Archive for September, 2009

The Basics of Psychology and Leveling

This post is going to be on the basics of poker psychology and the basic adjustments to make against semi-competent opponents.

There are many examples and situations that led me to make this post. One in recent memory-

$1/2NL, 100BB stacks. Villain seems regular/taggy, I have a solid image.

I open xx, he calls from BB. flop 933r, he check/calls my bet. Turn K, he check/calls my bet. River T, he check/calls my bet and wins with 77 (I don’t recall what I had, obviously air though).

Basically, his line is pretty meh overall. He’s going to get valueowned a ton (I would bet the river with a pretty wide value range, probably a good 9 or better, as his hand range is very very weighted towards hands like 66/77/88/9x/etc). He rarely hits the K or T (unless he has like T9/K9, which is unlikely). Frankly, playing vs. aggro opponents OOP without having a real clear idea is going to be troubling to begin with. With that said, he made a nice light call down and props to him.

Getting into the mind of your opponent is something we strive to do as poker players. The minute you can start to understand how your opponents interpret the game, the easier it is when hand reading/making the right plays against their range/etc. Understanding their psychology is going to be important too.

So, with the above example, it’s pretty obvious that he might now think of me as a nut job/lag player. He has one example to base this on (the 77 hand), and too often do I see players post hands vs. decent players with these types of reads (as in, they expect me to keep bluffing just because of one hand).

Adjusting to your opponent’s mindset is going to allow you to be one step ahead. I know that Villain knows that I’m loose. (Did I word that well?)- rewording- I know villain thinks I’m crazy now, after that hand. I know that villain is less likely to give me credit on future hands.

While knowing this, I need to adjust my own range. Knowing that he thinks I’m crazy, I’m going to shift my bluffing range back a bit, and value town him lighter. I’m going to be less inclined to bluff, since he obviously both a) can and will call down lighter and b) believes me to be looser than I actually am. Understanding his thought process helps a ton.

A few hands later –

I open K2, he calls BB (we are 3-handed now).
Flop- K 6 7 – he check/calls a bet
Turn- 8 he check/calls again
river – 3 he check/calls my third bet with T7 and loses

What are some problems with his play? Well, to start, he used a previous read and stuck with it, assuming that I could not adjust. Now, whether or not I’m going to be bluffing there, I suppose that’s somewhat relevant, but he is playing under the assumption that my bluff frequency is much higher than it actually is (in this particular situation). I’d probably be less inclined to bluff him given my image at this point, something that he doesn’t realize.If I were villain, I’d probably give a tad more credit against smart opponents, because I KNOW they are adjusting to my own perception of them.

When you are playing against like-minded opponents who understand the psychology and ‘leveling’, you need to prepare yourself and adjust accordingly. In this basic example, I probably would have considered bluffing had we not had that previous history (with whatever hand I might have…semibluffs/real bluffs/etc). But given the 77 hand, I think pulling back a bit is good vs. level one thinkers. While my value range doesn’t necessarily change all that much from that 77 hand (I would have value bet the same range as discussed before, a good 9 or better), the value ranges are obviously a tad widened in future hands and different situations.

A player might continue to bluff, using the reverse of what is applied above. It’s hard to really put into words the different dynamics that occur during aggressive matches (I suppose I’m slightly talking headsup, even though I rarely play it). I remember reading a quote in a thread in HSNL, discussing a somewhat vanilla situation of hero getting cold 4-betted against with QQ. One player stated- (paraphrasing) ” I 3-bet player xxxxx 6 times in a row, he folded every time. The 7th time I 3-bet JJ and was elated to get it in…one of the bigger mistakes in recent memory” (he obviously saw AA).

When 3-betting, players sometimes just say to themselves “oh, I’m just going to pound this guy into submission, fuck him”. That’s all well and good, and people that 3-bet alot in position often make your life a living hell (and it’s hard to counteract such a strategy). But when deciding to play back against light 3-betters OOP, people adjust in the wrong way. I know I was guilty of such thinking in the past. I’ll say to myself “this guy is always 3-betting me, he can’t truly have it here, I’m going to 4-bet him with ATC next time”…and this is pretty much the exact response that a smart 3-better will want. Smart 3-betters in this situation (should) adjust their ranges a tad, in that they are focusing more on value 3-bets instead of pure bluffs. Not sure if that made sense.

