Friday, June 01, 2007


As with all of the self-aggrandizing poker blogs, I am guilty of talking about myself and my game. After the big swing in two games last night, and Waffles' comment about the golden rule of Riverchasers, I think it's time to do so again.

I started playing online a couple years ago, and the first time I put in any real money was for one of Wil Wheaton's Katrina benefits. Since Stars allowed only a minimum $25 deposit, that left me with some cash left over and that, in turn, led to me continually putting money into the slot machine that is online poker.

When I had started, I knew the basic rules. I'd played draw games and 5 card stud on-and-off for years, but never anything serious. I didn't know anything about pot odds, bet sizes, M, EV, outs, or anything else. Hell, the concept of blinds was still relatively new to me at the time.

What I did know is that I liked to play. I loved trying to figure out what my opponents had, and how I could get their money. I wasn't very good at it. Strike that, I could read people easily enough, but my play sucked.

So I bought the books. All of 'em. Harrington 1 & 2, Jones, Hellmuth, Sklansky, Gordon, etc.. Oddly enough, not Brunson. It's a shelf of books that scares my friends when they see it. I haven't made it through any of them, but it started me on a path.

Then came the blogs -- what hands to play in what position, appropriate bet sizes, what a donkey was, what the odds were, and all those other gaps in my knowledge. I still maintain that the most valuable piece of advice for anybody starting out is that the best way to learn is to play.
I noticed the endless lines of Harringtonites in games. Tight, tight, tight. I went by the general philosophy at the time for a bit, but found it far too boring and predictable. Jordan figured that out pretty quickly too. As I said at the time - if everyone played the same, it would be boring. It was like sitting at a cash table with a bunch of multi-tablers. They bet, you fold because they've got AA-AK. Otherwise, steal their blinds all night.

I still wasn't winning anything though. I was playing well enough to consistently finish in the middle of the pack after hanging on by my fingernails for orbit after orbit. It was unsatisfying at best. If I cashed, it was mostly pure luck. I also stopped listening to the ol' Spidey-sense, as that was "bad poker" I'd heard.

So I stepped back and looked at my game. Especially after one blogger match where Jordan decided to make me his whipping boy. Raising and re-raising me into oblivion. I finally called him with a short-stack to see the crap he was scaring me with... and he won it and knocked me out. I had no idea how to play against that. I looked for the holes in my game and plugged them. I came back with a vengeance and almost immediately felt a difference. Now if I lost, I could pinpoint where and why, and knew if it was my fault or not. If it was, I could find those holes and work on them. If it wasn't, then I moved on. I also started to trust my reads more, and more often than not, they're right. Whether it's based on betting, pauses, historical knowledge, or just straight up instinct, they're there for a reason.

It's a struggle to not become complacent and fall back to the easier ways of playing. Anyone can play Aces. You flop a nut flush? That's easy poker. The same can be said if you flop nothing on bottom-feeding flop. So avoiding becoming a weak-tight player is an active pursuit. Sometimes I swing too much the other way, but figure it out pretty quickly.

So what brought all this on? Like I said, Waffles' comment that Riverchasers is no-fold-em hold-em. It's tough to play against players that have no respect for your play. Yes, in the long run you want these people to stick around because you will take far more from them than they will from you, but it's frustrating nonetheless. That's what surprised me the most last night, that in a game made up of a mix of bloggers and the aptly-name 'chasers, it was obvious who was who. Yet in the $12 Turbo 45 man SnG, the quality of play at the final two tables was a perfectly acceptable form of poker. Heck, there was one hand with 4 all-ins of decent-sized stacks, and every one of those raises and calls made sense based on position, odds and stack size. In a "normal" low-limit tournament, I was able to dominate. In a tournament full of calling stations, I didn't adapt properly. A mistake I won't make again. After I turned off the machine last night, I knew that I'd grown as a player, and come a long way from where I started. I also knew that I still had much to learn, and that the road I was on stretched to the horizon.

My goal previously was purely entertainment. Play as long as this game is fun. Play at limits I'm comfortable losing at. Continue to improve, because winning is fun. I think my goals will shift a bit now. Since I can't deposit on Stars or anywhere other than Tilt, my goal will be to actively dominate the level I am at now - both cash and tournament - and build those rolls to a level where I can move up without depositing another cent. Then repeat. I already know I'm better than most of the donks I sit down with in these non-blogger events, now I just need to take care of the rest of 'em.


Chad Carpenter (Yahoo IM: carchd) said...

What's the point of a personal blog if you don't talk about your game, your accomplishments etc etc.?

Astin said...

There isn't, I'm just calling a spade a spade. Some are worse than others when it comes to "look how great I am."

Alan said...

Great post. Always interesting to hear stories about others and how they got started. Even when the stories are similar, I still enjoy it.

SirFWALGMan said...

Waffles and Self Aggrandized in the same sentence.. shocking!