December 27, 2004
The Party Poker bonus was a perfect way to launch my winter un-break (at Harvard, we have fall semester finals after a two week “vacation” – ugh). At the end of the 1400 raked hands, I was up about 110 BB at .5/1. Not AMAZING, but not too shabby either. This session, along with the 140 I made in profit playing off and on over the last several months, are nice signs that I am becoming a profitable player, if not yet a crushing player, and that the early losses I took in Vegas can at least in part be attributed to variance.
The more I play, the more I come back to the same problems, though. I feel like I move back and forth in a spectrum of weaknesses. For instance, I started off by betting the river too much and getting raised/check-raised. Then got too weak, folding in big pots on the flop and river when I should have stayed in. The latter mistake is easier to recognize and rid myself of quickly, which is good since it’s generally the bigger mistake. But, if not paid attention to, the former mistake can add up over time.
Over time, I feel like I’m slowly making my way to the middle of the spectrum. That is, each time I swing from too weak to too aggressive, I hope I’m not just ending up at the extremes and am instead making my way to the optimum.
Two other complex situations have also been problematic. First, how do you play AK or AQ when you miss the flop after raising? You have to consider how many players are in, whether you might be able to knock anyone out, what the board looks like, whether hitting your pair will be worth it, your back door draws, etc. I feel like, right now, I’m basically following up my raise with a bet every time (though less often when there’s a bet into me though), and that’s too aggressive. Here, if the pot is big and there are several in, counting on knocking anyone out isn’t possible. But you still might want to bet to hide your A/K/Q if it comes on the turn, since the bet on the flop might signal that you don’t have a pocket pair, and waking up when the A/K/Q will give away your hand.
Second, how about playing top pair weak kicker (particularly K or A pair) in heads-up v. multiway? For example, I have A2s, limp from the cutoff, 5 players. Flop comes with two clubs and a diamond, misses me entirely, but gets checked around. Turn comes with the Aces of clubs, check, check, bet, and call into me. It’s a small to medium sized pot, they could have flush, but they could just be bluffing on the ace, or assuming that their second pair is best. Here’s a variant on that situation: same but I have top pair with a T holding JT. Heads-up these situations can be very different, but the more players you add to the mix, the worse it gets for the top pair. Diffentiating between when the pot is too small to call can be tricky.
What’s great is that every time I run into one of these situations or make a clear mistake, I remember: Ed Miller has something to say about this. If you haven’t done so already, buy this book. Recently, when I made a horrible fold in a large pot on the river, and I immediately sat down and read “Playing the River When the Pot is Big.” I’ve slipped back to too aggressive again, but I feel like I’m overall in better shape. I really must go back and reread this whole book.