PokerStars treats the bloggers right!

PokerStars is hosting a World Championship for bloggers. ITH’s own SuitedJock tore up the event last year. I’m going to give it a shot this year.

Poker TournamentI have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 7330476

The prizes are out of this world:

  • 1st place gets a seat to the WSOP Main Event
  • 2nd-9th get a 1,500 WSOP event
  • 10th gets a $1,000 heads-up match with Wil Wheaton
  • 11th-20th get a $370 seat in the 150 seat guarenteed event
  • 21st-40th get an iPod Nano
  • 41st-50th get a seat in the Sunday Million
  • 51st-54th get a Letterman’s Jacket from the FFP store

Free money in hidden corners

As I’ve posted before, I believe in making sports bets that are sure things.  I look for arbitrage opportunities so that I’m going to win no matter what happens.  However, certain betting situations just don’t lend themselves that well to that kind of play.  For instance, as an enticement from one of the sportsbooks I joined, they gave me a free $25 bet in the middle of the NBA season where I had to pick the eventual winner of the NBA championship.  There was really no way to ensure that I got free money, so I had to make an old-fashioned wager.

Now, I know that the proper approach to making free money wagers is to bet on long shots.  You don’t want to take favorites because you don’t get good enough leverage from your money.  I’ve explained this in a previous post, but the upshot is that your EV increases for long shots.  On the other hand, there was no way I was going to pick Portland even getting 2 million to one.  So I had to look for a team that seemed like it had some kind of chance, but was getting nice longshot odds.

I decided to concentrate on the Eastern conference, where I thought there was a better chance of a longshot coming through.  At the time I made the bet, no one in the East was given a serious chance by the oddsmakers but Detroit.  At the time, Cleveland and New Jersey were the next favorites and Miami had a very nice longshot price, so I took  my free bet on Miami and more or less forgot about it.

Now, I’m feeling pretty good about the chances of getting Miami into the finals, but I’m thinking I’m going to have to lay off the free money bet with an arb on San Antonio or Phoenix in order to ensure that I get some cash out of the deal.


A delayed observation from my vacation

It seems to me that some of the Stars sats during the weekday always have overlay.  I played some DS sats that went off very, very short.  I won one that was short at the final table!  I think it started 5 handed at the first table and only wound up with eight at the final table.
I can’t figure out why this is, but my best returns seem to be in sats.  I adjust well to the late stage play in sats (most people handle this situation terribly) and for whatever reason I’ve always had a lot of success in them.  I also like the Turbo rebuys, because it is so fun to play loose and wide open in the early stages.  There is something unnaturally satisfying about playing 75s pre-flop and stacking someone when you hit the nut straight.

The downside about playing well in the sats is that I don’t enjoy turning the T$ back into real money.  I usually play SnGs to clear it, but the quality of play in the higher buy-in SnGs has become pretty good at Stars.  I don’t see nearly as many terrible mistakes as I used to there.  There are a lot of people who appear to have spent a lot of time with the Sit-n-Go Power Tools and are difficult to exploit.  Some of them play way too tight in the early stages and you can build up a chip lead so that you go into the pushbot segment at the end with a few more bullets, but it still becomes something of a crapshoot at that point.  When I used to play SnGs, you could bully at bubble time a lot more easily.
I’m increasing my desire to just buy-in to the WSOP Main Event this year.  I think that may be a crazy idea, but it is really taking hold in my noggin at the moment.  I’m really getting jazzed about the July 1 event, my lovely wife is coming along to provide moral support and encouragement (primarily by hanging out at the Rio spa, I think).


Still more thinking about downswings

There is another angle I’ve been considering today.  We’ve already discussed the players who become despondant during their losing streaks and tilt off money.  Some of them will tell you the rueful tale of the day they took a shot at a bigger game, lost several hands and tilted off most of their bankroll.  This is clearly the worst possible way to handle a downturn and is the cause of more broke poker players than any other single factor.

There is another kind of player I see posting on-line quite often and they are making a different, but still costly, mistake.  They are usually a player who has played for some time and is justifiably pleased with their results and skills.  They typically have amassed a database of significant wins over a lot of hands.  Eventually, they experience a serious downswing that spirals out of control to a massive downswing.  As a smart player, they are adequately bankrolled and have no risk of going broke.   However, despite the mounting evidence of their uncontrolled losses, they insist that they are still playing optimally.  They refuse to seriously consider if their play has deteriorated or if they have failed to adjust to the changing play of others.  When confronted with the suggestion that they must be making some mistakes, they insist that they are proven winners and that it is all just bad luck.

A recent ITH poster described a 2,200 BB downswing over 175,000 hands and seemed certain that he wasn’t making mistakes in his play.  He belives his true win rate to be 2 bb/100.  He plays 10 tables at once and has posted about tilt control issues in the past.  This kind of confidence becomes quite dangerous.  It may be possible that he just happens to be the six sigma guy, but it is far, far more likely that he is making a number of errors in his play.  Refusing to consider that possibility has likely cost him a lot of money.

