Okay, sadly I think I am making far too many mistakes (all kinds, you name it, I made it). I decided to try and make an adjustment. I'm going to move down in limits (there is a big drop in limits below $20/$40 at my closest cardroom - namely $8/$16 and $6/$12 which are essentially the same, so I'll play whichever game looks better at the time) and try playing for 10 consecutive session hours without making any known mistakes. This should substantially take $ mood swings out of the equation.
The players on average are less sophisticated (but only slightly), but I'll worry about that when that is all I have to worry about.
I will only move back up in stakes when I meet my goal.
Some examples of the mistakes I have been making:
- Giving away the strength of my big hands through an obvious tell. E.g. Chatting away with a neighbor until it was my turn to act preflop, picking up pocket As in mid position, raising and then instantly stopping my conversation with my neighbor; everyone folded. Another example of this is conversing with someone else in a very open tone of voice after I had suddenly check raised 3 opponents on the turn on a somewhat coordinated board. 2 of the opponents were observant players and 1 was a donkey. Only the donkey paid my full house off on the river.
- failing to pay enough attention to the action, and not in a discrete way. I think that it is taking more hands than necessary to be able to classify the exact playing characteristics of my opponents. I don't make a quick enough classification on my opponents ranges of hands for limping, cold calling, and raising preflop (because of failing to pay attention at all times). To make matters worst, I often ask my neighbors questions like, "who raised preflop in the last hand?". This more easily makes my opponents know that I am playing seriously and not just for fun. This can lead to some very easy-to-play opponents requesting table changes or just leaving the table before they otherwise would have. Very few people who play for fun will actively choose to play againist a serious player that is always trying to win the maximum amount.
- showing my worse hand at the showdown when I wasn't required to
- missing value bets on the river in last position when it should be more obvious to me that I have a high probability of the best hand
- raising on a coordinated flop with a moderately strong, but vulnerable hand in situations where there is no chance of knocking out any draws
- paying off on the river when the pot is of only moderate size
- failing to get paid off on the river when I make my draw vs observant opponents (should I be bluffing a little more on the river then when a scare card comes? probably yes. Perhaps bluffing on the river when there is 3 to the flush, and I have just the A of that suit). At Party, it is rarely a problem to get paid off, but I need to adjust to the reality of live play.
- not stealing enough pots on the flop or turn when no one wants it
- making it too obvious that I am eager to move seats. I often change seats either to get on someone's left hand side, or to get off the immediate right of someone else. The best way to do this is just to call out for the seat, throw one of your chips into that position to save the seat, and then wait until you play the button before moving there. (vs. rushing to move over to that seat the very instant it is available). Again, this is somewhat in the "making my opponents think I am playing too seriously" category of behavior.
Since I made the decision to move down in limits I have played 3 sessions - 2.25 hours, 3 hours, and 7 hours. I did not achieve my goal of 10 consecutive session hours without errors.
In the first session (2.25 hours), I didn't notice making any old mistakes (at least from the point of view that I didn't repeat any recent mistakes). There were about a few occasions that I could have elected to gamble somewhat (e.g. in the BB preflop getting between 5:1 and 9:1 odds to call closing the betting with trash hands, or getting between 6:1 and 8:1 odds to call a single bet on the flop closing the betting with a hand like 2nd pair, mediocre kicker with backdoor flush and str draws) where I chose not to and would have won large pots when I would have made my hands on the flop or turn (very loose and unbluffable opponents in those particular hands which might have swayed me to see the flop or the turn). That's just the way things go in poker.
However, one problem I recognized by the middle of the session was: a few observant players at the table noticed how few hands I was playing, so I opened up my game to open raise with suited connectors a few times. This achieved the desired results.
Actually there probably was one major mistake I made in that session. About a quarter of the way through the session I noticed that 2 of the players were somewhat friendly with each other. It did seem possible on a few hands that they passively colluded. This should have instantly triggered me to switch tables.
In the second session (3 hours), I was fairly well rested and was sitting at a good table. It was fairly easy not to make any noticable mistakes.
The third session (7 hours), I was ~not~ well rested and the table fluctuated often between average and good. On avg: 3 donkeys, and between 2-4 solid players. I played well for the first 3 hours. I made an IMMENSELY BAD mistake around the 4-5 hour mark, and played fairly weak tight for the remainer of the session.
In general, in the first few hours I had a very good read on both the good and bad players. By the middle of the session, this had severely degraded.
I'll give one example of an interesting hand where I have a good read on my opponent, and then I'll describe my huge mistake.
9 handed $6/$12 game. 3 donkeys at the table, 3 fairly new players, 2 strong players, and myself. In the last couple of orbits, there have been many hands that have not been raised preflop and have been multiway. Donkey #1 almost always hangs around until the turn even without a draw, will always go to the river with a draw or pair, and otherwise fold on the turn; he will generally at least bet when it is checked to him and he has anything. Strong player #1 is agg but predictable (raises preflop with big pairs, big broadways, and big suited As; limps with small pairs, suited connectors, smaller suited As; raises on flop in last position to buy a free card, etc) slow plays very strong hands, but is particularly agg when he has shown agg preflop or on flop and is unimproved (will fire on every street).
