Playing Loose - My risks, my rewards, my playstyle
I really don't remember how it was that I came accross Cardschat.com, but I'm pretty sure it involved me doing a web search for poker forums
on the third shift one night in December from the hospital near Al Kut, Iraq. I sought to discuss poker with like-minded individuals and see different points of view for different hands. What ended up happening was I stumbled upon a very wide range of players, mostly online players, some below my skill level, and some far beyond (FP immediately comes to mind.)
I have seen a lot of great hand histories, but one thing that strikes me is that the average CC player is incredibly tight. And I don't blame them. I love the action of loose play, but I have yet to turn a profit online. "Bah, the game's unbeatable for me online." Which I'm sure is untrue, however my playstyle can't make money unless I put money in without an edge. My live game, however, varies very differently.
I've been playing live poker since I turned 21, almost five years ago. I went to Vegas for my birthday, and my poker experience was nothing more than watching the WSOP
main event on ESPN. Over the years I've played tens of thousands of live game hands, going through paycheck after paycheck just looking for a hand where I'd have an edge and get my money in with a drawinig hand and hit to recoup my losses. Over the years, I've evolved considerably.
Now, I'm what some people would call a LAG, or even a loose-passive, ranging to a maniac, who sometimes plays TAG. Gasp!
If there's one thing I've learned to do, it's adjust my playstyle on the fly to maximise my profits, confuse my opponents, and garner an edge wherever possible for me to do so. I've also become very good at reading my opponents in live games, which contributes greatly to an edge, and me having so many playstyles I can switch through quickly certainly doesn't hurt.
Towards the beginning of the deployment I was talking poker a lot with a bona fide maniac. This guy was off his rocker with way he'd play his hands, and he's a career in the red player, and it's because he's bad, but he showed me a playstyle that involved 3-betting 62o and barreling to showdown unimproved. And in the short term he made some money, and I was able to take away from his playstyle, and adapt. 62o is terrible. I'm guessing it's in the 'auto-fold' range for just about everybody who's going to happen upon this thread, and I believe it should be. However there are situations I'd take it to a flop. E.G.: We've been sitting at a live cash game table at a casino, and Curtis is at the table. He's a known prop player for the house, and is incredibly tight, and very aggressive. He's been reading his paper, folding hands for the past 7 orbits. Our stacks are 300 BBs each, we're on the button, and he raises. Well, now I'm going to consider calling. We're 300 BBs deep against an opponent with a very narrow range. Yes, we're certainly behind, but at worse we can put Curtis on a big A, most likely he's rocking a pocket pair. We are looking for a flopped draw we can come along cheaply, trips, or two pair. Granted, I've never mixed it up with Curtis at 300 BBs deep, but if I had, I'd want a hand with more value than 62o. The strength of my hand is concealed, and I can get out cheaply when I miss, which is most of the time.
"But Weregoat, how do you get 200+ BBs deep when you're so terrible?"
Simple - I play tight when I buy in for 100 BBs, and once I've won a few pots and come close to doubling my pot, I loosen up my range when playing for deeper effective stacks. I don't bluff, as a matter of fact the most I'll get in with an unimproved AK is a raise and a C-Bet. After that, I'm still unimproved and at the turn, so it's time to slow down...
Now, a basic hand history from me to show you some examples of how I play.
BB w/ 24o, 100 BBs deep (I know, I know, I'm a liar, I was maybe tilting from the previous hand where I lost my buy-in to whatever, it doesn't matter.) Folded to CO, who raises to 5 BBs, SB calls, I call. Flop is Q72 rainbow. SB donk-bets 10 BBs, I call, CO calls. Turn is a 4, SB Bets 33 BBs, I jam, CO folds, SB calls, shows AQ. CO also has AQ. I do a little better than doubling up.
Basically I am not afraid to get a small amount of money into the pot behind, if I can get a large amount of it in ahead.
CO with 86o. Villain is in UTG+1 and is tight, aggressive, and a somewhat successful reg, effective stacks around 200 BBs. Villain raises to 5 BBs, one call before me, I call, folded around. Flop is Qs8s8d. Villain fires a C-bet of around 10 BBs, I raise to 35 BBs, he calls, he checks, I jam, he calls. Exposes AA unimproved.
Those are a couple situations where I call hoping to improve, improve, and lose my whole stack in the process, which is the true risk of my playstyle.
I have 35o in the CO. Villain is the BTN. I raise to build the pot, BTN raises me, effective stacks around 150 BBs, so I call. Flop is A34. I check, he bets, I call. Turn is a 3, I check, he bets, I raise, he re-raises, I re-raise, he jams, I call. He has AA for a turned boat. The river is the 2 I really wanted on the turn, but since my only out was the remaining 3...
I call myself a 'deep stack hunter', let's face it, most deep stacks get deep because they're either a) running good, or b) playing well. When they are playing well, the become more predictable, I can narrow down their ranges, and make decisions with more expected value
. While every hand chart imaginable will tell you that open raising from the CO with 35o is -EV, let alone calling a 3-bet from the BTN, it's a risk I take to play for stacks with hands that are concealed and similarly strong.
Unfortunately for me, and the sake of this thread, I have less than 2k hands spread out at the limits I like to play, against the villains I like to play against, (the 2/3 NL at the bike), due to this deployment. But in the 15 days I was home on leave, I spend at least half of them on the felt, and a majority of those on that table. And my biggest money makers were 86o, 57o, 46o, 35o, and 24o. And of course KK for a flopped set over a set. I'd cashed out several times with almost 700 BBs, while only putting 100 on the table in a night sometimes, but at my limits, people can't fold an overpair, let alone price me out of a pot when I consider effective stack sizes, and that is why I play loose.
I don't think that loose passive or loose aggressive or maniac is an effective playstyle. But if you mix them all together, and throw in some TAG when appropriate, not only do you confuse all the first and second level thinkers at the table, but you also always have a concealed hand.
And the more times you show up with the unexpected cards to make a monster, the more people learn to lay down their TpTk to you, which generates a lot of bluff equity.
If there is one thing I want to be able to improve about my game, it's acting on my reads. At the 300NL, my villains show a lot unintentionally. When something unwanted happens, they show it on their face and with their actions. Which of course, increases my profitability. With the reputation of somebody who calls small bets against deepstacks with obscure draws and slim outs, I get a lot of people folding to bluffs, which certainly helps me pick up quite a few pots.
I'm certainly not saying this playstyle is profitable online. I've got a gigantic deposit history to prove it, it certainly is profitable live, and playing live, nobody can pay X dollars to download my hand history and figure me out.
Unfortunately I've been stuck in Iraq (one month left) for the majority of the year, but I expect my playstyle will lead to a very successful 2011 for me. At the homegame out here, I'd be averaging $6000 a month were I to be able to play every night, which sadly I'm not, and eventually that's going to dry up. And I look forward to taking this playstyle to the tables for the long haul, and adjusting it further.
It is certainly a very risky playstyle, but with the risk, the reward, and the confidence in my live reads, I'm certain I can turn it into a very profitable 2011.
I'll be subjecting myself to variance, and clever plays will certainly be profitable against me, but against the field I'll be playing against, I'm not too worried about the clever plays. And the risk is certainly managable - If you don't have the nuts you can't extract as much value. Sure, you hit your open-ended straight on the river, you bet for value, but when you get raised you could be up against a flush on the river, and you can't raise here as often as you'd like.
There we go. So that's my playstyle. My confession. My heart and soul. Good luck, and see you on the felt.