Thursday, April 28, 2005

High Stakes vs Low Stakes Debate

As a member of an on-line poker discussion group, I have seen a lot of different opinions as to why high stakes is a better teaching tool than low stakes poker. There are arguments to the effect that nobody will take the play seriously at the low or no-stakes game, as compared with the higher stakes game, so even novices should consider a higher stakes game.

That's good advice to give as a potential recipient of the novice's largesse. When I become a better player, I will gladly invite novices to my higher stakes table as well. However, I have a dissenting view point as a novice, and outline my reasoning here.

1) The competitive spirit will still be at the table, in a low stakes game. If you have a bunch of serious novices at the table, all with a desire to win, it will still be a learning experience.

2) As a poker novice, your own worst enemy is yourself. That's right! Just like in many other pursuits, you have to learn a certain amount of self-control and self-knowledge before you can start to become the player you wish to be. You can understand poker theory in detail, but if you cannot follow the lyrics to that ubiquitous Kenny Rogers song because of a lack of self-control, you are not ready to play higher stakes poker.

Let me rephrase it this way. Better players will 'make a play' on each other, using sophisticated techniques. Novices will 'make a play' on themselves. At the novice table, you can learn about your own play cheaply, and observe fish-like behavior that will occasionally be seen at the higher-stakes tables as well. If somebody is capable of 'making a play' on a novice that the novice hasn't already done to themselves, well God-Bless'Em!

3) Once you begin to win at the lower stakes, you may consider using that stake to start playing higher stakes games. Why pay double or triple the cost for 'poker lessons' when you don't have to?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A note about the Jelly Jar

As most amateur gamblers know, there should be a barrier between your play money, and your real money. In my case, it's the Jelly Jar. At the start of each month, I put a certain amount into the jar, with the idea that it will carry me through the month. Once the jar is depleted, I'm done for the month. If I win, that money goes into the Jelly Jar, and I've got either some extra play time at the table, or the option of a bigger stakes game.

My ears are still burning, because I must confess that last night I committed a sin. After my first tilt, I looked in the jelly jar, and recognized that the remainder of my JJ money would leave me perilously short-stacked. After an hour of watching the fun, I rationalized pulling my stake out of my wallet. IMPU, pulling stakes out of my own wallet is lower than a snake's belly. Even for a small sum to put me to a decent starting stake, with a promise to put it back at the end of play, it's just plain wrong.

Open Letter to S (Post Caro Game)

S was kind enough to drop a line in response to my blog, and this is my response:


I hope I didn't come off too down on my blog. I'm sure you've come away from a burn and thought a few unprintable thoughts in your time? I first want to make clear that any resentment I feel at this time is self-directed, because I should know better.

And yes, it was a friendly game with a great bunch of guys, and I look forward to seeing you all in person again. K especially kept the party lively, and it was great to see what a really well run game looks like!*

I'm simply a cheapskate, and I'll make it a point to pick my games accordingly. If I start winning the cheapskate games, I may use those funds as stakes to play with the big kids, but I won't join the big kids until that time. As I hinted in the blog, if I sat down in a game like that for a longer duration and went on tilt, I have a feeling I could have blown a lot more money, so I got off lucky. I have a feeling I'll play Big Slick a lot better the next time I see him :-)


*DR. - Your game is well run too and heartily endorsed!

Frank's Mastercard Commercial #1

Going all-in on a missed flop with Big Slick .... $40

Going all-in on a missed flop with Big Slick AGAIN .... $40

Waking up early the next morning, getting the dishes done, having a great rambling, pleasant chat with your pre-teen daughter, and generally recognizing that your newfound passionate hobby is getting a little intrusive on the elements of life that really matter .... Priceless!

Billy Crudup - If you're reading this, please send me the voice-over :-)

Three Painful Lessons at

1) Mike Caro was in town giving a free seminar. (Will review it at a later date.) As a number of players from our poker club were going, I suggested a tournament on the cheap, got the momentum, and then needed a space. Another club member offered to host, and called the stakes and rules. At that point, the stakes and rules put this play out of my league, beyond the ouch point where I can laugh off a loss. No, I didn't blow the rent, but I blew enough to feel bad about it. Gotta know your price limits, and know enough to not even get in the game. I'm sure I played out of a sense of ownership of the event, but I had no business in that room as a newcomer. Nice bunch of folks, but I can't subsidize them at this particular tax rate.

IIKTWIKN: I will not organize an event over which I do not have control, lest I get into a similar situation again. I will stick to events in which I can lose only a finite amount of money in an evening, as opposed to events in which there are unlimited rebuys. I'm a little too compulsive to walk away, and if the game hadn't ended at midnight, I might have learned painful lesson 4. As it was I lost my first stack in the first hour, exercised self restraint by not playing for an hour, and then promptly re-bought and made the same costly mistake again.

2) First buy-in, I'm doing okay, bullying a few blinds and flops, and not going to the showdown, marginally ahead in chips. I pull big slick on the small blind, and everybody limps in to me. I raise 2.5BB, and only one player stays. I miss the flop 100%, but I end up playing it out to the bitter end because I'm chasing that pot which was 'rightfully mine'. (Well played, F.)

