Sunday, February 5, 2012

2012 Aussie Millions

Since my last blog my focus has been on finishing off managing end of year IT system deployments during the Christmas holidays and start preparing for the Aussie Millions in Melbourne in the last week of January. During the two weeks prior to the Aussie Millions main event I entered a number of '6-phase' satellites on PokerStars to a main event seat but after several attempts (including one were I went deep into phase 5) I unfortunately fell just short of scoring a seat.

So after my online failures I was ready to finally take a well earned week off work and head to Melbourne with Fi. We stayed close to the Crown Casino on South Bank and we were in for a week full of poker, catching up with some friends and of course every blokes nightmare - being subjected to change room complications while shopping in a coupe of the city's finest Direct Factory Outlets (and for the record I did score a couple of bargains).

The first thing I noticed upon arrival (apart from the much warmer weather than in Sydney of recent times) were the huge number of Sydney players that had made the trip down and with many just playing in the satellites and cash games trying their luck to enter the main event. After many mutual well wishes it was down to business. 

I too decided to try and satellite into the main event rather than immediately dipping into the poker bankroll. I started immediately on the same Saturday afternoon of arrival and entered the 4pm Phase 2 $250 satellite where the winners would win a seat into the $1150 Phase 3 satellite. The starting stacks were 5K with 20 min blind levels and as expected the action was wild from the get go. To my delight after 3 hours I emerged with a phase 3 seat as a final 20 were left from the original 100 odd starters.

The good thing about getting through the phase-2 satellite on the first attempt (apart from saving on some satellite buy-ins) was that I did not have to play two further phase-2 satellites at 10pm on the Saturday and at 10am on the Sunday morning as well as the 6pm phase-3 on the Sunday night. This minor success meant that I had time to catch a cab over to Richmond and have dinner with Fi and one of her friends at the Kingston Hotel before getting a good night's sleep.

The next day we did the usual breakfast, shopping, lunch and afternoon break before I had to turn up at 6.15pm for the phase 3 satellite. I enjoyed the sights and scenes Melbourne had to offer along the Yarra river including the difficulty with crossing a certain plaza on the South Bank that was being constantly roped off for the filming of what I later learnt was a Sprite Commercial. The amount of quality buskers on South Bank were entertaining and quite good I thought but to the old fella on his buggy singing his Johnny Cash version of ABBA's Fernando on loud speakerit is never too late to get a day job or retire gracefully.

The phase-3 satellite was quite uneventful for me. The usual card dead event with no decent spots to bluff or squeeze some chips - or maybe this has been my problem of late - not working harder on my game to recognise some subtle spots. In the end and two hours in with a small stack of 12BBs I open shoved from middle position with AQs only to run into the small blinds pocket Queens - and of course I never hit my Ace so that was the end of that. One positive during this satellite was meeting a young gentlemen from NZ by the name of Slade Fisher who's current line of work is seasonal fishing (I'm not taking the mickey here!) and playing poker online. This was Slade's first main event anywhere and as we'll see later - he had a very good result.

In terms of tournament entry payment the organisers were accepting VISA/MasterCard but only at least 24 hours before the scheduled start otherwise you had to pay the entry in full in cash. Weighing up the options I decided it was best to just enter on Sunday night for the Day 1 flight 3 on Tuesday and take the Monday off to spend time with Fi and make it over to the Australian Open tennis which is the first time we've ever been live to a tennis grand-slam event.

We booked in some tickets to watch the 4th Round matches Women: Sharapova vs Lisicki and in the Men: Djokovic vs Hewitt. It was a great night of tennis with two longer than expected matches and I learnt a couple of things 1. Sharapova is even louder with her grunting in real life than on TV; and 2. Lleyton Hewitt doesn't need to scream that stupid 'Come On!' with the reversed emu hand sign in his face in order to play a respectful and admirable game of tennis against the world no. 1. The only downside was that the tennis took so long to end that we only managed to get to bed very late that morning which wasn't ideal preparation for my main event day 1. However with noon starts and midnight to 1am finishes Fi pointed out that going to be late the night before played right into my game plan!

