Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cha-cha-cha Changes!

Things change so radically in the poker world, that if one types up some absolute on any given day, he can be flamed and ridiculed the next day for being such a moron.

Just because the poker world changes rapidly doesn't mean that his advice or strategy was wrong, it was just meant for a certain time and place. It can be adapted!!!

The other day I was reading Ray Zee's book again, going over some O8 theory in my head, and how it applies to tourneys. I stumbled once again upon Ray's advice about particular styles of play, particular characteristics of players and the games they may adapt to the best. Nothing in his theory is wrong, and most of it still applies today, even with the poker boom. But it definitely made me pause and remember some of the things that have changed so radically, and how players have a hard time adjusting their own play, not to mention heeding the sage advice of some top players/theorists for today's game of poker.

I remember a few years ago when I was reading Doyle's chapter in SSI on NLHE cash games. I kept thinking over and over again, "Jeez, this advice would rock in tourneys, but I think a cash game player would probably get killed these days!"

I told Glenn that it was probably good tourney strategy. Better than Sklansky's, because of the current times (just at the cusp of the poker boom).

Not long after that, someone was discussing SSI on 2+2 and Mason chimed in with almost the exact same sentiment. Some people can think about something so deeply that they almost instantly realize it's usefulness and adjust or adapt it to current conditions. I am very fortunate that I'm able to do this, although it doesn't seem to help me much in MTT's!!! For whatever reason, that is a huge shortcoming of mine, my inability to adapt greatly in that arena.

Okay, so staying on topic. I have often been able to help fledgling players decide which game is best for them. This comes from a combination of listening to them talk about poker, watching them play extensively and the things Ray said in his book. These days, it's all about Hold'em, I know (I'm not really that blind), so when I say I decide what game might be best for them, it's always about the second game they pick up. The "what comes next?" moment that they have, when they realize it's not always ALL HOLD'EM, ALL THE TIME.

The player who starts out learning and playing LHE seems to be able to adjust to NLHE easier than vice versa. Some players try to play limit after learning and playing a lot of NL. What a trainwreck. They get eaten alive. I see the inability to adjust every day. It is painful to watch. It reminds me of my own shortcomings in tourneys. The player who was forced to really learn limit first is fortunate. He tends to do much, much better adjusting to no-limit play.

Women can hang with high variance games better than men, at times. But they have to have absolutely no respect of money. No fear. Mentally it can be tough to go to a game like PLO or Stud 8 and lose huge pot after huge pot, going in as a favorite. Some men absolutely cannot take these swings, and end up steaming. Women don't tend to steam in the traditional sense as much (blowing off chips; playing badly after running badly). The problem with women in these games is that they tend to have one of two problems. They are either too timid and scared, or they are too hyperaggressive in the wrong hands (no discernment). Either can present huge problems for a woman playing a high variance game.

Razz should be a woman's game. I have always thought this. Thank God almost no one agrees with me, and I typically play against all men. Women can handle losing with a made 65 on fifth to some monkey drawing to a jack and getting an incredibly lucky runner 64. Men go absolutely ape when this happens. I have seen the most calm, controlled, professional men go ballistic. Razz can be a super frustrating game when you forget the odds, forget your edge and let the game get to you. One of the only male players who can hang tough in Razz throughout all seasons is Ted Forrest. He knows that the incredible runner suckouts are what keeps the game from dying altogether. He knows that he makes money by keeping his cool and staying sharp. He just smiles, taps the table and moves on to the next hand. Of course he wants that monkey with a jack doorcard drawing all the way! He wouldn't have any other scenario, and this is what makes him great at Stud games.

Stud High is a great game for action junkies, those who like to play a lot of hands on third, those who like to draw and chase. In good games, the ante is rather high, so players who want to play a lot of hands and go far with them are actually playing much more closely to correct. That it is a good game for them. Although they will lose in the long-term (if they are not top players), they will typically lose less than in other games. If a player is loose and aggressive on third, with no regard for money, and likes to call down a lot of hands, even if he is unsure where he is in the hand, he will tend to do better at Stud High than many other games.

