A positive expectation play isn’t always the best play. Just because a certain play may show up green in your ICM calculator doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the optimal play for the dynamic you’re facing. If you’re in some of the toughest games on the net and there are a bunch of NASH regs at your table, fine, take what you can get. But if you’re at a table that still has a couple of serious droolers left in play, you may want to consider how thin of an edge you should be taking under these conditions.
The bulk of the money to be made in SNGs is near the end stages, and if you can afford to inch closer to that point without sacrificing serious chunks of your stack just by taking fewer thing edges, your longer term winrate will balloon as a result. Also, why risk taking razor thing edges while there are some malfunctioning ATMs ready to spew equity to the table at large. Not only will their presence positively adjust your equity with every hand they get involved in, but you stand to be the one to receive the lion’s share if you’re focusing on how to exploit their weakness. This goes similarly for leaky regulars.
There’s something appealing in the nature of filling up bars. It’s a basic element of countless successful video games, ranging from simple single player puzzle games like Candy Crush to massive multiplayer online role playing games such as World of Warcraft. Participants the world over seek to max out their bars to seek out the next level or skill for an added challenge, new item perks, and a mess of other reasons.
PokerStars implemented a VIP/VPP player progress bar some time ago as well. It allows players to track their progress to their next Stellar Reward payout or create custom daily, monthly, or yearly VPP goals to assist with visualizing progress. You can even create chimes to notify when your bar has reached capacity. There’s just some joy to be had from reaching a goal you’ve had in mind, and being able to watch your progress inch by inch creates some sort of satisfaction. I anticipate further advances to this model should PokerStars ever be able to bring real money play to platforms, like Facebook, where badge systems are incredibly popular. While this exists on a play money scale, there stands to be ever more bragging rights when your badges are associated with real money play.
I’ve been a lifelong worrier, which probably plagued my development as a poker player in the early days. I’d say I’m now better than ever at not expecting monsters under the bed when making plays, but I still struggle away from the tables by concerning myself with how I’d deal with several unlikely, worst case scenarios relating to an array of problems. While this trait can prove valuable for likely to occur, or currently occurring, problems that need solving, it can be an exhaustive behavior if you become stuck in a loop of seeing the worst possibilities in everything and mentally factoring in how you’d handle those should they play out. This can affect mood which begins to bleed over into how effective I’m capable of being at the poker table.
To reverse this I do my best to recognize the patterns of looping concerns and implement more logical trains of thought their way. This will often at least bring me to a more equalized state where I can then direct my concentration into more advantageous endeavors, leaving the phantoms at the doorstep. I feel very similarly in regards to how to go about achieving flow-state at the table. The more I remove the mystery by becoming familiar with what specific game conditions are required as relevant variable factors to arrive at meaningful range conclusions, the less I’m fearful of making any play.
When I make a play based on table economics (short stacks, large stacks, and how the players controlling those various stacks are likely to behave), stat-based reads (various player’s % occurrence for the play they just made that I’m facing a decision on how to react to, or players behind me left to act whose reactionary stats will affect the decision I should make), and away-from-table mathematical findings about similar game environments I find myself in now, I don’t experience the small build ups of anxiety that I do when I make a snap play with no considerations given to such elements.
Uncertainty is a game killer, and while you’ll never be perfect in every spot you can become more than proficient in the spots you most regularly encounter for your game format. The reason this is true is because each format has similar scenarios that will play out time and time again, and you’ll begin to recognize their setups. Once you achieve the ability of recognizing these regular occurring plots, what’s left is identifying the factors that contribute to making the best possible decision; this is a matter of dissecting the spots until you see what contributes to your range changing, and what elements cause villain’s ranges to likely change as well.
Have you ever had a winning session/day, then come back the next session/day and realized by the end of it you had played your C-Game? I call this complacency tilt, and it’s one reason I advocate not checking results regularly.
However, complacency tilt can develop without checking results as well. Often you can recognize when you’re playing your best, or when you’re on a heater and crushing the tables. When you’re in the zone and make all of the right stat-based reads and they’re paying off for you by catching the right sections of villain’s range and you’re cards are holding up after the river is shown… it’s just a great feeling. And sometimes when we’re feeling great we relax, but in poker this relaxation has a comfort byproduct that can be very counter intuitive for staying vigilant.
I wish I had a sure-fire way to avoid this, but I don’t. It’s something I continue to struggle with day to day. Even during my darkest times, brief periods of feeling great about my game even when I recognize that I’m feeling great because I’m actively ranging my opponents based on all available stat and table economic factors, can be plagued by this complacency.
