Friday, January 30, 2009

QFV on Hold

I played a little yesterday and then decided it was time for mini vacation. So I took most of the day off, cooked a pair of Cornish game hens with some home made crab cakes for my wife and I, drank some nice wine and relaxed.

Today I went to the zoo with my wife and my son for a few hours in the morning, came home and took a 2 hour nap in the middle of the day.

Tomorrow I'm off to wine country for a day of tasting.

Sunday we're having a Superbowl party for about 15 people followed by a Thanksgiving style dinner with a turkey, mashed potatoes, pie and a pile of other goodies.

On Monday it's back to the grind, but for now I'm enjoying the good life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

QFV Day #6

A small loss today, about $140. But it could have been much, much worse and I play a ton of hands which is good.

Again I started off great and found myself ahead about $600 in less than an hour. I totally obliterated this one guy. I mean I turned his brain to mush and put him on nuclear meltdown tilt. I can't remember all of the hands, but I won 7 pots that all went at least to the river in ten hands and this guy was my lone opponent by the end every time.

I wasn't getting all great hands, but I got a bunch like A8, or QJ with a few pocket pairs mixed in and I was either hitting or managing to bluff perfectly (which is super tough against a maniac). At the start of this stretch my opponent was playing not great, but not terrible either. Towards the end he capped 67 off and bet it all the way through with nothing even though I'd just (correctly) called him down with ace high. After pumping $500+ into my stack he had enough and left. It felt great.

Sadly I took a major downturn after that. I lost a little over $2,000 during the badness, but after some late day goodness I turned a potential major loss into an inconsequential one.

Now on to a comment question! London Dave posted "Do you have ground rules for your daily play, For example do you play for a set amount hours irrespective of your earnings be it a profit or a loss or do you have a trigger point of daily profit where you just switch the PC off, and chill out for the day."

I get asked this question all the time and the answer has changed a few times throughout my career. When I first started playing poker and was certainly an ammature I'd try to win $100 and then quit. If I lost $200 then I'd quit too. Then I learned that you play much better when you're winning and it was better to play longer when I was winning and maybe cut and run if things were going poorly. I didn't always stick to that, but at least I was considering it.

In the early days of my pro career if I hit a certain dollar amount, say $1,000 or so (Which was a much bigger win for me in those days - probably the same as winning $2,500-$3,000 for me now) I'd quit and if I was stuck $1,000 or so I'd quit too (usually). Of course these were the outer limits of reasonable for the stakes I was playing and it was only once or twice a month that I'd go four figures in one direction or the other. For the most part I'd just play until I felt like I'd had a productive day which often meant 2 or 3 hours and a few hundred bucks to the good. This was not an optimal approach either.

These days I tend to think about things by the week or the month. I know how many points I need to earn in the year and I break that into smaller and smaller point production goals. When I wake up every day I have a pretty good idea of how many hands I want to play and rarely do I play longer or stop significantly short of that goal. If things take a really sour turn I might stop a few hours early, but since I know I'm going to have to make those hours up sometime later in the week or the month I try not to. Typically I wake up around 10 and play from 10:30 to 1:00, from 1:30 to 3:30 and then from 4:30 to 7:00. If I'm ahead $2,000 or so at 3:30 I might not log back on (of course it's hard to remember the last time that happened - Dammit!), but I'd never call it quits early in the day no matter how good things are going.

Anybody who knows anything will tell you that you should focus on how many hours or hands you want to play, make the best decisions you can, and not worry about your results. If you're playing good poker, you'll win in the long run, and if you're not you won't. Of course I guarantee you that EVERY SINGLE ONE of those players have left a good game early because the were ahead a certain amount or stayed in a bad game because they were losing a dozen times if not a hundred. But that's still the best way to think about it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

QFV Day #5

Things started out great today and at one point I was winning about $700. Then I had a slow slide back to ahead $200 or so. After a short break I came back and lost $700 in a matter of 15 or 20 minutes. I had to stop earlier than I wanted to because I got so pissed. IT SUCKS!

I'm still ahead $200 for the QFV, but since it was more like $1,400 a few hours ago, I'm pissed!

Monday, January 26, 2009

QFV Day #4 and Elite Benefit

I won $302 in 3,000 or so hands today and had one hand that was fairly interesting. I'm going to call it Hand of the Day #7 (I have no idea if that's right, but who cares!).

