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Skype study group for micros

Posted by daJoke

All seriously people .. that grind 5 nl and 10 nl .. and looking for study group .. let gets started .. hands review .. all good information .. and convarsations

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Transitioning to NOW

Posted by preachercasy151

What was doesn’t matter. Only what is.

If every poker player could live by this little aphorism, then the standard of play would skyrocket.

Our mind doesn’t like the present; it prefers the past and the future. It is difficult to stay centred, and poker players know this better than most.

Somebody new to meditation finds their mind racing away, when they are instructed to be calm. A tennis player at 0-30 starts obsessing over the possible break of serve. A heartbroken suitor replays the most painful moments of their relationship over and over, fully aware that he is prolonging his misery.

Some gentle nostalgia can be therapeutic up to a point, and having future goals is certainly beneficial to productivity. However, they are for contemplative moments – moments away from the heat of action. No tennis player is better served thinking about a possible break of serve in the future than they are staying present. No footballer benefits from thinking about last season’s missed penalty when he’s starting his run-up to take one right now.

Transitions in poker

My recent, five part series for Drag the Bar was entitled Transitions (available for FREE here), but in hindsight the title was misleading. A better name is Transitioning to NOW.

The inspiration came from one of my students, Hans, who has a tendency to spend more time in the world of was and the world of could be than in the world of is. Much of my coaching is focused on helping Hans return to the present when his mind wanders, and helping him to develop methods of staying focused with more reliability.

How NOT to play Ace King

Transitioning to NOW manifests itself in a number of different ways in poker. Here is a simple example:

Hans holds Ace King, shallow stacked in a SNG. Its a monster starting hand, and almost always worthy of getting it in pre-flop.

However, when villain elects to call Hans’s minraise and then comes out firing on J-9-8, Hans is in a world of trouble if he can’t recognize that his AK has transitioned from a monster to junk.

Sometimes he clings to his previous appraisal of the hand strength (monster), rather than the new, post-flop one (junk), and can’t bring himself to find a fold. That is an obvious error. The error then gets compounded when he glosses over the real issue when discussing the hand with me:

‘I busted with Ace King,’ he’ll explain, shrugging his shoulders as if to say ‘it was a cooler’. It would be a cooler if it was all-in pre-flop, but it wasn’t. Hans had a simple fold to make, and he failed to do so because he couldn’t transition to NOW. He got all wrapped up inwas, and forgot all about is. Brushing it off as a cooler perpetuates the problem, because it suggests that he hasn’t learned anything from the error.

And errors are only truly errors if nothing is learned from them.

 

A damn Feyn Man "Richard Feynman Nobel" by The Nobel Foundation - A damn Feyn Man
“Richard Feynman Nobel” by The Nobel Foundation –

You are the easiest person to fool

I heard a great saying the other day, that applies perfectly to Hans’s Ace King inability or refusal to transition to NOW:

‘The first principle is that you must never fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.’ – Richard Feynman.

In brushing off the Ace King bust-out as a cooler, Hans fools himself. If he allows that to become a habit, then handling transitions will go from tough to near-impossible. And that, in itself, is another transition.

I will be writing more about transitions in my Anchoring article that will be online soon. I want to hear your experiences of transitions, and how you identify and manage them. Let me know in the comments below, on my website,  on Twitter or Skype (add me – casy151 – I’m friendly!)

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The Flaw in Your Approach to Poker – and a Better Way to Think!

Posted by preachercasy151

Why do you play poker? It is the simplest question, and has the simplest answer. Yet, in years of coaching, I have found it one of the most fundamentally misunderstood concepts.

Not many people actively ask themselves why they play the game to which they have devoted considerable time and effort. And if they do, they invariably come up with the sort of answer that is symptomatic of a flawed approach to the game.

Answers like these:

‘I play poker to win money.’

‘I play poker because it means I can take a day off whenever I choose, not whenever my boss chooses.’

‘I play poker because I am competitive.’

‘I play poker because I don’t want to work a 9-to-5 in an office.’

Do any of these sound familiar? Are you the sort of player that plays poker because the alternative sucks? Are you the sort of player that plays poker because it enables you to beat opponents and feel good about yourself?

MOST GOOD POKER PLAYERS THINK THIS WAY TOO

If you are, that’s fine. Most good poker players are the same as you. They want to prove something to others, to point to their Sharkscope rankings and say ‘hey, see, I have achieved X, Y, and Z.’ Or to take their parents on holiday with their poker earnings, as if to say ‘look, mum and dad, I’m not a screw-up! This game can make me rich!’

I know I did, when I played full-time. I played poker for all of the reasons mentioned above, and several more besides.

I played poker for every reason, except the only truly valid one. The one valid reason that is at the heart of the great players’ approach to the game.

The great players play poker to become better at playing poker.

It’s so simple, yet so often misunderstood. The game is the goal. Money; fame; admiration: these are consequences, not goals.

WHAT IS INSIDE-OUT POKER?

I use the term ‘inside-out’ poker, for where the player is motivated to enjoy and improve their game, and the pleasant upside of money and respect may follow naturally. They ensue organically from playing to become better at playing.

However, if these consequences become primary pursuits then it will lead to disillusionment, to self-judgment, and to a fundamental discontent with the nature of the game. Every losing day will feel like a failure. The temptation to check results after every session will persist. Studying will seem like a chore, because you could be grinding some extra volume to boost your ranking. This is ‘outside-in’ poker, where external considerations drive your approach – and it’s the quickest shortcut to disillusionment and burn-out.

WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM DOYLE’S APPROACH TO POKER

Doyle Gets It!Doyle Gets It!

Have you ever wondered what makes 82-year old Doyle Brunson leave the house to play high-stakes poker most days? After numerous battles with cancer and the frailty that comes with ageing, he could be forgiven for turning his back on the nocturnal lifestyle and the hassle of the cardroom. He could be forgiven for letting his style go stale and becoming a loser in the nosebleed games of which he is a permanent fixture.

But he doesn’t. Not only does he still play – he still wins. Doyle is the archetype of ‘play the player, not the cards’. He isn’t bound by conventional wisdom and he doesn’t care much for what people think he’s ‘supposed’ to do. He knows, better than anyone, that there are no rules. His style is adaptive, fluid, and innovative. All of the great players share these hallmarks. Doyle plays because he fundamentally loves the game, and he still learns every day. It could be said that playing to get better at playing is what keeps Doyle Brunson young – it is undoubtedly what keeps him a fearsome competitor when countless attention-seeking would-be usurpers have blazed in and burned out over the years.

POKER IS AUTOTELIC

To the greats of the game, poker is an autotelic pursuit (derived from the Greek words for ‘self’ and ‘goal’.)  The goal of poker is self-contained. It is not ‘outside-in’, where external validation drives motivation, and which ultimately causes burn-out and stress. It is ‘inside-out’, where the challenge of improvement and enjoyment brings long-lasting fulfilment.

The grind, and its inherent connotations, has made many great players fall out of love with the game. These players are resisting poker’s true nature. Leaderboards, parental judgement, money….none of these are poker’s fault. Poker is just a game that you can play, to get better at playing it. And it’s beautiful in its simplicity. The complications are something that that you or other people have added, but they aren’t part of the game’s true nature. Recognise this, and you are taking a giant step towards liberating yourself from the ‘outside-in’ mindset.

 

Use the comments section to discuss your experience of the downside of the ‘outside-in’ approach. And don’t forget to be a hero and give this blog a share on Facebook and Twitter!

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The Ultimate Guide to Table Selection for Today’s Online Micro Stakes Cash Games

Posted by BlackRain79

Table selection has come a long way over the years at the micros. It was literally a foreign concept when I first started playing online poker in the mid 00's. The games were a lot better back then but nobody paid any attention to what table they sat down at and they certainly didn't care what seat they got. Fast forward to 2014 and if you aren't table selecting in a big way (even at the very lowest stakes) you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Table selection is an absolute must in today's games. Long gone are the days when you can sit down at a random NL25 table and expect to have a couple of huge whales splashing around. You can get lucky and find this on rare occasions especially on a weekend but this is very much the exception to the norm. The typical table these days will consist of a bunch of tight regs and one semi-bad, slightly loose player.

It is impossible to crush these games if you insist on sitting at tables like this all of the time. No matter how much you study how to beat the regs or stay on top of every new strategy out there you will still face a winnings ceiling. This is the point where your winrate simply cannot go any higher because fundamentally your opponents just aren't making enough mistakes.

No matter how bad many of the tight players are who dominate today's micro stakes games they simply aren't in enough hands to make the same kinds of massive mistakes that recreational players do. They also don't put themselves in positions to make second best hands as often by getting get out-kicked or out-flushed because they don't play as many weak hands.

There are some people out there who still refuse to take table selection seriously in today's games. If you are in this category then this article is not for you. A mediocre winrate is the best that you can hope for due to your decision to neglect this absolutely crucial part of the game. To the rest of you who are interested in having a big winrate in today's games I am going to outline some of the key strategies that I use to find good tables and perhaps more importantly, good seats.

Table Selection Versus Seat Selection

Let me first get into a key distinction that I just brushed over. Finding the right table in today's games is only half of the battle. In fact for many hardcore bumhunters (people who only sit with huge fish) it is just the beginning. This is because they know (and you should too) that getting the seat to the left of the fish which is often referred to as the "Jesus Seat" is where the big money is made in this game.

The power of position is an often misunderstood concept for newer players. By this I mean that they massively underestimate it's importance. When you have immediate position on someone at the poker table (you are on their direct left) you have an advantage so large that even against a much superior opponent you can expect to at least break even versus them over the long run.

The reverse is also true. An inferior opponent who has direct position on you will likely bust you given enough time. Getting on the direct left of the recreational player (or as close to it as possible) is of absolutely vital importance in the table selection process. If you are on the right of the fish it will severely restrict your ability to isolate them preflop and value bet and bluff them postflop. This will negatively impact your ability to get their stack in a huge way.

I will talk about getting the Jesus Seat a bit more later though. First things first, how do we find the tables with the recreational players on them?

Play Poker at the Right Times

As mentioned finding the big fish is not always an easy task in today's games even at the very lowest stakes. There are some strategies that you can take though to seriously improve your odds.

1) Play More on Weekends

This is the oldest and totally foolproof table selection "trick" in the book. The games are always a little bit better on the weekends because recreational players have jobs to attend to during the week. On the weekends they want to unwind, perhaps have some drinks and play a bit of online poker. I have been playing online poker for nearly 10 years now. It has always been my experience that the games are a bit better on the weekends. Fish are out in larger numbers and there are more intoxicated lunatics.

Obviously we all have lives outside of poker though and if we only played on the weekends then it would be hard to get much volume in. So the point of this is not to say that you shouldn't play during the week. Yes of course you should. But if you can, you should designate more hours on the weekends. Play those epic long sessions then as well.

2) Play More During Prime-Time Hours

This is another table selection method that may pre-date the dinosaurs. People ask me all the time when the best time to play is. The answer isn't so clear in today's games though. Before the American online poker market was decimated by Black Friday several years ago the best time to play was clearly during the prime-time North and South American hours (6pm-12pm roughly).

In today's online poker climate game quality is much more balanced between the prime-time hours in North/South America and those in Europe. Prime-time in Asia is a distant third. Since most people reading this article aren't from Asia then this shouldn't be a big concern. If you do happen to live in a place like Thailand though, then it is advisable that you change your schedule a bit usually by playing early in the morning which is prime-time in North/South America.

Recreational Poker Players non-HUD Tells

As I have discussed before there are several clear as day "tells" that recreational players give off to identify themselves as bad players. None of these require any HUD data.

1) Stack Size Below 100bb

100bb is the maximum allowable buyin in most online poker cash games. Good poker players always want to have the most money possible in front of them. The reason is pretty simple. The more money you have in front of you, the more you can win. If you are the best (or among the best) at the table then it only makes sense to push your edge or "scale up" as much as possible. The only time when you should ever consider buying in for less than the maximum allowable stack size is if you are playing a higher stake than normal to chase a fish and he has bought in for less than the maximum.

There are some well known mid stacking and short stacking strategies out there. I do not advocate using either of them because no matter how you cut it you are placing an artificial ceiling on your potential winnings. However, you will occasionally run into some decent players in today's games who use one of these strategies.

The large majority of the time though when you run into someone at the tables who has bought in for less than the maximum (or they are not using the auto top up stack option) they will be a recreational player. The clearest sign of all is when somebody buys in for something like $17.63 on an NL25 table. This is clearly their entire bankroll and you should identify them as a fish right away.

2) Posting a Blind OOP

Anyone who takes this game seriously knows that you should always wait for the big blind to come around to you before posting a blind. The blinds can be thought of like a tax that you have to pay in order to play the game. Nobody would ever voluntarily pay more taxes than they owe.

The only players who disregard this are recreational players. When they sit down at the table they simply want to get playing as soon as possible. They have a limited amount of time to play and they want to get in the action as soon as possible. If you see anyone post a blind OOP you can identify them as a fish immediately.

3) Limping

There really is no justification for limping at the micros in any scenario. Pretty much everybody has realized these days that it simply makes a lot more sense to raise when first in the pot or if there are limpers. If you see anyone open limping then you can immediately identify them as a recreational player.

4) Min Bets Postflop

Another surefire sign of a bad player is a min bet after the flop. While there are some good players who will open for a min raise preflop, especially from LP, nobody who has any knowledge of the game would ever make a minimum bet after the flop. The reason why is because a bet of say $1 into a $10 pot is totally meaningless. Your opponent can profitably call with any two cards.

5) Playing One or Two Tables

Regs will almost always be playing at least half a dozen tables at once (and often many more) since they play tight and therefore have less decisions to make. They also want to increase their rakeback. Recreational players play a lot more hands and their decisions are often based on superstition and emotion rather than logic and repetition. They also generally have no clue about rakeback. Therefore they can often only handle a table or two at a time. Most poker rooms allow you to search a player. If you suspect that somebody is a bad player then search them and note the number of tables.

