Sunday, 19 June 2011

Poker Break

In my last post I wrote something like "...but I'll leave that for tomorrow's update" and shortly after that "I'll talk to you soon!". Given the fact that nearly two months have passed since then, I'd say the irony of it is pretty obvious. It seems like one of those horror movies when one of the main characters says "I'll be right back" but they never are. I mean, whenever you hear that line in a movie you know that something is going to go wrong, right? Fortunately for me, everything's fine and I'm back with another post. And since I haven't written for so long, my guess is it's going to be a humongous one. And I'm not even apologizing this time, so buckle up.

Those of you who played at PokerStars during the month of May will surely have noticed the changes going on. One day you're playing your regular game, then the next the buy-ins are different, then the day after that the blind structure is different, then it's back to normal again and so on... Ok, maybe it didn't happen from one day to the other and I'm overreacting a bit, but the point is there were a lot of changes going on and PokerStars did seem a bit undecisive about what they wanted to do overall. I guess it wasn't completely their fault cause after the initial changes people complained a lot at the forums, so they had to change some things back, but the bottom of it is that May was a pretty crazy month.

To follow the general craziness, I was pretty udecisive as well about what I wanted to do. In the beginning of the month I had my goals all figured out and was about to make a post about it, but then I got a pretty big downswing and didn't feel like writing at all. Half of the month went by with me trying to make sense out of the new structures (lol at that 30/60 blind level, the math was getting weird and my head couldn't follow as fast). A good portion of the time I was wondering what buy-in I should be playing, since not only the buy-in amounts were changed, but also the percentage of rake you had to pay in each one. Some days, to my big surprise I wasn't even playing the turbos! One day I spent 8 hours converting my points to money while playing hyper-turbos, another day I tried out heads-up tournaments and so on... And finally, near the end of the month I wasn't playing much, I focused on studying.

About the HUs, my heads-up play sucks big time so André suggested that I read Moshman's Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em and play exclusively HUs tourneys for a couple of days. I only read a few pages of the book (it's almost 400 pages total) and played a few HU tournaments (where I was 3tabling cause no way I could take more in HU play!), but I can't say that my HU game is now awesome or that it improved at all... As I said before, during the month of May I was trying stuff out and jumping from one thing to the other.

Which brings me to the hyper-turbos. André tried to stick to the basics while explaining to me how to play, but the thing I got right from the start was that hyper-turbos are far more complicated than they appear to be. One may think that since people practically don't play any flops and it's just push-or-fold poker, it should be easier. That's completely false, the game is very complicated but in a very different way than your "regular" standard or turbo no-limit game. Anyway, the plan was for me to convert my points into money so I played the 235FPPs tourneys for around 8 hours until all my points were gone. Soon after I started playing, I realized that André's ABC advice was not enough, so I had to improvise at some points but all went well and I converted my points at a better rate than what I would get if I were Supernova and could buy the cash bonus. 

I played hyper-turbos for a couple more days after that, the ones where the buy-in was money and not points and ended up something like break-evenish or slightly negative. I was debating with myself whether I should let go of the 9man turbos and start playing the 6man hyper-turbos but in the end I decided against it. The reason for that is that I've spent soooo much time trying to figure out how to play the turbo ones and the hyper-turbos are a completely different game. I mean completely different. So, better stick to what I started learning otherwise the time I've spent on it so far would kind of feel like a waste.

The funny side of the story is that on the day I was converting my points I noticed there were some regulars at those games. I mean, ok, I can't really know who is a regular over a big period of time, but there were people that day registering in every single upcoming tounament so they were pretty regular for that day at least. Everything normal so far. May I remind you that the buy-in of those was 235FPPs so something like $3.76. A couple of days later, I go to André's office while he was playing and notice a familiar avatar sitting in multiple $357 tables. It was one of the guys I was playing against at the $3.76s! Turns out the guy was an mtt player who was trying out the hyper turbos. Why he thought it was a good idea to try out the game with players like me at the low stakes and then jump to the higher stakes and play against regulars like André remains a mystery to this day. It's good to know that I'm not the only one confused out there though. And at least I get away with it cheaply :P

Near the end of May I decided to get some private coaching (not with André :P ). I paid for 2 sessions but only went through the first one. It gave me plenty of stuff to think about and I wanted to let everything sink in before moving on to the second one. Overall, I'd say it was a good experience and well worth the money. I'll probably say something more about it after my second session.

And that's more or less how May went by. Which brings us to June. The first couple of days I went to the gym, spent some time with André and his family (which during the SCOOP was next to impossible) and then on the 4th I boarded a plane to Athens. We have direct flights from Lisbon to Athens now, which is HUUUUUGE, comparing to all the travelling you needed to do to go from Portugal to Greece before! Also, I think I got on the first flight operating on this new itinerary. Awesome! :D

I stayed in Athens around 10 days and all I did was spend time with my family and friends that I was missing a lot. No poker or anything of that sort. I came back last Tuesday, but I still haven't played any poker yet. Now that I'm thinking about it, I haven't even logged in my account once during this month. The truth is, I needed a break from poker. It's not that I've spent so much time on it that I couldn't take it anymore, but losing really gets me. It's not that I was losing big or anything, at the end of May I had $300 more in my account than at the beginning of the month, but still...

