plummet last week. It did not matter if I was playing a cash ring game, a “sit and go” game, or a tourney, I was starting to get very bad results. Because of that, I was starting to wonder about my poker skills or lack of them. I knew that any poker player can run into a stretch of losing games and that is why it is so important to practice bankroll management.

In poker, bankroll  management is a method of allocating your resources so that you do not go broke. As an example, let’s say that you have a $1,000 bankroll. The formula that I use allows me to divide my bankroll by 500 to determine what size limit game I should play in or by 2,000 to determine what size “no limit” game I should play. Doing this allows me to play in a $1.00/$2.00 limit game or a .25/.50 no limit game. I could also play in any tourney for no more than 2% of my bankroll or no more than $20.00 per tourney. If I am a good to very good player, these guidelines should help prevent me from going broke during my poker career.  Your mileage may vary. If you are a very good or great player, you might be able to play in higher levels without fear of going broke. Again, these are just guidelines.

If my bankroll goes under this amount, then I need to either add more money to the bankroll or drop down a level in the games I play until my winnings increase. The bankroll should only be used for poker and poker related expenses. Most importantly, you need to track your results so that you can see where you are going. These records are needed during tax time so that you can declare your net winnings and pay your appropriate taxes.

Getting back to the results, my last 7 games were profitable and I am slowly climbing out of the pit that I sank into. I expect to be in the black and on track by the end of this week based on the amount of time I have spent playing and the amounts I am winning per session.

Do you measure your results? Do you use money management techniques playing poker? Do you play mostly for recreation and the results are not as important?

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My third #TPTE win in a row


This is the third time in a row that I have won the Twitter Poker Tour’s European event played at 7pm BST (2 pm EST). As this is the first season that the Twitter Poker Tour has had this event to enable the Europeans a chance to play on either FullTiltPoker or PokerStars.

I really like playing with all of them. They are a great group and they bring their “A” game to the table. It was no easy task and I had the luck of the “Irish” to get me out of some tough scraps. Of course it does not hurt when you catch the cards you need at the right time.

Speaking of cards, my first 59 hands that I was dealt did not contain a pair? What are the odds of not getting a pocket pair in 60 hands? I had to contend with seeing the flop in order to decide if I could keep playing a hand and that was not easy with the aggressive betting of the other players.  Fortunately for me, the cards got better as the game went on.

My plan for next week? Just play my best and let the chips fall where they may (hopefully in my stack of course).

Do you have tourneys that you like to play regularly? What sites do you like to play them on? Do you have any superstitions that you bring with you to the table?

A day off hopefully will correct the off days

A day without playing poker means a day without any losses or wins. Even just 24 hours can help to change a mind set. As far as results, we shall see this afternoon when I play in the Twitter Poker Tour’s European event being played on FullTiltPoker at 7pm BST (2 pm EST).

I had a lovely day, topped off with my wife Diane, taking me out to dinner at a tavern we both have enjoyed going to in the past. The food and service was still just as good as ever even though the name changed due to new management.

I finished off the “non-poker-playing” day by reading all of my tweets, watching part of a video from Deuces Cracked and reading part of a book by David Sklansky. The video was about playing limit hold ’em at the micro levels, .02/.05, and I realized as I was watching it that I was trying the same techniques while playing lower limit games of .25/.50 and .50/1.00. This may be an error and I will have to review my books to see. The book, one of my birthday gifts, was titled Poker, Gaming, and Life and written by David Sklamsky. Even though I have read only seven pages including the foreword and introduction, I can already see that this is the book for me to read at this exact moment in my poker career. I will review it later in more detail once I complete it. The majority of the tweets were birthday greetings – thank you very much – and WSOP updates about some of my favorite pro players.

How to you spend your days off from poker? Do you do something different? Are you recharged after? Do you even take time off from the poker world?

Time for a break – do some gardening, housework, reading (poker books)

My Book
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As I mentioned in my last post, I have been running bad in both SnG’s, MTT’s, and cash games. I think that my decision making process is being affected and that I am not giving myself a chance to win. To that end, I have designed today as a non-poker-playing day.

Everyone needs a break now and then and heaven knows I have a lot of other things that need to get done. Even though my birthday is today, we celebrated it last Sunday. Of all the wonderful and thoughtful gifts, I received, some included poker books that were on my reading wish list. Now I know what some of you might be thinking? “Steve already has over 30 poker books, why would he want more?”

Well, I think that I can always learn something new and am always looking for fresh ideas to help me make better decisions. In the past, whenever I have had a bad run, I would go back to my books and try to plug the holes in my game. That is what I shall do before the Thursday #TPTE game at 7pm BST time.

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Stuck on the poker games – both cash and tourneys

Hope - Faith - Love - Luck
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For the last few days, I have been running bad, both in cash games and in tourneys. It seems that when I had good cards, like AA, no one wanted to get involved and I’d win a small pot. But if I held 55’s or 99’s, watch everyone try to get every last one of my chips. It was not  as if I was giving them away. Or was it? In some cases when my chip stack was dwindling, I would try to stay in a hand even though all the evidence pointed to the fact that my opponent had a better hand.

My desire to have a winning hand did not make it happen. I actually needed a better hand to win. There were a few times when I knew someone was bluffing, like three times in a row, but I would call him down on the forth time and be beaten by a high pocket pair, beating my top pair. And I am not even going to talk about what happened when I had pocket Jacks!

My last good and memorable win was last week at the #TPTE. Thank goodness there is another #TPTE game this week.

Do you ever run into a rough patch of poker playing? Do you try to force a win with less than stellar holdings? How do you hand adversity at the felt?

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