It is important to note that a prolonged downswing doesn’t mean you are a losing player, but it may mean that you are a losing player at this moment.  Spend extra time reviewing your hand histories and looking for signs of leaks.   I try to devote a significant portion of my poker time every week to review hand histories and look for things I’m unhappy with.  I have almost never looked at several hundred hand histories without thinking I made some mistakes in those hands.  I’ve corrected a great many of them and I’m a better player because of it.  If you aren’t reviewing your hands regularly, you are cheating yourself out of an opportunity to improve.

As far as my play,  things have been looking up for me lately.  I spent some time relaxing with my family and playing poker in the downtime.  I was using a very wonky wireless connection from some neighboring beach house that dropped a lot, so I played on Stars (their software handles this much more gracefully than Party).  The 30/60 game at Stars is not always running and it is not always good when it does run, so I played more 15/30 and I’ve been doing well again the past week or so.  I also mixed in some qualifier double shootouts to the $160 WSOP DS and to the Sunday million.  I won two of three, so it was a nice break and a good success.  I also played a low buy-in rebuy sat and would have won that, but for a lost connection of about 30 minutes.  It was a turbo, so 30 minutes was an eternity.  I don’t know if it was the change of pace or the less aggressive Stars 15/30 game, but I felt much more in control again.

It is official now.  I wired my entry fee to the WSOP Event #6, so I’m playing come hell or high water.  I hope that my lovely wife is going to come along and cheer me on and make up for my losses in the side games.


This is the life

I’m sitting on a deck of a beach house, looking out over the ocean with a laptop and a lounge chair. PokerStars is apparently confused because I’m connected from the wrong place and every draw I have is coming in. My brother-in-law is keeping the margaritas coming and the nephews are splashing in the pool. This is much better than work.


Thinking about downswings

Poker is a game where skill rules in the long run, but luck completely dominates the short run.  The difference between winners and losers is that winners will extract more money when they hit the good hands and lose less money when they are holding the short end of the stick.  I always laugh when I read a post on one of the message boards by someone who says that they never have had a losing streak.  There are only players who have been through a losing streak or players who are going to go through a losing streak.

I’m pretty sure that the better you play, the more likely you are to experience more frequent and more pronounced downswings.  This is because if you are extracting every last drop of EV, you are playing a higher variance style.   If you play a very rockish style, you probably get fewer big losses and you see lower overall gains.  When I first started to play, I played a tighter style than I do now and I played against much softer opposition and I almost never experienced a serious downturn.  The first time I dropped 200 BBs, I was seriously unhappy.  I really believed that the people who had gone through it were simply making big mistakes and didn’t recognize it!

Given that these turns of fortune are inevitable, you need to focus on that which you can control. You need to avoid thinking you are the biggest genius that ever played when you are winning and to avoid freaking out when you lose.  Some people become more reckless when they are losing, as they try desperately to win back what they have lost.  This is almost certainly going to doom you, particularly if you are doing so at a table where you have been losing.  The other players will recognize your tilt for what it is and punish you.  More often, people who are on a downturn pull back into a shell.  They miss value bets when they are ahead and they fold to bluffs more easily than they should.  Even worse, some people do both — they play too many hands pre-flop and play them too passively post-flop.  That is a recipe for disaster.

People who are losing often post “I hate poker” or “I’m going to quit” on the forums.  I feel really bad for these folks and I intellectually understand what they are going through, but I have a hard time knowing what to say to them.  You simply must learn to deal with losing or you will never be a good player.

As you should have guessed, I’m losing right now.  It isn’t a world record downswing and it comes hot on the heels of one of my hottest streaks ever, so it isn’t as soul-sucking as it might be otherwise.  I really think that resistance to tilt is one of my strongest poker qualities.  When I take a bad beat I might utter a quick curse or roll my eyes, but it doesn’t bother me a second or two later.  I file away the information about what the other guy played and how he played it so I can use it next time and I keep playing my game.  The longer downswings are more frustrating, but I have a big PokerTracker database that tells me I’m a comfortable winner at every limit I’ve played which helps reassure me that I’ll come out of it.  I review my hand histories more carefully when I lose, which is probably a good thing, and I watch the hands that I’m not supposed to play for signs that the losses everyone predicts for them are now coming (small pairs and Axs/Kxs mostly).  I always end up convinced that I’m still a good player and that this one will turn around like all the downswings before.  Usually I find something to work on (this time, it is not being so damn stubborn with middle pair in a blind defense situation) and I figure I’ll come out of it a better player.

In many ways, I was pretty lucky.  I started winning from the very start.  I turned $500 into $1,000 within a few weeks.  I took out my original stake from Neteller and was playing with winnings from that point onwards.  By the time I hit my first rough patch, I was so far ahead that my winnings were never remotely threatened.  If it had happened early on, I could not have been confident that it was just the random statistical fate that awaits everyone.  If it is happening to you and you haven’t been a net winner yet, I can’t answer the question you are dying to know.  Are you a winner on a bad run or are you one of the much more numerous players who is destined to lose?  I feel bad for you.  I wish I could give you answers.  I can only tell you this:  Play within your bankroll.  If your downswing is big enough, drop down in limits.  Never play at a limit that threatens to break your poker bank.  Never.


