Thursday, 28 February 2013

February Overview

Hello everyone!

February was a good month, both at the tables and away from them, but I admit that I neglected my blog a bit. What happened was that after my first post this month I started preparing for my trip to Greece. Normally, that shouldn't take much time or effort. I tend to get super excited when I'm about to visit my family and friends and that makes me lose focus a little bit, but overall I'm doing fine with keeping my working schedule.

This time however, for some reason I decided that it would be better to earn my monthly salary before leaving for Greece. Now, my departure was planned for the 14th, so that didn't leave me much time. In retrospect, I completely disagree with that way of thinking cause it's similar to setting a money goal over a short period of time which, in my opinion, can only lead to frustration. But hey, it was more of a sentimental decision than a rational one. I just wanted to have my "February business" sort of concluded so that I could go and enjoy my holidays with no worries on my mind.

Fortunately for me, it all went well. I spent some time studying (even though not as much as I should have), but the most important thing is that I redid the notes I keep on opponents from scratch. It took a bit more than a full day of work but I think it was well worth it. I studied my opponent's statistics, results (for those of them that have them public), and got to know some a bit better overall. It's good to know who is using the hypers as fillers of some other game and who actually specializes in them and has them as their main game.

I also stayed away from the $74s for the biggest part of February. I don't think I've studied enough to be able to play with the good players that frequent those games, so I would only start opening tables that high when the traffic was really really good. Which, as you can probably imagine didn't happen often. Sometimes, I would even see the great jorj95 migrating down to the $74s to play with us mortals. He's a really nice guy and all but I definitely don't want to play with him, thanks but no, thanks! Not to mention that he would often bring some other $357s+ players with him, people I also don't want to see at my tables... Anyway, it was mostly $18s-55s for me this month. Here is the graph:

I'm very happy with the result, it was definitely a good month. What I'm not so happy about, is the total number of tournaments I played: 3,5k. Even less exciting (but also expected) is the number of VPPs I gained this month: 11.720,34.  :(

Okay, the trip to Greece is partially to blame. I spent one week there. But even after I came back, I wasn't very keen on playing or studying. Yesterday for example, I came to the office with André and didn't play a single table. I wasted my time reading magazines, browsing on the Internet and other trivial stuff like that. Today, I figured I'd give some love to my neglected blog, but it's already night outside and I still haven't played at all. Making a blog post doesn't take a full day.

I don't know what's wrong with me, but I think I'm kind of lacking motivation. I was super excited with the perspective of going for Elite at the beginning of the year, but when I saw that goal slipping away I got a bit disoriented. Of course earning enough to pay for my monthly expenses is quite a motivation, but I feel I need something greater to push myself outside of my comfort zone and put in a lot of volume in terms of hours and tourneys.

On the positive side, back in January I had the brilliant idea of joining a Pokerstars promotion of setting a VPPs goal per year. You could choose among 100k, 200k or 300k VPPs. Since at that point I was aiming high, I registered for the 300k one. The first check to see if you are on pace (and therefore the first payment for those who make it) is on April 3rd, more or less a month from now. I need to have 75k VPPs by then to be on pace. Right now I'm at 41k, so I can still make it, but I'll have to work a lot more than the past couple of months and be on a tighter schedule. It's not so much for the $150 I'll receive if I make it (although I'm not the one to snob any amount of money) as it is for not wanting to fail. So that's good, I have one little thing to keep me motivated!

Other interesting poker news is that last Saturday André was talking about the Goldstar monthly freeroll. He was very very close to reaching Goldstar status that day and only missed the tournament for a few points, which got us talking about it and I decided to play. By now you probably know about my love-hate relationship with MTTs (it's more like hate-hate to be honest), but I thought, oh well, it's a freeroll so I might as well give it a try!

At some point, an interesting hand came up. The player on my right, who had the second biggest stack at that point, got involved in a huge pot with an early position raiser. When they both revealed their cards preflop, the EP raiser was all-in and showed KK. The player on my right showed pocket Jacks and got a cooler since he never hit his outs and lost a huge chunk of his chips. On the very next hand, I was the one to be holding pocket kings. The player on my left min-raised and I thought, okay, this hand has potential. I reraised and to cut a long story short I ended up all-in pre-flop. My opponent revealed QQ. I thought "Oh man! This guy is soooooo unlucky, he got JJ and QQ only to shove into pocket Kings two times in a row! Brutal!!!" I should have kept my mouth shut, cause the unlucky guy hit his queen on the turn and eliminated me from the tourney. You can check out the hand here.

I got 94th out of 9458 players which is not at all shabby and won $55 out of nothing! Pretty cool huh? Of course I was feeling kind of disappointed for losing the opportunity to continue playing the tournament with a huge stack and have a better chance at a final table (the first prize was $15k!), but it was fun to play cause  at a freeroll you always think "I have nothing to lose". Who knows, maybe I'll make a habit of playing these freerolls! And I might improve my MTT skills along the way! :P

Of course, something had to go wrong in this wonderfull story... When I opened the freeroll I was also playing my hyper satellites. After the bubble and with the blinds getting higher, things got a lot more interesting and it required more of my attention so I stopped opening satellites and dedicated myself to the MTT.

