Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The View From Above

Well, I’m off to Hawaii again on yet another brutal biz trip. This time it’s a quick four-day out-and-back, so a disproportionately large fraction of this week will be spent, well, sitting on my butt at 35,000 feet. Oh, the joys of modern airline travel. First thing in the morning, we had two mechanical failures before our plane ever left the ground on my first hop. One of these glitches was the plane’s A/C system, so we got to pretend we were in a sauna for forty minutes on the desert tarmac. Then we were delayed in Los Angeles, both arriving (our gate had another plane siting at it) and then leaving (more mechanical issues). Like I said: the joys of modern air travel.

In poker news…Uh, let's see. For starters, I’ve been playing way outside my bankroll on Carbon in the $100NL 6max games.

Yes, I know. Bad Bug! Bad!

Meh. So shoot me.

The $100 games are aggressive, the players are fairly decent, and most everyone is pretty much playing Level-2 poker. The funny thing is that I’m doing better at the higher stakes games than I am down at the $25NL tables, where I fiscally belong. Like I said: meh.

I know I shouldn’t be playing this high (relative to my bankroll), but lately I find it psychologically difficult to actually care about the money I have on the Merge network. This is potentially a huge leak, but there you have it. To be honest, I'm not entire sure why I'm risking my 'roll this way. Maybe it’s because I know firsthand that money on any online poker site these days is essentially at risk of being confiscated with zero warning. In a sense, I've kind of written off the money already. It also doesn't help that I cashed out my original buy-in; I'm now essentially free-rolling on the site. In any case, ever since Black Friday, I’ve (strangely) been less protective of my Merge bankroll than I ever was on ‘Tilt or ‘Stars. At those sites, I (usually) followed strict bankroll management guidelines (25+ buy-ins) in the cash games. Not so on Merge, where I’m content to play with 10 buy-ins or less, and not be afraid to get it in when I’m a 60% favorite in a hand. Dumb? Definitely. Fun? Youbetcha.

The good news is I'm playing my A-game at the higher stakes. VPIP is running somewhere around 24% (remember, this is six max), with a PFR of around 18%. This PFR number could possibly be higher, but the games are so aggressive that I find myself sometimes letting the other guy hang himself when I’ve got showdown value, though I’m certainly willing to 3bet without hesitation when the situation calls for it (my RR percentage is something like 6.5%).

The real good news is that I’m playing a solid RED-I game, and I think it’s paying off. On each hand I enter, I’m asking myself “What hand range is he likely on here?” and “What is my equity against this range?” and “Am I committed?” Then I consciously ask myself “What am I trying to achieve with this hand?” “Do I want him to fold?” or “Stay in the hand?”  or “Or am I unsure?” If I’m unsure, then: “What the hell am I doing in this hand in the first place?” If it’s even close, I fold. If I’m going to stay in the hand, I’m generally raising. This is because I’m either trying to get the other player to fold (because I think I’m behind, but have sufficient fold equity), or I’m trying to build a pot (because I think my hand is ahead of his range.)

Winning at poker isn’t rocket science, but it does take conscious effort and thought. It’s way too easy for me at the lower stakes to slip into auto-pilot poker: I’ve got eights in late position and a MP player has raised? Effective stacks are deep, so I’m gonna call for implied odds and hope to hit a set. Meh, this is lazy poker, folks. At $100NL, I go much deeper in thought: I've got eights in LP. The MP's raise was a little on the light side. I think the blinds will both call if I overcall here. Do I want that? What hands is the MP guy raising with? Why is he raising? Why so little? What does that say about his range? What equity does my hand have against this range? What kind of fold equity do I have here? I'll have position, and I think my eights are actually ahead of a large part of MP's range, so I think I should isolate and semi-bluff for the set. But how much to raise? A little over 2.5x his raise should work to get the blinds to fold....

Poker isn't rocket science. It's more like solving a puzzle, but one that shoots back at you. And you don't solve a puzzle that shoots back by auto-piloting.

You also probably don't get to continue solving puzzles if you go broke due to poor bankroll management.


All-in for now...

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