In a $5/$10 game I got dealt K9s under the gun and open raised. The small blind three bet and I called. The flop came down K J 7 which was either a very good flop or a trap flop depending on what my opponent had. Barring some very coordinated runners, I was taking this one to the river and it was just a matter of how agressive I wanted to be.

I was surprised to see my opponent check and figured maybe he had a hand like TT or 88. Of course I bet, and started to get worried when my opponenet check raised. I decided to just call.

The turn was a real beauty - a nine! Oddly my opponent checked. I'd say only one or two times in a hundred will someone check raise the flop and then check the turn when a relative blank shows up. Now I was confused, but it was an easy decision to bet. Again my opponent check raised! If I had to make one guess I would have put my opponent on AA, but I couldn't rule out KJ, a set or even QT. Feeling even more confused I thought about 3 betting, but decided to just call.

The river was a total brick - a six. My opponent checked again! Now I was thinking he either had absolutely nothing or a total monster. I knew there was a fair chance I was going to get check raised again, but I just couldn't check two pair, acting last, on the river. Of course my opponent check raised me! ACK! I called while I prepared to berate myself for being such a dunce, but was pleasently surprised to see my opponent show K2! HA!

My good friend Matt lessinger wrote an article for Card Player magazine 7 or 8 years ago called "The Poker Hat Trick" which was about check raising the same player three times in the same hand (A hat trick is when someone scores three goals in a hocky game). I read it in the dawn of my poker career and I can say for certain that I've never check raised someone three times in the same hand. If I have the stones to check raise the flop and the turn I always bet the river. There have been a few times where I bet the flop, turn and river, got raised on each round and three bet, but I've never pulled off the hat trick.

I think this instance was the only time I've gotten check raised three times and won the pot. My gut tells me I've gotten hat tricked a few times before and had the worst of it. I can tell you it makes you feel like you are as dumb as a sack of rocks and that you just got totally schooled.

In other news I had a realization today that in leiu of taking a free entry into a $10,000 tournament later in the year, I could take $10,000 cash. I didn't want to do this because the tournament entries (I have one left that I can use for one of 4 $10K buy in tournaments) also come with $2,500 in cash for expenses, but the potential for money 6 months or 9 months from now doesn't seem as helpful as $10,000 right now. While I feel I've got the ship going in the right direction, my bankroll is a little thin right now and adding $10,000 should allow me to make more money in the interum as well as feel much less stressed. So after a quick talk with my wife I pulled the trigger.

Amazingly, I sent pokerstars an e-mail asking them for $10,000 and they wrote me back in 5 minutes and told me I'd have it within the hour. In actuallity it only took about 15 minutes.

Now can someone tell me why when I have a problem with my f-ing Ipod it takes them three days to send me a form letter that has nothing to do with my question when I can get $10,000 in 20 minutes?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Quest For Victory Day #3

QFV day #3 was actually split between Saturday and Sunday and was a small loss. After 8,000 hands or so I'm ahead $420. More importantly I feel like since I realized I was playing too tight, I've felt like I've been playing solid winning poker, wheras in December and early January I know I was playing losing poker.

I discovered another capability of my tracking software. It will tell you how frequently you've bet, check/raised, check/called and check/folded on the flop with every type of hand (ie top pair or an over pair or a gut shot straight draw etc.) and how you did as a result.

For example in the 12,000 or so hands that I've tracked, I've had a flush draw (4 to a flush) 96 times on the flop. 2.08% of the time I've checked and then folded and I lost $15 on those hands. 8.33% of the time I check called and won $198. 14.58% of the time I check raised and LOST $167. When I bet, which was the vast majority of the time at 75.0% I won $1212. This tells me betting my flush draws is a good idea and I should reduce the frequency with which I check raise a flush draw.

That was one of the most useful things I've noticed using this feature. Plenty of the information is not surprising at all, but still interesting. For example the situation in which I've made the most was when I bet and overpair and that resulted in profits of $2162 in 94 occurences. On the other hand the worst spot was when I check folded one overcard. That happened 81 times and I lost $840 on those hands.

The amount of data I need to draw strong conclusions from this feature is probably on the order of 100,000 hands or maybe even more. But since I played about 800,000 hands last year I should have mountains of data to sift through in no time!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quest For Victory Day #2!

AAAAAAHHHHHH HAAAAAAAAAA! This playing more hands stuff seems to be working. I only played about 2,000 hands again today, but I booked a real win.

I started the day off losing about $600, but the whole time I felt like I was playing great and I had this strong feeling that everything was going to turn around. By lunch I was even for the day, and after taking advantage of the Friday night crowd I ended the day ahead $501.

