Monday, 19 March 2012

MTTs are bad for your health

Yesterday, I confirmed my suspicions that MTTs (=Multi Table Tournaments) are bad for your health. And if we cannot accept it as a general rule, I assure you that they are bad for me in particular. I played one yesterday and I'm still paying the price. Huge mistake.

Now, you're probably wondering why I found myself playing an MTT since I'm only playing the hyper-turbos... Well, let's not forget (like I did yesterday) that the hypers I'm playing are actually satellites to other tournaments. Which basically means - and no, I'm not kidding- that if you register at a satellite at 17:25 that feeds a tournament that starts at 17.30 and you win (which should be your objective anyway), then as soon as the satellite window closes, another one will open taking you directly to your seat in the main event. No chance to unregister or anything like that. Welcome to the MicroMillions event #32. The buy-in was $11, which I would prefer to not have paid considering that the event gathered a bit more than 40k people, but only paid to the top 5.300. Chances of getting my money back: slim.

So there I was at 17.30, starting an MTT tournament with 8 more people in my table (which seemed strangely crowded if you are used to play with 6 people total), and 5.000 chips which I had no idea how to use that deep. The blinds were 10/20 on the first level, which comparing to the hyper-turbos seems like another universe! Wondering what on earth to do and how to play, I opened my old notebook from a year ago, from when I was giving a try to the 9max turbos. It must have been funny to see me trying to play well at the hyper-turbos that I had opened (I wouldn't give up an afternoon's work for an MTT), trying to pay attention to what's happening at the MTT , while at the same time going through the pages of my old notebook and trying to quickly remember how to play poker and flops (as if there's such a thing as quickly remembering how to play!). 

My strategy was to focus on the hyper-turbos, and only play premium hands in the MicroMillions main event. And that's what I did. However, I found myself getting quite a lot of playable hands, and so I started playing more and more. I didn't get involved into any really big pots, and kept getting chips from here and there. Mostly, I would raise preflop and my opponents would fold so nothing too exciting. However, I saw my stack growing and growing, at some point I had more chips than anyone else at my table and things were going well. I might be able to make it into the money after all, I thought. Even when the blinds got significantly higher and I was no longer the "richest" person at the table, I still maintained a respectable stack. When we reached the bubble, my stack still allowed me to play comfortably and walk away from any complicated situations. I was far from blinding out, so I mostly had to fold to make it into the money. Which did happen eventually, and I was at least guaranteed to finish with around $20, not bad considering I got there through a $4 satellite. 

But the tournament was still running and I was among the top 1.000 players out of the 5.000 that were still alive. The blinds were 1500/3000. And around 21.00 o'clock (after 3 and a half hours of playing the MTT), I got aces on the button. Wow, I thought, this has potential. And I see the person under the gun shoving. He was kind of short, so nothing too exciting, but a good thing anyway when you are sitting there comfortably with your aces and you're just waiting for the action to get to you. Suddenly, I see the player on my left shoving a stack of 100k chips!!! WOW, I mean, WOW, what more can a player ask when holding such a hand, right? I'll tell you what they hope for: to win. When all the cards were revealed, the first player showed JJ and the second (with the juicy stack) showed TT. Do I need to analyze how bad it felt when the flop came K-T-3? It was the worst case scenario, cause even if I somehow lost to the Jacks, there would be still a huge sidepot for me to collect. But no, the guy had to get his Ten, leaving me with less than 3BB and practically eliminating me from the tournament. 

I finished 4232th in a field of 40k+ players, which sounds pretty good, right? Yet at that point, I didn't care about the $24,46 I received (which in a normal situation I would be happy for). I could only see my opponent sitting on the 15th place of the tournament with a 202K that was almost mine. True that it doesn't mean much, and even if I had that stack I could just as well lose it later either by losing another all-in or by seeing it slowly go away with my rather ignorant way of playing. But it just felt awful and unfair.

