Monday, April 27, 2009

"Clearing the Desk"...and Other "Non-Poker" Poker Tips

One of the things that I've realized (as I am sure that most of you have) is that there is so much more to this game than the cards sitting in front of you.  And no, I will not bore you with the cliche about playing your opponents cards or even playing your opponents.  People way smarter and vastly more qualified than myself have written entire books on the subject.  What I am talking about are those little things, completely removed from the game itself that can cause you to not play at your best.  With how competitive the game is becoming and the overall higher skill level of the players (as compared to say, 3 years ago) means that in order to be successful,  you can't EVER play below your best.  Here are a couple of mistakes that I have made (or still make) and I invite anybody that has any of there own "detrimentals" to post them up so the loyal readers of The Short Stack Hero can all improve our games a little bit.....

1.  Clear the Desk

This is a term that you will sometimes hear in the corporate world.  It generally applies to finishing off little tasks before going home, leaving for the weekend or taking a vacation so that you are not distracted while away from work with those little things hanging over your head.  My experience with it has been a little different.  Just recently I went through a definite downswing for about two weeks.  When looking at it afterwards,  the cause was obvious.  It wasn't bad beats or any crap like that, it was that I hadn't "cleared the desk".  During the same period I was working on a project.  I had no set "due date" to complete the job so I found myself pushing it off a little even though I knew that I should be working on it.  Instead, I would log on to play cards with the thought "I can play for 90 minutes, then I need to get to work".  I found myself being a little too aggressive to try to eek out some winnings in my short time span.  Meanwhile I was slightly distracted thinking about the work that needed to be done.  Then when I would take an (inevitable) loss it would feel twice as bad, because if I had just been working like I should have, I wouldn't have dropped $200.  While it wasn't a huge financial loss, it sure felt a lot worse because of the situation.  We have all heard "don't play with scared money".  I think that playing with "scared time" might even be worse.   Clear the desk before you play, so that you can  bring the full brunt of your focus to the table and not needlessly sap your Emotional Bankroll.

2. Don't Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater

When going through a downswing (even as short as 2 or 3 days) when you have just been getting your teeth kicked in, one of two things happens.  A donkey will  automatically blame it on bad luck. This may or may not be the case, but they never seem to even consider the chance that it may be of their own doing.  A good player will sometimes over-analyze everything to the point of insanity.  This is the situation to which I am referring.  They think that they must have a glitch in there game so they start trying all kinds of things.  Playing more hands, playing fewer hands, making more bluffs, making no bluffs, laying down to any raise or never laying down, no matter what.
If you have been a consistent, winning player, stick with what works.  There is actually something I say to myself all the time (mainly because I have so much faith in Lorin's System).

System + Time = Money  
And it is so true. Lorin has started telling his students this as well and it is a great way to get through the bleakness of a downswing.  If what you do works, feed it some hands and let it do it's job.  We will all have those standard deviations from the mean.  And while I have found that a downswing is a decent time to do some evaluation and tweaking, don't throw out the baby while dumping out the dirty bathwater.  If a pitcher has a bad game, he may check to make sure that he was arching his back or that his release point is where it should be.  He doesn't just scrap his entire motion and delivery and start over, and neither should you.

Well there are two points to start off with.  I plan on doing more in the series on mistakes (it could take me years to cover all the ones that I make).  I do hope that you will throw up you own little tidbits here on The Stort Stack Hero.  It's not giving away any strategy,  and maybe it will help exorcise some of your own little poker demons by having to call them out into the light of day.

Best of luck at the tables (and away from it for that matter)......

Friday, April 24, 2009

Coaching....Recession Style

I am pleased to announce that I will now be offering coaching sessions. I will only be charging half of what Lorin charges. Unfortunately I only know 10% of what he does, so the way I figure it, if this sounds like a good deal to you, then you are just the kind of student to which I have something to offer.....

