Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bug's Poker Tip #44

Position is Good For You


Playing in position is a lot like drinking water. Or eating vegetables. Or taking a daily multi-vitamin. Even if you don't know why doing so is good for you, it is in fact still good for you. Even if you don't consciously recognize that you are obtaining valuable information when in position, and that doing so in fact is helping you make better decisions, you still are obtaining that information and making better decisions. Even if you don't actively appreciate that playing in position helps you control the pot size, it still does, regardless. And even if you don't recognize that having position makes bluffing easier, it still does. Position is good for you, whether you realize it or not.

Playing in position helps a body stack grow, so eat those vegetables!

All-in for now...
-Bug

Monday, December 8, 2014

Omaha at the Micros


I haven't been playing much poker lately--work and home stuff have pretty much been consuming my waking hours--but the little I have played hasn't been Hold'em. Instead, I've been TAgging it up down at the microstakes ($0.02/$0.05) at the 6max Omaha tables on Bovada. And boy is it a hoot.

I literally isolated a couple of bucks in my online bankroll to see if I could build it up in Omaha. Because of the work Le Monsieur and I have been doing on the Hold'em lessons, I wanted to see if a beginner at Omaha could achieve the same types of results achievable in Hold'em by applying the same types of tactics and strategies-- modified of course for the vagaries (read: variance) of Omaha.

Specifically, I'm using all the types of things that work at Hold'em, but I'm doubling down on them at the Omaha tables. Chief among these tactics are, of course, position. Probably more than any other factor, playing positionally-aware in Omaha is the key to success. Got a hand like J-T-9-3 single suit in EP? Throw it away. Got it on the button and you're facing some limps? You're gonna come in, baby, and come in hard.

Pot control vs. position is also another key factor. Got Aces in the blinds and there are more than a couple of active players already in? Don't raise, as it's only going to bloat the pot in a situation where you're OOP, and will probably be called only by better on flops when you have to donk lead and/or check-call.

And tight-aggressive works just as well at PLO as it does in Hold'em.  As does REDi....

And so on.

See folks, poker is poker. It's about hand reading and exploiting edges. It's about encouraging your opponents to make mistakes-- while you minimize your own. It's about position. And reading board textures. And calculating equities. And folding. And folding some more. And then folding even more. And then hammering with balanced 3bet bluffs and value bets.

While PLO is wonderfully different than Hold'em, and Hold'em is wonderfully different than Stud, and Stud is wonderfully different than Razz.... they're all the same, too.  Poker be poker.

I've been telling Mr. Multi for years that he should learn Omaha, as I think it would help his Hold'em game. I suggest you do the same. What have you got to lose?

Oh, and did I mention it's a hoot to play, too?

All-in for now...
-Bug

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The 3 Secrets to Profit at the Micro-Stakes Tables

Blackrain79 is the author of a couple of very good books on microstakes play (I own both of them), plus he is one of the most successful multi-tablers at the itty-bitty tables, reportedly making a pretty good living grinding against the fish at $2-$10NL cash games online. I follow his blog, and recently he penned something that validated a lot of what I preach on this site.

I've written on this many times in the past (here, here, here, and here, for instance), but it was still validating to read Blackrain's recent post on his 3 secrets to success at the microstakes tables: Fold, Value Bet, and Don't Bluff.

Yep, that's most of what it takes to earn a solid profit at these stakes (yes, you also need to manage your bankroll, don't tilt, pay attention, etc...) but assuming you have these basic emotional discipline things down, the technical secrets to success are really just three:

  1. Fold. The most important secret in life and war and poker is to pick your battles. This means you should play a very selective (read: positionally-aware) game. This in turn means you should be folding tons. Both preflop and postflop. When in doubt, fold. Don't know where you are in the hand? Fold. You're in early position? Fold. Have any question whether you should a play a hand or not? Fold, fold and fold some more.
  2. Value Bet. The biggest leak in most microstakes players' games is that they violate the first rule: Fold. This means they're playing too many hands. They want to see flops. They want to get to showdown and see if they've won. They're calling stations.... and we all know the way to beat calling stations is to punish them with your value hands. Bet, bet, and bet some more when you have a strong hand. Otherwise? Yep, fold.
  3. Don't Bluff. The corollary to value betting a calling station is to not try to bluff them. Ever. Remember, a bluff is basically a bet from you that is intended to convince the other guy that he's beaten and should fold. This presupposes the villain is actually paying attention to what you're doing and knows where the fold button is located. Most microstakes players are level-1 loose-passive calling fish. You cannot bluff this type of player. So don't try.

