Over the last two weeks, I racked up an unknown number of hours playing online poker. A year ago at this time, there were a myriad of fish swimming around the abundant waters of Party Poker. I'd log into my account on a nightly basis and cast out my net. The results were staggering. The 15/30 games were beyond juicy. I'd hop onto the $1,000 buy-in PLO tables, which became the equivalent of printing money. I had many Hellmuthian moments when I just sat there and basked in the warm glow of my own greatness and patiently waited as my opponents donked off their stacks and willingly pissed away their stacks to me. At the end of last summer, I'd log off almost every session with more money that I started with.
The games were soft. The players were atrocious and abundant. Then like the Mayans... they vanished without a trace.
Shortly before I moved to Las Vegas for the 2007 WSOP, the online games had become increasingly tougher over the prior six months, particularly at the limits I had been playing. The 15/30 and 30/60 LHE games used to be super soft. I knew regular joes from all over who were making a killing at those tables and happily lived off of those winnings. They bought luxury cars, made house payments, paid for tropical vacations, and accumulated other nonsensical material items.
In a short time, online poker had become a post-modern gold rush. Like a prospector in California during the 19th century gold rush, adventurous personalities of my generation set out for unchartered waters of online poker to stake a claim. Some of them became successful and vacuumed up wads and wads of cash, while more inexperienced newbies jumped online an attempted to strike it rich... and consequently succumbed to the better players.
These days the tides have turned. Perhaps it's my own deeply-rooted paranoia or lack of confidence, but a few months ago, I became a mark at those tables. Once infested with trout that could barely swim, the games had become dominated by sharks. I was no longer one of the hunters. I had become the hunted.
At any given time at a full ring table (nine handed) there are approximately three players who usually play higher limits. There are three people who are "punching their weight" and there are three people who should be playing lower limits and for whatever reason... they are taking a shot or straight up gambling. Those are the players I always gun for. When I sit down at a 8/16 LHE table, I'm slumming. Yet when I sit at 30/60, I'm that guy who is playing over his head and I have a big red bullseye located over my avatar.
I took a shot at 30/60 before the WSOP started and although I made solid decisions, I played tentative at times (which is expected at a new level but still that's no excuse) and I eventually lost a few grand... 50% of it in one hand to David Grey on Full Tilt who flopped a set of 3s against my Big Slick when I missed a nut flush draw.
In the last week or so that I've been in NYC, I went back to taking another shot at 30/60 LHE. After a couple of sessions on PokerStars, I have almost wiped out those initial loses. On Tuesday night, I took down consecutive monsterpottens... the first one with Ks-Js and on the next hand, I flopped a set of 7s.
I'm much better about detaching myself from the monetary value of chips in play and pot sizes. When I used to lose a big hand in PLO, I'd say things like... "That jizzmopper sucked out on me and cost me the equivalent a round-trip ticket to Paris..." or "Fuckwad over here cracked my set and that could have paid for half of my new laptop." And these days, I don't blink.
If I want to play and succeed at higher levels, I have to implement a total detachment from money and play every hand as they come. I'm winning and losing pots the size of what my total bankroll used to be a couple of years ago. The swings are tremendous. Heck, in only a handful of hit and run sessions I nearly wiped out a 2K loss. Chasing a loss in lower limits would have taken me weeks or even months to grind myself out of that hole.
Sometimes, you have to take chances and risk losing some of your profit in order to gain experience and to make some money. One of my fraternity brothers from college had an odd saying that we used to scream out when we gambled on the riverboats in Biloxi. Teddy B uttered the infamous words... "To win big, you gotta (be willing to) lose big."
I have a stop-loss in place so I won't lose more than a specific percentage of my bankroll playing 30/60. I have friends who took shots at higher limits and lost it all. That's my biggest fear so I set aside an amount of money I am comfortable losing and that I'm willing to gamble with. I'm sticking with the hit and run strategy until I suffer a defeat at the hands of a couple of losing sessions in a row before I abandon the 30/60 level. My goal is to accumulate as much as possible during my hit and runs so that my bankroll is sufficient enough to make that jump completely.
