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Month in Review: August 2008

August started off slowly for me. I spent the first week playing a lot of Half-Life 2 on my Xbox 360. But I soon found myself completely fascinated with poker again. After a bit of roller coaster at PokerStars, I returned to Full Tilt and brought my winnings into the black by month's end. How did I do? All the details after the jump.

I'll be using data that I gathered from Poker Tracker 3's various graph and reporting features. Unfortunately, neither PokerEV nor my set-o-meter software works with the PT3 postgres database so I won't focus quite so much on "luck" in this month's report. Okay, let's do this.

[Note: If you're using Internet Explorer (IE) as your default browser, you may not be able to see the images below. I'll provide view/download links for all images in case you're interested.]

Money Won

Comments: I had a good month. I'm not so naive to think that my win-rate has more to do with my poker ability than it does the fact that I managed to get it all-in pre-flop 4 times with AA vs. my opponents' KK. These numbers would be better if I was able to make looser calls on the flop and better lay-downs on the river. I give up too easily when I still have equity in the hand and make big calls when I have zero equity. That's not a great game plan for showing consistent returns from poker.

Money Won Overall

Comments: 18K hands is still not enough to come to any conclusions about my actual poker ability. I do know that I still feel uncomfortable in many situations at the $100 NLHE games that I'm playing. I'd like to put in another solid month or two of $100 NLHE before I'll feel mentally ready to tackle $200 NLHE again.

Showdown Hands

Comments: I'm still losing money with one pair hands but I believe that's the norm. My "Went to Showdown" numbers are pretty low for my "three of a kind" hands. The sad truth is that I flopped most of my sets in multi-way pots with scary, drawy flops: I bet, everyone folds.

Best/Worst Hands

Comments: The only surprise here is that KK was a losing hand for me in August. The bulk of my losses (-$150) came from a single hand. I discussed the hand earlier last month. I overplayed my KK and allowed my opponent to stack me in a pot where my SPR was close to 20. Terrible play on my part. Thankfully, that lesson came at such a steep price that I'm not likely to forget it anytime soon.

Flopped Sets

Comments: I ran ever-so-slightly behind the curve when it came to flopping sets (see rows flagged red in the chart). I don't really care so much about these numbers though: the sets will come in time. One thing that does bug me is the utter lack of action that I got with many of my flopped sets. When I flop a set and bet into four players, I generally expect to get a call since that seems to be the case when I'm betting I'm less-than-optimal holdings.

Biggest Pots

Comments: Nothing much to say here. The chart above shows my five biggest wins and losses for the month.

Playing Stats
Looking over my Poker Tracker stats for August, there are a few things that I'd like to focus on in September:
  1. I'd like to continue raising my VP$IP and PFR % to the point where my hand range is a little wider. I'm not going to force this change on my game all at once. But it is something that I'll be mindful of over the next thirty days.

  2. Although I play more hands in position, I'm aware that I rarely punish loose raisers or limpers when I have position. One of the problems I have is in identifying the relative strength of my hands given my opponents' hand ranges and my post-flop position. For example, I rarely call with suited aces in position against any pre-flop raiser. I don't trust myself to throw away my weak suited aces when I fail to pick up a draw but hit a weak top pair.

  3. Finally, I really need to work on sustaining my aggressive play against my opponents after they've failed to fold to my c-bets. I give up way too easily when my opponents try to defend their hands. I'm still a little unsure of how to handle my opponents' constant string of donk-bets, check-raises, and min-raises. I don't feel the need to win every hand that I play; I'm just a little worried that my betting patterns will become too transparent to my opponents. Then again, do I need to worry about this at $100 NLHE? $200 NLHE?

With August in the books, I'm looking to really focus on a many aspects of my game that I believe are severely lacking:
  • I'd really like to improve my turn play. I'm still struggling to find a good balance between pot control and betting for value and information. Betting the turn can make my river decisions easier...as long as I'm willing to listen to what my opponents' checks, bets, and raises tell me.

  • My play on the river is pretty exploitable right now. I won't pinpoint exactly why this is the case: suffice it to say that most $100 NLHE players are similarly exploitable.

  • I need to improve my "Won Without Showdown" statistic. As long as this number keeps running in the red, I'm leaving money on the table. I know that I'm failing to pick up on my opponents' weakness. Actually, in many cases I pick up on the weakness but always feel that my opponents are trying to trap me. If I'm going to play an aggressive game, I'll have to get used to opponents trapping me though I'm hoping that I'll come to realize that weak play generally means weak hands (and strong play usually means strong hands).

  • I've got to prevent myself from going on tilt when I constantly miss flops in a session. I know that this really, really puts me on tilt. For example, for all 36 times that I picked up AK-AJ (suited and not suited) and raised yesterday, I hit 3 flops. To make matters worse, all but a few of the flops were optimal and played heads-up. And of all the flops that I bet, I only picked up seven without a fight. But I can't let that affect me. I started to feel that my opponents were playing back at me and bluffing me off my hands. This type of thinking has gotten me into trouble in the past. I've got to prepare myself mentally for this fairly common scenario. Playing winning poker means making solid decisions; folding when you suspect you're behind in a hand is never a bad play.

  • I also need to start giving my opponents a little more credit. Whenever I pick up a hand (top pair or better), I tend to dismiss my opponents' shows of aggression as LAG play. I feel that my opponents are bluffing me a lot or value betting worse hands. I know this isn't true. If I make big bets on the flop and the turn, the Villain's big river bet normally has top pair or bottom two-pair well and truly crushed.
I'll be playing at PokerStars for the next week or so. I've got another 1100 VPPs to work off before I can pick up my SilverStar VIP status. I estimate that I'll need to put in another couple months at Stars before I'm able to clear my $240 bonus. I never thought it'd take me this long to clear that damned bonus! Still, it's hard to complain when I'm getting a cash reward for learning to play poker.

Once I'm done at Stars, I'd like to give PokerPlex a try (via RakeTheRake). PokerPlex just joined the iPoker network and they appear to have some good incentives for new and returning members alike. I should also investigate Titan Poker's loyalty bonuses too. However, I'm sure that Full Tilt will continue to get a good deal of my attention.

In any case, I hope that I have some good nights at Stars this week. After a poor start to the month, I'm roughly 50% of the way to being on tilt. Should I lose another couple buy-ins, I'll need to dust off the Xbox 360 and take a week off to play video games.

Have a good one!

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