Thursday, January 26, 2006

Grinding away.... and my SNG Pipeline

I've finally cleared my Party VIP and Cryptos bonuses for January. I am specifically not playing more at Party after clearing the current target because I don't want to be issued an even bigger target next month. The only other bonus I still particularly want to get cracking on is the Martinspoker one mentioned by Scurvy, which I have not yet started. I'm planning on going the €100NL route there, and with 3000 points to accumulate, I'm hoping that 60% of the pots at those tables are sufficiently raked (min pot size requirement appears to be €7.50) so that it won't take more than 5000 hands to clear.

I barely have 3k VPPs at Stars for January as this promo has by far been the least lucrative of the bunch (and additionally the flu bug knocked me out of commission during the whole first week of the month). I'm debating on whether or not it is worth the effort to complete the next 1k VPPs to reach Gold status (and Platinum is out of the question given the deadline). Hmmmm, assuming that I planned to accumulate at least 4k VPPs in February, then not reaching Gold level in January will "cost" 2000FPPs worth ~$32. My VPP accumulation rate is roughly 1000VPPs/3 hours for an approximate $10/hour in toppings. Ahhh, the petty thoughts of a low limit grinder.

Yes, it is clear that I was very much a low limit grinder this month, representing over 80% of my poker time. This is not how I intended to spend this month. At this stage, I let learning take a back seat to bonus whoring? Apparently the tail wags the dog in my world... (i.e. this month's promotions highly favoring playing full-table low limit ring games dictated my playing)

On the other hand, it looks like this month will be my 6th best month in earnings, but more significantly it was certainly the least stressful month of poker in at least a year. I don't think that the relative ease of the month should be overlooked. I feel that I played virtually tilt-free poker during this time, and that is something to be pleased about.

SNG's via a dual-pipelined 4-stage processor?

There seems to be some resemblance between the managing of SNG's and the managing of CPU instructions in a multipipeline, multistage microprocessor. (My educational background is in Computer Engineering) These are my current thoughts:


With players like Elky or Pokernerd tearing up the online world with their SNG's exploits, I've been considering how I would go about playing a lot of SNG's. I am certainly no expert at SNG's, and my experimentations have been down at the $20+2 Party SNG's. (Party SNG's play a fixed number of hands, 10, per blind level)

First off, for some perspective, what is the theoretical maximum earn rate of 8-tabling $20+2 SNG's? Experts say that a good ROI for multitabling $20+2 SNG's is 20% or $4.40 per SNG. Assuming it takes an average of 40 minutes to complete a single SNG, then (in steady state) 12 SNG's could be run through per hour for an hourly rate of $52.80.

It is a very simple to say that, for a winning SNG player, the more SNG's played, the more money you make. However, there are "scheduling" issues that make it difficult to achieve this simple ($ROI-per-SNG * #-tables / #-hours-per-SNG) rate while maintaining a high level of play in all of the SNG's played.

There is more table management activity done in multitabling SNG's than multitabling ring games. With ring games, so long as all of your current tables are good (and no substantially better tables are discovered), there is no other table management activity. SNG's, on the other hand, transition through early-mid-late phases with (on average) increasing amount of attention required as progressing through these phases. You need to get the maximum number of SNG's running without having too many of them simultaneously in the high-attention-required late phases. (Perhaps in higher stakes SNG's there is a more even distribution of attention-requirements between the various phases, but I will ignore this; in a $20 Party SNG there is absolutely no need to get involved with marginal hands in the first couple of levels)

The obvious thing to even out the collective amount of attention needed for all tables is to stagger the starting times of your SNG's so that you have them somewhat equally distributed amongst the various phases.

Initially, start 2 SNG's. When both SNG's have moved halfway through level 2, launch 2 more SNG's, and repeat this process until 8 SNG's are running. Everything is nice and evenly spaced out.

