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How High Can You Get?

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  1. #1
    Jason's Avatar
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    Default How High Can You Get?


    I took a two year hiatus from poker basically because I had thrown myself into it too much, too fast, for too long, and eventually got burned out. Right around the time I started to lose interest Congress passed the UIGEA and that pretty much took all the poker wind out of my sail. However, last month I got the itch again and started to remember all the things I missed about playing poker. The itch eventually needed to be scratched and on December 13, 2008 I decided to redeposit $100 and get back in the fray. Although I respect all forms of poker, I only play no limit hold 'em and there's enough intricacies within that one game like full ring, 6 max, heads-up, MTT's, SNG's, live, and online to keep my interest. When I played online before, I thought SNG's and MTT's were fun and did mostly those and had decent results, but I've come to believe that ring games are best for building a bankroll and learning the core principles of poker, so I have been and plan to continue to play those @ full ring almost exclusively. I'm a big believer in strict bankroll management and only play no limit hold 'em when I'm rolled with 30 buy-ins and drop down a level when I hit 20 buy-ins for the level I'm @. Additionally, I never allow myself to lose more than 5% of my total bankroll in any one day and I never put more than 10% of my total bankroll in play @ one time. To me, having and following sound bankroll management strategy is even more important than being a good player.

    My goal is just to see how high the glass ceiling is for me. How many levels up can I climb? A level is 100 big blinds for a no limit game - $2NL (L1), $5NL (L2), $10NL (L3), $25NL (L4), $50NL (L5), $100NL (L6), $200NL (L7), and so on. Since I've been burned out playing before, I'm also going to try hard to not let that happen again by focusing more on the things I like about poker, less about the things I don't like, and simply not allowing myself to get too immersed in it. Poker is everywhere 365/24/7, so slow and steady wins the race.

    I'm not making any goals related to hands played, win rate, or a specific level to achieve by a certain date, although I may note some of those stats as I progress or regress. I just want to keep moving up levels until I can't move up any more while focusing on playing solid poker, maintaining a healthy poker mindset, having fun on the journey with the process, and always learning and growing along the way. And just getting knocked down a level will not prevent me from rebuilding and trying again multiple times if need be. Will I make it past $5NL, $200NL, $10,000NL, or more ... or less? Who knows? But, a little over a month and a little over 11k hands since starting back up playing $2NL, I'm up from $100 to over $150 @ 24BB/100 or 12ptBB/100 and ready for my first jump up to level 2, $5NL. I'll stay there until I drop down to $100 (level 1) or rise up to $300 (level 3).

    If for some reason I get lucky and enter an MTT and cash a big win or get some kind of prize like being part of a milestone hand, that will NOT count towards my bankroll to move up a level. Only money earned from beating a level may be counted towards moving up a level.

    You would think EVERYONE who plays poker would try to see how high they can go, but I honestly think some players don't test their mettle as much as they could. Capable ones might get distracted clearing bonuses or "maximizing" their win rate on 24 tables @ once or just don't get momentum going due to constant fund withdraws. I think others get content with winning @ a level or just aren't comfortable moving up to certain stakes even if they're rolled for it. And of course, there's that 60% plus or minus @ every level that simply can't beat it and give up. I'm only going to focus on climbing the ladder and then AFTER I reach a point where I know I can't move up anymore is when I might give consideration to bonuses, withdrawing funds, or finding the multi-table sweet spot.

    I don't anticipate that I'll post dailies on my progress, instead likely just when I move off a level or maybe if I'm stuck @ a level for a long while, but possibly more if I have any pleasant revelations or difficult problems. We can also hash out theories why some players are able to move up and some aren't and the main differences between the levels.

    It's time to find out if the sky is the limit or if the limit is the sky.

    How High Can You Get?
    Level 1 ($2 NL) - 12/13/2008 @ $100 -> Winrate for level: 24BB/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 11k hands (As of 01/22/2009)
    Level 2 ($5 NL) - 01/22/2009 @ $150
    Level 3 ($10 NL) - ??? @ $300
    Overall Winrate 24BB/100 or 12ptBB/100 (As of 01/22/2009)
    - Jason

  2. #2
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    soaking up ethanol, moving on up
    go well with this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7shek1bGOOU

    i'm guilty of comfort zoning rather than aiming for that ceiling. I'll move up sometime
  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by daven
    go well with this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7shek1bGOOU

    i'm guilty of comfort zoning rather than aiming for that ceiling. I'll move up sometime
    Yeah dude you definitely need to move up, what's stopping you? Are you withdrawing regularly? Not confident enough that you can beat the higher game? I feel like I'm almost ready to move up and many would say that I'm underrolled
  4. #4
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    One more thought that I think could be worthwhile is to summarize my observations when leaving a level. If nothing else, it'll be a nice reference for me if I get knocked back down. Granted, the play can change dramatically from site to site from day to day, but there is probably some common ground as well. Even though raked poker is worse than a zero sum game, at PokerStars $2NL $0.01/$0.02, I strongly believe just about anyone who is reasonably competent can beat this game. And, I was surprised by how much "real poker" I was able to play. Although there are definitely some maniacs out there, it's NOT total chaos with people who have no regard for penny blinds pushing all-in. More often than not, I was able to do all the standard plays you'd expect to make like raising or limping pre-flop, seeing flops, and even making successful bluffs.

    For starters, there seems to be a LOT of "robot" poker. Mostly short-stacked one table players or full stack multi-table players camping for premium hands and looking to double up. These players are very profitable to play against because they only have one small-set of hands they play and one gear to play them from. You can just smell that they don't want to make decisions after the flop, so the passive ones will just call and fold or maybe just call everything and the aggressive ones will raise big preflop and push hard on the flop. They are usually easy to steal money from and when they put up a lot of resistance, it's easy to get away from hands. Quite simply, they're not really playing poker and anyone who plays predictably should be easy to exploit.

    The majority of players seem tight/passive/passive (rocks) or tight/passive/aggressive. These players can be tough to get action from, but easier to pick-up lots of small pots and blinds. Fortunately there are enough loose/passive/passive (fish), calling stations, or weak loose/aggressive/aggressive players to help build big pots to make more money from. The most obvious bad plays made at this level seem to be overvaluing hands. Many players just have a tough time letting go of top pair and even more who will lose the farm with two pair even if the paired board only needs one card to make a flush or a straight.

    On the other side of the coin, there are also plenty of competent players usually playing tight/aggressive/aggressive or slightly loose/aggressive/aggressive - not everyone was easy to extract money from and several seemed very calculating and solid.

    For only 11k hands, I don't know if my 24BB/100 or 12ptBB/100 is a really good statistic, par for the course, or something that can or can't be maintained over the long haul. It's always possible I was running really well or picking up nice table draws and the like. Or maybe I underachieved and even better numbers are possible, but at any rate, it definitely seems beatable and it was a fun way to get back in the game.

    It'll be interesting to see how much the dynamics change @ $5NL. I guess the one element above all I'd like to see @ every level is enough fish to make the game profitable. It's much easier to outplay one fish than it is to constantly try to eek out money from or save money against seven sharks.
    - Jason

  5. #5
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    I recently got Hold'em Manager and it has graphs, so I thought I'd post my level 1 data:



    EDIT: Added a thumbnail with link instead of just a large image.
    - Jason

  6. #6
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    I've had a pretty juicy selection of home games lately and haven't logged a ton of hands, about 1500 per week, but I do play when I can.

    Despite that, it's been a little over a month and 8,000 hands later and I feel fortunate to have built my roll from $150 @ Level 2 $5NL to $300 and I'm now ready to start my next journey @ Level 3 $10NL. I was also fortunate and a little surprised to improve upon my win rate some from 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 @ $2NL to 36bb/100 or 18ptBB/100 @ $5NL. I assumed it would slowly go down each level, but I guess since I wasn't able to log much more than 10k @ each level, there's going to be the potential for a lot more variation in either direction. As long as I'm winning and think I'm winning as a result of consistently outplaying my opponents, I'm not going to get too caught up in specific numbers.

    It's funny, but the moments I feel I am maturing most as a player are not when I pull off what I think is a fancy play or stack off two villains at once. Instead, it's when I am in the midst of adverse situations. I remember one night in particular, I had QQ and flopped 4Q4 in a raised pot. My thought was, "how do I get all the money in by the river". I planned my bet sizes for each street. I got my flop bet called and then the turn was a King and he re-raised my turn bet all-in. It turned out he had KK and I lost my stack. I hardly reacted at all. I just thought, "that's going to happen from time to time and the fact he called my big flop bet tells me he probably would have stacked off even if he didn't get a set as long as an ace didn't spike OR he could have had aces and still stacked off". I took notes on how villain played that hand for next time and moved on like it was just another hand because to me, it was. Just a few hands later, I had 44 in another raised pot. The flop came 4A3. Again, I planned to try to get all the money in the pot feeling like villain might stack off with AK or worse. I got all the money in by the river, but villain had 52o - a made straight on the flop in a raised pre-flop pot and the board didn't pair. I could have easily tilted or gone into a "woe is me" mindset, but instead, again focused on taking player notes and choosing not to let it affect my game. I just think to myself, "this would probably affect a lot of other players, but I've worked hard on my game and played enough and seen enough and it's not going to affect me - it's going to give me an edge". That's not to say I always have the best frame of mind and couldn't improve more, but I'm encouraged by the progress and aside from simply learning how to play poker well, I think how we handle or react to adversity can be key. Catching wired Aces or Kings and taking an eager fish's stack is easy. But how do we react when the cards get cracked or you play the fool? When the chips are down, that's when we get to really test our mettle.

    In Elements of Poker Tommy Angelo talks a lot about reciprocity and how to test for it. The gist of it is that you analyze how you played a hand versus how an opponent would have played the same hand in the same scenario. If you would have won more or loss less than your opponent, then you win and vice versa. I am seeing more and more plays I make now, that the older me or the other players I play with online and live would either not play correctly or not play as optimally as I think I'm playing it. Sometimes the plays are subtle relating to mindset, getting an extra value bet here, not losing extra money there. Sometimes the plays are more obvious - maximizing EV, creating optimal stack to pot ratios after the flop, or picking a timely spot for a successful bluff. And it's not that I'm playing perfect or even in a way that could be clearly quantified as good, but I think I am seeing enough evidence that I am playing a lot better by my standards and I have been fortunate lately to at least play better than my opponents for the time being. I think to survive in poker more so than other pursuits you always have to be moving forward and getting better. And, if nothing else, it's nice to know that to succeed, you never have to actually play good or even great poker - just play better poker than your villains

    Typically the move between levels is to win 30 buy-ins, but to fully traverse from $10NL to $25NL, I'll need to win 45 buy-ins:

    $10 times 45 buy-ins equals $450 (profit)
    $450 (profit) plus $300 (my current bankroll) equals $750 (amount I need)
    $25 (next level) times 30 (required buy-ins per my bankroll management rules) equals $750 (amount I need)

    So, in addition to having the hurdle of moving up a level and being a winning player, there will be the additional burden of having to win an extra 50% of the buy-ins than is typical. Fortunately all that will take care of itself eventually IF I'm able to consistently win.