Anyways, this is just a tad bit on the subject. Somewhat interesting, meh.

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Flag Loss…

we lost our flag game today 28-6

there were a number of problems we had. to begin, we had 3 of our regulars out. being a team with no depth, this is an obvious problem. two played football in highschool and one of those guys went on and played football at a small college (nothing fantastic but still much better than your average obviously).

we replaced them with two acquaintances. neither played amazing and there was a very significant drop off in terms of overall talent/speed/organization.

we were actually just a man short…we had to ask a guy from the team who just played on the game before to be on our team. (probably against the rules, but whatever).

with all this trouble, we were also playing probably the best team in the league.

there were huge problems from the start. in order-

1. offensive ineptitude- we couldn’t move the ball. this was due to a few factors- 1) their DEs were very very fast, especially the left end. they wreaked havoc along our line, and our QB had literally a second or two to throw. Our QB isn’t the quickest guy in the world either and that resulted in either a) bad decisions or b) a sack. our line didn’t play well (and i played line today, i got beat on more rushes than i should have)…the thing that really pissed me off about line play was the two pickups – they just went out for passes instead of hanging there..they got beat literally off the first step. it was a joke.

we need to think of plays against super fast rushes. we had the same problem in my flag league in lincoln…fast DEs can just destroy. we threw two picks, which didn’t help our cause. the new guys didn’t know the routes nor even ran clean ones.

2) our lack of pass rush- their QB had all day and night to throw…we normally have different people on the line, but they just frankly weren’t getting the job done today. long times = broken coverage and that results in big plays. we should have mixed in some blitzes, but with new people along all areas, nobody knew wtf their responsibilities were.

3) new people- this was a large part of our failure. our team in omaha has played flag together the last few years, and we are all organized/on the same page (typically). the athleticism was down as well.

i didn’t play fantastic…i can admit this. i’m still ****ing pissed off that we lost though.

I’ve been trying to think of what we could have done differently-

We should have used a TE. We needed another blocker, especially on the left side of the line.

We should have moved the pocket away from the pressure. This seems pretty obvious- maybe a designed roll out…we have such a play but couldn’t work it since nobody knew the plays.

maybe something like this?-

roll rightI think we should have worked some option/misdirection stuff? I don’t know…I’m going to have to think about plays in the future…for both teams. We have some pretty obvious problems in terms of protection and blocking and how to counter tough pass rushes.

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Quick hand

In an effort to get better and to improve my play/discipline, I plan on posting a few hands a week and some thought processes behind it.  Maybe my opponents will read this, maybe not…I guess I don’t really care all that much. This is a pretty simple hand, and although maybe not standard, meh.

I guess I’ll just give my thoughts-

Background: I have been splashy and probably have a little looser image than most other solid players. With that said, I have been quiet as of late (though tilting hardcore on other tables). Villain seems like a looser player, maybe not that good.

Full Tilt Poker $1/$2 Pot Limit Omaha Hi $0.30 Ante – 5 players
The Official 2+2 Hand Converter Powered By

UTG: $357.60
CO: $697.10
Hero (BTN): $414.25
SB: $247.35
BB: $64.75

Pre Flop: ($4.50) Hero is BTN with 7 7 A T
1 fold, CO raises to $8.50, Hero raises to $25, 2 folds, CO calls $16.50

**PF- I felt like this was probably a semi marginal 3-bet. My hand doesn’t play fantastic in a 3-bet pot. There are a few reasons for this- the pair in my hand hurts my equity (as I’m not going to flop a set that often), the cards aren’t that connected (low straight possibility), and the Td isn’t really even close to a nutted diamond draw. I’m fairly sure I was on raging tilt when I played this hand and frankly didn’t give a shit.

A few notes- I 3-bet smaller when deep typically. I’m not sure if it matters tremendously, but it’s also something I do when 100bb stacked. Because these games play fairly straight foward (that is, any 4-bet = AAxx a high percentage of the time), you can usually play accordingly against these 4-bets. By making your 3-bet sizing smaller, you allow yourself extra room postflop (and allow yourself a better price when calling the 4-bet, if you have such a hand to continue with). I suppose this concept has been carried over to deep tables as well. This is probably not a hand I’d call a 4-bet with, but I’m not exactly sure where it falls in terms of equity/how often it flops ‘well’ vs. AAxx (I would imagine not very).

