Saturday, 28 May 2016

[Poker] Re-Introduction +The Next 15 Months + June 2016 Goals

Oh, it feels good to be back. Strap yourselves in folks, this could be a long one.

So, as some of you may be aware, I started this blog a few months ago, when I first discovered PLO. I took a break from the blog (and poker altogether), as I said I wouldn't play a hand of PLO throughout uni exams. Well, my last exam was a couple of days ago, and since then I've been playing a fair bit trying to warm up my PLO muscles. I've played about 2k hands over PLO2Z/PLO5Z, decent winner but sample is so small and so much of that game time was me just trying to adapt to playing 4 zoom tables again that there's really nothing to take from the data. However, I can never complain about winning.

I have a couple of things I want to discuss before I come into my goals for poker, mainly about the old format of the blog.

I hate the majority of what I wrote. its rather dramatic, messy and very depictive of someone who wasn't in the best place in their head, which granted I wasn't at the time. The hand review sections are often sloppy, inefficient and at times very inaccurate. Some of the updates I provided, such as me playing 500 hands and claiming I was a winning player at a stake, really demonstrates a lack of understanding. of PLO. However, I see this as a really positive thing. I want to develop in poker. I want to push myself consistently further. So, the idea that I can look back on things I did a few months ago and think "wow, that is terrible" just proves to myself that I am progressing. If I'm looking back on things I did six months ago and see no flaws whatsoever, I'm either perfect or stagnated, and I'm not really a big believer in perfection. 

I'm in a far better place than I was when I started this. If you have read my first post, you'll know I wasn't particularly happy with the state of my life. At this moment in time, I couldn't be happier. I really hope to reflect that through my posts.

The structure of my poker will change with my attitude to it. One of the main issues I have with my old methodology of poker development was my studying, or lack thereof. I always aimed to study more and play less, and it never quite worked out like that - which at the time made sense, as poker was something solely for enjoyment in breaks from university. Right now I'm going to treat this like an apprenticeship, in the sense that I'm not doing it for the money, I'm doing it for the experience, to develop myself into something more in the field I want to go into. If I want to effectively develop, I'm going to need to study more. This will come in lots of different forms that I'll discuss later.

The blog may be quite sporadic. I work a zero hour contract and apply for shifts. I'm aiming to average around 25 hours a week working, as this is enough to sustain myself, but some weeks I'll get 0, so the weeks I get offered 50, I'll take it. Most free time is going to go to poker but I don't want to have any financial strains placed on poker at the minute, as I'd rather be relaxed while learning, and I'd also initially want to keep everything I make as a bankroll addition.

Okay, so, now with that out the way, I want to discuss what I want to achieve in poker over the next 15 months (until university starts again for me). There is only one goal - do everything I can to reach a point, where come September 2017, it is viable for me to consider switching to PLO full time. Now, I want to stress, I do not mean that I want to be a professional by this point. I mean I want to have the fundamental skills, technical and mental, along with the bankroll (which I plan on building), to safely and consistently make enough money in poker to survive. How will I achieve this? Through a shit tonne of hard work, constant self-examination through monthly goals and a very study heavy schedule. With that being said;

June 2016 Goals

1) Regain Confidence Multitabling - Considering I haven't played regularly in about six weeks or so, I've lost a lot of my muscle-memory decision making, so I find myself slightly panicked/rushed when multitabling and often leads to mistakes from things such as not checking opponent HUD. I've begun to regain the confidence to make correct decisions quickly, but I would like to cement it, and go back to having 4 Zoom tables be my standard
2) Study the PLOQuickPro Manual in depth - I've already read it once and I have to say it was hugely influential in my game, but I feel like I skimmed past concepts I didn't fully understand and I've probably forgotten a lot of the material. I will study each chapter in depth, make notes, and make sure I fully understand every concept before moving on to the next.
3) The same as above, but for The Mental Game of Poker. The mental side of the game is something I've found myself improving on a lot just by changing my attitude towards the game (and focusing on my yellow line and not my green!), but again I want to make sure I fully understand every concept.
4) Develop a routine that works for me - I've had some issues knowing things like when to play, how long for, how long to take breaks etc. I'll experiment and see what conditions I perform best under. I will also schedule that for every hour I play, I study for an hour.
5) Take breaks - I've never really taken a day off poker whilst playing poker. I believe this is unhealthy and may lead to burning out so I'm going to try and take a day off at least once a fortnight. I imagine this will come fairly naturally when I have late shifts etc.
6) Utilise free time, don't be lazy - Again, I have no idea how much free time I'm going to have, so I'm not setting anything with time limits - instead, I want to make sure that when I have the free time to play or study, I'm doing it.
7) Don't go broke.

