Thursday, March 26, 2009

MTT Stats

It's vacation time again for the Hammer Family, as we are once again spending a few days in a place far warmer than it is back home in New York. Not that spring isn't basically springing right now in New York either, as it's finally started to warm up a little at least in the northeast after a colder-than-average winter for sure, but hopping on a plane and finding your way to warmer climes just never seems to get old, does it? So pardon me if this space might not be updated quite as regularly this week, but I'm doing my best.

Today I thought I would post something interesting I found during my poker play earlier in the week. In a nutshell, UltimateBet has an interesting feature where the statistics tab does not reset like all the other real poker sites do every time you log out and close the poker client. Rather, on UB, those stats continue to amass over time, unless you specifically opt to reset them, which I have not. As a result, I have hand statistics saved up on my account on UB ranging over nearly 6000 hands, all of them large multi-table tournament hands. No sitngos, no cash hands, absolutely none. It's just 5800 hands played in all ranges of multi-table tournaments, from the opening rounds of extremely deep-stacked play that UB specializes in, all the way to late-round and final table action where you're certainly playing more hands as the table gets shorter and shorter. And the best part about these stats is that they are legitimate good poker stats, comprising every tournament hand I have played over about four months of solidly profitable poker, to the tune of probably about a 6k - 7k profit over that time period. So I thought it was interesting to take a look at those statistics and see if there is anything interesting and worthwhile to glean from them as far as hints on playing profitable deep-stacked mtt poker.

So here are the numbers:

In terms of conclusions, first with the easy stuff. I have seen 20% of flops in total, a number that may seem high to some of the tighties out there, but in reality is right in my wheelhouse as far as the way I play the game. And keep in mind, this figure of my relative tightness/looseness includes all hands with 9 players at the table, as well as five final table runs and a few top-3 finishes, each of which included a significant period of time at 5- and 6-handed play and even fewer near the end of the big tournaments I have won this year on UB. So I don't think the 20% of flops is anything extraordinary, other than to demonstrate that one can certainly play very profitable, very successful poker seeing that many flops overall. I have periods where that percentage is up closer to 25 or even 30%, and I have also had times when I'm playing much tighter for whatever reason. I remember when I won my first major tournament, the Party 40k some three years ago, I think I saw 7% of flops over the entirety of the event. So I can play it all those ways, but over 6000 hands I've seen 20% of flops and won a lot money doing it.

Another overall statistic that I find interesting is my 47% winning percentage in showdowns. 47% is decent, but it's not anything superb. Again, I have had periods where I've run that number closer to 60%, and other times when it's been down below 40. In general, although I think that's a number you don't necessarily need to focus on as much as some people do, I imagine that anyone is going to have trouble playing consistent winning poker if you're losing more than 60% of your showdowns seen. Interestingly, a couple of years ago when I was focusing more on cash play, I found that once that number got down below 50%, I was having trouble winning consistently at the game. But in tournaments, I find that as long as I'm above 40, 45%, I can do ok.

Going along with the above stat is my winning percentage in those hands where I see the flop. In this case, over 5800 mtt hands on UB, I am at 46%. This strikes me as a huge number, and I think it reflects my aggression on the flop and afterwards to have won so much. It is that percentage, boned up mostly by relentless betting and raising on the flop, turn and a little bit on the river as well to cause folds in my opponents, that allows me to get away with only winning 47% of my showdowns. Normally as I mentioned I have found 50% to be a better target for showdown winning percentage, but if I am constantly making other players fold their hands when I do see the flop, then I can afford to take a little the worst of it come showdown time and make up for some of those losses by all the pots I pick up along the way. That's Doyle Brunson for you right there, if you're a Super/System fan like I am.

Moving down the rows in the stats chart above, I note that while my checking percentage is roughly the same on the flop, turn and river, my check raising percentage steadily increases the later in the hand I get. That surprises me in that it's not something I am ever thinking about at the table, but I guess it makes sense for me. I've always been someone who doesn't mind giving someone a chance of catching up if I have a strong hand, because I am always aware of the odds and I am confident in my ability to fold if I think I am beat or that my opponent might have just spiked his flush card on the turn or river. Given that, I don't normally like to check raise so much on the flop, because it is such a strong move and generally tends to tip your hand's strength and chase most opponents out unless they are bloggers morons or on what they think is a really big draw. When I'm check-raising on the flop, it is most often either a monster draw like a straight and a flush draw, or it is a beatable hand like a big pocket pair that I want to find out early if I am behind by making it very obvious that I am strong early in the hand. Otherwise, if I flop a set or a straight or something, the odds of me check-raising the flop are quite low, whereas on the turn I will do it a little more due to the increased amount of chips already in the pot on this street, and on the river why the hell not if I think I can get more chips out of my opponents. But that's the lesson I take from this particular statistic -- not check-raising as much earlier in the hand as later has worked out very well for me over time in several thousand hands of profitable mtt play.