While I'm standing by my promise to not shave until I win $1,000 in a day (sort of) I celebrated making if half way to a thousand by shaving my neck. Now I look like someone trying to grow a beard instead of someone trying to get you to give them spare change.

Tomorrow is going to be another short day since I have a 100 Days party to go to. My good friend and frequent commentor on this blog, E.B.'s son Charlie is roughly 100 days old so I'll be making it a half day. Hopefully I can keep the winning ways going!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quest For Victory Day #1

The Quest started off great...and then went down the toilet...and then ended up pretty good.

About an hour into the day today I found myself ahead about $300 and feeling like I was going to have to dump a bottle of champagne over my head. A little while later I was about even when all of sudden the floor dropped out from under me and when I took lunch I was stuck about $700 and feeling super pissed.

I took a long lunch and decided to go over a little of the data that I've gathered with Poker Office. I then compared that data to some of recomendations given in one of my poker books that's geared specifically to 6 handed limit play.

One of the first chapters in this book talks about tracking software and some "metrics" you can use to see if your play is optimal. The most basic one is pre flop raise percentage - meaning of all the hands you are dealt how often do you put in a raise or reraise before the flop. Over the 10,000 hands or so that I've tracked my percentage has been right around 16%. The recommended range in the book is 17%-25%.

Another metric is a thing called "aggression factor." Here's what they say in the book: "Agression Factor (AF)= (#bets+#raises)/#calls. For example if kingbob bets 18 times, raised 12 times and calls 20 times he would have an agression factor of 1.5 ((12+18)/20)."

While this is certianly not an intuitive way to look at things, it can tell you how aggressive a player is relative to others. The target range given in the book is 1.5 to 2.4. My AF is somewhere in the 2.5 range.

Another key metric is Voluntarialy put $ in pot or VPIP. This means how often do you put money in the pot before the flop in the form of calls or raises. The recomended range is 23%-35%. I was surprised to see that I was somewhere around 20%.

So what does all this crap mean? Well as far as I can tell it means I've been playing too tight. When I play a hand I certainly play it strong enough, but I'm simply not playing enough hands. There are two problems with playing too few hands. First and foremost it means you're throwing away positive EV (money making) hands. Secondly it can make you too predictible which is almost as bad.

So I came back after a loooooooong lunch and decided to get in there and mix it up. I won $850 in about an hour. Of course that was mostly because I made an insane number of monster hands and was up against some real nut jobs, but it was certianly some positive reenforcement for my theory.

I came up pretty short on my hands goal(I only played about 2,000), but I won $158 which is just fine given how things have been going and how the day started.

I made a vow about a week ago to stop shaving until I have a +$1,000 day so for the sake of all the people who have to look at me, wish me luck tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Quest For Victory!

Sounds exciting doesn't it? Well I just made it up. For the past few months I've really been struggling. I was hoping the new year would bring some new luck and my plan to play fewer games and fewer hours would lead to better results. I guess you could call them better since I'm losing more slowly, but they're far from good enough.

Amazingly I find myself in a situation (with all of the bonuses and FPPs and such) where I can not just get by, but make a nice living BREAKING EVEN! AND I CAN'T SEEM TO DO IT! AHHHHHHHHH! IT"S MAKING ME CRAZY!

So I've created an artificial mental reset. A chance to start with a clean slate and go forward again with confidence. I'm calling it The Quest For Victory (CRASH goes the lightning, BOOM goes the thunder)!

The QFV is going to last 10 working days (I'm talking every Sunday off this year). During that stretch I'm going to play a very reasonable 3,000 hands a day and my goal is to win ONE DOLLAR! Of course I will generate $2,400 in FPPs and make progress towards and myriad of milestones during that stretch, but MY GOAL IS TO WIN ONE DOLLAR in the actuall game play.

Even if it's just a plus minus and one sentenceI'M GOING TO POST TO THE BLOG EVERY DAY OF THE QFV. Using capital letters is part of my new attitude.

Tomorrow is QFV day #1. I'll let you know how it goes. If I win $1,000 on day #1 I swear to everyone here that I'm going to dump a bottle of champagne over my head (Don't worry I'll post pictures).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lots of News

It's been a long time since my last post (Sorry about that!), but that means I have a lot to write about.

Right after my last post I took 11 days off in a row. It was great! When I finally sat back down at the computer to play again I was refreshed and definitely in the mood for some poker.