    Here's my $5NL graph from HEM:


    Here's my overall graph:


    I plan to start playing and keep playing $10NL until I drop down to $200 at which point I'll drop back down to $5NL or until I rise up to $750 at which point I'll move up to $25NL.

    How High Can You Get?
    Level 1 ($ 2 NL) - 12/13/2008 @ $100 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 11k hands (As of 01/22/2009)
    Level 2 ($ 5 NL) - 01/22/2009 @ $150 -> Winrate for level: 36bb/100 or 18ptBB/100 over 8k hands (As of 03/03/2009)
    Level 3 ($10 NL) - 03/03/2009 @ $300
    Level 4 ($25 NL) - ??? @ $750
    Overall Winrate 29bb/100 or 14ptBB/100 (As of 03/03/2009)
    - Jason

  7. #7
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    $5NL retrospective
    So, how do the players @ $5NL differ from those @ $2NL? When I first made the jump, I got off to a slow start. I was mentally prepared to move back down and I remember thinking early on, "Cmon', $5NL cannot be that much different than $2NL" and just like that the tide turned quickly and abruptly in my favor. I think I may have just gotten a little unlucky not having a few pots pay me off like I planned or a few implied odd pots not draw my way. Or maybe I was just adjusting to new stack, pot, and blind sizes. I remember early on seeing a couple of villains slow play pocket aces not even raising pre-flop and little things like that confused me. But, once I got going, I settled into a groove and I found the play to be not too much different than $2NL. Everything seems just slightly more exaggerated. The tight players seem a little tighter and the loose players seem a little looser. It's the latter, looser players that I think allowed me to move up a tad quicker than the last level. I'm always surprised by what players will stack off with. One of the biggest keys to success I think @ any stakes is the ability to find and exploit fish or at least players you can consistently outplay and I'd argue there's plenty of those @ $5NL.

    As always, I'll be interested to see how the play changes @ the next level. @ $5NL, you can buy-in for $10, so I suspect there may be some cross over in terms of similar play @ $10NL. This will be the first level where players can't buy-in for more than 100BB, which I am looking forward to since I like to buy-in for 100BB and also like to have other players covered. I started playing $10NL for the first time last night and my snapshot, initial thoughts are that it seems much tighter and the good games seem harder to find or fill up quicker.

    @ $2NL, I mainly wanted to get back into poker form and focus on the fundamentals like good starting hands, the importance of position, pot odds, implied odds, and the like. @ $5NL, I tried to maintain that and put more focus on hand reading and bet sizing. @ $10NL, I'm going to aim to continue all those things and focus on doing a better job nailing down villain ranges, using PokerStove as an aid, targeting optimal Stack to Pot ratios for myself after the flop, and creating bad Stack to Pot ratios for my opponents after the flop.

    If I am able to move up to $25NL before I have to move back down $5NL, it could be a while, so away I go.
    - Jason

  8. #8
    Jason's Avatar
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    One more thought: In several threads, I've been outspoken regarding the virtues of playing no limit with a full stack. This is an extreme example, but I think succinctly illustrates the advantage. These two hands occurred back to back. Had I been half or short stacked, I would have topped out @ $5 or less (some half-stacks leave the table after doubling up) or $10 instead of close to $30, which is a 300% difference.

    No-Limit Hold'em, $0.05 BB (9 handed) - Hold'em Manager Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com

    UTG ($21.61)
    UTG+1 ($5)
    MP1 ($2.93)
    MP2 ($8.98)
    MP3 ($10.77)
    CO ($2.18)
    Button ($1.86)
    Hero (SB) ($7.53)
    BB ($10)

    Preflop: Hero is SB with K, K
    1 fold, UTG+1 calls $0.05, 1 fold, MP2 calls $0.05, 3 folds, Hero bets $0.18, 2 folds, MP2 calls $0.15

    Flop: ($0.50) K, 3, 9 (2 players)
    Hero bets $0.40, MP2 calls $0.40

    Turn: ($1.30) 3 (2 players)
    Hero checks, MP2 bets $0.30, Hero raises $2.50, MP2 calls $2.20

    River: ($6.30) Q (2 players)
    Hero bets $4.43 (All-In), MP2 calls $4.43

    Total pot: $15.16

    Results:
    Hero had K, K (full house, Kings over threes).
    MP2 didn't show T, 6 (King high flush).
    Outcome: Hero won $14.46




    No-Limit Hold'em, $0.05 BB (9 handed) - Hold'em Manager Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com

    BB ($21.61)
    UTG ($5)
    UTG+1 ($2.93)
    MP1 ($1.45)
    MP2 ($10.77)
    MP3 ($2.18)
    CO ($1.86)
    Hero (Button) ($14.46)
    SB ($9.95)

    Preflop: Hero is Button with 7, 7
    3 folds, MP2 calls $0.05, 2 folds, Hero bets $0.15, 1 fold, BB calls $0.10, MP2 calls $0.10

    Flop: ($0.47) 7, 3, J (3 players)
    BB bets $0.25, MP2 calls $0.25, Hero raises $2.86, BB calls $2.61, 1 fold

    Turn: ($6.44) 3 (2 players)
    BB checks, Hero bets $4.30, BB raises $8.60, Hero raises $7.15 (All-In), BB calls $2.85

    River: ($29.34) K (2 players, 1 all-in)

    Total pot: $29.34

    Results:
    Hero had 7, 7 (full house, sevens over threes).
    BB had J, K (two pair, Kings and Jacks).
    Outcome: Hero won $27.89
    - Jason

  9. #9
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    I still haven't had as much time to put in a high volume of hands due to work, I just got into a relationship (she loves poker), exercise, and I often like to play live, however, I have been able to put in, on average, about 1300 hands a week. It's been about 3 and a half months since I started $10NL and I am very happy with my progress and ready to graduate to $25NL. Since starting $10NL, I put in about 20k hands with a win-rate @ about 24bb/100 (12ptBB/100) and my bankroll is sitting @ $780.

    I've put in a lot of study on FTR, reading books, listening to podcasts, and I recently joined Deuces Cracked. Truth be told, despite some moving up the micro stakes, I still often wonder how much success is based on poor villain play versus my actual good play. It seems like most of the time I'm just doing a good job staying out of trouble, picking my spots, and waiting for some fish to get out of line and do something stupid. Sometimes I wonder how long I can continue to find fish or what will happen if the fish dry up? Will I adapt or will it just turn into a nit fest or competition to outguess or out level my opponents? Fortunately, most of the videos I've watched @ the different stakes from $25NL to $200NL still seem to have a healthy amount of fish or at least villains with tendencies that can be exploited. I'll try to avoid getting too far ahead of myself though, and just be happy I've found opponents I seem to be able to exploit for now and hope that there are enough at the next level to continue to be successful.

    At $10NL, I felt like I did a much better job of putting opponents on ranges. This is such an important skill no matter what stakes so you know how to proceed forward with the hand to maximize your expectation or simply know when it's best to get out. Sometimes, I can't put my opponent on a good range, but I can ELIMINATE a good range based on the line they take in conjunction with board texture and my read - that is an equally good skill to have that helps extract value or bluff. Although, I am still often guilty of trying to peg villains as generally "weak" or "strong" - not that it's bad to do that, but sometimes I get too satisfied with just that and not going the extra step of quantifying it to specific hands. Next, I started delving into Poker Stove @ $10NL, but I probably used it too generally comparing my hand to villains' pre-flop call or raise percentage instead of some specific hand ranges post flop. I definitely want to improve on both of those concepts in $25NL. I feel like if I can maintain the skills I've developed and continue improving in those areas and just in general, I'll give myself a good chance moving forward.

    It's interesting to me that when my bankroll was around $650, I decided to go from playing 3 tables at once to 4 tables at once and to put in a few more hours of play. My win-rate at that point was 27bb/100 (13.5ptBB/100) and it did a nosedive down as I played about 2000 hands of break even poker. I think the extra table really detracted from my note taking and player reads, plus I think the longer sessions cost me some money as I was tilting in ways I hadn't noticed before such as being more tired mentally, missing out on more information, trying to make up a win, or getting more frustrated when the extra table and time wasn't translating to moving up faster. But, I also think it's important to be able to slowly calibrate to the most tables and longest sessions one can play while still playing close to their best. So, I've stuck with it in hopes that I'll get more comfortable and efficient with more practice. These observations just reinforced my opinion that excessive multi-tabling really detracts from your ability to play optimally and learn the game.

    $25NL is usually considered the last "micro" stakes before the "small" stakes of $50NL. It also feels like possibly the first stake where the money on the table could start to become meaningful to the average Joe or Jane. This stake has an odd small blind structure being more than half as small as the big blind. I could actually see folding more often in the small blind since it's 2.5x more instead of the usual 2x. The buy-in is also 2.5x the previous stake instead of the usual 2x. I would expect this to mean a larger jump in skill level, but we'll see. I'm going to try to reserve my expectations and let the play speak for itself.

    To move up from $25NL to $50NL, I'll need to win 30 buy-ins:

    $25 times 30 equals $750 (profit)
    $750 (profit) plus $750 (my current bankroll) equals $1500 (amount I need)
    $50 (next level) times 30 (required buy-ins per my bankroll management rules) equals $1500 (amount I need)

    As always, everything will take care of itself eventually IF I'm able to consistently win.

    Here's my $10NL graph from HEM:


    Here's my overall graph:


    I plan to start playing and keep playing $25NL until I drop down to $500 (20 $25NL buy-ins) at which point I'll drop back down to $10NL or until I rise up to $1500 at which point I'll move up to $50NL. One caveat: I've been moving up stakes when I have 30 buy-ins for the next level, but at some point, I may consider adding more buy-ins like 35, 40, or 50. If I am fortunate to be in a position to move up, the two factors that will most heavily weigh in on that consideration are my win-rate plus my perception of the change in skill level. For example, if I'm beating any level consistently (large sample) for 20bb/100 (10ptBB/100), then it shouldn't be a big deal to move up because the competition likely won't increase enough to offset that win rate. But, if I'm only beating a level 1bb/100 or 4bb/100, then I may want even more cushion because a noticeable increase in skill could easily wipe out a small win-rate. Ultimately, it'll be a feel situation.


    How High Can You Get?
    Level 1 ($ 2 NL) - 12/13/2008 @ $100 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 11k hands (As of 01/22/2009)
    Level 2 ($ 5 NL) - 01/22/2009 @ $150 -> Winrate for level: 36bb/100 or 18ptBB/100 over 8k hands (As of 03/03/2009)
    Level 3 ($10 NL) - 03/03/2009 @ $300 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 20k hands (As of 06/18/2009)
    Level 4 ($25 NL) - 06/18/2009 @ $750
    Level 5 ($50 NL) - ??? @ $1500
    Overall Winrate 27bb/100 or 13.5ptBB/100 over 40k hands (As of 06/18/2009)
    - Jason

  10. #10
    I find this Operation really interesting. I also think that you write in a very easy way to read and your posts, though long are full of interesting details so I actually enjoy reading your thoughts on each of the stakes as you move up.

