Leaks. Not leeks, you cook with those. But leaks. Those nasty things that let your money drip away to other people. I’ve been looking at my leaks over the past few days and wanted to throw them out there in hopes that by writing them down I’ll know better how to avoid them in the future.
Playing the same style no matter the game. There are a lot of differences between limit and no limit hold ‘em, and I ignore that fact to my peril. When I start playing $3/6 like it’s a NL100 table, I’m giving away money. Fast. There’s no reason to play marginal hands in low-stakes limit poker. None. You’re going to get paid off on your big hands, so why play anything else. Sure, if you wanna limp with suited connectors or one-gappers, go ahead, but your risk/reward is so very different in limit than in no limit. Let’s look, shall we?
Say I’m in late position with T9d, and it’s limped to me. So I toss in my $3, and the blinds complete and check, there are now four people in the pot. Flop comes down QJ3 rainbow and I’ve got a decent draw. It’s checked around to me and I bet. I get three callers for the next $3, because you’re pretty much going to get the odds every time in limit. Now we get the Tale of Two Turn Cards. The Ks is the best of cards and the worst of cards, not only making my straight, but also making AT (a hand people fall in love with at lower limits) the current nuts, and putting a flush draw on the board. It’s checked to me and I have no idea where I am in the hand, so I bet. But since I can only bet $6, not only are spade draws priced in, but the naked Ace or Ten is also getting correct odds to call, so I don’t get anyone to go away for my turn bet. In no limit, I can bet the ever-loving hell out of this pot to protect my hand, or at least figure out if I’m ahead. But in limit, the odds are always there to draw.
On the river my hand either holds up or it doesn’t, but that’s not the point. The point is that my style of no limit play is predicated on playing a lot of marginal hands and when I hit a flop hard or get a monster draw, I get paid off huge. It’s easy to have a loose table image when you are a loose-aggressive player. So I’m trying to remember to wait for big hands, and take down lots of small pots. If I can’t get the ever-loving nuts when my draw works out, I’d rather take down a few smaller pots with top pair. So I play a lot less hands at limit than at no limit, and at the stakes I play (2/4,3/6) I play a very straightforward style. If I have big cards, I raise. If I hit, I bet. If I miss, I check. So occasionally I get bluffed or outplayed, so be it. I’m not in a hurry, I just want to make the most money possible, and for me, that means playing super-tight and waiting for monsters.
I also have to play stakes that I care about. I read on Klopzi’s blog that he was killing the $25 short-handed NL tables on Interpoker, so I tried them. Four buy-ins later I realized that I’ll play anything for a quarter, and that’s a huge leak. Worse, I was trying too hard to bully around, and ended up raising every single hand for three orbits to $1 preflop. That didn’t go well. So I hopped up to the NL100, where dropping a full buy-in stings a little more, and played much better. It’s as dangerous for me to play below my bankroll as it is to play above it (and there’s an ugly incident at a $5/10 table that taught me a valuable lesson there. Oops.) I have to hit the right middle ground, where I can look at the chips as just chips, but the money still matters in the back of my head.
I’m also walking a fine line between not value-betting enough and betting too often on the river when I’ve got a medium-strength hand. If I’ve got the nuts, my chips can’t get to the middle fast enough, but when I’m running middle pair and my gut tells me my opponent missed her draw, I’m often loathe to pull the trigger on the last bet, which leaves money on the table.
So there are some leaks that I’m working on, maybe they’ll point out issues that you have in your play and save you some money on the road to discovery. I still haven’t gotten over the biggest leak, which is that I’m not all that good at poker, but I don’t have to be the best player at the table, I just have to be better than 3-4 of the other donkeys, and smart enough to avoid the folks that are better than me.
Oh yeah, and why is the play so much worse at $3/6 than it is at $2/4? I’ve had trouble cracking a single winning session at $2/4 on Stars, but have turned a profit at almost all the $3/6 sessions. Small samples, but the difference in play is remarkable. Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that $3/6 defaults to the top of the “Low” table for Hold Em on Stars? Or are there just levels where the play is softer than others? And if so, where are the talent voids, enquiring fatasses want to know.