IIKTWIKN: It was a good play to raise the field with Big Slick and weed out the pack. Once I missed the flop, I was in denial of reality, and was telling myself that even though I was bluffing, my adversary was certainly bluffing too. I had to be willing to acknowledge that my nice play was a failure once I missed the flop and one player stayed in. I was given enough rope and hung myself.

3) Second buy-in, I'm marginally ahead again, one small showdown and a few bullied pots. I limp-in with big slick, as if I'm going to trap somebody. I pair kings on a nothing board, and I get pulled into another all-in situation, which I again cannot back away from. This player limped in on a 6,9 suited and flopped a straight draw, and I believe he made it on the turn (C?) . Pure nuts and I'm blind to the idea because the board tells me that 6,9 is the nuts, and I can't possibly put a guy on 6,9, but he was towards the button, so I can see his point. (Well played, C.)

IIKTWIKN: I limped in with Big Slick, which is statistically decent in a small crowd, but a much better favorite if I weed out more of the hands wiht a pre-flop raise and settle for a smaller pot. As it was, I felt that I 'deserved' the win, and was in denial of reality again. Reality control is a big issue at this time.

In truth, I had room to fold on both of my all-ins, and could have licked my wounds and bullied some more pots and waited for nuttier hands. My big weakness at this time appears to be all-in fever when I don't have the nuts. That's a pretty big weakness to have. Also, what did Brunson say about losing a big pot or winning a small pot with Big Slick...?

Monday, April 25, 2005


FTS - Final Table Syndrome. Getting a little too excited about making it to the final table, and losing the focus and drive necessary to make it into the money just when you most need the focus and drive..

BSS - Big Stack Syndrome. Similar to FTS, but can strike anytime you get cocky.

TPD - Tilt Prevention Device

TMI - Too Much Information

IIKTWIKN - If I knew then what I know now ....

IMPU - In My Personal Universe (ie, This is my strong personal belief, regardless of how the outside world may perceive the situation.)

All-in Fever - The author of this blog suffers greatly from this illness, in which an NLHE tournament player will go all-in when they don't really have a good reason too, simply for the adrenaline rush associated with pushing all of one's chips to the center of the table.

The Nuts - A nut hand, in hold'em poker is the best possible theoretical hand given the community cards, or alternatively the best hand to see the showdown and win the pot.

Tilt - To go on tilt is to play emotionally, rashly and make poor betting decisions that defy logic.

Semi-Bluff - When the first three community cards (the flop) has been shown, there are still two cards to come. A semi-bluff is when you do not have a winning hand, but you have a certain number of cards that could still make your hand the winner. Examples include drawing to an outside straight, with a 40% chance of drawing a winning hand, or an inside straight ("belly buster") with a 20% chance for a successful draw.

Big Slick - Ace, King

Limp in - To match the big blind (but not raise) in order to see the flop.

Short-stacked - Having significantly less chips than your opponents, leaving you much more susceptible to bluffs and 'bullying' by the bigger stacks.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Four Vignettes - My So-Called Poker Life

A series of vignettes from my first three tourneys.

1) First tourney ever. After playing tight for two hours, I start to get some playable hands, and call a raise to see the flop. I'm sitting on an open-ended straight draw with two cards to play, and I pay +/- 20% of my stack to see the next card. It doesn't help, and the guy on the opposite end of the table clearly knows what I'm up to. Raises me up to more than half of my stack to see that last card. I fold like a numbrella. Natch, the end of my straight comes up at the river, and it would have been the nut hand.

IIKTWIKN: If I was going to consider going all-in, then I probably should have gone all in at the flop with two cards to play. I couldn't have been bullied off the potential nuts, and wouldn't have been too disappointed if I had been knocked out. If I wasn't willing to go all-in on the last two cards, I shouldn't have paid for the turn. As it was, my stack evaporated within 30 minutes of that play.

2) First tourney ever - losers tourney in the back kitchen. Surrounded by four other newbies *, I play by-the-book straight poker waiting game. I don't try to bluff calling stations, I don't get into pissing contests after losing a pot, and I don't tilt. Eventually, it's down to me and a person whose philosophy of poker is 'There's a 50% chance of winning, you will or you won't.' Trust me, beating this philosophy was shooting fish in a barrel.

3) Second tourney ever - I'm on the ropes after going on tilt. I pull a successful semi-bluff out of my arse and collect enough to get me through a few more blinds. I immediately get dealt my first small pocket pair all night, and call a raise to see the flop. The flop doesn't help and I fold on the next raise. The board pairs jacks, and the winning hand was pair of jacks, Ace high. My two pair was indeed the nuts.

IIKTWIKN: I think I didn't go all in because I was afraid the entire table would have gone after me if I had gone all-in two hands in a row. However, the first time was a semi-bluff, and the second time was an even better proposition for me to go all in on. I should stop letting the results of the prior hand dictate how I play the next one. If I had gone all in that second time, I might have come back up from the count.

4) Third tourney ever. I invite a first time player to join a small tourney I hosted, who eventually wins by calling. I think he didn't raise more than twice all night, but only called when he had something, and so he didn't bleed much, but made a killing when he had something. I will invite him back, and if his behavior doesn't change much, I'll let other people try to take his chips when they don't have the nuts, and get out cheaply when it's clear he's representing a hand. I'm sure there are lots of players who play this way.

* How odd that the newbies were the first five eliminated, what are the chances? ;-)