Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Curse of Success or How to Start a Death Spiral in Three Easy Lessons

After the MTT success I documented in my previous blog entry, my MTT and SNG play went straight into the toilet. It’s interesting in hindsight that what I actually did at the tables was completely detached from what I know I should do.

During this time, I’ve been faced with what everyone who plays poker faces. I’ve been completely card dead for three or more tournaments in a row. I’ve taken a number of bad beats. There’s surely nothing I can do about the former, except to try and hang on. And in the latter case I can—at least intellectually—appreciate that it means I’m getting my money out on the table with the best of it, which is all anyone really can do.

(Warning: Obligatory bad beat section follows; please skip to next paragraph. Allow me to vent just for a second. KK all-in goes down to a call from K9 when my opponent flops a pair of nines and rivers trips. KK goes down to a call from 99 that rivers a straight. Red pocket tens all-in flop a set, but wait, all three cards on the board are spades, looking suspiciously like the 8s in the pocket eights that called me with; a fourth spade hits the board on the turn and nothing pairs on the river. JJ all-in is called by TT and, after a ragged flop that puts me ahead by nearly 14-1, the third ten hits on the turn. Blah, blah, blah. Boring, boring, boring. Please cry for me Argentina. But, as I asked the K9 caller, “Why don’t the donkeys ever use lubricants when they mount you from behind?”)

But the reality is, in most of those cases, I was pushing pre-flop near the bubble because I was short stacked and needed to double up to stay in the tournament. And the fact is that in most of those cases I got there by being a big freakin’ donkey myself. I’m not talking about any complicated leak, for the most part, just a simple pattern that I find myself falling into after a run of success.

1) I start playing too many marginal starting hands. Little pocket pairs, middle suited (O, even non-suited sometimes) connectors; Ax, on and on. My recent wins have me convinced that all of my opponents are idiots and that I can push them around and out play them. But they’re not all idiots (even though many are) and even an idiot gets dealt good cards and hits a flop from time to time. All that it gets me are lots of middle pairs with no kicker, bottom pairs with big kickers, assorted gutshots and backdoor draws, and complete garbage on the flop.

2) I push those marginal hands aggressively and get popped. Everyone sees the crap I’m playing and they play back at me, forcing me to fold, or they string me along and suck me dry all the way to the river. Continuation bets actually work if you use them judiciously and show down some strong hands every once in awhile.

I struggle and donk it up, losing in tournaments early or watching my stack bounce up and down like a three-year old after two liters of Hawaiian Punch and half a birthday cake until I bubble out and die. Then the final phase of the death spiral hits:

3) The return of Captain Weaktight, hero of the stupid. I don’t play anything but group one hands, unless I’m completing from the small blind or checking from the big blind. Unless I flop a set or better (maybe TPTK, if I’m feeling particularly frisky) I’m checking and folding. If my set isn’t top set, I’m folding to anyone who plays back at me. Bubble city guaranteed, boys and girls.

So here I am, crawling out of that hole again and trying to play better. This time, I mostly have tried to play my way out of my slump, but is that the best way? It helps with some things, certainly, but it almost invariably seems to require me to play out the full cycle. Should I take a break? Read a book? Hit myself in the head with a brick? What? Is there any way to short circuit this cycle once it begins?

Pokerroom's Latest "Upgrade"

On another topic, will some poker sites never learn how to complete a software update without screwing things up? I haven’t played on that many sites, but Pokerroom—a site where I play frequently and generally like as well as any—can’t seem to get it right. Just this last spring, they screwed up enough that they had to roll out a series of $ added freerolls just to try to appease the pissed-off masses. If you have an account there and like these events, get ready for more of them.

Yesterday, Pokerroom rolled out their newest software update (for both the downloadable and Java platforms). In the process, they’ve managed to put themselves out of the MTT business temporarily and even those new things that are working just plain suck.

SNG registrations are impossible, with multiple tables with the same game and buy in level registering at once and no method of organizing them by # of registrants or anything. As a result, you get people filling two or three $20 NLHE tables at once and it takes forever to fill them. Maybe this works at Party or Stars, but not at Pokerroom, there’s just not the volume of players. Oh, and some of these SNGs are now multi-table games, but there’s no way to tell that from the menu. You have to click on each one individually to see if it’s a one-, two- or three-table event. Nuts.

SNG blind levels also are now just eight minutes. I think they did it by hand count before and it was manageable and no worse than other sites, but now the things are pretty much push fests. When your base SNG is effectively a turbo, blah.

They’ve blown up in the past and eventually have fixed things, but we’ll see this time. One of the big selling points for Pokerroom is the Java version, which I can play on the road, but I’ve had the largest share of my bankroll there for a while and I don’t know if that will continue without some fixes.

No comments:

Post a Comment