Landmark SNG #1000
I just hit a milestone, according to Sharkscope
, having played in my 1000th SNG. It seems like a good time to put some thoughts to print, including the evolution of my game, a bit of my strategy, and my outlook for the future. My thoughts may be a little bit all over the place, perhaps more like miscellaneous ramblings. But, hey, itís my thread, so I guess thatís okay.
I donít play all that often, so it took me a few years to reach this point. I never deposited a cent, and I hope never to do so, although I did start getting rakeback about a year ago. I started with a freeroll donkament win, in Razz, and played $1 SNGs until my tiny bankroll allowed me to move up to $2, then $5. Generally I now play $10 STTs (exclusively non-turbo NLHE), although I drop back to $5 when I feel Iím off my game a bit. I only play one tourney at a time, but Iíll expound more on that later.
This seems like a good time to drop in a screenie or two, which shows that Iíve had some relative success over this periodÖ
SNG 1000 Summary.jpg
SNG 1000 by Entry Fee.jpg
I think my early winnings at the lower levels were due mainly to a ton of patience, mostly driven by my desire to keep from losing my small bankroll. Given the relatively poor play of at least a third of the field, that game is so much a matter of survival. While those terrible players are just aching to turn over their chips, theyíre as likely as anyone to suck out on the river and either knock you out or cripple your stack. Straightforward beginning poker is generally rewarded at these levels, and transparent play is rarely as costly as you might see at higher stakes.
Once youíve outlasted the bottom third of the field, a random player is 50% likely to cash in a STT. Thatís why I generally leaned on the 9 player SNG, although I had some success with 18 player structures as well while finding my niche.
SNG 1000 by Entrants.jpg
Which makes more sense in navigating the land mines while hoping to cash and preserve a small bankroll? A structure that pays 3 out of 9 or one that pays 4 out of 18? Despite the larger payouts of the latter, I would say the easy answer is the former.
The other thing that seems to have helped me is my intuitive understanding of probability and statistics. I have a math degree from 25 years ago and have worked as an actuary almost as long. Sure, I can calculate the likelihood that a flop will include an A, K, or Q to make my JJ suddenly less appealing, or that a board will have at least four of any single suit. I can talk somewhat intelligently about combinations and permutations.
But more importantly, I understand and appreciate statistical concepts like expected value
and variance. I understand mathematical models that incorporate risk aversion and justify Player A folding QQ, AK or even KK pre-flop under certain conditions as well as Player B calling off his stack on a flush or open ended straight draw. I also understand the overly-used-as-a-crutch term ďpoker varianceĒ.
Whatís the likelihood of a solid player not cashing in 10 straight STTs? If we define a solid player as one whoís 40% likely to cash (a random player is 33% likely), then the probability of not making it past the bubble 10 consecutive games is (1-0.6)^10, or approximately 0.6%, which is about one out of 165 sets of 10 games.
If you register for 15 STTs at once and donít cash in a single one, either your power went off or youíre a really bad player (perhaps just for that session, but donít bet on it Ė irony intended!).
Yes, these are extreme examples, but Iím so tired of hearing so many players attribute all their misfortune to variance. Itís a lot easier to blame the laws of probability than to admit you might just not know everything there is to know about poker. Or that you occasionally experience lapses from what you know to be disciplined play which inevitably results in early exits that in thoughtful hindsight are clearly your own fault.
Iím as likely as anyone to become a little impatient when I go for prolonged periods without any playable hands, pushing the envelope by adding a few more hands to my playable list from whatever position Iím in, or calling bets with hands I know I should be folding. Worst of all, I might start playing KQ, the hand I regularly berate others for playing, in my mind if not in the chat box.
I also believe that this is a particular tendency to which a multi-tabler would be much less prone. If youíre playing 5 tables or more, youíll see enough good hands that you probably wonít experience the impatience that I occasionally do. This is the one benefit I see to multi-tabling, even though I never do it.
Before you all start to berate me, I understand why there are plenty of people who play 5, 10, even 20 tourneyís at a time. Yes, it reduces theÖ ahemÖ.varianceÖ of their monetary outcomes. Iím sure it makes sense for many who are more than just recreational players. For me, itís hard enough to focus on one table and still give my game, not to mention my wife and kids, the attention they demand (I mean ďdeserveĒ).
In my opinion, Multi-tablers are playing a different version of poker than I am. It might be a poor analogy, but itís a little like a slot machine with 20 lines of payout. Iím focusing on my single $10 buy in (front and center), which isnít really in the same league as someone whoís got $200 in play at a time. And those 20 lines really donít get a whole lot of quality love and attention. Donít believe me? Just last week, I saw two of three players fold to river bet on a board that included an A-high straight with no flush opportunities. I donít know about you, but the nuts is usually good enough for me.