Consider that when 8-tabling you have 8*60=480 table minutes per hour (with each table minute being worth $0.11 given the $52.80 hourly rate). Let's assume that the first 1.5 SNG levels take 12 minutes. Given the above approach, you have already lost 144 table minutes (or $15.84) while "filling the pipeline"! The same problem is going to occur at the end of your session when you "drain the pipeline". There is no way around this, but it does suggest that you would tend to only choose SNG play when your available session time is substantial, say more than 2 hours.

Now, staggering the starts of the SNG's is all well and good if hands finished at the same rate at each table and you complete each SNG in the same amount of time, but this is not the reality. Some tables will run faster than others, and you will naturally complete any given SNG at a somewhat random time. This has 2 implications:
i) despite the best scheduling efforts you will still run into situations where you have perhaps 2-3 tables down to 2-3 players, 2-3 tables down to 4-5 players with large blinds, and remaining tables in the early levels. Even when completely ignoring the tables in the early levels (as you should), the quality of the decisions you make at the late stage level tables will suffer.
ii) you may have to insert some dead time before kicking off a new SNG to retain the staggering of start times, and this again is lost table minutes. You also need to spend the effort to periodically check if it is time to launch the new SNG(s).

Depending on the session duration, the lost minutes from filling and draining the pipeline may represent the majority of the lost table time, however, at least these are predictable. You can integrate other activities into this: reading/writing email, reading news/blogs/etc, doing any nearby things that can be worked on in 30 second spurts, and even temporarily jumping in some ring game(s) for which you have sufficient data mining info available.

Everything I have mentioned is very simple and obvious. The main point is just that table maintenance becomes a considerably larger factor when multitabling SNG's compared to ring games. The table maintenance is essentially another layer of decisions and actions in online poker playing.


For sessions of any significant duration, I am already close to maxed-out when 8-tabling ring games, so I may be incapable of effectively 8-tabling SNG's. (e.g. my win rate for 8-tabling may be the same or worse than 6-tabling)

So far, I have been running well in the $20s over a very small sample size, 74 SNG's. My ITM is 44.5%, and ROI 43.73%.


In terms of screen setup, I have 2 20" LCD monitors. My tables are organized on the 2 monitors like this:


To help me more quickly recall the state of the SNG's, the tables are organized such that the right most tables are always the SNGs at the highest level. As SNG's finish, the tables in each row will be moved from left to right.


However, I attempt to keep SNG's of approximately the same level in the same column, so sometimes there will be periods of time when there will be less than 8 active tables organized like:

8-6........ -2

or (more unfortunately from the point of view of lost table minutes)


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

MTT selection

In my rambling searches today, I found a nice blog entry/article about MTT selection by rizen, an online MTT'er who is currently ranked 49th in the pocketfives online tournament player rankings.

The article touches on the psychological importance of keeping a reasonable ratio of medium size fields/large size fields in your MTT play.

Rizen's blog started fairly recently, and it seems like a pretty good one for online MTT strategy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Some misc live stats

After reviewing my notes, I estimate that in my last 136 hours of live play I've made -105BB worth of mistakes. I am disgusted.

Mistakes breakdown:
- 19% paying off on river when definitely beaten
- 12% calling on turn when very likely beaten
- 11.5% missed value bets
- 11% incorrectly protecting my hand
- 9% paying off on river when very likely beaten
- 6% folded reasonable winning hand on river
- 4% bet into an obviously better hand
- 27% other

Another interesting stat is +29BB winning with the 2nd best hand on the river.

Meta game considerations

I've been putting in the majority of my recent poker hours in the online setting, mostly multitabling, and this is not a great environment for me when it comes to spending time thinking about hands or situations (other than perhaps late SNG or mid-late MTT situations).

As a diversion and perhaps an educational kick-in-the-pants, I went to play some live $20/$40 LHE at a local poker room. I still have a fair number of Party points to accumulate by Friday for my VIP promotion, but I figure worst case is that I'll have multitable the BBJ tables for a few extra hours to get there.