6) Low Rakeback Status

On sites where it applies such as Pokerstars a big clue to someone's ability is their rakeback status. It is advisable to never show your rakeback status for any reason. Giving out free information at the poker table simply makes no sense at all. However, recreational players don't care about this. If you see somebody showing Bronzestar or Chromestar on Pokerstars for instance, and you are playing NL25 or higher, this is a big clue that they are a bad player. Anyone playing these stakes regularly would have a higher rakeback status.

7) Smart Phone or Tablet Symbol on Pokerstars

Pokerstars intoduced the smart phone and tablet symbols beside each player using them awhile ago. These can be turned off in the options. Once again recreational players are more likely to leave them turned on though. Also, recreational players are far more likely to be playing online poker using a smart phone or a tablet. The large majority of regs would rather use a desktop or a notebook in order to play as many tables as they want and utilize all of their poker related software. Players showing these symbols on Pokerstars are almost invariably bad players.

Tag Them Right Away

If you notice a player that is showing any of these 7 signs then you should tag them as a recreational player immediately. Almost all poker sites allow you to put a color tag or a note beside a player. These essentially last forever and make table selection much easier in the future because you already know who is a fish. On Pokerstars you should go:

Options > Player Notes > Left click player to assign label

This will allow you to tag somebody as a recreational player with one click. Whenever you have down-time at the tables (nothing is happening) you should be making sure that you are on good tables and tagging all the bad players. Always make sure that you tag them as you are closing down your session as well since you will have the maximum amount of information on everybody. Speaking of that, I am going to talk about how to identify recreational players with your HUD next.

Recreational Player HUD Tells

Finding the fish in today's online micro stakes cash games
If you read this blog regularly then you will know that I highly suggest using a HUD in today's games even at the lowest limits. You can certainly still win without one but it is just silly to forgo the kind of information that these programs are capable of providing you with. They will often pay for themselves in a week or two at the most.

The absolute easiest way to spot a recreational player is by VPIP (percentage of hands that they play) and PFR (percentage of hands that they raise with preflop). Bad players will have a VPIP that is at least 30 or more. This goes for 6max or full ring. And they will often have a PFR that is considerably less than this. The true bumhunter specialist is looking for the recreational players with a VPIP of 40, 50 or more though. These are the players who burn through stacks at a truly incredible pace.

Sometimes they will have a PFR of just a single digit (52/7 for instance). This is often referred to as a whale or a "drooler" fish. Sometimes they will have a PFR that is much closer to their VPIP though (52/37 for instance). This is often referred to as a maniac or an "aggro fish." While the strategies to exploit these two player types differ in some ways both are like rocket fuel for your winrate. If you spend all of your time at the tables playing against these kinds of opponents it is literally impossible not to crush these games beyond belief.

Always make sure that you play a few orbits before you make a final decision on somebody. Just because you spot a player with an 80% VPIP doesn't necessarily mean that they are a recreational player if the sample size is only 5 or even 10 hands. It is definitely possible to simply have a good run of good cards over a sample like this. I prefer to wait until I have about 20 hands on someone before I decide for sure whether they are a bad player or not.

Start Your Own Tables

One of the best ways to find recreational players in today's games is to simply let them come to you. The easiest and most well known method of doing this is to simply start your own tables. As I mentioned before, fish only have a limited amount of time to play poker and when they sit down at the virtual felt they want to get dealt in as soon as possible. Because of this they are more likely to choose a table that has empty seats on it. Start your own table and watch them come to you.

Many people do not like to do this because they are not confident in their abilities when it is heads up or ultra short handed. The first thing that you need to remember is that the tables that you start will usually fill up really fast. You will often be playing 6 handed or 9 handed like you are used to before you even know it.

Secondly, even if you have to play a few hands short handed just play your normal game and don't worry about it. We are talking about terrible players here. You win money off of them by making hands and value betting the crap out of them. Therefore the same method to beat them applies whether there are 2 people at the table or 9. Just open with a few more hands than usual and play normal poker after that.

Lastly, if no recreational players show up and you find yourself playing heads up against an obvious reg (he doesn't limp the button, 3Bets a fair bit etc) then simply leave the table or sit out. There is no need to prove anything versus another reg. Just move on and start another table or sit out and wait for the fish to show up.

Snipe The Jesus Seat

This final method is in the arsenal of all hardcore bumhunters these days. It is also highly effective. The idea of starting your own tables to attract the recreational players is not a new idea. Therefore, you will probably notice a few other regs doing the exact same thing. Simply open up a bunch of those tables and observe them but don't sit yet. As soon as an unknown player or a known fish sits down at any of these tables immediately grab the seat to the left of them. There is no easier way to get the most profitable seat in the game.

Don't be afraid to simply hop around the table and grab the Jesus Seat if the table is not full either. This isn't live poker, you won't be hurting anyone's feelings. Don't bother waiting for the blinds to come to you. Just leave the table straight away and rejoin at the seat to the left of the bad player. You want this seat at all costs.

The Importance of Table Selection

I hope that some of the above methods will help you better identify the bad players and get the best seat against them. I have to reiterate that choosing to ignore table selection in today's games is an absolutely colossal mistake. I would go as far as to say that you should be spending upwards of 50% of your actual time at the tables looking for bad players and getting the right seat against them.

You can study all of the latest and greatest poker strategy theories until the sun goes down. Against decent thinking opponents this stuff can only help your winrate in a small way though. You simply cannot crush these games anymore at any level above NL10 if you are not fully committed to finding the worst players and playing with them a large majority of the time.

Many people are stubborn (or ignorant) though and refuse to accept the fundamental rule that you cannot create a big winrate against players who are not making many huge mistakes. The latest fad is GTO (game theory optimal) play. If I can just figure out how to balance my ranges perfectly against every opponent in every situation then I will finally be able to crush these games! Err...no. You are still trying to draw blood from a stone. The real money in this game will always be in playing against extremely bad (or tilted) players.

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.

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CBetting the Flop at the Micros (Modern Evolution)

Posted by BlackRain79

CBetting the Flop at the Micros (Modern Evolution)

I don't believe that I have ever really covered CBetting the flop in detail on this blog. Also, CBetting theory has certainly evolved at the micro and small stakes in recent years. Five or six years ago when the games began to tighten up people began to realize that frequently continuing up their preflop raise (regardless of their holdings) was a very profitable thing to do. This is because the play shifted to a weak-tight model where a lot of people thought that being overly tight both preflop and postflop was the way to go.

The pendulum has started to swing back in the other direction though in recent years at least amongst "thinking" players at NL10+. By this I am referring to the better regs at these stakes who are aware that you are CBetting too much and will actively take steps to exploit this. It is important to note that versus most of the regs at lower stakes and against most recreational players at all limits CBetting the flop frequently is still very effective.

So how should we re-adjust on the flop versus the better players in today's games?

Be Unpredictable

Decent regs at the micro and small stakes today are going to rip you apart if you CBet the flop 80%+ of the time against them. They will float you when they are IP and bet the turn when checked to. Or they will simply raise the flop or the turn. If OOP they will check/raise or check/call and lead or check/raise the turn. They know (correctly) that against heavy CBetters they will be able to get folds a lot of the time with these types of lines because their opponent simply won't have a hand to fight back with very often.

The way that we can counteract this though is by widening our check/continuance range on the flop. By this I mean having a range of hands that we check the flop with as the preflop raiser both IP and OOP. However, we are not giving up with these hands. This range should be a fair bit wider when we are OOP in order to counteract our positional disadvantage.

So in practice we do this by mixing in more check backs IP and check/calls and check/raises OOP with a wide variety of holdings. This is really just about balancing our range more in these situations. When you have an active checking range on the flop (that doesn't only include total air) you make yourself much harder to play against. This is because our opponent now faces the threat of being played back at when they attempt to float or check/raise us on the flop or turn.

Now don't get me wrong. We should definitely still be CBetting the flop frequently in many spots against good players. We did raise preflop after all which generally means that we started the hand with something halfway decent. It is certainly still profitable to follow it up with a bet quite a bit of the time. Conversely, we also want to still give up with total air especially when OOP a certain amount of the time.

What this is really about is widening that third part of our range (checking and continuing) that became almost non-existent among the flop CBetting frenzy of past years. In 2014 CBetting 80% and giving up almost always when floated or played back at will not cut it against many of the better regs especially by the time you get to NL25. We need to let our opponents know that a check on the flop is not necessarily a white flag from us. In fact it very well might be dangerous for them. Let's look at some examples of how this might play out.

Example #1 (Full Ring)

TAG Villain: 15/12/3, fold to flop CBet 56%, raise flop CBet 33%

Hero opens from MP+1 with A♥5♥
Villain calls from the BTN

The flop comes:
Q♥7♣3♦

Hero???

Most people would just make a "standard" CBet here versus a single opponent on a dry single broadway board like this. But consider the opponent in this situation. We are against a reg who folds to a flop CBet a fairly mediocre to low amount of the time at 56%. He also raises a flop CBet at a fairly high 33% of the time.

Also though, as I mention repeatedly in Modern Small Stakes, we need to adjust for the situation. We need to think about why a good reg like this would choose to flat us preflop in this spot. He knows that our range is wide when opening from MP+1. Most regs will simply go ahead and make a light 3Bet here. When he calls it is at least in part to balance his range and prevent us from being able to 4Bet the crap out of him.

But more importantly it is also done with the full intention of using position to take the pot away from us after the flop. We would do the exact same thing if the roles were reversed here. So considering the situation (he knows that we are weak a lot and at a positional disadvantage) we should probably expect our opponent here to float or raise us considerably more than what the numbers above indicate. How can we adjust to this?

Well, as I mentioned before, this is where having a reasonably wide check/continuance range can really help. Instead of just blindly tossing out a CBet here and getting floated or raised all day why not check/raise here instead? Or how about a check/call and then lead the turn or check/raise the turn line? This puts all of the pressure back on our opponent here. And the truth is, he usually doesn't have anything very good either especially on an exceedingly dry board like this.

If you are capable of taking lines like this a reasonably significant amount of the time then the better regs will have to think twice next time about flatting you IP preflop and trying to screw with you after the flop. It should be noted that we should have a check/fold range here as well. And a traditional CBet range as well. But versus an active reg in a situation like this who is obviously only in the hand to mess with me a lot I am not afraid to alter my frequencies heavily.

It is also very important that you are able to take these lines with much more than the nuts as well. It should be balanced out with draws, middle pairs and even total air like in this hand.

Hero Should:
Check/Raise or Check/Call (with turn followup) 1/2 of the time, CBet 1/4 of the time, Check/Fold 1/4 of the time

Example #2 (6max)

TAG Villain: 22/19/3, fold to flop CBet 52%, raise flop CBet 35%

Villain opens from the CO
Hero 3Bets from the BTN with Q♠Q♣
Villain calls

The flop comes:
5♥5♦J♠

Villain checks
Hero???

We are IP this time and we have the virtual nuts. This is another spot where we need to develop a checking range in order to make it more difficult for the better regs to play against us. Checking behind here on occasion will encourage the more aggressive regs to lead the turn and possibly the river as well as a bluff. It will also make them think twice about check/raising us when we do CBet because they will know that we can show up with hands like this sometimes as well.

In contrast, most of the weaker regs at the micro and small stakes these days will just auto-CBet here and only check behind on occasion with total air. This is extremely exploitable because first off we can just lead the turn no matter what we have and expect to take it down a lot because they have essentially given up. Or we can take a check/call the flop and lead the turn or check/raise the flop and lead the turn line and expect to get a lot of folds because a lot of their range includes ace highs and mid pairs that cannot withstand a lot of heat.

By balancing our range better in these spots versus the thinking regs in these games we can prevent ourselves from being exploited by these lines. We can confuse our opponent and provide no clear path to success for them. This should always be one of your most important goals when playing against good poker players.

Hero Should:
Check behind 1/3 of the time, CBet 2/3 of the time

Final Thoughts

I hope that this discussion has proven useful for some of you who are struggling versus the better players who will play back at you as you move up the stakes. Balancing your range against them is the answer. And as regards the flop this means widening your check/continuance range (especially when OOP) so that your actions are not so black or white and predictable.

I want to be very clear though that none of this really applies at NL2, NL4, NL5 and even NL10 for the most part. The regs at these stakes are still largely beginners and are not thinking much beyond the strength of their own hand. Even versus many of the bad regs at NL25, NL50 and NL100 this sort of balancing is not overly important. This really only applies to that small subset of regs who populate the higher end of the micros, play a moderate or low amount of tables and are actively thinking about how to exploit their opponents.

Otherwise, you shouldn't bother complicating things for yourself. Just making the obvious play is still overwhelmingly the right decision in most micro and small stakes games today.

Let me know your strategies for counteracting chronic flop floaters and raisers in the comments below.

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.

Join my FREE weekly newsletter for exclusive tips and strategy advice on everything related to micro and small stakes cash games.

Slow Losing Poker Sessions – Here is How to Make Sense of Them

Posted by BlackRain79

Slow Losing Poker Sessions - Here's How to Make Sense of Them

We've all been there. They happen quite frequently even to the biggest winners especially at any stakes above NL10. They are those slow losing poker sessions where you can't quite put your finger on exactly what went wrong. It is not as if you ran into a bunch of coolers or bad beats all at once. That is something that I call a "hell session" where you simply cannot win a hand to save your life. They also seem to have the nuts every time. No, it was just a slow decline. You actually thought that you played pretty well. However, when all was said and done you were a couple buyins worse the wear.

Making sense of these sessions is difficult especially for newer players. It is also hard for people who have marginal or negative winrates because they will happen very, very frequently to them. It is important to realize though that these sessions are a natural occurrence for everybody who plays poker. They are part of the variance that comes with playing this game. The key is to make sure that they were unavoidable and you were not the problem.

The Most Important Stat

The first stat that I always look at when analyzing a slow losing session like this is WSD. In more precise terms this refers to the percentage of the time that you won money (the pot) when you went to showdown. In Pokertracker 4 this stat should already be added by default. The same goes for any other poker tracking program. If it is not, then add it right away.

Most winning players have a WSD that hovers somewhere between the high 40's and the mid 50's (if your WSD is significantly outside of this range then there might be some deeper fundamental issues with your game). If you had a slow losing session then it is likely that you will be in the mid or low 40's. Anywhere below this (in the 30's for instance) is definitely a hell session.