Massive input hours are a factor, but it’s year end and I have VPP goals that my mid-year slacking has left me way behind on. I can’t sacrifice the bonus I’m chasing even if the long hours are sacrificing some of my ability at certain periods. I still recognize my skill level growing at the tables thanks to my efforts away from them, despite the long hours I’m plugging in. I’m thinking clearer about poker than I ever have before, and I’m still seeing lots of room for improvement. Recognizing my complacency issue is just another area to focus work toward.
In terms of becoming a better poker player, results don’t matter. The worst thing you can be doing is burden yourself with how day-to-day results are going. You want to be a savage freak at the tables? Allow yourself the largest bankroll you can comfortably afford. It has to be comfortable because you have to be relaxed with the idea it could all disappear even if you put your best effort forward. Your best may not be enough.
Once you have your bankroll, be incredibly prudent about how you’re going to spread it out. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable working with less than 200 buyins for a SNG format I know I’m going to have to bust my ass to improve at. Those requirements would vary based on blind speed, number of players, and stakes. Do your research on what the best players at those games feel they need, be honest with yourself about your skill level, then decide on a number; then ask yourself what the harm would be in doubling it, or using that same number at one stake down. Unless you have a proven track record of success in some format already, what’s the harm in taking it slow until you’re confident you’re able to dissect and rebuild this puzzle.
Note taking is one of the most powerful, free tools at your disposal. You may think you’ll remember what that player did that stood out so obvious to you in the moment; you won’t. The next weird play another player makes will fill that void quicker than; LOOK A SQUIRREL.
At the table isn’t the only time to be making notes. It’s valuable to make a note when you have personal revelations while you’re reviewing your hand histories, or when you figure out why a new concept you picked up in a training video works, or when you’ve read an article and had something hit home. It’s valuable not only for strategy, but also for mental game and general life improvements.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had someone else’s writing grant me some insight into a problem I was experiencing on my own, both related and unrelated to poker. Through time I realized how great it would be to have a way to reflect back on things that had once helped me out of a rut, or had helped to improve me or my game in some way. Recognizing that set me on course with jotting notes that I could later reference in hopes of triggering those same, or similar, bursts of motivational replenishment in times when I needed it most.
This week PokerStars has blessed us with another week of Golden SNGs. Sign up today to take advantage of the $500,000 bonus money up for grabs. From their website:
$500,000 Sit & Go Giveaway!
Get ready to boost your bankroll from December 2-8, because PokerStars is lining the tables with $500,000 in cash! And best of all, you can win just by playing your favorite real money Sit & Go tourneys.
Golden Sit & Go’s will be selected at random and the players participating in the selected Sit & Go’s will receive either a Bronze, Silver or Gold prize, which could be up to FIVE times the normal buy-in and prize pool amount.
Bronze: You win your Sit & Go buy-in back, and will therefore be freerolling in the tourney
Silver: You win 3x your Sit & Go buy-in and the total prize pool is tripled
Gold: You win 5x your Sit & Go buy-in and the total prize pool is multiplied by five
Still not sure what you can win? Here’s an example:
You register for a nine-handed Turbo Sit & Go with a $15 buy-in and your tournament wins the ‘Gold’ prize level. All players in the tournament will receive $75 each and the Sit & Go prize pool will be boosted to five times its normal size, from $125 to $625.
Prizes will be awarded every two minutes on average during the week, so keep playing real money Sit & Go’s for your chance to win big!
When you find yourself feeling unsure in similar spots with some degree of regularity, it’s clearly a spot you need to work on away from the table. Doubt can be a powerful tool if you choose to harness it rather than allowing it to consume you. Doubts assist you in identifying your weaknesses, both on and off the felt. Some choose to drown their doubts with drink or smoke, some distract from doubt by being constantly busy, or by multi-tasking themselves to the point of not recognizing they’re even experiencing self-doubt. Those people fail to grasp the power that is identifying their weaknesses. Without identifying a weakness you can’t choose to focus attention toward strengthening it, and to identify a weakness it needs to be brought to your attention. For poker, you’re steering the ship. It is you that has the most information about your game, so listen to your gut when you’re feeling exposed in spots regularly.
Have you ever had an interaction with somebody where you opted not to address some small disagreement you had with their opinion or their knowledge on some matter? Or are you the type that needs to correct all misunderstandings a person may have, no matter how insignificant or how unwelcoming they are to your corrective nature. Addressing small issues can create rifts between two people, especially if the person receiving the advice is quick to be bothered or if the deliverer is habitual with their addressing small, unimportant matters.
Similar is true for fighting for small pots in poker. Trying to win a lot of small, insignificant pots can be detrimental to your SNG game. It creates a wild image early that can last the entire duration of the game or worse, your entire playing history going forward with players you encounter regularly. There’s certainly value to be had in early levels, but when your stack size begins to shrink in relation to the blinds, but the pots are still relatively tiny, it’s best to not add to the slow blind bleed by creating difficult spots for yourself.