Monday, March 14, 2011

A comment to my last (cash game) post

For some reason, Larry's entire comment wasn't going through in the comments section of my last post.  It's good stuff, though, and I wanted to cut and paste it here in the hopes that his advice will help others, like me, who are struggling with their cash game play.

Larry's comments, and those of Loach, Vera and Ric, are just a few of the reasons why I love blogging, poker, and COMMENTS!  Thanks for reading and commenting, guys.

Larry (@Berroya on Twitter), said:

"Everything I'm about to say is an over-generalization, but the points are useful to learn from.

There are two components to being good at cash games: strategy (when to bet, raise, fold) and emotional control. You seem to be conflating the two a bit, and I've found it helpful to set separate goals for each, and working on them separately. 

Strategically, players who are serious about the game tend to start by trying to figure out what standard or perceived "correct" lines are, by emulating things they see in videos, read in books, hear on forums, etc. It is possible to be a slightly winning player with this approach (although it's getting tougher and tougher), especially at the micros, but it's hard to ever get good from here.

Really successful strategy involves *thinking*. People call it a lot of different things: hand reading, hand ranges, exploiting tendencies...but it all comes down to the same thing: what action will give me the most EV against *this* opponent in *this* situation given the totality of the information I have. Sometimes folding bottom set is the most +EV play. Sometimes shoving second pair is.

Now, your instincts are right -- as a starting point -- at the levels you're playing, because the best play is often to value bet until they play back at you, then fold. But it's never that simple, and I'd encourage you to avoid the pitfall of simple formulas like "I have to get it in with the nuts" and start thinking more actively about things like whether someone stacking you with the nuts was the bottom or the top of villain's range.

On emotional control, it's really as simple as doing everything you can to ensure you're playing your A game all the time, i.e. that your decisions are based 100% on EV and that you are in the state of mind to calculate +EV plays to the best of your ability. For some people it's playing with a big bankroll. For some people it's a stop loss. For some people it's short sessions. Personally, I purposely avoid knowing where I'm at in a session. I pre-determine how long I'm going to play (I have made myself create a chart that I put next to my computer, and a stopwatch to time sessions), I have a strict rule that I *never* look at the cashier while I'm playing, and for the duration of the session I focus on the tables and nothing else. I never play more than an hour without taking a break, and before I start a new session I evaluate my mental state. If I'm tired, tilting from losing 3 buy-ins, hungry, distracted by a basketball game on TV, whatever, I simply don't start the session.

This works for me, and you have to figure out what works for you. I very strongly recommend finding whatever you can by Tommy Angelo (he wrote a great book and has a great video series on deuces cracked) and going from there.

Hope this helps. Good luck."


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