Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rules of Engagement Redux

Shamus checks the rear view mirror“No man can say what he is. But sometimes he can say what he is not.” --Albert Camus, “The Enigma” (1950)

Exactly one month ago I posted some “Rules of Engagement” I intended to follow when playing my usual $1.00/$2.00 limit games (usually 6-max). The idea was to figure out a way to avoid those lengthy losing sessions. Looking back over my stats, I had noticed that while I was enjoying more winning sessions than losing sessions, the average losing session was considerably longer than the average winning session. Additionally, my typical losing session usually saw me losing more than I’d win during a typical winning session. Even though I saw a small profit for January, I knew I could have done better had I resisted getting mired in those “stuck” sessions.

So I thought about it and came up with eight rules. Discussed ’em at length a month ago, so I won’t go over the rationale for each here. Here are the rules:

1. One table at a time.
2. Leave after 100 hands if not up at least 5 big bets.
3. Leave after 50 hands if down (any).
4. Leave if ever down more than 10 big bets.
5. Leave if less than four-handed.
6. Leave the moment I don’t know how to play Ace-rag.
7. Don’t concern self with getting back to even.
8. Avoid chat.

As I think back on how February has gone, I can say that I’ve managed to break every one of these rules -- some of them frequently. To be perfectly honest, I found it much easier to abide by the rules if I were winning, and couldn’t always resist the temptation to bend or break the rules once I found myself losing (thereby completely ignoring the entire purpose of having the rules in the first place).

The first two weeks of February went well for me -- by Valentine’s Day I was up about $140, having followed the rules fairly closely each time I sat down. The last two weeks have been the reverse, however, as I’ve gradually slid back down to just about where I began the month. I say “gradually” even though the slide has been marked by largish swings in both directions the whole way down.

I’d like to confirm that the rules have helped, but I haven’t been a very disciplined test subject and so can’t really say one way or the other. I can, however, remark on the relative difficulty I’ve encountered in my efforts to follow the rules. Here are the eight rules again, to which I’ve added a grade and comment on how well (or poorly) I managed to keep to each.

1. One table at a time: C+. Have gone ahead and opened that second table on a number of occasions -- usually when the action slows down due to a slow-moving player. And, a few times, I know I opened the second table after falling behind, a definite no-no.

2. Leave after 100 hands if not up at least 5 big bets: A-. Broken once or twice.

3. Leave after 50 hands if down (any): D+. Broken on multiple occasions. In fact, I essentially rewrote this rule early on to say “Leave after 50 hands if down 10 big bets or more.” Having established reads on my opponents, I often just couldn’t bring myself to walk away after just 50 hands.

4. Leave if ever down more than 10 big bets: C-. Also a tough one. Let me show you why. Just today I found myself at a $1/$2 table where after 20-25 hands or so I was down $9.50 (or 4.75 big bets). Had suffered one semi-expensive suckout and had a draw of my own fail to pan out; otherwise, those 20-25 hands hadn’t been terribly remarkable. Then I got KhKc in the cutoff and raised it. Only the big blind called. Flop came 9hQd7d and my opponent check-called me. The turn was a 2c and again he check-called. Then he bet out when the river brought the Th. I thought for a second and decided just to call, figuring him for having lucked into two pair or a straight. He turned over TcTs for trips, taking down the $14.50 pot. I’d dropped $7.00 altogether on that hand, and so suddenly found myself down a total of $16.50 for the session -- 8.25 big bets. One more orbit and I find I’ve reached the 10-big bet threshold already -- thanks, essentially, to just three three unfortunate hands. I feel I’m at a somewhat weak-passive table where I can succeed, and so I talk myself into bending the rule and stick around.