The table was very beatable with a pretty high variance. Almost every hand saw a flop with between 3-5 players, about 25% of which were limped, 50% were raised, 20% were 3 bet, 5% capped (3 and 4 bets were very ineffective at cutting down the field). There were a decent number of 15+ BB pots, and a very large number of 8-10BB pots.

There were only 2 good players (from the combined point of view of hand selection, aggressiveness, hand reading, postflop play, etc) who happened to be seated on either side of me. Although none of the remaining players was terrible, each of them had some substantial problems with their game - mostly just too loose, although a couple were stupid over-agro and another couple made very poor slow play choices.

To a relatively high degree, almost all players were paying attention to the game as many hands were commented on at their conclusion. I had only played with 2 of the players at the table before, and this did not include the 2 good players as I just recognized them from playing bigger games and how they played the hands that I was able to observe. (Perhaps those judgements are made too loosely, but I feel comfortable with those characterizations)

About a quarter of the way through the session (and btw, I knew this was 1/4 of the way because I had a fixed time that I needed to leave), I was faced with a river decision that, given the number of observant opponents at that early stage of my session, I wonder whether or not I should have played differently for metagame reasons.

Button does not get out of line bluff raising, but he might bluff bet in last position if he senses weakness. BB often tries to make fancy plays.

Hand #1 - 9 seated $20/$40 live LHE
- preflop: folded to me in MP+2, I open raise with JhJs, folded to button who cold calls, SB folds, BB calls. (3 players, 6.5 small bets)
- flop: Jc9h4s, BB checks, I bet, button calls after a brief pause, BB folds (2 players, 8.5 small bets)
- turn: Jc9h4s8c, I bet, button calls, again after a brief pause (2 players, 6 big bets)
- river: Jc9h4s8c7s, a player not in the hand calls out "pocket tens is good", after a small pause, I bet/fold.

(i) Likely hands that check behind, but will call a bet: QJs (1 way), AJ (4), KJs (1); 6 total
(ii) Hands that will almost certainly raise: TT (6), JTs (1); 7 total
(I exclude QTs because button raises 100% on the turn with a straight, and no other sets or PP are likely given the action)

The problem that I have with checking the river is the relative ratio of (i) to (ii). I have no intention of check/folding, so at the time I thought that bet/folding was the best choice. However, the huge problem of making such folds in front of observant players is simply that others will start taking a shot at you on scary boards.

I believe that online, on average, fewer opponents are paying attention to the action, and secondly if I am concerned about opponents taking advantage of such things, a table change is just a click away. Hence, online I am pretty comfortable with check/fold.

Confronted with exactly the same live situation again, I would check/call. If this hand occured close to the end of my session, I would revert back to bet/fold.

(Should I consider bet/calling?)

Ironically, I believe that only 1 situation actually ended up occuring where someone took a shot at me. All I can say is, nice check raise, bad timing.

Hand #2 - 6 seated $20/$40 live LHE (a few of the players had stepped out for a smoke)
- preflop: Hero dealt Ah3h UTG; Hero raises, folded to button who calls, BB calls (same BB as from Hand #1). (3 players, 6.5 small bets)
- flop: Ac7h3d, BB checks, hero bets, button fold, BB calls (2 players, 8.5 small bets)
- turn: Ac7h3d8h, BB check/calls (2 players, 6 big bets)
- river: Ac7h3d8h9h, BB check raises, hero 3 bets, BB turbo mucks.

Given what BB has seen of me, I think he made a very reasonable check/raise bluff (although were I him, I would have bet as a bluff because I think it would be just as effective at half the cost). In very many scenarios, I will hate being check raised on the river with top pair crappy kicker (remember it was a 6 handed situation) on this board. Not that I fold here getting 9:1 but BB might think so given hand #1, and getting 6:1 I would be very unhappy calling (perhaps if I was really having a terrible session and mindset, I would be even more inclined to muck).
He will also often knock me off TT-KK in these situations if I am stupid enough to bet this river (which makes a straight bet by BB an even better play since I am very frequently checking behind on the river with better hands that might fold to a bet).