On the Tuesday morning we were ready to go out for a late breakfast when on the TV appeared what seemed to be an ex-spicegirl doing a commercial for Jenny Craig weight loss describing herself as an ex Bombara-to-Bombarda body type. Mel-B I can tell you that you have some Bombarda left but there is nothing wrong with that. Once my mind was off the fitness regime I needed to get back into I was determined to focus on having a good main event. Present for this Aussie Millions main event were a number of pros including Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein, Tom Dwan, Tony G, KC Tran and WSOP main event final tabler Eoghan O'Dea from Ireland. The field this year was a little lower than previous years with 659 entrants coughing up the $10,600 entry fee and first prize being lower than recent years at $1.6Million AUD and despite some murmurs of disappointment in this I don't think anyone was really complaining.

Fi decided to stay and watch the poker for the early sessions and give me some support which I really appreciated with what was going to be a tough day. The huge screen in the main playing area was showing the cricket test match between Australia and India and lucky for me I had my back to it so I could concentrate on the poker. A lot of the players were being distracted by the sport and arguing with the tournament directors over whether the cricket or tennis should be put onto the big screen. I was hoping this would work in my favour but one thing that was confirmed is that a lot of poker players are also degenerate sports betting freaks.

As usual I started the tournament solidly but lately I have been trying to open up my game a lot more and try a little harder to get a larger stack than usual and try to avoid playing the push-fold game too early in order to double up and keep surviving. With 30K in starting chips and 90 minute levels there was a decent amount of time to build things. After hearing about many of the pros being knocked out on the earlier day 1 flights and looking at my table draw with me in seat 1 and the rest mainly local players and the only foreigners being Mohamad Kowssarie from Sweden who actually made the final table in this event and Jamil Dia who was the Aussie Millions 2005 champion.

I started day 1 well mixing it up early and even having the honour of knocking out the 2005 champion who had a small stack in a race with AQs vs JJ. Jamil just didn't have any luck at all and twice in the early going his JJ hit a set only to be out-flopped by the villain's nut straight (yes - sometimes I can be the villain too!). Apart from a good start day 1 was frustrating for me - after level three I managed to chip up to 38K at the end of level 3 and was in an ongoing battle with a loose aggressive young Indian chap to my right who was trash talking the table.

During level 4 my stack had dropped to 24K after a couple of bad beats and now there was one interesting (critical?) moment I had with the trash talker when the blinds were at 200/400/25. I was in the small blind with AQ and he open raised the button to 850 and I 3-bet to 2200. He sat and tanked for ages shuffling his chips and making very direct looks at my stack and his 60K stack that easily covered me. He finally 4-bet re-raised me to 8K and although my exterior was composed I was now confused and started to tank. He made a move I most certainly thought he could make as a bluff but this was the first time he had 4-bet me to 1/3rd of my stack. Obviously I cannot just call off 1/3rd of my stack and then fold - but against this LAG could I ship with AQ when we are still so deep with me having 60BBs and this was his first 4-bet of the day? I finally wimped out and folded - he showed an Ace before throwing his hand into the muck. To this moment I don't know if he had me dominated with AA or AK or if I had him dominated and missed a good thing I did know by now was that the room was absolutely freezing as our table was directly under the air conditioning vent and it could not have been much warmer than 10 degrees centigrade - enough people starting buying Aussie Millions hoodies to combat the cold conditions which made me wonder if this was a marketing ploy. Lucky for me Fi retrieved my hoodie from the hotel room for the last three levels of the night.

After this moment I didn't really recovered and struggled for the rest of my card dead day 1 bouncing between 20K-30K in chips and finishing day 1 on 30.2K in chips which was basically 30BBs for the start of day 2.

Like day 1 - day 2 also started promisingly as I soon got into push-fold mode and grew my chip stack to 47K early but again I was hit with a long streak of being card dead and lack of any opportunity to bluff or squeeze even in button vs blind or blind vs blind scenarios. At one point when I was still on around 40K (~30BB) the young Adelaide star James Obst who had a 55K stack had just been moved to my table and when I open raised with AQ in the cut off, the button folded and Obst 3-bet me a small amount from the small blind. I knew that he could definitely be doing this light and I thought this was my opportunity to finally to re-shove and take some chips, or double up to 80K+ or bust out like a man. Unfortunately for me the big blind who was a fairly tight player pushed all-in over the top of both of us with his 55K stack and I was again gob smacked - it didn't feel like AQ was ahead of this players range I thought. So I humbly folded and saw Obst instantly fold as well which made me think what do I have to do in order get a good spot in this tournament? Maybe I'm just reading too much into these spots and I should be calling these re-raised shoves with AQ and just risk looking like a goose to get a stack or just bust me out of my misery? One thing I know for sure is that if I keep folding in these spots I'm never going to be chip leader in these major tournaments...