A WSOP resolution

I’ve decided I’m going to absolutely play in the July 1st $2,000 NL Event.  It starts at noon on Saturday and I should be on the final table on Monday.  I’m looking at my schedule to see if I can get out early and play the limit event on Thursday or not.  The limit event could overlap with the NL event, if I make the final table, but that is a good kind of problem to have.  If you haven’t seen it, the full WSOP schedule is on-line.

I’m unsure what I else I will do.  I could plan to play in one or two other small events or devote that money to attempting to qualify for the Main Event on-line.  I had a discussion with Matthew Hilger about it and he suggests that I focus on playing more small buy-in events to build up my experience, but I feel like the ME is so much more of a phenomenon that I’d be a lot more interested in that.  I’d certainly rather play in the ME once than play in five 2k events.  I just don’t have the enthusiasm to play a million long-shot low buy-in events to try to qualify.  I might just buy directly into a few of the higher dollar Stars qualifiers.


Musings on RedPill

I know that he aggravates a lot of people, so I’m in a minority in that I actually find him pretty amusing most of the time.  He has a long history of conflict with various poker discussion boards.  He likes to get people worked up about things and he favors a certain juvenile humor that gets on people’s nerves.  When he feels like he is being attacked, he tends to overreact wildly.  The more free-wheeling atmosphere at twoplustwo got him in trouble and banned repeatedly.  At one point, he must have gone through 8 or 9 redpill numbered accounts and countless other accounts with different names.  His particular style of posting is pretty distinctive, so people tended to recognize his new account quickly.  During this period, he also posted on ITH very frequently, often with 20 replies to himself in a row cursing his bad luck at the tables.  At that point, I believed that ITH was generally a good influence on him and that we tended to keep his worst tendencies in check.

However, some of the people who didn’t like him figured out that they could respond by baiting and teasing him and that he would eventually get out of line.  He was warned more times than I can count and eventually went off on a poster getting himself a six month timeout.  During this time period, he started posting at FCP and building a similar reputation there as he enjoyed at 2+2.  The number of people baiting him at FCP was much higher than at ITH and of course, he eventually got himself banned there as well.

When his suspension was lifted at ITH, he came back briefly but decided that he didn’t fit in and chose not to post.  This lasted for a while, before his most recent return.  When he came back, he was obviously in a manic upswing and was in a posting flurry about bad beats and rants.  He eventually self-destructed in a series of threads where he demanded to be made into a moderator, seemingly never seeing how ludicrous that idea was.  He also posted angrily about going broke and sought people to send him money to restart his poker career.

The “I’m broke” thread turned into the real meltdown when it was moved to the “Vent, Rant and Rave” forum.  In redpill’s mind, this was an attempt to suppress his voice and he pretty much freaked out about it.  He went into a series of rants about the rich people running the site who wouldn’t let him speak his mind (I made the short list of evil rich people!) and about our ingratitude in general.  Having watched him post for a long time, I have noticed that he tends to cycle between gloomy posts and confrontational posts over and over.  In his manic confrontational periods, one of his most frequent targets is “rich people.”  He uses it as an insult and is clearly troubled by and obsessed with the idea of rich people as his enemies.  When he is in these moods, he seems clearly irrational to me.

Unsuprisingly, Matthew decided to ban him.  In the very few non-spammer bannings at ITH, there has been a lot of discussion between the moderators, but this one was pretty much decided without comment.  There was little to discuss, frankly.  Redpill seems incapable of avoiding abusive behavior and the nitwits posting on his blog just make it that much worse.

I feel a certain sympathy for RedPill because some of his tendencies seem like small voices in my head that are just turned up to 11 in his head.  It seems clear to me that he is completely unable to control his outbursts and as a result I’m sympathetic to him.  It isn’t our job to fix his problems or to counsel him, but when I thought we were making a positive difference in his world I was very pleased about that.  I’d like to meet some of the people who act like idiots on his blog and smack them a few times.
After he was banned, Redpill was signing up over and over at ITH and posting wild one line insulting posts over and over.  One or the other of the moderators always happened to be around and we killed the posts as soon as they went up, but it was a pain.  We played cat and mouse for a day or two before the folks who run ITH got really fed up.  They are just some decent guys trying to make a buck on the internet and the redpill banning was taking up a lot of time from people that they pay to do something else (unlike me, who does it for free).  They decided their only course of action was to intervene with his ISP and get them to try to stop him.  I took a chance that he would talk to me via email and posted on his blog to ask him to contact me.  We traded emails for a while and eventually I persuaded him to stop bombarding ITH.  I think he believed that we were also bombarding his blog with rude comments, but of course, that was some other idiots.

He professes to be doing OK (I’ve traded an email or two since he stopped posting) and that he is just trying to figure out what to do.  He still thinks day trading might work for him (I tried to talk him out of that).  He says he doesn’t plan to post again, but I don’t think that will really happen.  I hope he does find some other way to get happy, but I have my doubts.  I would guess that he is in a gloomy period again and he’ll be posting and acting kooky soon enough.