Anyway, getting back to the metagame, only 1 hand came up where someone took a shot at me, but I also believe this happened because I won a few decent pots in roughly the 3rd quarter of my session to have a very substantial stack of chips sitting in front of me (during the 2nd quarter I had also bought a second rack of chips since I dislike having few chips in my stack). Had I lost a couple of more hands in the middle of the session, I'm certain that my opponents would have been emboldened to put much more pressure on me. Metagame considerations do matter.

Tea for the Tillerman

For no particular reason, today I was browsing through the pokerstars tournament database and noticed Tillerman for the first time. Tillerman, a Brit by the name of Iain Girdwood, was one of the top Blizzard RTS pro-gamers in the world. He was also notable in the Blizzard RTS community because he also put out very good commentary on Warcraft III replays (content really is king in the entertainment industry...). During my WC3 days, a substantial amount of my learning in the middle tiers came from watching WC3 replays commentated by the likes of player/commentators like Tillerman.

He made the jump to poker about 2.5 years ago which he chronicled in this post. As an example of how he is not one to do things halfway, check out his poker library.
It is amusing, but completely understandable, to read his timeline of clearing $100k within the first 6 months when taken in context of the absolute pitance that world class pro-Blizzard-RTS-gamers make (even if they are willing to move to South Korea, lol). It wouldn't surprise me if the 95th percentile online poker player can outearn the 99.999th percentile Starcraft/WC3 player by an order of magnitude. Such are the cruel injustices of life; ya gotta be where the money is.

The top level RTS pro-gamers are amazing in many dimensions. An obvious carryover is the ability to micromanage very quickly and efficiently, which translates in online poker to extreme multitablers. They can rapidly execute a large number of actions without making any mistakes. Another very helpful skill the pro-gamers have is an incredible ability to quickly adapt efficient strategies and counterstrategies. Blizzard, the game creator, would frequently be tweaking the game; making "balance" changes that affected the huge number of variables involved in the game. The patches would be released pretty often, sometimes about once a month and sometimes more frequently. In short order, the top level players would grasp all of the complex effects of the interdependent changes to devise new optimal strategies and counterstrategies. I've always been in awe of this ability.


Getting back to poker: Tillerman went almost exclusively through the NL ring game route, albeit very quickly. He wrote a simple post about earn rates in NL ring games, Tillerman's 5% (and 7%) rule.

The threads related to earn rates at the 2+2 forums define a range of between 7-10PT BB/100h (PT BBs == 2x the big blind) as a good-great range for the $100NL game, and somewhere between 5-7PT BB/100h for midstakes NL.

DoubleAs has been a long time successful NL ring game player (in relative main-stream poker blogger terms), and Eric has increasingly been talking about his refocusing on NL ring games.

In my spare time, I'm thinking of trying to work my way up a few levels at the NL ring games. I took a shot at 8-tabling $100NL and was able to sustain 7PT BB/100h for about 11k hands. I would like to get comfortable significantly multitabling the $200NL soon.


Another thing that would be fun to try is the significant mulitabling of SNGs, a-la-pokernerd. I tried out 4-tabling, and it seems managable. Ideally, I would do this at Stars to level up in the VIP thing, but a substantial limitation is the inability to use autohotkey shortcuts due to the damn focus stealing.

I'll probably have to put in some substantial LHE hands this week at Party to hit my VIP promotion target (due to the puny number of VIP points I accumulated during my $100NL side experiment). I'm already seriously violating one of my resolutions for this year to decrease the quantity of play in favor of higher quality. At least, I have not been playing tired...

Why isn't there ever enough time???!!?


Only played one MTT this weekend, the $500k guaranteed at Party. Busted ~1000/3300th when I pushed my shortish stack with JJ and ran into AAs.