Over the last two weeks, I played LHE anywhere from 8/16 to 10/20 on FT and playing multiple tables at 10/20, 15/30, and 30/60 on PokerStars. Finding full ring limit cash games on FT is tough. The players are softer but the infrequency of games is what sucks the most. There are plenty of full ring cash games on PokerStars, but the players are much better - which means that I have to be more careful about the tables I select. There are a few fishy players that I hunt down and track, but aside from them, I avoid some of the better players that I have come across. My goal is not to beat the best... my goal is simply to fleece the worst... before they go busto and are never heard from again.
My fundamental philosophy on making money in poker is to find the one thing that you are the best at... then maximize your earning potential within that genre. Since LHE cash game skills are the most profitable for me, I play those tables as much as possible. I encourage my friends to find their edge in poker, and then maximize it. Whether it's online NL MTTs or PLO SNGs or live cash games, you must figure out what your "bread and butter" game is... and stop fucking around the places where you are not profitable.
Of course, I am a walking contradiction at all times. I have been ignoring my own philosophy out of sheer boredom. I should be playing LHE cash games non-stop, but I find myself dabbling in other games... for entertainment value. I don't mind investing my time and money into educating myself and learn how to play a certain game (like PLO) better... because over the long term that's a winning investment. But, I have been farting around too much in places where I'm not as profitable... such as the 1/2 and 2/4 NL tables. I have to cut back in that area and stick to mid-level LHE.
I have been dabbling in NL SNGs to switch things up. I used to be an SNG guru back in the day under the sage-like advice of HDouble, The Poker Penguin and the (original) Poker Nerd. (Side note: I wish all three would start posting again!) I used to clean up on the $30 and $50 SNGs on PartyPoker. I'd start my sessions at a low-limit NL table and try to double up early. I'd use my winnings to play SNGs. Things were going great for several months until I hit a cold streak. That's when I decided to focus on Limit cash games and I never looked back.
I started playing token SNGs on FT earlier in the year to win a few cheap seats to different blogger events like Miami Don's Big Game. In fact, the one time that I won the Big Game in February, I had qualified via a token. I missed the excitement and instant gratification of playing SNGs. Shortly after the WSOP ended, I found myself playing $50 and $100 NL SNGs during late nights when I couldn't sleep in Las Vegas or in Hollyweird. The results have been luke-warm to moderate. I turned a small amount, but deep down I'm playing those more out of entertainment than to make money.
Of course, my inner action junkie takes over from time to time and I find myself at the turbo PLO SNGs or playing short-handed 1/2 PLO. That is just flat out gambling... but then again, I want to become a better short-handed PLO player, so whatever experience that I can get... I'll take. I love it when I can justify aberrant behavior to myself.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have not been using PokerTracker. I have individual notes on players and have been using those when applicable, but for the most part in between a fried laptop and setting up a brand new one, I haven't had the chance to install PokerTracker to my new computer. That's been good for me because I'm not obsessing over the numbers for my daily sessions. I base the quality of my sessions on the quality of my decisions. If I made solid decisions and minimized my mistakes, then it's a positive session. If I played like shit with too many errors, then I had a bad session.
The monetary outcome often skews my perspective of results. Too many times in the past, I played like crap, but since I won a few bucks, I shrug off my less than optimal play instead of sitting down and reviewing my mistakes. On the other hand, there were numerous instances when I made excellent decisions and played a nearly flawless session, yet the cards didn't fall my way or I encountered too many suck outs which translated into a negative session. I tend to be too hard on myself during those days when I need to ease up and admit that I played well. Variance got the better part of me.
I play with more confidence when I'm not paying attention to daily wins/losses and focusing more on the bigger picture... to make solid decisions and limit my mistakes.
And of course, the cycle continues. As soon as I get into the swing of playing everyday again... it's time for me to hit the road.
Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at www.taopoker.com. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.