Had it been a sit-n-go, I would "take it like a man" (or in this case like a woman) that I lost with AA and I'd go open another sit-n-go. But there's something about the fact that I dedicated 3,5 hours to one specific tournament just to see all my efforts disappear in one second that gets to me. I know that it is an MTT and that their very nature is like that. That's probably why I don't like them and why I will probably never grind them. I spent some time thinking about it afterwards, and I think that so many people are drawn by MTTs because of that rush of adrenaline whenever you know that you may double up or lose everything. To me, their behavior is similar to that of people playing the lottery. They know that the chances of them winning something big are next to none, yet they play over and over again. That's how I can explain the fact that the Sunday Million gets thousands and thousands of players every week despite the $215 buy-in. I bet that the vast majority among them does not have the bankroll to play that kind of tournament. 

Apart from the rush of adrenaline that may motivate some, I believe it's also because both lotteries and MTTs give you the opportunity to dream. No matter how thin, you do have a chance to win the first prize. And you start to think about what you would do with all that money. Even though it's far away when you are starting the tournament, the more you play the closer it gets. That's why it's so devastating when you lose. That's why yesterday I felt like I lost $40k when I lost that hand, instead of winning $24,46 which is what actually happened. And yeah, I know that there was no chance I'd win the tournament unless the gods gave me aces and kings every single time. I started this post saying that I had no idea how to play. Yet the MTTs have a way of messing with your emotions in a way that sit-n-gos don't. And that's exactly my point.

As for the rest of the day, I was running pretty bad at the hyper-turbos (I think I was like -$150 at some point), then I recovered it all and was more or less break even, but André had not finished his tournaments and asked me to stay another half hour. In that half hour, I managed to lose quite a bit, finishing the day negative. It's all in the graphic below:

On the positive side, I increased the number of tables to five and sometimes I even played six (although that was not for long cause it gave me a headache). Not only that, but I was playing ok and got an upswing during that 5-6 tabling period.

I went back home feeling exhausted and disappointed. I was so tense, that even though I was tired and should be sleepy, I couldn't relax enough to sleep. I ended up going around the house long after André was asleep, checking random stuff on the internet and watching comedies on our Blu-Ray. When André woke up at 5.00 am to host the final table of the Sunday Million, I was still awake and full of energy. We watched the sun go up, and after the Sunday-Million was over we played a couple games of Magic: The Gathering. We had some new decks to try, and it seemed appropriate to do so at 6.00 a.m. in the morning. After that, tiredness started to kick in and I finally fell asleep.

I woke up at 14.00 today, too tired to do anything. The combination of an MTT and a bad run at the hypers is the recipe for disaster, that much I guarantee! Not being able to do much, I limited myself to study and write this post. I'll resume playing tomorrow, after a good night's sleep. See you then at the tables!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

It's a long long long way down

Hi everyone!

After my last post, I went up in stakes and started grinding the satellites of $8 and $4 for the MicroMillions events. Sometimes I would also play the $3. I also increased the number of tables I'm playing, and now I'm at 4. I am pretty comfortable with 4tabling, but whenever I accidentally open 5 tables I start losing focus, so I'm definitely not there yet. Also, I'm playing with my chat off. At this point I need to focus completely on the game and I don't need any distractions.

One thing I noticed immediately when I stopped playing the $0.35s is that people were not playing flops. I mean, it can happen from time to time, sure, but it's nothing like what was going on in the lowest stakes. That means that multitabling got a bit more difficult since the games run faster. 

But what I really want to comment in this post, is that variance finally caught up with me (as always!). After my initial good run, during the past week I have been running from bad to awful. I've only had one single winning day, and it was not anything great since I only had a $7 profit. The rest of the week I've been losing, losing and losing some more. It's really frustrating, because sometimes it really feels like the universe is conspiring against me. When I go all in with my aces or kings and lose, even though it sucks, I can understand that I'm just being unlucky and I can rationalize my feelings. But when I'm going all in with more controversial hands, even though at the beginning of the day I know that a certain play is correct, at the end of the day where I have been called by 34o and lost because the opponent got a 3 on the river, I am suddenly not so sure about myself. I don't want to turn this blog into my own whining place but I think it's really interesting how a downswing or bad luck can affect your mind.

I personally think that I have a very low resistance to downswings. And since losing is part of the game, any player that has trouble accepting it, like me, has a problem. And what makes the situation even more difficult to deal with, is that there is no obvious cure even after you admit you have a problem. If you admit that you are a bad player, or have X leaks, you study and try to fix them. What do you do when your problem is purely psychological? I honestly don't have an answer to that. The fist thing you can do I guess, is bankroll management. If your bankroll is at least 100 buy-ins of the stakes you are playing, then it will probably be able to go through all the ups and downs of luck. If it drops really low, that can only mean one of the following: 
a) You are being extremely unlucky, or
b) You are not good enough to beat the stakes you are playing and it would be wise for you to move down.

