Strategy in Action is a monthly feature written by a ‘recreational grinder’ who’s studying our training material in order to consistently beat $1/$2 and build a bankroll. You can read the introduction here, or check out what happened in the last episode, Plan Ahead Poker.
How long can I go on winning $70/hr at $1/$2?
Over the course of the last 14-15 hours, spread out across 5 sessions, I have made just a few bucks shy of $1,000.
When I set out on this journey a few months ago, I never imagined I’d be sustaining these kinds of results. And I’m quick to not be cocky about it. After all, these 15 hours equal one or two sessions for serious grinders. I would expect them to scoff at drawing any statistical conclusion about the quality of my play from such a small sample size.
That said, my poker lifetime is no small sample size. Over the tens of thousands of hands of poker I’ve played in the last 15 years, I know I’ve never played better than right now. Actually, it’s not even close. I am making the least amount of mistakes, and getting the most amount of value out of others’ mistakes than ever. And every day, I see areas where I can improve even more.It’s all because I’ve been studying more than playing. I know that sounds simplistic to say, but the work I’m putting in off the table is directly wired to my results on the table. I long for the day when I can play more and study less, but so long as I continue to see vast areas of improvement, I’m going to focus on studying, and then applying those lessons systematically.
Because I’m getting so much out of study, I’m also proud of having applied my newfound commitment to note-taking, capturing three hands in SplitSuit’s Live Poker Player’s Journal. I will be submitting the hands below to coach Doug Hull for our first coaching session, and I welcome you to leave comments here giving your own criticism. That’s the point and the power of taking notes!
And that’s exactly what this episode is about — noting the hands where I have questions so I can get critical analysis from others. I’m doing this to highlight a few things, some of which were inspired by the recent “Finding Balance with Poker” podcast:
- Getting better at poker is faster when you get advice on your trouble hands. Putting it all out there takes some guts, because you know you’re probably doing something wrong. But how are you going to fix what you’re doing wrong if someone with experience doesn’t tell you how?
- Having experienced coaches and complete strangers point out your mistakes is incredibly constructive because of the intensity of having someone tear apart your thinking. You bet I won’t be making the mistakes they point out anytime soon. I’ve never opened myself this wide for poker criticism, so I might as well jump in the cold deep end and use the shock to my advantage.
- I wanted to demonstrate the kind of “thinking about hands” that I’m doing because I increasingly see it as key to my success. It took me a while to realize that you almost have to have an inner dialogue at the table, talking the hand through with yourself as it plays out. That’s plan-ahead poker.
- Last but not least, take notes. For live poker, there’s nothing like being able to remember trouble hands in accurate detail for later analysis.
Swimming with Big Stacks
In all my previous sessions, I would be one of two or three big stacks at the table that were above the max buy in. For this session, I was seated at a table with no less than 5 other players over max buy in, most of them hovering around $500-$600.
My first instinct was to play cautiously and contemplate a table change. In terms of game selection, I knew most of the other tables had worse players with smaller stacks. Then, inspired by the recent Red Chip podcast Spotting Live Poker Pros, I decided to embrace the situation and get in their heads. I looked at it as an opportunity to take chunks of their big stacks away.
Running Top Two into a Set
I thought I was going to have a losing session in the beginning. I lost a few small pots and then ran into this hand:
I raise to $8 from EP with AsKc. Instantly I regret this and feel like I should have raised more, like to $12 at least. Even with the big stacks this is turning out to be a really passive table.
In any case, I get called in three spots and the flop comes AdKs8h. I c-bet $25 into a $35 pot. A small stack is next to act and makes a min-raise to $50. They have less than $50 behind. The other players fold, I shove, and the short stack calls with KK for middle set. No ace or running cards come and I pass a big stack of chips across the table.
In the post analysis, I feel like a lot of this is standard, but I wonder if there’s ever a case for me getting away from this hand. A min-raise seems, in a weird way, very strong.
As I start to think that this will be my first losing sesssion, I immediately catch myself myself. If I keep thinking this way, I’m guaranteed to have a losing session. I immediately hit the reset button, pretended like the stack I was sitting on was what I came to the table with, and pressed on.
That’s when the fun began.
Turning the Nut FlushMy most profitable hand of the night also had many areas where I’m eager to get feedback on my play, wondering if there was more money to be made here.
Three players limped, and our Villian on the hijack raises to $7. These are the kinds of standard raises that are going on at this table — $7, $8, maybe $10.
The button calls and I call in the small blind with AdTd. Looking back, this seems like a good spot to 3-bet to something like $25, and at least isolate the raiser, even if I am out of position. I could play relatively fit or fold.