5. Leave if less than four-handed: B+. Not such a problem, though I have stuck around for some heads-up once or twice.

6. Leave the moment I don’t know how to play Ace-rag: Incomplete. Not sure how to evaluate myself, here. When I came up with the rule I essentially meant to tell myself that if ever I was uncertain about whether to fold, call, or raise with this hand, that meant it was time to go. (In other words, I was not giving myself a hard-and-fast rule about how to play Ace-rag in every situation.) I want to say I haven’t allowed Ace-rag to perplex me that often this month, but I cannot be sure. (The fact that I’ve played a lot of hands on Bodog -- which aren’t entered into Poker Tracker -- doesn’t help me figure this one out, either.)

7. Don’t concern self with getting back to even: F. I’m always friggin’ concerned about getting back to even, every single time I sit down. Somebody out there, please teach me how to think otherwise . . . .

8. Avoid chat: A-. Can only remember a single occasion all month when I couldn’t avoid a sarcastic “nice flop” when a player cracked my rockets w/Jc9s on a board that came Kd7s4h8dTc.

Overall? I’d give myself no better than a C- for the month (as far as following the rules goes). I do think there is some value, here, in giving myself some guidelines in order to avoid the long losing session, so I’m going to give the rules another go in March. I am going to revise rules #3 and #4 slightly so as to make them more realistic. I am also going to keep better track of how well I’m actually following the guidelines -- the only way, really, to know if the rules are helping me or not. Here are the revised “Rules of Engagement”:

1. One table at a time.
2. Leave after 100 hands if not up at least 5 big bets.*
3. Leave after 50 hands if down 10 big bets or more.*
4. Leave if ever down more than 15 big bets.*
5. Leave if less than four-handed.
6. Leave the moment I don’t know how to play Ace-rag.
7. Don’t concern self with getting back to even.
8. Avoid chat.
*Allowed to remain at table until blinds come back around.

(I figure if I’ve paid the blinds for another orbit I might as well permit myself to see those remaining hands for free.)

We’ll see how the next month goes. Could well be that I’m an example that dreaded “Peter Principle” here . . . having won consistently at $0.50/$1.00, I am now only breaking even at $1.00/$2.00, having (perhaps) risen precisely one step beyond my level of competence.

Hard to know, though . . . . Nothing more difficult, really, than knowing what one is.



Blogger gadzooks64 said...

The keys for me are:

Don't fight the table. If the cards aren't coming, find another table.

If they players aren't handing you there money, find another table.

If you aren't hitting flops or getting there on draws, leave the table.

I've found it very much runs one way: hot or cold, never hot then cold and never cold then hot.

I can walk away from a table after 3 rounds if I'm down and not running good or if the cards aren't hitting.

I also walk away from a short session if I hit a great run and I want to book the win. Great runs don't last forever and I don't mind leaving one when I hit an acceptable threshold. Could be 5BBs on one table or even 20BB on another table depending on the table dynamic.

Another note about runs, if you hit a good one pretty soon the players stop paying you off. Another cue to leave. Not worth staying if you get no action.

2/27/2007 9:53 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, Gadz. Great points, all. I might just print out your comment & keep these reminders handy as well . . . !

2/27/2007 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find your last guideline interesting (#8).

Chatting is a big part of my strategy, since I give out a lot of misinformation and real information. But then again I play at the micro limits, which doesn't require all that much skill.

But you do make good points about not chatting. Read some of your archive posts. I would definitely not tell a maniac that they were playing terrible. I would probably be extra friendly to them.

Last time I'll say it, because you're probably sick of hearing it, but I really enjoy reading your posts.

2/28/2007 5:21 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, Richard!

2/28/2007 12:47 PM  
Blogger MacAnthony said...

I'm a bit behind in my blog reading. Been a busy few weeks and now I'm catching up. I wanted to make sure you were aware that there is a plugin to get bodog hands to import into PT. You can find it here:

I hope you are finding luck in your strategy. I think it's important to set guidelines and stuff to work on with your game. The important thing is to stick with it until you determine it isn't working, then try something else.

3/12/2007 10:01 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer Posts
Older Posts

Copyright © 2006-2021 Hard-Boiled Poker.
All Rights Reserved.