That being said, it still bothers me when I constantly lose. It's not about the money, at least not at the stakes I'm playing. I'm not playing with the rent of the month, nor is the amount I lose relevant for my everyday life. Since I'm still in the learning-how-to-play process, everything was calculated so that bad luck does not mess with my emotions. And yet it does. After spending a whole day in front of the computer, it brings me down to go home with a loss, even if the amount I lost would not be enough for me to buy a chewing gum. I know that I've been unlucky, but then I start the "what if" questions. "What if I'm a losing player?", "What if I lose all of my bankroll?", "What if all hell breaks loose?", and so on. In my attempt to think rational, I start being completely irrational. Funny, huh? I think it takes a lot of time and patience until one can train themselves to think and react in a different way. 

I've been talking with André about it and he said that recently he had a 10k tournaments downswing. That number made my head spin. Ten thousand tournaments where you keep losing money? That is crazy! Think about it, most of us do not play that many tournaments in a whole year! I asked him how long that downswing lasted. He said it was about a month. Then, he recovered the money in one single day. What's really impressive is that he kept being cool (or as cool as possible) during the downswing, so that when good luck came his way, he was at the tables playing his A game. If I were in his shoes, I would have quit playing poker way before I got to be lucky. And that alone says a lot.

Anyway, my bankroll has suffered a hit, but I'm still far from having to drop to lower stakes. What's going to be interesting is that from today the MicroMillions main events started running, so I will not be able to play those satellites anymore. What was good about playing those, is that I set my TableNinja filter once in the beginning of the day and then I did not need to worry about it. Now, I will need to be constantly checking when this or that tournament is starting in order to find games to play and unregister from the main event in time before it starts. Since I don't have a program of the games that are running every day, and sometimes they are different from one day to the other, it's going to be hard to make a consistent playing schedule... But there's no alternative!

Before I go, I will leave you with the highlight of my bad beats... So there we are, playing 4-handed when the button goes all-in. I happily shove over the top with my kings... How did I lose the hand and shortly after the tournament? You can see it here:

Thank you all for reading. See you at the tables!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Quantity vs Quality (+office tour!)


I hope you are all doing great! Some days ago, I had to go through a pretty intense conversation with my boyfriend about what stakes I should be playing and how many tables at the same time. As you probably remember from my last post, I was playing the $18.77 satellites, one table at a time. 

However, last Sunday we noticed that there were tons of satellites running for the MicroMillions, some events that Pokerstars will have between the 15th and the 25th of March. The satellites had pretty low stakes, with the lowest one being $0.35... André thought that it made sense for me to increase the number of tables I was playing but decrease the stakes. I, on the other hand, thought the exact opposite. To me it makes more sense to stay at the $18.77, pay attention at only one table and actually learn. I think I should only increase the number of tables whenever I feel more comfortable.

I guess it's all a matter of perspective, but on this subject our perspectives were different. If I was feeling like the players at the $18.77 were a lot better than me, I would voluntarily move down. However, I didn't feel so much behind and I could learn a thing or two from the better players around me. André kept insisting that I should focus on increasing the number of tables first and then work more intensively on my game. He wants me to be able to play 6 tables by the end of March, by the way. Just to prove his point, and even though I never said I could 6table, he opened 6 satellites of $0.35s and asked me to play. During the first level of blinds I managed, but at the second one I started losing it, making mistakes that I wouldn't make had I been able to pay attention to all 6.

I complained that there is no point in playing many tables against the people of those stakes because the game they play has nothing to do with that of the higher levels, so I'm not really learning much of anything. Not to mention that even if I can 6table the $0.35s, I will probably not be able to 6table the $18.77 because the average player is much better and therefore presents you with more complicated decisions. I don't want to sound like a know-it-all, cause that's not the case, but people play a loooot of flops at those stakes. And how many flops can you play with a starting stack of 10BB? Not to mention those guys who are chipleaders on the bubble, yet they are trying to make sure that they finish the tournament on the 1rst position and shove like there's no tomorrow, even though the prize for the 1rst is the same as that for the 2nd.