My main problem is how I react to losing. I may have talked about this before, but it's always a relevant subject so I'll talk about it again. In a conversation I had with André, he told me that nobody is unaffected by downswings. Which is no news. What is interesting though, is how our downswings affect us. Not everyone reacts the same. André for example loses his sleep for a couple of days and then starts scrutinizing his game to find possible leaks. Maybe he was on a downswing cause he had flaws in his game, or maybe it was just bad luck. Whatever the cause, he comes out of it stronger and a better player. And most importantly, he doesn't change his game during his downswing unless it's the result of hours of study and comes as a correction of a leak. I, on the other hand, drop from my A game to my B game and then my C game and the more I lose, the worse it gets. And when I'm having a downswing the last thing I feel like doing is playing poker or correcting my game. I feel more like shutting my brain down and going out for a coffee. I'm not by any means trying to compare myself to André. My point here is that even if we had the exact same skill, he would still be a better player because of the way he handles downswings. And while going out for a walk may be ok if you're frustrated with poker, deviating from your A game is certainly not ok. We should try to play our A game as often as possible. Which makes me wonder if some people fail at poker not because of lack of skill, but because they can't take the psychological pressure that comes with the game.

Anyway... For what's left of June I plan on taking small steps towards playing poker again... Cause there's no way I can 12table right away after all this time! Until my next post, I leave you with some pictures from my latest trip to Athens...

View of the Acropolis from Thisio

 Restaurants at Monastiraki

Flea market at Monastiraki

One of the stores at Monastiraki

 From left to right: French fries with oregan, tzatziki and fava

 Pastourmadopita with greek yogurt

 Cookies that just came out of the oven with frappé (greek cold coffe)

My favourite: SOUVLAKI!!!

Monday, 2 May 2011

My own Black Friday

So... Turns out, the "Black Friday" effect is not just something that can only happen to the whole poker community, it's actually something you can achieve on a personal level in the comfort of your house! If you are interested to know how to create a disastrous situation or if you are curious about how I made it happen, keep reading on.

It all started a nice Friday afternoon two days ago. I just needed to play around 8 more hours to achieve Platinum status on PokerStars. That means that I couldn't really stop playing until I actually made it to Platinum cause the month was nearly over, but that's no biggie, right? WRONG! I could go on and on trying to bring this to you slowly, explaining that when we decide to play and not stop until a certain point, ugly things can happen blah blah blah... But even then, you wouldn't really be mentally prepared for what comes next, I'll just cut to it:

Are you shocked? So am I. I mean, I sort of saw it coming, but that didn't take away from my (nasty) surprise when my session was over. And to those of you still doubting, yes, this IS a graph from one single day. One very, very black Friday.

As I said in my last post, I moved up to the $16s. It was obvious to me from the start that I was a losing player in those, but I didn't worry too much cause I thought I would get better soon, as I did at the previous levels. However, that did not happen and I kept on losing. I wasn't losing big, but I was losing steadily. Until all hell broke loose. If you think that after starting to lose that day, I started tilting and that's why things went from bad to worse, let me tell you that I wasn't. I was frustrated, yes, but I was playing more or less my normal game so the results are very much deserved.

Why did this happen? I have asked myself that question several times, and I have three reasons why.

A) I did not study enough. In the whole month, I have studied 10 hours or so, which is very little for a new player.
B) I did not play as many hours as I was planning on the beginning of the month. Basically, all my calculations were based on the $6.5s that give 2.75 VPPs. When I unexpectedly moved up, I was getting 5.5 VPPs per tournament, so I could reach Platinum faster. In my head, that translated as extra free time which should NOT have been the case.
C) The players actually play poker. Seriously, this is the first level where I feel the whole thing has actually gotten sophisticated. There are of course, the goofy players who will just do whatever to spread their money on the tables, but the regulars... Oh. My. God. They are crushing me. Destroying me. Squeezing every cent out of my bankroll. I can almost see them rubbing their hands together and smiling  gleefully when they see me at the tables, thinking "The mega-fish is back!" Ok, that's enough, I think you got my point already. If you think I'm overreacting, let me tell you this: André was playing those stakes around 3 years ago, and he recognized some of the regulars that I was playing against. Apart from that, I randomly sharkscoped some familiar nicknames the other day, and they were both on the leaderboards of 2010's total profit at those stakes. They are just out of my league and outplay me badly. Now one could argue that if they haven't moved up to the $27s then that means they're not that great. I don't care what reasons they had not to move up, or if they are losing at the next level. What I care about is that they are crushing this one, me included.

