Wednesday, 29 August 2012

And the beat goes on...

...Or in this case, it's the coaching that goes on! For those of you who didn't read my previous post, I have been having coaching with André since the beginning of the month. Until recently I was having 2 hours of coaching per day, I was studying 4 hours by myself and playing 2 hours. I was playing the $7.49 hypers and it was going pretty well. 

That schedule was recently changed to 6 hours of playing plus 4 hours of coaching. Even though now it's a total of 10 hours per day, I prefer this program over the previous one as I find it a lot more interesting. Not to mention how lucky I feel that André decides to give me 4 hours of his working time on a daily basis. That's a lot of time.

Now to the next topic. Back in July André made me a bankroll management guide. Here it is:

So based on what my bankroll is, I can check the table and see what are the stakes that I'm "allowed" to play. Before you start arguing about whether the current bankroll management is good or bad, let me tell you that it was specifically made for my case and what I'm trying to achieve this year. It may or may not apply to other people, I don't know. What I'm trying to say is, I'm not presenting this as the "golden rule" of managing your roll or anything, it's just what I'm currently using as a guide. As you can see, the $74s are the end game for this year and I'm not going to play higher than that even if my bankroll allows me to. That said, I do feel a million miles away from the $74s not only in terms of bankroll but also in terms of game play. 

But let's move on to why I started talking about bankrolls... In the beginning of August and almost throughout the entire month I was playing the $3s and the $7s. Coaching has helped a lot and I have been running good, so my bankroll kept going up and up... Until it hit the point where I was supposed to move up in stakes and mix in the 18s... That's when I started getting cold sweat and even though I had the bankroll, I didn't move up for a couple of days... Basically because I was traumatized by the last time I played those games back in May. If you don't remember my huge downswing and you'd like to see a graph, click here.

When I eventually did start playing the 18s the impact of the first day was kind of hard, because up to the $7s there are plenty of occasional players whose names you don't recognize and you see lots of bronze/silver/gold stars. Suddenly, you move up to the $18s and it's mostly supernovas and above or people that you know for a fact are regulars... I must admit it's kind of intimidating. Not to mention the obvious, people simply play better. And you feel it right away. I remember I went home that night and I bombed André with questions and told him about stuff that I hadn't seen people do at the lower buy-ins.

That said, the poker gods do seem to favor me lately and I'm on a good run again. That's awesome, cause I don't know if I could take another downswing right after moving up like last time. Here's my graph at the $18s since the beginning of the month:

And since I started with the graphs, here is my graph for the lower stakes (it includes mostly $7s but also some $3s): 

I'm obviously on the good side of variance, but I think coaching has a lot to do with these results. Speaking of which, we've had some very heated discussions with my coach.

The other day, a pretty interesting hand came up. Now, I only have this in a video and I guess I could pause it and take a printscreen but I don't want to expose the names of my opponents or the stats I have on them so we'll have to do it the good old fashioned way with pen and paper. Here's the situation: 

So here's what we know: Players 1 and 4 are good regulars. Player 3 we don't know much about, except that he is probably tight. Player 2 is not much of an issue because he is on the big blind, extremely short and is obligatorily all-in (hence the side pot already created in the middle of the table). The blinds level is 50-100 with an ante of 20. Player 3 shoves and Player 4 shoves over the top. I'm sitting comfortably on the button with my 1448 chips and it would be an easy thing to walk away from the hand, only I've been dealt pocket Queens. What is the correct play here?

André was saying that it's a fold. His reasoning was the following: I'm the chip leader at the moment, Player 2 is practically dead (he only had 12 chips when the hand begun so even if he wins this hand he is still most likely to bust soon). We don't know what Player 3 is shoving with, but since he is short and will be getting the big blind on the next hand we can't put him on the tightest range. Now Player 4 didn't just call, he shoved over the top risking a possible elimination from me if I decide to go with the hand as well. So his hand must be good and on a tight range. If I decide to fold, Player 1 may also call cause he is also very short. That would be a 4-way all in which is very good for me since I would be the only one that folded and with the chip lead. If Player 1 folds and Player 4 wins the hand, then we would be playing the bubble where I would have an extremely good position with the chip lead and a player with less than 2 blinds left. If Player 3 wins and doubles up, then I'm still at a good spot because at the next hand everyone will be much shorter than me and I can "bully" them around with my big stack.

