Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Books and Old Year's Resolutions

As is traditional in my German household, we opened our Xmas gifts last night (Christmas Eve), and as is also traditional, our family tends to give each other a lot of different books as presents, both fiction and non. Among the thrillers and how-to's and memoirs, I typically receive a handful of new poker books. This year did not disappoint: Playing the Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker to Dominate Your Opponents, but Ed Miller (a new book on the market that's getting rave reviews); Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em, by Miller, Mehta, and Flynn (one that's been on my wish list for a while now); Poker Strategy and Winning Play, by A.D. Livingston (an oldie, but a goodie); and Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold'em, by TJ Cloutier and Tom McEvoy (another old standard that has been missing on my bookshelf). Suh-wheeet!


As 2012 winds down, I've started thinking about poker resolutions for the new year... but as I started doing so, I wondered how I actually fared with the 50 resolutions I made last year at this time (here). The following is how I think I did in each area:
  1. Cold call less. In general, I think I've really improved in this area. Raise or fold is my default mantra in cash games. Now if I can just get in the same habit in MTTs I'll be a much better player.
  2. Put my opponents on hand ranges before the flop. Another area that I think I'm doing well at. Gotta continue it of course, but it's become mostly a good habit of my play.
  3. Narrow my opponents' hand ranges after the flop. If anything I think I'm doing a better job here than preflop, as I am almost automatically asking myself how the board texture has or hasn't hit the opp. If I had to give one piece of advice for a beginner trying to improve his or her game, it might well be this resolution: put your opponent on a range post-flop.
  4. Steal more. For a large part of this year, I probably stole too much on the button.
  5. Steal less. I also over-compensated later in the year with stealing too little. This is an area I really need work on still.
  6. Continuation bet as a function of board texture and ranges. I definitely got better at this aspect of my game as the year progressed. This is related to #3, above, and is equally important if you want to get better at poker. Post flop play is vital to success, and post-flop starts, by definition, with the flop and its texture.
  7. Not play above my bankroll. Uh, ah, well.... okay, I've not adhered very well to this one in cash...
  8. Play more MTTs. Still not playing enough (especially now that the WSOP is on my horizon). Hopefully 2013 will see an improvement in this area.
  9. Embrace the Zen of Folding. If there is one single thing that I am most proud of this past year, this one is it. Folding is always zero EV. And zero is always greater than any negative number. It took me a while to figure out this simple math.
  10. Play more SnGs. Meh. I played on average just 0.3 SnGs a week this past year. Not good. Not good at all.
  11. Fold in Omaha. I play probably 50-100 hands of PLO per week, and if there is one lesson I have to relearn almost every time it's this one: I need to fold more. PLO at the small stakes tables I play is a game of the nuts/near-nuts, and finding/isolating/crushing the weak players. Said another way, it's a game played in Value Town.
  12. Memorize in Stud. Frankly, I've played about a few dozen hands of stud this past year, so this one is a moot resolution.
  13. Focus in Texas Hold'em. I'm batting about .500 in this one.
  14. Watch at least one full poker training video per week. I started strong in the year doing this, but haven't watched a video in probably the last three months. 
  15. Listen to at least one full poker podcast per week. I've done well in this area on average.
  16. Not focus on results. Hey, I'm human, okay? This one is tough, tough, tough to do. I'm getting better, but I have a long way to go...
  17. Think of poker decisions in terms of Equity and EV. I am definitely doing this a lot better now than at the beginning of the year. 
  18. Use a "preflight" checklist before playing.  I work on my preflight checklists probably more than I actually use them. Sigh. Time to reverse that.
  19. Play in position more. Absolutely. 
  20. Play out of position less. Repeat: Absolutely.
  21. REDi, REDi, REDi.  This is the secret to poker, folks, and one that I do pretty much automatically these days (well, most of the time). REDi, REDi, REDi. What does my opponent have and what is he trying to do? What do I have and how does it compare to villain's range? What do I want to do with my hand? And how do I do it in a way that makes me the most money (or costs me the least)? REDi, REDi, REDi.
  22. Learn how to run Hold'em Manager filters. I've made some progress on this, but not nearly enough.
