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Weekend Plans: Pay More Rake

Things are busy. It's a fact of life. But I've actually been playing poker. Not tons but just enough to keep me wanting more. I've played about 10 hours of $50 NL so far. And I'm down a little bit. That's cool though. If I was worried about making money, I'd make the move to $100 heads-up no-limit hold'em right now because the rake at the $50 tables is pretty sick.

Since my last post, I also played a bit of $0.50/$1 heads-up limit hold'em. I'm quite happy to announce that this particular micro-stakes heads-up game is unbeatable. I've played a couple hours of this game at Poker Stars. In that time, my win rate took a hit of about 10 BB/100 in rake charges. Is anyone good enough to beat limit hold'em for more than 10 BB/100? No. Throw in the sick amount of variance inherent to heads-up poker and it's easy to see that micro-stakes HU limit hold'em is a losing game.

It's a shame, really. I like the fast-paced action of heads-up limit. I easily averaged about 200 hands an hour. At the higher stakes, I'm sure that the games play much faster due to the large number of automatic decisions that can be made on any street.

With limit hold'em tucked away for the time being, I'm going to play some heads-up no-limit this weekend. The rake is still brutal but that's a cost I'm willing to pay for experience. I've got a friend coming over tonight. I'll likely have a couple drinks while playing some heads-up cash game poker then move on to heads-up sit-n-gos if I continue drinking.

Have a great weekend!

Keep reading "Weekend Plans: Pay More Rake"

Options For Improving My Heads-Up Game

One of the major problems I see myself having with heads-up poker is the lack of proper feedback concerning my play. Heads-up poker is so read and feel dependent at times that it can be hard to analyze hands in a vacuum. It's very difficult to discuss any hands played heads-up with friends who don't play heads-up poker. So what can I do about this problem?

One option is to look at coaching. Of course, this is ridiculous given the stakes that I play and my limited playing time. Do I think there's long-term value in spending a couple grand on coaching to improve my heads-up game? A most-emphatic "Yes". But that doesn't change the fact that my long-term is still miles away from where I sit right now and won't be coming any time soon. If I was playing $200 HUNL, I might consider a bit of coaching to help plug up some leaks in my game.

Another option is to download more videos from PokerSavvy and Deuces Cracked. There's only one problem: I've downloaded pretty much all they have in terms of HUNL. Specifically, I've downloaded all of these sites' one-table heads-up no-limit lessons that can be put on my Zune and watched during my morning and afternoon commute. Watching anything other than single-table videos is a pointless endeavour on my Zune's tiny LCD screen.

A third option is to purchase a cheap, portable, and extremely rugged laptop that has great battery life. I could upgrade from my Zune to something a little more substantial. This laptop would be used solely for downloading and watching videos. I'd be willing to spend $300 - $600 on just such a device if I truly felt that it would help me improve my game by expanding the number of videos that I could watch on the fly.

Another option to consider is to begin recording my own heads-up poker sessions. With or without commentary, I think there is a lot of benefit to going over my previous night's sessions. It's very hard to adequately analyze your game on-the-fly. And it's extremely difficult to spot flaws in your own game or your opponent's game during the heat of battle. The good thing about this last option is the price: it's free (or at least cheap depending on the software I use to record my sessions).

Another minor benefit of said recordings is that I could put certain sessions online for viewing by my readers. I wouldn't call these videos educational since I'm unable to compete with even the worst of instructors at any of the premium poker training sites. For example, I would never use the terms "polarizing my three-betting range", "hand ranges", "combinatorial mathematics", or "pot odds" for fear of misapplying the terms and looking like a real jackass. Does anyone out there still enjoy watching sweat session videos? I still like watching them myself but only when the Hero happens to have a really good session or a really bad session; I can promise only the latter , I'm afraid.

I'll spend some time exploring these different options. I just want to become a better heads-up player and I'm willing to do a little leg-work to make that happen...before I inevitably tilt and go on hiatus again.

Have a good one!

By the way, when I said that my U.S. readers were lucky bastards for getting yesterday off work, I was not trying to diminish the meaning of Memorial Day. Up here in Canada, we too take great care to honour the sacrifices that our war veterans made to keep the True North strong and free. But we also like sleeping in late followed by BBQ and booze with family and friends.

Keep reading "Options For Improving My Heads-Up Game"

Staying the Course

So I hit up the tables at Titan Poker and Cake Poker on Friday night for a little heads-up play. I was having a couple drinks to start out my evening. I figured I could have a couple beers and still put forth my very best C-game necessary to beat the $50 HU games. Of the hour and a half that I spent sitting at my laptop, I played roughly 57 minutes of poker. The rest of my time was spent watching Designer Guys on TV with my wife and drinking. Good times though!

I was having a good night and was up about half a buy-in. And then I found myself getting all-in pre-flop with QQ against a short-stacker's KK. A bit of a cold deck but that's poker, right? I never seem to complain when I find myself all-in pre-flop with AA or KK against an opponent's underpair.

In any case, my opponent seemed to feel bad for dishing out the "beat" so he stuck around for a little while and let me win back some of my money.

By the end of my three heads-up games, I was down about $30. A small price to pay for the amount of experience that I'm soaking up each and every minute that I play heads-up poker.

