Sunday, December 18, 2005

Showdowns? I Don't need no Stinking Showdowns.

As many of you know, I have suffered a huge blow to my bankroll since August (over 50%) which is a pretty big deal when my bankroll was at an all time high on Aug 6th at almost 14K. As you can guess, many things go through your mind when you go through an extended losing streak. It's really painful just typing it.

So what do you do when this happens?

Well, here are a couple of things that I did.

First off, I dropped levels. This is an easy and obvious decision. There are bankroll rules out there for a reason. So, I was playing at the 15/30 level and now have dropped down to playing 3/6 and 5/10. Nothing too mind shattering here. This not only lessens the risk to your bankroll; but also lessens the pressure that might come with it. So now you can enjoy it more and focus more on the task at hand.

Second, I did some analysis of my play to find my leaks. You can look at two of my prior posts to get the gist of what I was looking at (Leaks - Pt One and Leaks - Pt Two).

Third, I did some reading. I have never been much of a book reader and I'm still not; but what I do read are things from the internet such as poker blogs and poker forums. A common thread these days are posts on short handed play. So I was off. I found plenty of things out there as I posted prevously. While I was doing my reading, a light bulb went off. Now, let me preface this by saying that probably 90% of the poker community knows about this; but knowing and doing are two completely different things.

Plain and simple... Aggressiveness. I told you this was an obvious one.

Before I go on, I want to say that I have been testing this theory for the last 10 days of playing. Now, I know this is not a concrete representative sample due to randomness and variance; but here is the thing. Aggressiveness wins pots and that of course is the goal. Let's drill down just a little bit more.... winning pots.

What kind of pots do we set out to win? Monsters, of course; but should that really be the goal? Don't answer that (more on this later). It is not really a fair question; but let's look at it anyway. Just for discussion purposes, we'll call a monster pot as a pot that has over 16BBs in it. A wise blogger once wrote that the best hands post flop are the drawing hands (that is paraphrased of course). That really hit me hard... especially since this comment was made right in the middle of my losing streak and I of course was losing with the best hands after the flop AND the drawing hands (which of course can leave you drawing... dead). So what do you do and what does this have to do with aggressiveness? Stay with me and hopefully we will find out.

Prior to December 6th, you would find my sessions in the 15 VPIP to 22VPIP range with most of them being in the 15-20 range. My goal was to be tight aggressive... meaning, I'm waiting for those good hands and then I'm going to play them pretty hard. What that means is that my preflop aggression was right about 7-8% with my total aggressiveness around the 1.5-1.75 range.... which is right on the borderline of being an aggressive player.

You would also only find me on the 10 max games... which to a certain degree requires that you narrow down your hands that you play with. I historically had been a bad short handed player so I avoided it like the plague.

So Let's backup to Dec 8th which is where the worm turned. After doing my studying, I was ready to dive in. First, I want to shoot off the stats. Try and find out what sticks out.

Hands - 2,576
VPIP (Flop % - BB) - 26.76%
W $ WSF (when seeing flop) - 46.05%
Went to SD (showdown) - 34.58%
W $ at SD - 52.28%
PF Raise - 16.01%
Total Aggression - 3.29 (2.10 w/ flop)
BB/100 - 5.91

What sticks out? VPIP to high? Nah... Remember that a lot of these hands were short handed. It's the preflop raising (aka preflop aggression). We'll even throw in the aggression factor of 3.29 (aka post flop aggression). All of the other numbers seem to be right in line with what they should be. So what does it all mean?

Well, it could mean a couple of things. First, it could just mean that I am now on the positive end of variance because as we know... variance taketh away and it also gives. That may well have been part of it. What I think it means is that you had good cards in the eye of your opponents. Have you heard the old saying the possession is nine tenths of the law.... Well, I would like to adjust that for poker where.... perception is nine tenths of the law. Whether you have good cards or not is not the most important factor. Making people believe that you have good cards is the vital compenent. So, how do you do that? Hold that thought.

Let's return to the question of what kind of pots do we set out to win. My answer to this has almost done a complete 180 on this one. I used to be in the camp of waiting to hit that monster and make everybody pay. There are two major flaws with this. First and probably most obvious is that those monsters don't come along too often so waiting can be majorly -EV. Secondly, if you don't play a lot of hands, even online people are going to pick up on that and they will not play with you and pay you off on all of those monsters. Of course, sometimes they will when they also hit the flop hard; but that is really more the exception than the rule.