  23. Use HEM LeakFinder regularly. Meh. I've done some of these, but need to start again.
  24. Configure my HUD pop-up to better match my LAg style. Meh, take 2. Another thing that needs improvement.
  25. LAg it up more-- when appropriate. I'm a LAggy fool for the most part... except when I'm OOP.
  26. Play more live poker. I've played far less than I should/need/want to because of work commitments. This coming year promises even more biz trips, so I'm worried.
  27. Restart/attend weekly poker lunch/strategy meetings. I've made zero progress on this, despite a lot of talk. I may try to just join an online group this coming year.
  28. Post more questions on 2+2. Started strong, but fizzled toward end of year.
  29. Post more answers on 2+2. (see 28, above)
  30. Spend less time reading useless 2+2 threads. This one I've actually adhered to.
  31. Think before acting.  I do this... except when I don't. I'll give myself a solid B score.
  32. Be more aggressive. This is an area that I've improved a lot on. Raise or fold, raise or fold.
  33. Coach other players. I've not actually coached anyone formally, but I have been answering tons of email questions and helping out a number of beginners and intermediates get their games straightened out. This has in turn helped me immeasurable. I plan on continuing.
  34. Bet/Fold the River more. Definitely a strength of my game these days.
  35. Win my way into a 2012 WSOP event. Hahahaha. Right. I'm going to try to satellite my way into the WSOP-2013 this year, but my backup plan is to have enough bankroll to just buy my way in. I'm well on track to do this.
  36. Write poker how-to's. I'm always working on this. One day in the future I'll have an announcement to make, but for now I'm continuing taking notes, writing, and filing away ideas.
  37. Read poker books. If anything, I read too many poker books. Seriously. No, seriously.
  38. Tilt less. I'm doing well on this front. Still have what Tommy Angelo calls "b-game" tilt at times, but overall I'm doing well on the emotional control front.
  39. Produce 12 poker training videos. Uh, I roughed out and planned about fifty, but only half created one of them. Need to really get this one going again.
  40. Build online bankroll enough to play comfortably at $200NL. With the uncertainty in how secure my funds are on Merge, I've been continually pulling money out as the bankroll builds. Technically speaking, I keep enough online to play properly staked at $10NL to $25NL, but I play higher than that at $50NL and $100NL.
  41. Pick my spots better.  This is another huge factor in winning at poker. Can't spot the sucker? Leave. Trying to force the action? Quit. It's really that simple... and difficult.
  42. Do post-mortems after each session. I do post-mortems about 10% of the time on average. Not bad, but could be much, much better.
  43. Balance my range against thinking opponents. Definitely needs more work. Against fish this is a waste of time, but the tables have gotten a lot better, and the opponents I face are mostly playing L2 poker. Time to ramp up my L3 game.
  44. Value bet against fish. Doing this pretty well overall. Got a calling station heads-up? Bet, bet, and bet some more.
  45. Don't bluff fish.  I occasionally have to relearn this lesson, but overall I'm mostly just value towning the fishies in the deep blue sea.
  46. Play fewer, but better session. Right. I'm a poker junkie, okay? I try to do this, but the word "fewer" isn't yet fully integrated into my thought processes.
  47. Take more notes during a session-- and use them. Could do a better job at this, but overall I'm not displeased with my note taking track record.
  48. Post on this blog two or more times per week.  I've averaged  somewhere around 3.2 posts per week, so I've hit this goal.
  49. Remember to enjoy the game-- even the bad beats. Yeah, right. Easier said than done.
  50. Fry some fish. This has been a fairly profitable year playing cash poker, and the bulk of my money has come from fish frying. I expect/hope/plan for 2013 to be a repeat. Now if I can just get my tournament game on an equally profitable footing...
All-in for now...


  1. We open one present Christmas eve, then the rest on Xmas Day. I'm part German (my mother was a Lutes), so that makes sense, I guess.

    Good list of resolutions and pretty good job following them.

  2. Thanks, Memphis. My wife tells me that where she hails from in northern Germany that opening presents on Xmas eve is very common.

  3. For fun, I googled Xmas eve traditions. This passage is from Wikipedia: "In most parts of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, presents are traditionally exchanged in the evening of December 24. Children are commonly told that presents were brought either by the Christkind (German for: Christchild),[18] or the Weihnachtsmann (German name of Santa Claus)." Cool. Or should that be: kühl? :-)