- I limp UTG w A3s. folded to donkey #1 in MP + 1 who limps. folded to strong player #1 in CO who raises. folded to SB who calls, everyone else calls. (4 players see the flop, 8 small bets)
- flop comes 236 rainbow. checked to strong player #1 who bets, SB folds, I call, donkey #1 calls. (3 players, 11 small bets)
- turn comes 2368 completing the rainbow. checked to strong player #1 who bets, I check raise, donkey #1 folds, strong player 3 bets. I call. (2 players, 11.5 big bets)
- river comes 2368T, I check, strong player #1 bets, I call. He shows a single K, I say I have a pair, he mucks (actually another mistake on my part since I didn't have to show anything until I saw both of his cards). The dealer makes me show my hand before pushing me the pot.
I told strong player #1 that I put him on AK, he told me he had something better than that which is quite funny since he showed the K and couldn't beat any pair. He had no possible draws, so the only possibility seems to be KQ or KJs.
I could make an argument here for check raising for value on the river because I believe I'm 95% sure I have the best hand, and I think the likelihood my opponent will 3 bet bluff here is around 50%.
Preflop and on the flop, I put him on any big pair (Ts or better) and any big A (J kicker or better). Against any big pair I have 5 outs, and against a big A, he only has 3 outs. There are (6x5) - 3=27 ways for him to have a big pair, and 12x3=36 ways for him to have a big A. Thus I should play the hand all the way to the river with the only question being should I ever bet into him or check raise him or just call him all the way down.
I'm 95% sure I have the best hand because on the turn I can understand he does not have a big pocket pair. The reason? The only hands in his range that beat me are big pocket pairs. He is very likely to only call my check raise with any hand that beats me (and then check it down on the river) because with an overpair he will be concerned that I flopped or turned a set. With a weak hand like AK, he knows the only way he can win the hand is to be aggressive. Most importantly, I am confident in his tendencies in that situation. I did actually misread his hand though, since he would have shown an A if he had one. However, the point here was his aggressive bluffing nature when he knows he has the worse hand.
Now, from a good hand to a truly awful one.
hand #2 - my all time worst play in limit poker
9 handed $6/$12 game, 3 donkeys at the table, 2 observant players, 1 strong player, 2 avg players, and myself.
- UTG folds, UTG+1 folds, MP limps, MP + 1 limps, loose donkey chaser in MP+2 raises, CO calls, button calls, SB calls, in the BB I look down and find 89o. Based on the way they have been playing, I am 95% sure that none of the first 2 limpers will raise, so I make an easy call. (7 players, 14 small bets)
- Dream flop comes T76 rainbow giving me the nut straight. SB checks, I check, limper #1 bets, limper #2 calls, loose donkey chaser raises, CO calls, button calls, SB calls, I decide to only call here, limper #1 3 bets, everyone calls to me. I decide to only call since I want to be certain to get 2 bets in on the turn. (7 players, 35 small bets)
- Turn comes T763 with 2 hearts. SB checks, I check the nuts again, limper #1 bets, limper #2 calls, donkey only calls, CO and button call, SB folds, I check raise. limper #1 3 bets, limper #2 folds, donkey calls, CO and button fold, I cap it. limper #1 and donkey call. (3 players - 32.5 big bets - oh my god, was the pot really this big!!!!!???, I had actually lost track of the pot size during the hand - another mental lapse, but I surely should have know it was huge)
- River comes T7636 with 3 hearts. I check, limper #1 bets, donkey calls, I ........ FOLD!
Has anyone in the history of small stakes limit hold'em ever made this laydown? Okay, that is taking it a bit far, but obviously, I wouldn't be talking about this hand in the way that I am if I had made a good laydown. However, there is no such thing as a good laydown when you only have to call 1 bet for a 34.5 BB pot on the river when you are closing the action and you have the best possible straight when the board has a possible flush and possible full house.
Does anyone care to guess what hands limper #1 and donkey #1 had? I actually only know what limper #1 had because after he showed his hand, I immediately left the table for a while.
Okay, limper #1 showed 89o and raked in the largest pot of the day. As I said earlier, it is not a big deal $ wise at these lower limits, but I still played weak tight for the rest of the session.
My lame reasoning for folding was: My (incorrect) read on limper #1 was that he was a solid player that would not bet a medium strength hand on the river. My recent experience with with donkey #1 was that in the past few hours he had drawn out to a flush or straight multiple times. I incorrectly judged that it was 99% likely that at least one of them had a flush or better. Some hands I was distinctly afraid that Limper #1 had were 89 of hearts or TT.
Limper #1 later commented that he had thought I had made a low straight on the turn (and was drawing dead to him) because I only became active on the turn, and that was why he thought it was still okay to bet the river. I should have given absolutely no credit to the donkey's call on the river.
One reason why I had given limper #1 so much credit with his hand reading was because on an earlier hand he had called my preflop open raise when it was folded to him with small suited connectors specifically because he was very confident that if small rags came on the flop, they would not have helped my hand. This was a relatively sophisticated strategy, so I gave him much more credit than he deserved.
BTW, if I had not been closing the action on the river, there would be a small amount of additional justifciation for folding, since it could possibly cost as much as 4BB to see everyone's hand.
If I had go through a somewhat similar hand again, I will not fold on the river with a hand as weak as top 2 pair for 1 stinkin big bet in that big of a pot.
Please please, let me learn from this mistake!!