To sum up, when I started playing on my own Black Friday, I had a $1158 starting bankroll, and I managed to lose more than half of it. Overall at the $16s, I have lost $870 or 55 buy-ins and have an ROI of -7%. Great. But let's review the goals I set for the month that passed.

1) Move up and play the $6.5s. 
CHECKNo further explanation to this one, I did actually surpass my goal, even though it did not end nicely.

2) Post 20 hands that you have troubles with on the forums each week. FAILURETo be honest, I never really believed I would get this one. To my defense, I had some problems with my subcription on PXF so half of the month I couldn't access the forum at all. When I got it fixed I did post some hands, but it wasn't even close to what was needed for this goal. It just takes too much time to post that many hands on a weekly basis.

3) Reach Platinum status. CHECKYes, I have four little stars next to my avatar now, congrats to me. But hey, I payed $870 for it so doesn't feel like there's a reason for me to celebrate, really.

4) Be able to 12table by the end of April. CHECKI was 12tabling practically all through the month of april, even though at the end I stayed away from the tables for a couple of days (cause I had this "extra" free time, right?), so I grew out of it and André told me to reduce to 9. I consider this goal achieved though, cause I am able to play 12 tables now, I just need a couple of days to get the hang of it again.

Even though I did achieve 3 out of 4 goals I set for this month, I feel quite defeated. I lost a huge chunk of my bankroll and I will have to move down. To be honest, after that last session I was debating with myself whether I should quit poker or not. I don't want to sound arrogant, but so far in my life all the goals I have set for myself, no matter how modest or big, I have achieved them. I feel like if I put my mind to it, I'll make it happen. And that's the way it has been until now. But after last Friday, I just felt really demotivated and was thinking that hey, maybe this game is not for everyone afterall. At least not for me. Then I spent a day with friends, taking my mind completely away from poker stuff and today I reviewed the whole situation more calmly. I'm not giving up at the first bump of the road.

I would go on with my goals for May, but this text is getting too big again, so I'll leave that for tomorrow's update. And since this post has been a bit sad so far, I'll leave you with something a bit more cheerful...

Last week, André was invited by Pedro Guedes to the launch party of a new collection of sunglasses by the Guedes brothers and Multiopticas. The party was nice, and we got to try the new sunglasses as you can see in the picture above. They had some pretty cool designs!

That's all for now folks! I'll talk to you soon!

Monday, 18 April 2011

12tabling, Greek vs Portuguese and moving up (again!)

Hi everyone!

It's a wonderful sunny day as I'm writing this and I don't feel like playing all that much, so I'm going to delay today's session a little bit by writing a post.

(Un)fortunately, the weather since the beginning of the month has been very nice. Those of you who live in Lisbon know what I'm talking about... Not too hot, not too cold, just perfect. We tossed all the heavy clothes and jackets to the back of the closet and brought out t-shirts and bathing suits. It feels like summer is here a bit early this year. Anyway, with all these perfect-for-coffee-out-with-friends conditions, it was extra hard to stay inside the house in front of a computer screen and play poker. I forced myself to do it, but I didn't really feel like it. The result? I'm a bit behind schedule on my way to Platinum, but I'm still very confident that I'll make it.

After my last post, I increased the number of tables I was playing. I kept adding one per day, so it didn't take me long to get to 12. I do find it hard to 12table though. I've been 12tabling for about two weeks now, but I still find it hard sometimes... I have accidentaly folded kings and jacks because I ran out of time bank and I don't necessarily make the best plays when I'm playing 2 heads-up and 4 bubbles at the same time along with my other 6 tables. This step definately takes more time for me to get used to. But oh well, same as with every other time I added tables, it's just a matter of practice so I don't worry too much about it.

Moving up to the $6.5s was pretty intimidating at first, but it all turned out well. I'll let the graph speak for itself:

But even with those good results (that were far better than those I had at the $3.4s), I still felt like I should be profiting from the good weather instead of playing poker non-stop. So when my boyfriend left for Vilamoura to play the PPS, I decided to tag along. Of course, this was no time for vacation, so I went there prepared: I took a laptop with all the necessary programs installed so that I wouldn't miss anything while playing, and my book to study whenever I couldn't play. Here's the proof:

Needless to say, I didn't read a single page of the book, and I only did a mini session of 11 tables during my stay at Vilamoura. I think the pictures are self-explanatory as to why that happened. On the bright side, this mini excursion satisfied my needs for sun and going out, so now I'm a lot more motivated to play than before.