Around half an hour later... Pop! I see another table opening up next to the freeroll! Of course I had forgotten to unregister from the $109 + Rebuys tourney... Same old story! As I was mumbling to myself all the appropriate greek bad language I could think of for the occasion, I went to unregister from the rest of the tourneys I had won a ticket to. Pissed at myself, I spend some time playing the two MTTs. At some point, I lost at the freeroll and was left with only the $109+R. I refused to rebuy, I just wanted to be over with the thing to get back to my satellites grinding. 

But it was one of those times that it was meant to go well. The tournament was a lot smaller, only 57 entrants so it wasn't very long before I made it to the final table. What's best is that I was in pretty good shape in terms of chips. I don't remember exactly how I lost cause I was pretty tired by that point, but I remember that I felt kind of bummed for being eliminated before another player that had less than 20BB and a much smaller stack than me. In any case, the overall outcome of the tournament was great!

I finished at 4th place an got a nice $1390 prize. Neat! :D

That's all for now... During March I plan to get a lot more serious in terms of volume of play, and organize my everyday life a bit better so that I include my dance lessons and a better diet, things I have been neglecting lately. There's also the WBCOOP starting tomorrow and I'm seriously considering to participate!

See you guys at the tables!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Houston, we have a problem

Hello everyone!

I'm warning you in advance, this post is gonna be full of graphs so brace yourselves! 

Today is Monday, which normally is the only day of the week that André and I take off, but last week we decided to take an extra day to play a Magic: The Gathering tournament. It was the perfect day: sleep until late, wake up without an alarm, have breakfast, go to play some Magic, then eat at our favorite burger place and finish the day with a nice movie at the cinema.

Too bad that today, which is the compensation day, I don't feel at all like working. Not a tiny bit. We came to the office late, and I took more time than usual grabbing our lunch at the mall. Basically I figured, since I'm here already, why not grab some other stuff that I wanted to buy? I'm going to Greece next week and wanted to get some small presents for my family. My dad recently discovered that he loves Ginja (traditional portuguese liquer), my mom can devour an entire bolo rei (traditional portuguese sweet) all by herself, my grandmother for some reason is convinced that portuguese soaps are better than the greek ones and so on... And of course, I had to do that shopping during my working time. While having lunch, I watched an episode of a greek soap opera instead of doing something useful. After lunch I decided to take André for a coffee and he accepted without much resistance cause he's in a similar mood today.

Of course, when we got back André got straight to work, while I had to procrastinate a bit more. I washed the dishes, sent some e-mails and took some time to read poker blogs, starting of course with André's latest post which, by the way, was very good! Also, I discovered that Team Online member Tzen1 has been in a similar state lately, so that's a bit of comfort! I'm not the only one running away from work obligations! Yeay! :P

Sometime after midnight I came to terms with the fact that I'm not working today and I decided to make a blog post so that there's at least one productive thing that I did today. As you can probably guess by my lack of enthusiasm for work, poker has not been going great lately. Far from it to be exact.

Keeping the tradition of having highs followed by lows and vice-versa, my amazing December was followed by my worst month ever. At least in terms of money. I'm not sure if it's my worst in terms of buy-ins but that's a mentally exhausting score to keep anyway. Here's the graph for January 2013:

Yep, that sucks big time! That's -123 buy-ins more or less. Not to mention about the other failure, the total of VPPs I got in January: 29.239. On pace for Supernova Elite? Um, no way! Of course one could argue that I didn't work the full month due to the trip to the Bahamas and coming down with the flu. My counter argument is this: remember my one-week experiment that would show if I can actually maintain a pace for Elite or not? May I remind you, the goal was 3,8k VPPs per day. Here's how it went:
  • Day 1: 3479 VPPs
  • Day 2: 2272 VPPs
  • Day 3: 2693 VPPs
  • Day 4: 829 VPPs
  • Day 5: 857 VPPs
  • Day 6: Oh wait, that's today! I didn't work today! So, zero VPPs for that!
As you can see, the VPPs dropped significantly after day 4 and on. Let me explain why.

As the end of the month was approaching, I had another losing day. I had made a habit out of those so not much surprise in that. At some point, the traffic at the highest stakes I was playing got bad, so instead of sitting with my hands crossed I decided to play some lower stakes. So instead of $37s-74s, I played $18s-$37s. Now, André says I'm over-analyzing the graph, but check this out:

Can you take a wild guess when I started playing lower? You probably got it right, around tourney #350. At some point, the traffic at the $74s impoved, so I started playing those again and I cut the $18s. That was around tourney #420. Then I felt bad for getting a 1k downswing (cause lately I'm totally freaking out and check my results every 5 seconds), so around tourney #500 I cut the $74s and added the $18s again. Surprise surprise, another upswing!