Thanks, and I REALLY look forward to hearing from you (and collecting your money)

Travis "TheDirrty" Rose

Platonic a Hoax... Identity of Finnianp in Question

With the unfortunate demise of Platonic, Travis and I began questioning the identity of others as well. Here is how our conversation went.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Who Are You, RIGHT NOW?

I am a regular listener to the 2+2 Pokercast with Mike and Adam. In my opinion, it is simply the most entertaining and thoughtful one running, with the most talented radio personalities. In their last one, they were reviewing a recent SCOOP event where former WSOP Champion Greg Raymer was complaining about his luck when he lost deep in an event to Christian Schlager when his quads lost to bigger quads in a game of PLO. He had mentioned that this did not surprise him as he had been running very bad lately. Schlager, ever the one to speak his mind in an apparently frank and obscene way had quipped that anyone who has won the World Series of Poker Main Event loses all rights to ever complain about running bad, ever again.

Is this true? Personally, I disagree with Mr. Schlager.

After all, Vanilla Ice had sold 11 million copies of his debut album, To the Extreme. Even still, I don't see anyone lining up to trade places with him. In fact, I would bet my entire bankroll that anyone reading this wouldn't even cross the street to piss on him if his head was on fire. So where is he now? Does anyone know? Do they even care?!

You see, Joe Hachem was fortunate enough to win the WPT championship the year after he claimed the title at the WSOP. In his own words, he felt like he was floating, that this was even better than his accomplishment the year before even though he had won less than a third of that this time around. It was instant validation, and everyone knew it. Raymer, on the other hand, has pursued a career in poker and has since had no titles to show for it and in a sense has gone the route of Chris Moneymaker. I certainly respect Raymer for his accomplishments and all that he has since done for the game of poker in America with his work for Poker Players' Alliance, but I can sympathize with him as well.

Look back on your own life. Should everything be OK just because you starred in your 5th grade play? Is life simply wonderful because you threw the touchdown pass in your homecoming football game? Will you die happy because you married the prom queen?

All jokes aside, this is a lesson that Platonic would be wise to learn. No ones cares if he was once a baller at the small stakes at William Hill. Today he is just another broke grinder begging for a stake. You are only as good as your last session and the relative size of your bankroll. Nothing else matters. Who are you today, in this very moment?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Beer Goggles and the Myth of Pot Odds

This is a couple of stories from my own personal experience. The poker hand happened just a few days ago. Afterward, while analyzing the hand, I had a sense of Deja VU. I put both stories side by side to show the similarities. I think we have all been at both of these places.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dancing In the Rain

Well, here is my first Blog entry. I really planned on it being something funny, considering the intro the Lorin gave me. But I have been drinking all night after running a Promo at my Bar and I got home at 4 in the morning and called Lorin to check on him. After a 45 minute conversation, I realised that there was something I should touch on, and that is weathering the storm....

Every player....and I mean EVERY player will have downswings......some so severe that they question how you play this game and even if you WANT to play this game ever again. That is the cruel bitch that we have married ourselves to. Deal with it. Lorin, our own "Short Stack Hero" is worried that he is only on pace to make $4,000 this month. He is pissed, he is angry and he is worried. All I can say is ..


A $4,000 win in a month at $1-$2 is a dream for most players not named "Durrrr" It is only cataclysmic for Lorin because of his own escalating results over the last several months. Well let me be the Buzzkill and break the illusion. NOBODY WILL EVER BEAT THERE OWN FOR RESULTS FOREVER. PERIOD. All streaks are made to be broken and all streaks come to an end.....that is why they are called "streaks".

This game, and Life in general for that matter, is made up of swings. Call them standard deviations from the norm, call them luck, call them whatever. But they are what they are. Part of being a PRO is dealing with this. It will be rarer for you to run a month with no deviation than it will for you to run a month with deviations from either the positive or the negative.

The thing that separates those that can stick with it, and those who can't is simple. Can you handle it?

This is the only thing that I would say to keep in mind.