That's it for now, I think. I really can't wait to get back into this. Going to go watch the final and then start studying PLOQuickPro.

Hopefully see you next time!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

[Poker] Goodbye For Now

Hi guys. This is a pretty sad day for me, as I realised it really is for the best that I put poker on a backburner for a month or so. While university is not my main life plan at the minute, I've spent the majority of the last few years of my life aiming towards it, and to come out of all of that with absolutely nothing to show for it, and no backup plan other than PLO, would be a terrible situation to find myself in. So, sadly, I won't be playing, studying or writing about any PLO for the next month. My goals for this month in poker will be reconsidered going into June when I can come back to this and properly focus. Until then, mathematics will take the wheel. My next (poker related) post will come the day after my last exam most likely, when I can properly submerse myself into 30 hour grinding weeks. I cannot wait.

Hopefully see you next time! (Provided you remember I exist)


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

[Poker] F***ing Up Upwards In Stakes (My first PLO5Z stab)

So, in my procrastination routine of today, I decided it was time to clear up my laptop. It's an old laptop, with loads of software that I'll never use again, along with a lot of stuff I've never even heard of (hand-me-down hype), and recently its been even more depressingly slow than usual, especially PokerTracker (which is ironic for reasons I'll explain). So, I opened up the control panel, and started uninstalling everything I didn't want or looked as if it was something my dad had previously used for work. 
This is where I came to the SQL section, I knew my dad had done loads of work in SQL for his last job, and there was a lot of software left over from that. I went trigger happy and decided to delete it all. Little did I realise that within the mound of SQL software, there was postgreSQL, which is the database software PokerTracker uses. Long story short, after lots of talking to support and moaning to anyone who would listen, I realised I'd just deleted my whole database. About 40,000 hands, gone. All of the hands I'd tagged to write blog posts on, gone. All of the hands I was going to do the sweat review session with, gone. I was devastated. How was I supposed to know if I should try and steal now? How do I know if they're 3betting me light or just with AAxx? My months of grinding the PLO2Z pool and building up reads felt pointless.
Eventually, I managed to reinstall postgreSQL and got PT working, on a new database. Luckily the majority of my settings/HUD were all kept, I'd just lost all of my hands. I decided to play a bit to start rebuilding my hand pool.
While playing, I realised something. I was playing against a pool I had no reads on. I realised this felt a lot like how it would feel to move up stakes. I was rebuilding a database for a stake I really didn't want to be spending much longer in. I'm not sure if it was a bit of tilt that made me think this, but I didn't want to rebuild to just have to rebuild again. I was over-rolled for PLO2. I felt good about my game. I decided it was time to stab at PLO5.
Nowadays, I usually play 4 tables of PLO2Z. That is due to being comfortable at the stake - I have detailed notes and lots of hands on the majority of the players there. Decisions are made considerably easier so I need less time to make them. I am also comfortable with general bet sizing and player tendencies. I am not in PLO5. For this reason, I decided my first stab would just be playing 1 table of Zoom. 
I played well, I ran hot. Obviously this is a tiny sample size and is just about an hour of playing one table of Zoom, but I'm still happy with the result. Only having one table to think about meant it felt like I had an eternity to make every decision, which really helped make me feel more comfortable at the stake. It was also weirdly nice to see a lot of the people who I saw a lot of at PLO2 who suddenly disappeared (I guess I know where they went), almost like seeing an old friend, who used to take all your money when you didn't know anything about PLO. Okay, maybe not the most relatable metaphor, but you get my point. I drew a couple of conclusions from my first PLO5 session:

1) People fold their blinds like 90% of the time to a button open.
2) People aren't that much better than in PLO2. At times, it almost felt as if they were worse in PLO5.
3) The small blind not being half of the big blind makes people fold way more in BvB situations. 