Speaking of playing on a laptop, this was an experience I've never had before. As I've mentionned in a previous post, I've been blessed with a "professional poker player" equipment since the beginning of my poker adventures, when I started out with only one table and I didn't put all that computer stuff to good use. While playing on a laptop, I had to have the lobby on top of TableNinja, on top of Holdem Manager, on top of my teenie tiny tables. I can't play in cascade which doesn't help either. Even pushing the tiny bet slider all-in was a challenge. Not to mention that everything was significantly slower. The shock of the downgrade was huge, which made me think about all those people that play poker on their laptops. I know for a fact that there are players who make a LOT more money than me at the tables playing at laptops and under worse conditions overall. You guys are HEROES! May I suggest, however, that you invest on a good screen asap. Anyway, it's not that I didn't cherish my computer setup before, but that mini-session on the laptop made me appreciate it even more!

Oh, but I was telling you about our stay at Vilamoura. So there we are, rushing out of the hotel to go to the casino when we run into two familiar faces. Andé stops to say hi and I see Henrique Pinho standing next to me. We have been introduced in the past, so I limit myself to say "Olá" and kiss him on the cheeks. I need to point out that there are two singificant differences between the Greeks and the Portuguese here: 1) In a situation like this where the people do not know each other very well, in Greece a simple handshake or a simple verbal greeting is more common than kissing, and 2) when kissing does occur, the Greeks start from the right side while the Portuguese start from the left. That means that a Greek trying to kiss a Portuguese can result into a complicated/embarrassing situation. Imagine people accidentatly kissing each other on the lips instead of the cheeks or at the best case scenario tilting their heads from left to right until finding a spot where they agree to start from. Fortunately, I've been in Portugal for quite a few months now so by now I'm used to starting on the left (I get a bit confused when I go back to Greece but ok :P).

So after the first and successful (!) attempt, I turn to the girl who kisses me too and says "Olá Katerina!". Before I have any time to congratulate myself for adjusting so well into the portuguese way of greeting, I mumble an "Olá" back to her and sit there all baffled about how she knew my name. I'm convinced that I've met her somewhere before, and feel embarassed that I don't remember her name while she remembers mine. AWKWARD! André, however, who is in a hurry to get to the casino before the tournament starts, saves the day and pulls me away from that weird spot. As we move away I ask "Who was she?". "Catarina Santos", he replies. "Oh wait!", I say the realization of what just happened coming to me. "Was I supposed to say my name back there?". You see, there's another thing the Portuguese have. While in between the two kisses they quickly throw in their names to introduce themselves. I had forgotten about that, as we Greeks normaly wait to be introduced by the common friend who would say something like "Catarina this is Katerina". The fact that the pronounciation of the two names is almost identical didn't help either. Ok, there is a slight change that is very obvious to the Portuguese, but to my greek ears honestly, both names sound the same. So there. As André is laughing about the whole thing, I feel even more embarassed for appearing anti-social or too snobbish to introduce myself. Greek vs Portuguese: 0-1. (At least he run into Catarina Santos for a second time in the casino and explained the whole thing to her... :P)

So, as our stay at the wonderful Crowne Plaza was coming to an end, we sit nearby the pool enjoying the sun and relaxing. "I've been thinking", André starts and I can already tell by the tone of his voice that it's not going to be good, "that you should move up to the $16s when we go back to Lisbon tomorrow". His justification for that was that after Poker's Black Friday people tend to play with real money as if it was play money due to the delays of cashing out, so the games are going to be softer and therefore it is a good time to move up. I get a slight panic attack but I overcome my urge to throw him into the swimming pool. There are too many people around anyway. The $16s? Really? I've only been playing the $6.5s for what, half a month? Anyway, he has been right in everything he's told me so far so since I don't have any ground to doubt him I let the idea sink in.

By the way, my sympathy goes out to all the Americans who were playing poker for a living and suddenly found themselves "unemployed" or to those who just loved to play the game and were deprived of their favourite hobby. I hope that things work out so that they are able to play again as soon as possible. Adding to that, I don't see any reason for poker players to panic. Yes, it does affect the rest of the world if Americans play with us or not in terms of traffic at the tables and the games being easier or harder, but that's as far as it goes. Personally, I don't feel that the money in my PokerStars account is threatened in any way and will continue playing same as before if not more.

I gave my first try at the $16s yesterday. I also had my longest poker session ever: 11 hours (with small breaks of course). It went pretty well, and I ended just $10 negative. I lost all of my profit during the last hour of play so it could be because I was tired. I was going for 12 hours but I stopped opening tables cause I couldn't take it anymore.

When I started writing this post it was sunny, but now it's all rainy and dark. I knew it was a good thing to delay today's session! Now I have the perfect weather for indoors poker activity. Wish me luck cause I'm not comfortable with the idea of playing the $16s yet... :P 

See you at the tables!

P.S.: Sorry for making another gigantic post, hm, maybe I should write more often to prevent this from happening?

Friday, 1 April 2011

Moving up, handling tilt and 9tabling

Hi everyone!

