Examination

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“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
-IM from me to April after losing a 414 dollar pot

Well, it was bound to happen. For a month, I had a killer streak. 12k hands at .50/1 NL 6-max, 12BB/100 winnings. You do the math. I made a couple withdrawls to pad the wallet, and it ended up being a good move. Everything I left on the site was gone within one week. Variance was definitely not on my side (Aces lost me money overall during this stretch), but something had happened to my game and I needed to figure out what. I was getting stacked, a lot.

I had been working on a post detailing how I felt my game had improved, and I had it saved and still being worked on. So, I went into that and looked at my notes. Had I stopped doing something that was working out for me before? Here were my notes on how I felt I was playing. After reading all these and analyzing my Hand Histories, I had screwed up one of these four….

1. I’m paying attention to individual players’ betting patterns. In short, I noticed that a huge amount of money won (or not lost) came from deciding what a pot-sized bet meant on the flop. Was it because they missed? Or was it because the “Pot” button was right there and easy to push? A lot of players would bet 1/2 to 2/3 of the pot, but every once in awhile they’d drift to a pot-sized bet (or just larger than that) when an all-rags flop would come down. Many times I’d be holding middle pair and I’d get a nice raise in to take it down. Other times, players would always hit the pot-sized bet because they were fish that wanted to get their money in when they were ahead, and they became easy to avoid.

2. I really like my starting hand selection. After donkeying it up for years with my starting cards with no excuse except for having fun or having seen someone else do it, I finally tightened up to a good range for a 6-handed cash game, picking my spots and finding a comfortable zone. Murderer’s Row alum Shyam helped me tweak it a bit and helped close the gap with which hands I should be raising as opposed to limping, and it felt great when put into practice. Ace-rag was almost always chucked, a lot less hands got played to a raise, and even fewer hands had reraising value, depending on the players at the table. In any case, it was working.

3. “Stop Continuation Betting!” Shyam has shouted this at me numerous times because when I’d tell him a bad hand that happened, it would almost always include me raising pre-flop and then continuation betting in a bad situation. Of course, he didn’t mean to stop continuation betting *all* the time, but to analyze the situation first and know why I’m doing what I’m doing first. Once I started doing that, I started getting check-raised a lot less and facing a lot fewer tough decisions, which you always want to keep minimized, especially when playing 4-8 tables at once.

4. Pay Attention to Poker Tracker, for it is Wise in the ways of poker. That one speaks for itself.

So, which was I not doing anymore? What wheel had fallen off?

You’d be shocked, but I really believe the answer was #4, though not in the way you’d expect. I was still paying attention. In fact, I was paying attention *too* much. As for my other improvements, they were still there. My Pokertracker stats were almost exactly the same except for my results. Why? I had become glued to PokerTracker, to the point that I was taking the percentages at face value and overcalling way too much against the maniacs, playing right into their hands. Obvious folds became borderline. Borderline decisions became calls or re-raises. You get the idea. Even if my read on a LAG was that he was still solid, I lost respect in his game because PokerTracker said so. A guy with 68% VPIP can’t *possibly* be a winning player, right? RIGHT?

An examplet of stupidity: J8s in the BB. (Yes, you read that right, I’m about to tell you about a hand where I played J8s.) Very loose table. Maniac (28% Pre-flop raise) is folded to, so he auto-pops it from the CO to 4. Button (54% VPIP) calls the 4, and the SB folds. Three bucks to hit a flop against these two, and they both have me covered? Sure, let’s go.

Flop is 568 rainbow, and I’m not gonna be cute here, I bet 10 dollars. The CO drops it, and the button just smooth-calls the bet. Does he have a 7 in his hand? With a scary board like that, wouldn’t he raise with a set or two pair?

The turn is a big fat Ace. I cannot leave my babies out there. I can’t show I’m afraid of an ace, or else he’s definitely going to bet and i’ll have no choice but to fold. So, I bet 20 dollars.

He raises all-in, a raise of 209 dollars for him. I have 66 left.

Pokertracker tells me his Agression rating is through the roof. A solid ABC agressive player is usually around 1.5 (I’m at 1.9), and his Agression rating is 4, which easily earns him the Tazmanian Devil icon floating below his username.

I have 2nd pair with no kicker and there’s a straight possibility.

“I refuse to be bluffed here”, and I call.

He has A7 (thus explaining the call on the flop), and stacks me.

These were the places where I was losing my bankroll. Where the glaring truth was right in front of me that my hand was no good, and I wouldn’t want to lay it down because of the fact that the opponent was historically agressive. That’s all well and good to stand up against them, but not when you’re facing a board like that.

You can play the player more than the cards, but it’s kind of important to actually be holding something more than 2nd pair sometimes.

There is a frustrating level to all this. I felt *great* about my game. I was 8-tabling and making a lot of money. I was taking note of the other multi-tablers and avoiding them, or taking note of when they could be outplayed and I did so. I was not the laughingstock Tiltmonster from the home game. I was playing a respectable game.

And then I committed the unforgivable sin of poker: calling off your chips.

I will be returning, this time with a bit more caution and more ammunition. After all, I still finished the month very far in the black (4 digits) and with one more leak plugged.