So what did I do? I called. Simply because my hand was QQ and it has plenty of value by itself. If I lose, I'm still in a good position having more chips than player 1 and possibly player 3, while if I win I practically also win the tournament. And there comes the guessing part, cause when you put the hand in any ICM calculator you need to guess the ranges of each opponent. Unfortunately, this was the first time that our beloved ICMizer would not cooperate. It seems that the fact that the player on the big blind was so short was messing with the program's parameters and as a result it was saying that the hand was not valid to be analyzed (same as when you put all players folding for example). And it's not like we could give a few more chips to player 2 cause him being obligatorily all in was crucial for the decision of how to play the hand.

But anyway, André did not completely dismiss my opinion and admitted that it also made sense and could possibly be the optimal play. That alone for me is a victory. There were more controversial hands like that that we discussed. I remember an ATo on the bubble which André was insisting it was a shove and I was insisting that it was a fold. That one we managed to put in ICMizer and... I was right! No matter how much André would mess slightly with the opponents' ranges here and there, it was always an indisputable fold. I tried to find the hand to include it in the post but I couldn't (I have hours and hours of footage so unless I remember the exact date and time of a hand it's almost impossible to find)... While André kept looking at the screen trying to accept his defeat, I went to the kitchen to get a bottle of... chocolate milk to celebrate (I figured champagne would not be a good option cause the coaching was not over yet). 

Then yesterday, when we did our usual quiz of "what would be the range to call in this situation", I got my first 100% correct guess. At some other point André paused the video and asked me "Why did you do this here? It's not correct". I justified my play with so many different arguments that in the end he had to go with it and move on.

Towards the end of the session, we were reviewing a bubble play. It was a spot where I was on the SB and I shoved against the BB. He told me that folding would be a better option in that particular case and explained why. Then he said "That's what makes the difference between a good player and a great one". I nodded, still thinking about the hand. The short conversation that followed is kind of funny.

André: I just gave you a compliment.
Me: Are you kidding me? You just said that the best thing would be to fold. I shoved, so how's that a compliment?
Andé: I just called you a good player.
Me: ...   : P

We just sat there laughing for a while. Then we decided to call it a day cause we were both tired. For all I know I may not even be a winning player at the $18s, but it was nice to receive a compliment from a hyper-turbo specialist. This past month alone I feel like I've progressed more than all the past months I've been playing the hypers all together. Which makes me wonder... Why did we lose so much time and we didn't try this coaching thing earlier? I don't really have a reply to that. I've had coaching sessions with André before, but I didn't like them or learn nearly as much as I do now. I guess it's not only the student that's evolving through the learning process, it's also the teacher.

Anyway, for the first time plays and numbers and cards actually start to somehow... make sense. Could I really be going from zero poker?

Friday, 17 August 2012

August schedule and Coaching


So, we're halfway through August already! July went by very fast and I didn't pressure myself at all when it came to FPPs and points and all that. As a result, I'm currently only Silverstar but I don't care much about that. As you probably know, I've been trying to work on my game.

After struggling by myself through the whole month of July, André finally decided to take the situation in his hands and make the following schedule for me:

10.00: Wake up
11.00: Working time
13.00: Lunch
15.00: Working time
20.00: Coaching
22.00: Dinner

Ok, you may think it's nothing exciting, and it's not like I cannot make my own schedule anyway. What's cool about this schedule in particular is that it's compatible with André's schedule and I get two hours of coaching with him. EVERY. DAY.

Do you remember a couple of months back where I almost had to beg him to coach me? I mean, yeah he was always there to guide me and give me some advice here and there, but actually sit with me at the computer and review hands? That was pretty rare. So you can imagine how excited I am that he is going to spend two hours with me on a daily basis. He said he is going to keep doing it at least until the end of the month.

What we do during those two hours? Well, earlier in the day I record my sessions. Then I take the recording to André and we review it together. I've already had some coaching sessions with him and I'm totally loving it. The first day though, we only managed to review around 30 minutes of my session in those two hours. Just by that you can see we had a lot to talk about. I don't know if André suddenly got better at coaching or if I am in a better position now to hear/understand what he has to say, but it's the first time since I started messing with the hyper-turbos that I feel I'm learning so much.

The rest of my "working time" consists of 2 hours of playing and 4 hours of studying by myself. These days, since I've only been playing for two hours per day, I play the $7.49s. Here is my graph since the beginning of the month:

Towards the end of the graph you can see that I had a bit of a downswing. On the worst day of August so far, I lost around 21 buy-ins. It's not a big deal anyway, but what's interesting is that when I took the recording of that particular day back to André, it was when he found the less mistakes than ever before. Bad variance will come sooner or later no matter how well you play, so I was happy that I was playing fine. That is the only thing I can control anyway. 

