Winning = avoiding bad beats. Limit your risk.
I had a very good day today.
After a very good run on Bodog, I switched back to Carbon, where I had about $400. Things went south and I bottomed out last week at $188. I decided I had to re-dedicate myself to better play. That's usually all it boils down to. So I playd well this past week and now have my Carbon account back up to $436 for a gain of about $250. I also made $50 at Bodog, so I've had a $300 week at the $25 tables. I'm happy with that.
The only bad session I had was a session of Omaha I played today, oddly enough just as I'd decided to play more Omaha. I suffered a horrendous suckout and lost about $20. But I won ten of that back in a freeroll, then decided to play Hold 'Em to freshen up. I got pocket aces and these other two guys were raising and re-raising. I got them all in. My aces held up against their queens and jacks and that was a $40 win for me. I'll never understand why queens and jacks would go all in with that much action and strength apparent. But I'm glad they do.
The real key to my turn-around has been reducing risk. I know how to win with good cards and good position, but I get myself in a hole when I needlessly lose pots I shouldn't even be in. I've learned to be able to lay down the "pretty" cards. This insight is reinforced by the dynamics of Omaha, where your "strong" flopped hand rarely holds up by the river. My bad beat today was a flopped straight I tried to protect. You can't protect hands in Omaha, so unless you have a made hand AND a strong draw, you might as well just slow down.
The same dynamic applies to hold 'em, and it took some Omaha experience for me to realize that. We get the adrenalin rush when we get our aces or kings or flop a straight. But one of the worst things we can do is overcommit with these hands. For one thing, trying to "protect" them with overbets limits our profit, as other hands will usually fold rather than pay us off. For another, it's really important to understand the dynamics of the draw. In Omaha, the most likely winning hand is often the best drawing hand - not necessarily the one leading at the flop. When we go all in with our big pairs or flopped straights, we're either folded to for a small profit, or we're committed with no further power to act. We'e at the mercy of the board.
Why not slow down a little, build that pot that we expect to win and leave ourselves an out without a devastating loss should the turn or river go against us.?
I did something today that would have been unthinkable for me a few months ago. Hold 'Em. I had A5. The flop came A54, giving me top two pair. I made a raise of 2/3 pot. He re-raised X3. Did he have ace with high kicker(AK)? A low set? The best possibility seemed to be that he called my pre-flop button raise with suited 23 from the blind and made a straight. What now? In spite of my top two pair, I thought I was probably behind. I could chase the full house and might pretty well blow most of my stack while doing it. I did the tough thing and folded my very pretty cards.
The guy rabbited. He had 45 for two pair. I'd folded the best hand. The turn was a 4, giving him a fullhouse. I'd been ahead at the time I folded, but the turn gave me a losing hand. Though my read was wrong, my ability to fold a pretty big hand saved my stack.
I think it's one of the biggest things I've learned recently. In order to win, don't expose yourself to a lot of loss. Be bold, but don't be stupid. Constant all in play is not very smart and can damage your stack. As you develop as a player, it's better to leave yourself some room to develop post-flop playing options. All in, all the time is a cowardly and foolish way to play.