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...