My starting table on day 2 had now been broken up and I was moved to a very tough table and at the 7.45pm dinner break I was down to 19K and basically push-folding my small stack. After coming back at 8.30pm I had a miserable 90 minutes after this where I was constantly shoving and no one was calling (even after a good player raised and was getting odds to call with any two) and finally at 10pm my button shove with A8 was called by the big blind's 33 and no surprise his tiny pair held and I was out in 114th place out of 659 starters and no prize money. It amazes me how these players will happily raise and re-raise with QJ and KJ all day yet they don't call a 10BB re-shove (~15K) with these hands when they have 250K in chips.

Here is the Poker News summary and results of the main event: 2012 Aussie Millions Day 18 Summary.

Despite my poor main event there were some positives. As mentioned earlier in this post Slade Fisher managed to finish in 17th place for $60,000 in prize money and this being his first major live event I'm sure that we won't see the end of him too soon. I understand that he might be planning his trip to Vegas for WSOP 2012. Also I'm coming to the conclusion that my game in these events needs to open up a lot more still and I am starting to apply this more online over the past week since the Aussie Millions.

I spent this weekend back at home playing online all day Saturday and was happy with a very LAG style of play and despite only managing some average cashes I did go deep enough in a few of the events and held a big stack during the money stages that this approach seems promising. Of course it was also a weekend where all my big pairs got busted by smaller pairs and rags and when this is happening I don't believe there is much more to look at in terms of adjusting strategy.

For now its back to moving house, IT work and a lot of poker reading and study before Vegas. I have just learnt there is also an APPT event at The Star in March and this would also provide another opportunity before Vegas.

So until next time I wish everyone a happy poker experience and may all your bankrolls grow and big pairs hold!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It's a New Year!

It's been over a month since my last post as December and the early part of January traditionally are devoted to busy technology deployments and festive season events for me. I've had a great Christmas weekend and New Years day and I hope that you all have enjoyed the same.

On the poker side of things I have stopped my SnG grinding for the time being and just tried to focus on satellites into the Aussie Millions main event which is just over a week away now. I have had some near misses both in a live satellite at The Star Casino and on the PokerStars 6 round satellite formats. Qualifying is not over yet as I have another set of satellite rounds on PokerStars tonight and although a lot of luck is needed to progress through the 6 rounds I also find the fast bingo style format as a lot of fun. I start from the 60FPP round 1 stage so going through the gauntlet is really like free rolling. Needless to say that when I land in Melbourne next Saturday I'll spend the first few days before the main event trying to grind up the entry fee. 

On the personal side of things I enjoyed my first trip away to Adelaide for Xmas with my girlfriend Fi and I really enjoyed Christmas in the City of Churches. I'm not someone who always likes the fast hustle and bustle of Sydney and with my origins based in Wollongong its no surprise that I liked Adelaide. I was even introduced to a local landmark that I had never heard of before called Mall's Balls - now before your minds go racing into the gutter just refer to the image below from Adelaide's CBD shopping mall. Apparently it's Adelaide's version of Sydney's Town Hall as a meeting place...

I have also spent some time over the past month playing 20nl cash games on the Entraction network with mixed success but breaking very even overall. It still amazes me how bad people can play cash games and still seem to get away with it for long periods of time...either way the goal here seems to be earning rakeback and bonuses rather than pure profit as it seems everytime I have an overpair it won't win or draw any notable value. I have never been that great at grinding out bonuses online via cash games. I obviously need to work on my cash game again and figure out any leaks. I am almost sure one of them is loosening up too much after going a few buy in a head in a session and continually spewing cash on big over pairs.
As for coming blogs I'm sure the main focus will be on the Aussie Millions over the next couple of weeks. I'm not sure if I will be grinding any type of SnGs for a while since I am also in the middle of moving house as well.

I'm hoping that a few of the lads from Ireland can make it down here for the Aussie Millions but I have not heard anyone confirmed. If you are are on your way lads drop me a line!

