Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kick ... save

Burned out after logging over 20,000 hands of $1/2 6-max on Party, I quit playing limit poker online early last year and started playing PL, NL, Omaha and more tournaments on that wretched site before quitting the online game almost completely in the spring. Limit had become a grind. I did okay at limit -- 3BB/100 -- but lacked confidence and bankroll, thanks to vacation cashouts -- to take a shot at $5/10 6-max, the next logical step. I had played a fair amount of $2/4 full-ring games before I went to $1/2 6-max and some $3/6 before and after, but the schooling of fishes in those no fold-em games was too frustrating and, in the end, slightly unprofitable. I discovered you can run through a couple hundred bucks pretty quickly playing $3/6. So can a couple of spins on the buzzed tilt-a-whirl. (Vodka and poker -- a lethal combination.)

With winter's gloom descending on the North Coast, I decided to stick $50 of live-game winnings into Stars for shits and giggles. Figured that would last me for a few weeks while playing micro-limit PL 08, NL and $3 NL tournaments. Those limits failed to sustain my interest for very long. So I decided to take a shot at $.50/$1 6-max limit. (I know, that sounds pathetic, but I wasn't in the mood to spend any more money on online poker.) My 6-max chops were rusty, but fortunately the play was so bad that I found myself making money. That lasted for a few sessions and figured I'd try $1/2. Back in a rhythm, I had good results there, too. But after a dozen sessions, the limit malaise returned. Making money didn't even help.

With few pot-limit games to choose from on Stars, I figured I'd play some 6-max NL. A little $.25/.50 here, a little $.50/$1 there. It's early, with just under 1,500 hands logged, but I'm having a blast and running good. As I mentioned in my inaugural post, there are some pretty big holes in my NL game. But, at those limits, I'm not too bad. And I've begun to purge the weak-tight crap out of my system. If anything, I'm too loose-aggressive right now. But that has got to be preferable to my former wimpy self. I'm pounding pots, making big continuation bets even when the flop fails me and calling smallish bets far more often that in the past. I'm picking good spots to bluff, taking advantage of position and stack size.

Table selection has helped. I'm avoiding tables with big stacks of 2-3x the maximum buy-in. Granted, you have to play against good players to improve, but as I learn the game myself, I figure I'm better off butting heads for now with the Little Sisters of the Poor before I line up against Notre Dame. I recently read in someone's blog how players who make short buy-ins will only stick their money in when they have the goods. That's not quite true at the limits I'm playing. I've been amazed at some of the hands people will push with.

After running hot for about 10 sessions, the inevitable cool-down occurred. In one particular session, went up early, got stuck for a bunch and brought it back to a less painful loss after playing far longer than I thought I should have. I've gone into immediate tailspins during my last two sessions. But instead of bailing, I decided to stay at the controls and hope I could right that puppy before splattering ungraciously into the cold, hard Earth. Rebuy! At times I felt that sickening heat rising to the top of my skull, frustrated and pissed at having made bad calls and even more when I thought someone might have played me out of a pot. You know the feeling: Big bet or re-raise and the heart says, "I think my hand is good," while the head is screaming, "Hey, idiot, this hand's going to end like a Ned Beatty menage a trois at the Cahulawassee River."

But during both of those sessions, I managed to stave off those melon-headed sodomites with some deep cleansing breaths and my newfound mantra: "Stay patient. Stay patient." And, holy Hare Krishna, it worked. I stayed aggressive, kept pounding pots after raises whether I hit or not, made good calls and brought both sessions back into the black. Not in a big way, but definitely unstuck. No need for the NTSB and FAA to come searching for my poker Black Box to unravel the mystery of why I suck.

These saves are not going to happen all the time, I know. Gonna lose, gotta lose. Pokers Gods have programmed the game that way. (It's fixed, I tell ya, it's fixed!). But I think I might have learned something. If a poker player can absorb and retain something useful from poker sessions at least half the time, there's hope. Even for me.


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