Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Pour Some Sugar on Me

I know at least one person who is REALLY looking forward to this one. More on him later.

This recent rush I'm on has been quite a ride. Aside from the obvious euphoria, it has also made me wonder, in the words of David Byrne, "How did I get here?"

Analysis and introspection about my game are areas I've always worked hard to maintain. Usually, however, it's when things aren't going well, when you need to look at your hand histories to find out where you're going wrong. But I've spent the last couple of days trying to figure out exactly where I've gone right.

I think I have a pretty realistic view of myself as a player. Lately, I think I've played about as well as I am able, maximized my present ability level, which is a lesser one than many, including a lot of you bloggers out there. But I think I've learned some valuable lessons to get to this point. I think I've adapted a method of study, of practice, that works for me. Perhaps the following will be of use to someone. I hope so. I'm definitely indebted to many of you who have come before.

As a reader of poker books, I'll wager I'm not as well-versed as most. The thought came to me early in this journey that theory wasn't much use to me without experience. Now, basic Hold Em play obviously provided ballast for my early trips through the rocky seas of Party Poker. But I found that the lessons didn't become entrenched until I'd experienced the situations I'd previously only read about. And it was that continued play, the repitition, that helped me to recognize the patterns much quicker. In addition, going back to those books after countless hours of play is invaluable. The lessons therein are much more easily assimilated. You nod your head when TJ talks about overplaying Big Slick. Because you've seen (done) it. And the concepts are reinforced.

I knew this guitar player once. Amazing, he was. Never took a lesson in his life. When I asked him why, he said it was because he didn't want to be taught the same things everyone else was being taught. He didn't want the rote chord progressions drilled into him. He wanted to forge his own way, find his own unique style.

I think I'm sort of like that guy in regard to my poker. I can't play like Doyle. Which is not to say Super/System isn't enormously useful. But, at this point, everybody's been taught those chord progressions.

So, that's a lot about what I'm not, my typical long-winded and heavy-handed approach to getting to the nuts. So, the question remains, How did I get here?

I've settled on two important keys. One, I learned to not be so goddamn stubborn. Two, I've gained a williness to experiment.

Many a time was the dear and patient wife would console me as I grumbled about "how I played it right" and still lost. And I would continue to try jamming that square peg into the round hole, even as evidence (and losses) mounted that perhaps that WASN'T the right way to play it. Theoretically correct, perhaps. Correct in regard to that particular situation and that particular opponent? Maybe not.

I've learned to admit when I'm wrong, sometimes to the point of self-flaggelation. But I've made great strides in using those mistakes as tools, to learn how I could have better played those hands. There was an obvious recent example.

In the WPBT satelitte #2, we were down to 10 players. The PokerProf raised UTG and I pushed my stack in with 88. I got called in LP and knew I was cooked. Which I was. You hear it time and time again, that kind of overbet and you're only gonna get called by hands that beat you (which, to be fair, is really not always true at some of the lower-level buy-in MTTs thanks to the preponderance of fish). But in the blogger tourney, yeah, bad play.

Had roughly the exact situation arise TWICE in the last week. With 12 players left in the Crazy $11 re-buy on Wednesday night, instead of pushing, I simply re-raised with my pocket tens and folded to an all-in (he had queens). Sunday night, I re-raised Iggy with my pocket jacks and folded to Jason's re-raise. He, too, had the ladies. I pull that all-in play again and I'm out of both tourneys. Instead, despite taking a chip hit, I was able to hang around and get a result.

Now, I knew about, had read about, the concept. But I didn't truly "get it" until I experienced it.

A couple months back, I was feeling pretty good about my game and results. I was cashing in a fair amount of the MTTs, was returning a solid ROI in the two-table SnGs, but I was a little bored. Because I wasn't expanding my game. I wrote about that a little about 3 weeks ago, how I felt like I needed to add variety to my game instead of always playing tight/weak and waiting for cards.