Again, the structure of this tournament is so much more forgiving than the corresponding Stars event (which again increased this week to 4074 entrants!!). I won exactly 0 hands in the first 4 levels. I won 2 hands in level 5 - winning the blinds on one, and then having everyone fold into my BB in the other. In spite of this, when I made a stand to play my first major hand more than 90 minutes into the event, I still had something like 6x bb - still very short, but enough to get some breathing room after just one double up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Helpful tools?

The following is a list of all programs that I use both in real-time and offline:
- Poker Tracker - an essential $55 data mining tool
- PokerACE HUD - a $25 real time display of data mining info
- Poker Stove - basically a free, but very fancy poker calculator
- Poker Patterns - a free graphing application for displaying your archived Poker Tracker results
- Autohotkey - a free automation/hotkey/scripting tool that I use to replace my mouse with keyboard only shortcuts when multitabling at sites ~that don't steal focus~!!!
- UltimateHistory - a free application that can be used to capture UltimateBet hands for import into Poker Tracker
- Excel - simple poker results spreadsheet

Some notable program/tools that I currently don't use are:
- Turbo Texas Hold'em , Poker Academy - poker simulators
- StatKing - a $30 tool for tracking poker results
- PokerCharts - a subscription based ($2/month, $20/year) web based tool for tracking poker results
- regular/automated data backup?? - Every few months I wake up in a cold sweat and remember to make a backup of my poker tracker data and my poker results spreadsheet. There has got to be a better way.... Maybe something really hi-tech like putting a post-it note on my monitor reminding me to do data backup biweekly.

Does anyone use any other tools/utilities for any aspect of their poker playing?


I'm thinking of switching from using Excel to something like StatKing or PokerCharts that seem to be the premier 2 apps for tracking results.

Currently, I track all my play, both live and online, in an Excel spreadsheet. I always log the game type, stakes, result, date, and session duration. I have a seperate worksheet for each site that I play at plus a worksheet for live play. I don't have any good reason for having a seperate worksheet per site; originally I just thought it might be easier for me to reconcile the results that I tracked with my actual account balance at each site to check for mistakes (either mine or theirs)
It is a very low tech approach, but historically I prefer to look at raw data. I also generally don't mind occasionally doing some semi-manual sorts of the data to do various types of queries.

As I have increased the number of sites that I play at, types of games, and stakes, it is becoming increasingly unwieldy and inefficiently do offline data analysis of results.

The cost difference between StatKing and PokerCharts is neglible. PokerCharts seems to be more feature rich, but I'm not sure how I feel about loading my own personal information onto their site. (One of their arguments is that their site is more secure than an individual's PC connected to the internet. However, I have a seperate PC that is not connected to any network on which I keep all of my personal data)

TripJax's post today discussed another free alternative - Poker Dominator's session tracker

(edit 2/7/06)
Pokernerd (and many others) rave about SNG Power Tools created by eastbay.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Weekend update

Weekend poker consisted a very large number of small stakes LHE hands at Party, Stars, and Cryptos to work off various bonuses and/or level up in VIP status. No live play this weekend as I can't justify the time expenditure given the current online promotions. Instead, for some variety, I squeezed in exactly 1 MTT, the $500k guaranteed at Stars.

There were just shy of 4k entrants today! Who says that the poker boom has peaked? I cashed, but unfortunately in the absolute bottom tier.

I was pretty disappointed because I had average chips for a decent portion of the 3rd hour, but couldn't get any further (primarily due to losing 4 preflop coin flip or better situations to short stacks). I probably played too conservatively with between 500 down to 400 players remaining with a ~10x bb stack.

I didn't actually count, but I'm pretty sure I broke my record today for the most number of table changes in a single MTT - fairly annoying.


There was one somewhat interesting small stakes LHE hand that I want to give more thought to. The basic premise is what to do when you have a decent hand plus a good draw, but are caught between a clearly better hand and a maniac who keeps pushing with likely the worst hand?

