Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Losing Focus

Losing FocusI mentioned yesterday that over the weekend I’d played a large number of hands over on PokerStars. Actually has been an inordinately high volume couple of weeks for me here in February, as I’m already approaching Silver Star status while playing strictly $0.50/$1.00 limit hold’em.

As far as results go, the month has been fairly uneven thus far. Had a particularly poor day yesterday while two-tabling, during which I think I experienced a somewhat unique situation in which a player at one table negatively affected how I did at the other. Let me try to explain.

I have been making it a habit to two-table these 6-max. games, and as I normally do, I sat down first at a single table to play a few rounds and get to know the players before opening the second one. I recognized a player on my left from before -- TheAgitator -- a somewhat aggressive type whom I remembered as mostly solid.

On just the fifth hand I picked up JcJd under the gun and raised. The table folded back around to TheAgitator who then three-bet from the big blind. Knowing this was TheAgitator’s usual modus operandi to reraise with a wide range of hands preflop (indeed, I’d already seen him do it at least once during the first four hands), I went ahead and capped it and he called.

The flop came 7hQcJh, giving me a set, and The Agitator check-called my bet. The turn was the 6h, and again my opponent check-called. The river -- wouldn’t you know it -- brought yet another heart, the Ah. This time TheAgitator bet out, I made the crying call, and he showed 4s3h for the backdoor flush. (Cut to cartoony shot of steam comin’ out from under Shamus’ fedora.)

Not a great way to start. TheAgitator subsequently went on a nice little rush, and took full advantage of the swell advertising that resulted from his having played four-trey offsuit in such a nutso fashion. I mostly kept out of the way, and indeed managed to get some chips back from him by being patient.

Incidentally, sitting there to TheAgitator’s left, I thought a little bit about how, contrary to popular wisdom, some strategists have noted that my seat isn’t always the best spot to be in such a situation -- that is, to the immediate left of the loose-aggressive maniac. If yr curious about that topic, here’s an article by Rolf Slotboom that makes the case against sitting to the maniac’s left (both in LHE and PLO). The article is reprinted as two pieces in Slotboom’s newest title, Secrets of Professional Poker 1.

Meanwhile, as I dealt with TheAgitator there on Table #1, I opened Table #2 and quickly proceeded to drop a load of big bets in short order thanks to my own loose-aggressive play. Perhaps in response to the way TheAgitator was handcuffing me there on the first table, I was open-raising with a wider range than I normally would on the second table, and unfortunately (1) I couldn’t hit a flop, and (2) my opponents often were. Not only were my opponents catching cards, they were catching on to what I was doing, too, thereby smartly maximizing my losses on hand after hand.

A disinterested observer watching me play might have described what I was doing over on the second table as a poor parody of TheAgitator’s approach on Table #1. I finally figured out I needed to readjust after getting successfully called down by a player holding only king-high. I was holding my own against TheAgitator at the first table, but thanks to his influence had become an incoherent mess over at Table #2.

F-Train was writing yesterday about doodling down in these low limit HE games online (referring specifically to $0.25/$0.50) and he made a few valid points. One was mostly implied, namely, that even these low stakes games can provide an interesting challenge, even for a guy like F-Train, who can occasionally be found at middle stakes live LHE games. He also noted how these low limit games are quite “beatable” (though can be “frustrating”). Hear, hear.

The other point he made, which I think my session yesterday illustrated, was “that losing focus or discipline for even a moment can be very costly” (relatively speaking, that is). I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to me, even though I didn’t consciously realize that was the case until afterwards.

Of course, that’s what losing focus generally amounts to -- becoming less “conscious” of the here and now.

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Blogger F-Train said...

I love it when people make me look more intelligent or well-written than I actually am.

Who knows? If I keep up my winning ways at .25-.50, we might eventually run into each other at .50-1! ;)

2/17/2009 11:13 AM  
Blogger Gnome said...

Slotboom's argument seems to have a couple of holes. In fact, I don't really understand his point as it applies to limit hold'em.
Slotboom says you want to play tighter against a maniac. That doesn't make sense to me. If a maniac is playing a wide range of hands, you should widen your range as well to a degree that still dominates him. That's the way to maximize equity and profits.
Slotboom's second point seems to be that by sitting three or four seats to the left of the maniac, you can see what the opponents in the middle will do before calling with hands that have implied odds. This strategy may be OK, but you lose any ability to isolate the maniac when you're that far away from him. I believe isolation is more powerful than the additional information gained from in-the-middle opponents.

2/17/2009 3:06 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Yea, I'm also not completely sure I buy what Slotboom's selling there, but I get his point that you can get into big trouble there on the maniac's left if it happens that when you try to isolate him others are frequently ready to jump in behind you and make yr life more complicated.

Funny thing, I played some this afternoon and at the first table I opened MrAgitator was there again -- and a spot was open on his left! I grabbed it, but he took off within one orbit. Gonna have to keep a lookout for him... and F-Train... :)

2/17/2009 10:25 PM  

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