The difference between a winning and losing session can often be a very fine line. Often it will boil down to just a few key pots. However the cumulative effect of losing just 5% or 10% less often at showdown than you normally do can easily make the difference as well.

Win/Loss Ratio of Medium Sized Pots

As I talked about in a post earlier this year about how to conduct a session review it is easy to filter for pots between a certain size in PT or HEM. Again, in these small losing sessions it is assumed that the big pots (you stacked someone or they stacked you) roughly even out. So I want to know what happened in a bunch of smaller pots of roughly 30bb-100bb in size.

Most winning players over the long haul should have a decided advantage in winning versus losing pots of this size. In a slow losing session though you will likely have quite a few more than normal in the losing category. It is key that you examine the losing hands carefully and make sure that the reason you lost them was outside of your control.

As I talk about near the end of Modern Small Stakes there are a number of key questions that you should be asking yourself when reviewing these hands.

  • Could I have won this pot with a different line?
  • Did I correctly make use of all the HUD data that I had on my opponent at the time? (i.e. imbalances that can be exploited)
  • Did I put my opponent on a correct range based on the action in the hand and the player type?

If you are satisfied that in the majority of these hands that there is no better way that you could have played it, then you just have to move on and accept the results. If not then this is the time to note the mistakes that you made and make adjustments in the future.

The Long Run is Long

As we know winning poker is just a series of good decisions made over the long run. At limits above NL10 where the winrates for most long term winning players are typically not above 5bb/100 a sizeable number of your sessions are going to end negatively even if you did everything right. It is important to understand that this is simply a reality in today's games.

As long as you are confident that you made good decisions most of the time (nobody is perfect) then you have nothing to worry about. I often don't even bother reviewing these types of sessions anymore. The WSD stat usually tells me everything that I need to know. But for newer or struggling players it is a good idea to review your medium sized losing pots frequently. This is often where the difference between winning and losing players is found.

Anybody can stack someone with a set when their opponent has an overpair. Everybody goes broke when they run KK into AA. These pots play themselves. You need to make sure that you are doing everything in your power to win the pots when nobody has anything (or at least anything very good). Everything else is just a part of the natural cycle of variance in this game that we all go through.

How do you approach slow losing poker sessions?

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.

Join my FREE weekly newsletter for exclusive tips and strategy advice on everything related to micro and small stakes cash games.

The Poker Problem – What Does Your Behaviour Say About YOU?

Posted by preachercasy151

Brian take the train a lot. When he is travelling solo, he likes to read a book and relax. There are days, however, when groups of boisterous teens or arguing couples ruin his relaxing journey.

‘Those inconsiderate so-and-sos’ thinks Brian, ‘how could anybody be so rude and oblivious to the noise they’re making? Anybody making that much commotion on a public train is clearly a selfish person. I bet they were brought up badly by their parents.’

This time it’s different!

A week later, and Brian is travelling to the cup final with his friends. Some beers get cracked open, a sing-song is started. Brian is loving every second when a middle-aged lady catches his eye. He knows exactly what she’s thinking: ‘those inconsiderate so-and-sos…’

But this is different. It’s the cup final! Brian is with the guys! He hasn’t seen some of them for years! Plus, it’s a one-off. Brian doesn’t usually act like this…

U09_Luis_Suárez_7523

Can you relate to Brian?

Here’s the crucial bit: when reflecting on others, we tend to use their behaviour to make judgments as to their character. Someone who is obnoxious in public is a rude person.

When reflecting on ourselves, we tend to use circumstances to explain our behaviour. When we are obnoxious in public, it is because of the external factors. It is cup final day, or it is because we are excited at catching up with friends.

We do not re-evaluate our character because of our actions, but we do use them to evaluate the character of others.

This is called correspondence bias.

In poker, we are quick to label players as fish (or nits, or nutters, or whatever) based on a hand that we deem bizarre. We use scanty evidence to make judgments as to the character of our opponents, deeming them tilt-monkeys or probable-drunks or likely-degens, because they played a hand of poker a little strangely.

However, when we make a reckless re-jam or a loose call, we dismiss it as a mis-read or a mis-click or a mystery. We blame the circumstances – often with due reason – for our errors in judgment. Even when we know that we are on tilt, we write it off as an anomalous development which is not representative of our typical poker game.

Character vs Behaviour

There are people who have multiple affairs or who commit fraud or who bite other players on the football pitch who will argue that they are not bad people, but they had a momentary lapse in judgment.

Outsiders looking in, so quick to judge, will label them ‘scumbags’ and speculate that they are bad parents, liabilities as employees, and selfish in all aspects of life.

Brian on the train will argue that he acted selfishly, but is not a selfish person. Then in his next breath, he will argue that the couple having a shouting match on the train are selfish people and terrible partners and bad parents.

Correspondence bias in poker can be kept in check by refraining from making judgments as to the character or traits of opponents, based on moves that could be explained by circumstances (game flow, erroneous belief in fold equity, mass-multi-tabling mis-clicks etc).

And, by extension, it is important to task your poker coach with keeping you in check when it comes to justifying your own play. Sometimes you will be on tilt and eager to blame it on external factors. Make your coach earn their money by keeping a close eye on the development of leaks that you are eager to blame on easily-explainable errors.

Does correspondence bias ring a bell with you? Have a little think about scenarios in which you are too quick to extend your judgments as to behaviour onto their character, and give the article a share on Facebook and Twitter!

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Announcing the Release of my 2nd Book “Modern Small Stakes”

Posted by BlackRain79

The Release of Modern Small Stakes

Finally!

Well, it is nearly 7 months now after the promised release date but I am extremely happy to officially announce the release of my 2nd book, "Modern Small Stakes." This is indeed the long promised "CTM2." I chose to go with a completely different title because this is a completely different book. Modern Small Stakes focuses on higher limits (NL10-NL100) than Crushing the Microstakes (NL2-NL5). It is also far more advanced in theory and depth on every level. This book was infinitely harder to write and turned out to be double the length of its predecessor at over 500 pages.

When I first started to work on Modern Small Stakes about a year and a half ago I set a goal to write the best book ever written on these limits. I really felt (and still do) that the literature out there is really lacking at these stakes especially regarding today's games.

In retrospect this goal of mine was  probably a bit foolish because it made me demand perfectionism at every corner and ensured countless revisions and alterations of the text. It also made the length of the book far greater than I had originally planned. I felt that this was necessary though in order to get across everything that I wanted to say about these stakes.

These are two of the main reasons why it took so long for me to release this book. I sincerely apologize to all of those who have been waiting for months on end and asking for updates. On the bright side, I am confident that I accomplished my goal.

I believe that Modern Small Stakes will be a game-changer in the poker world for full ring and 6max small stakes NLHE cash games. It covers every aspect of the game at these limits in extensive detail from HUD setup, player type analysis, game selection, 3Betting, 4Betting, 5Betting, balancing your range, CBetting frequencies, barreling frequencies, bluffing frequencies, intentionally tilting other regs and so much more. With over 100 highly detailed examples involving real opponents and real situations at these stakes, every effort was made to explain how to translate the theory into practice.

 

Table of Contents 
(right click and open in a new tab to enlarge)

Before I say anything else about the book let me post the table of contents so that you can get a better idea of what is included. The table of contents is also featured in the official Youtube release video for Modern Small Stakes.

The heart of Modern Small Stakes is teaching how to break down your opponent at these limits to the finest detail. This is why there is extensive discussion of effective HUD use throughout this book. In MSS I also assume that your opponents are reasonably good thinking regulars 95% of the time. Therefore, issues of balancing your range in all situations play a heavy role as well.

Whereas CTM consisted of a playbook macro type approach to exploiting the terrible players who populate the very lowest stakes, MSS is about micro managing versus fairly good players. What becomes evident to the reader early on in the book is that all players at these stakes really do have fairly significant leaks. They just aren't as readily noticeable as they are with the massive donkeys who dominate every table at the lowest limits.

This is why Modern Small Stakes is extremely example heavy (102 of them to be exact and roughly 50% 6max and 50% full ring). As you move up the stakes success becomes more and more about throwing the "standard play" out the window at times and finding the line that yields the highest EV for this particular opponent, in this particular situation. Therefore, there are a lot of outside the box, "advanced" or "fancy plays" suggested in this book. But they are always made for the right reasons.

My hope once again with Modern Small Stakes is that it takes your game to the next level. More precisely, that it improves your bottom line at the tables. This is why you will find the same linear and practical approach in this book as you did in CTM. There is a vast amount of information presented in this book which covers every aspect of the game. Modern Small Stakes is by no means a casual read. It was created for people who take this game very seriously and are ready to put in the hard hours studying its contents and then applying it at the tables.

I want to thank everyone who supported me on my blog, via email, here on DTB, Facebook, Twitter and many other places throughout this (frankly insane) project. You helped me during the countless times in the past year when I didn't know if I would ever be able to finish this book.

Modern Small Stakes is massive and comprehensive. It was meant to be the "be all end all" definitive guide for these limits. It was absolutely the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life. I am finally satisfied with it now though. I hope you are too.

 

Screenshots 

(right click and open in a new tab to enlarge)

 

Purchasing Information

The official sales page for Modern Small Stakes is located here.

 

Modern Small Stakes Technical Details

  • Please be aware that Modern Small Stakes is only available in the PDF format right now. One of my first priorities will be to start working on the Kindle, iPad and tablet versions of the book. Just like before with CTM, when these are released they will be made available free of charge to all previous buyers.
  • Bonus materials that are likely to be released alongside Modern Small Stakes in the coming months will also be made available to all previous buyers at no cost.

 

***Please leave a comment below, send  me a PM here at DTB or email me at blackrain79@dragthebar.com if you have any questions about Modern Small Stakes. 

Pages: 500

Word Count: 81,263

Copyright © 2014 by Nathan Williams

Ten Poker Outlook Tips to Improve Motivation and Focus

Posted by preachercasy151

Poker strategy is written about by every Tom, Dick, and Harry. However, in my frustration at the shortage of worthwhile poker outlook ‘heuristics’ (handy little rules of thumb), I decided to do something about it.

 

Here are ten little heuristics to improve your awareness and focus at the poker tables.

-          A good poker player is one who doesn’t get in his own way

-          You are only as good as your C-game

-          Awareness is curative (thanks to Timothy Gallwey for this one!)

-          A great poker player is one who can analyse herself without rushing to judgment

-          Experimenting and curiosity came before ‘rules’; never be bound by              conventional theory. ‘Rules’ are created after discovery through creativity.

-          You will never be great if the desire to study only arises when on a bad run

-          The only thing that truly matters is this decision in front of you, right now

-          Tilt is not entirely a bad thing; a little bit of poison strengthens the immune  system

-          We must bankroll with excessive, almost embarrassing conservatism to avoid to truly focus on the long game

-          We must prepare for even the most remote possibilities, as they are often the  most impactful

 

Do you agree with my ten heuristics? Let me know which are the most useful – and which you take issue with. And of course, please take a moment to use the Share buttons to spread the word.

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Why You MUST Slow-play Pocket Aces – The Availability Bias

Posted by preachercasy151

Quickly answer this question: do more words feature the letter K as the first or the third letter in the English language?

***

Vedran is a strong low-stakes 6-max SNG player who is playing his way out of a minor downswing. He posted up the following hand in my students’ chat group:

‘I am dealt AA and open raise from middle position. The TAG reg in the Big Blind 3-bets me, and I decide to flat call, for deception and balance purposes.

The flop comes Ks Jd 3h. The reg checks, I continuation bet 60% of the pot, and the reg mini-raises me. I estimate his range preflop to be TT-KK, and, based on this range, I feel that he must have a set so I puke-fold. This is why I hate slow-playing AA!’

The Poker Mindset gets cloudy

Now, let’s get something straight. Vedran posted up the hand because he suspected that he had made an error. And believe me, he most definitely had. He had fallen foul of availability bias.

ScreenHunter_57 Jun. 18 17.31

When we think back to all of the times that we slow-played AA, we instantly recall the occasions where it ended disastrously. Our minds become awash with memories of flopped sets, of backdoor draws hitting, and of losing our place in the hand.

As such, our mind wants us to believe that slow-playing monster hands is a terrible move, and that we will somehow get punished every time we do so.

Well guess what?

It’s total garbage.

Should we slow-play Pocket Aces?

There IS a time and a place for slow-playing Aces. It’s just that all the times that it works out well are harder to recall.

In this hand, Vedran back-fitted his analysis to paint a scenario in which a fold could be deemed acceptable. However, is it remotely realistic to peg the TAG reg’s range squarely at TT-KK? Hell no! What about all the 44s and JQo and A5s that elected to 3-bet pre-flop? Just because villain is tight, doesn’t mean that he MUST have a monster here.

Similarly, on the flop, Vedran disregarded any bluffs or value raises with AK, KQ etc. He feared the worst, partially because, on an unconscious level, he has been conditioned to believe that AA gets cracked FAR more often than is the reality.

Vedran allowed his irrational fears to influence his decision-making, and It resulted in his making a very poor fold.

We are programmed to remember the remarkable. We are more likely to recall the times where we got that horrible sinking feeling in our gut as we saw the diamonds hit, than all those times where we doubled-up unceremoniously and quickly moved our focus to the next hand.

Your Mind Plays Tricks

Just because something springs more readily to mind, does not mean that it occurs more commonly. In fact, it is BECAUSE Aces win more regularly than lose that the wins become routine and unremarkable. By extension, the losses are out of the ordinary and therefore easier to recall.

And, as you have probably worked out by now, you were wrong. The letter K features more than twice as often as the third letter than as the first. It’s just that those words that begin with K spring more readily to mind.

Ladies and gentlemen – the availability bias. A nasty little blighter that needs to be kept away from the poker tables!

***

Let me know of the times when YOU fell foul of the availability bias in the comments below! And don’t forget to use the Social Share buttons to spread the article online.

Follow me on Twitter.

Check out Christy's website.

 

*I borrowed the Letter K example from Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking Thinking, Fast and Slow.