(edit: after writing out my thoughts on this hand, it is not very interesting after all, but I since I already spent the time, I will leave it in the post anyways...)

hand #1
Party $3/$6 10 seated, BB is a very tight, solid straightforward player who only raises with big hands, button is somewhat of a maniac who severely overplays his hands.
- preflop: fold, fold, UTG+2 calls, folded to button who calls, I complete in the SB w KhJh, BB checks. (4 players, 4 small bets)
- flop: KcQhTh: I check, BB checks, UTG+2 bets, button raises, I flat call, BB 3 bets cold, UTG+2 folds, button and I call. (3 players, 14 small bets)
- turn: KcQhThKs: I check, BB bets, button raises, I flat call, BB 3 bets, button caps (and has only $7 behind), both call. (3 players, 19 big bets)
- river: KcQhThKs8c: I check, BB bets, button raises all in for $7, both call. (final pot: 22.5 big bets)

I know, I know...I played this hand extremely passively. When the action came back to me on the flop, I was very conflicted on whether or not to 3 bet. In almost any other circumstance I will 3 bet here, however because of button's tendency to overplay his hands, I decided to "gamble" and get a certain chance to check raise the turn.

I believe the majority of the time the button has a weak K, but he may also raise with a flush draw (but he does not have the nut flush draw because he would have raised preflop 100% of the time on the button with a suited A), 2 pair (the only 2 pair hand he could have is QT as he will raise any big K on the button) or an OESD. I'm 100% sure that if no one bets the turn, he will bet (he never takes his free card).

Is it a mistake for me not to 3 bet the flop when I should feel confident that my pot equity is high? A blank on the turn will drop my perceived pot equity, so it seems safer for me to try and get more money in on the flop (prior to BB's action defining his hand).

Given that the BB was so tight, I assumed BB was not a factor, and that the large majority of the time I am ahead of both UTG+2 and button and that between them they have a max of 8 outs, but probably less because of my flush draw. During the actual hand, I forgot to consider than UTG+2 might have the nut flush draw - a pretty big oversight on my part. (I think the reason for this oversight is that I had too much of my attention focused on button's play - and also perhaps because I was 8 tabling at the time)

When BB 3 bets cold, I am almost 100% sure he has a straight (the only other small possibility now that I think about it is a set of Ts), and understand that I must improve.

On the turn, I'm caught between a certainly better hand and a maniac who is likely overplaying his hand.

How do I count my outs on the turn? A number of my outs are likely to result in a chop (An A often has me chopping with BB, and a Q or T often has me chopping with button). Absolute worst case is when BB has Tens full likely giving me 5 outs to win (3 for pairing my kicker, and 2 for the straight/royal flush) and 3 outs to chop.

How should I have played this hand?

Anyway, what were the results?:
BB had AJo (broadway straight) with no hearts, and button had that monster hand K2o.

Friday, January 13, 2006

nothing of interest

I've played about 10k hands of limit hold'em this week (combined online and live, naturally heavily skewed towards online), and there was not one interesting hand or situation that came up. BORING!! The only reason I am making this post is because of superstition. Very frequently after I write a post about how things are going one way, things immediately deviate. Here's hoping to keeping up the tradition.... "May you live in interesting times..."

Yes, yes, I know it is bad luck to be superstitious...


According to the forums at 2+2, Elky has just reached SuperNova status at Pokerstars. What a maniac!! 100,000 VPPs in less than 13 days! Elky is a 23 year old professional gamer (a native of France who moved to Korea a few years ago to play Starcraft professionally). He is positively inhuman.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Balancing those resolutions

My main poker resolutions for the short term are:
1) focusing on shorthanded games
---1a) improve shorthanded play
---1b) put in substantial hours in shorthanded games
2) favor quality over quantity

During the WPBT trip last month, it was repeatedly and unequivocally bashed into my head that I should spend the vast majority of my online ring game time in short handed games. During the remainder of December, I proceeded to put in no more than a couple of hours in short handed games. How's that for being a good listener?

