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Chardrian’s Guide to Live Small Stakes Limit Poker (Part 1)

Ok, to start this off, I figured it would be a good idea to give a little background about myself.  I was a 2nd year law student at the University of Wisconsin when the poker boom began in 2003.  Like many young(ish) males at the time, I got caught up in the wave of televised poker becoming mainstream.  When a guy named Chris Moneymaker, who was just some regular old schmuck with a cool last name, won the WSOP Main Event for millions of dollars after winning his seat through an online satellite tournament for something like $40, I figured I can do this too.  Since law school is basically a hotbed of ego-inflated young punks who believe that they can outsmart anyone, it also provided a ripe testing grounds for those of us who wanted to dip our feet in the poker waters.  Home games were plentiful since everyone thought they could use their intellectual prowess to guarantee huge paydays.  For me at least, the second and third years of law school was also a time when studying was no longer requiring basically all of my daily time, so I began playing poker quite often, both online and with friends at home games.

My initial progression was chaotic at best.  I basically believed that poker was just one giant dickwagging war.  I did not really put my opponents on ranges of possible hands and I did not really understand board textures, but I really liked to put my opponents to the ultimate test by going all-in.  Sometimes this strategy worked, sometimes it did not.  Luckily for me, games back then were pretty passive so through sheer aggression alone I was able to basically break even.

In December of 2004, I graduated from law school and got a “real job” as an attorney working for the state of Wisconsin.  Since I was no longer surrounded by my law school buds, my home game playing dried up and I began playing much more online.  I was starting to grasp the ideas of things like pot odds, implied odds, and hand ranges, but my biggest learning at that time was just through playing lots and lots of hands online.  At the time I was playing quite a bit of 3/6 shorthanded limit and some MTTs.  It wasn’t until April of 2005 that I joined FTR and my learning curve skyrocketed.

I inundated the forum with posts about hands and replied to other people’s posts as well.  I proved to others that I was in fact the ego-inflated law school punk who thought I knew everything when I actually was pitifully unaware of many basic tenets of poker.  But gradually I proved that to myself as well and after good advice finally starting sinking in, I actually started to consistently make profit rather than just breaking even.  My only downfall with getting better was that it did not always mesh well with my inflated ego – thinking that I was definitely going to be the next Phil Ivey often led me to play games that were over my head both talent wise and bankroll wise.  (You can read about my bankroll degeneracy here.)

In 2007, my wife and I moved from Wisconsin to California because she was starting her residency program in Sacramento.  While I was waiting for my California Bar exam results to come back I played poker full-time.  During that waiting period, in August of 2007, I came in third place in the FTOPS Main Event for over $150,000.  At that time my wife and I decided that I could play poker full-time as long as I kept profiting and from that time until Black Friday in April of 2011 I played online poker (with an annual pilgrimage to the WSOP every summer) as my main source of income.  The vast majority of my play during that time was in midstakes online MTTs and I was pretty successful doing so.  Besides winning numerous online tournaments, I also made the final table of a WSOP event in both 2009 and 2010.

Fast forward to April 2011 and the ability to play online vanished on me.  My wife was also about to finish her residency program and we were leaving Sacramento for her to start her first post-residency position.  Between moving expenses and a large portion of my online funds being held in limbo on the online poker sites, I have found myself back to a small bankroll and only the local casino to play at.

So with that as a background, I am currently playing $4/8 limit hold’em at my local casino.  I am not nearly as expert in limit play as I am in MTT play, but I am going to use this blog as my guide to live small stakes limit play.  I anticipate this being a multi-part series and hopefully will cover all aspects of playing live small stakes limit.  In the next post I will begin delving into honest to god strategy.

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