Shame on me, I have slightly abandoned this blog... I've had quite a few things to write about during the past month, but whenever I had some free time I'd rather spent it elsewhere and not in front of my computer screen. Sorry 'bout that, I'll try to squeeze all my news in this post!

First of all, as it was expected, I moved up to the $3.4s shortly after my last post. I reached 100 buy-ins to play that level and I had a positive ROI over the last 500 games at the $1.75s so I was ready for the change. Unfortunately, the $3.4s did not go so well for me. Here's the graph of March (which is also my lifetime graph when it comes to the $3.4s):

Not very nice, huh? I have been studying (even though not as much as I should) but I haven't been able to beat the level. Then again, the sample is not THAT big (my boyfriend says that 2k tournaments is a reasonable sample size and I've only got half of that) and I'm not insanely negative either. I'm losing something like 16 buy-ins which is not the end of the world and could be fixed relatively easy. 

As you can probably notice in the graph, I have 3 major downswings. My coach/boyfriend was looking at it and told me that whenever I lose, I lose big. And that is not just because of being unlucky. On the third downswing, I was losing around 48 buy-ins total and I wasn't taking it very well. Not well at all actually. André came to watch me play and after 2 minutes he was shouting at me "What are you doing?". My instant reply was "Whatever, I just want to go away from the computer". The thing is, up until the point I said that out loud, I hadn't even noticed I was tilting. I used to think that having downswings was either due to bad luck or due to lack of skill. It never occurred to me that it could be because I wasn't playing as well as I could even if overall I'm not a winning player at that level. I know it may sound like a simple thing, and I had heard about tilt before, but when I realized it was happening to me at the point where it could make me play far worse than what I usually do, it was like an epiphany to me.

That night, André gave me a book that had a big part dedicated to tilt. Reading that helped me rationalize my feelings and see that poker is also a psychological game not only in the sense of reading your opponenents but also in the sense of being able to read yourself. Which trust me, is harder than it seems to be. After that insightful reading, I went back to the tables the next day and I changed one more thing: I stopped checking my results while playing. I used to check them non-stop, but it ends up doing more harm than good. At least this way, if I'm running bad I'll only know how big the damage was AFTER I stop playing, and then I have plenty of time to feel bad about it without having the situation affect my game. By next day I will be cool again. All those changes happened around 900 games. And as you can see in the graph, I got a major upswing right after. Was it just luck? Obviously I was running above average, but I honestly don't think the good results came just because I got lucky. Two days after my worse poker day ever (-25 buy-ins) I got my best poker day ever (+23 buy-ins). You can make your own conclusions from that.

Another subject to discuss is the number of tables I play. When I wrote my previous post I was playing 6. One day, my coach/boyfriend comes into the room shortly after I started a session and takes the mouse from my hands. I thought he wanted to check something on the internet, so I let him. Next thing I know, he walks out of the room with a semi-evil smile on his lips and I have 3 more tables popping up on my screen!!! "Good luck" he says and closes the door behind him. I really felt like shouting at him, but I obviously didn't have time for that... I could barely manage 9tabling and after 5 minutes I had an awful headache that just wouldn't go away. My eyes were going back and forth trying to keep up with the action and I was finding it hard to do so, let alone think about what would be the best play in each situation. I felt like I was going crazy! I reduced to 8 tables and then to 7 thinking that if he came back in the room and accused me of not 9tabling as he obligated me to, I had plenty of objects like books, shoes etc. within my reach to throw at him. Fortunately for him, he didn't come back.

I realized however, that I could easily play 7 tables. So after a couple of days I moved to 8. And a couple of days after that I went up to 9. At 9 tables I always got a bit of a headache at first, but after some sessions that  went away. I'm playing 9 tables now, apart from the times when I have a disagreement with my TableNinja who probably has a bug and insists that I should be playing 10 tables even when I tell him to just open 9. And the worst thing is, I cannot throw anything at him. Which might also be a good thing I guess cause he's a Ninja and all, so I can see that going bad for me. :P

A big win of March as far as poker is concerned is that I did reach Goldstar status as I had planned. Yeay!!! I had to be more strict about my program than the previous month and I also played more hours, but I made it! I also made it to 4k VPPs so now I'm going after the first $50 VIP Stellar Reward! Cool!

And as March was coming to an end my coach/boyfriend was telling me that the plan for April would be to maintain my Goldstar status, beat the $3.4 level and move up. All is well that ends well, right? Well guess again!

We were having dinner the other night, when he was silent for a while, thinking. You know those peaceful moments before the storm? That's exactly what I'm talking about. Then he says "Ok, listen. Your goals for next month will be the following:

1) Move up and play the $6.5s.
2) Post 20 hands that you have troubles with on the forums each week.
3) Reach Platinum status.
4) Be able to 12table by the end of April."