I don’t see calling as awful because the whole damn table is likely to call, and if I’m playing fit or fold, I might as well give as many players a chance to flop second-best to my nut flush, nut flush draw or top pair (assuming I “fit”).
Four players call and when the flop comes AsKdJd I am psyched. Top pair with a nut flush draw. At the same time, there are 4 players in the pot and hands like AJ and QT could be floating around. The fact I hold the ace makes AK, AQ, AJ less likely though, so I feel really confident I have the best hand here, most of the time. I also feel like the preflop raiser is c-betting almost 100% of the time I check to him. I’ve seen him c-bet a high percentage of the time, and if anyone at the table is playing a little aggressive, it’s him.
I check, and it checks around to Villain, and sure enough he throws out a $12 c-bet. This is less than half pot, so when it gets to me, I pop it up to $40. I’m not sure if the weak c-bet means he wants a call and figures it’s hard for the other players to hit this flop, or if he’s trying to take it down now, or if he has a draw. All I know is I still figure to have the best hand.
He thinks for about 15 seconds and makes the call. We’ve now got about $120 when the turn 2d fills up my flush.
I elect to check here, and looking back that might have been a mistake. At the time, I didn’t want to lose the fish on the line. But looking back, he has plenty of hands that might call a turn bet: AK, AJ, QT, worse flushes. I really think I missed an opportunity for value by checking here.
When the river came a 9s, I had to try to get some value out of this hand, so I slipped $80 out as a 2/3 pot bet. Villain tanked for a solid minute. I thought I might be losing him, so I made a furtive glance to telegraph weakness. It must have worked because a few seconds later he called and groaned when he saw my hand.
My turn check probably helped get a river call, but I also think there’s a high likelihood I get that call on the turn, and maybe eke out another call on the river.
Turning Garbage to Gold
One of my last hands of the night was thoroughly enjoyable, but again, I wonder if I missed out on max value.
In the big blind with 6c2d, I checked after 6 players limped. Flop comes 6s6dTh, giving me trips.
It’s hard for any of my opponents to hit this flop, but then again, there are six of them, and they all limped, so who knows. Still, betting out here feels like a suspicious move on my part after checking the big blind. I elect to check and it checks around to the cutoff who bets $10. Villain in this hand had been pretty tight, even nitty, so this bet means something. It’s not a steal. I feel like they likely hold a ten. I call. I guess I could have raised here and gotten called by a ten. More missed value? Another player calls and we see a turn with about $44 in the pot.
When the 3s hits, I decide I’m done beating around the bush and bet $40. I had been loosening up at the table and I wanted this to look like a steal, or like I was trying to bully the other player out of the pot. I was saying, “I don’t believe you have anything, sir.” It just didn’t seem like something a player with a 6 would do, and that was my thinking when I made the bet.. that Villain wouldn’t believe me, and I’d get a call out of any ten. Looking back, that probably should have been my thought process on the flop when I could have check-raised!
In any case, Villain calls the $40 bet and we see a river brick 4s.
Now I’m wondering what the hell this guy has. AT? KT? T3? Not a whole lot makes sense. Do they really have the case 6? In that case I could run into some kicker trouble. That chance seems so remote. Maybe he just didn’t believe me and was trying to be a hero.The pot was $124. All the doubt in my mind was translating into doubting he’d call any bet on the river. So I pushed out a wimpy $50 bet to continue selling the idea I was trying to steal this. He counted chips for about a minute, looking really confused, and finally called. He mucked after I showed. I asked what he had and he said, “Something good.” Maybe we was making a weird move like slowplaying JJ? I am still perplexed by this hand, but when you scoop a pot of over $200 with 6c2d, the results-oriented person in me has to LOL.
This month, our study time will be a little different, because I’ll be seeking coaching from Doug on these hands and other questions, and will rely on him to point me towards areas of study. Naturally, I’ll be devouring all the most recent Red Chip Poker PRO videos. And I’m also taking some of the applications on the Best Poker Analysis Software 2016 article for a test spin. There will be no shortage of study to report on next time.
I still definitely have some work to do on board textures. I feel like I could watch those videos all again. And the recent podcast with Ed Miller and Doug Hull on “streets of value” really has me thinking.
I’m feeling good, playing confidently, constantly improving… things couldn’t be going better. Well, I could be playing more poker! Soon enough. I booked my Vegas trip for June, when I’ll be joining the rest of the Red Chip Poker community for the annual member meetup. Hopefully I’ll be seeing you out there… and taking your chips so I can write articles for you about it!