I'm going to play a lot more hands and see if this turns out to be true. I'm really not well rolled for PLO5Z at all, I have about 20BI in my roll. If I lose 10 of them, I'll take a few days, review every hand, think about all my alternatives, do some sweat review sessions (which I'm still yet to explain what that is, I'll get around to it) and if I think I'm ready to go again, consider firing another student loan barrel. Hopefully it won't come down to that and I can go on enough of an upswing to keep me decently rolled. 
Since signing up for RI1, I feel considerably more confident in my game. I've watched a lot of training videos, and read every PLO thread posted in the past month or so. Maybe losing my whole database and every note I've ever made was actually a good thing for me.

Hopefully see you next time!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

[Poker] Hand #5 - Overcomplicating Things

Hey guys, I played this hand today and I've been thinking about it for a while now. The equities in the situation run really close vs his potential ranges, and we have absolutely no reads on the player, so we have to make lots of assumptions. To show the hand, I'll be doing it in the normal style, but I've switched the PT theme to a Full Tilt theme, which I personally think looks beautiful but I'd love opinions on. I could see it being a bit heavy on the eyes after a while.

We're in the small blind vs a completely unknown player UTG, who limps. I have no reads on the player, but there are only two situations I ever really see this done at these stakes. The first being they have aces trying to play a 3bet pot, and the other being they're a weaker player. I block aces, so from the start I assume they're a weaker player. I obviously pot it from the small blind, very standard in my opinion with a hand this strong.

The flop is 869 rainbow, so we flop middle set on a straightened board. Normally I would go for a check call with this hand on this board texture, in order to keep bluffs in his range and maybe hit a boat and stack off a flopped straight, but my assumption of him being a weaker player means I don't think he's going to be bluffing at this board a lot, and will probably be calling quite light. He ends up potting it, which puts me in a weird spot. I thought this was a straight a fair bit of the time, which I have equity against, and I also thought he could be doing this with any overpair or set, especially if he's a weaker player. This is my reasoning for deciding to shove, which in hindsight I think is the worst of my three options. I definitely think flat-calling is the answer here, we keep in weaker hands, we give ourselves a chance to realise equity and stack off a straight, and we allow ourselves the chance to make another decision as oppose to just leave it upto percentage.
I actually did a lot of work using PokerJuice on this hand, and posted it around on forums, really trying to work out if I have an edge against his various ranges here depending on player type. The solution to that was that it's quite close and it really depends what his range is. If he's doing this with overpairs, I'm very ahead, if he isn't, I'm decently behind. However, I definitely think we could exercise pot control here, try and hit our card, and let them barrel with their straight or bluff.
This hand made me realise that I've been playing the style of PLO that I see when I sweat the 25/50 Zoom games that run occasionally, which involve a lot more stacking off on flops. I recently heard this referred to as "suicide poker", which I didn't really understand until now. At those stakes, it makes sense - players are bluffing often and bluffing large, and rake isn't as much of a consideration. At these stakes, I can play a bit more exploitably profitably, and the tiny equity edges I'm squeezing are run over by the rake.
I definitely think I've improved more this week than I have in a good while. The RI1 community and videos are helping my game so much, I really think its making a big difference. I've also thought of another studying method which works out well too, which I'm keen to share. I'll do a live runthrough of it as my next post most likely, or a hand where I checked back a boat on the river. One of the two.

Hopefully see you next time!

Friday, 15 April 2016

[Poker] Hand #4 - Bad Beat

There is literally no analysis in this hand (except maybe preflop), this hand just hurt a lot and I figured someone may as well get some enjoyment from the hand (apart from the fucker who just scooped my 180 odd BB). 

We have AAJ2 single suited in the cutoff, facing two limpers. We're very deep, we won't be able to get enough of our stack in preflop, raising won't isolate a single player that often, and we have a hand that can do quite well in high spr multiway spots, so I just limped. We end up 5 handed on the flop.

The flop is TT8 twotone and it checks to us. The chance of us firing a bet and taking it down here is tiny. I just check behind, hoping to hit a 2 outer. Not a lot to say.