    I think it'd be cool if you could update slightly more often.

    Nice winrate btw, keep doin what u doin!!
  11. #11
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    Thanks. I'll have the $10NL retrospective up tonight or tomorrow. I wish I had more to report on, but most of the time, I'm just playing, learning, and enjoying the process (when I'm not getting coolered, bad beat, or tilting ) and there's nothing that strikes me as postworthy. I guess I've been trying to mirror what I aim for in my playing style - good quality and let the volume fall wherever it may

    Maybe sometime I will post my positional stats as I noticed oddly enough that my 2nd biggest loser but still a marginal winner @ $10NL is the button, which doesn't seem to make sense to me since that should be the biggest winner. I'll also be on the look-out for any other hand histories or material that may be of interest.
    - Jason

  12. #12
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    $10NL retrospective
    So, how do the players @ $10NL differ from those @ $5NL? When I first made the jump, I got off to another slow start. I made a cardinal mistake that I should have known better than to make - trying new, unproven concepts and strategies when starting a new level. I was reading Professional No Limit Volume 1 and was eager to apply the concept of "targeting optimal stack to pot ratios". Doing that in conjunction with running bad plus all the unfamiliarity surrounding moving up in stakes eventually set me back between 4 or 5 buy-ins over several sessions. However, I was very pleased with how I handled the situation and didn't tilt, and even though I was preparing myself to move down if I hit 20 buy-ins, I wasn't prepared to move down too early or try to gain confidence or any of that. I was determined to get the ball moving the right direction on my own.

    Through playing, I concluded that trying to create ideal stack to pot ratios pre-flop against opponents I am fairly certain I am better than and can outplay post flop is generally a bad idea. I would put in big 6x raises or 3bets with big slick because I knew if I got it all-in, it would be with a TPTK type hand and I wanted the pot big enough pre-flop or high SPR to justify it. Too often, villains would just fold around to me OR I would build up a big pot pre-flop, miss, and have to shut down OR I would hit, but couldn't get any more action. I decided to pay more attention to commitment thresholds instead of targeting SPR ratios - get my value AND not lose value from making reads and outplaying my opponents. Doing that plus running average to good put me on the right path and I didn't look back. Coincidentally, shortly thereafter, I listened to a podcast interview with Matt Flynn, co-author of Professional No Limit Volume 1, and Bart Hanson specifically asked the question about isn't it a bad idea to try to raise too large with hands like AK pre-flop because you get worse hands to fold. Matt said that it was mentioned in the book that many of the concepts work best against tougher competition and not as well against worse competition that will let you get away with more. Long story short: don't try drastic new ways of playing when you start a level jump. Instead, try new things at a stake you are comfortable playing or move down.

    At any rate, one of the first things I noticed about $10NL was tougher table selection. It seemed like @ $5NL, I could almost always easily find a juicy table, but tables always seemed full or filled up very quickly @ $10NL and most of the ones with 1 seat available weren't as juicy as I preferred. I ended up starting most of my tables @ $10NL and never considered it @ $5NL. Next, villains don't seem to be as spewy or push all-in as light at $10NL. Often @ $5NL, either out of frustration or bad play, villains will shove their stack with really bad hands like top pair weak kicker or even 2nd pair or air. That didn't seem as prevalent. They DO seem to call down light or spewy reasonably as often, but still not as much. Extracting value can be more difficult - I remember having to adjust to be more patient to get paid. There are obviously more regulars @ $10NL and I sometimes get tired of seeing some of the same nitty players over and over at my table.

    But, even though $10NL has some aspects of villain play noticeably better than $5NL, it's not what I would consider a big jump. There are still a ton of fish and opportunities to build up your bankroll. If you find yourself struggling at these stakes, based on what I've seen, I can't help but think you probably have some fundamental concepts that need to be firmed up or you're not table selecting well enough or you're just getting too fancy. There's enough low hanging fruit to grab - make sure you're looking for it. Also keep in mind, I've been playing normal speed full ring no limit, so I can't really comment on the competition in the 6 max or heads up flavors.

    I'm eager to dip my foot in the $25NL pool. Hopefully I'll swim before I sink. I started my first session last night and I forgot how much fun it is to jump up with new blinds. It's going to take some getting used to, but it was so exhilarating to win that first big pot - much more so than losing that first big pot . Off I go.
    - Jason

  13. #13
    Vi-Zer0Skill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaD01ng
    I find this Operation really interesting. I also think that you write in a very easy way to read and your posts, though long are full of interesting details so I actually enjoy reading your thoughts on each of the stakes as you move up.

    I think it'd be cool if you could update slightly more often.

    Nice winrate btw, keep doin what u doin!!

    perfectly sums up what i wanted to say. GL Jason, i am confident you are going to continue moving up in stakes.
    Quote Originally Posted by Carroters
    Ambition is fucking great, but you're trying to dig up gold with a rocket launcher and are going to blow the whole lot to shit unless you refine your tools
  14. #14
    Sir Pawnalot's Avatar
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    Top notch thread!

    It is very enjoyable to read a post this well written.

    Climbing the ladders has been half the fun of poker for me. 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 NLHE was my last years achievement. At the moment the climb seems to have stopped.

    Good luck and happy poker!
    A foolish man learns nothing from his mistakes.
    A smart man learns only from his own mistakes.
    A wise man learns from his own mistakes, and those of the smart man and the fool.
  15. #15
    I guess this is as good a time as any to say that I appreciate the posts you make in the BC and wish you luck in your Op!
    Explain...what I do for a living without saying "I make monies in da 600 enels by pwnin' tha donk bitches". Instead I say "I'm a online financial redistribution broker". - Sasquach991
  16. #16
    Micro2Macro's Avatar
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    I read alot of your posts and I notice you have a very open mind to learning about this game. That's definately potential to eventually move up to high stakes.
  17. #17
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    Many thanks to all. I'd love to play high stakes someday, but most things I try, I am usually "pretty good", rarely "best of the best" So, if I settle out in $25NL, $200NL, or $1000NL, as long as it's fun, it's all good
    - Jason

  18. #18
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    It's been exactly a month since I jumped into $25NL and I am pleased with my progress and have earned the bankroll to graduate from the so-called "micros" into the so-called "small stakes" playing $50NL. I put in a lot more hands than I had typically logged at previous stakes. Before $25NL, my lowest volume was @ $10NL playing only ~1300 hands per week and my highest volume was ~2000 hands per week when I started $2NL and I just about doubled that this time with ~4500 hands a week. So, ~18k hands later with a win-rate @ ~15bb/100 (7.5ptbb/100) and my bankroll is sitting @ ~$1500.

    For the first time since starting a new stake, I got off to a good start that turned into a sick start. After 3 or 4 thousand hands in just a week or so, I was over half-way to $50NL and a win-rate at ~55bb/100. It was quite thrilling and then it abruptly turned the other cheek as these things often do I saw some very strange things during that stretch that really tested my psychological mettle and while I certainly didn't handle it perfectly I'm sure I could have handled it worse, too. Despite some unusual coolers and bad beats during that stretch, I definitely caught myself tilting several times and just generally not playing at my best. The first thing I tend to tilt towards is to stop putting villains on ranges: villains become simply strong, weak, or bluffing. This is bad for losing money when you're behind and equally bad for extracting money when you're ahead because I would typically fast play all my big hands and just hope villains were strong enough or suspicious enough to call. Whereas when I'm on my game, I can usually do a better job of knowing where villain is at or at least where I think their range best fits and make the right adjustments to maximize. The next thing I tend to do that a LOT of other players tend to do too is call down light. When you suffer a string of bad results, the paranoia or feeling of wanting to get even can be overwhelming and it's tougher to make standard or difficult lay downs and your stack tends to leak slowly, but consistently during those times. But fortunately, the anomaly ended as anomalies always do and I was back on track and richer for having gone through the experience - both bankroll wise and experience wise.

    I've been watching a ton of videos on Deuces Cracked plus reading the latest release "Small Stakes No Limit Hold'Em" the unofficial sequel to "Professional No Limit Hold'Em Volume 1". At $25NL I did do a much better job of putting opponents on ranges and using PokerStove as I had planned, but the work never stops. In my next move, I want to keep doing all the things I've been doing plus I particularly want to revisit tilt control and having a good psychological mindset. I feel this has been a general strength, but I realize the more I move up, the more I will be tested with better opponents and bigger swings due to tougher games ergo the more important having a good center and outlook becomes. Poker is odd - you HAVE to have confidence enough to want to do well and succeed but also NOT care that much about short term results or losing money. If you care too much, you open yourself up to tilt and being emotionally tied to those results which often leads to bad decision making. If you don't care enough, then you won't be motivated to put in the study time, log hands at the table, or even play optimally. It's a tough balancing act, but a big reward is in store for the few who can manage it. Strategically, I have never thought of 3 betting to be an important concept at the full ring micros and I'm not convinced it will be an important focus initially at the small stakes either, but I will at least start looking at it for the first time in terms of my game and my villains, adding it to my HUD, and making adjustments as needed if needed. I want to continue to learn to play a higher volume of hands while playing optimally. During my bad stretch, I think the added hand volume contributed some to my results in terms of me not being @ my best. I want to train myself to naturally play my best for longer stretches of hands and time, but also be smart enough to take strategic, short breaks. And, as always, I want to continue focusing on ranges until I can read every one's soul and calculating equity until I can do it in my sleep.

    To move up from $50NL to $100NL, I'll need to win 30 buy-ins:

    $50 times 30 equals $1500 (profit)
    $1500 (profit) plus $1500 (my current bankroll) equals $3000 (amount I need)
    $100 (next level) times 30 (required buy-ins per my bankroll management rules) equals $3000 (amount I need)

    As always, everything will take care of itself eventually IF I'm able to consistently win.

    Here's my $25NL graph from HEM:


    Here's my overall graph:


    I plan to start playing and keep playing $50NL until I drop down to $1000 (20 $50NL buy-ins) at which point I'll drop back down to $25NL or until I rise up to $3000 at which point I may move up to $100NL. The caveat depends on how difficult I feel the next stake may be. I reserve the right to stay at a stake longer if I feel I need a larger bankroll or more time before I move up. Ultimately, it'll be a feel situation, but the minimum number of buy-ins before I would move up is 30.

    I'm particularly looking forward to playing at these stakes because I have a weekly live game that uses the same blind structure $0.25/$0.50 so it'll be cool to be playing concurrently online, too. Also, looking @ my previous stakes hourly wage (~$7.50/hour), if I am able to maintain a commensurate win-rate, the hourly possibilities for the first time seem reasonably good (~$15.00/hour), like something you actually could use to keep the lights on with. That's not my purpose or what I'm striving to do, but when you literally started playing for pennies, it's an interesting thought nevertheless.