I really enjoy the coaching so far and I often find myself looking forward to that part of the day. I also think 2 hours of coaching with André makes me improve as a player much more than the 4 hours I spend studying by myself. Not to mention it's far more interesting.

Of course there are those times during the coaching sessions that we disagree about a play. I think the play is fine while André thinks it's not. Then we put the hand in an ICM calculator to find out who is right. There are two possible outcomes: either André is right or André is right. How does that happen? It's quite simple, here's an example:

Outcome #1: The ICM calculator says that my play was bad, giving away -0.05% equity. Since I lost equity, André is obviously right. Doesn't matter that my play was just slightly bad.

Outcome #2: The ICM calculator says that my play was good cause it earned me +0.10% equity. BUT André has some extra arguments there like "ICM calculators do not take into consideration what happens in the next hand", "I know it says it's good but I would still fold there because of this and that and blah blah blah" (this last one is evoking his super-powers as a pro) and so bottom line, Andre is right again.

Even though our conversations do get heated up sometimes, I have to admit that I've also been able to witness to the full extend how good he is at the hypers. When there is an ambiguous situation, he puts all the variables in the calculator and then before hitting the "calculate" button he asks me what I think the ranges will be. Most of the times I just raise my shoulders and say "I don't know" or I say what I think the range is more or less, but I never know what to say when it comes to those borderline hands. Then, he tells me his opinion. Imagine my surprise when we see the results and he gets everything almost completely right. There was one occasion where he got it 100% correct and I was staring at him like he was an alien or something. I asked him how he did that and he said "Tons of practice". Hm. I guess I have a long way to go...

I obviously have lots of things to learn, but since we starting the intensive coaching I feel that the way I play just keeps getting better and my perception of the game becomes clearer. I still have to be careful with what André calls "the fancy play syndrome", I'm learning a lot of new things in a short period of time and sometimes I tend to overdo it when I'm playing but oh well! I'm really enjoying this new approach overall!

If there's anything more you want to know about my coaching, please leave it in the comments below.

Until next time... See you at the tables!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Studying the Hyper-Turbos


Ok, I know it's been a while since my last post but you know... Summertime, nice weather, it's hard enough to be studying when you'd rather go to the nearest beach! But, as promised, it is time to make a post about how to study the Hyper-Turbos.

I want to clear out that I am not by any means an expert on the subject. This is just a presentation of what I did during the month of July which I dedicated to studying. So let's get started:

1. Make spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are very important because they help you have a clear vision of how to play. Yes, AA is a clear shove and 32 is a clear fold overall, but what do you do with the in between hands that are neither great nor awful? I know making spreadsheets is a huge headache and there is no clear answer on how to do them, but it's a crucial step. If you already have spreadsheets, review them and look for ways to make them better.

2. Study your opponents

You probably have an idea who your most frequent opponents are. Set a filter on Holdem Manager to find all the people that you have a lot of hands on and take a look at their statistics. Play around with the filters and the different options offered by the program. Try to figure out how they play, if they are loose, tight etc. and what their ranges are. Then, go to the notes of PokerStars client that appear while you are playing against them and insert any usefull information that can help you in game.

3. Study the bubble

Okay, so you have your basic game figured out and you know when to shove or call in the early stages of the tournament. Since hyper-turbians rarely play flops, the situations you come up with do not vary that much (comparing with regular tournaments that is). But what happens when you reach the bubble? There are bubbles where the chipleader has 2k+ chips and the other two players are struggling with what's left while in other cases the chipleader is only a slight favorite with 1.1k chips. You can be the short on the bubble with 2BBs, you can also be the short with 10BBs. And so on... How do you react in each case? I know some people have spreadsheets for the bubble as well, but I find that suddenly the possibilities of different situations become so many that it's hard to use that kind of spreadsheets. Making spreadsheets specifically for the bubble is good, studying them is good because you get a good idea about ranges, but using them while playing  at least for me, is very hard. I think the best option is to pull up all bubble hands that you have and review them, taking your time to think about each play seperately. After all, the bubble is the defining moment of the tournament that separates the winners from the losers so you should give it extra attention.