After successfully managing to not choke on my food, I started laughing. LOL, lol, LOL and lol again. "I'm not joking he said, why are you laughing?". "I know", I replied, "I'm laughing because that's better than crying which would also be appropriate in this situation". I mean, come on! Ok, #4 is doable. #3 sounds like a lot, Platinum is 7500 VPPs, but it's reasonable since we're talking about one level higher so I'll be getting more VPPs per tourney. #2 is where it gets hard though, because it takes me looooooots of time to go through my hand histories and think about all my plays and what could have gone wrong until I find some that I can't figure out by myself. And even after I do find some hands, it takes me more time to prepare a post with questions and a replayer video etc etc. As if it wasn't enough that I'll need to play more hours to reach Platinum, I'll need to increase my studying time as well! As for #1? OMG, I don't know what he was thinking. Maybe he wasn't thinking and it has to do with the phases of the moon or something... I mean, a)I'm losing at the current level I'm at and b) I don't have 100 buy-ins for the $6.5s. I only have 73 to be exact. But he made it more than clear that I have no saying on this matter, so starting from today, you'll be seeing me at the $6.5s.

Wish me luck, cause I'll need it! :P

P.S.: Sorry for the humongous post, I had a whole month to catch up with you! Oh, and happy April Fool's day!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Building up my bankroll


This week has been very good pokerwise. I have been playing a lot, more than ever before actually. All of the days apart from yesterday have been positive, and I have a new record of best day ever: 17 buy-ins up! I'm only missing around $30 to move up in stakes, which is awesome and I should be able to do it in a couple of days unless I start running really bad. 

In case you're wondering, not all of the money in my bankroll came from my winnings at the $1.75 turbos. PokerStars has a pretty good system of getting money here and there, which ends up being really profitable if you use it correctly. And since I have my boyfriend to help me with that, I'm making the most out of it. Let's start with the first deposit bonus: you get 100% bonus of the amount you deposit for the first time, up to $600. You don't get it right away, but you unlock it slowly as you play. I would be playing a lot anyway, so it's not like I'm doing something extra to win it. An getting an extra $10 every couple of days is huge for someone playing the micro-stakes. Note however, that I completely ignore the $600 that is now into my account from my first deposit. I just pretend that it's not there and I make my calculations subtracting that amount. If I were to take it into account, I would have enough to play the $6.5s which is way out of my skill right now. The plan is to withdraw that $600 as soon as I have all the bonus unlocked.

Another way to get free money is the Stellar Rewards, which I mentionned in my previous post. Apart from that there's also the Battle of the plantets, where you just need to be a little lucky to make it into the top100 that gets paid. I think I made it during last week, although I can't be sure cause the results are still being calculated. Probably another $5 from there. Finally, there's the weekly SilverStar freeroll (well, it's not exactly a freeroll you need to pay 100 FPPs which is like the equivalent of $1). I played my first one yesterday. It had 5734 players and paid to top 1080. I finished 188th, getting $30. Not bad at all!

The amounts I mention may sound insignificant to some of you, but keep in mind that for now I am a micro-stakes player and if you sum it all up it represents a good part of my bankroll. I will keep posting about this subject in the future, cause I think it's helpful for new players like me.

Another win of the week was a sit'n'go that I played in my boyfriend's HomeGame, where I somehow managed to make it into the money. He was the one who killed me though, I went all-in with AJ from the SB and he called me with AT and got lucky. It would have been nice to stick around and eliminate him as he had a bounty on his head, but still, I am not complaining, I got my $9 and I'm happy with it :)

Finally, I'd like to share with you a funny hand from one of my sngs yesterday. One moment you're playing 8handed and then next thing you know, you're on the bubble... I know some of the players where extremely short, but still, not the kind of thing that happens everyday to see 5 people all-in:

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

SilverStar and Goals for March

Hi everyone!

Soooo... February is gone already! I had a cold for about a week, which slowed down my poker activities a bit. Apart from that, I also got a downswing (I think it was around -17 buy ins) that affected my mood and my will to play. During that period, I didn't seem to be able to win with any good hand. I dreaded kings for example. Everytime I had pocket kings I would lose, most of the times being all-in preflop and getting called by worse hands, which means that it was hardly my fault/missplay. But still. One day I counted getting kings 5 times out of which the only one I won was when I got a walk. Great.

When I was at my lowest, I stopped opening tables in the middle of a session cause I was feeling really bad for not making the money in the vast majority of the tournaments I had played that day and I went to the forums. I was reading threads like "longest time without winning" where players were basically comparing who had the biggest number of tournaments in a row without winning... I was pretty impressed with what I read and it did make me feel better to see that even good players happen to get really really unlucky at some point.