Since I got my clock cleaned in December (which was by far the worst month I've ever had) I decided to back way off and try to book some small wins. I started off playing four $5/$10 games planning on playing 2,500-3,000 hands a day, 6 days a week for the rest of the month. That plan lasted about an hour and soon enough I had some $10/$20 and $15/$30 games in the mix. While I did fine at $15/$30 and $5/$10 I didn't do so hot at the $10/$20 games on my first or second day back so while I'm close to even I'm stuck a little in the new year.

On my third day back I finally got around to doing something that I've been thinking about for a long time. I bought some tracking software. Let me tell you it is very cool and I'm kicking myself for not getting around to it sooner.

The software I bought is called Poker Office (you can get it at it costs about $85 to download a copy which is good for 1 year. It keeps track of every action of every hand you play and accumulates data on you and your opponents.

What I really wanted it for is the feature where it tracks how much you've won or lost with each of the 169 possible starting hands. I'm sure that there are some hands that I'm playing far from perfect and to be able to look back and see exactly how much I'm losing or winning per hand is going to be a great help.

Of course it will also tell you how often you took a given hand to the flop or to showdown, what percentage of the time you raised with a given hand, what percentage of the time you won with it and a few more facts all presented in an easy to read chart.

The software will also tell you how many dollars you won and lost in each position. The button is spot 0, the small blind is 1, the big blind is 2 and so on. What jumped out at me was the insane difference between the blinds and the rest of the positions. Under the gun (Pos 3), I netted $504 in my last 4,000 hands of $5/$10. In Spot 4 I won $209, in spot 5 I won $1,048, on the button I made $521, in the sb I lost $110 and in the big blind I lost $1,955! Of course it makes sense that I'd lose the most when I was forced to put in $5 regardless of what I had, but the difference was still surprising to me.

I noticed this phenomenon right away and realized that I've been playing too loose in the big blind. For some reason I was calling way to many raises with weak and marginal hands and then check folding. I suspect this was costing me a fortune. After making some significant adjustments to my big blind play, it felt like my results improved immediately.

I don't think I have enough data yet to do analysis on specific starting hands, but my plan is to play 20,000 hands of 5/10 and see what the data tells me.

But wait, there's more! As I mentioned the software also tracks all of my opponents and I can look at what they did and how they fared with every starting hand too! While it's not practical to look at stats for every player I encounter it certainly helps to see what the regulars are doing.

Also all of this data is sorted so you can get a snapshot of everybody. There is a list of every opponent I've played against (an astounding 330 different players over the course of just 4,000 hands!) the number of hands they played, the % of hands won, the % they saw the flop, the dollars they won total, the dollars won per hand, the % of the time they won when they saw the flop, the % of hands they took to showdown, the % the won at showdown, and how often they raised preflop.

What's great is the list is dynamic. The first thing I did when I got a fair amount of data was see who was seeing the flop the highest percentage of the time. With one click I had a list of every player in order of the percentage of time they saw the flop. Of course there were a few players whose numbers were skewed because they'd only play a handful of hands. But there were a few players who were seeing 50% of the flops or more and I had 100+ hands of data on them.

Another thing I looked at was who was raising too much, and who was raising barely at all. I played 70 hands against one player and he never raised once while a few other players were raising 40% of the time or more!

Of course the best case is if you can find someone who is seeing the flop too much and not raising at all.

Another thing you can do which I haven't explored too much is having some of this information (up to 4 pieces of data) displayed right on the table next to the corresponding opponent. The big problem I have with it is the text is too small and it adds significantly to my eye fatigue, but I'm not going to rule out using it in the future. Frankly I've only had a few days to play around with it and I know there are more capabilities as far as graphs, charts and other more exotic statics go.

It might seem like this software is somehow illegal, but it's on the list of approved software on the pokerstars website (there is a lengthy list of banned software as well).

In other news I found out today that the FTOPS XI starts on February 4th. I thought the FTOPS was a semiannual occurrence, but I guess it's more frequent. After looking at the schedule it's looks almost exactly the same as the FTOPS X. Hopefully I'll have a similar result!

Another minor piece of good news is I got pokerstars to raise my deposit limits on the instant methods so I won't have another fiasco like I did at the end of last year where I was running out of money in my account.

I think that's all for now, but I'll try to keep you posted on the data tracking and any epiphanys that it leads to. And of course you can look out for daily posts once the FTOPS XI starts. Here is the full schedule for those of you who are interested.