LIFE IS NOT ABOUT WEATHERING THE STORM (any single minded retard can do that)


If you can take $4,000 from people that have been studying, conniving and scheming to take your money, you are doing pretty well. Especially if that only happens 1 or 2 months out of the year and the other 10 months, you average $8,000. I WISH I could show a $4,000 PROFIT for my WORST month. Hell, as far as cash games go I wish I could show that for my best month.....

Nobody plays this game well when discouraged or downtrodden. You almost have to play this game with arrogance and ignorance. Not to the point where you won't examine your results, but to the point where the results don't matter as long as you are sure that what you are doing is right. As Davy Crockett once said " First be sure you are right, then go ahead....."

Basically, as far as advice from somebody that has been on almost every side of every fence in this game goes, never stop listening, never stop learning, never stop analyzing, but be careful when starting to doubt. Make your game plan, make your play, but don't look at the results too quickly. Make sure that it makes sense to you, then go ahead......

And when the inevitable storm comes, don't focus so much on surviving the storm, take a moment to learn how to appreciate that $4,000 (as bad as that may seem )and dance in the rain......

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tim Wakefield and the Knuckleball: A Metaphor

Enough right now of the frivolities, it's time to get back down to work. For this next entry, I am going to present a metaphor for understanding my short stacking mindset. I used to be a left handed pitcher up until my junior year of college at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Being that this is the only sport I have played competitively, this is the one that I understand the best.

Tim Wakefield is a knuckleball pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. He has had an illustrious career with them all this time and is arguably neither a pitcher in the true sense, nor even a “real athlete.” His “fastball” is known never to exceed 75 mph, but it doesn't need to. He doesn't have a devastating curveball, slider, or changeup. He basically has two pitches: a knuckleball and a straight pitch (described as being too slow to call a fastball). The key here is that is all he needs. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the term, a knuckleball is an extremely difficult pitch to throw that is designed to have no spin whatsoever, allowing the ball to drop and curve sharply at angles so severe and unpredictable that even the pitcher and catcher have no idea which way it is going. Picture it like throwing a beach ball into a headwind, except that the beach ball is the size of a baseball and is moving at 55-60 mph. Now try to hit that with a round bat after you have been practicing all week to hit a moving target at 93mph that is speeding in a straight line. Suppose even further that you are prepared to hit that tiny beach ball and you can guess one of three directions that it is going to move, but now all of a sudden a straight ball comes down the pike that is moving far faster, but you have already slowed down your motion in preparation for that beach ball, but by then it is too late and that ball has already slapped into the catcher's mitt. You are fully aware of the pitcher's game plan, but a slight variation in the strategy throws you off completely.

You see, Tim Wakefield was originally drafted to play professional baseball. He was a Double A first baseman with no exotic talents and very little hope of ever making the Big Leagues. One day he was fortunate that a scout was watching him during a pre-game warm up and mixing in a few vicious knuckleballs. The scout was so impressed that he had him throw some more and then it wasn't very long before he was owning batters left and right and had a permanent spot on a top billed Major League franchise. While he certainly has peers and opponents who don't consider him one of the guys or a true athlete, you simply can't deny that the man shows impressive results. He's not trying to be the next Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens. He never can and he doesn't have to be. He simply found something that he was extraordinarily good at and worked it to perfection. Furthermore, his career is likely to out-perform all but the most genetically gifted and lucky players, due to the fraction of the strain that he puts on his muscles and tendons.

I consider the story of Tim Wakefield to be a great lesson in humility. While we all grew up with notions of the being the best at every facet of life, at some point in time we are either forced to accept our limitations or embrace them along with the strengths that we own. I believe it is fair for me to predict that no one who reads this will ever be a winning regular at Rail Heaven, ever win a gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker, or ever win a World Poker Tour title. But none of us need any of these things to be or feel successful at this game. Don't be afraid to try new or unpopular things and accept that you will not excel at everything you try. Challenge the conventional wisdom and re-define success as a personal venture. Take the unbeaten path.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"This Poker Life," ft. Platonic.....A Dramatization by Lorin Yelle

In honor of my newest reader, Platonic, I present my debut cartoon on Xtranormal. You can read Platonic's blog here and I shit you not, I couldn't possibly make this stuff up!