Stud 8 is an awesome game in some respects, and a terrible one in others. It is awesome because a good player can incorporate a lot of trickery into his game, and deception rules. But it is frustrating because it can be the roller coaster ride of a century. When you run well in Stud 8, you think you are the king, the best Stud 8 player ever. And then when mother variance rears her ugly head, you wonder if you ever knew how to play in the first place. The trickier you are, the more deeply you think and play the game, the more of an idiot you can seem when the play doesn't work. When it DOES work out, your tablemates will be shaking your hand and congratulating you on your "world class play." Don't let this go to your head, either positively or negatively. Remember, when a good play works, everyone will proclaim you their hero. When the exact same play, under the exact same circumstances backfires, they will be calling you a moron. Both terms are incorrect. Although an advanced player is the one thinking deeply, on many different levels, this is simply good play. You aren't the master of the game, nor are you the idiot. You are simply playing good poker.

If you are the type of person who likes to overcall a lot, until your hand is made, Stud 8 is a good game for your style. If you think of yourself as a fisherman, sitting patiently and silently, while players all around you are in a rage, Stud 8 may be your best game. Yes, you can simply sit and wait, and then let them give you all of their chips when they are ramming and jamming with you in between. Typically in Stud 8, the first betting rounds are pretty light, the later rounds a chip spewing fest. Stud High is exactly the opposite. Good players slow down in later rounds.

If you're tired and/or bored, games that might keep you sane, but decrease your variance, are low limit Razz, LO8 or low buy-in NLHE. These games are pretty much no-brainers at low limits. I tend to call low buy-in NLHE "wash, rinse, repeat." Razz is easy because there are no suits or high cards to memorize. Only low cards and boards to play. It is typically a board game. Sit and wait for a good doorcard, play your board strongly.

And then we come to LO8. The Special Olympics of poker. The game where you can win a gold medal, but you are still retarded. The brain dead game of the world.

Yes, it takes a special talent to succeed at LLO8. Yes, it takes a certain personality and a ton of adjustment from typical poker. But these talents and adjustments are more like tuning DOWN your game, not ramping it up. Like listening to classical music on it's lowest volume setting, instead of the death metal volume you are used to at rock concerts. For those of us who can humble ourselves and hang out in homes for the mentally impaired, it is a gold mine. For those who want to be gorillas at the zoo, beating our chests and showing everyone how aggressively manly we are, it can spell disaster.

LO8 is the one game where passive play can consistently win. It is like no other in poker. If you can simply slow down. If you can convince yourself that you must be the turtle, rather than the hare. If you can sit and wait patiently. If you can see that overcalling with the nuts will net you 3 more big bets versus the 1.5 big bets you will net if you keep raising. If you can realize that bad beats, in the way that we typically think of them, don't exist in LO8. If you can change your mindset about poker and aggression, you can succeed greatly in this field.

It will not be that exciting. It will not cause a huge rush of adrenaline. It will not have huge swings. If you are playing correctly you won't feel like you are the master. You won't get to boast and beat your chest. You will simply make money. Slowly, surely, painlessly. It is like working on an assembly line versus speculating on the trash stock market.

Which is why I chose those three events at Orleans this year, versus my favorite games, Stud games. Because I could play in a coma. I could play with very little energy. I could play in a mild, passive, predictable way if I needed to. I could wait it out, with tons of chips and a great structure (pretty tough to do at Rio this year, given the structure and lack of chips). I could wake up and come alive when I needed to, but save my energy and strength during those times when I needed to recoop.

I still don't have what it takes to win these events. I did not build up enough chips to be a true force during the hours I played. I didn't build up enough chips to weather more than about five beats or premium hands that simply never got there. I did not take advantage of orphan pots enough (although they are more rare in LO8 than other games). I did not always know where I was in a hand. I misread my hand a couple of times in the final event (luckily during the very first level, after that I was fine). I did not do the things that full-time tournament players do every, single day, and succeed at greatly. For that, I was granted the bubble prize in two out of the three O8 events I played.

But I learned. I learned a lot. And I triumphed in the fact that I was able to play those hours, saving myself for hands which I needed all of my energy and focus. It was a huge boost to my self confidence in tournaments. I needed it greatly, as I have been out of that arena for the past year.

And it also helped me to write this post today. This post telling you theories and psychologies of different games, and how to adjust, to adapt to the ever changing poker scene. It also helped me with some ideas I've been thinking about sharing with you regarding strategies and "blueprints" which might enable you to switch up your game easier, adjust to different games and limits, as well as individual tables.

So for that, the money and time was worth it.

I learned a lot, and I hope to come back better and stronger than ever! After all, Ted and Asher both said I could hang in Stud type games up to maybe 300/600 or 400/800. I wouldn't want to disappoint them, now, would I??? ;)

Take care, and I hope this has given everyone something to chew on.

Felicia :)