Reflections on my poker game (and a lot of “I“ statements…)

With today being part of my “birthday week,” combined with a post I read by my bud “Reel” on the Shark Forum, I have been inspired to reflect on the differences in my poker game over the past year. Actually, evolution of my game is more like it, as my game has more so “evolved” as opposed to simply “changed.” Be warned, I am going to most likely overuse the word “I,” so if you do not wish to like hearing “I this, I that” now is a good time to click on a blog from the links to your left. Additionally, the post will most likely be “all over the place,” so if you like structured posts once again, stage left. If you do not mind the above, feel free to keep reading.

For starters, I read two David Sklansky books (“Theory of Poker” and “Hold’em for Advanced Players”). As a Birthday Present to myself (from myself), I purchased “Small Stakes Hold’em” by Ed Miller. I was convinced these books were all I “needed.” In fact, I believed these books could carry me in the ring or in tournaments.

As for game selection, I played short-handed NL Ring games. I was killing the .10/.25 NL games, sometimes even two tabling and had no desire to move up. My goal was to make $150 per day. There were days where I would lose or break even. I capped my losses at $75, so if I was having a “bad day” and got stuck $75, my stop loss would trigger and I would “hit the showers.” If I went up $150, I would also hit the showers. Only once did I break my rule, as I went up $150 in less than an hour. I called it a day, went to lunch and came back for a second session. I found myself enacting the “stop loss” about four hours later, when I donated the $150 back, plus an additional $75. And yes, I was pissed. Oh, did I mention I had no concept of “table selection?”

I played poker tournaments, but really had no clear concept of overlays and tournament strategy. I was a slightly unprofitable tournament player at this time. I often went deep in tournaments, but usually bounced off or barely penetrated the bubble.

At this stage of my “hobby”, I was not yet aware there were poker blogs. In fact, I believed a blog was something that “attention seeking” people posted things such as:

“Yea, so I really like this girl, but she doesn’t know it. What should I do?” and then makes it a point to put the link to his blog in his AIM or YIM!, or MSN profile.

Followed by…

“I’m sick of it! 90% of the people in this world are… (insert crying commentary here when said girl “pretends” she did not click the link and/or had no idea who you were talking about and ends up dating the tool shed next door.)

So, a year ago, I did not have a blog and I did not read any blogs, other than with my friend Kellyn (miss ya, partner in crime o’ mine) to have a good laugh, usually at someone else’s expense.

I did not regularly read a forum of any sort, nor did I post to any either. I visited the two plus two website monthly, but found their forum to be confusing and difficult to follow, a complicated eyesore at best. Surely, I would have been one of “those people” who would have pointed this out to the forum admin, stopping “just short” of demanding that they make it easier to follow, and just a bit pleasant to MY eye. Felicia would have surely loved me for that post alone. Instead, I just steered clear of their forum, and instead ventured to the monthly “internet magazine” they put out.

I did not play private tournaments (I.e.: Shark Tour events), though I was a member of the Shark Poker Tour. I was also a member to three other online tours, however, instead of playing, I would watch the games unfold, figuring I could secretly become a better tournament player by watching these people in action. After all, donkeys do not play in private freerolls, do they? I watched only the freerolls, because the buy-ins did not have “as large of a field to fight through” so in my mind, the freeroll tournaments would “OBVIOUSLY” feature better play.

I knew of this program called pokertracker. I believed it to be a program that “displayed” all of my hands that were mucked (even if the poker room did not publish what the mucked hand was in the hand history). For this reason, in addition to donking out in VH1 Behind the Music fashion (read: crash and burn, hit rock bottom after being “on top of the world” for my lucky two week streak - I was a one hit wonder, I suspect), I avoided playing on any site that pokertracker could “get to.”

Damn, I was clueless… In addition, I did not have a live hand logged as of yet (one year ago today). I discovered poker via the television and began doing something that may or may not have resembled “playing” poker online. When I finally made my live play debut, I had no chip skills what so ever (I still do not, actually). SuperDonk informed me last night that I am the most unskilled player in the chip department he has ever seen. This included all the morons (both at the casino and in private home games) we have ever sat with. According to SD, I am the only person he knows who can announce a raise amount, and consistently grabs a number of chips that regardless of the chip combination could never ever equal the raise amount I have stated.

An example: blinds are 2/4, we have T1, T5, T25, and T100 chips in front of us. I grab two chips and decide I am raising it to T20 and then sit there as if nothing is wrong. I do not just do this occasionally, I consistently do it. If we are at the same table, he makes it a point to inform everyone not to believe the chip count, but instead take my spoken word for the raise. It has been theorized that I do this purposely, because no one could possibly screw this up as consistently as I do. The conspiracy theorists put forth the probability that I am sending subliminal messages speaking a strong raise, yet putting forth a stack that is not appearing as strong in an attempt to “suck them in,” or just the opposite, speaking a strong raise and sliding out a monstrous stack, none of which match up. They think I under push chips, relative to my words, with a monster, and when I am weaker (pocket fives), I push the larger stack out in hopes of just winning without seeing a flop.

This sounds like something that “could” be true. However, I can assure you first hand, I am just not good with handling chips. When playing live, I miss the slide bar for my raises. I miss the instant display of the pot size. I often screw up when counting the pot. If I count my stack four times, I come up with three different numbers. I often rely on other people to tell me how many chips I have, by pushing all-in and when I am asked “how much u got?” I tell them to count them if they would like to know. I do take their word for it when this happens, as the table counts with the player before they fold.

I think it is reasonably safe to assume that I was better off playing online and never having logged a live hand. My first live tourney would not come until July or August of last year (I believe), where I won my first live tournament. I am not sure, but I think this was part of the M.S.O.P., but could have perhaps been a “warm-up” to the event or the “Mitch Invitational.” Mitch, can you help me out with this one? I left that tournament with some bad habits. For starters, the “almost string bet.” At the final table, I noticed a “tell” to the player on my left, who we will call “Randy.” The jugular would jump when my raises reached a level he was not comfortable calling. When I wanted to raise (seemed like every hand), I’d announce raise and begin sliding stacks of chips sideways (to my left) looking like I am organizing and counting, when really I was looking for the vein jump. When I saw that, I knew I had my number and would slide the chips out. If the vein did not jump, I would know to make a smaller raise because he probably had a monster.

Also, for some reason, I came out of that tournament thinking that hands such as Jack-three “same suit,” and King-seven “not suited” were good hands at full tournament tables. I was very impressionable having never played live and somehow thought it was different. I did not realize these were signature hands, not necessarily quality starting hands, even though the seven-ten offsuit was my signature hand as well.

Rewind to a year ago. In summary, I think I was your average hobby level online player. I knew enough to be “dangerous,” but definitely not deadly. I was winning more than losing, content with not moving up. Having some desire to improve my game, but would not commit to improving if it required much effort. I did not read much, in that I would read a book once and blow right through it. I would not “study” the book. I did not post in forums, nor did I read conversation threads or blogs. I avoided pokertracker like the plague and watched freerolls to improve my game.

I will continue tomorrow (be warned).