And yes, I'm well aware that in poker you should always be happy to play with players worst than you, because with every little mistake they make they leak equity to you and increase your long-term profits. In the case of the $0.35 though, where the prize is $1 for the first and $1 for the second, I don't think I need to talk more about the "profits". Also, I played around 120 tournaments yesterday and got something like 7 VPPs. At this pace, I won't ever make it to SilverStar even if all I do in my life is eat, sleep and play poker.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bash the MicroMillions or the micro-stakes in general. I think they are excellent for certain people, like those who want to built a bankroll literally from zero, those who want to qualify for a bigger even or those who simply want to have fun playing poker. I'm just saying that they are not suited for me in particular. But since André was insisting and one of us had to back up eventually, I let it go and I have been playing the $0.35s.

The very next day after that conversation, I spent some time with him reviewing some of my games. From the questions I was asking and the comments I was making, he decided that I should be playing higher than that. He told me I could move up as long as I had 100 buy-ins, which means that with my current bankroll I can play up to the $10 satellites. I guess he also realized, while reviewing my games, what I was saying all along: that these games are not at all educational. But since I'm a bit stubborn myself, I refused to move up and told him that since his plan was for me to play the micros, then that's where I would stay. I did keep playing them for some days. I like 3tabling during 4 hours to get 7 VPPs... Kidding!

Nah, I think a week of the micros was enough for me to prove my point and from now on I'll play higher. I haven't decided on the stakes exactly (with my limit being $10 per tournament), but I think I'll go up gradually so that the difference of the players doesn't make a huge impact.

Apart from that, I keep running good. Since I started playing again, I've only had one losing day and it was something like 4 buy-ins so not a bit deal. André has been quite helpful with answering my questions, even though I'd like to have more coaching. But he is pretty busy with his own stuff so, can't have it all I guess.

In my previous post, I mentioned that we have an office. André thought that it would be more productive to have a working space outside of the house. No more playing in my pjs! :( On the good side, it definitely helps you stay more focused at what you are doing cause there are less distractions. Anyway, since we will be spending a lot of time in the office from now on, it was important that both of us feel good in there. Therefore,  we both contributed equally in the decoration and the setup of the space. Here are some pics:

Cozy, isn't it?

André discovered that couch while we were shopping at IKEA. Excellent if you need to take a nap in between sessions!

FBI headquarters. Kidding, it's just our desks from the back...

My desk! With my beloved Mac keyboard of course.

André's desk. From this angle it kinda looks like the interior of a spaceship, don't you think? :P

My froggy and my plant! 

Entrance (Kitchenette on the left, printer and writing materials on the right)

Kitchenette with all the essentials: a toaster, a boiler and my new love: a Nespresso coffee machine!!! The microwave was already there but we never use it.

Fridge and food supplies

The idea was to make it comfortable, but not too comfortable at the point where we get lazy and we feel like we're at home. Cause then what would be the point of moving our working space, right? I hope you enjoyed reading this post. See you at the tables!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Poker Break Over

Hello!!! :)

As you can guess from the title, I AM BACK! My poker break lasted quite a bit longer than Ι originally expected... The reasons for that are more personal than poker related, which is why I don't see the point in writing anything more about it here. I just want to apologize to the people that were regularly following my blog for disappearing without a trace. I know that some have asked André about me... Thank you for your interest!

So... Around the end of January I decided that it was time to go back to playing poker. The question was... where do I go back to exactly? Playing 9man turbo sit-n-gos like before? Or should I try something new? And what could that be? Initially, I was almost convinced to try playing cash games. I think that cash games players are some of the best poker players out there and that they have a deep understanding of the game. And I mean, even if I decided to play the 9man turbos eventually, the time I would have spent learning cash games would not be a complete waste, since my postflop play would get a lot better.