 Monsieur and I are still grinding our way through the early level-1 preflop hand selection lessons, but almost everything we've done thus far is centered around these things: play a tight, positionally-aware game that is based primarily on value situations, with little to no bluffing. That's it.

All-in for now...
-Bug


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A New Main Event Champion Is Crowned!

[Spoiler Alert]

Had another ball watching the final three guys play last night. It was really hard to root against any single one of them, as they all were a) such super talented players; and b) seemed to be just genuinely nice, humble guys. That said, Martin Jacobson was clearly the best player over the last couple of days, moving steadily and surely up from the second shortest chip stack at the start of the final nine table, to eventual winner of the whole shootin' match. He was like the irresistible force actually getting the immovable object(s) to budge with his slow, relentless pressure.

In contrast, I, like a lot of viewers I suspect, started to see the cracks in Van Hoof's armor an hour or so into play last night. First came out the sunglasses, which I don't recall seeing him wear before. It was almost like he sensed he needed some kind of crutch against the two Scandinavians. Then he took a big hit with a bad call and his whole body language seemed to change for the worse. Then the sunglasses were ditched again, like he was scrambling for a solution to the incoming tide. I'm not sure of the stats, but it's surprisingly rare to have the final nine starting chip leader win it all, and last night was no exception. (This is a weird phenomena, but I have a theory as to why it's true, which I'll touch on in a future post...) Anyway, it was a tough way to go out for the Dutchman, but $3.8M is a nice consolation prize for third. :-)

The heads-up battle was also a lot of fun to watch, but it almost felt anti-climactic in contrast to the earlier two-day's play. Yes, Stephenson had chips and put up a good, valiant fight heads-up, but Jacobson was just so incredibly solid and patient and strong. If he plays next year the way he did this year, he's my favorite to final table again.

The last couple of things I wanted to note is about the commentary. Long time readers of this blog should know my feelings about Norm, and the last few days of babbling did nothing to dissuade me; his jokes were dumb and at times cringe worthy, he stumbled more than a few times (probably due to it being live, not a pre-canned taping), he actually seemed at a loss for words occasionally (amazing in itself), and he came off at times almost hostile to Antonio. The only time Norm added anything of value was when he was serious and talking actual strategy; the man actually knows poker quite well, and if ESPN is going to keep him, I wish the producers would encourage a lot more of the latter, and a lot less of all the former nonsense....

...which brings me back to Antonio. This guy is really, really good in this role of technical analyst. Seriously. I really hope he comes back in future years in the same capacity. His reads, both hand ranges and what the players lines were going to be, were straight up amazing and spot on. I greatly enjoyed listening to him think aloud through hands and predict the action. I'm a pretty solid hand reader myself, but I was truly blown away by his level of thought and his dead-accurate prognostications. He would be really scary to play against. Excellent job, ESPN, for giving this guy a voice again this year. Now do it again next year!

All-in for now...
-Bug

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WSOP update.... wow.

[Spoiler Alert]

I managed to stay up only until about 10:30pm last night. I figured they'd go another couple of hours and that would be it. Imagine my surprise when I got up at 4:30am-- and they were still going at it. Hard. Wow. Don't know what is more impressive: Mark Newhouse making back-to-back final tables, or Mark Newhouse somehow managing to bust in ninth place in consecutive years for zero additional money. And unlike last year, this time he started third in chips. Wow. Also I am really impressed with the level of play this year. Spot on reads, raw naked aggression, big laydowns, 4bets, 5bets, 6bets, yada-wow-yada-wow. And my original guy (Stephensen) that I picked Sunday is still in it (albeit in third, but still reasonably deep at 46-bigs). Mini-wow for my prognostication. And finally, perhaps the most impressive of all players was/is Jacobson. The Swede has played phenomenally, and while I'd like Stephensen to go all the way, I'm picking Jacobson out of the final three to take it all down. Wowee, what a fun night/morning. Can't wait for tonight's action.
All-in for now...
-Bug