 

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What is a Good Win Rate at the Micros and Small Stakes?

Posted by BlackRain79

I get asked about win rates perhaps more than any other topic. That or how many hours do they need to play to make $50 a day. These questions usually come from people who are new to online poker. I often reply with something along the lines of it depends on your skill level, the stakes and the volume that you put in. It is totally impossible for me to answer this question without this information.

Also, I take the time to remind them (or perhaps inform) that they are thinking about the game all wrong. Poker is not like a regular job where if you show up for X amount of hours you get paid X amount of money. Most people lose in the long run in this game in fact. In other words they go to "work" and their paycheck is a negative amount.

Show Me The Money!

Anyways, while these types of questions do seem really silly to me, I have gotten enough of them by now to know that people want to know about win rates no matter what. So let's get into it! Now the question always gets phrased to me as "what is possible." So let's start there.

In my opinion the top 5% of the entire player pool are the ones who are the long term big winners. These are the guys who are doing "what is possible." So that is who I am speaking about below. Also, I will be assuming that they are religiously game selecting (both table selection and seat selection) when they have the time for it. Elite players tend to always be doing this anyways.

Now of course the big thing with game selection is that when you are playing 18 tables at once you simply do not have anywhere near as much time to pay attention to it as someone who is 6 tabling for instance. The same goes for the quality of your actual poker decisions. This will drastically affect your potential win rate. So I will break down the win rates below into three different volume categories.

Lastly, what follows is just my opinion from playing at all levels of the micros and small stakes for years. If you fail to achieve these numbers (or have already surpassed them) please don't send me hate mail!

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 1-8 tables.

NL2: 30bb/100
NL5: 20bb/100
NL10: 15bb/100
NL25: 12bb/100
NL50: 10bb/100
NL100: 10bb/100

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 9-17 tables.

NL2: 20bb/100
NL5: 13bb/100
NL10: 10bb/100
NL25: 8bb/100
NL50: 7bb/100
NL100: 7bb/100

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 18+ tables.

NL2: 12bb/100
NL5: 8bb/100
NL10: 6bb/100
NL25: 5bb/100
NL50: 5bb/100
NL100: 5bb/100

So there you have it! You can multiply these amounts by your projected daily volume to find out what the best possible average earnings per day are at your limit. You can also multiply them by your average hourly volume in order to find out what the best possible average hourly is at your limit. This is all pre-rakeback of course as well which can add up to thousands of dollars per month for high volume players at NL25 and higher.

The Let Down

Alright, let's inject some reality into this conversation now. The average win rate and daily earnings of a random person just getting started in online poker are both in fact negative numbers. Many people get caught up in the spell of the dream poker lifestyle. They have seen the millions being tossed around on TV and they figure that since they dominate their buddies every Friday night or have "been killing it" at the local 1/2 game for an inconsequential amount of hands that online poker is their's for the taking.

The vast majority of them find out the hard way that it doesn't quite work like that. Let me now list the win rates that are much more common for these stakes. Keep in mind that at least 3/4 of people who play poker actually lose in the long run. So these numbers represent the average win rate that a winning player (only 1/4 of the player pool) can expect to attain at the various stakes.

These are the average win rates for 1-8 tables.

NL2: 10bb/100
NL5: 6bb/100
NL10: 4bb/100
NL25: 2bb/100
NL50: 2bb/100
NL100: 2bb/100

These are the average win rates for 9-17 tables.

NL2: 6bb/100
NL5: 4bb/100
NL10: 3bb/100
NL25: 2bb/100
NL50: 1bb/100
NL100: 1bb/100

These are the average win rates for 18+ tables.

NL2: 4bb/100
NL5: 2bb/100
NL10: 1bb/100
NL25: 0.5bb/100
NL50: 0.5bb/100
NL100: 0.5bb/100

You can pull out your calculator again and multiply these numbers by your projected daily volume and hourly volume in order to get your daily and hourly earnings. I hope this article proves valuable to all of the financial planners out there who want to know exactly how much they are going to make before they even get started!

Unfortunately though, poker doesn't actually work this way.

Your time would be much better spent simply forgetting about all of your future riches for months at the very least. You should instead focus on playing as much as you can and working hard on your game away from the tables. You should aim to develop the work ethic, discipline, emotional control and dedication to continued learning that are all necessary for long term success in this game.

I am not here to encourage the dreamers who send me these emails asking about how much they are going to make. These are the people who are all but guaranteed to fail in this game.

I am here however to encourage realistic people with the hunger to learn and improve to go pursue their passion for this game. People with no ego who want to earn it like the guy who I interviewed in my last post. It's fine to have big dreams in this game but put that aside for now. It is time to get to work.

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

Struggling at the Micros? Just Getting Started in Poker? Join my FREE weekly newsletter for exclusive tips, articles and more!

10 Tips to Transform Your Heads-Up Game

Posted by preachercasy151

Heuristics are little rules-of-thumb that can be used to simplify decision-making. In poker, where every decision is vital, it is important to have some guidelines to fall back on when tough spots come up. Here are ten heuristics for Heads-Up that will help you to make better decisions, more consistently.

 

-          If in doubt, take the aggressive route

-          If you never look stupid, then you are playing too conservatively

-          There is no ICM heads-up, so you are free to take thin edges

-          Never assume; make every great SNG player prove that he’s a great HU player

-          Every street provides at least one opportunity to make a great decision

-          Contesting from the button can never be a big mistake; open-folding the button usually is

-          You need a very good reason not to c-bet

-          The second that your foot slips off the pedal is the second that your quality dips

-          A LAG fishbowl is a tougher opponent than a TAG reg

-          The great heads-up player makes plays that she doesn’t WANT to make

 

 

How many of these heuristics do you adhere to? And do you disagree with any of them? Don’t forget to drop me a comment, or get in touch via Twitter or through my website. And hey, be a hero and spread the ten tips around Twitter and Facebook!

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Interview with DragTheBar member and Rising Poker Talent Willian “KhalDragon” Mates

Posted by BlackRain79

One of the great things about being so involved with poker over the years from both a playing and teaching perspective (and now living overseas amongst a ton of professional players as well) is that I have had the chance to meet a lot of talented players. I have been wanting to start doing a few more interviews on my blog here from time to time. I thought there was no better person to start with than Willian "KhalDragon" Mates.

He has been a friend of mine and a regular poster on my forum and at DragTheBar for nearly two years now. He also has had outstanding success rising through the ranks from the very lowest stakes online NLHE cash games to now knocking on the door of mid stakes. He is an example of what hard work and dedication can do for you even in today's supposedly "tough" games.

Without further ado.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello, my name is Willian Chaves Mates. I am 31 years old and from Brazil. I’m a production civil engineer. Currently I’m doing a master thesis on logistics and transportation. I have worked as a production manager in a factory and also have taught soil mechanics at the university.

How and when did you first get introduced to poker?

I think it was about 7 years ago, playing with friends but only for fun. Things were not serious back then, but I was very competitive as I always have been about almost everything that I get involved with. However, I did not play for real money or against more skilled opponents until much later.

What stakes did you start out at? Did you have success right away?

Online I played play money like 5 years ago. Just about two years ago I started playing on Pokerstars at the lowest stake level 0,01-0,02. That was exactly when I bought Crushing the Microstakes. I read it many times, made as many notes as I could, made lots of excel tables, and posted almost every day on BlackRain’s forum. Nathan I really gave you a lot of trouble back then!

[BR79: Haha, no worries! You were quite the prolific poster back then but it is a testament to your dedication to the game and why you have seen such great progress].

I had a tremendous amount of success right away easily getting about 20bb/100 playing at 0,01-0,02 over a sample of over 100k hands. I remember being on vacation on my second or third month after reading CTM and I was able to have a 600 USD month playing 0,02-0,05. It was about July. In December of the same year (2012) I had a 1k+ month playing 0,10-,25. It was part time and I was not sure of how far I wanted to go with poker. Actually I kind of stopped for a while after that but I saw the possibility of making some real money playing this game.

What stakes do you play at now? What was the journey like for you to get to this point?

I’m playing a mix of 0,5-1 and 1-2 right now. Well from the point that I stopped in the last question, I had almost no poker activity in 2013 until July. By the end of June my contract with the university ended and sadly it could not be renewed. However, I had some savings for the upcoming months and a lot of free time. So I remembered that I had some success with poker in the previous year and decided to take another shot, a more serious one.

I only had 200 USD in my bankroll at this moment (previously cashed out all the rest) so I decided to play 0,05-0,1 full ring, and played only this game, since that has always been my best game. In one month I managed to get a healthy enough bankroll to play 0,1-0,25 so I moved up. I proceeded to play at this level and a few months after that moved to the next level. I think it is important to note that I played no SnG, no MTT and almost zero short-handed, I kept focused on full ring cash games.

December came and again a huge boom. There was a huge volume of deep stack games, lots of fish and I ran incredibly well. I ended up over 5k USD in earnings on the month, which was huge for me. The beginning of 2014 was not so good. I bought a nice car and overall increased my expenses a little bit but then I fell ill a couple times. I also had some bad runs (actually I think I played bad, both because of being sick and because of having some new money pressure).

So although I had some really good results instead of moving up I was indeed going to move down. At that point I had a conversation with Paul Ratchford, an incredibly skilled high stakes pro, and he told me that my skill was far greater than the level I was playing and it would be a huge waste of time if I moved down. So he mentioned Staking Pros, a site which is run by Hunter Bick, the CEO of Drag The Bar. They have been kind of my home for poker. It is for sure the place where I learned the most in the past years. I had a conversation with Hunter and we started a staking arrangement where I would play at 0,5-1 and we agreed that if I manage to get good results then I would quickly move up to 1-2. That is exactly the point where I’m at now.

[BR79: Here are some recent graphs that Willian posted on his blog that show just how dominant he has been at the tables. First one is mostly NL50 near the start of this year. Second one is NL100 from last month, April].

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Interview with rising poker talent Willian Mates
Interview with rising poker talent Khaldragon

Do you have any advice for people just starting out in poker or who are currently struggling at the lowest limits?

I think that people should realize how important focus is. People that really want to go to the next level should probably focus on a single game and commit to it. Playing less tables is also something to consider. By reducing the number of tables not only the focus on each table will increase but the game selection will improve drastically since you will be playing less marginal tables. What you will essentially be doing is trading those extra marginal tables for focus on the really profitable ones.

Do you have a blog or any social media accounts where the readers can follow your progress?

I have recently started a blog at www.khaldragon.blogspot.com.br. It is kind of new but I plan on doing two posts per week, both talking about my struggles at the new levels and about the strategies that I’m using. You can also find me on Twitter here.

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I want to thank Willian Mates for taking the time to do this interview for the readers here at blackrain79.com. I think the sky is the limit for this guy and once again he is a perfect example of where you can get with dedication and focus in this game. I would encourage all readers to go check out his blog. I am subscribed and looking forward to reading all of his future posts!

If you have any questions for Willian please leave them below or ask him directly on his blog. Also let me know if you like seeing interviews like this and want to see more!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

Struggling at the Micros? Just Getting Started in Poker? Join my FREE weekly newsletter for exclusive tips, articles and more! 

Are You Too Quick To Give Your Poker Coach Credit?

Posted by preachercasy151

Beware of falsely attributing an upturn in your poker results to a good coach. This one can be extremely tricky, so you have to be on your guard. Here’s a scenario for you:

Mike is a long-term winning reg in the mid-stakes 6-max Sit N Gos. However, in the last couple of months he has been losing a chunk in his normal games, and he is worried that the other regs have figured him out.

On the recommendation of another reg, he contacts a coach to see what can be done to end his slump.

Sure enough, after five expensive coaching sessions, Mike’s results start to improve. Before long, Mike is back to his old win-rate, beating his normal games at a decent clip.

The coaching worked!

Or did it?

This famous coach was the focus of one of my favourite bits of standup - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWIXVvd-oyM
This famous coach was the focus of one of my favourite bits of standup

The Poker Coaching Conundrum

As a coach, I can assure you that most players seek out my services when they are suffering a bad run of form. They think that it must be addressed urgently, and hiring a coach must be the most efficient way of getting back to form.

I am always very wary of accepting coaching applications from such players. Indeed, I reject a lot more of them than I accept.

The reason is simple – it is immoral for me to take credit for aiding these players’ recoveries. 90% of the time, what they experience is a simple case of regression to the mean.

Poker’s Regression Obsession

Regression to the mean is when things naturally settle back towards their ‘true’ level over time. For example – in poker, an average player who binked a massive tournament win was almost certainly extremely lucky, rather than someone who had developed poker genius overnight.

Before long, they will dribble some of their money back to the poker community as the luck wears off and their typical skill level emerges.

When a football team sacks their manager, it is usually because they have been under-performing relative to their normal standard. The new boss gets appointed, and lo and behold, results start to improve. Miraculous!

Well, not really.

The reality is that the team were likely going through a run of bad luck and fragile confidence – a temporary blip that would rectify itself naturally in time.

Do you see where this is going?

Let’s get back to Mike

Mike’s poor recent run was overwhelmingly likely to correct itself over time – assuming, of course, that the bad luck would not provoke bad decision-making.

The real solution to Mike’s sticky situation is to simply keep doing what he does best: grinding away, until variance rights itself and he regresses towards his typical, impressive level.

classroom

So how best do we avoid getting into this sticky situation?

I always encourage my students to strengthen from a position of strength. That means that they should look to work hardest on their poker homework when things are going well for them. It is during such times that their thinking is at its clearest, and my students are at their most responsive to new ideas.

If they wait until something goes wrong (ie. a downswing) before attempting to appraise their game, then their outlook will be cloudy. They will be tempted to attempt root-and-branch, reactionary surgery when a few tweaks were all that was needed.

My advice to Mike

In future, look to engage the services of a coach when things are going well. Don’t fall into the trap of bolting the barn door after the horse has departed. When things are going badly, it is not the time to clutter up your mind with new concepts and it is very difficult to objectively appraise your game.

And most of all, don’t assume that the upturn in results was down to the genius of the expensive coach! In all probability, in a swingy game like poker, it was a simple case of regression to the mean.