Well there isn't much more to report on this early in the year but I am looking forward to just one more week at work before heading down to Melbourne to play in some big tournaments again. On that note I would like to wish everyone a happy 2012 in life and hopefully some poker too!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Return to Live Poker

Since my last blog update a few weeks ago I have been encouraged to return to the live poker scene as a change up from the usual online grind and also for some much needed live tournament practice before the Aussie Millions which is coming up in January.

As a result I have returned to playing at The Star Casino in Sydney to take part in the Summer Series currently being held there. The summer series runs for two weeks including no limit holdem and pot limit omaha tournaments ranging from a modest $330 buy in up to a main event $5500 nlhe event.

Because of work committments I could only play in two events: Event 1 - $330 nlhe starting on a Tuesday evening at 6.30pm, and Event 3 - $1100 nlhe starting on the following Sunday. Unfortunately I am not able to play in the main event this week due to it running during usual work hours.

I visited the casino a couple of weeks ago to play in the weekly $330 tournament as a warm up but discovered that the usual weekly tournament was not running - in its place there were only main event satellites. I decided instead to sit down and play at a $200nl cash table. I stayed a few hours and managed to make $350 against some pretty ordinary players making me wonder why I don't spend more time there. If nothing else this small winning would fund the entry fee to Event 1.

For Event 1 I decided to open up my tournament game a lot more than usual as the blinds were only 40 minute levels and 10K in chips starting stack. Event 1 had three day 1 flights leading into a day 2 and then a day 3 for the final table. I played on the first day 1 flight after work starting at 6.30pm with 250 runners playing down to either 40 players left or 14 levels. At 3.15am the tournament directors decided to bring to play to an end for the night 12 levels played and 51 players left.

I ended day 1 with 32.6K in chips which was equivalent to 16 big blinds for the start of day 2. When I returned for the start of Day 2 later in the week I had learned that there were 99 players left out of 583 starters and the top 57 places were being payed. From the start of day 2 I played the usual push-fold game everytime I had 15-20 big blinds and lasted until there were only 32 players left and pushed my AJo with only 12 big blinds under the gun into the small blind's AQs and as usual did not get lucky. As small compensation I managed to make enough prize money to free roll Event 3 the $1100 nlhe a couple of days later.

Event 3 again had 40 minute blind levels but with a bigger starting stack of $15K and this time there were only 108 starters with only 12 places paid. I opened up my play more than usual again and found good spots to balance my play with bluffs, value raises and 20BB re-shoving but unfortunately found no value as everyone continually folded just when I had built a decent stack.

Eight hours into the event I finally managed to find a double up to 32K in chips with the big blind at 1200 chips and found myself with pocket queens under the gun. I raised to 3K only to be raised to 8K by the massive stack at the table in late position. It didn't take much to realise he was very strong but this is the best tournament spot I've had for the entire year - I was not going to fold my QQ here and even though I knew the villain showed great strength here I pushed all in only to have him snap call me and turn over pocket Aces. Needless to say I did not get lucky this time and ended the tournament in 35th place. A good run and a good spot to try and double up to around 70 big blinds late in the event but it ended up being a cooler.

All in all its been a good return to live poker free rolling both Summer Series tournaments from a short cash game session a few weeks ago. Tomorrow I will try my hand at a $550 turbo satellite for an Aussie Millions main event ticket and hope that I have a little luck on my side!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Final Checkpoint - 180 player SnGs

It has now been some three and a half months since I first started this blog and I have played some five hundred odd $2.50/180turbo/SnGs in that time on PokerStars. It has been another difficult fortnight to get a lot of tournaments in due to work and family commitments so I thought that it would be a good time to just take a final checkpoint on what's happened and try to derive any useful conclusions for those players who are new to the 180/SnGs and trying to grind a bankroll playing them.

I have decided to organize this post in the following sections:

1. Game selection and strategy
2. Bankroll management
3. Volume & ROI
4. Cashout system
5. Where to from here?

In each section I will relate back to many earlier posts and see if I still agree with earlier points of view. Before I get started in each section here is the overall profit/loss trend so far for this bankroll challenge:

1. Game selection and strategy
There is not much art to game selection since these formats have one event filling up at a time. The one thing to realise in these events that most of the opposition are not great with a few regulars thrown in so on the strategy side I have stuck to the basics and have made the following adjustments:
  • try to see a few more cheap flops early and hit a monster flop early
  • play push/fold once I am around 10-12 big blinds
  • stopped blindly taking every coin flip to try and 'win the tournament' (there are better spots taking into account the general level of the opposition)
  • stopped re-stealing light with a 20BB stack (most opponents at this level don't really think so you will get called by big stacks here more than you would expect)
  • Be patient enough to go down to 5BB in the very late bubble stages
  • My opinion is that there is no point in throwing away a 6-8BB stack at the bubble stage when close to the money and the action in front of you clearly indicates you are behind - at the $2.50 level others will do this work for you
  • Of course if there is no action in front of you learn your push/fold theory and take advantage of this tool in the middle to late stages of the event
I have found much better results playing solidly and navigating a small stack through the mire to get to the bubble stage as often as possible and then combine this with strong push-fold decisions to get me to the final table more often. Trying to blast away the field with the big stack and run over the top of everyone every time has got me to the final table far less often and even when I do get to the money stage with a big stack it can easily disappear quickly due to the fast endgame action and my loose aggressive table image.

2. Bankroll management
The results have reinforced my original research and consultation with Doke (i.e. Dara O'Kearney). For tournament fields with 180+ participants its clear to me that 200 buy-ins are needed to keep the chance of total ruin at a minimum. There was a point in the past where I was led to believe that 100 buy-ins was sufficient for this type of format. However in this particular challenge having suffered an initial 80 buy-in downswing and then after returning back into the black suffering another subsequent downswing of 120 buy-ins its clear that having 200 buy-ins has helped keep my sanity and composure. My current bankroll stands at $834 which some would say is enough to move up to the $8 - 180/SnGs but after my experience here I feel that this amount is a little light and risky.

3. Volume and ROI
Back in one of my earliest posts I talked about trying to play 60 tournaments a week and aiming for a modest ROI of 20%. Hypothetically this would have worked out over 14 weeks to 840 tournaments with a profit of $420. I fell quite short on my volume target with only 532 tournaments played at an ROI of ~23% for a profit of $300. Not a great return but considering a long period of time sustaining two major downswings things are not that bad when you can still achieve more than a 20% ROI and be in the black. In terms of figuring out a more accurate figure for my long term ROI most agree that I need at least 2000 SnGs in total to figure that out so I am still only one quarter of the way there on this challenge. It's important to note that since making a couple of crucial adjustments I have managed ROI returns of 154% and 90% for the last two months respectively running over 100 SnGs and this is the trend I would hope to continue.

4. Cashout system
Quite a while ago I when researching bankroll requirements I stumbled on to Jennifear's blog on PocketFives which is no longer active and covers the concept of a cashout out system (assuming that you are a winning player). The idea behind this cashout system is to reward yourself based on volume of games played and not by milestone profits. The idea is that with an initial deposit one can earn a steady and frequent cash flow (withdrawn for life spending) whilst being forced to adhere to moving up and down levels based on bankroll requirements. The other advantage is to try and protect the major part of your winnings and avoid a horror story of building a big bankroll online and then losing it all due to tilt.

I did not try this cashout system on my challenge since I am at the bottom end of the buy-in levels with no room to move down if things went catastrophic. I did however want to try and make some hypothetical on what may have happened in my case had I tried to apply this system. According to Jennifear for 180/SnGs you should withdraw 8% of a buy-in for each SnG played including rakeback/bonuses as soon as you hit the site's minimum withdraw requirements.

So looking at 8% of a $2.50 180 player SnG I would be paying myself 20 cents per SnG played. Let's look at the profit and loss trend above in sections as follows and note the overall profit/loss, cashout payment amount and hypothetical bankroll (HBR) amount left after cashing out (I started with a bankroll of $534 at the beginning):

Section 1: SnGs=001-111, Profit/Loss= -$200, Cashout=$22.2, HBR=$311.80
Section 2: SnGs=112-201, Profit/Loss= $97.90, Cashout=$18, HBR=$613.90
Section 3: SnGs=202-398, Profit/Loss= -$192.5, Cashout=$39.2, HBR=$302.30
Section 4: SnGs=399-480, Profit/Loss= -$46.9, Cashout=$16.2, HBR=$470.9
Section 5: SnGs=481-532, Profit/Loss= $300, Cashout=$51, HBR=$783

So we can see that even with my two major downswings I could still have sustained a cashout system over all without losing my entire bankroll. However my bankroll would have dropped after the 3rd section of SnGs to  ~$300 or about 120 buy-ins left for the $2.50. But this again really reinforces why you need 200 buy-ins especially if you want to employ a cashout system.

