Moving Up

Posted by in Poker

Lately, I’ve been playing in cash games like a total lemur. Bored in class one day last week, I fired up UB and took my dismal bankroll to a .10/.25 NL table. I wasn’t really getting cards, and that led me to feel the need to make moves. I bet and called all the way down with pocket 5s, when just about every card on the board was bigger than mine. I dropped a buy-in in record time, then re-bought. Dropped a few dollars that time as well, saved by a fold to my re-raise when I held nothing more than pocket 7s. Oooh, I made a move. Yippee. My main concern on that hand was that the fold come quickly, since class was over, Miguel and I were the last ones there, and the TA was eyeing us. (By the way, don’t judge me – the TA didn’t even know where the prof was, so he put on a random film. I still haven’t played during an actual lecture, although I’ve come damn close a few times).

But I digress.

In the course of about an hour, I had managed to decimate my UB bankroll, which was hurting quite a bit to begin with. Did I care? Eh. Not really. $30 or so wasn’t enough to sting. Getting knocked out of a $30 tourney would, but even then only slightly, and then only because I normally do rather well in tourneys. The money itself was starting to lose all meaning.

On the one hand, this was good. The “it’s just money” additude is one that all successful players say you should have. Don’t think of how calling that bet or making that raise could affect your ability to pay your rent – remove all emotional attachment from the money, and accept that once you buy those chips, the cash is gone, and it’s now your job to be the best player so all the chips come to you.

On the other hand, that’s not quite what I was doing. The money had no meaning, so I was prone to get involved in hands I shouldn’t be in, chase draws when I had no odds to do so, and in general, play like a moron. I was upset with myself for doing that, but yet…$20. I can’t even fill up the car for that. If I lose it…who cares? What was upsetting me the most was that I had reached that point at all. No bankroll progress, no great win to show for a year’s worth of work.

I’ve always had the belief that the right way to do this poker thing was to start at the lower limits and then work your way up over time, building your bankroll. I’ve considered it the “proper” thing to do – and assumed that all self-respecting players did the same.

Well that’s just dumb. You start out playing what you can afford. And you play and play until you feel ready to move on. There are people who play $50 max NL who could easily afford $200 max NL. They stay because they’re in their comfort zone and they’re still learning.

Take away the learning aspect, and the zone isn’t so comfortable. Take away the challenge and you’re left with something that isn’t fun anymore. You get nothing from it – so what good is it?

I briefly discussed this with a poker expert as he procrastinated a bit on a Sunday afternoon. I was encouraged to get an ego (did I misplace mine? Should be easy to find; it’s kinda big) and look at the concept of outplaying someone a little differently. Could be a raise, could be a fold. Bottom line though – play better than they did.

That concept has been a real stumbling block for me. Lately the old notion of “I’m the better player here, I deserve to win” has been rearing its ugly head. G-Rob warned me against it long ago, and I’ve always kept his advice close by. But when boredom strikes, it’s easy to forget the truth. The cards don’t care about how many books you’ve read or games you’ve played. You certainly won’t impress anyone at the table with that either. You need only to witness a blogger cash game to see how little respect it’s possible to have for someone who clearly plays out of your league.

How to fix my problem then? For starters, the game needed to be fun again. To accomplish that, it needed to be challenging. A change of venue might be good too. About a month ago, I deposited $100 into Stars, with the intent of playing WPT sats. It didn’t take long for me to realize those were largely -EV. The money has been sitting there, covering the occassional blogger table appearance and WWdn tourney entry fee.

The minimum buyin for the $1/$2 NL tables at Stars is $80, but I hate those weird dollar buy-ins. I sat down with $100, leaving just a few dollars in the Stars bank. I was either going to go bust, or make a few bucks. I set a stop-loss of $50 though, so at least I’d have enough left to still show my tabby’s cute little face around Stars.

I played a little over an hour, seeing 97 hands. I handled the adjustment well, considering raises in terms of their relation to the big blind; not “OMG that’s a fucking $6 raise!!”. For instance, I tried limping in with AJo, but instead faced a raise to $10. I called, putting my opponent on a higher ace, AA, or KK – but most likely a higher ace. An ace hit the flop, along with a wheel draw. An almost pot-sized bet is made, and I call. (You know how I feel about those damn pot-sized bets). Turn is a Jack, and my questionable flop call becomes teh smartest move evar. Turn bet is the same as the flop (wha?) and I call. River comes another Jack and suddenly I am a poker genius. It’s checked to me and I bet $20, hoping to get a call. I wait….and wait….and wait till the little “disconnected” appears below my opponent. Booo.

