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Back in the Saddle

After taking a few days away from the tables, I'm now ready to make my return. I've been reading Professional No-Limit Hold'em and No-Limit Hold'em: Theory and Practice non-stop since Monday evening. And I've watched a number of good instructional poker videos as well. It's time to find out just how ready I am to take on all comers at the $100 NLHE tables at PokerStars.

Since my losing streak started a couple weeks ago, I've spent some time re-evaluating the merits of playing short-stacked. I've found that there is a large contingent of bloggers and readers out there who doubt the effectiveness of playing half-stacked. Even though I plan on buying-in for a full 100 BB stack at my tables tonight, I'm not saying that I regret playing short-stacked.

The reasons that I'm trying to move away from playing a 50 BB stack at the tables are as follow:

  1. Although it's easy to win money playing short-stacked, I'm finding that my game isn't improving very quickly. There are very few difficult decisions to make when the pots are large and the effective remaining stack size is small. I want to become a better poker player and I'm willing to make some difficult decisions now to facilitate better decision-making when the stakes grow higher.

  2. I found myself trying to play too many pots in a desperate attempt to break-even on my sessions. Short-stacked play requires a lot of patience. Value-betting becomes a lot more important and bluffs lose a lot of value. It's very hard to bluff an opponent off a pot when the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) is low - especially if your opponents are loose and like to see all five cards with their draws. The biggest money loser for me was failed c-bets. Maybe I was getting unlucky to have so many opponents play back at me. But I have to wonder whether my opponents would have check-raised me quite as much had my stack been big enough to put them to decision for all their chips?

  3. There are a lot of instructional poker videos out there. For the most part, these videos all demonstrate no-limit hold'em being played with 100 BB stacks. Still, I'd be quite interested to watch an Ed Miller video where he played with a 50 BB stack.
Even though I'll be playing a full-stack, I'll still be playing close attention to SPR. If I can make good use of this theory with a bigger stack, I stand to win much more than I could playing a 50 BB stack. It will be trickier to set up favourable SPRs with a bigger stack. But on the flip-side, it will be harder for my opponents to play a lot of their hands without finding themselves playing without poor SPRs as well. Do you want to know why floating a tight player's raise from the button works so well? Read Professional No-Limit Hold'em to find out!

Before I sign off for the weekend, I thought I'd show you a good example of my recent lack of patience at the tables. I got lazy. I stopped making smart decisions. I started playing a lot looser pre-flop which is not a great idea when playing short-stacked. In short, I was validating the commonly held belief that short-stacked NLHE are donkeys.

PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Hero (CO): $103
BTN: $653.70
SB: $207.05
BB: $272.55
Villain (UTG): $203

Pre-Flop: J A dealt to Hero (CO)
Villain raises to $7, Hero calls $7, 2 folds, BB calls $5

(I've got a pretty suited ace. I've been folding a lot and I'm sick of waiting for a good hand so I call. Thankfully, the BB calls as well so I've got position in a multi-way pot with a suited ace. For what it's worth, the Villain is a solid player according to his PT stats. And his UTG range easily crushes my s00ted AJ.)

Flop: ($22) J T 3 (3 Players)

BB checks, Villain bets $15, Hero raises to $96 and is All-In, BB folds, Villain calls $81

(Villain makes a c-bet on a coordinated board into two players. The stack-to-pot ratio for the hand is just shy of 5. Even though 5 is not very good in a three-way pot against a solid UTG raiser, I figure that I'm probably ahead and just push. Will the Villain call with a worse hand in this spot? Who cares?! I'm the short-stack and I'm pushing!)

Turn: ($214) K (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Yuck! Bad card for me if Villain is playing AK, KK, KQs, or KJs.)

River: ($214) Q (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Yuck! Bad card for me if Villain is playing AQ, KQ, QJ, or QT.... Wait a second! I just hit a straight! Sweet! I'm the best player in the world. I wonder what the UTG donkey was playing?)

Results: $214 Pot ($2 Rake)
Hero showed J A (a straight, Ten to Ace) and WON $212 (+$109 NET)
Villain showed K K (three of a kind, Kings) and LOST (-$103 NET)

(I'm such a donkey...)

That last hand was so embarrassing that I wasn't sure if I wanted to post it. I made a stupid loose call pre-flop. If I were to play this hand again, I'd follow one of two paths: re-raise pre-flop to better define my hand against the Villain's range of hands or just fold a hand that is quite possibly dominated or flat-out beat by a solid UTG player's range of raising hands.

In cases such as those, a marginally-good SPR means squat if it was achieved by such poor pre-flop play. I lost my patience and tried to force matters. And though I got extremely lucky in this hand, I started my two-week downswing the very next day. Positive reinforcement can be a dangerous thing.

I'd like to say that the donkey plays stop today. But we all know that's not true. I'm going to do my best to make good decisions at the tables. And I truly hope that my smart play and patience will start to payoff before my bankroll dips too low.

Have a great weekend!


Gnome said...

I have strong reservations about the value of SPR.
It doesn't account for multiway pots or individual playing styles. In essence, it's an attempt to oversimplify commitment theory while ignoring all the other factors that you should be considering.
More important than the concept of commitment are fundamentals such as evaluating hand ranges, comparing equity and maximizing value.

Klopzi said...

Gnome -

Actually, SPR as described by Ed Miller does account for individual playing styles and multi-way pots. Generally, you're required to adjust your target SPRs up or down depending on a variety of factors. Of course, this is where the true skill in applying SPR comes into play.

Like any other tool you use when playing no-limit hold'em, it takes experience, devotion, and practice to become a winning player. SPR is not designed to be a shortcut. It's simply a means of helping a player estimate his/her expectation when getting all-in.

Like other beginning NLHE players, I've misused SPR and oversimplified in many cases. But I still it's good tool to use when making big decisions for big money against known or easily classified opponents.

Thanks for stopping by! I always appreciate comments from my readers, especially those with a no-limit pedigree such as yours!

Have a great weekend!