I've recently started wondering about trying out some other heads-up games. I know that heads-up fixed limit hold'em is very bot-able but I doubt I'd run into any bots at the stakes that I play. Despite the fact that I'm a slightly better no-limit hold'em player than a fixed limit hold'em player, I really like fixed limit poker. But I imagine that the limit heads-up games are probably tougher to beat since most fish would look to no-limit poker to make or break their puny bankrolls.

I'll stay the course for now and keep playing no-limit. I'll see if I can put in a good session tonight at Full Tilt Poker and Cake Poker. I've barely put a dent in the 40-50 hours of $50 HU play that I deem necessary before moving up to the $100 games.

Have a good one and wish me luck! And if you happen to be one of my U.S. readers, have a great Memorial Day you lucky bastards!

Keep reading "Staying the Course"

Seeing The Forest

I really hate the rake that I pay at the $50 heads-up tables. Over the past 3,000 hands, I've lost 12 BB/100 to rake. Of course, I get about 27% of that back thanks to RakeTheRake.

I'm all about short-term results. I have difficulty working towards long-term goals. That's why I go on hiatus so often. That's why I tilt frequently. And that's why I tilt hard.

In my case, I couldn't see the profitability of $50 heads-up no-limit poker for the rake. I was sitting at a table earlier tonight and getting discouraged. My opponent was not making any huge mistakes and we were both losing to the rake. I was up about $10 against this particular opponent when I found myself needing to pee.

I let my opponent know that I was going to play for another five minutes before quitting. I then turned my focus to my current hand. And, well, here's what happened:

Villain (SB)($50.25)
Hero (BB) ($96.70)

Preflop: Hero is in the BB with Qh Qc
Villain raises to $1.50, Hero raises to $5.50, Villain shoves, Hero snap-calls.

Hero shows [Qh Qc]
Villain shows [Td 8h]

(I guess Villain wanted to get some of his money back before it left the table.)

Flop (102.75) 5d 4c 6h

Turn (102.75) Th

River (102.75) 6s

Hero wins $102.75 with Two pair, Queens and Sixes

I hope that this hand and similar recent hands motivate me to give HUNL more of a chance in the coming weeks. My plan is to put in another 40 hours (give or take) at $50 HUNL. If I can walk away with a non-negative BB/100, I'll be happy and ready for the $100 games.

I've got to see the forest instead of focusing on the trees.

Keep reading "Seeing The Forest"

A Call For Humility

I had my brother over last night to watch me play some cash game heads-up no-limit. I was hoping to show off my mad skills but instead gave my brother a lesson in humility.

My first "match" was against a very loose calling station type prone to overbetting the pot for value or overbetting the pot with missed draws. I didn't make the correlation until he'd already doubled up a few times. It was pretty painful to watch as my loose opponent went on a heater and managed to win a staggering 85% of showdowns. Thankfully the 15% that I won were enough to take him and his stack out. Of course, Full Tilt Poker were the real winners since I still found myself down $6.50 after stacking my opponent.

My second match was a weird one. With my patience worn thin from my first match, I came out swinging against a half-stack fish. After about 10 hands, I found myself calling a pre-flop shove with AQ. I hit a pair on the flop to take down my opponent's 77. He reloaded and instantly shoved all-in from the button. I made a stupid mistake and called his shove with a small pocket pair: my 33 lost to his AJ.

We then sparred back and forth for another ten minutes. I managed to take a good chunk off my opponent with some aggressive three-betting.

All in all, I found myself up $3 after about 50 minutes of play; $7 if you count rakeback.

My brother was quite understandably unimpressed with the potential profitability of online poker...

Keep reading "A Call For Humility"

Two Important Questions

I actually opened a Twitter account just in case I found myself with zero time to make any meaningful posts around here. But I'm still not sold on Twitter. I don't see the benefits of the service in terms of dollars and cents. If you like to post little details about your day to day life, I guess Twitter is good. I'm not big on that sort of thing though. I look at Twitter and say: how much money could I earn for using Twitter. The answer is $0.

And while speaking of not earning money, let's talk about my heads-up poker experience.

I've always been completely honest about my poker ability and results. So imagine my surprise when I looked back through my Poker Tracker stats and discovered that I was not a winning player at $50 heads-up no-limit. I thought I'd earned about $400 playing $50 heads-up. Boy was I wrong.

It seems that I'm the master of $20 heads-up no-limit. I'm up about 20 buy-ins at that buy-in level. After last weekend's play, my $50 HUNL experience sees me down about two buy-ins over roughly 2,000 hands total. I don't really have the time to get into it but I will divulge my biggest leak: I tend to overplay my hand in 3-bet pots. I also underestimate my opponents' abilities to systematically pick my game apart. And I'm also weak-tight after the flop.

In order to fix my biggest leak, I need to bring to mind two important questions when it comes to making big betting decisions in poker:

  1. Will my bet or raise allow a worse hand to call?
  2. Will my bet or raise allow a better hand to fold?
If making a bet allows you to answer "Yes" to one of those questions (based on board texture, reads, match flow, etc.) then make your bet; otherwise, give up. If you find yourself answering "No" to both questions, give up. And if, like me, you find yourself answering "Yes" to both questions, you've made a terrible mistake and are likely to fold the best hand or get stacked.

I've moved my play over to Full Tilt for the time being. It seems that VPPs just don't clear all that quickly at Stars' $50 HUNL tables.

I'm going to try and put in about 1,000 hands this week. I won't commit to anything though since I'm having lots of fun playing Gears of War 2 on my Xbox 360.

Have a good one!

Keep reading "Two Important Questions"