Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Online Breakthrough?

In an earlier post, I highlighted some of the changes I had made to my bankroll management and my overall strategy. It had been paying some dividends, but yesterday/last night, I had a run that was based way more around skill than luck. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m seeing so many online hands (100 SNG tournaments this month alone), plus I’ve been analyzing my own play, but I cashed in 7 of 11 $5 + $.50 tournaments for a profit (post rake) of $45. Sure, it’s a small time effort, but I think I’ve really turned the corner in terms of playing these small stakes tournaments. Here are some of my adjustments:

  • Peg it early. Trying to peg the entire table within the first 5 hands, then building my image off those reads. My assessment is that bad players (as most of these guys are) want to convey their image to everyone else because they are first level donks and don’t understand higher level thinking. They are almost always playing their hand and not asking themselves what everyone else has. Because of this, I can quickly pinpoint the attack targets, the trap targets, etc., then adjust my play quickly based on how they react to my play.

  • Very few pot-sized continuation bets. I play a little more loose and much more aggressive in these tournaments than I do live because of the quality of competition and because it works better than tighter play, I’ve found. I realized that I kept getting involved in monster pots where I had to bet all in on the turn to take it down because I was betting too much on the flop. I also found that when I had a monster and bet pot, I wasn’t getting enough callers. So, I adjusted it down and am working to build pots with half-pot bets. In this case, if I get raised (or even mini-raised), I have fold equity or pot-building equity. I can get away from a semibluff or a draw much more easily and with more of my stack intact. By consistently raising a set amount based on blind level (usually a little more than 3x the BB) and then continuation betting 1/2 to 2/3 of the pot on the flop, I’m taking down the same number of pots, but I’m also taking down bigger pots and losing less when I get reraised. I also have very few betting pattern tells.

  • Making reads. I like to think I have acceptable skills at reading physical tells. Certainly players like Fat Tony, MH62, and Hulk (and I’m sure others) are better than me, but I like to think that I can read betting patterns and decipher what is going on in a hand better than many experienced players. Since there are no physical tells other than the amount of time it takes a player to bet + the betting patterns, it is up to me (or anyone) to determine why the bet was made and what my opponents’ holdings might be. Again, having seen several thousand online hands against some abysmal players, I have been better and better at getting away from hands when I know I’m beat and really making some solid calls. For instance, a few nights ago, I had a flush draw on a board of A-K-7, and bet it, then got reraised all in by a player who had limped on the button. I folded and wrote “you’re A-7 is good for now…”. He flashed A-7. How did I know? Well, the all-in didn’t make sense unless he had A-7 or K-7. Any other hand, and it’s a retarded move. He didn’t seem like a terrible player, so I put him on 2 pair and not wanting to get drawn on. Of course, he sucked all the value out of the hand by pushing, but if I’m stupid enough to call on a draw, he’s a solid favorite…

  • Not over-raising/over-calling. We all know that bad players play badly at all times, but a short-stacked bad player should never be doubled up just to get the knockout. I was trying to push the action and investing way too much of my stack with marginal edges (or as a 3:1 dog). Likewise, when I was short-stacked, I was pushing all-in before I had to and in early position with weak A’s or medium K’s and getting called down by players in bad spots. By making later position plays with my short stack and not calling significant portions of my stack on all-ins without strong holdings, I maintained my chip lead (or my stack) and was able to get the money in in a better situation. Likewise, I tighten up as the blinds reach the 50/100 and 60/120 level to avoid getting reraised all in and being pot committed. I’ll then change gears when it’s 80/160, 100/200+ when it becomes profitable and less risky again.

  • Not giving up. I really realized my breakthrough last night around 10 PM. On the first hand of a tournament, I got crippled. I held A-8 and checked in the BB. The flop came A-9-8. I called a small raise from the SB. The turn was a 9, which worried me, but I called a 3/4 pot bet from the same guy. I thought he had a 9 for sure, but I was stubborn and had played against so many bad players, I figured if he had A-9, he would have just gone all in... The river was an 8, giving me the 4th nuts (behind AA, 99, and A9). He bet out most of my stack, and I (I suppose stupidly) flat called in case he was playing 10-9 or 9-8. He had A-9, and I had 255 chips starting the second hand. I told myself that I was better than everyone else, and there was no excuse why I couldn't still win. I ground it out, got some luck, picked my spots, and I ended up placing second in that tournament. I didn’t just throw my chips in and look to the next SNG. I was determined to make something happen, and I did. I knew that I’m never out of anything as long as I have chips. I can build off that "victory" for the future.
I'm not sure whether I can keep up this high level of play, but I know that I can truly dominate the $5 SNG level on Full Tilt regardless of chip position, position, and stack size. That confidence (as long as it doesn't hinder my risk tolerance) should allow me to really build my roll. I am feeling pretty good today, but I want to string together a week of these results before I can really be sure.


  1. My advice for you is to transition to cash asap. SNGs have a lower theortetical max winrate and they are dying at the higher levels because they are pretty much figured out and variance is huge.

  2. I only have 14-15 buy-ins for the 5/10 cent game and even less for the 10/25. I'm trying to build my roll up to transition to cash, and my win rate at the $5 SNG's is a solid builder of my roll without risking too much at this time. I want to have 20 buy-ins before I transition to cash. I think that's appropriate bankroll management. On Full Tilt, they don't do 1/2 cent or 2/4 cent cash. If I transition to another site, I can likely make that jump with my existing roll.