Monday, January 19, 2009

The Shortstack Results

Ok, so my record keeping is far from perfect, but it should be damn close.  Since October 17th to the present day at Full Tilt, Cake Poker, and Bodog, here are the numbers:

At approximately 9 tables played simulaneously at stakes from $0.5/1- $5/10 (about 75% from $1/2 and 20% $2/4 with only tiny samples in the outlying limits)

161:33 Hours played
Total Winnings: $4,526
Win Rate: $28.02/hr*

With rakeback, add an additional ~$15/hr, bringing the total to about $43/hr.

That being said, I should add two things:

1)  All of these winnings came from Cake Poker, the total actually being $4,753 in 106:25 hours, with the win rate at that particular site being $44.66/hr!  Now the main reason for this is that a HUD is not allowable at this site.  Until I really have started to learn using one the right way recently, I have found that it has always had a negative impact on my play.  Furthermore, sites that do not allow HUDs will necessarily attract worse competition because many multi-tabling sharks simply can not function without them. 

2)  Although not the largest of sample sizes (approx. 100,000 hands), this should be enough to show that there can be good money made from short-stacking when it is applied well.  Currently, I do not know anyone else personally who can say that they make $40/hr+, so this type of money is nothing to scoff at.

In conclusion, I will give the detractors one thing- this type of play is NOT particularly rewarding.  However, it is a great thing to do if you have other activities to attend to that require excess brain power or you do not feel like you are at your peak in a given day.  In a previous post, I stated that I would not be publishing my strategy, though I am considering offering a seminar to teach this strategy, which I feel can be learned in less than 2 days.  If anyone is interested, you know where to find me!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different!

Yes, I will be stealing someone else's thunder for this one. This was conceived by 2 time WSOP bracelet holder Bill Chen (though actually written by Steve Badger) who also co-authored the book The Mathematics of Poker. I wish I could have claimed this one...

The Chen Coin Flip

Winning poker is all about the application and reapplication of advantages over a long period of time. If you play better than your opponents to a degree that overcomes the rake, you win. A problem with this that plagues many otherwise good players, especially those that play in very live games regularly, is that when they hit losing streaks or when bad luck hits them extra hard, they seemingly lose touch with the process of what is occurring when they win.

One specific example comes up a lot. Some "good" players insist games of a table full of maniacs can't be beaten. This "good" player complains that AA doesn't "stand up" in a ramming and jamming Holdem game where eight people commonly take the flop. He somehow seems to think that AA should be winning more than half the time, and needs to be winning more than half the time for him to be making money. Simple math should tell him that a hand that wins 40% (or 35% or 25%) of the time against seven players is enormously profitable. He should be welcoming those 60% (or 65% or 75%) of the times he does not win! You need to expect to lose most of the time to win in the long run.

This carries over on an hourly and session basis too. You can't expect to win every hour or every day. Income in poker is not made in a linear, regular way. There is deviation. Sometimes you get unlucky.

Bad luck not only destroys some players because they play too high for their bankroll, it destroys their game mentally because they can't stand losing to weaker players. A lot of above average players simply need a more reasonable idea about how their edge makes them their money.

On the newsgroup, two-time 2006 World Series of Poker bracelet winner William Chen posted the following excellent bit of advice (used by permission here):

"When we sit down at a table, every hour we're essentially doing a coin toss for a rack of chips. Now if you're a skilled player you may have an overlay of half a stack (assuming 100 chips in a rack and 20 in a stack). So if you're a skilled $3-6 player, it's like flipping a coin and getting $120 if you win and losing $100 if you lose or if you're a 15-30 player it's $600 if you win, $500 if you lose. Now this is a pretty huge edge when compared to blackjack on a per-hand basis but we shouldn't be too surprised at all if we get on a bad streak and lose $3000. How easy is it to flip tails 6 times a row? It's bound to happen if you flip coins all the time -- now 10 or 15 in a row is a little unlucky but nothing too phenomenal."

The way to win is to focus on playing your best to get that 6-to-5 edge, not on whether you win the flip this hour. If you do genuinely have an edge, and you simply go in and play your best all the time, what happens is you get something like this 600-500 or 120-100 coin flip every hour. Isn't that great?

But what a lot of players do is when as the 6-5 favorite they lose the toss three or four or ten times in a row, they start steaming and playing less optimally and tearing themselves up inside about their bad luck. Essentially what "tilt" is, for a winning player, is saying: okay, I've lost four of these coin flips in a row, so to get even for the day I'm going to take an additional couple of flips this hour, but in these additional flips I'm going to be the 5-6 underdog.

Sometimes you'll have a run of bad luck (be it an hour, a day, a month or a few months) when you are the coin flip favorite. Big deal. This is no excuse for trying to "get even" by transforming yourself from a favorite to an underdog just so you can get more flips that day!

Next time you are tilting and chasing, or playing an extra long session when you are stuck, ask yourself why instead of having the chance to flip a coin once an hour to win 600 while risking 500 you are insisting on all these extra flips where you can win 500 (or 465 or 275) while risking 600! "Getting even" is nothing in the grand scheme of things -- applying and reapplying your advantage is.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Challenging the Concept of Short-Stacker Etiquette

Complaint: It is bad etiquette to "hit and run."

Objection: I disagree.  Every player has a right to leave a game where they feel that their edge is disappearing or non-existent.  A player sitting there with 20 BBs has a distinct edge over their larger stacked opposition.  A player with approximately 28-45 BBs does not share that advantage and is likely at a distinct disadvantage due the awkward stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) that this creates.  If you do not believe me, then you have never faced an opening raise with this stack holding TT-QQ and AK where folding, flat-calling or re-raising pot are all negative options.  However, just slightly over the line lies the stack of 50 BB, where you cross a threshold where people will once again begin liberally calling pot-sized 3-bets because of an illusion of implied odds.

In addition, if doubling up and leaving is poor etiquette, then at what point and who can decide when it is appropriate for you to leave?  Should you ask someone's permission and what is their criteria?  Should you leave after you bankrupt everyone at the table?  If so, then someone would certainly complain that you left after taking everyone's money!  Should you leave only once you are broke?  I won't even dignify that with an answer.

Complaint: Hitting and running is not allowable in a casino or home game.

Objection: This IS allowable in a casino.  When I play in a casino, I am not playing with my friends and therefore could give a shit how they perceive me, as long as I am being a polite, good sport.  In fact, I have even receive hostility by sitting in a small stakes limit hold'em game for the sole reason that I was reading a poker book.  I was not nor was I accused of holding up the game, I was simply being chastised by the older know-it-alls who felt superior to me because they had already "figured it out" -- apparently.  Fuck 'em!

Home games are another factor.  Presumably, people are playing in home games with friends and are doing it for the sheer enjoyment.  I imagine that anyone playing there for a perceived profit motive would be met with disdain and soon barred from playing.  

So now let's face the truth: Internet poker is NOT the same thing.  The rules and environment are like night and day.  I have never sat down at a casino and pulled up a heads-up-display on my opponents.  Likewise, I have never walked away from the table and had a device collect information on my opponents' play while I was having lunch.  I have never seen a player who I have never played against and promptly visited a web page to view their results over the last 120 days, all while they are completely unaware that I am doing this.  Have you?

In conclusion, it is time to finally take stock and realize that the game is ever changing, and each increasing change is likely to be negative for the pro.  We must simply adapt and overcome as we can have little hope of writing to a site and hoping that they will ban everything that pisses us off.  If you are concerned about unfair advantages, first toss out your pot odds calculator, un-install your Full Tilt short cuts, shut down your HUD, and stop paying your subscription to Poker Edge.