Monday, April 13, 2009

How We Are Deceived by Our Own Miscalculations of the Future

While not made for poker directly, I believe that this discussion has some very important concepts for understanding other players and our own misconceptions about future probability. For those of you who may have already read the works of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, you will quickly be able to appreciate and enjoy this highly entertaining (at least for us dorks!) talk by Dan Gilbert.

For those who do not see how this applies to the game, I would like to add a disclaimer that I believe long-term success at the game requires melding different disciplines to understanding the game in all its facets. And to people like Microstakes Bankroll Builder, yes, this also includes understanding the mindset and goals of short stackers rather than quickly casting judgment.

A person who seeks long term profit from poker isn't really all that different than someone who pursues art or music for the same reasons. Being able to draw or write a great song does not in any way guarantee you success. You have to understand the rules and regulations of your industry, understand and interpret the impact of the conventional wisdom on your field, understand the desires and needs of your audience, etc.

I hope you all find this both entertaining and enlightening.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Open Response to Microstakes Bankroll Builder (A Short Stacker's Manifesto)

The following narrative is a great example of why I leave the chat feature off. I just can't turn down an argument! This is in response to a comment that Microstakes Bankroll Builder left that read as follows:

not sure i agree with yorkshire pud. you appear to be hovering just above the 1ptBB/100 hands (as opposed to bb/100)verging on a rakeback pro. $7k may seem a lot for some, but for your volume i dont think you can call your "strategy" that successful. its just above breakeven actually. you seem to be a bright guy, why not try playing some real poker and REALLY trying to get a decent winrate for 200nl. you can do that by learning to full stack. you could play half the hands, and win the same money. just a thought.

First of all I would like to apologize to you for not donking off my chips to you in way that you find profitable or aesthetically pleasing.

Before I go on, however, I would like to address your inaccurate post commenting on my results for March. Even with the losses incurred at NL100 and NL400, my total posted win rate is 3.32 big blinds per 100 hands, or 1.66 Pokertracker big bets per 100 (1.66ptBB/100). You say that this is hovering around 1ptBB/100. I might not be a math expert, but I can assure that you made a grave rounding error here, as 1.66 is far closer to 2 than it is to 1. You also state that this is “barely breaking even” and “verging on being a rakeback pro”. However, once again your math is off. My winnings to rakeback ratio is 3:1. Either way, your tenure at small stakes has given you a skewed view of what win rates are the norm at middle stakes games. Players at NL200 are certainly making a living at 1ptBB, they are in the top 5% or so if they are making 2ptBB or better and they are at the absolute top of the food chain if they are making around 3ptBB, of which there are only about 4 or 5. Take Kush789 for example. He is a very savvy player and the very best NL200 player at Full Tilt. With a win rate of 3.56ptBB he could certainly do very well at NL400 and probably any full ring game that Full Tilt has to offer. Ahhh....if only he had the balls to “stick his head over the parapet,” as you would say.

But then again, why should he? He makes a very comfortable, stress free $20k or more per month. He knows he's no world-beater, and he clearly does not care. He doesn't dream of smashing heads with Durrrr or Gus Hansen at Rail Heaven, but he does get to work his own hours, own a beautiful home in any state (or country) he chooses to, and can impress women with the fact that he owns a Bentley financed by playing the game that he loves.

So to digress, what, exactly, defines a rakeback pro? I am offering a concise new definition:

A rakeback pro is a player who plays competitively for a profit motive whose total table winnings are exceeded by the amount of rakeback that he attains on a regular basis.