I end up giving back about half of that pot a little later. I’m in LP with 10s, and raise to $8. Short-stack comes over the top for another $18.60, and I call. He had AKo and catches a King on the turn. I’m told it wasn’t a bad call, just bad luck. Booo on it too.

For my first time playing $1/$2 NL, I make $17.90, for a rate of 2.89 BB/hr. I could compare that to my success at .10/.25 or .25/.50, but my PT database was lost in the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2005. I imagine that it’s about the same, if you were to isolate the stretch of time when I was really playing that game, and remove the recent lemurness. (Is that even a word?)

Funny thing happens when poker becomes fun again – you start looking for any spare moment to play it. Monday morning I’m up early and decide I can spare a few moments at the tables before studying and then class. In about 45 minutes, I make a little over $3. Stupid non-hitting draws…

Make about $19 during 20 minutes of play last night, when I raise to $10 with pocket jacks. I get 4 callers, and immediately start praying for a jack on the flop. Instead I get two sevens and a king. I bet $30 and everyone folds.

I’ve noticed that pre-flop raises are much more common at $1/$2 (or perhaps this is just a Stars thing). Rarely do you get the luxury of limping into a pot. This forces me to be even more conservative and to really think about what someone is raising and/or calling with. I’ve also noticed that showdowns are rare. It’s almost like tourney play – a continuation bet will often win the pot. I can’t help but feel that I need to make moves – that I’m playing in this different sandbox now and need to prove my worthiness by pulling a few tricks from the Book of DoubleAs. But for the most part, I don’t. I bluff at a pot from time to time, but don’t get crazy. I bet my draws, knowing that most of the people I’m playing with have the ability to lay down anything less than a made hand, and also knowing that my draw may very well be the best hand at the moment. You can think things like that when you only have two to a flop.

Did I mention that I’m having fun again? Not only that, I’m actively learning and thinking about the game as it goes on. I’m reconsidering what cards to play and where to play them. I’m identifying the solid players from the LAGs and the weak fishes. I’m changing the way I used to play the game, and no longer feel stuck in a boring rut.

I was going to post this “announcement” at the end of this week, when I had a full weeks worth of results behind me. As it stands, I’ve only played 221 hands at $1/$2 – hardly a qualifying sample size.

But I had to share this.

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to FatTabbyMama [8s 9h]
G_Bread: calls $2
mikeymn: calls $2
FatTabbyMama: calls $1

Normally I would dump connectors in all but LP. I hate playing the low to middle ones. They’re only good if they hit the flop just right. But, new thinking – I’ll take ’em in the SB assuming no one pops it up after me. There is no shame in being the first to check a flop if the cards don’t come right.

*** FLOP *** [Jc 7s Td]

Um…I check!

FatTabbyMama: checks
bailey8: checks
G_Bread: checks
mikeymn: bets $6
FatTabbyMama: calls $6
bailey8: calls $6
G_Bread: raises $14 to $20
mikeymn: raises $36.80 to $56.80 and is all-in
FatTabbyMama: raises $36.80 to $93.60
bailey8: folds
G_Bread: calls $73.60

At this point, I figure one of them for a set, and the other…my best guess is a draw. If KQ is out there, a 9 or an Ace is gonna hurt.

*** TURN *** [Jc 7s Td] [Kc]

Hope nobody has AQ…

FatTabbyMama: bets $4.55 and is all-in
G_Bread: calls $4.55

*** RIVER *** [Jc 7s Td Kc] [3s]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
FatTabbyMama: shows [8s 9h] (a straight, Seven to Jack)
G_Bread: mucks hand (7s)
FatTabbyMama collected $82.70 from side pot
mikeymn: mucks hand (QJ)
FatTabbyMama collected $181.40 from main pot

That would be my biggest pot ever. Maybe not in terms of BB, but that one hand pretty much doubled my Stars bankroll. (And to the guy sitting at G-Rob’s tourney table who was less than impressed – You were playing in a $30 tournament. Bite me.)

So in general, the move has been good! Of course, now that I’ve posted winning results, the variance fairy will be along soon to set me straight. Luckily, I’ve been hording rosemary for just such an occasion.