We hit absolute gin on the turn, hitting the nut boat on a 3 flush board. We see a bet, a fold and a call. I see no point in raising, I'm unlikely getting huge value from nut flush here unless I let him keep barrelling, and if I am overboating someone the money is probably just going in. Easy flat in position.

The river bricks out (not that there are many cards that change the hand). The guy to my left bets pot, I put in a small raise, and he reraises. I'm singing hallelujah. I cannot wait for him to turn over the king high flush or AT or 88 as I put the money in. Finally, a big enough pot to help upswing my downswing, and cut my losses for the day in half. I pretend to think for a while and shoved. He calls so fast I laughed to myself. He beat me into the virtual pot. I already knew. Nobody calls a river 4bet that quick unless they just have it. I didn't even have to look. 

He flopped quads. What can I say? Thank fuck I only play microstakes.

[Life] Feeling Like a Grown-Up

It's funny how at the exact time poker completely flipped (I'm on a horrid downswing, still up for the month but not as glamorous as it was before), I had some brilliant moments in real life, to the extent the downswing (almost) isn't bothering me at all.

I found a flat - I'm moving in with my girlfriend next month. It's even more central into London than I currently am, the rent is significantly lower, the building/rooms are nicer, the onsite features are better (a gym is included in the rent), and I'm making a major commitment, which I couldn't be more excited about. I just cannot wait to move there, start my new life and finally be able to treat PLO like a part time job, which brings me to my next point;

I got a job - Mathematics tutor. Something I've had a lot of experience doing in the past, I can finally get back to it now I've moved away from home. The flexible hours is fantastic with grinding, and I love the work so its something I won't resent spending my grinding time doing like I have been with uni work, which brings me to my next point;

I just can't fucking revise - Procrastination has never been more of an issue. From grinding when I'm not scheduled to, to watching PLO training videos, to replying to literally every hand question on the PLO forum on RI1 (which I really don't think I'm qualified to do), to watching SNL's entire backlog of clips on youtube, I'm just doing literally everything I can to avoid writing a number down. Plus, the weirdest thing is, is I have procrastination guilt when I actually am revising, for not studying PLO. I guess my subconscious is telling me I'm making the right choice there. This has always been a problem with me, and I've always managed to do it all in the last minute and scrape what I need, but I'm going to try and avoid this. Key word try.

I signed up for RunItOnce Essential - I was scraping the internet for any PLO training videos that I didn't have to pay for, and realised that it was taking so much time and most of the time the videos were in shit quality and I couldn't tell what was going on. Eventually, while just posting HH on RI1, I had a look at their video packages, and saw how cheap the essential package is. $10 a month is a fantastic investment given the quality of the videos. Once poker becomes more of a priority again, I will definitely add training videos into daily grinding schedules.

So, I'm moving in with my girlfriend, I've got a job, I have a life plan. I've never felt so grown up in my life, and it's scary as fuck, but also so motivating. I'm actively excited about the idea of spending hours and hours studying my mental game, PLO theory, GTO play, posting on forums, grinding my ass off, really immersing myself into it. Over this next month or so I'm going to have to begrudgingly cut poker off a little bit, so the writing is going to slow down, but hopefully I'll find time to still be active on forums and get the occasional grind in alongside my study. (Who am I kidding, I'll grind every day, I just love it too much, even when I'm massively below EV)

Hopefully see you next time!

Friday, 8 April 2016

[Poker] Big Progress

This has been a very solid month for me so far. I made myself a timetable for the month, scheduling set amounts of university work each day, with another set amount of poker study. The timetable was fairly intense so I didn't think I'd have any free time to play, apart from the two scheduled hours a week (I'd go insane otherwise). However, I've been surprisingly efficient in both university and poker study, leaving me with usually about 2 hours a day to play, which I took as something I could use as a learning experience, considering its study month. I wanted to study something a bit more practical about the game, namely my preferences between cash and zoom. I came to that conclusion fairly quickly (I wrote about it in my last post if you're curious, spoiler, I chose zoom), and from there I wanted to develop the practical side of my game further. 