    In the next few days, stay tuned for a $25NL retrospective plus I'll also have a separate "Micro Stakes" ($2NL-$25NL) retrospective.


    How High Can You Get?
    Level 1 ($ 2 NL) - 12/13/2008 @ $100 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 11k hands (As of 01/22/2009)
    Level 2 ($ 5 NL) - 01/22/2009 @ $150 -> Winrate for level: 36bb/100 or 18ptBB/100 over 8k hands (As of 03/03/2009)
    Level 3 ($10 NL) - 03/03/2009 @ $300 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 20k hands (As of 06/18/2009)
    Level 4 ($25 NL) - 06/18/2009 @ $750 -> Winrate for level: 15bb/100 or 7.5ptBB/100 over 18k hands (As of 07/18/2009)
    Level 5 ($50 NL) - 07/18/2009 @ $1500
    Level 6 ($100 NL) - ??? @ $3000
    Overall Winrate 23bb/100 or 11.5ptBB/100 over ~58k hands (As of 07/18/2009)
    - Jason

  19. #19
    Well played, Sir! GoGoGo. I enjoy your retrospectives.
    Explain...what I do for a living without saying "I make monies in da 600 enels by pwnin' tha donk bitches". Instead I say "I'm a online financial redistribution broker". - Sasquach991
  20. #20
    Micro2Macro's Avatar
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    Excellent progress
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    Congratulations,thats like a WOW . It hardly seems any time since you said you were moving to 25NL. Is it just the larger stakes , but your 25NL looks a lot swingier than the 2, 5, and 10nl. Or is it just down to more better players at 25NL.
  22. #22
    Jason's Avatar
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    I think it's both. The higher stakes will naturally look more swingy because they dwarf the lower stakes - notice how $2NL is barely visible. It's also compounded because $25NL is a bigger jump money wise than the other stakes - $25/$10 = 2.5 whereas $10/$5 = 2. But, yes, better players, harder to get paid, punish you a bit more when you pay them, and the like. Speaking of which ...
    - Jason

  23. #23
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    $25NL retrospective
    So, how do the players @ $25NL differ from those @ $10NL? The first time I sat down and started looking for games, the tables seemed a lot looser. By comparison $10NL seemed much nittier. Coupled with that, the most glaring difference between the two stakes I noticed was aggression. Players @ $25NL love to put money in the pot. They don't seem as scared to get it all-in, bluff, or call down light. This served me and my game very well for the first three to four thousand hands. I was getting some hands, hitting some boards, and finding some accommodating villains. Life was great. My bankroll was over half-way to $50NL and although it was a very small sample I was beating the game for 55bb/100 (27.5ptBB/100). Then, the other side of the equation reared its less attractive head. I stopped getting good cards, stopped hitting boards, and villains started doing everything in between - hitting rivers, stopped paying me off, calling or raising my bluffs, and coolering me. I also didn't help matters because I had decided to increase my session length and number of hands played, so I was in unfamiliar territory and subtly tilting in ways I hadn't before. Plus when unfavorable results set it in, less subtle tilts have a way of creeping in, too. So, I definitely couldn't absolve myself from responsibility either. I saw so many strange things happen I had never seen in months before: I lost over two buy-ins to a 90% VPIP who went to showdown over half the time - the last one being when I flopped a set and he flopped a higher one (I hit my 5% of bankroll stop loss that day in less than 2 hours and 200 hands), twice I lost flopped full houses using two cards in my hand, and I lost a nut flush to a straight flush - both of us using two cards. Even if you're not losing big pots, with the ramped up aggression, if you're not winning your share of pots and/or you are actively spewing chips through bad play or tilt, your bankroll can be like a leaky faucet - I would often take a glance @ my daily results for stop loss purposes and think, "Where did the last 25bb go?!". So, having more loose, aggressive players can be a good news, bad news situation, but I feel like it suits my game, so I enjoyed it.

    I'm not sure why, but good tables don't seem to last as long at $25NL as I remember they did @ $10NL. It seems like many tables are only good for a few orbits before nitty scavengers invade it and either outnumber the fish or the fish just leave or go broke.

    Compared to all the other jumps, this one did seem to be the most pronounced. I don't really think of it as a lot harder than $10NL in terms of villain skill, but there were many subtle things that add up. I felt like I had to work a little harder to get paid. I usually advocate fast playing big hands, but a few times it felt like slow playing was the better option. More players like to play back at weakness or just get out instead of calling. So, more often, checking in early position seemed like a sure fire way to get some money in the pot when I wanted it. Weakness gets attacked more often and sometimes there's a temptation to bet out OOP with marginal hands just to prevent being bluffed out. There's more regulars who table select better. There seem to be more short-stackers, too. Most players say they don't like short-stackers and I wouldn't say I love them, but to be honest, the ones that aren't always pushing/folding pre-flop seem to be widely profitable to me because they simply aren't good players and if you have a chance to outplay them, you usually will by applying pressure or just value betting them until they realize too late that they're pot committed. The push/fold ones are profitable, too, but it can be annoying when you want to play poker and not have it devolve entirely into a pre-flop range or flip game.

    Maybe my perspective is off as I slowly acclimate myself to the next stakes, but overall, I would say $25NL is very beatable for anyone who studies the game and works @ it long enough. There are still plenty of fish to be found and the robot regulars are still predictable as well, but it's important to have a good grasp of the fundamentals and a solid track record @ $10NL. You will be tested many times in ways you probably haven't been tested before, so if a good foundation isn't already there, you could have some nasty mis-steps.

    As always, I'll be interested to see how the players @ $50NL differ from the last stake. I've heard that $50NL is the shallow end of the pool where pros will sometimes dip their toes. It's also the first stake where the money won or lost seems like it would have some reasonable significance to the average person since winning or losing 3 or 4 buy-ins would be in the $150-$200 range, which could definitely buy some groceries. But, I'm going to continue to try to treat the chips as chips and if you ever want to be a pro, you've got to learn to beat the pros and there's no time like the present to try to get started.
    - Jason

  24. #24
    Jason's Avatar
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    Sorry about the length ...

    "Micro Stakes" ($2NL-$25NL) retrospective
    I've just started my transition from "micro stakes" ($2NL-$25NL) to "small stakes" ($50NL-$200NL) and thought it would be appropriate to summarize what I believe to be some of the more common reasons why players aren't succeeding at these stakes. And, if $50NL kicks sand in my face so much that it makes me want to come crying back, I'll have a good point of reference when I return I'm no expert, so take these with a grain of salt, but I have had some success and the experience is fresh on my mind, so if you're not getting the results you want at the micros, you may want to consider if you're guilty of one or more of these:


    1) You're playing too many tables and don't table select well. Micro stakes are the quintessential learning phase of poker. Most players shouldn't be or don't aspire to spend the rest of their poker career grinding out a bankroll 16 to 20 tabling $10NL. The simple fact is that unless you have been blessed with some extraordinary ability that 99% of the rest of us don't have, you cannot play much more than 4 to 6 tables and truly be playing poker in the sense of getting reads on your players, noting the action, knowing stack sizes, knowing table position, making moves, and the like. Once you add too many tables, you start to play like a robot - I will play these cards in these positions, I will call or raise this in that position, or I'll continue/fold this flop or that flop. That's no way to play poker. You will rarely ever be able to bluff, steal, call down light, pick up timing tells, or make a thin value bet with 2nd pair weak kicker because (A) You know it's the best hand and (B) You know villain will call.

    Yes, you can probably come up with a simple formula to play 16 tables and "beat" $10NL, but what does that get you? The point of this is to learn, get better, and graduate to higher stakes. You're not learning poker. You're not getting better. Your true, possible win-rate is no where NEAR what it could be. You're not preparing yourself to move up. Against any average thinking player, that style is HIGHLY exploitable. As long as I have two or three fish, I love 16 tabling robots at my table - I steal from them ALL the time like it's a way of life. Then, when I get a near nut hand and know they have just a big hand, I can usually extract maximum value because they play THOSE hands predictably as well. They have zero imagination at the table and are ABC ... at best.

    Adding more tables is a process of calibration where you try to maximize your win rate WHILE still playing poker. I played 1 table for most of $2NL before playing with 2 tables towards the end. I played with 2 tables for most of $5 before playing with 3 tables towards the end. I played with 3 tables for most of $10 before playing with 4 tables towards the end. I played with 4 tables for most of $25 and towards the end, I never really played 5 except for times when I knew I was about to leave a table and wanted to have a good replacement ready. I am planning to move to 5 tables soon, but it's hard to imagine I'll ever get it past 6 unless I get REALLY proficient because I look at a lot of things when I play. You shouldn't be thinking about playing with huge number of tables until you've maxed out how high you can get AND have calibrated to that number. If you can't get out of the micros ... read on and hopefully more of these tips will help.

    Just as important as playing the right number of tables is selecting the best ones to play at. I personally like tables that have a lot of players see the flop and players loose enough to pay me off when I hit. I prefer as many fish as I can get and as few regulars as I can avoid - not because I'm scared of them, but I prefer easy money to less easy money and always maximizing my EV. Maybe your style prefers something different, but figure out what players you want to see at your table and try to find tables that complement that. Playing at bad tables when good ones are available is akin to voluntarily giving yourself one hole card instead of two ... maybe not THAT bad, but still bad because you're just handicapping yourself. Poker is about giving yourself edges, not taking them away.


    2) You don't follow bankroll management. I constantly read posts about players taking shots, wanting to take shots, and then inevitably complaining about their failed shot. Most of these lines are linked by one common thread: they didn't follow bankroll management. Most commonly, players move up without enough buy-ins OR they don't heed a prudent 5% of their entire bankroll one day stop loss. I already posted a lengthy thought about bankr0ll management and why you should follow it, so I won't regurgitate it again. But, as it relates to succeeding at the micros, if you don't have the discipline to stick to bankroll management and treat the chips as chips, you're much less likely to succeed because you won't have the discipline to make good decisions and the money in your bankroll will eventually if not immediately have a negative affect on your play. When it comes to bankroll management, if you don't have 30 buy-ins before you jump up to the next stake, have 40, not 20.


    3) You tilt too much and believe in downswings. I think it was Barry Greenstein who said that 90% of the money won or lost on the poker table is done through tilt. I've said it before, others have said it, too, but it bears repeating. Downswings are not real. They are a random occurrence in the past and have no bearing on the future as it relates to luck. Yet, I read countless posts of players blaming their results on variance or bad luck going so far to say that they are "due" for a heater. Some even ask for advice on how to get out of a downswing. That thought process is absurd EXCEPT for the real life negative affect it has on your game by believing it. Imagine flipping a coin 1000 times in a row where you win a dollar for heads and have to pay a dollar for tails. Suppose from flip numbers 300 to 311 in that sample you flipped tails 12 times in a row - in poker terms, that would represent your "downswing". Here's the important part: Flip # 312 still has a 50/50 chance of being heads or tails. Those previous 12 flips have no bearing on what will happen next. Chance has no memory. The truth is that when you think you are in a "downswing", you are most likely suffering some variance, but also not playing optimally. It is this lack of optimal play that gives the appearance that "downswings" are real, but it is actually the player through tilt and ignorance that gave it life. If a player continues to play well, there is no such thing as a being in a "downswing" - you only would have suffered a random "downswing" in the past. But, many players have trouble playing optimally during a "downswing" because they superstitiously think, "I better not re-raise my Kings, because I'll just just lose against aces" or "I have to call here because there's no way he could have out flopped me 5 hands in a row" or "I've got top set, but runner runner flush probably hit this loose villain the way I'm running, so I'll just check the river". You may justify to yourself that you're just unlucky and hitting the top part of villains' ranges, but ask yourself if it's possible that it is YOU who has made the error in not correctly identifying those ranges?