Using, I see it’s-

Omaha Hi Simulation
600,000 trials (Randomized)
Hand Pot equity Wins Ties
Ac7c7dTd 35.62% 211,868 3,743
AA** 64.38% 384,389 3,743

Could probably be worse too, depending on the side cards.

With that said, I was on raging tilt and decided to 3-bet. It’s not the worst situation in the world…I have the nut suite, I have some slight connectors, and most importantly, I have position with deep stacks. With this outlook on villain (and previous reads), I should probably inch my 3-betting range more towards value hands and not ‘speculative bad hands’ like this. But, tilt is a funny thing…

Flop: ($54.50) 8 4 6 (2 players)
CO checks, Hero bets $35, CO calls $35
**Flop- I think this is a pretty clear bet. Checking seems poor, since I have little showdown value and little pot equity. I might check back with something like 978A, or a hand like 46xx (though even still I’d probably just bet/fold). The same concepts apply from NLHE- hands that you dislike getting check/raised on but still have enough equity to continue warrant a check in these situations. Think about when you 3-bet 78 and your opponent calls/checks to you on a 76Tr board…usually a check in most circumstances.

This, however, is not that situation- I DO have blockers, which is an important concept to understand in PLO. Villain can never be completely comfortable check raising even a 2pair type hand when 200bb deep (without some history). The two 7s in my hand allow me to put all barrels away! I do have some slight equity, backdoor flush draw and a gutter to the nuts.

Turn: ($124.50) Q (2 players)
CO checks, Hero bets $89, CO calls $89
**Turn- Turn is a pretty obvious brick. I suppose there is now a back door flush draw, but meh, shouldn’t really present much concern for me. Villain’s c/c-ing or continuing range now includes some spades I suppose…alternately, I could be doubling spades as well, and very often would.
With that said, I decided to bet the turn again, with the intention of shoving alot of rivers. At this point, I would bet pretty much all 2pairs, straights, semi-bluffs with little value (like the one I have), and I’d probably bet AAxx or Qxxx with the intention of checking behind alot of rivers. I think villain can still continue with alot of pair + gutter hands… a hand like 9T8x or something of that nature will continue. With that said, I don’t think villain will continue to go balls out with 2p or a weak pair by the river.

From the flop onward (and the texture of this flop + my hand blockers), it was pretty much a 3-barrel for me. This is probably a pretty bad outlook, and to derive your plans around pure bluffing like this situation, it’s probably not good. As stated though, I was on tilt…and it was probably the biggest factor for me, and something I need to address.

River: ($302.50) Q (2 players)
CO checks, Hero bets $264.95 all in, CO requests TIME…

**River- By this time, there is no option…I would say that my river range is fairly polarized…that is, I probably wouldn’t shove without Qx or a straight. I can easily have hands like that in my range, but as far as shoving the river with something like AAxx or 86xx or what have you, probably not going to happen. Even though, thinking about it now, he probably won’t have the balls to call the river shove with something like KKxx regardless…so I suppose shoving 86xx as a bluff wouldn’t be all bad.

I think he has a hand like some weird pair + gutshot type hand, maybe turned spades…I don’t think he’s going to have a straight often (mainly due to blockers), he’s not going to have a tremendous amount of Q’s in his hand either (not too much with the flop matches with that…maybe like 9TQJ? 89TQ? meh…).

So, as stated, moving your hands around straight bluffs from the start, I dunno…I think I’ll have to rethink my strategy. Villain folded after some thought, and I win.

I actually withheld some information- I just realized that villain took a stack from me minutes before this hand that left me quite tilted-

It’s just been alot of 75/25 and 80/20s that I’ve been losing, for big pots. Pots that could have easily turned my session/downer around…but alas, poker is a whore sometimes.

I’m not sure if my thought process for this hand is even legit…I am struggling to understand alot of stuff at the moment, and I could very well be wrong. But meh…writing it all helps.

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flag football

We had our second game of the season yesterday night…fucking nuts.

our opponents were as athletic as us, which came as a slight surprise.

We scored our first TD on our first possession. It was pretty much a jump ball and our WR turned and broke a few tackles, taking it to the house.