I realised I'd never experimented with any other form of table placing than tiled, and during messing about with cash tables I realised on my small laptop screen this would be nearly impossible to do. It was during this I started to cascade my tables. This certainly worked better, but I found after a few hours my wrist started to hurt quite a bit, so I decided to order an ergonomic vertical mouse, and as it was being delivered I temporarily switched to tiling tables.

I'm not sure why I hadn't considered tiling the tables as an option originally, but as soon as I switched I immediately felt the benefit. The tables were large, my HUD was clear, there was almost no movement of my wrist and I felt hardly any pain, I could add as many tables as I wanted, even playing odd numbers without it looking strange on the screen (a pet hate of mine), and I adapted very quickly to keeping track of the action. I was quite regretting ordering the mouse as I felt I no longer needed it, however I quickly took that back once it arrived - the Anker Vertical Ergonomic mouse is the most comfortable mouse I've ever used, but more about that in another post. 

Once I came to the conclusion of Zoom, I went back to tiling two tables, but found myself having a problem I'd had tiling two Zoom tables in the past - I focused more on one than the other. I also began to find the action quite slow, and felt I was spending a lot of the time waiting to be able to fold my big blind. I was never using my time bank and felt no pressure at all while playing. I came to the conclusion I was ready to add a third table, but tiling it made the others horribly small and I was moving the mouse around so much my wrist began to hurt again. So, I went back to stacking, and with only ever thinking about one table at a time and not wasting precious seconds moving from one table to the other, I played the best PLO of my life. To make my actions even quicker, I added fold and check as hotkeys, so I was using both hands to play. After about 3 hours playing like this, I added a fourth table. It felt natural within half an hour. I was now playing twice the amount of hands per hour I was just two days ago, which I think is quite nicely accelerating my learning process, and also helping to reduce the effects of variance, which is something I've definitely felt. 

This wasn't the only thing I did to improve the consistency of my game. I also began to structure my warmup process a lot more, as I was noticing a definite pattern in that I did a lot better when the first poker related thing I did that day wasn't playing. Before I play each session, I go through every VPIP+WTSD hand of the previous session, and both review my own play and make notes on my opponents in PT. I also make sure I'm well rested and I've had a good meal before playing, and I have nothing particularly stressful that I have to do after the session (for example university work). The extra tables, combined with the tiling structure, the reviews, warmups and study of PLOQuickPro and The Mental Game of Poker, my results have been positive; 

I'm playing well and running like God. 5k hands is obviously a tiny sample, but a 40BB/100 winrate pre-rakeback I think is something I can be proud of even with this size. Even if I was running exactly EV in my SD winnings, I'd be in a healthy profit. Also, this is the first month where my NSD winnings have been negative, which I think comes from adjustments I've made from studying/reviewing, where I realised I was losing a lot of money bluffing calling stations, especially blocker bluffing. I've calmed down bluffing, especially OOP, I'm more selective preflop now I'm seeing more hands (my VPIP has dropped from 31 to 25 from the previous month), and I'm playing my big draws a lot more aggressively than I was before to maximise fold equity. I have also adjusted quite a bit with how I play AAxx and KKxx, before this month I just did everything I could to pile the money in, but now I'm mixing it up with these hands and taking what I think is the most profitable line in the spot, given the opponents in the pot and the stack sizes. Tiling the tables is allowing me to do this a lot more, as I'm only looking at one table, and I feel I've practiced well at taking in all of this information quite quickly.

The point to all of this is that I think I've defined the structure of how I'm going to play PLO from now on, which means I can focus just on the games and studying while knowing I'm doing it all in the most efficient way for me. I'm also going to slightly edit the way I move up stakes, as previously I was employing a 50+10 system, with 10BI for the next stake as a stab. I'm going to change this to 40+4 for now. I think 40BI is plenty, and 4BI playing 4 tables is obviously quite tight, but I feel like I could beat the stake, and while still in the 4BI realm I would be playing very tight, using it as a learning experience of the stake. I would also only move up in a spot where I'm feeling confident in my game and am well warmed up, probably though playing PLO2Z for an hour or so prior. Exciting stuff. 

So, that's it for me. Next time will either be me discussing my first time playing PLO5Z, or another hand review if anything interesting pops up. Unfortunately, most of my hands have been quite standard recently.

Hopefully see you next time! Seacombe