    If you play enough hands, every player will have the same amount of coolers and bad beats. But, where the good players excel in this regard is that they try to play and maintain their best game when things aren't going well. They don't blame their long term results or try to predict their short term future on what has happened in the past. Other players less skilled in this area WILL blame their results on this. They will quantify and package it in a nice wrapped package, red bow, and slap the label "downswing" on it. Because of that, they distract themselves from what is actually going on - tilt and bad play. It's been said by several other pros before, but most of the time a player is in a downswing, they aren't playing their best. Micro or beginning players, maybe even more so than higher stakes players, need to feel validated and confident and "downswings" can be soul crushing. But, if you can overcome this psychological hurdle, you'll be ahead of the vast majority of your competition and out of the micros before you know it.

    If nothing else, just know that proper strategy is only part of the battle and that minimizing tilt is also a big part the keeps many players down.


    4) You worry more with losing less than winning more. There are two sides to the +EV coin. Minimize what you give to villains and maximize what villains give to you. It seems like most players focus way more on minimizing their losses than maximizing their wins. This is evident by most hand histories being ones they lost and "how could I get away from this hand"? I always laugh to myself when I get a decent hand that I want to get to showdown and villain will put a small min bet on the flop, a 2x min bet on the turn, and a 4x min bet on the river and they turn over a set. Congratulations, I had a good hand, you had a monster hand, and you went for 7bb's. I'll give that to them every time. When I lose that little on their monsters, they didn't really win. I won. But, when I have a monster and get their stack, they think they are just "unlucky".

    No limit hold'em at its core is about stacking your opponent. Granted, this situation doesn't come up as often as we'd like and it more often devolves into a battle for the blinds. But, if you have the best hand and know it, you should ALWAYS try to figure out how to get their stack. If you can't get their stack because they won't put in all their money with just 2nd pair or top pair weak kicker, then you always want to get the most possible. Mis-sizing just one river value bet that would have been called for 8bb's is financially EV the same as having your big blind stolen 8 orbits. Extracting maximum value is an art form, yet most players seem content just to win. Don't settle. Treat winning more money just as important as losing less.


    5) You put FPS before the fundamentals. FPS is fancy play syndrome and I read posts all the time of players struggling in the micros who are guilty of it. The most common FPS I see is the concept of 3 betting. Pre UIGEA, you rarely heard 3 betting mentioned when talking about no limit and now no one will shut up about it. I play full ring, so maybe 3 betting legitimately is more important in the micros @ 6 max, although I have my doubts, but I firmly believe that 3 betting at the micros is highly overrated @ full ring cash games and something you shouldn't be very worried with. My pre-flop game is pretty simple. I get Aces and Kings all-in before the flop if villains will let me. I raise other premium hands like AK, QQ for value and some others for deception or to steal. If I get 3 bet and like the price to play versus their range, I play. If not, I fold. Don't get fancy. In fact, I recently saw a video with "Bottomset" mentoring a student who had 3bet% in his HUD during $10NL games and "Bottomset" flatly said to take that stat off because it wouldn't be useful @ these stakes. In a thread on a message board asking what concepts would players like to see discussed in full ring videos, many asked about 3 betting, and poker pro and coach Sean Nolan replied, "I'm fairly confident that the vast majority of you guys are vesting way too much interest into three bet pots."

    There's many other advanced concepts you probably shouldn't worry about much in the micros: bluffs, check raise bluffs, floats, delayed floats, limp re-raises, and "balancing your range" just to name a few. That's not to say you can't creep some of those in your game if all else is going well and you have a solid grasp of the fundamentals, but don't get hung up on advanced concepts when you're struggling at the micros. Focus on the fundamentals like position, relative hand strength, value betting, hand reading, board texture, note taking, and the like. Put villains on ranges. Guess villain holdings @ showdown. One of my proudest moments over thousands of hands was in $5NL during a hand I had already folded, before showdown, I said out loud of one villain, "He's got pocket Kings and one of them is the king of hearts" and I was right. Don't be afraid to try new things and experiment, but realize the simpler concepts will beat all bad players.


    6) You're a lazy robot who wants everything handed to you on a silver platter. Ok, maybe that was harsh, but poker is about problem solving and figuring out puzzles. If you don't recognize that and embrace it, you're not going to get far. I see a lot of players not interested in the theory or asking questions to understand why or what if? When things go wrong, they go from an eager student of the game to "woe is me" looking to blame their situation on anything but themselves or just sulk. I am usually motivated to study and play poker when I am winning and even MORE when I'm losing. Mediocre players want a simple system they can follow and any questions they might ask, they want one simple answer to ALWAYS do in that instance whereas the real answer to just about any poker question is "it depends". Even with all the resources available in books, on forums, and in audio & video, I'd guess the overwhelming majority of players aren't taking full advantage. Just because you tell someone position is important doesn't mean they will do it, use it correctly, or they understand why. Plus they will have NO CLUE when to go off book for a given hand. I've been in situations where I've correctly folded KK pre-flop in cash games. I've correctly raised 72o, too. I've done a thousand things that look classically incorrect, but profitable because I got reads and thought outside of the box in that moment. These situations don't come up all the time and I'm armed with the fundamentals I understand are correct and profitable most of the time but I'm also CONSTANTLY looking to solve the puzzle of THIS table or THIS hand against THIS villain to make it profitable by any means necessary. One of the most prevailing qualities you see of the most successful players is creativity, imagination, and ingenuity @ table - again, they may not have to use it most of the time, but they can when the need to. Putting in the study time off the table, putting in the hands at the table, and embracing the challenge for information are hallmarks for success. You should be rigid enough to apply fundamentals most of the time, but fluid enough to know when not to, and savvy enough to know why each method was successful or at least smart enough to learn from your mistakes and improve for next time if it wasn't successful. Remember that this task of reflection and improvement isn't easy because poker is hard. The GAME of poker is deceptive. Poker will reward you for making a bad play and convince you it was the right play. Poker will punish you for making a good play and convince you it was the wrong play. Just like your opponents, poker will bluff you. How well will you read the game?

    Poker is only profitable to those who have an edge. Do you have an edge? What is it? How are you using it to make money? It's all a big puzzle connected together in a rich tapestry. If there was one easy answer or method, everyone would be doing it. Since there isn't, what will you do differently to stand out in positive, +EV way?


    If you're struggling in the micros, hopefully following these tips will help you find your way.
    - Jason

  25. #25
    Vinland's Avatar
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    Nice job in getting to 50nl.....didnt take u long.

    Thx for all your help along the way...
    I won't believe their lies - I can still see through these eyes
  26. #26
    Great post jason. Would be a shame if more poeple didnt see it.
  27. #27
    BooG690's Avatar
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    So I'm officially going to be following your OP now. GREAT post.

    Quick question though: Why the HELL isn't this cross-posted in the BC? This would help a whole lot of microstakes grinders (such as myself) understand what it takes. Please, do everybody a favor and grace us with this post in the BC.

    Remember, not everybody is interested in reading these blogs.
    That's how winners play; we convince the other guy he's making all the right moves.
  28. #28
    Wow, awesome progress, awesome blog, awesome retrospectives, awesome insights, especially the comparisons between stakes.

    Out of curiosity (and the fact that you've gone through 5NL->50NL in about 50k hands, whereas I've spent around 40k already in 10NL only), how much experience did you have with poker before your two year hiatus? What games/stakes were you playing then?
  29. #29
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    Thanks so much for the kind words.

    Quote Originally Posted by BooG690
    Why the HELL isn't this cross-posted in the BC?
    I guess I didn't double post out of modesty and put the single post here because I thought it flowed well with my blog, but I see your point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gobbatino
    ... how much experience did you have with poker before your two year hiatus? What games/stakes were you playing then?
    I basically first started playing poker in 2004 casually live. Around 2005, I started to play live a little more regularly, but the games were still pretty small stake home games like $0.10/$0.20 blinds. On 1/30/2006, I started playing online for the first time. I struggled with cash games ($10NL), which was weird to me because live I did very well. I switched to $5 SNG's and had a respectable win-rate eventually doubling my initial $200 deposit. On 5/29/2006, I basically played my last game onlne or live until this past December of 2008. At the time, I was burned out and the UIGEA was on the horizon, so I stopped playing.

    After two years, I started to get the itch again and decided to jump back in with a renewed focus on cash games and a renewed focus on the psychological aspect of the game. At the heart of why I first quit, I think, is that I hate to lose. It would really hurt me to have a live 8 hour session and not win a pot or worry about losing big all-ins online or whatever. Now that I realize that, I try to embrace those challenges. To quote Tommy Angelo, "I practice losing" when I'm not at the table, because it's inevitable and the true test of a poker player is how they handle it. That's one reason I preach bankroll management so much, because I know from experience how much it helps ease the psychological stress. To enjoy the good things about poker that I like, I have to be able to handle the bad. I can't lie and say losing sessions or losing in general completely rolls of my back, but I am a lot better than I was and I would say well above average for the player pool I see live and online at this writing.

    So, in a nutshell, I definitely wasn't a stranger to the game, but in today's environment, it was important to start from scratch to get a pulse on the state of poker. But I also wanted to understand my real strengths and weaknesses and just build my game from the bottom up. I think the time off gave me a lot of perspective and helped my overall game. When you're in there playing so much, you can get very short sighted, so it's a breath of fresh air to take a big step back to see the whole picture.
    - Jason

  30. #30
    Jason's Avatar
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    To help me in my journey, early last week I decided to upgrade from a 21'' CRT to a 30'' LCD:
    Before


    After


    All of my poker money is still intact thanks to real life bankr0ll management.

    I had been wanting to move up in tables from 4 to 5 or 6 for some time now without missing out on the action and this has worked well so far, Although, it did take some getting use to in the beginning.
    - Jason

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    That's a big screen. I don't know if I could handle the monitor being so far away frmo me though... Looks pretty awesome.