Where would I be if I had been cashing out regularly based on the above? Well right now I would have had about $106 back in my bank account as safe profit to spend on real life goodies whilst still having a sufficient $783 dollars in my online account to continue grinding out a profit at the $2.50 buy-in level.

There is also another aspect of cashout strategy that Jennifear covers called taking shots where the idea is that you can use 25% of a particular cashout to take a shot at a high level to allow for the feeling of 'chasing a dream' which can help give your bankroll a boost or just help you release some tension around having a controlled attempt at a higher buy-in level. For example in my case above if have satisfied the criteria to cashout $100 this month then I could cashout the 75% and use the remaining $25 to take multiple or a single shot at some higher buy-in levels.

Of course I am not being too serious about the amounts at stake here but you get the idea of what you could be earning at the higher buy in levels with higher profits. The thing to note here is that for such a system to be successful at any level you need to be able to beat that level for at least 8% ROI otherwise moving down levels will be essential and should make you find your way to the level you have aptitude for.

I like the idea of a cashout strategy for many reasons, the main one being you can't kid yourself on the margin you are beating a particular buy-in level for. This is something I would like to try later on at a higher buy-in level.

5. Where to from here?
For the most part I think I have covered this bankroll challenge with enough detail on the basics for new comers and fellow part time players. I will probably leave the detailed analysis behind for the time being and give the occasional update and hopefully still manage to move up to the higher stakes as part of my own personal exercise.

As for what else is ahead I will be making a return to live poker at the local Casino in Sydney and look forward to playing in the weekly tournaments and upcoming summer series there in a build up for the Aussie Millions in January 2012. This should make for some more interesting reading and a change of pace for this blog.

I look forward to covering new and interesting material for you guys in the months to come and as always I welcome any feedback that you can leave in the comments section below.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A worthy small break

It has been about a month since I made my last post - a very busy October with work and personal commitments. After assessing my previous 10 weeks of the yo-yo poker grind trend (see trend graph in my last blog post) where I basically finished break and even - I felt that I had played well for the most part however it was time for a much needed small break during most of October. Even though I was not affected by tilt the poker grind can wear you down when the cards are not running your way and a well timed small break in this situation in my view was needed to avoid a feeling of burnout.

I'm pleased to say that following my conclusions in my last post - Quality Mini's - has resulted in a few steady sessions capped off with my most successful single 180/SnG session played yesterday with two notable 1st place finishes resulting in a bankroll increase to $725. The summary for the month of October comes to only 51 tournaments at an ROI of 154%. A week like this has well been overdue considering many horrific weeks of bad beats however this does not mean that I am now entitled to running good for months. I can only hope that I continue to get my fair share of even breaks coming into the end of the year and have a chance of doubling this particular bankroll.

I've also taken recent interest in my old past-time of chess again during this small poker break and its a welcome piece of variety to break up the mental side of this poker grind. I've spent quite a bit of time reviewing my overall chess strategy and started playing at a local chess club again. Its challenging trying to fit in another pass-time after work as demanding as tournament chess but I will have to make some practical adjustments to my playing style and approach.

I've also booked in my flights to Melbourne for the Aussie Millions upcoming in January - the tickets were booked with Qantas and with the Qantas crisis this weekend it wasn't the best piece of news but I'm sure the industrial dispute will be resolved by then.

Along with going to the Aussie Millions I will be trying to get some live action preparation in place before then. Having a look around the Sydney scene the local casino in Sydney has had an image revamp recently and renaming from Star City to The Star. The old Wednesday night $330 weekly tournament is still on and I will be making an appearance over the coming months. I'm also hoping to play in some online qualifiers if they are available for the Aussie millions leading up to January.

OK so now that I have had my well earned little poker break its time to ramp up the volume catch up on some poker reading with hopefully a lot more interesting poker and results to come. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Quality minis

This week's write up is inspired by a recent blog by good friend and wise poker pro Dara O'Kearney or 'Doke' as we've all come to know him by. Doke's blog back in early September Tanks and minis included the closing statement of "It's not always about driving the big tank in this game: the great players know how to navigate a mini through a minefield when needed too".

