Friday, March 11, 2011

I've Got a Serious Problem with Cash... games, that is.

I've written before about how I began my online cash career in a horrible way: I took 3d in a pretty big $11 MTT, thought that meant I knew how to play poker, sat down at a $1/2 6-handed cash game and proceeded to give away a big chunk of that score.

Since then (late 2009), I've had a real mental issue with playing any cash ring games.

Last year, after not even looking at the cash tables, I took another shot, but played down at the safer $.02/.05 level. Got comfortable there and moved up to the $.10/.25 stake. I feel like I can beat this level. But.

But. Until recently, even though I'm following BR mgmt, I was not following any kind of stop loss planning. Also, when I lose a buyin, I chase that loss to try to at least get back to even. And, I'm also apparently delusional because it's like I have some weird wiring in my brain that makes me refuse to believe it when an opponent's actions indicate that I'm beat. Instead, I am basically saying to that opponent, "here, please take my money because I think I'm a better player than you and have a better hand, even in the face of evidence otherwise."

Am I the only moron who's ever played that way? It is the absolute stupidest, most insane way to play ring poker. But. That's the way I've been playing it.

I'm really tired of it.

I'm also quite embarassed to admit it. And even though my cash game has improved since 2009, it's my tournament play that saves and increases my bankroll and shouldn't it be the other way around?

I blog to be disciplined about my poker. When I write about it, I have to be truthful because as I write about it, I see the things I need to be doing instead to play better, to play my A game. But being honest also kind of sucks because it forces me to see that I'm not one of those players I always hear about and read about (you know, the ones who deposited $50 and turned it into millions). It's taken me 2+ years and I still feel like I know nothing about this game. It can be pretty discouraging at times. Ok, a lot of the time.

So, here are a few things I'm doing to improve my cash game:

1. Quitting when I lose one buyin. Maybe given the variance in poker this too low (my buyin is $20), but until I can better control my tilt, I've got to just quit while I'm ahe...*ahem* $20 in the hole. It's better than being $40 or $60, etc etc.

2. Before putting my entire stack into the middle, I have to be able to affirmatively answer yes to the following question: "Am I 100% positive I have the nuts here?"

Until I can get much better at those two things, I've got to slow down my cash game play.

And that's pretty much it.

What helped you with your cash game? Any advice you can share?

We're off to New Mexico tomorrow for Spring Break. I hope you guys get some time off, too. In the meantime, good luck at the tables!



  1. You mentioned a $20 buy-in but for what SB/BB level? What I do for money management/departure rules is to buy-in for 100 BB with a goal to win 10% (or 15%). When I reach the goal I am out of the game after the next losing hand (actually I wait until I need to post the BB - I 'sit out' the BB and then leave the table. If you find it psychologically tough to leave a table where you are 'positive', then have the discipline to leave should you drop back down to breakeven. My stop loss is 15% (or 20%). Again, once I lose the stop loss amount, then I leave before posting my next BB. This is a departure strategy that I've brought over from other casino table games.....and yes, I continue to fight the battle of continuing to bet a great hand even when the it is obvious the other guy has a even greater hand...Ugh!

  2. Mine is two buyins at a table as I 4 table and usually will be up on 2 or 3 and maybe down on 1. I don't chase my losses but if I feel the player I lost against was a lucky moron then I will rebuy, if they are better than me then i will leave. If I double my buy in I usually leave the table, but not always as sometimes it's just to lucrative to leave. I'm only playing .01/.02 right now with some .05/.10 thrown in when I can.
    I do not have to have the nuts to get my money in the middle. Aggression is key to winning and having a HUD (at least for me) is paramount as I can't pay attention to everyone at all 4 tables all the time. If I see them as weak I will bluff the hell out of them, if they are tight I will steal their blinds and 3 bet them when they try to steal mine (not all the time mind you just sometimes).
    It depends on opponent but I will get it in with two pair if I think they just have top pair as so many go broke with that hand- if I have a set I'm getting it in, I do not have to have the nut flush to get it in-and I'm crushing the level.
    I use to play super tight and think everyone goes through those stages- there are some great articles by Ed Miller about the stages of a TAG- go here and read them-find were you are.

    Keep working it and you will get better.

  3. Hi Ric and Vera - thanks for commenting! Ric, the $20 buy in so for the $.10/.25 level of play. It's much less than 5% of my total bankroll, but I'm trying to be so cautious with my cash play. My typical method is that once I double that buy in, I do the same thing as you - sit out the next BB and leave the table - even if the game is really juicy. I often don't like doing that, but I've also lost the profit and the buyin sticking around and getting greedy!

    I'm just now starting to get consistent in my cash play and what I'm recognizing is that I've got to find the balance between disregarding the cash in play and respecting my bankroll. Which means I've really just got to play much smarter, much more thoughtful.

    Vera's plan sounds good, too, being able to risk a few more buyins. I'm just going to proceed really cautiously until I get over this mental hump I've got about cash games! Thanks again for reading, guys. =)

  4. In any ways, tournament poker is different than cash game poker. The chips a have a different value and time becomes a factor in tournaments which it never is in cash games. As such it does not surprise me that you are having more success in tournaments (despite the fact that variance is much more pronounced in a tournament setting) as they are easier in some respects, especially when you get to the stage at which ICM play dominates.

    When I was moving from limit cash games to no-limit cash games, I struggled with what you are struggling with to some extent. I handled it by making my buyins slightly smaller (I would buy in for 75 big blind rather than 100 big blinds) and playing at limits that were a bit lower than my bankroll and skill level could bear.

  5. 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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