    Big fan of the case too - Those things are old school.
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    Take it Doyle, take it!
  32. #32
    BooG690's Avatar
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    That's pretty fuckin' balla. NH sir.
    That's how winners play; we convince the other guy he's making all the right moves.
  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason
    Quote Originally Posted by BooG690
    Why the HELL isn't this cross-posted in the BC?
    I guess I didn't double post out of modesty and put the single post here because I thought it flowed well with my blog, but I see your point.
    it does flow well in your blog, but most people won't read it because it is long. Same applies if you bother to post it in the bc though.

    nice post
  34. #34
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    It's been about 2 and a 1/2 months and 43k hands since I started playing $50NL and I now have the bankroll to start playing $100NL. The journey through this stake is a bit of a good news, bad news story. The bad news is that in some respects it seemed easier to make money @ $25NL than $50NL. The OVERALL jump up seemed at least twice as hard in terms of long term profits. Even for players who could routinely and soundly beat $50NL for a high win-rate, I couldn't help but think they could probably beat $25NL for more than twice as much. Actually, my overall results as they compare to JUST no limit aren't that different when looking @ $25NL and $50NL. In fact, $50NL is a hair higher. The real difference is very pronounced @ pot limit. Over 5k hands, I've been beating $25NL @ 30 bb/100 or 15 ptbb/100 but @ $50NL over roughly the same sample size, I've been LOSING 8 bb/100 or 4 ptbb/100. Granted, all sample sizes are small plus I play much more no limit, but it's still curious. I have some general ideas why $50NL is tougher, but why pot limit would be so different is not immediately apparent to me. At the end of the day, though, the good news is that I have been able to win @ $50NL and one can never be too discouraged when they are winning.

    Through this level, I had an internal battle with myself about how much should I play $50NL or $25NL? On one hand, it was hard to walk away from $25NL completely since it was consistently bringing in the money and even faster than $50NL. The +EV part of my poker brain wanted to keep playing $25NL for that reason because why play tougher, harder, less profitable games when easier, softer, more profitable games are available even if it is $25NL? On the other hand, I didn't want to abandon my current task of playing and beating $50NL and felt like I might be sacrificing long term profits for short term ones. I only need to be half as successful @ $50NL than $25NL and only a quarter as successful at $100NL than $25NL to just break even. Maybe if I had topped out @ $50NL, it would be correct to calibrate to the stake or best games yielding me the most profits like $25NL. But, my goal is to see "How High can You Get"?

    I went back and forth several times @ first JUST playing $50NL, then both, then only $50NL, and then both again. The argument was always the same - easier games or challenge yourself and get better? Although I could probably change my mind again, I think I like the idea of playing more than one stake IF there is a choice to get into better games. Poker Pro WiltOnTilt has said in one of his videos that it is a good idea to play across multiple stakes and to not think of yourself as JUST a $200NL player or JUST a $50NL player. Instead, be open to several stakes so long as you are bankrolled to play them. I also think the more I move up, the tougher good table selection becomes and I don't want to limit my options as much. There were many times when there just weren't what I considered profitable games going @ $50NL, at least when comparing them to the available $25NL tables. But, on the other hand, I did tend to always favor the $50NL tables when good ones were available. There will always be a part of me that WANTS to just play the highest games, so when conditions were right, I would sometimes have all $50NL tables running.

    Even though I have the bankroll, I have decided NOT to move up to $100NL yet. There are a couple of reasons for this:

    #1, of the $1500 I earned to get rolled for $100NL, 46% is from $50NL, 39% is from $25NL, and 15% is from bonuses. I'd like to earn the full $1500 from $50NL to prove with more certainly to myself that I can beat this level consistently. Some players measure success @ a level by number of hands played yielding a positive return, but, I tend to do so by BUY-INS earned. If you don't play a crazy number of tables, which I don't, and you can earn 30 full buy-ins at any stake, odds are that you're a winner.

    #2, Bankroll management rules don't give me much flexibility at the beginning of a stake due to the 5% stop loss. I have a hard and fast rule that you should NEVER lose more than 5% of your entire bankroll in any one day. If you move up to a stake with 30 BUY-INS, you can only lose 1 and a half buy-ins and even less if you start losing right off the bat. This hasn't been a big issue in the past as I haven't had any big problems starting out. But, as the competition gets better, table selection gets tougher, and the fish fewer, more flexibility and bankroll piece of mind goes a longer way. So, if and when I earn the full $1500 @ $50NL, I'll be sitting near 38 buy-ins for $100NL counting my $25NL and bonus money. I'll probably make a point to earn an even 40 buy-ins so my daily stop loss starting out @ $100NL will be 2 buy-ins. That will give me full daily shots as far as stop losses are concerned plus a lot of general bankroll cushion which goes a long way for tilt management and staying in the right head space.

    Even IF and when I move up to $100NL, I will probably continue play both $50NL and $100NL for a while to pick the juiciest games of both stakes. I don't know what the games will be like, so it's still possible $25NL will be an option, but part of me is hoping there will be enough at those two stakes to keep me happy. If the less juicy game trend continues, I'll definitely need some options. I may consider depositing on Full Tilt to improve my chances at the best game selection where I should also be eligible for a first time deposit and rakeback.

    So, off I go to attempt to complete the bankroll I'd like to have before moving up or lose trying and get knocked back down to $25NL ... hopefully the former.
    - Jason

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason
    It's been about 2 and a 1/2 months and 43k hands since I started playing $50NL and I now have the bankroll to start playing $100NL.
    congrats
    Quote Originally Posted by Jason
    Even for players who could routinely and soundly beat $50NL for a high win-rate, I couldn't help but think they could probably beat $25NL for more than twice as much.
    initially, for sure. but short-term vs long-term, you wrote that already but i'm repeating it anyway...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason
    is a good idea to play across multiple stakes and to not think of yourself as JUST a $200NL player or JUST a $50NL player. Instead, be open to several stakes so long as you are bankrolled to play them
    this is something i am becoming more aware of. Especially when i see the 5-10/3-6 regs at 1-2 when the higher games aren't running.

    [quote="Jason"]#2, Bankroll management rules don't give me much flexibility at the beginning of a stake due to the 5% stop loss[/qoute]
    i don't think i follow/like this rule. I have lost >5% a few times i guess? if i was following this rule then i would never move up with less than 60buyins, then again, i don't anyway...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason
    Even IF and when I move up to $100NL, I will probably continue play both $50NL and $100NL for a while to pick the juiciest games of both stakes. I don't know what the games will be like, so it's still possible $25NL will be an option
    don't be mixing 25nl and 100nl. Not good for your head at all. Also, i'd say that 50% of FR tables running at 100nl on FT have at least one uber-fish and a bunch of mediocre-at-best players. Very few are full of solid-for-the-stakes players. If you can't find good tables then you're probably not that good at spotting fish and/or way too picky.
  36. #36
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    Interesting comments, I feel mostly the same way, seems like we have had similar experience.

    I'll leave you with a thought: Focus on moving up, forget about your hourly rate potentially being higher at 25nl than 50nl. There will come a point where you will reach a level where you'll make 2x that figure in rakeback alone, so I wouldn't worry about it. $/hour is also a crappy stat to look at with small samples. 43k hands = small sample.


    In short, focus more on your LONG-TERM EV (how much you could make later) instead of your short-term EV (your current $/hour)
  37. #37
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    This is my 100NL graph... decent win rate didn't eliminate 20BI swings.
    I recommend a very conservative stop loss and or a reasonably small stop-loss before moving down. Those are much bigger swings than I ever hand @ 50NL. I think it's due to more and smarter aggression at the tables, and in turn you will have to up your raising / cbetting and have to widen your ranges if you want to try and play optimally.
    I wouldn't feel comfortable with less than 5k online to play 100NL - which is why I dropped down to 50NL again for a while after cashing out because of account hijacking paranoia and downswing, rather than redepositing.

    fwiw I had a bigger $/h @10NL than I did at 50NL due to playing more tables, ueber-fish and heaterments. But if I hadn't moved up and stayed up I would have never improved to beat 100NL where I am winning more than I did @ 10NL ldo.
    $/h really isn't everything.
  38. #38
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    I don't know how often this happens, but I lost with quads today. In fact, I was only ahead pre-flop with pocket 3's and I was still only 49% to win. Villian flopped a str8 which was also str8 flush draw open ended. I flopped bottom set. Turn gives me quads and him a str8 flush. Fortunately it was only a 58bb pot, but yikes! I thought quads ALWAYS wins.
    - Jason

  39. #39
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    It took another month and a half, but I was able to get the full 30 buy-ins for $100NL from $50NL plus the extra 10 buy-ins to give me a full 40 buy-in cushion as I move up to $100NL. I even have an extra 5 buy-ins waiting for me in the form of FPP's the next time they offer a monthly special. My total win-rate for $50NL during that time was 5.62 bb/100 or 2.81 ptbb/100 over ~71k hands. As I alluded before, I had to work through a lot of conflict with the easier games @ $25NL versus harder games @ $50NL and in the end, I feel very comfortable @ $50NL moving forward. I think $50NL is a one of the first big litmus tests for full ring players on PokerStars in terms of adjustments and moving up. If you don't make those adjustments, you'll find yourself gravitating back to $25NL, but if you step up and accept the challenge, there will be a LOT of improvement and profits to enjoy.

    Just like $50NL, I've decided I'll need at LEAST 40 buy-ins to move up from $100NL to $200NL:

    $100 times 40 equals $4,000 (profit)
    $4,000 (profit) plus $,4000 (my current bankroll) equals $8,000 (amount I need)
    $200 (next level) times 40 (required buy-ins per my Bankroll Management rules) equals $8,000 (amount I need)

    As always, everything will take care of itself eventually IF I'm able to consistently win.

    Here's my $50NL graph from HEM:


    Here's my overall graph:


    I plan to start playing and keep playing $100NL until I drop down to $3,000 (30 $50NL buy-ins) at which point I'll drop back down to $50NL exclusively or until I rise up to $8,000 at which point I may move up to $200NL. I'll continue to play a combination of $100NL and $50NL depending on table selection. Again, I have a caveat because 40 buy-ins is the EARLIEST I would move up and I also have to make sure at LEAST 30 buy-ins of that was earned strictly from $100NL. It is possible I may want to earn as many as 50 buy-ins because I have heard there is another large jump in skill from $100NL to $200NL. In fact, in one video I watched where poker pro Sean Nolan was playing $200NL, he said he recognized many of the $200NL players as $1,000NL regulars. So, either they were dropping down for some better games OR the player pool has gotten so tough for some that they have had to move down to $200NL permanently from $1,000NL.

    This next level @ $100NL for me has some special significance. When I first deposited less than a year ago, I started with $100 playing $2NL. Now, I plan to play at stakes where my entire initial deposit is a buy-in. To this point I have earned my deposit 40 times over. It certainly hasn't happened overnight, just shy of a year, but it has happened and it's been a lot fun thus far. I also periodically host home games I refer to as "high stakes" that are $0.50/$1.00 blinds because they are the top end of what the poker players I hang out with will play. So now I will routinely be playing my home "high stakes" games online. Smile

    I think my game really made some big strides while traversing this stake. For starters, in the past when I would execute bluffs, I would often HOPE the villain folds. Now, I find myself much more often EXPECTING them to fold. In many situations, I could just better sense how the hand was going to play out. I would think or say things out-loud like "he'll either fold or raise me" and often be right. I more often knew where I was at and knew how to take it where I wanted. I had many hands where I would correctly value bet pre-flop, flop, turn, and then fold the river and I was correctly ahead the 3 streets I bet and correctly behind the last street I folded. I made several correct hero calls, too. I also remember several spells where I would be break-even or even ahead and most to all my profits were from NOT making a hand and just getting everyone to fold. In most micro-stakes games, I needed a hand, but it was a breath of fresh air to win so many pots with double or triple barrels and sometimes total air. Obviously I didn't always do those thing right, but much more than in the past and definitely in a way that was making me money long term. Poker can feel like magic when you're on your game and things are working.