Since it is that time of year for following up on resolutions, I will make a more concerted effort to follow up on this. However, while I want to maximize my BB/100h, I want to make sure that I take reasonable advantage of site promotions/rewards/incentives.

Thus I intend to only play short handed on sites where I receive rakeback, or more generally speaking get rewarded based on my MGR (monthly gross revenue). Currently, the only site I am registered at that fits this requirement is Sun Poker. I may be a little slow initially at increasing the number of tables I play at that site due to the inability to data mine observed hands, and at least initially, I don't intend to play any higher than $5/$10.

Promotions like Stars VIP don't differentiate based on MGR, and this strongly discourages me from playing shorthanded there. (Several bloggers seem fairly comfortable multitabling the $50->$200 SNGs for healthly ROIs and fairly rapid accumulation of VPPs, however that is a seperate analysis) For my skill set, the $3/$6 and $5/$10 9 max limit games seem optimal from the point of view of rewards from the VIP program.

Another resolution that I intend to follow is primarily to play better, instead of more poker. Due to my recent sickness, I have been sleeping close to 100% more than usual, and I definitely feel a noticable improvement in my mental clarity. I will not play tired in 2006. The side effect of this is that I expect to have far more days in which I play 0 hands of poker than have been the case in 2005.

Ironically, if Party's VIP department introduces another Cruise promotion similar to the one held over Christmas, I'm going to be essentially throwing out all of these resolutions during the promo period. The value of that promotion is so overwhelming large that it cannot be ignored, and timing is absolutely of the essence. I have done extensive analysis of strategies for this promotion, and all necessary preparations are in place if a similar promotion is repeated.

Go stevejpa!!

Steve is a student from my alma mater, University of Waterloo. He has made the TV table at the PCA, and is 2nd in chips. Go Steve!!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Still alive

This has been no 24 hour flu bug, but I think I am now really on the road to recovery. :) Tired though...

I realized that these last few days have represented the longest stretch of time that I have not played a single hand of poker since I started playing almost two years ago. I've had to live vicariously through others - particularly those bloggers down in the PCA.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2006 Kickoff

2005 was a moderately good year, with plenty of squandered opportunities. Here's to making the best of 2006!


Mucho thanks to Scurvy for his shoutout of this blog in his Review of Poker Blogs. I'm quite honored (actually honoured, as I'm Canadian) since Scurvy is quite simply one of the best poker bloggers on the net. He consistently puts out high quality, informative content, and I wish him success in his upcoming forays into the world of full-time poker playing.

It is really stretching it to call this a poker strategy blog, because it is simply a journal of my experiences. Occasionally, I'll encounter an interesting situation that I'll need to write out in its entirety to get closure on the subject. While I think these are the most helpful things for me to write about, they just don't happen that often. More often than not, when I go back and read my old postings I have a strong desire to just delete them.

Prior to this shoutout, I'd say that my personal highlight from writing this blog was receiving an unsolicted comment from ChrisF regarding a $20/$40 hand I played. Naturally his comment was pointing out what a donkey I am, but that's besides the point. This is Chris F'in Fargis.

Holiday play

Early on in the holiday week I took a rough case of the unmentionable deep in a $500 buy in event finishing just short of the bubble having started the last hand with a decent sized stack. This disturbed me much more than it should have. For those Top-Gun fans, "I'm hangin on too tight... I've lost the edge".

For most of the remaining week, I took a vacation from Poker stress, and played the easiest hold'em game on the net (from the combined difficulty/variance/hourly-rate POV): $100NL on Party. 8-tabling those games is less stressful than 2-tabling $10/$20 6-max. Another motivator for sticking to those games is for rake-minimization. I'm honestly, but stupidly, not getting the (other) unmentionable, and in the absence of any reasonable promotions, it seemed just as well to "take a break". (the only other thing I considered was taking advantage of the Stars double FPP points promo for the last week of December which essentially works out to $0.032/raked hand, however my rationale is that shortly after the Stars VIP kicks off, I will never be earning less than double FPPs ever again. Might as well save the play for VPP accumulation)