The other team’s ball, they came out with this very strange formation-

It was basically a 2 wide set with 2 WR 7 yards or so behind the line of scrimmage (LOS) (and the QB as well). they used alot of laterals/option stuff and it really threw us off our game at first.

The primary routes for the 2 WRs were either fly routes or quick slants. Their QB was good, and he moved well against pressure and was deceptive in his eye motions (he’d look off and then bomb the other way)…which is something that works against better opponents and not downies (the downie opponents won’t even watch the QB’s eyes, they’ll only focus on the receiver alone).

Our defensive game plan (which took tweaking throughout the game) was this-

The Green areas are obviously the coverage areas. The outside CB would get all fly routes, or if the QB lateraled it to the back receiver of their side, they had the back receiver. The inside CB/LB had all inside stuff, slants, etc, as well as linemen going into their area.

The DL was usually one rusher and the other played zone with the two linemen (with S help over the top). I’m not quite sure what they did on the other side of the field for defense, but I assume it was something similar (we weren’t all on the same page sadly).

We had some issues with their DL…our QB had like 2 seconds tops to throw, and we couldn’t get the short stuff there. Alot of the passes were very risky and we won that side of the variance (as in, many of our passes could have easily been deflected/picked off).

We scored through mainly big plays. We didn’t do very well in terms of grinding down the field, but really just throw some hugely blown coverage. Our QB was fast enough to get away from some of the pressure but we really just need to do a better job blocking.

We went up 20-14, but couldn’t finish our last drive. They got the ball near their 10 (field = 80 yards long, not sure how wide…fairly wide though). They drove down the field, and they were at first and goal at the 5 yard line with about 2 minutes to go.

We held together though and had a goal line stand. We ran the clock out and came out with the win.

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This recent downswing of mine has forced me to think about things in a different light. I’ve encountered downers like this before, and I’ve had a few that have been much worse. I just hadn’t had one like this in a while and I forgot how much they hurt.

Poker can be so frustrating sometimes, and I think we as poker players take alot of things for granted. Poker and winning money can be a fantastic feeling, and the ‘work’ we do isn’t very difficult by most standards.

But for all of the people in life who say “what’s so hard about clicking buttons and sitting on the computer?”- they don’t realize the intricacies that is involved with this game. The stress level is insane, the amount of “work” you have to do to maintain your game is very large as well- for those trying to learn poker, think of learning as an investment. Just as going to college is an investment for the future, so is being a serious student of poker. Studying hands, discussing strategy, etc. is all a part of the game…and the stress level/feelings after a large loss, those can’t really be equated with ‘normal’ jobs. The investment for learning poker can be for both pleasure (a genuine love for the game) or for business purposes (wanting to get more money…though, with this outlook, you probably won’t have much success- you have to enjoy and love poker to succeed). And the investment of learning isn’t even guaranteed. There are many many players who have a sound understanding of the game (at least on a rudimentary level), but cannot piece it all together, and are mediocre players at best.

This downswing of mine, it’s to be expected. We can’t run at or above expectation all the time, and there is going to be a time when the cards don’t fall our way. I have to seriously think about what I’m going to do when poker isn’t there. At this point, I can truthfully say that I am playing primarily for the money- I don’t have the drive or passion to play or read or discuss poker for hours on end, as I did in the past. And that could be one of the reasons why I haven’t been doing as well the past few months either…the minute the passion dies- the drive, the motivation, and the desire to destroy, that’s when the quality of play declines.

It’s disturbing how quickly poker fortunes can change. One moment you can be up several thousand dollars, and the next moment, it’s gone, like dust in the wind. Any serious poker player goes through downswings at one point or another, and they all affect us in different manners.

They are just numbers on a screen. It ain’t money until it hits your bank account…that’s the perspective I need to hold. The money has to matter in order for one to play well (if you couldn’t give a shit about it, that is, to go to the .01/.02 tables and go all in every hand, you obviously aren’t going to play well).  I need to figure out some things to fix, to discipline myself, and to remember the long run…it isn’t always going to be this bad, and things will turn around.

As stated previously, all poker players experience downers… from the 10/20 player to the .10/.25 player, everyone can understand the feelings associated with downers. It’s just something that needs to be both accepted and thought about.

Anyways, I hope to improve, as always. I hope to rediscover some elements of poker that enabled me to become a successful player.

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