4. Get your notes organized

If you have no notes, I suggest you start keeping some. There's a lot of information out there, and there is no way our minds can keep it all. Whether it's a piece of advice from a friend, something you read on the Internet or an observation or a thought you had while you were playing, write it down. There are no hyper-turbo manuals out there (at least not as far as I know), so make your own. If you keep reviewing information that you think is useful, it will obligate you to think about certain stuff. If you have some golden rules, writing them down will help you keeping them clear and not forget about them as your style of play changes and evolves. You may also be more observant of some changes you make by comparing earlier notes with more recent ones. And since sometimes it's not enough to talk in general, make notes of specific situations. I find it easier to visualise if I have everything gathered up on paper so I came up with this: 

That is an improvised 6-max table that I made with Windows paint. I print several mini tables on a A4 page and then I take notes of plays where I am not sure what to do. Then, I pull them up on SitnGo Wizard (or any other similar program) and write down what the correct play is. Not only you clear out any doubts you have about that situation, but you gather up information that you can quickly review later. I know there is an option to "mark" some hands in PokerStars, but I never managed to figure out how it works. Oh well, I'm a pen and paper kind of person anyway...

5. Play less tables

This may be obvious to some of you, but I think it's important enough to include here. If you are studying your game and looking for leaks or ways to improve, it's not just about what you do away from the tables when you are pulling up ranges in your favourite programs. It's also about making what you learn part of your normal game. And that takes time and a lot of focus. When you play your maximum number of tables, whether that's 2 or 20, you need to be playing a bit like a robot. Some decisions need to be made automatically, with almost no thought. Which is the exact contrary of what we are trying to achieve here. You need to think about the plays before you do them and make sure you don't fall back to your previous way of playing. So play less tables. I would suggest cutting what you usually play by 50% but that is something personal and you know what's best for you better than anyone else. Personally, I normally play 9 tables. Now that I'm studying I play 6. I know it's not half, but if I play less I get extremely bored and lose focus anyway. Plus, with 6 tables I rarely get to complicated situations in more than 3 tables at a time and that I can perfectly manage.

6. Talk with other Hyper Turbo players

I know this something not everyone can do, but it's very helpful. I was lucky enough to get in touch with another hyper-turbian to discuss our strategies. In the beginning the idea was to exchange thoughts on the game and help each other improve but that person was more advanced and turned out to not need my help as much after all, so it was a one-way thing. We are talking about someone that not only plays higher stakes than me, but has a completely different approach to the game. The whole conversation was very mind-opening, cause I never thought that someone could play the game in such a different way than mine. That player also made some suggestions about how to use certain stuff of Holdem Manager that I didn't even know existed :P It was very interesting to talk about the hypers to someone other than André. Sometimes I agree so much with what André says it feels like I'm talking to myself. Or I know what he will say before he says it. Anyway, I know that unless you personally know someone that plays your type of games, it's rather difficult to find someone willing to openly discuss their strategies. Read other people's blogs, write your own blog and share your thoughts on poker chat rooms, that's probably the next best thing.

7. Explore the poker programs

If you are like me, then you probably consider poker study something relatively boring (unless it includes a well-written book) and you would much rather be playing. But let's face the ugly truth: all those poker programs need to become your friends eventually. Play around with them and use them to exploit your opponents and fix your leaks. Don't limit yourself to programs you have been using since you started playing poker, try out new stuff! Two new cool things that I discovered last month are the Icmizer (which I loooooooooove) and the HoldemResources Calculator (which is still in Beta version but works fine for me). The only thing that bugs me with poker programs though and I cannot for the life of me understand why they do it, is that they ask you to put the full stack of each player before posting blinds and antes. Like, if a player has 397 chips behind after posting the blind of 200 and the ante of 40 chips, you need to put 637 as the player's stack. Since we always specify the blinds level and the beloved program knows that it's the 100/200/a40 level, why can't we put 397 as the player's stack and we need to do the boring math of 397+200+40=637?!?!? Not that it's complicated, but it's annoying and takes a significant amount of time if you consider that you need to do it for all the stacks around the table and about a million times in the day because you are studying. It's just not practical. If there is some kind of reasonable explanation that I am missing, please let me know cause this "little math" is driving me crazy. And do not tell me "because the player might have less than the ante or the blind". That is not the norm, so they could put a tick or something where we would manually put the stack. Whatever! :P

8. Get coaching

Who gives hyper-turbo coaching? I have no idea. But if you can find someone to coach you and your bankroll can take it, I strongly suggest you go for it. I've been bugging André to give me coaching for quite some time now, but I never really got much more than the occasional advice. He had a change of heart in the beginning of August though (between us, I think he's just feeling guilty for that Micromillions challenge, haha!). I'll write more about it in my next post.

I hope you found this at least a bit helpful and it gave you some ideas. If you have other studying methods /ideas that I didn't think of, please feel free to leave a comment!

See you at the tables! :)


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