Monday, February 02, 2009

Lessons in Limit(s)

Lowering LimitsSo January ended up a nice month for me, poker-wise. After an unhappy January 1 playing pot-limit Omaha, I decided to stick with limit hold’em for pretty much the entire rest of the month (with just a few very minor excursions elsewhere). Did not play a single tournament. Had an especially good January 31 and finished the month with a profit that actually resembled a good month (for me) playing PLO50 -- this primarily sitting at $0.50/$1.00 6-max. LHE tables. Lot less stressful, too, lemme tell ya.

I used to play nothing but LHE, right up until the middle of ’07 when I became a (mostly) PLO guy. So it took me a week or two to get back into the limit hold’em mindset. Sort of like going back to that old neighborhood where you once lived. You recognize street names and certain landmarks, though can’t quite drive directly to your old place without making a few wrong turns. Eventually, after circling around a bit, you start to remember the old route you used to take, and soon yr gettin’ around just fine.

Have been reviewing some in Small Stakes Hold’em by Ed Miller, David Sklansky, and Mason Malmuth and Advanced Limit Hold’em Strategy by Barry Tanenbaum. Also picked up Matthew Hilger’s newly revised and expanded Internet Texas Hold’em, which contains a couple of new chapters about short-handed play. All good for the reorientation.

Thought I’d share three generalities (and/or guidelines) about micro/low limit hold’em that have occurred to me over the last month.

1. Learning Others’ Limits. Probably the most important factor when first sitting down at the LHE table is getting an idea how others approach the game, most specifically what hands your opponents are willing to play. And, once you’ve got that, how they tend to play ’em.

One aspect of short-handed play I like a lot is the fact that no one can really sit and hide from you for very long. In fact, at this low limit where I’m playing it generally takes very little time to figure out the other five players’ styles. Often, all a player has to do is open-call one time from the cutoff to signal he or she is not all that crafty. Then, when that player shows down K-7 offsuit in that hand, one can usually conclude something about that player’s hand selection abilities, too. One can be fooled, of course, but it generally isn’t that hard to figure out and categorize yr tablemates in this game.

2. Limiting Variance. There are a few situations in LHE that I’ve started to approach with the idea in mind that I’m making a conscious decision expressly to limit my swings. Some involve starting hands. Depending on my opponents and how a session has been going, I’ll sometimes throw away hand like A-rag or K-10 even if it has been folded to me in late position, telling myself I’m purposely opting out of getting involved in a potentially big winner or loser. Other times I’ll open raise with the same hand.

There’s also a situation on the turn where I sometimes am also making a similar decision. It is heads up, and I could be acting first or last (doesn’t matter). I’ve taken the lead on the hand on the flop with a less than sure holding, say middle or bottom pair or maybe just ace-high, and have been called (or check-called). The turn does not help me, and I decide either to check behind or check-call (depending on my position), rather than continue betting out. Basically I’m avoiding putting three big bets in the pot, instead making it so I can see a showdown for just one big bet (or perhaps two). I might be letting my opponent fill out an inside straight or back into two pair or something to pass me in the hand, but again, I’m trying simply to avoid putting lots of bets in the middle in situations where I’m less than confident I’ll be getting ’em back.

3. Limiting Emotion. Probably the biggest difference between LHE and PLO, I’m guessing, is how easily Omaha can get you riled up to the point of irrationality, while limit hold’em remains much more subdued. Or serene. Or sane.

Sure, it is possible to get flustered now and then when the donkeys get lucky, or when one is forced to endure a succession of misfortunes. And some cannot help but respond by lashing out in the chatbox. (I was just writing about one such character on Friday.) However, I am generally able to avoid such hand-wringing in LHE -- most of the time, anyway. In fact, I’ve realized that my decision to play LHE (rather than PLO) amounts to another conscious choice to limit my emotional investment in poker -- in other words, not to “chase the dragon” (as Dr. Pauly describes PLO).

The highs won’t be as high, but the lows won’t be as low. Much prefer the monthly graph looking more like the left-half of a rocky, yet gradually upward-sloping mountain than a seismogram of a tectonic earthquake.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I did have a good run, 22:23, a time that would have thrilled me even a year ago in a 5K, but now is starting to become routine. To do that in Feb. means I may finally break 22 minutes this year in a 5K!

2/02/2009 2:52 PM  
Blogger Greylocks said...

You need to open-raise those AXo and KTo hands in LP, Shamus.

Trying to reduce variance with too-tight play also costs you a lot of profit, especially in short-table games.

If you want to save variance in short games, fold the suited connector trash (98s and down) unless it's late position after a couple of limpers. Six-handed is more about high cards anyway, and you're often drawing pretty thin to a straight or flush in short-handed pots, especially on the turn.

2/02/2009 3:54 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Congrats, Peaker!

Yr right, Greylocks -- the suited connectors would've been a better example to which to refer there. I do need help with ace-rag, though; I know I'm not as good w/it as I could/should be in 6-max.

2/02/2009 4:01 PM  

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