Variance is very hard to handle. Especially for new players. I mean, you know that luck is involved in this game, and logic tells you that it is natural to have good days and bad days. And of course, we all keep hearing stories of people that run awfully bad and got crushed here and there. But no matter how many stories you hear, nothing can really prepare a new player for when it happens to them. The first thing that comes to your mind is "Is it variance or am I just a bad player?". And the bad news is, you cannot get a straightforward answer. You just need to play more and more to find out, which is exactly what you DON'T want to do at that moment. The good news is, I'm pretty sure even good winning players ask themselves the same question from time to time when variance catches up with them. It just makes you doubt your skill, regardless of whether you are indeed skillful or not.

Anyway, losing really did make me question myself so apart from the days I was sick I also spend another week away from the tables studying. I reread Phil Shaw's "Secrets of Sit'n'Gos", and I must say that reading it for the second time felt like going through a different book. It definately helps to read the same book more than once cause you might find things that you missed the first time. I took lots of notes, and made new spreadsheets to help me while I'm playing. I noticed however, that after a week of study, I tend to use my spreadsheets far less than I did before. I m also halfway through Dusty Schmidt's "Treat your Poker like a business", which is a very inspirational book (even more so if you're having a downswing :P ) and it has a lot of good advice about everything related to poker that is not strategy and you normally don't find in poker books. A must have for anyone who wants to make a living or have a good additional income out of poker in my opinion.

I finished the month more or less break even, which is ok for a beginner I guess. That said, I do have one achievement: I made it to SilverStar! Considering I didn't play the full month, I'd say it was a pretty easy thing to do. What is not going to be easy is my goal for this month: GoldStar. It's going to be tough though. If calculations are correct, I need to play 8 hours per day, 6 days per week in order to make it to GoldStar. I'll keep playing the $1.75s since my bankroll and my level of skill do not allow anything else, but I will try to put in more volume comparing to last month. More specifically, the goal is to reach 4.000 VPPs, which is the last $10 milestone on PokerStars. After that, for an additional 1.000 VPPs you get $50! Their VIP Stellar Rewards system is pretty cool, if I manage to get to 5k VPPs in April the boost will be huge as $50 represents one fourth of my current bankroll. If all goes well, I might even be able to move up in stakes next month!

Finally, here's a little something I stumbled upon at the mall yesterday: The ultimate poker bracelet!

It has the ingredients of success:
- A red and a black bow to represent the two colors of suits.
- A rabbit for good luck
- A dice to keep variance at bay
- An ace for good cards
- A pearl for a rich bankroll
- A crown for first place finishes
- A club cause well, it is the prettiest of all four suits, right?

I'm taking my lucky charm bracelet for a test drive right after finishing this post. I'll let you all know how it went. LOL!

Have a great month of March!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

First day up and 6tabling

Hi everyone!

After the almost going broke point, my bankroll got a boost by a deposit of 100 buy-ins. The first day I played with a bigger bankroll I ended up break even, but yesterday I had my first positive day! When I was done playing, I had more or less 14 buy-ins more than when I started, which feels great! I hope I can get a lot more positive days like this one, cause apart from being good for my bankroll, it's also good for my self-confidence.

Another thing that I wanted to talk about is the chat. As of the beginning of 2011 I've turned the chat off. One reason for that is the hater comments. I've worked really hard on learning how to steal the blinds at higher levels, and I'm still struggling with that. I don't need anyone calling me a donk when I'm blind-stealing and the person wakes up with aces or when they call me with something they shouldn't be calling in the first place and get lucky. It's not even about hurting my feelings anymore. It's about the fact that if I make a steal attempt that doesn't work and I'm being called names on top of losing the hand and sometimes the tournament, I know for a fact that next time a similar situation comes up I will be more reluctant to make a move even if I think it's the correct one. I start doubting myself, and bottom line this situation affects my play. Which is something no player should allow to happen, let alone a new one who is not sure about most of the things he/she is doing anyway.

Another reason to turn the chat off was the small talk that often starts in tournaments, the social part of the game.  Greeks were not so common to bump into (even though lately I'm happy to say that I run into more and more greeks at the tables), so every time I was in the same table as a greek it was almost for sure that there would be some kind of conversation. I also play with the screen name "katerina289" which makes it obvious to everyone that I'm a girl, so I would get questions like "Oh you're greek and a woman, that's cool, haven't seen that many women playing here, how long have you been playing, etc. etc." And don't get me wrong, I enjoy that kind of conversation, I'm not anti-social or anything. Sometimes I would even start coversations too, like when I saw a portuguese player from Lisbon I would go like "Hey I live in Lisbon too!" etc. etc. There are lots and lots of nice people out there. But that's all just a big distraction. I'd like to make a living out of poker one day, and chatting with random people while trying to learn how to play is not getting me there anytime sooner. On the contrary. So if you are serious about poker and you find that you have time to chat, my suggestion is turn the chat off and open more tables.