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Late Sunday Sundries


World Series of Poker November Nine final table starts tomorrow night. Woot! I've taped and watched all but the last installment before tomorrow's big day, so I'll need to find time to watch it before the action kicks off. Like the past few years, I will probably stay up as late as my eyelids allow, and then hit the record button to catch any late night action. Watching the shows thus far this year, I have to say the play has been very impressive. Yes, I know they edit for TV and air only the big and exciting hands, but some of the preflop action and reads have been fantastic. I'm also learning a few things about live tells that that I've been looking for on the telly. Good fun. The only (kinda) disappointing thing is the guy I previously thought I wanted to root for to win it all: Mark Newhouse. While I credit his amazing feat making back-to-back final tables, and he's clearly very skilled, the guy kind of comes off as a too-cool tool in the off-table interviews. Too bad, too, as there are only four Yanks in total to root for at the final table, and this guy is one of them. Billy Pappas and Dan Sindelar tie for my vote as to whom I want to win. But if I were a betting man--and you know that I am!--my money is on Felix Stephensen from Norway. He's second in chips and just comes off as a really solid player. Can't wait for the action to kick off manana.

***

Been back in town for a few days and I'm finally settling back into "normalcy." Am even planning on playing Wednesday night in a local live tourney. Last time I played there was over five weeks ago, so I'm itching to get back on the felt and splash some pots.

***

Got knocked out of the WRGPT "Glaciers" tournament in the practice round this week. Had a busted straight draw on the river and bluff shoved into two players who were calling my bets on all streets. One of these guys was Flyboy, which made my shove a high-percentage play, as he is way too solid to call off without the near nuts or better there, which I knew he didn't have given the earlier street action. Alas, the other player in the hand called with a lone pair and I was sent packing. Good thing it was all for practice. The real tourney should be heating up soon...

***

Despite all the travel I've been on, Le Monsieur and I continue to make slow but steady progress on the lessons. We're transitioning to situations where you're facing preflop action from one or more villains....

***

...which reminds me of a terrible, terrible, terrible call I saw on tonight's penultimate WSOP broadcast. One of the two remaining first-time amateurs at the table called off his entire stack with KQo against a preflop 4bet. He ended up facing AKs and got knocked from the tourney when there was no reason to do so. Now, don't take the wrong message from this; shoving with KQo there would have been fine and dandy, but calling off your stack when you're not short? No way. Remember, it's far, far, far better to fire the gun then dodge a bullet in poker. Fold to live another day in that situation. Even this bug knows that!

***

Went pretty deep in an online 600 player tourney the other night in my hotel room on Bovada. Busted in 22nd place when my KK ran into AA preflop. Then yesterday I lost a huge stack in cash when my KK ran into another AA preflop. Then today I lost another monster stack preflop when I held the AA and my opponent setted up with his KK on a K-5-2. That's poker, but coolers suck, too.

All-in for now...
-Bug

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bug's Been Busy


As feared, posts to this blog have been sporadic (read: non-existent) in recent weeks. I'm currently in the middle of a brutal 3-week long business trip, that includes seven day a week meetings and loooong work days. In fact, I made it a point to wake up early this Sunday morning (pre-5am) just to write this quick update before I get in the rental car to drive up the mountain to the construction site for another loooong work day. Quack quack quack.

While the blog has suffered, I have actually been working on poker in my limited spare time. Quite a bit, in fact. Le Monsieur and I are making relatively good progress on our ABC lessons. We're still in the midst of level-1 preflop instructions, but I have say I'm really pleased where the whole thing is heading. We have not only a good overall plan in place and are developing good, solid lessons, but I honestly can say my own poker is improving as a result of this effort. At the heart of our all our lessons is the question "why". There are many, many poker books and videos that tell you what you should do in different situations, but there are surprisingly few that actually tackle the question of why you should do the what.

Take starting hands for example. It's easy to say that you should open-raise KQs from the button if the action folds to you at a standard full-ring table. But do you know why? Do you want the two blinds to fold? Well, sure, taking down the blinds is always good, but KQs is a relatively strong hand, and if you get called by either blind there is a reasonable chance that you're ahead of their ranges. That means value, right? In other words, do you really want them to fold? Well, no, not really. We want more streets of value, above and beyond the blinds. But won't a solid playing villain in the big blind, who understand trap hands, tighten his range and therefore reduce your value? Well, sure. Glub glub. And so on.

I know poker theory pretty well. Better than most. But I also have to admit that Le Monsieur and the process of developing our lessons has really made me question everything. And I mean everything. And more to the point, these mental exercises have resulted in a deeper understanding of things I thought I had down pat.

And it's fun to talk and discuss and ponder poker like this. I'm getting better at the game, and I"m getting reinvigorated with poker in general, too. This is definitely a win-win situation.

Even if it is at 5am in the morning. Quack.

Ooops. Sorry, gotta run. A loooong work day awaits.

All-in for now...
-Bug