That game is more about using your tracking software to your best advantage, sticking to a strategy that you believe will be profitable over time, knowing that a small ROI, as long as itís positive, is enough to make money. And if your strategy is a profitable one, then playing as many games per hour as possible is the best way to maximize your overall winnings.
So I check my opponents at the beginning of each game and note the multi-tablers in a particular color. Because I know that theyíre more likely to fold to a raise, especially early in a tournament, unless they have a monster hand. And I know with a good deal of certainty that Iím better off folding my AQ, AJ, JJ, and TT against their early raise rather than risk my chips when Iím very likely behind. Fold those hands against a typical playerís standard pre-flop raise? Not a chance.
Since I mentioned it, Iíll tell you all that I donít use any tracking software. Others have suggested that I do so, if for no other reason than to monitor my own tendencies in an effort to identify and hopefully correct any weaknesses in my game. I probably should at least download a trial version, but I suppose Iíll wait for a period in which I think Iíll be able to put in a little more time than I am currently.
My current philosophy on the game is that successful poker is a series of adjustments. Whatever oneís strategy, it has to be flexible enough to allow for adjustments, generally subtle, though occasionally significant, to evolving conditions. These include adjustments to both the competition and to the situation. Iím still learning how best to make these adjustments to maximize my likelihood of winning, but I know that they are applicable to actions within a hand, within a game, within a session, and particularly over longer time periods.
The stretches where Iíve struggled to break even are generally attributable to my inability to either recognize the need for adjustment, my struggles to identify and make the right adjustments, or perhaps my overreaction to a situation that didnít require an adjustment. I know thatís a lot of ambiguity for one run-on sentence. But isnít it better than just saying I was the victim of a bad run of variance?
Sure, Iíve had my share of statistically improbable losses. Like the rest of us, I feel like I get my chips in vastly more often when Iím ahead than behind. And as result, I hardly ever feel like Iím on the right side of a 20/80 upset. Iím guessing that probability runs pretty true, even though the suckouts against me feel like theyíre coming in regularly, and way too often. The hands that make the most impression are the ones that are both highly unlikely and go against us. And when someone calls your all in with A-rag or QT, it only really matters that they made a donk move when their hand beats yours.
I see the following or similar comments all the time on this forumÖ ďYou want those players at your table. Those are the ones we make our money from.Ē I may be in the minority, but Iím not hoping to play against unpredictable, irrational players who donít seem to value their buy-in enough to fold a hand they clearly ought to. What I want to see are relatively knowledgeable, predictable players who just arenít as good at poker as I am.
For me frustration translates into impatience. If Iím lucky, I recognize it and step away from the game until I can deal with it. As a result, I took an entire month off in the fall of 2010.
Generally my strategy is one of tight, but aggressive play. I loosen up on my starting hands when stack size, position, or other factors warrant it. I favor the term ďtable dynamicsĒ in rationalizing how I can shift from one extreme to another throughout a game. I like how the term means absolutely nothing and everything at the same time.
Perhaps the most interesting element of my strategy relates to short stack play, due to its relatively unconventional nature. Until recently, I was steadfast in my continued patience, probably until most of you would have long since committed all your chips with any two cards. I came back from the brink to cash, if not win, more than a few times using that approach. Iím still not sure where I should stand on that issue, but lately Iíve been shoving much earlier, and it hasnít been paying off. If nothing else, itís freed me up to start a new game or focus on something else.
While short stacked, I also continued to make my standard bet instead of shoving pre-flop when my remaining stack clearly indicated I was already committed. Eventually I realized too many opponents were shoving back with marginal hands, possibly not understanding I was obviously committed. Thatís fine if Iíve got a premium hand, but not so great if I was trying to steal the blinds. So I closed that hole in my game, probably in minor debt to Poker Orifice.
As a recreational player, Iím mostly looking to enjoy my free time and learn more about poker as I try to improve my game. As far as my prospects for the future, Iíd love to play a little more frequently. Since I currently play for stakes that are well within my bankroll, I think I might be better off moving up in stakes than I would be in multi-tabling at my current level, or even dropping a level to try it. I would think that my expected return would be greater in continuing to focus on a single tourney, despite the larger variance that goes along with it. Iíd love to hear some objective opinions from others on that matter, since Iím really only working off impressions, not experience, in that regard. Any other questions, thoughts, advice or comments would be welcome as well.