Opening up the bag of tricks has been a boon to my results. Plenty of mis-steps along the way, but I've also found some things that work for me, that are well-suited to what I think is becoming my "style." It was obvious I needed some new arrows in my quiver if I wanted to improve. I completely overhauled my attack in the Crazy Re-Buys. I'm more alert for weak players and pounding them with big bets. And I will even slow-play pocket Kings when heads up for a WSOP seat, which is most definitely the first time in my life I've ever slow-played kings.

That last brings up an important point: Maximizing your big hands. My tendency, right from the start, has been to bet hard when I'm holding. Discourage any and all attempts to get drawn out on. Well, that's wrong in a lot of instances. Working on those teaser bets is yet another area where I'm experimenting more.

So, there ya go. My personal State of the Union. Nap time is over.


So, my main man El Paso Larry downloaded Poker Stars just to sweat me on Sunday night and I guess he hitched his wagon to the right pony, since I promised to pimp his blog in return for his support.

As you can imagine, my hits have gone through two roofs the last couple days, so talk about your premium ad space.

It truly is a niche blog, catering exclusively to us Oakland A's fans looking at a long season of craptitude from not just the players, but especially from the manager. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...

Ken Macha is a Moron & I Hate Him.

That should make up for the mental image.


At 1:57 PM, Blogger TripJax said...

Thanks for taking up all my time man. You see, I just can skim through your blog...I've gotta read every word cause it's so damn good. Bastard.

Just know I've really enjoyed reading your blog lately...some good shit. Congrats and good luck at the WSoP tourney.

Poker In Arrears

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Maudie said...

"Working on those teaser bets is yet another area where I'm experimenting more."

That's a tricky area - my fiasco with the pocket Aces during the satellite is an all too familiar example of teaser gone wrong. I let in a hand that out drew me. Actually - 2 hands that out drew me, to be precise, and I was gone in a flash.

The challenge is in timing that kind of play. I'm of the school, lol, that when in doubt, *don't* slow play your big hands.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Joe Speaker said...


I would have played that exactly the way you did, Maudie. I may even have limped, hoping for a chance to re-raise.

Didn't work out, but you didn't want just the blnds there, you needed the chips.

And yes, timing is everything.

At 9:21 PM, Blogger BSN said...

I've started doing the same thing (experimenting), too, although I tend to abuse the all-in button in later stages a bit too much. It's a crutch for a lack of confidence in my post-flop play.

Thanks for sharing. I actually posted a little of own thoughts on timing and position, and the role luck can play, over at my blog. I'd appreciate getting some constructive criticism to help me refine my thoughts.

Good luck in June,


At 11:11 PM, Blogger Roman said...

Congrats again, man. Watching you take down those chumps (just kidding, blogger chumps) was a sight to behold. I'm glad my crappy memory didn't fail me and I didn't forget about the tourney. Guess my subconscious mind knew something good was in store. Anyway, good luck in Vegas. When I see you on TV, I'm gonna tell everyone that I know, so try not to embarass me. IsoP


Now how about that a-hole Macha leaving Cruz in too long? Sheesh. This guy just wants me to rip him a new one.

Thanks again for the plug. Hits are through the roof. I might even hit double-digits by week's end!

At 12:16 AM, Blogger JasonSpaceman said...

One of the most important concepts I picked up from Dan Harrington's book is buying information - which is exactly what those re-raises you talk about will get you. When that guy comes over the top you can be pretty sure you're dead in the water. It sucks to lose the chips a re-raise requires, but it sucks worse to go out on a poor play when you had the chance to hang around longer.

At 4:37 AM, Blogger Pinky said...

Great post and great result. I've been here a few times but hadn't got round to adding you to my roll. I'd echo everything that TripJax said.


At 10:54 AM, Blogger Drizztdj said...

Make the bad men stop giving me Queens someone has Aces.

I too stack off too easily during later parts of MTTs, gotta learn restraint until its push-or-fold time.

Great post Joe.


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