Here is what a true rakeback pro's stats really look like: lucksallugot. By the way, this guy full stacks NL200 and NL400, and though he might have his dignity for doing so, he clearly must live a miserable existence and consider a 22 oz. Heineken and a Crave Case at White Castle an exciting night out on the town.

After reading your reply to my results and then reading your most recent blog entry which was written on the very same day, I imagine that you came over to mine to vent your recent frustrations because I give a voice to the many faceless short stackers that you see day in and day out. And you know what? I agree with you, though not for the reasons that you might expect. I hate other short stackers as well. Not because they are killing the games, but because they are just another TAG who is taking up a seat from a full stacker that I want to siphon money away from. They come in all different skill levels and I have a lot of respect for a few of them and laugh at most of the others. So what do I do? I just leave the game and find a better one. Now as a mental exercise, take these two regular short stackers and note the difference in win rates:


It's like night and day isn't it? Which begs the question...why is this so? If we are all just shoving our money in the pot and waiting for aces, then IDKbutchyinsted must be the luckiest short stacker in the world, right? Wrong. And I believe that this is what really bothers you...

But before I go on, I would like to take this even further. Look at the stats of these two players who make their homes homes at 2/4 full ring.


I am sure that you find this just as shocking as you find it depressing. While Powerbert is struggling to make ends meet, gtr789 is sleeping until noon and taking weekend trips to Vegas. Why? Because he can!

If we are all using the same “strategy”, then have you ever asked yourself why there are short stackers in all limits of the game? If I am doing something crude and replicable and making over $8,000 a month, then surely there would be an army of people just like myself who would quickly tire of NL50 and jump up in stakes to grab their share of the pie. But they can't, because they are just shove monkeys who know nothing of “real poker”, as you call it. But I do appreciate the service that they provide me. They offer me cover under the broad umbrella of the “shove monkey” so that I can slowly rob you blind with out you ever becoming aware of it.

Although I know nothing of your actually poker game, I can immediately see some serious weaknesses in your attitude. You are very narrow minded and inflexible. You are also arrogant in your assumption that I lack in poker skill because of the manner in which I choose to enjoy the game. Do you automatically assume that all TAGs are the same? How about LAGs? Of course there are good ones and bad ones, but they are all very unique. And the fish? Do you automatically assume to have a one sized fits all strategy to beat a “49/4” or you actually observing them closely to find a particular weakness in their play that you can directly exploit? I do. How about the short stackers? Every time I see a new one, I do my due diligence on If I see they are a winner at NL100, maybe they are taking a shot at the bigger game because they had a good weekend and I will be keeping a close eye on them. If they begin varying their raise sizes to steal against certain opponents, I know they are a player. However, if I see they are just breaking even (like a real rakeback pro), then I can assume that they are simply following a script and are barely capable of varying their play, if it all. I avoid the former and victimize the latter.

Believe it or not, I don't just shove JJ every time I get it. I've raised KK and put in almost 1/3 of my stack and then folded it in it a spot where I knew my opponent had aces, and he did. I'll attack certain player's blinds and avoid others. I've folded sets on clean boards, overbet shoved 3nd pair for value on the river, made audacious bluffs, and ace high hero calls. But I don't expect you to believe me. You are very locked in to your views and I am okay with that. Why? Because this makes you exploitable.

New players come to the game looking for action. This is true, but they are donating money to good regulars and short stackers indiscriminately. They don't recognize me for who I am or what I am doing, but regardless, it doesn't really matter because they just don't care. They will take action from everyone and they will enjoy themselves thoroughly when they bust my aces with 74o. In a few months at the very most, your typical player will be broke and gone, having been hustled out of his money by the sharks at the tables in their various forms. I'm not bitter and I don't hold a grudge against the full stackers for breaking them so fast. All I wanted was just a few dollars from each of them, but that is not enough for “greedy” people like yourself who are not content without taking multiple buy-ins from them and verbally taunting them and humiliating them in the process.

