Even more on poker

I have been playing an occasional sit and go (SNG) games at Poker Stars over the last couple of months. What I have found especially odd is that when playing in real money games the level of play actually seems lower than in the play money games. I am not sure if there are actually people out there who have seen Texas Hold ‘Em on T.V. and assume they know how to play, so they just jump right into the real money games or what, but the competition just seems lacking –and that isn’t because I am some sort of an expert player.

I have now played in about ten of these tournaments, all at the $10 + $1 table, and have been playing pretty well. Unfortunately my best finish is second place, as evidenced by the image below:

Second place isn’t so bad, especially considering the frequency with which I finish in that position. I have become quite proficient at being the best of the losers!

The problem that I really have when it comes to the heads up play is that I just want it to end. The tournament that I was in this morning had been going for nearly an hour and a half by the time we got to heads up play and I really had to piss. I tried to get all in on a pair of kings but the other guy folded. That is what happens in heads up (at least in my experience); you both wait until you have a good hand to start risking your chips, but when the other guy is risking his you know he has a good hand. I suppose it would eventually happen that both players have a decent hand, but I am not willing to sit around for an hour to see.

On a standard 10+1 tournament the prize awards are $45 for first, $27 for second and $18 for third. As long as I finish in second I have more than doubled my money and that is good enough for me, again noting the frequency with which I am able to do it. If I was losing ten tournaments to every one I finish in the money I would probably have a completely different opinion.

Now to the boring, technical rambling.

PokerStars keeps all kinds of stats logged for your viewing pleasure (well, probably not pleasure but they are available if you want to see them). I was looking through my statistics in the last ten tournaments that I played and noticing a trend. In the tournaments that I finished in second place I stayed in to see the flop less than 50% of the time, while in the ones I lost the number was always higher -capped by my only last place finish where I saw an amazing 87% of the flops, including every flop from either blind position. Thankfully that woefully bad play was in the first tournament I ever played and has not been repeated.

The most difficult part of adjusting to playing for real money was training myself to be able to fold from the blinds. For unknown reasons I was putting too much faith in my cards if I was in one of the blinds, most likely since I was already in the pot. It doesn’t make any sense though; that off suit 3-9 isn’t any better when you already have money on it, in fact it is probably worse. Yet I was somehow able to talk myself into believing that the flop could turn a 9,9,3, which it could, it is just extremely unlikely. The fact that one of the first hands I was ever dealt (in a real money game) was a 10-3 off suit, which I folded only to see 3,3,10 on the flop probably had a bit to do with my unrealistic expectations.

While I still have not read any books or articles on how to play the game I am getting much better at it. I know that I am still seeing entirely too many flops, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to break that habit, especially when the blinds are at 10/20. I mean it is only 20 chips to see if I can catch a full house on the flop, might as well take the chance, right? (that is actually 100% wrong if I plan to finish in the money but I can’t seem to make myself stick to it.)

The one thing that I am really lacking though is the ability to quickly assess the best possible hand. I thought I was pretty good at that, until the hand that eliminated me from a tournament last week. I had an A K of clubs, the flop brought up 3h, Ad, Kh, so the best possible hand at that point was a three of a kind Aces, I am pretty sure on that one. When the turn brought up the Ace of hearts that gave me a full house with Aces over Kings, the best possible hand. I bet big and got called by one guy, I assumed he had a pair of Kings or he would have folded. The river brought up a 3 of clubs, so there was no chance for a flush or a straight. I bet small and he called me all in, I took that action with 100% confidence. At this point I absolutely knew that he had a pair of kings and was betting on his full house Kings over Aces, which I was going to absolutely smash with my Aces, or, worst case scenario, he also had A K in which case we would split the pot. I was simply dumbfounded when his cards showed a pair of threes, thus giving him a four of a kind. I was so preoccupied with the aces and kings that the thought never occurred to me that the guy would still be in it on threes. The guy did get extremely lucky to get that three on the river for sure, but I didn’t even recognize that there was a hand that could beat me.

That is what I need to get better at. I don’t really mind losing, although I obviously would prefer to win. There have now been two occasions where I was dead sure that I had a hand won only to be beaten by a hand that I had never considered. Once I am able to at least recognize those possible hands in the limited time I have to act I will be a much better player. Maybe then I will start finishing in first instead of second.

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