Strengths and Weaknesses
by jnells | Published Sep 04, 2012
Yesterday was Labor day and Finch, his dad, and me all went to Seabrook to play in the Labor day $150 tournament. At first we had planned on going to Rockingham Park to play in the $250 that they hosted, but Bob said he'd rather play the $150 and Finch agreed. I see where they are coming from because I much prefer playing at Seabrook, to the extent that the only time I ever consider going to Rockingham nowadays is when they are having a $250. It is the only time that the extra equity from the higher buy-in and larger playing fields outweigh the comfort of playing in a better venue against regulars whose tendencies we have a better grasp on, in my opinion. As it turned out I was not that disappointed because the Seabrook event attracted the largest field size I remember playing, a staggering 125 players.
That fact did not stop me from running my 20,000 initial chip stack down to 1,300 before the end of the 2nd blind level on 3 major pots, 2 big bluffs and one missed straight-flush draw. In one of the bluffs my opponent rivered the nuts by hitting a gut shot, and in the other I was correct that my opponents hand strength was fairly weak and he tanked the river for over 2 minutes before one of the other players talked about maybe calling the clock, which i think may have rushed his decision and he called correctly. At that point my immense skill really showed, and I skillfully got 10 BBs in with K7 against K9 pre flop, and shortly after got a naked gut shot in against top pair and a flush draw on the turn and skillfully hit the 3 outer. Yea guys I am that good. After that I was out of the danger zone and played well for the rest of the day. Unfortunately I busted in 16th, which got me my money back. At first I was the only player opposed to paying the 5 bubble spots (God people are such nits) because I was average (fucking average! every big stack was OK with literally giving money away, GOD people are such nits). I explained at this point I did not think it was a good deal for me, and shortly after I lost a significant pot and then I thought it was a good deal for me. (Hilarious after how pissed EVERYONE was at me at first but still, no one spite declined, need I say how nitty people are again?) Listen guys I make EVERY decision when playing poker based on making myself more money in the long run and I will never feel bad about it ASSHOLES. (I say that here because I stay classy on the tables, maybe because I am a life nit when it comes to conflict, ehh what the hell don't I ever get to be nitty?)
I decided I was going to write this entry about things that I think I do well and things I think I do poorly as it pertains to poker.
1) Bluffing. I feel that because of how bad people are at correctly adjusting it is correct to open absurdly wide, usually for the minimum and correctly making 1, 2, and occasionally 3 street bluffs (actually I think 3 street bluffs should be more common than 2 street bluffs but that is a long article and if I wrote it up it would be basically just paraphrasing a concept that Aaron "AEJONES" Jones talked about in one of his leggopoker videos on bluffing. But I am very frequently finding cool spots to bluff this year, whether it be turning a hand with showdown value into a bluff, 3bet bluffing with broadway cards that you could flat with pre flop, or even overbet bluffing and I feel that especially in tournaments under $1,000 it is extremely valuable to do so. Now, this could lead to spewing off some tournaments so be somewhat selective, but just at least be looking for spots. When thinking about an opponents range think about how many combos of his flop range can possibly stand multiple barrels depending on board texture and possible runoffs. If you think it could be a good spot just fucking go for it, see what happens. (I do this more in the middle and end of tourneys than in the beginning because people are more invested in the tournament at those stages)
2)Thin Value Bets. This is really important for maximizing having the best hand, which is only going to happen so often so you need to try to make the most of it when it does. It is essential if you are going to play as aggressive as I typically play, because you need to balance all the times you are trying to bluff like I was talking about in the 1st bullet. Also you need to realize that if every time you bet the river for value and get called, you win the pot, then you are not betting the river for value nearly enough. Think about it logically if deciding whether to shove the river for value you deduce that if you shove you only win the pot 51% of the time when you get called, it was still a profitable shove chip wise. You don't need to be that thin for value but i feel good when I bet for thin value and lose 35% of the time I am called, because 65% I am getting more value than the average player.
