MTT Poker Player

I am a Professional Poker Player and Coach from England.

Friday, 25 November 2011

One Hand At A Time

I wanna talk a little about variance and not letting it effect your game. Firstly I'm gonna talk a little about cold decking.

The last 100 SNG's that i have played have been very frustrating and i will tell you why. Most people see variance as having the best hand and it being outdrawn and although i do define this as variance i don't see it as the most frustrating form. To me cold decking is probably worse. This week i have encountered many situations where i know my ranges are very close to perfect but time after time i am running into hands a lot more than i should whilst stealing or catching someone at the top end of there range and just seeing tourney after tourney disappear into the minus column. Now why is this more frustrating? Because you cant see directly that you was ahead and got unlucky the only way you know whether you was unlucky in that situation is if you know the likely outcome of that hand over infinity and how far away the current hand is from that. Another frustrating part of variance like this is it wont be shown in your Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker EV adjusted figures.

As shown here:

I find as I'm sure some of you do as well that if you have a bad poker day, week or month sometimes it makes you feel better to bring HM or PT up and have a look at Ev adjusted winnings so that you can feel good about yourself. Now take a look at the graph above and find the good! Cold decking is sneaky :)

All this ranting brings me on to my main point ” Playing one hand at a time”

As a poker player you can only control what you do, not what cards are dealt to each player and what cards will come in future or throughout the current hand. So each hand is played on its merit. How is the most profitable way to play this hand? This is answered by past history with the player, hud stats, position, pot size, relative stack size etc. All of this information isn’t effected by any uncontrollable natures of poker and as such you shouldnt change the way you are gonna play a hand just beacause you have been effected by the random elements within the game of poker recently.

I will give two examples of this (SNG):

Last 6 of a SNG: Lag SB(Reg)- stealing sb 80% he opens for standard 2.5bb and you have 10bb holding KTo. Now this is a shove 100%. Now get inside the mind of a player who lost his last 6 coin flips, 3 of his 80% hands and has ran into a hand in the last 3 of 4 SNG's, this can effect his thinking and make him lay this down here.

Same as above but now 4 handed you hold 87s. SB stack is 1400 and you have 2000, blinds 100/200 everyone covers you both. Now this is a fold. But get inside the mind of a player who has cashed his last 10 SNG's and has had 4 1St's in that run. If he is running good he may think a shove is EV+ here when its not.

The Key here is never be results orientated.

Losing Is Actually Winning!

Its an outrageous statement i know but i wanna talk about what i mean and how it applies to poker.

You will often hear quotes along the lines of "You learn more when you lose than you do when you win". This holds very true in poker, probably more so than in other aspects of life.

Say for instance you are a SNG player like me, if you play 200 Sng's in a week and run at 11% roi you feel great. But what are you learning? I know a lot of you will say "well i do study when I'm winning at 11%" I'm not disputing that but can you honestly say that you study as much winning at 11% over 1000 as you would if you was losing at 11% over a 1000? The answer is most probably no and since poker is a long term game and for most of us sad souls a lifetime game the value of learning and becoming better players over our poker careers is worth a lot.

Most people give you a few options if your losing bad as mentioned above.

1) Take a break and come back to the game when you feel you are playing your "A" game again

2) Move down in limits

3) Play through it

Now lets take a look at these options and their merits.

1) Taking a break- This is a valid option and to some that feel that stress building up inside of them is too much for them this is prob best, but what value does it have? When you come back from your break there is a good chance variance will still be there but now you are rustier than you was before and your poker skills if anything have decreased and as such in the long term this is possibly a -EV decision(note this doesn't apply to people who tilt easily and often or people that would use this time purely to study their game. In which case i would advocate that this is the most EV+ option)

2) Move down in limits- Now i see the validity in this option to help you regain your confidence but once again lets ask "what value does it have?" If you are a consistent winner at a particular limit(note once again if you are on very strict bankroll management or cant afford to refill this may be your only option) and you have a bankroll which can easily withstand your current variance stretch then why move down to regain confidence? you know this is a part of poker that will always be there. In the long run if you are a proven winner at limit then moving down is also a -EV$ decision.

These 2 points have led me onto point 3 which is the basis of this blog entry and why i think its beneficial.

3) Play through it- Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that playing through it is the best option for everyone as i have stated above, but think about the benefits you will gain.

Firstly by playing through you will end this particular variance stretch quicker.

Secondly as you keep losing you try harder to win and as such you actively seek leaks in your game and how to fix them.

I see both of these points as EV+. Especially the second point. If by losing 50 buy ins you have filled leaks that will allow you a 0.5% roi increase over your poker career then how much money will that make you over your poker career?!

To conclude you can see that losing can actually have a very positive outcome on your long term game.