Speaking of more tables, I am 6tabling now. I moved up from 4 tables directly to 6, which I wouldn't do so by myself, but my coach/boyfriend insisted. And who am I to doubt the big pro, right? :P I did freak out at first at the idea of playing 6 at a time, and I freaked out a bit more when I opened them and my eyes couldn't keep up with the action going on, and my brain couldn't keep up with what my eyes were seeing. Huge mess at first, but after the first couple of hours it was ok. I've only played two days like this, but I feel fine 6tabling now. Not sure if I'm ready for any more tables at this point, probably not, but as long as I can play 6 and get results like yesterday's, I'm happy for now.

These were my news so far, good luck to you all!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Long time, no news

It's been three months since my last post... I didn't really plan on not writing for so long, I just got caught up with university and did some travelling which left little or no time for poker.

As of last week, I'm done with university and exams (yeayyy!) so I have more time overall. Therefore, this week I have been in a "poker intensive" mode. I'm back to watching educational videos, playing and reviewing my games on SitNGo Wizard. I gave up on the knock-outs and I'm playing the $1.75 turbos, basically because the turbo tournaments are faster, which means I can play a bigger volume. Also, the players at the turbos are much better in my opinion, which is good since my main goal now is to improve my game.

Having said that, it only took me a bit more than a week to go broke. I have played around 150 games total. I'm also using table ninja while playing (that program is so cool!), which made going broke a slight surprise since I wasn't manualy registering... There I was, 4tabling, when suddenly a message pops up saying something like "The buy-in of the tournament you are trying to register exceeds the amount in your account"... Niiiiiiiiiice...Well, technically I'm not totally broke, cause I won one of the tables I was playing at that time, so in theory I can still make a comeback :P

The funny thing is, it didn't affect me as much as I thought it would. I was feeling worse on other losing days than yesterday that I hit the bottom... I think that's cause I'm happy with the way I played most of the times and reviewing my hands on SitNGo Wizard I have been finding less and less mistakes lately. Also, I started with 25 buy-ins which is not THAT much anyway, even pros are expected to have downswings of 20 buy-ins if not more, let alone a new player like me. Have you ever gone broke? If so, please share your story, any word of sympathy during these difficult times will be much appreciated! :P

I'm still reading "Kill Everyone". That book is pretty big, and I spend most of my studying time on SitNGo Wizard anyway. What I've been loving about the book so far, is the way everything is presented. Apart from the content being extremely good, it feels more like a friend is talking to you about his poker adventures than reading a book. The examples are not "player A and player B", but actual people (quite often well-known players) and real situations in real tournaments. I dunno why, but I find that with this method everything stays in your head longer. This is the first time I've caught myself laughing out loud while reading a poker book. For example, this is part of the author's comment on online players : "When they make a bonehead play that knocks them out, they don't have to face the discomfort of slinking out of a cardroom (the walk of shame), while the whole table stares at them with mixed looks of pity and disgust". And later on: "Many players online will get married to top pair and you couldn't get them off it with a carload of dynamite". LOL. Not quite the standard poker book language, don't you think?

Speaking of getting married to a hand (I guess you remember my marriage issues from my previous post), I am proud to say I folded aces! It was on the flop, where after all the pre-flop raising and such, I found myself against two opponents and a JcTc9c board. Before I had time to do anything (I was on the button), the first opponent raises big, and the second one re-raises. The pot was huge, and considering all the action and the super scary board, I folded my pocket aces. I was lucky enough to satisfy my curiosity since both other players ended up all-in and showed their cards, one had pocket 5s and the other one was on a flush draw. As it turned out on the river I would win the pot had I insisted, but I'm happy with the way I played. After watching the replay coach/boyfriend confirmed it was indeed a good fold. :)

Overall thoughts about poker: this game is the deepest and toughest I have ever encountered (apart from chess perhaps). The more I study and get into it, the more I admire people who are good at it. And with all the information that's out there, sometimes I can't help but feel overwhelmed cause it's all too much to absorb. And there are always so many out there that are better than you and that are going to outplay you, that you feel like you are swimming in a sea full of sharks. At least that's how I feel sometimes. I definately understand the shark-fish poker talk a lot better now. :P

And just when I'm sitting frustrated in front of my computer screen, my coach/boyfriend shows up and puts me another quizz on SitNGo Wizard. "After doing this shove/fold from the SB 1000 times, you'll be sure what to do next time this situation comes up in a tournament". And I do. Even though I'm in the dark during certain parts of the game, I'm also 100% sure what to do on others. Taking one step at a time is the only way to do it I guess. (By the way, I've done 3k+ quizes on that thing :P )

Last but not least, I can always count on my coach to boost up my confidence:

-Katerina (after a losing session) : Am I the worst student you ever had?
-André: You're the best greek student I've had. : D
-Katerina: Really, tell me, am I the worst student you ever had?
-André: You're my best female student. : D

Needless to say, André's students were all portuguese guys. Good thing he's also my boyfriend. At least I can count on a tactfull answer :P

See you around, until then good luck at the tables!


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