    There are also many things about my game I know I need to work on. I'd like to start doing more fold equity calculations and just fully understanding the theory and math behind it. I've found that concept to be much more useful than stakes past. I also need to revisit my value betting. In the past, I like to go for home-runs with my big hands by default, which worked out fine when I didn't know where I was @ because I'd get paid more often than not. Moving forward, I've found that's usually not the case, so it's even more important to have a good range on your villain and then to have a sound strategy if you don't - smaller value betting and checking to induce are two strategies that come to mind. Also, I definitely need to continue to work on my mental and psychological game. I've noticed two bad habits I have are related to tilting when winning. If I have several winning sessions in a row, I can EXPECT to win and allow my game play to suffer. I once had a nice run of winning sessions and then crashed and burned HARD on the one that broke the streak. It probably would have been a losing session anyway, but I'm sure I compounded my losses by expecting to win from the get go and trying to force a comeback. Short term I have a propensity to do the same thing where if I win several pots in a row, I will get careless, too confident, with some fancy play syndrome thrown in, and invariably lose when I probably normally wouldn't. By contrast, when your flaws cost you and the luck doesn't go your way, poker can also be a nightmare

    In the next few days, stay tuned for a $50NL retrospective.


    How High Can You Get?
    Level 1 ($ 2 NL) - 12/13/2008 @ $100 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 11k hands (As of 01/22/2009)
    Level 2 ($ 5 NL) - 01/22/2009 @ $150 -> Winrate for level: 36bb/100 or 18ptBB/100 over 8k hands (As of 03/03/2009)
    Level 3 ($10 NL) - 03/03/2009 @ $300 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 20k hands (As of 06/18/2009)
    Level 4 ($25 NL) - 06/18/2009 @ $750 -> Winrate for level: 15bb/100 or 7.5ptBB/100 over 18k hands (As of 07/18/2009)
    Level 5 ($50 NL) - 07/18/2009 @ $1,500 -> Winrate for level: 5.62 bb/100 or 2.81 ptBB/100 over 71k hands (As of 11/24/2009)
    Level 6 ($100 NL) - 11/24/2009 @ $4,000
    Level 7 ($200 NL) - ??? @ $8,000
    Overall Winrate 13.64 bb/100 or 6.82 ptBB/100 over ~145k hands (As of 11/24/2009)
    - Jason

  40. #40
    Vinland's Avatar
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    You are a machine....
    Nice job and GL.

    I just started 10nl myself....so far so good.
    I won't believe their lies - I can still see through these eyes
  41. #41
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    nice work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason
    in one video I watched where poker pro Sean Nolan was playing $200NL, he said he recognized many of the $200NL players as $1,000NL regulars. So, either they were dropping down for some better games OR the player pool has gotten so tough for some that they have had to move down to $200NL permanently from $1,000NL.
    there are a few full ring players on FT who play a spread of stakes 1/2 - 5/10.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason
    There are also many things about my game I know I need to work on. I'd like to start doing more fold equity calculations and just fully understanding the theory and math behind it. I've found that concept to be much more useful than stakes past.
    i guess you've already read Robb's article from the FTR essay comp, and the more detail on this that he wrote in his op/blog a few months back?
  42. #42
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    Great progress man, keep it up.
  43. #43
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    $50NL retrospective
    So, how do the games @ $50NL differ from those @ $25NL? When I first started playing, I went on an amazing heater @ 50bb/100 and was scheduled to beat the level in a month or less. Then I had an amazing downswing that quickly brought me down to earth and I started to settle in to what the games were really like. The first impression that stood out was the aggressive pre-flop play. Regulars raise big, 3bet big, and everything seems amped up. It's tougher to limp in pots. There's more isolation attempts. Surprisingly, it's not quite as crazy post-flop, but pre-flop can be like walking on egg shells in that a wrong move early could mean big mistakes later. In smaller stakes, I do like to try to get in pots with hands like A2s, 33, ATs, QJ, and the like. If you're in early position, trying to get in pots with these types of hands can be much trickier than $25NL and you're usually forced to make the plays you already knew were right like fold those speculative, marginal hands in early position.

    Next, the drop in fish seemed much bigger than before. Granted there still ARE a lot of fish, but it seemed like I had to actively hunt for them moreso plus the table selection went down drastically. At $25NL, I could start tables and have them fill up in the rare event I couldn't just find one already going. At $50NL, it was much harder to find good tables with open seats and I would often times sit by myself at a table for minutes on end. During one of those times, I went back to $25NL just to be able to play and it felt like I was PRINTING money compared to $50NL. It was pretty disappointing because I had hoped that wouldn't happen until $100NL or $200NL.

    In addition, value betting seemed to change drastically. With my monster hands, I often went for home-runs @ $25NL and lower and would get paid at least a street or two if not get their stack. At $50NL, I felt like I left a LOT of potential profit on the table by not properly identifying ranges or betting smaller or checking to induce bluffs and the like. It can get even more frustrating when you finally get your set or pre-flop aces all-in and they draw out on you because it seems so much harder to get paid. Stacks don't seem to get in as much. In response, I ended up doing a LOT of barreling and bluffing - not compared to my overall game, but compared to the last stakes. I figured if they aren't going to pay me off, then I need to start picking up a lot of smaller pots. And I did. Of course sometimes you misstep and lose and have to start over so it's not like printing money, but it was still profitable and necessary to succeed in my opinion. Understanding where you're at and your fold equity starts to become key at this level.

    The regulars were intimidating at first because their pre-flop bets were so big and quick and their cbet barrels were even bigger and quicker, but half-way into it, I realized they all play pretty formulaic-ally for the most part. Their pre-flop raises are big, their cbets are bigger, but if they have JJ and the board is 72K, they will give up on the turn. If they check the turn OOP having PFR and CBET, they are DONE. By contrast, if they have AA and you have 33 to a rainbow board of 73K, you will probably get their stack. Most of them don't have a lot of imagination. A couple would tread more careful if I stuck around and I was able to tilt one or two and they would act a little more reckless than expected by paying me off lightly, but I don't recall much bluffing past the flop if they missed. But, you still have to be aware of what they are doing and what they are betting and react accordingly. Some bet so big pre-flop and post-flop that it's probably best to either shove over the top or fold instead of set-mining or trying to play any post-flop.

    It did take me a while to settle into $50NL, but I'm glad I stuck with it and feel very comfortable there. Not to say that stats or even results are necessary good metrics, I still decided to check some of my PTR stats to several regulars and my BB/100 bested them all, so moving forward, I feel like I have a good foundation to move to $100NL and if I do get knocked back down to $50NL, I can hopefully just regroup, assuming no major, negative changes in the poker landscape.

    For any aspiring players moving up, you will probably be tested @ $50NL more so than you have before. You definitely need to understand where you're at in the hand, need to be able to pick up MANY more pots without a hand, and ultimately need to find ways to get paid off with your good hands. This feels like the first level where generic ABC poker probably won't yield you a very good return. To excel, you probably need to start thinking outside the box for yourself if you haven't already

    As for me, I'm on to see what the $100NL pool is like. For table selection purposes, I don't anticipate leaving $50NL completely, though. Hopefully the jump up won't be too steep, but even if it is, poker is still the same game @ $100NL as it is @ $50NL as it is @ $2NL as it is @ my home games and casinos - ranges, value, equity, +EV, and so on and so forth
    - Jason

  44. #44
    Jason's Avatar
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    One year ago I got the itch to start playing poker again after a 2 and a 1/2 year hiatus. I took $100 cash to a Western Union inside a Kroger in Johnson City, TN as my deposit method on PokerStars and started playing $2NL literally for pennies. I've kept up with each level and retrospective ever since in this thread. At this writing I am off to a good start @ $100NL having earned ~15 buy-ins @ ~11bb/100 or 5.5ptBB/100 BUT it is early and my sample size is small @ just over ~15k hands. IF I was able to redeem all of my FPP's @ 62.5 FPP per $1, I'd have enough money to technically play $200NL according to my original rules of 30 buy-ins per level. However, I changed my rules to be more conservative to at least 40 buy-ins and may even require 50. Plus, who knows when PokerStars will have their next bonus special?

    It's been a fun year with many ups and downs. Any poker player can relate to the downs: downswings, bad beats, and coolers mainly. I had a few days in particular I remember being on the verge of comical with how quickly and consistently things went bad - days when you couldn't stack the deck any better against yourself if you tried. You try to tell yourself it's random and it IS, but some days random just doesn't seem random I also had a stretch @ $50NL where I was break-even much longer than I wanted and sometimes allowed a sense of entitlement to creep in and @ times felt like I was being "held back" somehow. To get through those times, I just tried to remind myself that I was paying my dues. All poker players go through it. As always, just focus on the right decisions and improving and let the rest take care of itself. Most days I was successful with that mindset ... and other days, well, easier said than done

    Fortunately though there have been many more ups than downs. So far, my graphs and profits have been pretty consistent in the right direction. I had what some might consider pretty sick "win-rates" @ $5NL in particular even though I wasn't there long enough to see if it was good luck or sustainable. I've had several heaters, too highlighted by a 5 buy-in win day once @ $5NL and even though I had some long break-even stretches @ $50NL, once I started to turn it around, I had a personal best 15 winning sessions in a row where a "session" is a 24 hour day period starting from 12:00 AM of wins or losses.

    I have come a long way and have even longer to go I hope. Looking ahead, my main goal is to keep learning poker, keep evolving, keep pushing the envelope while following bankroll management, keep having fun, and hopefully keep moving up and making money. The ceiling for this journey appears to be to get to $1,000NL ($5/$10 blinds) and make 30 buy-ins there. That is the highest full ring stake on PokerStars that appears has games going regularly and if I can make a 30 buy-in profit there, I'll consider myself having "beat" all the levels at this unique moment in time. Of course, I may not make it that far to even play a hand, let alone make $30k from it, but IF I was able to do that, that would be the finish line for THIS particular journey. Obviously, the next few levels will be much harder than the ones to this point. My biggest fear as a poker player isn't losing money - it's that I STOP learning or the fish dry up. But, as long as I continue to learn and as long as there are players in games I have an edge on, poker will hopefully continue to be fun.

