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My Return to Online Poker – Part II

by Matthew Hilger |  Published: Oct 30, 2013

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Matthew HilgerI recently returned from a trip to Colombia for four weeks where I was able to play some online poker after a two-year hiatus. In Part I, I discussed many of the questions I had. How tough are the games nowadays? Has the playing style changed significantly? How do I counter that? How rusty will I be? What sites should I play on? What stakes should I start out in? What types of games should I play?

My first week wasn’t this grand success I had envisioned. I decided to only play at one site, PartyPoker, as there were cashout issues for such a short trip. This limited some of my options in terms of what I could play. The first couple of weeks I dabbled in many different variants to see what the current state of play was like. This article will discuss some of the variants that I found difficult and the one variant that I feel is a gold mine.

After the first week of play, I felt that getting back into it was kind of like riding a bicycle. I fell right back into the swing of things. I don’t think overall playing styles have changed that much, at least in the lower-level buy-in tournaments without the big online tournament grinders.

I played PartyPoker’s version of speed poker, FastForward. In speed poker, you play low-limit no-limit cash games. As soon as you fold, you are taken to a new table. It is possible to play hundreds of hands an hour. The downside is that you get few reads on your opponents’ play. I guess regulars likely have software to help them with that. I found the play quite tough. Given that opponents can wait for good hands, the bad players aren’t playing as many weak hands as they might normally play. I found it difficult to get reads on players, so bluffing was difficult. Overall, for the low stakes, I found the games to be quite a grind and I just hated it. It’s like watching paint dry.

I dabbled a little in some $2-$4 limit hold’em. That game used to be my specialty many years ago. Today, I think most of the $2-$4 players would have dominated the $20-$40 games I used to play in. I found the quality of play to be very good. I doubt anyone can make much money without some type of rakeback strategy. For me, this is not fun poker and a major grind.

The normal sit-n-gos take too long and the quality of play was decent. For the multitable tournaments, the level of play was pretty much the same from a few years ago. There were lots of weak players in the lower level buy-ins from $20-$100. The problem for me was finding enough time to play them, as I was on vacation and didn’t have long hours to play at a time.

Then I discovered the hyper-turbo six-handed sit-n-gos. The quality of play was horrendous. I literally spotted errors from my opponents every three-to-four hands. Buy-ins are from $11 to $33. Payouts were 60 percent to first and 40 percent to second. The blinds increase very fast so they never last more than 15 minutes and are typically over a lot faster. The beauty about them is that I could play them whenever I wanted. It was easy to play four to six of them at a time. I pretty much focused on the hyper-turbos my last two weeks with a few multi-tournaments thrown in when I had time.
Here were my stats:

In 318 tourneys, 39 percent cash rate. Twenty-percent first place, 19 percent second place. My first-place rate improved dramatically over the last half of tournaments played, and I suspect that over the long-term the first-place percentage would be a few points higher than the second-place percentage.

I think my overall cash rate was quite good given that these are very short tourneys, so time is limited to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses. But the beauty is that your opponents are making multiple mistakes. Most did not understand when to push or when to call. Many players raised and folded to pressure when short-stacked. Some opponents with short stacks would call raises and then fold on the flop. I was getting a 6-to-7 percent return on investment (ROI) on tourneys that lasted from one minute up to fifteen minutes. That is quite a good return and that doesn’t include points/rakeback.

Note that I have never really studied sit-n-go strategy. I am not an expert on the Independent Chip Model (ICM). After a two-year layoff, I don’t have push and call charts memorized. I played by feel and got some good results. After playing over 300 tournaments, I suspect that with a little study and a little more experience I might be able to improve my play slightly. There were situations where I wondered, “What is the optimum strategy in this spot?” But I’m also not sure how accurate my results are with only 318 tourneys. The only thing I do know is that there were very few regulars and I spotted a lot of weak play on a constant basis.

If I was living overseas and could play regularly online, I wouldn’t write this article. I wouldn’t want others to know about this gold mine. But I’m not living overseas and can’t play online. If you happen to be able to play online poker and are looking for a profitable variant that requires very short time windows, try the hyper-turbos at PartyPoker. You can thank me later. ♠

Matthew is the owner of Dimat Enterprises, “Publishing Today’s Best Poker Books”. Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time Volume III is available at pokerbooks.InternetTexasHoldem.com in both print and e-book format. You may also try our new iPad app for free, Poker Coach Pro, based on content from the Winning Poker Tournament series.