It’s time for some sort of intervention. I’ve thought about this for a good while, finally coming up with eight “Rules of Engagement” that I’m going to try to follow here as I move forward. (Many of these concern issues previously considered at Hard-Boiled Poker -- in those cases, I have linked back to those earlier posts.) These are truly "shots in the dark." I’m very interested in hearing what folks think of these here guidelines, so please send along any criticisms or suggestions.
As you read these, keep in mind (1) I’m playing primarily low fixed limit games ($1.00/$2.00), more often than not short-handed (6-max); (2) The limits I’ve established in rules #2, #3, and #4 are what I think might work for me -- if others think these rules are worth anything, they might want to alter the number of hands or win/loss figure; (3) I generally prefer not to play more than 200-300 hands per session, so those who like to play more might also find the limits I’m setting there to be inapplicable; (4) Ace-rag (rule #6) is my problem hand -- others may have a different hand holding that serves a similar purpose; (5) I am yr average, jingle-brained sap.
Here they are:
1. One table at a time.
I rarely play more than two at a time, but even then I know I’m losing an edge. I don’t know how (or whether) Poker Tracker can easily show me my results when I play a single table vs. when I play more than one table. (Anyone know how to check this? Let me know!) I strongly suspect, though, that I’m a loser overall whenever I open that second table. Once I do, I know I am no longer bothering to record mentally a lot of the information I otherwise take in during play. Another reason for me to avoid multitabling is the fact that more often than not I’m playing short-handed games, thus increasing the likelihood I’m due to make decisions at more than one table. I know the young guns boast of playing four, six, eight, or even more tables at once, but my addled brain simply cannot keep up enough for multitabling to be positive EV for me. (See “You Have Options at Gamefisher Table!”)
2. Leave after 100 hands if not up at least 5 big bets (e.g., $10 at the $1.00/$2.00 tables).
This rule (and the next two) are probably ones that many pros wouldn’t necessarily recommend. I have read in various places how it isn’t such a good idea to give yourself a fixed goal like this, as it has the potential to influence artificially your decision-making. I have a couple of responses to that observation. The first is that I’m not setting a goal here -- I’m not trying to win a certain amount at a given table, then leave once I do. Rather, I’m suggesting to myself that since there are always dozens of other tables out there to select, why remain at this one if I am not winning? I would hope this rule would also encourage me to remain at a table where things are going well. This is another, related problem I sometimes have -- once I win a significant amount, I tend to get anxious to leave so as to be able to record that winning session. This is, of course, counterintuitive. Why am I in such a hurry to leave a table where I’m a winner? The second response is that I’m not a pro. I’m not even a great player -- just a good one whose cautious approach and bankroll management skills have helped him maintain a modest win rate. Unlike the greats, I need to set some limits in order to reverse that trend of short winning sessions and long losing sessions.
3. Leave after 50 hands if down (any).
Building on the previous rule, here. 50 hands might not seem like a large enough sample to determine whether or not I have a chance to be successful at a given table, but here I’m counting on what I think to be a slight edge I possess over many of the opponents I face, namely, the ability to read them more quickly than they can read me. In the 6-max game, 50 hands is usually more than enough time for me to discover all five of my opponents’ patterns, tendencies, level of aggression, and so forth. (I may need to allow myself a longer period if playing a full table, but I'll stick with 50 there as well for now.) It is probably enough for them to figure me out as well. Nevertheless, if it hasn’t become somewhat clear to me that I have an advantage at a given table, shouldn’t I consider moving on?
4. Leave if ever down more than 10 big bets (i.e., $20 at the $1.00/$2.00 tables).
Again, this might seem a bit hasty. One can suffer a couple of bad beats -- hands otherwise played masterfully but lost when one’s opponent sucks out -- and be down 10 big bets within the first orbit. Why do I think I should leave so quickly? Why not stick around and get back what that donkey took from me? Like all of these rules, this is one aimed at my own particular profile. I get a little rattled when something like that happens, and I tend not to play my best game when significantly down (even if undeservedly). I usually carry 25 big bets to the table (e.g., $50), so losing more than 10 means my stack has been nearly cut in half. Whether this happens in 2 hands or 49 hands, I’m thinking that I, personally, need to seek greener pastures. (See “The Long Goodbye.”)
5. Leave if less than four-handed.
I actually enjoy playing heads-up and three-handed, but the fact that I’m putting in a blind more often than not in these situations makes it less than worthwile (for me, anyway). My Poker Tracker stats confirm this conclusion. There I see (since last July) I’ve played just over 1,000 hands either heads-up or three-handed. I’ve won about a third of those hands, but my overall net is a slight loss (about -0.03 BB/hand). Predictably, I’m a winner when not posting a blind (i.e., when on the button in the three-handed situation), and a loser when I do post (0.08 BB/hand). I suppose the rake is an issue here, too. While I feel like I adjust fairly well when the table is breaking up around me, I might as well leave, too, since I’m obviously not a consistent winner in these situations.
6. Leave the moment I don’t know how to play Ace-rag.
I’ve discovered that for me Ace-rag is a pretty clear indicator of where my head is at. I’m no fan of Ace-rag, but at the 6-max tables there are frequent occasions when it is not only playable, but can be worth pushing (depending on position, opponents, recent history, etc.). However, I have to be in tune with what is going on around me in order to play Ace-rag correctly. I’m not exactly saying here that if I notice myself committing blatant errors (e.g., calling three bets preflop when out of position with A4-offsuit) that’s how I’ll know I’m having a problem. Rather, I’m talking about something less tangible -- namely my initial reaction, when, say, I have just been dealt A6 in the cutoff. Am I glad? Am I anxious? When the action gets to me, do I know what to do? If I am not sure how to proceed, it is usually because of what has happened before at the table. Whether it be my opponents, the cards, my own level of play, or a combination of all three, if previous hands have affected my nerve, causing me confusion about how to deal with Ace-rag, it is time to get up.
7. Don’t concern self with getting back to even (i.e., logging a so-called “winning session”).
Like a lot of players, if I find myself behind in a session I tend to become fairly obsessed with the idea of getting back what I’ve lost. I alluded to this phenomenon recently in another context (“Anyone Else Feeling Stuck?”). This obsession is, I believe, the primary reason why I’m seeing my losing sessions lengthen and my winning sessions cut short. If I refocus my attention toward the particular table at which I’m sitting, I just might be able to train myself to stop fretting over what I’m ultimately going to be writing down in my black book at the end of the day.
8. Avoid chat.
I generally do, but it doesn’t hurt to remind myself. All sorts of reasons why not to chat. (See “Shaddup and Play Already,” “Humble Pie,” “Canary in the Coalmine.”)
There they are. At the end of February I’ll report back how these here rules have worked out. Meanwhile, any advice, criticisms, suggested revisions, or words of warning will be much appreciated.
Labels: *shots in the dark