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!


  1. Very nice blog !

    GL for february !

  2. good luck...you have inspired me too study also.

    1. That's good to hear! Good luck to you too! :)

  3. You didn't even mention the 5 seasons of Breaking Bad :-) I moved up/down in stakes a lot of times in my life. Just boost your convidence at the lower levels and take a shot when you feel good. One day it works out and you never go back! Think you were doing that anyway, but I just wanted to support you in that ;)

    GL in February!

    1. Haha, nah, this post is already long enough without me mentioning my series obsession! Anyway, thanks for the support Richard! I really appreciate it! Good luck to you too! :D

  4. Katerina,
    there is no problem in your results but in right understanding of variance and knowing how big profit is possible to make at particular buy-in.
    I advise you to study high volume graphs of your opponents and you will see what i am talking about.
    You can see there how easy is to make $20k in 4k sats (at 74's), thats not caused that some1 is damn good but mainly by variance and it works also to opposite direction.
    You can get even much better understading of this if you figure out how big edge you approximately have at the table and will know things like how many dollars will lose avg fish at the table and so on.
    You are too much focused on your monthly graphs and it crushes your mind.
    Watch that on 6 months bases


    1. Hey Roy4lpl4yor!

      Thank you for your input. I believe that by now I understand how variance works a bit better. And I agree with you that 4k sats is not a big enough sample to get definite conclusions about whether someone is a winning player or not. However, I'm not saying that I'm losing at the $74s based on my results alone. I'm playing against better players and I say that because of the way I see them play, not because of their results.

      Also, figuring out how big of an edge you have at the tables sounds good, but is there a way to actually put that in numbers? Or are we just speculating?

      About checking out graphs/results every 6 months, that's a nice idea and I envy players who can do it. But the truth is, my bankroll is not THAT big and now that I'm in poker full time it's the only source of income for my monthly expenses. That leaves me more exposed to short-term variance and I may have to drop down at stakes due to prudent bankroll management, even if I'm certain I'm a winner at the higher stakes I play. So in my case, checking results on a monthly basis is imperative.

      Anyway, I haven't seen you at the tables lately! What games are you playing these days?

  5. So if you play against better players, you have to improve your game or avoid them, that's simple.
    Also posting 74s graphs without RB is a little misleading. RB makes huge difference at higher buy-ins, you know that.
    So you it wouldnt look so bad. You are "almost" BE there.. .)

    The figuring edge is a little speculation, but lets say a fish makes -3% diff each tourney (missing good spots and taking the bad ones) and if you have another 4 strong regs like you at the table, you split that profit (from fish's mistakes) among you.
    Thats just rough example how we could figure that out.
    Also -3% diff is questionable but even if you would use this number you would get interesting results how much money you can make per 1 tourney.
    Just thoughts....

    Well, 6 months is too much, but it depends on your volume. I would say the sample size about 20k sats deserves some look at it.

    I still play sats and will. Just played only 20hrs this year. We will see each other soon, i promise :-)

    1. Yeah, I agree it's as simple as improving my game and/ or avoiding the better players. That's exactly what I wrote in my post above "I decided to spend some time studying [...] I may have underestimated some of them (regulars) 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".

      About the graphs without RB, I wouldn't call them misleading. Yeah RB makes a difference and often an important one, but still... It doesn't make miracles happen. At the $74s for example, I'm certain I didn't get more than 3k on rakeback (it's hard to calculate accurately cause I started last year as bronze but this year as supernova). In any case, that would take me from -11k profit to -8k. Sure it's different, but it's still bad and unfortunately faaaaar from breaking even!

      The game you described with a -3% player plus 4 players like me doesn't sound that great to be honest. I don't think that us splitting the profit from the weak player is enough to make up for the rake. And that's in the case where all the rest of us have equal skill, which in reality does not happen cause some regs are stronger than others. Not to mention that among the losing players there are huge differences, one can be at -1% while the other can be at -10% and often we won't be able to tell them apart for sure cause we can never get a decent sample size for recreational players. Of course, if there was a way to know how much money you can make at a certain tournament that would be awesome, so there's definitely food for thought there.

      Anyway, see soon you at the tables! :)

    2. I would echo what RP is saying.

      As an example; if you look at Navigatorlg he won $25k in the 74s in ~4k games, then broke even for his next 16k games.

      It's possible to play 2k games on a Sunday, so that in itself shows how insignificant 4k games is.

      Congrats to acoimbra on his 1r win btw!

      P.S I tried to add you two and magictuga on skype #sattyfriends

  6. Good blog, I will start to study more seriously from now on, there are any books you can recommend? I'm current playing SNG STT/MTT micro-stakes.
    GL :)

    1. Hi Miguel!

      A book that I personally loved and always recommend to new players is "Secrets of Sit'n'Gos" by Phil Shaw. It is however for STTs only. I don't really have a recommendation for MTTs cause that's not my field. Another good book overall is "Kill Everyone" by Lee Nelson, Tysen Steib and Kim Lee.

      Good luck!

  7. So .. how are things going so far?

    1. They're okay... Sorry for the lack of updates, I've been pretty busy lately. I'll make a new post within the next few days (if not today)! :)


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