A good coach will be able to say no to applicants who are suffering a temporary blip – or at least, they must be willing to hold their hands up and say that they had little to do with the sudden upswing in the student’s results!

 

What do you think – are you too quick to seek out coaching when you hit a downswing?  Are you the sort of person who wants to pat the coach on the back when you should really be applauding yourself? And most of all, do you truly understand the nature of variance and its sister – regression to the mean?

Let me know in the comments, check out my siteor drop me a message on Twitter or Skype (just add me – ‘casy151’)

 

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What Every War Can Teach Us About Poker

Posted by preachercasy151

‘In a conflict, the middle ground is the least likely to be correct’ – Nassim Taleb

Let me explain what Taleb’s neat little aphorism means – and how YOU can use it to plug a costly poker leak.

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We have all heard certain over-enthusiastic types talking about poker being war. It is an understandable concept. Enemies clash, and only one can prevail.

However, the reality is that it is a card game – not life or death. The war analogy is limited and ill thought-out. Professional poker players are often close friends away from the tables, and their rivalry stretches no further than their bankrolls.

Nassim Taleb would be a great poker player
Nassim Taleb would be a great poker player

Despite this, there is one clear truth that can be learned from war and applied seamlessly to poker:

When two conflicting view-points are expressed, many people make the mistake of believing that the truth must lay in the middle. In a war, it is easy to assume that there is validity to both sides’ stance, and that they are both half-right.

This is called the Argument to Moderation, and it is quite, quite wrong. Here’s why:

Let’s say that I truly believe that the cup of coffee in front of me is stone cold. My girlfriend, however, is adamant that it is boiling hot. When I drink it, I will either spit it out because it is disgustingly freezing, or I will spit it out because it is burning my mouth.

One of us is right, and the other is wrong. The cup of coffee is not lukewarm. I will not happily guzzle the coffee down because we were both part-right. The truth does NOT magically lie in the middle.

This is all well and good, Christy, but what has this got to do with poker?

As it turns out, quite a lot!

A variant of the following situation rears its ugly head a staggering amount of the time when I am coaching students in the art of the Sit N Go.

We are on the bubble, and Hero is faced with a borderline decision. It may be that Hero has raised, and Villain has 3-bet. Hero is torn between finding a pretty nitty fold, and bringing down the hammer with an aggressive, risky shove.

The Thought Process of the Poker Player

Hero’s thought process runs thus: ‘Villain knows that I am stealing wide. He is a good player, and so will be 3-betting quite often here. I am confident that I can generate a lot of fold equity by shoving. ICM dictates that Villain can only call my 4-bet with the top 5% of holdings. And if I win this pot, I claim the chip lead and can confidently bully the bubble. The stats are on my side. I like a shove here.’

However, my hand isn’t strong, and I am contemplating tangling with the chip leader. ICM dictates that I need a monster hand to play an all-in pot here. I have a lot of equity to protect, as the short-stack benefits every time that I take on the chip leader. There is a strong argument to find a fold here.’

Hero is torn between two strong options. To shove or to fold? To shove or to fold? Hero weighs it up and….

Calls.

When faced with a borderline decision, Hero did the worst possible thing. He took the middle ground. He failed to act decisively, and it cost him equity – which costs him money.

He hoped that the coffee was lukewarm, when he really knew that it was either freezing or boiling.

The Move of Moderation in Poker

Poker does not lend itself to moderation. Much as a golfer cannot sink a putt if it is under-hit, the best poker players recognise that a lack of conviction is inexcusable.

And a lack of conviction is what often leads the poker player to making the move of moderation – in this case, the call.

When torn between two conflicting options – both of which are at least partly meritorious – it is criminal for the poker player to choose the third path.

It is criminal to avoid making a tough decision by making a WRONG one instead.

 

What do you think – is this leak something of which you are guilty? Drop me a message or a tweet with your experiences.

And, as always, please spread the word by sharing this article on Facebook and Twitter.

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Why Poker Players are Like Taxi Drivers – And What You Should do About it!

Posted by preachercasy151

Poker players are like taxi drivers.

No, I don’t mean that card games make them fantasise about going on Travis Bickle-esque vigilante killing sprees.

Although, I’m sure everyone has wanted to take out the dealer from time to time ;)

But the main similarity between a lot of poker players and cabbies is that they get their volume backwards – they tend to work fewer hours when things are going well, and more hours when it’s just not their day.

taxi

The Cabbie Paradox

An interesting study considered the working habits of New York taxi drivers. I’ll spare you the dry academic text, and skip straight to the interesting bit:

Logic would suggest that those who can select their own working hours should take advantage of inclement weather and subway breakdowns etc by putting in as many hours as possible when demand is at its highest.

This would free them up to take more time off when the sun is shining and nobody is interested in hopping into a Joe Baxi.

However, logic is not always the guiding force that it should be.

You see, it turns out that cabbies are driven (NPI) by money, rather than volume. So when they hit their target figure for the day, they call it quits and go get a beer. Maximising their earn is not their priority – a pretty heinous error for those whose income is at the mercy of variance.

I’m going to call this the Cabbie Paradox.

As a poker coach, this sounds eerily familiar.

It is very common to find people who still define a session’s success by its results, rather than whether or not they hit their volume target.

The logic runs thus:

If I can make $1000 in 50 games, then surely I deserve to take the rest of the day off, rather than play the other 100 games that I had initially intended?

In a word

NO.

There was a reason why you hit $1000 in such a short time frame. Perhaps you ran well. Perhaps the games were softer than usual. Perhaps you were in a great state of flow.

Whatever the reason, you don’t know when the next time that you hit the perfect storm will be. It’s not a tap that you can switch on and off at will – regardless of how easy it feels when things are going your way.

Just as taxi drivers are prone to thinking that the procession of customers will never end when the rain is teeming down, poker players who are upswinging think that they can take it easy because it will always be this easy.

Poker Squirrel and the Nuts Joke

It stands to reason, then, that when things are going well, you should maximise it. You should be a poker squirrel, hoarding nuts away for when times are lean – as they inevitably will be, someday soon. If you have a volume goal (and you definitely should!) this is the time to smash through it. Maximise that upswing by putting in the hours on those days when the game feels easy!

If you do this, then the trade-off comes when it’s not going well. You can treat yourself to a shorter day, for the nuts have already been squirreled away in more bounteous times.

The Cabbie Paradox is one whose origins are easy to trace. For self-employed people like poker players and taxi drivers, one of the most appealing attributes is the way of life. Being able to pick your own hours is a giant two fingers to the 9-5 grind, and when things are going well it is hard to find the discipline to still hit volume.

After all – who amongst your friends can say that they woke up without an alarm clock, made four figures by lunch, then went to the zoo to drink from a hip flask and take funny selfies?

Getting Unstuck

On the other hand, when things aren’t going well, many players give themselves no option but to play until they get unstuck. This determination is bizarre for the following reasons:

1)      Most people don’t play their best when they’re getting crushed – so why choose this moment to play more?

2)      It’s a results-orientated, short-termist outlook. Day-to-day goals should be volume-based, for volume is entirely within your control and results are at the mercy of variance.

3)      Poker is about making good decisions. You may or may not get unstuck by busting past your volume target, but regardless of outcomes, doing so is likely to be a bad decision – something that should be anathema to a poker player.

Let’s Be Logical

It’s clear that there is a severe logic breakdown, when it is spelled out like this.  Unfortunately, the poker world is littered with people offering bad advice.

So next time you feel the urge to slack off and quit your session early, ask yourself this:

‘Am I behaving like a taxi driver?’

 

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The Professional Poker Player Lifestyle

Posted by BlackRain79

Many people picture the professional poker player lifestyle as one of fame, riches, Bentleys and private jets. Maybe for a handful of live players running really good in tournaments of late. Or for another handful of nosebleed online players who are at the top right now. But this is just not the reality for the vast, overwhelming majority of people who play this game for a living or as a side income.

Their poker lifestyle is one that you are probably more familiar with from your own day to day life. It is one of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. Sure, there is the freedom to set your own schedule that comes along with being a professional poker player but be careful what you wish for in this regard. Many people use this as their ticket to just be lazy all day. I know this because I did it myself for many years! Make no mistake you have to put in the work if you want success in this game and a lot of that work is actually done away from the poker tables.

Winning at poker does not just revolve around the decisions that you make once you sit down at the tables. How you manage your life away from the tables can actually have a much bigger impact on your results than you might think. I think there is a changing of the guard coming with online poker players at least. It is a very competitive environment these days and the best know that you can no longer half ass it and expect great results.

Work Ethic

First off, everything starts with work ethic. If you can't get yourself to sit down and play each day (or at least most days) then you are never going to make it in this game. Playing poker professionally or semi-professionally requires dedication and the ability to play even when you don't feel like it. And there will be many days when you don't feel like it for a variety of different reasons. You have to be able to cut through all that and get yourself going.

Eric Thomas (a now famous motivational speaker who I have followed for years) likes to talk about just showing up. Just showing up is half the battle. Many people "go pro" and think that they will love playing every day forever. It will be so easy. Wait until you hit that 100k+ hand soul ripping downswing. Then tell me how much you feel like playing. Wait until you are burnt out from months or years on end of mass multi-tabling and the new Call of Duty has just been released.

You are your own boss and you need to be able to force yourself to show up on these days. Just because you have this "freedom" to determine your own hours does not mean that you get a license to abuse it. You would never do this at any regular job and it needs to be the same with poker.

Make Time for Regular Play

If poker is a serious part time or full time pursuit to you then it needs to come first before anything. One of the best ways to help yourself in this regard is to set a regular schedule each day for when you play. I find that my mind is the sharpest in the morning and I also live in Asia and so that is when the games are the best. So I tend to simply schedule my poker sessions for first thing in the morning. Some people are different and prefer midday or nights though. It doesn't matter, just set a schedule and stick to it.

Make Time for Regular Study

I recently talked about how to conduct a poker session review and a database review. You need to schedule time for these each week as well. I prefer to make some time for each of these in the afternoon on weekends. I will review hands or entire sessions from the previous week and look into ways to improve my overall game. During a couple of week nights I will make time to watch and take notes on a training video, read and take notes on a poker book or catch up on some poker strategy forums and post hands.

Taking Care of You

Poker is not like a regular job. You can't just show up and run through a bunch of mundane tasks that you were told to do while checking Facebook. Poker requires constant focus and attention to detail. It requires you to be mentally sharp and prepared at all times. In order to consistently be in this state we need to work harder than most people on taking care of our mind and body. This is an area that I think a fair number of elite level serious online grinders are starting to wake up to. However, the large majority are still woefully inadequate.

Being prepared both physically and mentally requires three things above all else: a healthy diet, regular exercise and a good nights sleep. I don't want to go too much into detail on any of these because you have probably heard it all before, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that this stuff really does work! So I will have a bit to say.

Eat for Performance

First off, simply don't allow yourself to buy crap at the grocery store or market. If you load up your fridge with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats then that is what you will eat. Secondly, cut out the fast food and soda drinks completely. Nobody serious about their life in general (let alone poker) needs to be eating that garbage. There are plenty of healthy options out there if you are in a rush that does not include a big mac, fries and a sugar bomb drink.

We all enjoy eating. It is one of life's greatest pleasures but you have to remember that what we eat affects us deeply on so many levels, especially mentally. In a game like poker that requires multi-tasking, fast and accurate decision making and steady emotions neglecting this area is just crazy. I choose to eat for performance in life for the most part. This doesn't mean that I don't occasionally "cheat" and have some pizza or ice cream but it is very rare. Remember that these are momentary pleasures. My health, the clarity of my mind and achieving my goals in life and at the poker table are much more important.

Get Active

Regular exercise is another big key. I know from meeting a lot of poker players here in Thailand that many of them workout and/or do cardio regularly. I have also done this for years and the benefits are just huge. The biggest key is getting yourself to do something that you like. I am a naturally athletic person so this is not difficult for me but I know that plenty of people just don't like to do physical things that much. Well, there must be something that you enjoy doing!

How about joining a rowing club and being out on a beautiful lake early in the morning while getting some exercise? How about hitting the pool more often? Who doesn't like swimming? How about buying some cheap tennis rackets and learning how to play with a friend? One of my personal favorites is mountain biking. Descending down a beautiful mountainside and breathing in that fresh crisp air can be an awe-inspiring experience. The key thing is to just get out there and do something that you enjoy and then it won't seem like work to you. Getting in shape does not require endless hours on a treadmill.

Get Enough Sleep

I am pretty bad at this one I must admit. And I know that a lot of people suffer from some form of insomnia at least once in awhile. I think the key is just learning how to shut your brain off. I know that this is my biggest problem when lying awake at night. Some things that help me hit the mental off switch are to meditate before bed, take a hot shower or read a boring but useful book.

Poker is a Business

From the above it might seem that the poker lifestyle is a bit on the boring side. What happened to all of the partying at the hottest clubs and sipping cocktails on exotic beaches all day? Well, the lifestyle of your typical online poker professional is a lot different from this in reality. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place to go a little bit wild but if you really want to get real results in this game then you need to treat it like a business.

The real truth about being a professional poker player is that it is a lot of hard work and sacrifice. This is why so many people try it and fail. They only think about the freedom part. They forget that it entails just as much responsibility (way more in my opinion actually) than a regular job especially if you want to be highly successful.

I just hit the 7 year anniversary of when I quit my last "real job" but believe me it has not been all roses and sunshine. It took me years to start taking this game as seriously as I should and start putting in the work. I scraped by in those early years but I could have accomplished so much more.

Having big dreams about poker is great. The are many awesome things about playing poker professionally that I didn't even get a chance to touch on in this article. I am so happy and blessed to have found this game. But understand that this is also a very demanding job that most people are simply not cut out for. You really have to want it.

As they say, and no truer words were ever spoken about it, "poker is a hard way to make an easy living."

Let me know in the comments what the professional poker lifestyle means to you. 

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

Struggling at the Micros? Just Getting Started in Poker? Join my FREE weekly newsletter for exclusive tips, articles and more! 