Doke was referring to the patience and ability of the good tournament players to not just rely on and play well with a dominating huge stack (a tank) but also not lose hope when in possession of a short-stack (a mini) - knowing how to use a mini in the right spots to chip up is crucial to overall tournament results. Perhaps this skill is even more important in the small stakes 180-SnGs as there is a lot less room to manoeuvre than the traditional large field MTTs. As I will elaborate below I have fallen back on this style of playing 'minis' more over the past few sessions and the results have been promising.

This week I didn't achieve much volume but ended the month of September with 120 tournaments at an ROI of 18% bringing my bankroll almost back to even. Here is the summary for the past week:

Session 1: Played 8, Placed 2 (2nd, 5th), Prizes $109 
Session 2: Played 8, Placed 1 (7th), Prizes: $14 
Session 3: Played 6, Placed 1 (8th), Prizes: $11

And here is the trend graph (the big 'W'):

So after 10 weeks and 432 tournaments I am more or less break even at $527 (four buy-ins down but still over 200 buy-ins for the current level). Considering what seemed like a couple of bankroll breaking downswings along the way I'm not too disappointed. Although I am not used to playing this low I am really enjoying the challenge at the moment and building a strong mental resilience which will pay off for me in later larger events.

As I stated in my last blog my focus of late is less on quantity and more on quality which is more in line with my natural patient style of play. This does not mean that I play like (or condone playing like) a total nit but just that I have focused more on not getting involved in a lot of dodgy 50-50 spots when I know that there will be better spots available later against poor opposition. In fact my observation during my huge downswings has been that I have taken every 50-50 spot in the hope of building a huge stack only to be unlucky at crucial times and have my the large stack counting for nothing. The rest of the time I might be knocked out in the first few levels playing this way and not giving myself a chance later on against more crucial errors that opponents at this low level make - at least just specific to this level this has to be -EV.

On the other hand during my upswings I'm playing more sensibly in terms of +EV and surviving to the late stages before taking risks with an average or quality mini stack and it seems to have payed off. I've even managed to be patient enough running my stack down to 3-5BBs right on the bubble and still making the final table. Of course running good is always a key factor no matter what your style is so long as you have the fundamentals right. Hopefully this approach will get me moving upwards again.

I have to say that reading The Poker Mindset by Ian Taylor & Matthew Hilger has probably been the biggest help of late helping me keep it together mentally when things haven't been going so well. Some of my learning from this book may make up some material in future blogs. If you are starting out and would like to see a book review or applied learning in my game please leave me a comment.

On other news I have now booked in my trip for the 2012 Aussie Millions in January so I will be looking over the next few months to prepare by playing some live events, some qualifiers as well as some larger online field MTTs so stay tuned...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Snakes and Ladders

Its been a couple of weeks since my last post as I haven't had much of a chance to play or study during the earlier part of the fortnight attending some personal engagements.

This week has been a positive one winning almost 50 buyins in four sessions of play - although it was the last session today that seemed to be the saving grace. It is very clear that I know how to play these things - its just some small adjustments and consistent upward trends

This weeks summary:

Session 1: Played: 13, Placed: 2 (11th, 11th), Prizes: $10 
Session 2: Played: 6, Placed: 2 (6th, 17th), Prizes: $26
Session 3: Played: 10, Placed: 1 (4th), Prizes: $33
Session 4: Played: 8, Placed: 2 (2nd, 6th), Prizes: $103

Some final table near misses and an unlucky 2nd place most certainly had an impact on my bottom line however with such little volume played for the week one can't complain with the overall return.

Despite this past good week the bankroll challenge overall feels like a big game of snakes and ladders after 410 tournaments so far. Below is the trend graph:

One observation of late is that during the downswings (despite being very unlucky) I have played very aggressively - maybe too aggressively. During my upswings I have been a lot more patient and solid dropping to as low as 3-5BBs at times (may be a reflection of recent chess study). This patient approach is normally something not recommended however I might continue in this vain for a while and judge the results. I have been putting off my study of push-fold charts and ICM calculations for the 180s - its clear that in order to improve I have to start getting this work done soon.

As mentioned above I am also working on my chess game again for the first time in a long time. Despite a seven year break from tournament play I wasn't too happy with a below par City of Sydney Championship this year. The chess study is a good way to break up the monotonous poker grind and hopefully my revamped approach to chess will also help my poker game.