Of course, that could all be a big coincidence. But the truth is, as soon as I started playing the $18s the contrast of level with the $74s made a huge impact. The non-regular player at those is far less skilled than the non-regular at the $74s. Which kind of makes sense I guess. Not to mention the absence of a bunch of super good regulars at those games. 

This situation got me thinking, so after finishing my session I pulled up some lifetime graphs. Here's how my results stand today:





You can see that the further we move up in stakes, the less impressive my graphs get. I don't know what I was expecting to see, but I got a bit of a shock when I realized that I'm a losing player at the $74s. I definitely had trouble sleeping that night. This was more than just a downswing... This was me getting the results that my skill deserved and those results were bad. I could assume that I got crazy unlucky and I was running far worse than I should, but I knew better than that. It sucks to admit, but the players I'm up against at those stakes are simply better than me.

At first, I got really sad. I've really put a lot of effort into this poker thing, yet it seems that it's not enough to beat those levels. I thought it was time to kiss the $74s goodbye, and play only up to $37s. I decided to cut down on the $55s as well, cause up to that day my stats were break-even, so I thought "I'm probably losing at these too and just run a bit better than I should". After all, I should still make a living out of my profits at the $18s-$37s. I just wouldn't rely on an income from VPPs and milestones.

Then the next day, I started getting pissed at myself for having that loser attitude. So what, there's a bump on the road and I just quit and I should be happy with myself for getting that far? At the same time, I felt frustrated. Like what, those regulars at the $74s beat me cause they're smarter than me or something? Maybe some of them are, but still, what am I, stupid? Can't I at least try to get better?

When trying to think of a plan for the year playing only up to $37s, I realized that it wasn't feeling right. The truth is, I want to be playing higher stakes than that. It's not for bragging or anything of that kind, it's simply that I want to be on the fast track of the VPPs, even if I'm years away from reaching Supernova Elite. There are benefits along the way and they have nothing to do with your performance at the tables. If you make the points you get the money, it's as simple as that.

When playing higher, I used to get an average of 500 VPPs per hour. Playing the $18s, one day I realized that I only got 400 VPPs after playing two hours. That takes the milestones away from my reach and I don't want that to happen. So even though I'm losing at the higher stakes, I can't just shrug it off and play lower. It bothers me too much do that.

After I got all the this-is-the-end-of-my-poker-career and other negative thoughts out of my mind, I decided to spend some time studying. First, I spent some time reviewing marked hands. Then, I opened hands of an opponent that I consider to be one of the best I play against, and I tried to figure out how he plays. The hands I was reviewing all went to showdown so that I could get some conlusions. My technique was to write down a range of what I would do in his position, then move on with the hand to see what he did. I was agreeing with him 100% in all of his plays. There was only one that came up that I would have played in a different way, I pulled it up on ICMizer and it turned out that I was right. Now that may sound as a good thing that I got all the plays right, but it got me more frustrated cause I know that the player in question is better than me. So he has to do some things differently and I couldn't find them. I felt like I had wasted an entire day studying and learnt nothing. Not to mention feeling bad for not seeing the obvious, cause the differences are there, I know it, but I'm too blind to see them.

The next couple of days I went back to the tables, of course staying away from the $74s. Fortunately, February started pretty well which was really needed to boost my confidence a bit. Here's the graph so far:

I've also been talking with magictuga, a colleague of mine. I prefer the word colleague over opponent cause even though he beats me ruthlessly at the tables (and I'm happy to return the favor) , I actually met him way before I started playing poker and he's a really nice guy. Anyway, talking to him made me put things into perspective a bit and cool down all the drama. Also, he helped me fix some technical problems of my Holdem Manager and now I can see my EV adjusted winnings. The famous red line of Holdem Manager has brought a lot of controversy in my poker discussions in the past and I have come to the conclusion that it's not to be trusted (of course that's just my personal opinion), but I was interested to see what the program had to say about my luck at the $74s. Turns out, according to Holdem Manager I should have a -1,2% ROI instead of a -2,5%. Which still makes me a losing player, but at least it's not so bad. I do find some comfort in the thought that I may have been running a bit worse than expected.

If I said that I have the situation under control and I know what to do next, I'd be lying. I know for sure than I need to study and improve my game and I have a bunch of ideas on how to do it, but every time I sit down in front of the computer, it seems like such a big task that if feels impossible. For now I'll keep playing the $18s and up to the $55s. I haven't dared open any $74s this month, but I've decided not to hesitate if I see that the games are really good.

Another thing that I've decided I should do, mostly after my conversations with magictuga, is to study my opponents a bit more. I need to pay closer attention to their stats and any results that they may have in public. I may have underestimated some of them and overestimated some others which could possibly end up in me having a wrong picture about what games are good and what games are not. Time for some serious opponent spying/ sharkscoping! Hehe!

Let's see how February goes... I sure hope this month will be better!

See you all at the tables!


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