Now does that last statement sound stupid? Of course it does, because it is. You are hustling the fish and I am hustling you. The site only requires that everyone buy in for what I am buying in for; nobody twisted your arm and made you buy in for more. But just by doing so, you made a very implicit trade-off. You get a larger percentage of the fish's money but leave your self susceptible to short stack hustlers and higher swings.

I am not some kind of simple-brained twit with an alien agenda. In fact, I relate to other short stackers about as much as you relate to me. I just made the trade-off in reverse. I chose a somewhat smaller profit margin for a higher daily win rate, the ability to play more tables, and do away with the vicious swings. I have a 6 year old daughter and another kid on the way and therefore security is much more vital to me than the great pissing contest that you refer to as “real poker.”

I saw your March results and that you have made a total of $2,000 in NL50 and NL100. This is very impressive, but I have to assume that you have another job or are still in school because $2,000 is not enough money to live out in the real world. I have bills to pay, people to support, and a healthy social life so I do not care for silly notions of pride in an anonymous, virtual world of post-college 20 somethings and bitter 2+2ers.

But now I would like to end this with a challenge to all of the cocky and critical full stackers out there. If what I do is so easy, then you can surely do it yourselves. Therefore I would challenge anyone who normally full stacks for an amount anywhere between $500 to $2,000 that you can not come even within .25ptBB/100 of my win rate at NL200 using a short stack strategy over a 100k hand stretch. Do I have any takers?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Introducing Travis "TheDirrty" Rose

Travis will be a contributing blogger on The Short Stack Hero from now on. Although he has nothing important to say, this will give him an outlet to spout some worthless, although some might say "humorous" material while filling in the gaps while I ponder more important issues. So without further ado, please welcome Travis to his new home!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Next Stop: Hollywood

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Reflections on March Short Stacking Results and "Proper Play Theory"

Winnings: $6,564
Rakeback: $2,249
Bonus from RaketheRake: $600

Total: $9,413

This month has taught me several things. The first is that you can be surprised just how long you can run good, and like it or not, no graph or EV calculator can actually sum up how good you are running. The second is that it can be very easy to forget just how long you can run bad- including 30k hand stretches. The third is that the strategy I have created is not sufficient to beat the $2/4 FR games and up at Full Tilt. The reason being is that these games are incredibly nitty and require more pre-flop stealing and re-stealing for finer edges, as these games are populated by very wary regulars and a generally more skilled breed of short-stacker.

The good news in this category is two-fold, in that it presents a new challenge to overcome (which keeps my mind fresh and interested) and that I have a team of 3 other Short Stack Soldiers working to crack it. Code name: Jon XYZ is on the Delta Force Squad and he is currently penetrating the upper limits to clear the brush so that we can infiltrate its depths. The outlook is hopeful that by the end of the year we will have ventured out into mid-stakes NL 6-max games as well as pot limit omaha, as the future action at any one game type and format is not guaranteed.

And now for the introduction of Proper Play Theory.*

*Bear in mind that this is nothing groundbreaking here. In fact, many of you will simply chortle to yourselves and think this is retardedly obvious...which it is. It is no more obvious than 2 + 2 = 4, but as simple as that equation is, it is the foundation for algebra and other advanced math. So with no further ado...

Proper Play Theory is the assumption that you are playing against a sane opponent who is attempting to both 1) win money and 2) avoid losses. He has at least a basic knowledge of the game that includes the ability to identify the intrinsic and relative value of his own holding, identify the nuts, and has a working knowledge of pot odds, position, aggression, etc.

Notice that we make most of our money from players who fall outside these parameters, those of course being loose-passive fish and maniacs. Also notice that some of this information was not true 4 years ago when the poker boom was in its relative infancy. For the rest of the competition that falls within these guidelines we employ a different strategy, and the strategy that I personally use to beat such players is highly dependent upon the Range Map. Now that I have laid the foundation, I can then introduce the Range Map in my next post, and you will see how this "retardedly obvious" information suddenly becomes relevant.

Reflection on March Results and "Proper Play Theory"