Pump up your Volume with this Simple Tweak

Posted by preachercasy151

Answer me this: are you interested in getting as much volume as possible into your poker grinding sessions, without having to resort to adding a ton of extra tables?

If the answer is no, then please feel free to unsubscribe or leave the site, because this one is a no-brainer ;)

You need volume. It is what makes all of the hard work that you did away from the tables so valuable.

Up That Hourly

Let me put it another way:

You may work super-hard on your poker EV calculations. You may spend hours every week running reports on Pokertracker 4, and running Sit N Go simulations through ICMizer.

You may subscribe to every magazine and read every poker book going. You may grind a lot of short sessions, to keep focused and to make sure that you’re always fresh.

Well guess what?

You’re still not maximising your earning hourly rate. You’re still not hitting the volume of which you are capable.

This is because these short sessions are terrible for your bottom line. ‘How so?’ I hear you ask. I’ll tell you right now.

Introducing Johanna – a Sit N Go Grinder

Let me introduce you to Johanna – a Sit N Go grinder like you and me. Johanna can play up to 12 tables profitably. Any more than this, and the quality of her decision-making suffers. So she asked me to help her increase her volume without adding more tables.

I asked Johanna what a typical grinding day for her constituted. This was her reply:

-          Hey Christy, I like to keep my sessions short because I’m worried about tilting and I hate to lose focus. Sometimes I can feel myself making bad decisions and I don’t really know how to stop it, so I find this easier to cope with when sessions are short. I guess I play about two-and-a-half hours in the morning, two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon, and sometimes another session in the evening when I can.

Talk about an easy fix for a coach! With one minor tweak, I was able to help Johanna to up her weekly games total by 10% without having to resort to drastic measures. And let me tell you, it is the easiest thing in the world to implement. You can do it too.

2.5 + 2.5 = 5?

I simply recommended that Johanna merge her morning session with her afternoon session. One five-hour session is worth a whole lot more than two 2.5 hour sessions.

This is because every session requires necessary downtime while tables are filling and the grinder is getting their software loaded up, etc. Similarly, it is not as though every table finishes at the same time, so time is lost at the end as twelve tables winds down to zero.

With the load up, and then the wind down, a 2.5 hour session would probably only feature a maximum of 120 minutes of 12-tabling, with Johanna spending at least 30 minutes playing below her capacity.

And for any serious grinder concerned with their hourly, this is akin to burning money.

However, when the session duration doubles to 5 hours, the down-time remains the same. Johanna still only drops below her maximum capacity for the same 30 minute duration. Therefore, she gets 270 minutes of max-capacity grinding in; a handy increase of 30 minutes when compared with two 2.5 hour sessions.

Gaining 10% Every Week

Needless to say, all these half-hours add up! Over the course of a week, Johanna gets the equivalent of an extra session in, simply by postponing her lunch break until later. Short evening sessions notwithstanding, the extra half-hour of quality grinding that Johanna can now manage every day equates to an extra 2.5 hours per week – or a 10% gain, just by managing her time a little better!

Next time, we will take a look at the other aspect of Johanna’s email – the dreaded T word!

Tilt is oft-experienced, and even oft-er misunderstood ;) It deserves its own blog, so we will give it plenty of attention.

Make sure you subscribe to my email list (simply pop your email address into to this form) so that you get the benefit of my blogs as soon as they’re posted. And hey, they’re free, so be a sweetheart and give them a share!

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5 Lessons That I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player (Two Years Later)

Posted by BlackRain79

5 Lessons That I have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player (Two Years Later)

This isn't a travel blog but my post last year about what it is like to move to Thailand for poker players has quickly become one of the most popular in the history of this blog. Several people have contacted me since then who are moving here at least partly because of it or they were already coming here anyways. Online poker players continue to migrate around the world in large numbers and not just to Thailand although it is by far the most popular destination.

As I have now officially spent two years over here I thought that I could discuss a few of the lessons that I have learned for some of the newer guys planning the move. Here are the top 5 things that I have learned since coming to Thailand as a poker player.

1) Choose Your Poker Friends Wisely

Many people come over here because of the large amount of poker players that are already living here. As mentioned, it is easily the most concentrated group in the world. And we all know how much easier it is to talk with someone who "speaks your language" in this regard. Discussing poker with someone who doesn't at least play the game seriously as a part time income is almost always a waste of time. They don't understand the game. They think it is all luck etc.

However, unfortunately not everyone in the poker community here is of an upstanding character. A lot of poker players who come here are marginal winners at best and get caught up in the nightlife (I will get to that in a minute don't worry lol). They quickly become huge degens constantly looking for a stake or any other handouts or scams they can pull off on somebody else.

Choose your poker friends wisely and don't think that just because you both play this game that you have some sort of special bond or something. I have met some great people from the poker community here who are great influences on me and will be friends long after this. I have also met many who I thought that it was best just to avoid completely however. One of the easiest ways to separate the two is to find out how much time they spend on my next topic.

2) Thailand Nightlife

After Two Years What I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player
Walking Street, Pattaya, Thailand
(The most degenerate place on earth)

Ok, let's just call it "nightlife." It is no secret that this country has an enormous party scene and with that comes Thai girls and lots of them. Heck sometimes they aren't even girls! Whether it be in the clubs, the bars or even on the internet and massage parlors there are seemingly young, attractive women everywhere falling all over you. It is very easy to go down the path of getting caught up in that at first.

You need to remember that not everything is always as it appears. Many of these girls are "working" to some degree and you are either a short term or long term paycheck to them. You are not really an actual love interest (yes even if they tell you how much they love you 10 times a day). Of course there are always exceptions but with these types of women this is the norm.

After all (and this is a big shocker to many white guys who come over here and think of themselves as an Asian girl's dream) most Thai girls first choice in a partner is in fact a Thai guy for fairly obvious reasons. If they have gone down the "farang" (white foreigners) path now it is often because they are not that desirable to their number one choice anymore. And it is important to remember that as a white foreigner Thai people will always assume that you are rich. This is just the way it is.

Luckily for most of the poker players over here getting messed up badly with these types of women isn't too big of a problem. It is the old guys (50 years old+) who often believe that these girls are really in love with them and open up their heart and life savings in the process. A lot of the younger guys (which represents pretty much all the poker players) are actually playing the girls for the most part as they know the score before going in. Even so, many of them still wind up spending way too much time and money on them that could be much better spent grinding or doing literally anything else.

There are of course plenty of decent Thai girls out there if you actually want a real relationship. Just like in your home country they aren't found in bars, clubs or on the internet for the most part though. It takes time and effort to meet them. Often even more so here because the good ones usually speak little to no English at all. One of the easiest ways to spot the type of girl that you don't want a relationship with is the level of her English and how many farang "boyfriends" that she admits to having in the past.

If you want to mess around a bit and you know what to expect going in with these types of women then go ahead. But if you don't know then please do yourself a favor and read up a bit on the internet about Thai women before coming here and losing your mind with one. Play the game and you will be fine. But that takes knowing what the game is first. Like nearly everything else in life Google.com has a huge amount of information on this topic.

3) Travel Around the Country First!

After Two Years What I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player
วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai, Thailand

So many poker players who come here often head straight to their "grindhouse" with some people who they only know through the internet to live in an isolated little bubble. This is dumb on so many levels. I am going to get into the grindhouses in a moment but let me first say this about Thailand. This is a large country with massive differences from region to region. It is really silly not to explore them all first before deciding which one that you want to live in.

Most poker players here live in one of three places: Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket. These places are all extremely different and it is up to each individual person to decide which one is best for them. Do you like the big city or a small one? Are you in love with the idea of living near the beach or can you make due without one? What sort of budget do you have? Do you want to live in a touristy area with inflated prices but more Western type conveniences or can you live among the locals? You can't answer these questions without first going and having a look at all of these places first. And I truly mean that. You have to see it for yourself. No amount of watching Youtube videos or reading about it on the internet can replicate the real thing.

My advice is always to set aside enough money to just be a complete tourist for your first month here. Honestly, this is one of the most amazing places on earth for the quality of experiences that you can have anyways. You can go visit ridiculous temples on the top of a mountain, go to some of the best beaches in the world, party on one with 20k other people, ride elephants and zipline through jungles, explore a mega city like Bangkok, chill out with some tigers in the north, check out world class diving and rock climbing in the south. And on and on and on.

Be a tourist when you get here and just have fun! Head straight to Khao San Road in Bangkok (backpacker capital of the world) and meet up with some backpackers who are going your way. Go with them and have the time of your life. Or don't take my advice and head straight to your room in somebody's grindhouse and miss the boat on what this country has to offer completely.

4) Don't Join a Grindhouse

Ok now this one might ruffle a few feathers but I will say it anyways. And please remember like before with the Thai women that there will be exceptions. A grindhouse may in fact be an amazing life changing opportunity for you. However, I think they are a bad idea for most and here is why.

Firstly, there are some small time scams going on with these places that I have noticed popping up lately where they are charging enormous amounts of rent because the newbie doesn't know what the prices are like in Thailand. For instance, I have seen multiple listings pop up in the 2+2 travel forum in the last couple of months regarding Chiang Mai where they are charging the same amount for a room as I was paying for an entire house of the same size that is also quite a bit closer to the city.

Do a little bit of research about the prices before moving into one of these houses. Google "house rentals [area of Thailand]" and you should have a pretty good idea within a matter of minutes by checking out some listings. To the grindhouse guys credit though they often do help you get set up, adjusted, and take away the leg work that comes with finding a place. That is certainly great and all but the price that you are paying for this "service" is still often very exorbitant in my opinion.

Secondly, a lot of guys coming over here dream about what it would be like to live with a couple other elite young grinders and the learning opportunities and motivation that that would provide. In some ideal scenarios that is the case. But as I stated, there are many more degens in this country that will often just annoy the shit out of you in general. And even worse will actually be -EV for your poker game because they are borderline break even players at best.

If you can somehow find a great group of solid grinders then that is fine. But most of the time you are moving in with 3 or 4 guys who you barely know anything about in all actuality. This just does not cut it for me. There is nothing wrong with finding a place on your own and grinding it out just like you did in your home country. You certainly won't be lonely because you can often afford to live right in the city in this country for next to nothing. And by all means go hang out with the poker crew regularly. There are many regular meetups for sports, dinner and the like. Just don't live with them. This has worked for me at least.

5) Realize How Lucky You Have it Every Day

After Two Years What I Have Learned From Moving to Thailand as a Poker Player
Not my actual work station. But it could be!

I have woken up pretty much every day since I arrived here with a smile on my face. It is hard not to when it is sunny and 30+ degrees basically every day of the year. I am looking at a beautiful beach as I type this from my condo that costs a laughable amount per month.

Also, I am very blessed to be able to do what I do and work anywhere in the world. This is something that most people dream about. Just wait until you start posting the pictures on Facebook and the comments that you will get! Truthfully though most people can actually do this. They just don't want to take the steps to make it happen. You took the huge first step by just getting on the plane. Have a blast but don't take it for granted once you get here!

I still don't really even want to go back "home" after two years. I mean I eventually will for sure because I certainly miss my family and friends back in Canada. But I know that it won't be long before I am sick of the exorbitant prices and terrible weather again to name a few things. I will soon be back on a plane to Thailand, or perhaps exploring another similar location in South America, because sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side.

Thanks for reading. Let me know about your experiences traveling or relocating as a poker player in the comments below!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

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Video poker for seasoned poker players

Posted by mare0309

For many years, playing video poker was the easiest and quickest way for a tourist to score a free drink in Las Vegas. Of course, the key was to play each hand as slowly as possible so you don’t lose your initial stake while waiting for the bartender to hand over your complimentary beverage. Otherwise, that freebie all of a sudden cost $20!

For a few slick high rollers in Las Vegas, high-volume video poker was their secret way to achieve the highest-tiered status for a particular casino player’s club (the equivalent of Diamond Club or Platinum Club). Even for the average punter or weekend gambler, video poker is fast-paced and fun, but it can also be a lucrative venture if you play optimal strategy and keep a cool head during any downswings.

Do not dismiss video poker as a mindless leisure activity or something to do while killing time at the Las Vegas airport. Snobby poker players often brush off video poker for its video game-like element, so sometimes it got a bad rep for being the favorite pastime of the likes of the legendary poker pro Allen “Chainsaw’ Kessler.

For over forty years, video poker has been one of the most popular games in Las Vegas and in casinos throughout the world. Thanks to the internet, video poker is only a couple of clicks away. You can even play on your mobile devices, so you no longer have to exclusively fly to Vegas to play it or struggle to find an empty parking space at your local casino.

 

VIDEO POKER ORIGINS: THE GODFATHER AND THE KING

Although the earliest ancestors of slot machines have been around since the 19th Century,  the first draw poker slot machine was introduced in 1901 by Charles Fey, also known as the “Godfather of Slot Machines.” The gambling world would have to wait another 70 years before they would be introduced to another earth-shattering innovation.

Video poker popped up in Las Vegas and Reno casinos when Dale Technologies introduced the first video poker machine in 1970, which demonstrated the latest advances in video screen and computer technology.

Si Redd, a slot machine distributor from Reno, teamed up with an engineer from Bally’s pinball machine company and adapted the new bourgeoning technology to create Keno, blackjack, and video poker machines. Si Redd’s first video poker machine, “Draw Poker”, debuted in 1979. In 1980, Si Redd founded International Game Technology (IGT), which became a giant in the gaming industry and has since expanded to offer business software suites as well. When he passed away, an L.A. Times newspaper obituary referred to Redd as “The King of Video Poker.”

 

HOW TO PLAY VIDEO POKER

So long as you understand the basic rules of poker, then playing video poker is simple – and don’t knock it until you try it.

The standard game of video poker is Five Card Draw (with or without a wild card). Each hand consists of five cards dealt to the player, who has the option to stand pat or draw cards. Depending on the final hand, the player is awarded a bonus for making specific hands. For rare hands (e.g. Royal flush or straight flush), the payouts are higher. Most video poker games only award payouts starting with a pair of Jacks or better, but every player is chasing the elusive Royal Flush.