speaking of which...
Stars VIP

The Stars VIP program is semi-reasonable in lieu of the unmentionable, at least at moderately low limit - 9 seated tables. Assuming a significant number of hands played (and you accept things like a freeroll into a $200+$15 event at face value), the VIP program works out to roughly $0.016/raked hand at BronzeStar, $0.024/rh at SilverStar, $0.032/rh at GoldStar, $0.04/rh at PlatinumStar, and $0.056/rh at SuperNova. Converting these numbers into BB/100h at stakes such as $2/$4 and $3/$6 LHE works out to generous returns since the average-rake/rh at those levels is only slightly above $1. Coupled with 9-max games, this can provide barely break-even grinders a profitable, but unsatisfying existence.


Anyhow, New year's comes around, and I make a concerted effort to level up ASAP. Funny enough, I somehow decided to kick off the first hour playing $0.50/$1.00NL. After 4-tabling for an hour, I had a whopping 46 VPPs, so that was enough of that. I then fire up 7-tables of $3/$6 9-max (granted starting with 1 table, adding each additional table after 5 or more minutes, since I have been so spoiled by the ability on Party to datamine 16 billion hands before sitting down for the first time, and pretty much require having ~some~ hand history before multitabling.) My goal was to make Gold Star by the end of the second day and PlatinumStar by the time my wife returns home from her trip next week. Again, nice goals, but can I follow through?


I work my way up to about 1300VPPs (1500 needed to Silver, and 4k needed for Gold) when I decide it is time to take a break, head on down to the gym and get a nice New Year's workout. I didn't mention that the night before I had sneezed a couple of times, and that I had a ticklish nose when I woke up on New Years Day. Anyway, shortly after I got back from my workout, an impending case of the flu hit me square in the head.

I haven't had anything worse than a mild cold so far this decade, and this felt like my head was stuck in a vice. I was soon in no condition to be walking around, let alone trying to go out and drive around trying to find a pharmacy that was open on New Year's Day. For the next 18 hours, I tried on and off to sleep through an achy, sweaty miserable night. The next morning, when I was reasonably sure that the nearby Safeway would be open, I made the trip out and picked up whatever I could find that provided maximum relief for Sinus pain.

After doping up, I was actually able to get a few hours of real sleep, and then wake up in the mood to rack up some more VPPs. I worked my way up to about 2k points before realizing it was quite premature to call an end to my flu bug. However, during that session I had the pleasure of sitting at one table with Dr. Pauly. I believe we only faced off 2 hands - the first of which Dr. Pauly called my river bluff when we both missed our flush draw, and the other hand he paid me off all the way with top pair worse kicker. I'm content to have an even-Steven situation with a fellow blogger. I'm pretty sure he didn't know who I was anyway.

Grand Larceny of focus

One pretty disappointing thing about multitabling at Stars is the fact that whenever you are prompted for an action at a table, the Stars GUI client sets the focus to that table. This makes it EXTREMELY dangerous to use keyboard shortcuts a-la-autohotkey. It was actually roughly 45 minutes of multitabling before I realized this behavior. Initially I was just thinking that I was making a heck of a lot of misclicks.

This sets me back to using the mouse only to multitable at Stars. As I said earlier, my possible RSI condition is discouraging me from overusing the mouse, but from the days of Starcraft/Zerg, I've often been in the house of thought that "why click just once, when 3 or 4 times will get the job done with even more certainty?". I've been unlearning this behavior, but at any rate, this is discouraging from the point of view of attempting to get to SuperNova status without wrecking my hand.


It is not looking like I'm going to come anywhere near my original timeline for leveling up through the Stars VIP program. Based on some 2+2 threads, it sounds like some maniacs made it to PlatinumStar in the first 24 hours. At any rate, I've been running very good in all these low limit games for the last week or so, and this kind of positive reinforcement has been good for my psyche regardless of other progress.