The next row covers my calling percentage, and you might notice that these numbers tend to be fairly low, another symbol of what I think of as generally profitable poker play, especially in tournaments when chips are short and you can't reload. Those of you who have played with me often know how unusual it is for me to just call before the flop. Usually, I am raising or I am out, unless I'm either slow-playing, I am in the big blind, or I have a multi-opponent hand like suited connectors or a small pair. I am confident that almost all of those 12% preflop calls fall into one of those three situations. Similarly, after the flop, I call less than 10% of the time, culminating in the river, my lowest calling percentage of all the streets of 6%, which is just as it should be. By the river I should have a very good idea of where I and my opponent am at in the hand, and just calling a bet on the end indicates that I think I might be ahead, but I'm not confident enough to raise. That doesn't happen much with me, and I am glad to see it in print there in the form of hard math to support what I already thought about my general strategy about calling in this game.

My betting percentage is almost exactly identical on the flop and turn, although I was a bit surprised at it being only 18%, especially on the flop. I certainly am an avid c-bettor on the flop, as evidenced by my overall 46% winning percentage on flops seen, but I guess the 18% reflects at least somewhat the fact that I do not just recklessly c-bet all the time like I used to way back when when I was first starting out and read Super/System for the first time. In other words, say I open-raise from middle position with an AJ or AT type of hand. If I am called twice from late position and then the flop comes all raggy, the odds of me leading out with a bet are not so great. Certainly I will fire out about 2/3 of the pot often enough to keep people from calling me with crap preflop, but the bottom line is, the odds are great that with two LP callers behind me, someone either has a higher Ace than me, a pocket pair, or maybe has flopped a set or something. One of the big changes I made to my game a few years ago, to very solid profits I am sure, has been to not c-bet recklessly when I am highly likely given the preflop action to be behind and where my opponent is not likely to fold. Is the guy with AK or 99 folding against me in the situation I described above when I raised preflop, got two LP callers and the flop comes all raggy, or comes KQJ or something like that? Hells no. So why c-bet it then, right?

Raising percentage is another interesting statistic buried in the above table, indicating that I am raising 12% of the time before the flop, which gibes nicely with my 20% of flops seen. This means more than half the time I am seeing the flop, I am raising. In fact, if you take out the small blind and big blind limping I have done, that number probably is more like 15% preflop raises out of 20% of flops seen. And then you need to factor in as well the incredible deep stacks featured only at UB among all the major poker sites. Due to this, I have adjusted my play significantly there to seeing far more flops early on in mtt's on UB, many of those extra flops seen coming in the form of calls with low suited connectors, semi-connectors, etc. The bottom line here is that when I am seeing a flop, I am generally raising before the flop, to try to chase people out right there and to give credibility to the c-bet that I am inclined to try to lead with on the flop as well. Adjusting my raising percentage down a bit to see some flops with more speculative hands is an adjustment I have made just for the deep stacks on UB, and if you looked at this stat on all other poker sites for me I'm sure I am raising more like 75-80% of the time preflop when I am seeing a flop overall. The only other aspect of my raising percentage worth nothing is that on the flop and turn, I once again do not tend to raise as much as I do on the river, for all the same reasons I discussed above in connection with check-raising. I have always been the type of player who can wait until later in the hand to give away the strength of my hand with a raise of some kind, because I have a solid capability of folding when I believe I just got beat with a particularly bad turn or river card.

The last thing I would mention about the above mtt stats is my percent of hands won before the flop. Take a look at that number -- 7.77% over 5800+ hands. That basically equates to about 450 hands I have won before the flop, just like that. Many of those occur early in the tournaments to be sure, but a fair number of them are midway through and many of them are late, at final tables, down to the final 3 or 4, etc. This is basically the entire key to my poker success in my view. I have won nearly 8% of the total tournament hands dealt to me without even seeing a flop. With typically 9 or close to 9 players sitting at the table with me, that equates to basically 1 out of every 12 hands dealt, I win before the flop. Not only does this bring me a ton of chips, chips I need desperately to amass early and to survive late, but this kind of relentless pressure before the flop is crucial to my desire to build up a loose image early, one which I can more easily take advantage of later in the tournament when I do pick up a big hand or make a big flop and can surprise someone who is looking to push allin or play back at me in a big spot.

So there it is, my read on my stats over several thousand mtt-only hands on a site where I have a very strong ROI playing at those statistics. For those of you who never do this, if you care about your game and your success playing it, I encourage you to take a look at your own stats -- most real poker sites will offer you this kind of detail on your play with little trouble as part of the normal poker client -- and try to figure out what you're seeing about the way you're playing overall, and more importantly, whether those things are helping you or hurting you as you try to make money in online poker tournaments. If anyone notices anything starkly different from what I see in my stats, I would always be interested in hearing the what, and more importantly, the why of those differences.

Have a great week everyone. I will try to be back tomorrow with another quickie to end the week, but either way I am back in New York next week and will be back to my usual blog schedule at that time. For now, I am off to the beach and the luscious 80 degree weather already here long before noon local time. Somebody bring me my dam Captain n Coke please.

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