Here are the standard single-coin payouts for Jacks or Better Video Poker:

  • Royal Flush: 250 to 1
  • Straight Flush: 50 to 1
  • Four of a Kind: 25 to 1
  • Full House: 9 to 1
  • Flush: 6 to 1
  • Straight: 4 to 1
  • Three of a Kind: 3 to 1
  • Two Pairs: 2 to 1
  • Jacks or Better: 1 to 1

Like any slot machine format, the payouts increase exponentially if you play more coins (up to 5) per hand. The payout for a Royal Flush with a 5-coin wager is a juicy 4,000 to 1, which is enough incentive for many players to play the maximum 5 coins on every hand.

Here are the standard payouts wagering five (5) coins for Jacks or Better Video Poker:

  • Royal Flush: 4000 to 1
  • Straight Flush: 250 to 1
  • Four of a Kind: 125 to 1
  • Full House: 45 to 1
  • Flush: 30 to 1
  • Straight: 20 to 1
  • Three of a Kind: 15 to 1
  • Two Pairs: 10 to 1
  • Jacks or Better: 5 to 1

 

 

WILD CARD POKER!

Video poker varies from online poker or brick-and-mortar poker because of the wild card option. Similar to your home poker games in your kitchen with friends, you can also opt to play video poker with wild cards. The two most popular games – Joker Poker and Deuces Wild – offer an added layer of excitement with wild cards. Joker Poker includes the Joker as a single wild card in a 53-card deck, while Deuces Wild utilizes the standard 52-card deck but all four deuces in the deck are designated as “wild” cards. Payouts are slightly different than the standard Jacks or Better, mainly because the wild cards increase the frequency in which players make certain bonus hands.

 

VIDEO POKER VS. POKER

In a live poker setting, there’s an added emphasis on recognizing physical tells, but with video poker the sole emphasis is on pattern recognition. One of the biggest and most expensive mistakes that beginners make can be attributed to poorly reading their hand. It’s a costly mistake if you fail to recognize potential straights and flushes, especially when playing specialty games with wild cards.

Consistently winning video poker players have their draw charts memorized. Like most forms of gambling, video poker also requires discipline, focus, and sharp attention to detail, which are three essential attributes that winning poker players often possess.

Advanced video poker players are similar to seasoned poker players because they know how to act in tough situations, which they learned from their own personal experiences. You can read all the strategy you want in books, but it doesn’t compare to what you learn in real-life situations. For example, when should you break up a pair and draw one card for a straight, or keep the pair and draw three cards instead?

 

 

 

OPTIMAL STRATEGY, RIDICULOUS EDGE!

Video poker is the smart way to go. Some poker players with opulent lifestyles have a weakness for action gambling, which is why they waste their time playing negative EV casino games. Playing optimal video poker, which is as simple as memorizing a chart, offers up one of the best-possible edges out of all possible casino games, including slot machines. Next time, ignore the haters and give video poker a whirl – you might be surprised, and you might find your regular poker skills improving as well.

 

References & Sources for Further Reading.

PokerStars Casino:  How to Start Playing Video Poker

Engineers Garage: Invention Story of Slot Machines

International Game Technology: Online Products & Services

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How to Up Your Volume – While Improving Motivation

Posted by preachercasy151

Staying on pace to hit long-term volume goals need not be a painful slog. I propose one adjustment that will revolutionise your approach. To do so, let me introduce you to Holly…

Volume. Turnover. Grinding. Call it what you like; the reality remains the same. The more Holly plays, the more she earns. Simple, right?

Indeed it is – at least in principle. However, the theory is all well and good, but it doesn’t necessary feel straightforward when Holly’s chips are being pushed towards her opponents for hours on end. It is thoroughly dis-spiriting.

She approached me looking for some advice as she knuckled down for her first year as a professional grinder. Reaching 2x Supernova was her goal– an ambitious, but certainly achievable, target for somebody who grinds the low-mid stakes SNGs.

However, she was being held back by an inability to pace herself.

Drifting Focus

In her determination to get ahead in her Supernova charge, Holly would play until her energy levels were at zero every session. Then when it came to firing up her next session, her motivation would be down, and her focus would drift off after an inordinately short amount of time.

Sometimes, the mere thought of loading up the Pokerstars client would fill her stomach with that awful sinking feeling.

The result? A disillusioned grinder. An all-or-nothing outlook. A tilty disposition. An unprofessional approach. Boom or bust. Repeat.

How could Holly re-model her grinding schedule, so that she would start every day feeling fresh and motivated?

The New Approach – via Murakami and Hemingway

My advice to Holly was straightforward: in order to reach her goal, she needed to take a leaf out of the book of two literary greats.

Haruki Murakami’s outstanding meditation on running and life What I Talk About When I Talk About Running offers a fascinating insight into his writing method. This is something that he nabbed from an unknown scribbler who went by the name Ernest Hemingway. No, I’d never heard of him either.

‘I stop everyday right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly’ (p.5).

For Murakami and Hemingway, a long-term project like writing a novel required a steady pace and perpetual motivation. They did not want their brain to associate their craft with suffering.

Writing until they fell asleep at the desk was a sure-fire way to decrease motivation for the next day. Indeed, it would feel like a mission just to pick up the pen, after such a draining session. So they would quit, right when it felt like they had a little left in them.

Sound Familiar?

The Murakami method translates to poker beautifully. Ending each session on a high, with a bit of fuel left in the tank, keeps motivation up and dodges that nasty hidden danger ego depletion (the topic of an upcoming blog).

So the first step that I recommend when it comes to hitting long-term poker goals is to actively ignore the popular myth that you should ‘grind until you can grind no more’.

The reality is that playing until you flat-out can’t take any more is likely to hinder your progress. If you are mentally and physically exhausted, then sustaining your motivation across time will become incredibly difficult. In short: the likelihood of burn-out is massively increased.

Nailing Down a Plan

When I asked Holly how many games she could manage in a day, nailing down a plan became easy. She replied ‘225 at the absolute most’. So we knocked about 10% off, settling on 205 per day (which would get her to Supernova x2 comfortably, playing 5 days per week).

This would ensure that she finished every day happy with her volume, but feeling that she was capable of more. That final, painful, stretch from game 206-225 was simply chopped off.

The result? Holly became eager to log in the following day. Poker was no longer something that she associated with exhaustion; every day, she would end her session with something left in the tank and a desire to hit the tables again to keep her Supernova hunt on track.

Here’s the Best Bit

Best of all, her results improved too! No longer were the final 20 games a race to the finish, in order to tick another day off the list. Instead, Holly found herself playing a sharper, more focused A-game for longer.

The Problem with Volume

I sometimes fear that the volume-centric poker outlook is counter-productive. Some coaches and players would have you believe that stopping short of maximum volume every single day is absolutely scandalous. I disagree, and here’s why:

It is terrible to play 500 games daily for a month or two, and then to burn out and start tilting (or even quit!).

On the other hand, the slow-and-steady method has four clear advantages:

a) A more measured pace is less likely to make your brain associate poker with exhaustion, meaning that those I-just-can’t-face-it days are kept at bay,

b) Focus is stronger, and A-game is maintained,

c) Rather than focusing on just…getting…through…..this….never-……ending…….session, which is an extremely short-termist outlook, this approach keeps the grinder focused on the long-term goal of playing the same volume daily. Once the habit is formed, it is easier to adhere to,

d) Motivation is sustained when goals are met. For Holly, playing 205 games every day is a lot more achievable than playing 225 games most days. Therefore, she hits her target more frequently, perpetuating the feel-good and motivation.

Every day is a small victory, as she repeatedly hits her volume goal.

These small adjustments can be the difference between success and failure over the long-term. They have certainly helped Holly develop a strong grinding routine.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me your grinding routine, and perhaps I’ll be able to help you optimise it. And if you think that this article could help people to reach their long-term poker goals, give it a share on Twitter or Facebook and spread the word!

Follow Christy on Twitter

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New Player Want Friends

Posted by

I Play on Bovada,americas Cardroom,and Juicy Stakes. Looking for friends to play with on those sites as I am new to the poker world but I love to play.

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Ryben14

Posted by ryben14

Hi, I'm John Benedict Ganaban 27 years old. I live in the Philippines. I currently have 1 kid, soon will be 2. I was introduced to poker back in college. When one of my friends thought us to play during a b-day party. At first I didn't take the game seriously, as I thought it was just literally all about luck and gambling, but I was wrong. Started playing the game seriously after probably a year, when my friend brought us to a live casino. Started winning huge amount on our first games, and thought that the game was so easy. And that we can make money out of it without consistent hard work, but again I was wrong. Played Live poker for 3-4 years, made some decent profit. Then we realized that poker is a game where you can make a living out of it.

And here comes online... At first I failed a lot, I mean a LOT!! It was so frustrating, seeing yourself failing and quitting is like a spiritual torture. So at some point I kept on quitting, going back working, then win 1 huge tournament and thought I'm the best so went full time again and failed again. So overall, I failed a lot. One day decided to just get rid of it and just focus in my 9-5 job, but I guess you can't never really run from who you are.. I really love the game, the Psychological warfare where in a total beginner can win against a world class pro.

I started really digging to my game and really learn some stuff, technical stuff last year. Ended up playing online poker, currently as a professional poker player 24-tabling at NL2.. I'm making some pretty decent money, higher than what I'm getting from being a call center agent.

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Graph and Stats for the month..

Posted by cardman021

Hey Guys,

How's it going? Just did some database review last night for this month's grind.. Played a bit less than my set goals.. But anyway, having bit of a hard time posting photos here. So I played 30k at NL2 started around mid Feb. WR is 16bb/100, hope you guys can either teach me how to post photos here so you can see my stats. Or just visit my blogspot account which is, flyingspades-poker.blogspot.com

And just leave some comments here..

 

That's it for now, will be posting goals for March soon..

 

flyingspades,

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Do You Have This Costly Leak? Introducing the Diamond Star Effect

Posted by preachercasy151

I was coaching an excellent player this morning, when an interesting scenario arose. We were reviewing a Sit N Go that he had played, in which he reached Heads-Up against a guy who is generally considered the best player in those games. A particularly strange hand saw villain take an extremely non-standard line, which left my student flummoxed.

What was his thought process? I encouraged my student to talk the hand out from the start. Several different possible reasons for villain’s strange decision-making in the hand were discussed. None seemed credible. ‘Why did he decide to make that move?’ asked my student, obsessed with unravelling the truth: ‘he must have had a reason’.

Here’s the thing. Villain did have a reason. It’s just that the reason was not what my student anticipated.

Villain screwed up.

Nothing simpler, nothing more complicated. He misplayed the hand. He lost track of where he was, of the flow of the hand – a side-effect of multi-tabling. His move made no logical sense, because there was no logic to it.

My student had made the cardinal error of associating villain’s undoubted technical quality with infallibility. Of considering an elite SNG player to be superhuman and incapable of error. His reason was understandable, if misguided. To understand this, you must appreciate that villain is something of a legend in the low-midstakes games; a regular leaderboard-topper, who plays more tables with a better winrate than anyone at those stakes.

The Halo Effect is when a Person A’s judgment of Person B’s character is skewed by their overall impression of Person B. For example, it is common for us to think a movie star a cool person because of a role that they played. Or that a politician is a good decision maker because they dress well and have a strong physical presence.

This was its poker equivalent: the Diamond Star effect.

On Sharkscope, Diamond Stars denote the top players at each limit. Villain possesses several Diamond Stars. However, that does not mean that he makes the optimal decision at all times. It takes him a few days to play one thousand games; errors are guaranteed. My student gave too much respect to villain’s reputation, and attributed merit where none was due.

We see this in football. In Scotland, Celtic rarely get beat at home, regardless of how poorly they play. They have a bigger budget and better players; however, this is not the sole reason for their imperious home form. Their apparent invincibility is a daily topic in the red-tops and on the sports shows. Players at ‘lesser’ clubs are treated as irrelevant by the media, whereas Celtic’s players are rated as demi-Gods. When they take to the turf, the visitors afford their exalted opponents too much respect, and might as well be 1-0 down by kick-off.

Deference does not win battles. Opposition that you consider to be of superior ability can be overcome by playing them, not their reputation. If you are a profitable, hard-working player, then you must trust your decision-making and problem-solving skills, regardless of your opponent. Sure, the best players make fewer mistakes than most; however, you can be absolutely certain that these do occur on occasion. So if it looks like a mistake, and it smells like a mistake, then it probably is a mistake. The esteem in which my student held his opponent determined his reaction, despite the evidence that suggested that villain simply misplayed the hand.

How often do you fall into the trap of thinking that excellent players always play every hand optimally? I know that I have made this mistake before, and I would bet that I will make similar errors in logic in the future. However, the first step towards eliminating a leak is to recognise it.

Christy Keenan is a poker coach, writer, and player. He has a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology, and specialises in decision-making in competition.

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How to Effectively Conduct a Poker Session Review

Posted by BlackRain79

How to Conduct an Effective Poker Session Review2

 

"How do you do a session review?" is one of the most common questions that I get asked. Since I have never covered this topic here on my blog before I thought I could put something together now.

When I answer this question often this first thing that I say (to their dismay) is that I don't actually do a session review most of the time. At the risk of sounding condescending I think that regular session reviews are better for less experienced players who are having trouble in spots that they are not overly familiar with. More experienced players who are better at making adjustments on the fly or have simply seen all the spots before won't benefit nearly as much.

I have played something like 7 million hands of poker online and 99% of my decisions (at least at the micros where I play the vast majority of my hands) are automatic. If I am playing a different format or taking shots at higher stakes then sure I will review my hands after most sessions. But after a typical session at NL25 for instance the vast majority of the time I do not look at anything unless I am in a really bad downswing which I will talk about a bit more later.

The reason is that due to having played so many hands at these limits I have been through the same spots versus the same player types many times before. I have probably reviewed it in the past and come to a conclusion on the best line to take. Therefore reviewing the hand later would not really serve much purpose for me unless I thought that my conclusion was wrong. My approach to these games only changes slightly over time. Yes the games are always changing, as everybody loves to point out, but the actual changes on a month to month or even year to year level (at the micros at least) are negligible.