3) Abuse Your Image. Tournament poker can be a bit of a leveling war. I play aggressive so people call me in spots they wouldn't call other people, so I value bet thinner against those people and play my monsters in a way that people expect me to play my bluffs. If you are super tight all day long you are really missing the boat if once or twice a tournament you are not emptying the clip on a bluff firing multiple barrels or 4 betting all in pre flop. There are a few tournament players in Seabrook who I would almost certainly think that folding KK pre flop to if they cold 4bet shoved would be correct, and really tight players could use that to win a good size pot every time that the 3 better does not have AA (and occasionally suck out when the player does have AA)
4) Be Selfish. There is a Seabrook regular Jimmy, who I think is a profitable low-stakes poker player and a really nice guy, listened to me decline to pay the bubble yesterday and say that I would if I became short stack. He said "that makes you look like even more of a dick than you actually are". I like Jimmy and at times I feel like he liked me but he obviously thinks I am being an ass when I don't pay the bubble. I make a decision to adjust the pay out the same way I decide whether I should call an all in bet. I ask myself does this make me more money in the long run? If you are willing to throw away money making deals that you do not think benefit you, just to be a nice guy, good for you. But you need to realize that you are typically costing yourself even more money than is being taken out of the prize pool, in most of the tournaments I won at Seabrook the biggest edge I have at final tables is not the biggest hand I win. In fact the biggest hand is usually just an unavoidable cooler or coin-flip. The hands that put the most money in my pocket are the times on the bubble or just after it when people are trying to fold their way up the money latter and I am being relentlessly aggressive min-raising pre flop as wide as 84 off suit.
5)Don't Be Results Oriented/ Don't Be Delusional. These points really go together in my opinion. Poker is a game where people wager Billions of dollars a year, chess is not. The reason is not only because of how much cooler poker players are as compared to chess players, it is because in chess the best player will almost always win and the player who played the best will always win (I suck at chess way too much to know for sure if it is possible to get unlucky somehow but I don't imagine there is). For that reason why would people bet against the best player in the world? Poker is a game where the best player can't always win, and every day bad players making bad plays walk away with all the money in their pocket. This is a good thing because those same bad players now believe in their bad play and come back to continue to play badly. Analyze your play based on merit not on the outcome of a hand or session. But, don't go overboard blaming luck on your losses. I honestly believe I am one of if not the best player who plays at Seabrook regularly, but there have been at least 3 or 4 tournaments this year that I plain old shit the bed in. I played really badly and lost because of my bad play. Does it make me worse than the winner of those tournaments as an overall player no, but it made me worse that day and I recognize and try to avoid those mistakes in the future. I honestly believe if you are not getting better you are getting worse, so I still think about hands I play and subscribe to poker training sites, and write this blog which forces me to actually form complete thoughts before spewing them onto the site, in sometimes incoherent sentences that almost never are without grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes, and typoooooos.
6) Knowing When to Play a Big Pot. This is something I believe in and frequently incorporate into my game, but I would not be surprised if a better player could convince me that it was stupid. Basically the thought is that there are points in a tournament where it is more or less desirable to play a big pot based on a number of factors. It only comes up on really close decisions like deciding to call an all in where the best case is usually going to be a coin flip or making looseish re-steals all in with suited connectors (like I did yesterday to bust the tournament). I know Phil Helmuth would vomit at the idea of deciding to put your tournament life on the line in a questionable situation that you are not really sure is profitable or not, but often times I take into account a bunch of variables (average stack size, my stack size, when the blinds are going up, how close the bubble is, my table positioning, whether there is another tournament I can play if I bust (that one prob shouldn't be in here but it has been in the past) ) and often times I think if I double now I can abuse people in a way that my current stack size would not give me the opportunity to do profitably.
I could go on but I want to write about what I think are some of my biggest mistake but by no means are these the only mistakes I make.
1) Bankroll Management. I suck at this now but that is ok. The reason it is ok is I am playing the lowest stakes that are at all meaningful. I don't feel bad spending $250 of my $350 bank account balance if I don't have expenses that I need money for, I don't feel bad that I played a fairly high variance $300 satty instead of playing lower variance cash games or Seabrook tournaments. I don't feel bad borrowing money to play poker with as long as whomever I borrow from understands how it could be a month or so until I can afford to pay back. To have any shot at building up a real roll I need to take shots and then have proper BR Management if I ever get that big score (MAN if I piss away a big score (like $30k plus) I am going to be soo tilted rereading this blog). That being said, given how much time and effort I have spent learning how to play poker, and the fact that during that time there was such a thing as internet poker in the USA that didn't make you shit your pants waiting for them to pay out I am a FUCKING IDIOT for spewing the way I did. Had I approached it professionally instead of degenerately I could easily have somewhere upwards of a $100,000 bankroll instead of being nearly broke. Not that I am good enough to play high stakes but because I was emotionally invested in losing streaks, I didn't give myself a chance to progress up in stakes because I too often spewed off my account balance. As a semi-punishment, semi-laugh at the dumbass that I am, I am going to list some stupid things I did in my online poker career.