My answer to that question is now all pots that I play. Before you say... Dah... Let me explain. Many hands I would play and fold to a bet after the flop if it didn't hit me. The question I started asking myself is did it really hit the other person? Just because he raised preflop doesn't mean that the flop hit him or that he has the best hand. Now, I'm not saying that you necessarily should be aggressive with any two cards; but selective aggressiveness is very important. Factors like what kind of player is the preflop raiser (i.e. Tight, loose, history of folding to aggressivenese, etc..), the flop (scary or non scary), and how you think the table perceives you. Something that alot of people do that can help here is note taking. Jot down that he was a preflop raiser that folded to a flop raise. I, myself, do not take notes and this is something that I do have to work on. I more or less just rely on my Poker Tracker / Poker Ace stats.

I'm not going too give many hand examples in this post; but this one seemed to illustrate my point and had the table talking a bit. In a 4 handed game, I am under the gun with QdTd. I raise... The button and SB both fold and the BB (who has AhAc) raises. Now in the old days.. not only may I not have raised with this; but I would have definitely just called here. Well, I re-raised. AA guy just called. The flop was 9d5hTc giving me an open ender. AA of course leads out and I again raise and this time he 3 bets (warning signals). Now this guy sees 48% of the flops; but is passive after the flop so I know he has a hand now. I just call. The turn is 8h giving me my nut straight. AA leads out again and this time the betting gets capped. The river is 7h and this time Mr AA just check calls and I take down a pretty big pot (16.1 BB). To tell you the truth, I thought that QJs was a little bit stronger heads up than what I worked with. QJs, according to my spreadseet, is the 42nd ranked hand heads up. Oh well, fortunely, it worked out. Any thoughts here? To tell you the truth, I don't mind be labelled a fishy, maniacal player when playing short handed.

Now, where were we? Oh yeah, pots that I want to win. I now view every pot as a possible winner. The key here to this "selective aggressiveness" is to lay down the hand when you know that you are beat. I'm not just interested in the monster pots alone. I would much rather win the small to medium uncontested pots that don't even make it to the showdown. Showdown??? I don't need to no stinking showdown. In the days during my downswing, I took down 6% of my winning pots without going down to showdown. Now, with my new philosophy, I would expect that number to be much higher. I'm going to go check... Please talk amongst yourselves.. I will be right back... .... .... .... ..... ..... .......... ....... OK, I'm back... Any predictions? As predicted, I have taken down 13% of my hands without showdown since December 8th. Wow.. over double. That is a good chunk of change and I was more or less giving up on these pots before. This becomes even more important when playing short handed.

So, how again do you make people believe that you have the best hand? Unfortunately, there may be no hard and fast rules. One thing to try is to raise when you would normally call. Bet when you would normally check. Three bet instead of cold calling. You will be amazed out how quickly some people will back down to pressure. Again, it is important to realize when you are definitely beat and they are going to call you down. This is where sessions are usually won and lost. Making those extra bets when you are ahead (or they are weak) and not losing those extra bets when you are behind and they aren't going to fold.

So what do we take away from this fairly long winded post. Every table normally has a table captain. It is my contention, that you want to be that guy. I have to admit that is was not an easy step for me to take; but in the short term, it has helped as I have won 11 of 12 sessions including 10 in a row for just over 2K (which also includes some tourneys and bonus). I probably just jinxed myself.. hopefully not. 11 in a row is my all time record and we will see if I reach that this week. Of course, I'm going to continue my studying on shorthanded play as I still have lots to learn.

Good luck at the tables!!!!


Grinder said...

Interesting - yet long post. 2 things jump out.

"This not only lessens the risk to your bankroll; but also lessens the pressure"

I'm not at your level, I have the bank for it but just not that "inot" the movign up point. For me you can always tell how my risk/pressure variable is on what level I'm playing.

3 tables of 3/6 - I'm feely cocky, four of 1/2 not so good.

Table captain. YUP - I say that over and over - I want to be the guy that is is charge.

have a great Christmas - OOPS- holidays!

Chilly said...

Great post. You captured and clarified my thinking of the last month or so.

Very nice.

TripJax said...

damnit, wonka, your posts are gold. keep it up.

HighOnPoker said...

Is this what a thoughtful, insightful poker blog post should be? Damn, I need to get me some of that.

Nice post. Good luck.

ilico said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ilico said...

Just the post I needed, I get stuck on SnG down to final 3, never getting to the gold and know that I need to up the ante as it were on the agressivness and need to get a lot better a short handed for these situations.


Fluff said...

Aye Aye Capitan (pirate's voice)!!! I completely agree with your sentiments. I particularly like the new term "selective agressiveness."

All I can say is watch out for the mutiny, there might be a new table Captain coming along and hopefully that's me. See you at the next game!

nextgenneo said...

that QT hand just sounds like a bad beat you dealt to some1

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