With all of that said, I do think that regular session reviews are a very good thing for less experienced players (I used to do them much more often) and for everybody when in a downswing or moving up.

 

The Value of a Session Review

Newer players should review their sessions to find out what mistakes they are making that are either costing them money or not allowing them to get enough value. But really the biggest reason that they should conduct session reviews is in order to think about the game themselves. Those who have been through my book will know that it reads like an instructional manual of sorts (if A...then do B etc.) because this works at the lowest stakes. However, nearer the end I implore the reader on several occasions that learning how to think the game through on their own is the only path to big success in this game.

You can only follow what a book, training video or coach tells you to do for so long before you get to levels where the players are too sophisticated to fall for "ABC" or even so called "advanced" strategies. This is because the elite players are able to detect your strategy and find ways to counter it on the fly. Your book, training site or coach won't be there in real time with you to help you counter-react. And this is the real value of conducting a session review. Learning how to think about a hand quickly and determine for yourself what the most profitable line is to take is how to succeed in this game.

This is a scary concept for many people. Many people seemingly want someone to hold their hand all the way to the big game these days. I am sorry but it doesn't work that way. My own experience at the micros clearly shows this. There was no "Crushing the Microstakes" or equivalent for me to read when I was starting out. There were no training sites or micro stakes coaches either. I had Pokertracker 2 though (the best poker tracking program at the time) and developed many of the strategies myself that would later give me huge success at these stakes and be detailed in my book.

I spent hours pouring over hands in PT2 finding out what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. I also played a ton of hands so that I could utilize huge sample sizes when looking at the profitability of certain spots. This allowed me to be statistically near certain in my conclusions.

 

Keys for Conducting a Session Review

Ok so I have already kind of alluded to how I go about a session review but let's break it down a little bit more.

 

1) Mark Hands During Play

This is the obvious starting point. Most of the hands that are going to be of interest to us in the session review are the ones that gave us trouble. Hands where we were sort of lost as to what to do. It obviously makes sense to simply mark these hands for later review during play. This way you will not encounter problems later on remembering which hands they were and where they are in your database.

I use Pokertracker 4 because I think it is the best poker tracking program available right now in 2014. Marking hands is super easy with it. On the poker table just hit the tag button at the top left beside the PT4 emblem chip.

From there you can simply select a recent hand and choose "review" from the dropdown menu. You can also tag hands that are in progress and/or that you aren't even involved in. Just because you aren't in the hand doesn't mean that it won't be useful to you especially if a good reg is involved (more on that later). This process is very simple in Hold'em Manager 2 as well.

 

2) Review Marked Hands

Now that you have marked your hands during play you can go look at all of your hands for the session in PT4 and click the box "Show Marked Hands Only" to narrow it to only those ones that are of most interest to you. If you have used multiple tags then you can select from the menu box to the right also.

(Right Click Image and Open in a New Tab to Increase Size)

I don't want to waste time on bad beats so I like to have the All-In Equity there. So for instance the hand above where I lost several stacks getting it in with a set of Jacks won't be worth looking at because I had 82.42% equity when the money went in. It was just a bad beat.

What I am really looking for are hands (usually medium sized losing ones) where I felt lost in the hand or I feel that I got outplayed. Coolers and bad beats happen to everybody. Learn how to differentiate them from the hands that matter and don't spend much time on them unless there is a legitimate theory concern.

 

3) Ask Myself Questions

So as I said, the hands that interest me the most are ones where I felt that I was lost and/or got outplayed. They aren't always losing hands but generally they are. What I want to do now is take the time to accurately configure my opponent's range. More specifically I want to ask myself questions such as:

  • Given my opponent's actions throughout the hand thus far, our relevant history (if any), my image and the board texture what range of hands is he likely representing here?
  • Give this range did I take most profitable line in this hand or was there a better option?

This is the thinking through the game yourself part that I was alluding to before. You have all the time in the world now to consider the situation. Put your opponent on a range yourself. Given the board texture, your hand and any relevant history what is the most profitable line to take against him?

This is the heart of the session review and what will carry you forward in the future to become a better player. There is no point in just spamming all of your marked hands on some random forum and getting a bunch of crappy advice and a tiny bit of good advice. If you are truly lost even after reviewing the hand then fine, post it. Or better yet ask somebody who you know who is a strong winning player what they think. But above all, you need to take the time yourself to find the most profitable line. This is how elite players approach the game.

 

4) Big Losing and Winning Hands

The newer you are to poker the more that this next step will matter. If you tend to stack off with overpairs or top pair hands when your opponent has taken a line that is so obviously a two pair or better hand then you are going to need to spend a lot of time looking over your big losing hands. This is something that I had to do a lot of early on before I smartened up and learned to make correct folds.

Something that is also a big problem for a lot of newer players is not getting enough value out of their big hands. If this is the case for you then you need to spend some time looking over your biggest winners and ask yourself if there are portions of your opponent's stack remaining that you could have gotten. If the answer to this question is frequently yes then that is a big problem for your winrate.

 

5) Small/Medium Losing and Winning Hands

Same thing here. Another big problem for a lot of newer players is not getting enough thin value bets in and calling river bets when it is obvious that they are beat. You need to ask yourself the same questions. Could I have gotten more out of this player if I played it a different way? Or conversely could I have lost less in a certain hand if I took a different line or analyzed his range a bit better?

 

***Question from the comments of this post (on my website): How do I sort by pot size?***

You could just use filters. In Pokertracker 4 go:

More Filters > Hand Details > Pot Size and Stack Depth > Pot Size and Stack Depth - Hand Total. Enter the amount and click "Add to Filters."

(Right Click Image and Open in a New Tab to Increase Size)

I would probably make it between like 30bb-100bb for small/medium sized pots and 100bb-500bb for big pots.

Or if you don't want to bother with filters then you can just click on the "Won" column above where the hands are and just find the 30bb-100bb pots yourself. When reviewing hands in the replayer I prefer to just grab a bunch at once. You can do this by left clicking on one hand, holding down the "shift button" on your keyboard, and clicking on another hand to highlight several. Now right click anywhere in the highlighted hands and add them all to the replayer.

 

When in a Downswing or Moving Up

I do think that it is a good idea for everybody to do regular session reviews when in the midst of a bad downswing. I know that this is the time when I am playing my worst and therefore I use these session reviews to keep myself in check more than anything. So I will be heavy on #4 and #5 above. Is it really just all coolers and bad beats or is there tilt on my part? If the latter, what steps can I take to prevent it from happening in the future? If the former, then it is out of my hands, there is nothing that I can do except try again tomorrow.

I also regularly conduct session reviews when I move up or play higher stakes than I normally do. My opponents will be better and may present me with problems that I have not seen before. Also, given the relative lack of information that I will have on my opponents the answers aren't quite as easy to arrive at in real time.

 

Database Review

It would probably be better if I just devoted an entirely new article to this (I will actually do that next time) but the next step is doing an overall database review. This involves using filters for broad spots where I think I am having trouble. This can be as vague as hands where I simply raised preflop to hands as specific as I had AKo OOP, 3Bet preflop, missed the flop, fired a CBet and got called.

Lastly, something that I have always been big on is reviewing the games of those at my stake who I think are better than me. It amazes me that so few people take advantage of all the free information that they have on the top crushers in their own game. Never I am looking to completely copy their game. My own play style is what works for me already. What I am trying to do is incorporate those aspects of their game that I feel they do better than me, into my own game. Or perhaps just spend some time understanding how they think about the game in general. This can only make me a better player.

 

That is all I have for now. I hope you guys are having a great start to 2014! Please leave any comments below that you have concerning session reviews and hit one of the share buttons below if you liked this article!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

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I.AM.FLYINGSPADES

Posted by cardman021

Hey,

Base on the title, yes I'm proud to say I'm a Nanonoko fan lol..I'm Jay, 27 yrs old.. I live in the Philippines with my wife and 2 kids.

Been posting some hands here before, and I also have a blog in DeucesCracked.. Decided to discontinue posting there since I'm not getting too much response.. So I gotta try DTB :)

I currently have a blog, or more of a personal journal actually.. http://flyingspades-poker.blogspot.com/ Decided that it will always be better to have an actual blog where other players can see either my progress or my spewing lol. That way I can get some advise as well.. Anyway please take a little look at some of the post there, there's a lot actually, bec as I said that's a personal everyday journal(just to explain myself). Just to give you idea where I'm at currently. And will start posting here as well but not like everyday or twice a day or something lol..

That's it for now, I did BTW post a database review earlier so if someone can take a look at it and please leave your comments below(Here) that'll be awesome..

Happy Grinding..

flyingspades,

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Buddathon Week 1

Posted by GiantBuddha

I'm just 8 days into my Buddhathon and I've already discovered what a wonderful and stupid idea I've come up with. That's pretty much how I roll, so I should just deal with it.

On the poker front, I've played a little more than 10,000 hands. That's not exactly on pace to hit 100,000 by the end of the month, but goals are made to be broken. Or is that rules? The list of excuses is formidable:

  1. I never play more than 6 tables.
  2. It takes up to 30 minutes to get 6 tables running on NJparty.
  3. NJparty bumps me off every 90 minutes, forcing me to get new tables.
  4. NJparty often crashes before 90 minutes, just for fun.
  5. Borgata.com is even worse than NJparty.
  6. Sometimes there are fewer than 6 tables of the stakes I play.
  7. The other sites are worse and/or have less traffic.
  8. I made two videos and wrote a book.

Now that I've sufficiently buried the lead, let me tell you about my new book. It's more of a booklet, really. 8,000 words. It's called Turn Your Hand Into A Bluff, it's available on Leanpub, and it's a collaboration between me and Dusty Schmidt. It's about turning your hand into a bluff. More specifically, I get into The Math of how you decide whether your hand has more value at showdown or as a bluff. There's also a section titled The Not Math. That part's filled with guidelines to help you find the best play without crunching a lot of numbers.

This is Part 2 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, and as such it contains 10 real-life hands, thoroughly dissected. It's just $2.99, so it's a bit of a steal. That's funny, because, like, bluffing.

Anyway... back to the grind. At a minimum, I want to push my way through $.10/$.25 this month. I've been running like garbage, suffering from "they always have aces" syndrome, or TAHA, but things will turn around. They always do. Small sample size and all that.

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February Buddhathon 2014

Posted by GiantBuddha

January is over. The Year of the Horse is here. That means this immovable object is getting ready to become an unstoppable force.

February is my least favorite month. Good thing it's short. 28 days. Four years ago, I managed to do something pretty useful with 28 days. I did this Grindathon, where I locked myself in my apartment building and played 200+ hours of poker, made 28 poker videos, and did 28 video blogs. I raised a few grand for some causes and made ten times that playing poker. It was a good month.

So yeah. I'm gonna do that again. I'm playing smaller stakes these days. It's part of my 2014 poker plan. I want to put up statistically significant winning samples at every limit from $.05/$.10 through $5/$10. Ideally, I'd like to get even higher than that. Maybe I'm dreaming.

In January, I eked out 31k hands of nickel and dime with an 8.90 bb/100 win rate. My all-in EV adjusted win rate was 13.62. That gives me 99.8% confidence that I'm beating that limit. I'm gonna call that statistically significant and move on up to $.10/$.25.

Dime and quarter poker is still the micro-stakes, but I imagine there are more decent players there. Weren't many of those at nickel and dime. Regardless, I hope to give the limit a sound thrashing for 50k hands and then play another 50k hands at $.25/$.50. That's where you can almost start making some money to live off of.

So if that's my February - 200 hours, 100k hands, and pushing through 2 limits - then in March I'll be ready for $.50/$1. Maybe that's optimistic. I'd call that an upper-quartile outcome. I need to run good, play well, and keep improving. Still, it doesn't sound like that much of a challenge, does it? Let's make it harder, then.

I'm also going to spend about 90 hours working on four new poker booklets, Parts 2 through 5 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts. That's a lot of writing and not a lot of time. I can write between 500 and 2000 words per hour (or up to 3600 if it's just a stream of consciousness), so the actual writing won't take a terribly long time. Maybe 30-odd hours. But then there is editing, proofreading, publishing, and shameless self-promotion to think about. All in all, it's a lot of work.

We're still only looking at 280 hours of work, which is a 70-hour work week. So let's tack on up to 7 new poker videos for DragTheBar. We're three hours in and I've already knocked one of those off the list, so maybe this will be easy.

Then again, probably not.

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Pay Attention To Bet Sizing

Posted by GiantBuddha

I've been a busy bee.

Aside from playing and studying lots of poker (more on that in my end-of-the-month post), I've finally managed to hack through Skynet's defenses and get my new written poker product posted for purchase.

"What's this written poker product?" you might ask. (You might not ask, but I'm sitting alone in front of the computer, so I pretend you're asking anything I'd like. And yes, how thoughtful; I would like a cookie.)

Pay Attention To Bet Sizing. It's Part 1 of Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts. I've written it with the help of my Don't Listen To Phil Hellmuth coauthor, Dusty Schmidt. We used 10 of his real life hands to illustrate this most critical concept of No Limit Holdem.

"Where can I get this and how much does it cost?" You click on either book title to follow the links above over to Leanpub, or you can visit my publishing home on pokerinpractice.com. Part 1: Pay Attention To Bet Sizing is a whopping $2.99. That's two hundred and ninety nine pennies! (Though we prefer paypal.)

"Why is it so cheap?" At roughly 8200 words, it's more of a booklet than a book. That's why I referred to it as a written poker product. It's a complete idea. A thorough treatment of a single subject.

"How many parts are there?" So far, just the one is finished. But there are eight more already in the pipeline, at various stages of development. Our plan is to polish up one of these each week and send it out into the world. So the full book, Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, is available for pre-order on Leanpub for $19.99. If you buy that, you'll get weekly updates with new sections and edits on prior ones. Once we're completely finished with the series, we'll probably bump the price up to $29.99 or something, but we'll see how it turns out first before deciding on a final price point.

I'm very excited to be releasing written content again. The best thing I can say about the booklet is that I gained a tremendous amount of confidence in my bet sizing by writing the piece. So if writing it helped me that much, I hope reading it can do the same for you.

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