Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Poker Goals

While I've given up making goals related to all the great things I could be doing with this blog, I do like to take stock every year of my poker play and try to set some reasonable goals that I believe will help drive me to improve my game in the year to come. This New Years, the poker goals actually have come pretty easy to me given that my tournament performance in 2010 left a lot to be desired with me, especially in terms of my overall results, but even in my play itself as I allowed a lot of the bad things that I could not control on the virtual felt to affect the things I could control. So with that in mind, here are a few general poker goals I have for 2011, some of which are a little different from corresponding goals I have had in past years.

1. Play more online mtt's. This is the first time in years I think that I'm not resolving to play less online poker, but with good reason: as I wrote about the other day, I played sufficiently little mtts this year that my game clearly lost its edge. I'm not necessarily looking to play more online poker in general, but I do want to get back to my roots and to my bread and butter in terms of my skills and my style, and that clearly lies in mtt's. In doing so, I am planning to play a lot less of the high buyin, high variance sitngos that toasted me so badly this year, and in particular to avoid the super turbo sitngos. To be a little more specific, my record in 6-man turbo sitngos is actually pretty great, but it's the heads-up sngs and especially the super turbos where my performance suffered badly in 2010, and it's no coincidence that these are the games where the variance is by definition the highest. I mean, I'm not saying anything original here by a long shot, but whenever you're a skill guy and yet are dumb enough to play super turbo poker, you're just asking for it.

2. Play more live. This is a repeat goal from last year, but frankly I did a decent job logging a lot more hours playing tournaments and cash games in casinos in 2010, but I had such great results in live play this year, in by far the most I've played in live events, so I really want to try to continue to make this a focus in 2011. Whether I can really get out to play in more of the big tournament series within striking distance from my house I guess remains to be seen, but making a few extra trips out to Foxwoods or down to AC could only be beneficial to my game and to my poker bankroll. Not only do I clearly get better reads from people when I can look them in the eyes, but as I mentioned earlier I simply have never tilted when playing live despite taking some hideous beats by some horrific players in my day. Live poker has always been best suited to my particular set of skills and my particular approach to the game, and today I think that is more true than ever, so look for me to play even more like tournaments and cash in 2011.

3. Do the stopngo more. This is also a repeat goal from 2010, but it is something I have got to say has really improved my play without a doubt over the past year or two. I have really started waiting later and later in the hands I play before deciding to get my money into the pot in the latter part of 2010 as I have suffered from a very poor run of luck, and this includes pushing allin pre-flop less, and waiting to keep enough of a stack to push on the flop instead. And I have to say, it is one of the things I have observed has really worked well for my game. I will be looking to use the preflop allin even less in 2011, and to find other, more creative and more strategic ways to play without a large stack. I can't tell you how many times I have won a pot over the past year or so by betting large enough on the flop to get a big stack to fold when they missed the flop, even though they surely would have called with a hand like AK, AQ or a medium pair and taken me down on the turn or river. The less I find myself pushing allin preflop, the more I think my game is improving overall, so I will be looking for most spots to do this in the new year.

4. Pre-flop raise less. In another specific poker strategy goal, I have found myself doing another thing in the latter part of this year that is a complete departure from what has been a pretty hard-and-fast rule of mine, really ever since I began playing poker seriously in the first place several years ago. Ever since I first read Super System, I have pretty much always raised 3x the big blind every time I've put in a raise before the flop. More or less without deviation, 3x the big blind has pretty much always been the plan, and I have had a lot of success following this strategy over the years, both in tournaments and in cash games. In fact, as I run deeper in tournaments, I have tended over time to increase my raise beyond 3x to adjust for the additional chips already in the pot as a result of the antes that kick in somewhere around the second hour of play. Well, lately I have finally caved in to what I see a lot of other players around me doing, and I've started raising less than 3x the big blind in most cases, and as of right now I have to say I think I have been really enjoying the results. Ultimately it's not really a huge difference in any individual hand, but over time the extra chips I save can really have a noticeable impact on my stack, especially during a deep run as the blinds and antes really start to escalate. And the real benefit of raising a little less than 3x is that, as an active preflop raiser pretty much at all times in a tournament, I lose a lot less chips over time all those times lateish in tournaments where the shorties take to restealing with allin preflop reraises time and time again. And the bottom line that I have finally seen with my own eyes here in 2010 is that 95% of the effect I am looking for when I put in a 3x raise before the flop, is still attained by using a raise more like 2.5x, and in many cases even less. And the more aggressively I am raising in general -- with the wider the preflop range of those raises -- the more my purposes of raising are accomplished with a smaller raise. For example, if I'm raising preflop with a spec hand like 87s, I'm doing it (1) to provide cover for my other raises with strong starting cards, and (2) because if I hit with this flop against someone else who has a big pair, I'm going to absolutely stack them. Well, raising just 2x the big blind (a min raise, in other words) is perfectly well enough to throw off the scent and keep anybody from putting me on a sooted-connector type of hand. What I've found this year is that I simply don't need to bump it up to 3x every time I raise preflop anymore to accomplish what I am looking to accomplish when I raise before the flop. So, for example, at the 150-300 level, instead of raising to 900 every time I pop it preflop, now I'm raising to something like 780 every time instead. At the 200-400 level, instead of 1200 it'll be something like 1080. At the 1500-3000 level, instead of 9000 chips for every raise before the flop, now I'm looking more at 7200 or so. And so far, it's been working. So you can look for me to be raising less 3x preflop and instead focusing those raises more in the 2 - 2.5x range in most cases.

5. Tilt less. Oh hahah who am I kidding. I goal this every year and I fail epicly miserably at it year in and year out. Yes I'm going to stop smack talking people so hard in the chatbox this year for sure, and I'm going to do what I can to maintain my focus on playing good poker to the bitter end of every single tournament I am in no matter what happens to me in other tournaments at the time. But the same things that make me such a fierce competitor and that drive me to do my best in everything that I do -- in the poker world and otherwise -- are things that just make me reallllly pissed off every time I take a sucker beat. And since I've failed on this one so miserably badly every other year since I've been playing poker seriously, I'm not even going to bother taking this goal seriously in 2011. Tilt less? No way. Play my best poker at all times though? You betcha.

Happy happy new year, everybody. Hope 2011 is even better than 2010 for you all.

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Blogger BLAARGH! said...

HNY hoy! Good luck this year, hope it's as good as your last.

2:15 AM  

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