But then my boyfriend, André, was like "You know that what I'm best at is hyper-turbos, I could teach you how to play those". Yep, good argument. If I chose to learn cash games he could point me in the right direction and tell me what to study and what to do more or less, but he could not actually teach me himself cause that's not his format. With the hyper-turbos, it's completely different. He's one of the top players in the world, so he definitely knows what he's talking about. I do feel kind of bad that I won't be playing flops anymore cause that steals a bit of poker's magic, but hey, I'll go with the pro's advice, can you blame me? :P

So in the beginning of last week, I arrive to the office all ready for my first day of hyper-turbos (yep, we have an office now! More about it in an upcoming post!). I sat on the other side of the table and André gave me 5 spreadsheets. Needless to say, I had absolutely no idea about how these games are played. I spent a day in the past converting my FPPs into money playing hyper-turbos, but that was about it and it's been mooooonths since then. Could have been a past life, that's how much I remember about it. So I took the spreadsheets in my hands and looked at it like it was Chinese. He spent a bit more than half an hour explaining to me how to read them and some basic rules, and then we went to my Pokerstars lobby to set the filters.

Hyper-turbos basically run in satellites, which means that the stakes you have to chose from vary depending on the day of the week and the time of the day. It works like this: you register at a satellite that starts with 6 players. The first two win an entry to the tournament for which the satellite qualifies. The third player gets a small amount of money, but it's irrelevant comparing to the buy-in, so we'll just assume that the third player gets nothing to make things easier. Now, if you register at another satellite but when you win, you are already registered for the tournament it qualifies for, then Pokerstars deposits the buy-in of that tournament to your account in the form of $t money.

I started playing some $3 tables, but those run out quickly as the tournament that they were giving entry to started. Then the lowest satellites I could find were those qualifying for some Sunday tournaments and the buy-in was $18.77. Not even in my best days of poker have I played that high. But since there was no other option, I had to play those.

The day went by with me one-tabling (OF COURSE!) and trying to find where on earth among the spreadsheets that I lay out all over my desk was the answer to the play I had to do. And I had the luxury or 8 full seconds to find what was the correct play before the clock started ticking. Cause yeah, that's how much time you have to react in those. HYPER. TURBOS. I was feeling lost to say the least. In retrospect, that day was kind of Karate Kid style. You know that classic scene from the movie, where the student shows up to Mr. Miyagi's house to learn karate, but ends up painting the fence instead? Then, after a lot of hours and while he's about to go home disappointed, Mr. Miyagi shows up and the kid realizes that by painting the fence he learnt some defense techniques... Well, after a day of "What on earth am I doing", "I don't know how to play this", "Why did he leave me all by myself in front of the computer" and "Oh, that was the calling range, not the shoving range", I went to have dinner with André. He asked me "What did you learn today?". I was like "Are you kidding me? Nothing!!!". But then he asked me a couple of questions and to my surprise I answered correctly. Hmm. I guess the day was not a complete waste after all, even though I probably know less poker than that kid knew karate.

Anyway, the rest of the week I pretty much only tried to get better at using the spreadsheets, which is not as easy as it may sound at first. Right now, I'm pretty confident with what to push and what to fold during the first level without checking them. Once the blinds go up it gets tricky, and the bubble... That's a whole different story! As you may have already guessed, the info I have on the papers in front of me is not nearly enough to cover all of the situations that come up in a tournament so eventually I need to make my own decisions and learn how to play the game. I think the next thing I'm going to challenge myself with, is playing two tables. I tried it a bit the other day and lost every single tournament I registered to. At some point, I also registered to a third table by mistake, and nearly went crazy!!! Apart from that, I think the poker gods have gifted me with good variance as a welcome back present, and I have been running amazingly good. My winnings are something like $700, which if you take into account the fact that I'm one-tabling and have been playing for about a week, is pretty awesome. I just brace myself for when the other side of variance comes my way...

So for now, my poker time goes by the following way: play one satellite, review my game and study it, play another satellite, study another satellite, interesting part, boring part, interesting part, boring part... I really don't find it that exciting to stare at the re-player and squeeze my mind about what I did right or wrong, but I guess that if you want to learn it's inevitable...

And before I go, here's a funny one:

The funny part is not the hand itself, but my opponent's name... For those of you who are not greek and do not understand what it means, let's just say that if Pokerstars had a way of controlling what each single nickname means in every language, they wouldn't have allowed this one! ;)

Anyway, keep checking back for updates on my adventures in the hyper-turbo world. I'll be blogging again from now on!

See you at the tables! :D


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