A) The first time I ran any kind of account balance up I was 18 and playing turbo HU SnGs on FTP. I put on $50 and started playing $11 HU SnGs, when I got to $100 I played $20's, I somehow got it to $500 and played $50's, and finally got it to $1000 and was playing $100's. Yep I was retarded. At the time I wasn't even good I was just lucky I was probably plus EV in $10's, maybe a slight winner in $20's but I was a huge fish in $50's and higher and once I lost a few buy ins I tilt busted the remainder of my account in a $400 HU SnG against some pro, who was probably Olivier Busquet, I hope he bought something nice with my money.
B) In late 2010, I had maybe $400 in my Stars account and because I never practiced real bankroll management I player a $100 HYPER TURBO Multi table HU tournament which I luck boxed the win in for $5,000. I withdrew some but instead of getting serious I jumped into $100 HU SnGs tilted eventually and busted it all probably moving up in stakes when losing a few matches or chasing my losses playing heads up cash which I sucked at. At this point I may have been plus EV at that level but I didn't game select, I didn't move down when I was on a downswing, and I went bust. MORON!!!!!!
C) In early 2011 I got 3rd in the nightly 100K, which was a $162 buy in and I am sure I didn't have $500 in my account at the time, which obviously continues the trend of me being really dumb. The score was worth $11,000 and I decided to try to do it right for once. I started playing tournaments well within my bankroll except for on Sundays I played too many of the big Sunday tournaments and had my worst losing day ever losing $2,000 on one Sunday. However after that I did not jump into HU cash games where I was a fish or chase my losses moving up. I decided I'd play less of the big buy-in tourneys and try to run it up the right way. Unfortunately the DOJ had other plans and I had $5,000 on Stars when Black Friday happened. A clear case of too little too late. I was an idiot back then though so I can't really blame the DOJ, though they surely didn't help me achieve my dream.
D) This has nothing to do with BR but one day I was playing several tourneys and moderately deep in one or two of them, while doing this I was sipping on some delicious apple juice and accidentally spilt it onto my lap top and it died immediately and never turned on again. I lost like 10 mins in the tournaments before borrowing my roommate's computer and busting the all of my tourneys without a good score. Finch will still occasionally laugh and say that I am so dumb that I thought I could charge my Apple laptop with Apple Juice. I know he is hilarious isn't he?
back to the point
2) Making the Right Fold. I can be a legit pay off wizard sometimes. I always find myself in really annoying spots where the absolute value of my hand is pretty good and I don't think my opponent is either bluffing enough or value betting thin enough to make it a profitable call, but I just find a way to talk myself into a call. This is just hurting my bottom line and I need to fix it.
3) Fancy Play Syndrome. I know I said I am good at finding good spots to bluff, and without being results oriented (because a bluff is not bad just because you get called sometimes) sometimes I just take it too far. I don't do it nearly as often as I used to and it is largely out of my game but it is a good example of reviewing your own play and starting to fix your leaks. Believe it or not I used to think it was Tom Dwan who I should blame, I would watch him owning people at $300/$600 games in High Stakes Poker and want to bring that to my $1/$2 game. I would estimate that at least $2,000 of my $4,500 loss the first time I went to Vegas could have been avoided if I avoided FPS. Damn you Tom Dwan !!!!! Btw now I try (emphasize try) to figure out what he is thinking as I watch old cash games on YouTube and sometimes I find something that can be brought into low stakes tournaments, for instance in my last couple of tournaments where when betting the river I took into consideration my image, my opponents view of me, and their range I decided the best bet size was more than 2 times the size of the pot.
As I said there is more but I wrote a lot today and I think I am done. Good luck at the tables and if you have any interest in following a college student who occasionally drunk tweets and occasionally tweets about poker updates on twitter follow me @JoeNelligan.