Saturday, June 16, 2007

Weak-tight = -EV

Things have been on a downturn for me lately. I played another 5 table $1.25 SNG this morning. Finished higher than I have in quite a while: seventh. Places paid: six. I sucked out a couple of times to stay alive when I probably should have busted because I made poor plays. But the biggest problem I detected was that I played too weak most of the time. I tried pulling a few positional bets and steals, and what do you know - they worked. Maybe my table image was so tight that my raises got some respect. But I need to take more advantage of that. I also need to be ready to put my chips on the line when my stack starts getting short, and not try to fold my way up the ladder so much.

My bankroll on FullTilt is now down to $5.26. I'm sure I am playing scared because I don't want to go through the hassles of trying to make a deposit. But if I don't take some more risks, I will just bleed away my last few pennies more slowly. If I go to zero on FT, it shouldn't be such a great loss to me. I still have over $150 on PokerStars, and I can make that last for a while considering the micro-stakes at which I play. Of course, I could bleed that stack away too with weak-tight play, so I should practice my aggression over there as well.

I did finish fourth in the APL tourney this past Tuesday. I got very lucky on a hand about midway through that I should have been busted on, when I called an all-in from a player who had me covered. I had AJo with which I had called a preflop raise from UTG. Flop was 2-3-4 rainbow. UTG and I both checked. Turn was a J. UTG pushed. I thought he might have been playing a J with a smaller kicker, so I called. I was half right: he had a J, but his kicker was the other J. The river was a 5, filling my gutshot straight and giving me the nice sized pot. Those chips kept me around and gave me something to work with.

I played some Limit HE last night for the first time in quite a while. My wife and son and I are going on a cruise in a couple of weeks, and there is a good chance the ship's casino will have a limit HE table, so I thought I should get some hands in before we go. There were so many donkeys at my $0.10 - 0.20 table, I couldn't believe it. People would play all kinds of crap - any paint, any A, any two suited cards - and chase to the river. Of course, you know what that means - suckouts galore. I didn't get many cards worth playing, and when I did, they ended up second best more often than not, so I lost most of my buy-in. Frustrating as all get-out.

I know I have holes, and I hope I can plug them. I also hope that the cards fall my way just a little more often; wouldn't that be nice?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Get back on the horse that threw you?

I played in another 45-player $1.25 SNG on FullTilt last night. I hadn't played in one for a few weeks so I had to get back into the mindset. I started out slow, but caught a couple of very nice hands, such as a flopped nut flush that I milked for a decent pot. I built a healthy stack and was playing fairly well as I tend to do when I get some chips to work with.

Yes, here comes the "but" part of the story. I don't have the hand history so I will recount the carnage as best I can from memory.

I have about 5600 in chips. Blinds are 120/240, and I'm in the BB. I get Q7o, and it's folded to the SB who completes, and I check. Flop is K-Q-x of mixed suits. SB checks, I small-bet my second pair, SB calls. Turn is an 8. SB bets small. Thinking he doesn't have a K, I raise 960. He reraises me double. I now have about 4400 left.

So, I got on the horse on this hand and I spurred him on with my raise. But when the villain reraised me, I should have put him on a hand that could beat me (K-x, two pair, something) and reined in my steed so we could run again later. Instead, I kicked him even harder, right toward the brick wall straight ahead, with a re-reraise all in with nothing more than middle pair. The villain instacalled and showed Q8. His two pair held up and I crashed into the unyielding barricade of my donkery, busting in 10th place.

I could not believe that I committed such blatant poker hara-kiri. I told myself recently that I was going to play smarter and not be afraid of folding to wait for another hand when the signs were there that I was probably beat. And I had plenty of chips to work with, even if I had folded to his reraise. There was plenty of fishy play in this tourney and I should have been able to go much deeper.

I was so disgusted with myself after that hand that I told my wife, quite seriously, that I had just played my last hand of poker. Ever. I felt like I didn't deserve to play, that if I could throw my chips away like that I shouldn't be allowed near a table, virtual or actual felt. I gathered up almost all of my poker how-to books and put them in a shopping bag to take to Half Price Books to sell off. (I saved a couple books for sentimental reasons.) The bag sits on the floor about two feet from me now, ready to go.

My wife scoffed at my declaration that I was quitting. I've done it before, and so far I have always gone back on my pronouncements. She told me, quite wisely, that everybody makes stupid plays sometime, and I shouldn't quit playing because I was a donkey in this tourney, if poker is something I enjoy. My answer was that I wasn't sure I was enjoying poker as much as I used to, that I felt like my game was standing still while the players around me were getting better. It isn't fun when you look around the table and decide that maybe you really are the sucker.

After my wife calmed me down, I told her that I would have to give my poker future some careful thought. I considered changing my tactic from quitting forever to just taking the month of June off from poker completely. No playing, no reading poker books or blogs, no watching poker on TV, nothing. Now, having slept on it, I am not on mega-tilt like I was last night. After all, even if I run the horse full speed over a cliff, of my own volition, that doesn't mean I should never get on one again. What would that teach me? That I definitely am a loser and a quitter. I don't want to be that. I may never be a super-skilled poker shark, but I can strive to learn from my mistakes and not allow them to beat all of my self-respect out of me.

That doesn't mean that I am jumping back into more tourneys with guns blazing, bound to show myself and all those donkeys out there that I am a fearless, badass mofo. I will, instead, be sensible and prudent, find my leaks and try to plug them (if I can find patches big enough), and work towards a steady improvement of my game. I may even put a few of those books back on the shelf, so I can use them in my improvement plan.

Many of you have probably heard about Chris Ferguson's quest to start from a zero online bankroll and build it to $10,000 or more. He talks about it in an interview on Pokerworks. I think that is an admirable project, and maybe I can try to accomplish something similar. He has a good headstart on me, so I expect he will reach his goal sooner than I could, but I figure it's worth pursuing. Perhaps the quest will give me an incentive to write regularly in this blog, to provide reports on my progress and my experiences along the way.

I don't know if I will get any playing in this weekend, but we will see what develops in the coming weeks. Stand by for my next announcement that I am done with poker for good, for keeps, for eternity. Or at least until I come off tilt.