    For anyone who feels the need to take shots because they are too antsy, impatient, or "good" to follow bankroll management, I remind you and everyone that it DOES NOT take long to move up the stakes if you are winning. Even WITH a full time job and a reasonable social life, I was able to make close to $6k from profits and bonuses in one year starting from the BOTTOM. Not only that, I have fully traversed 5 levels ($2NL, $5NL, $10NL, $25NL, $50NL) and am almost 1/2 way through the 6th ($100NL) and I'm at a spot where I think MOST players would consider the potential profits "real money". The things I learned during this time can't be crammed into a few "shots" taken at levels you may or may not be able to beat. Maybe YOU can do it faster or maybe it will take you more time or maybe you just can't do it, but if it's the latter two, you are better off starting from the bottom. If it's the former, it won't take you long to get where you should be and you'll be richer for having gone through the experience, both financially and otherwise.

    A few things I've recently done to try to help my game:

    - I signed up @ Full Tilt WITH rakeback to give myself more table selection and take advantage of their deposit bonus. It's early going, but hopefully it'll be a good long term investment.

    - I bought the RSA token on PokerStars and activated it. Plus, I moved my email to a private, non-Gmail, poker ONLY account. On FullTilt, I have the security pin enabled. In the future if I have more money in that account and the RSA implementation is beefed up on that site, I may do that there, too. Hopefully I have enough security measures in place to reasonably protect my investments.

    - I recently started playing on my laptop. It got off to a rough start. I was down a few hundred @ one point trying to get used to everything, but I am now only down $50 purely from playing on my laptop. Hopefully I'll be out of the red soon enough and it will be a +EV move for me.

    - I've started playing some heads-up (HU) $2 SNG's at the low levels (won 5, lost 2) because I want to improve that part of my game. The rake @ $50NL HU is just too bad I think to be profitable for me starting there, which is why I'm doing the SNG route for now. If I am successful, enjoy the games, and feel like it's enhancing my overall game as it relates to starting full ring tables, I hope to move up through those eventually to $100NL HU ring games. Because I start so many tables, I'd really like to start excelling @ HU. Compared to full ring players, I already feel like I'm one of the better players or can at least hold my own for my stakes, but I'd like to eventually take it to the next level if possible.

    Below is my 1 year graph:


    Overall Winrate 12 bb/100 or 6 ptBB/100 over ~167k hands (As of 12/13/2009)

    We'll see what year 2 brings.
    - Jason

  45. #45
    dranger7070's Avatar
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    Well done sir. :applaude: or (couldn't remember off the bat lol)

    It's amazing to see how far you and m2m have progressed since I've been gone. Keep up the amazing work and you'll be beating the midstakes in not time!

    I'll be following you two before too long. Frickin' boot camp!
  46. #46
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    Just checking in: I've surpassed the 30 buy-in mark @ $100NL and am seeking to make the rest of the 40 buy-ins via cash games and bonuses before I look to play $200NL. Full Tilt finally set-up the rest of my $500 first time deposit bonus and I've cleared $160 of it and am well on pace to clear it ahead of schedule. I already cleared the $150 Stars reload bonus and have $50 (5 x $10) from Stellar Rewards and I'm about 1/2 way to getting the first of the $50 increments. I'm also happy because I'll finally have a chance to cash in some of my FPP's in the form of the $650 and $50 reduced rate bonuses being offered this month on PokerStars. As you can see, there are a lot of new year bonus opportunities not to mention rakeback. Hopefully I can manage a profit @ the table before it's all said and done, too

    Because of the recent deposits on FullTilt and Stars and because my bankroll is low on FullTilt relative to Stars, I will probably end up withdrawing $1300 from Stars - my original $100 deposit plus $600 FullTilt deposit plus $600 Stars reload deposit. This way I can get back my deposit money and continue playing @ both sites. What is the process to get a check withdrawal from Stars and Tilt? I've heard you have to send in a copy of your driver's liscense and a recent utility bill. Is that correct? Anything else?

    So, if I am fortunate to keep things going in the right direction, I'm not exactly sure when I'll move up to $200NL on Stars - it all depends on how much and when I withdraw and obviously how long it takes the bankroll to move up. It will be a good while before I can move up to $200NL @ Tilt because I am basically starting from scratch outside of a $600 first time deposit, corresponding bonus, and rakeback. I'll basically need to take my bankroll from $1200 to $8000 or 68 buy-ins At any rate, I am always giddy with anticipation @ the prospect of the next level

    I am setting a goal for the New Year that I believe will be a good supplement for "How High Can You Get?" and my general poker game. I'd like to make $25k in 2010 from poker including online and live. Last year I made $9k, so this year's goal would be more than double that, BUT I was playing $2NL this time last year, so there is a part of me that thinks there is room to do even better. Why $25k? Well, if I can succeed AND keep my day job, I'll make $100k for the first time and poker would contribute 25% of that or 3:1 - day job : poker. I may post monthly stats related to that goal.

    I've done some preliminary tax research and I although the amounts are modest, I need to file taxes on poker winnings from 2009. This is the first time I've ever filed taxes on anything poker related and I'm wondering if I should do it myself, hire Russ Fox, or hire someone else. If anyone has any feedback related to this, feel free to reply here or send me a private message. Also, I anticipate this year I will have to fill out the form to declare that I over $10k in accounts outside the United States. In fact, I'm very close now to hitting that mark now. Do I have to fill it out the moment I hit $10k or include it in my 2010 tax files next year?

    Hopefully 2010 will be a fun and productive year. I'm also planning to go for plain Jane Supernova on Stars.
    - Jason

  47. #47
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    Just wanted to say awesome thread, and it sounds like you're reaping the benefits of hard work and a great attitude.
  48. #48
    Micro2Macro's Avatar
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    gogogo!

    as for taxes, I am clueless, and need to pay them :S

    good luck attaining your goals, and get that Supernova!
  49. #49
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    Good luck. Keep it up man
  50. #50
    Jason's Avatar
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    January is over and I'm off to a good start towards my $25k yearly goal.

    YTD Total $2,511.63 (+ $428.30 ahead of pace)
    January Total $2,511.63 (+ $428.30 ahead of pace)

    Venue ---> Profit ---> Profit%
    FullTilt ---> $803.25 ---> 31.98%
    PokerStars ---> $723.70 ---> 28.81%
    FullTilt Bonus ---> $480.00 ---> 19.11%
    PokerStars Bonus ---> $250.00 ---> 9.95%
    FullTilt Rakeback ---> $168.93 ---> 6.73%
    Live Games ---> $85.75 ---> 3.42%

    Actually, rather than a goal, I'm going to invoke some Tommy Angelo and refer to it as a target. Because it is something I would like to achieve, but I won't lose sleep if I don't or need to take a path that would interfere with it like take time off, drop stakes, study more, and the like. The main "goals" continue to be to have fun, get better, and play the best poker I can play.

    Playing @ FullTilt has been an adventure. I may do a more in depth writing on the topic, but the gist of it is that PokerStars has much better software and much better customer support while FullTilt seems to have fishier players and better table selection for the limits and games I have been playing @ $100NL full ring. I've only been there a month and a half, so these are relatively early impressions and I could change my mind. But, because I am enjoying the extra table selection and profit, I've decided that I will not formally pursue SuperNova as a target this year. I will try to maintain Platinum every month but I am secretly hoping I will naturally play enough and move up the stake(s) to get SuperNova anyway, but we'll see. This particular month I did hit Platinum, but did not get the extra 833.33 points to stay on SuperNova pace because I was on vacation for a week where I didn't play any poker.

    I am almost one buy-in away from having the bankroll to move up to $200NL on Stars, but I suspect I will grind it out a little longer so that I can withdrawal the $600 from Stars that I put into FullTilt plus my original $100 deposit over a year ago. I don't mind spending a little more time trying to firm up my game @ $100NL. I've heard the jump from $100NL to $200NL can be a doozy. But, make no mistake, I am definitely looking forward to mixing it up $200NL hopefully sooner rather than later

    In February I'll have the opportunity to clear $650 (Stars), $50 (Stars), and $20 (Tilt) bonuses not to mention a probable $100 in Stellar Awards. Obviously it would be nice to cash in on the tables and make it another good month, but we'll see what happens.
    - Jason

  51. #51
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    It's been a shade over 2 months and I've got the bankroll of 40 full buy-ins to start playing @ $200NL of which well over 30 was directly from playing $100NL. I was debating whether or not to move up because I have deposit money on Stars and FullTilt that I want to get back, but my bankroll @ FullTilt is low and can't be withdrawn there if I want to stay @ $100NL. But, instead of delaying my move to $200NL on Stars, I decided to just wait on the withdraw. If $200NL turns out to be a disaster, I can drop down, make the withdraw and really focus on retooling @ $100NL. If $200NL starts off on a good note, I will build up enough to cover my deposits soon enough and will withdraw then. I also have about 3 buy-ins waiting for me in the form of FPP's and 3 more buy-ins waiting to get cleared in bonus this month, so that's another nice cushion to have.

    I'll need at LEAST 40 buy-ins to move up from $200NL to $400NL:

    $200 times 40 equals $8,000 (profit)
    $8,000 (profit) plus $8,000 (my current bankroll) equals $16,000 (amount I need)
    $400 (next level) times 40 (required buy-ins per my Bankroll Management rules) equals $16,000 (amount I need)

    As always, everything will take care of itself eventually IF I'm able to consistently win.

    Here's my $100NL graph from HEM:


    Here's my overall graph:


    I plan to start playing $200NL until I drop down to $3,000 (30 $100NL buy-ins) at which point I'll drop back down to $100NL exclusively or until I rise up to $16,000 at which point I may move up to $400NL. I may continue to play a combination of $200NL and $100NL depending on table selection. Again, I have a caveat because 40 buy-ins is the EARLIEST I would move up and I also have to make sure at LEAST 30 buy-ins of that was earned strictly from $200NL. It is possible I may want to earn as many as 50 buy-ins because I have heard this particular skill jump from $100NL to $200NL is noticeable and the extra hands, time, and buy-ins could serve me well if I am fortunate to have the chance to play $400NL. Basically, I've heard the $100 to $200 jump is large and the $400 to $600 jump is large - $200NL and $400NL play similarly as do $600NL and $1000NL in terms of ratio of regs to fish. It's only here-say to me though and I'll at least get to see the $100 to $200 difference first hand.

    When I first deposited just a little over a year ago, I started with $100 playing $2NL. Now, I plan to play at stakes where just my big blind is equal to what was my initial entire buy-in @ a table. I'm also excited to get to play the lowest regular stakes casinos offer, but online. I've been wanting to play @ the casino more often, but my live bankroll isn't quite there yet to do so regularly. It's exciting to think of how successful I could be @ this level in live play if I am able to be successful with it online.

    I think my game has continued to make some key strides while traversing this stake. It's hard to explain, but there were times when I would get it all-in as a favorite, and part of my brain would actually root for the VILLAIN to hit their card. Almost like I didn't want to bust them, so they could suck-out and win and they would stay and I would have the chance to get it all-in as a favorite AGAIN and get it back. It sounds crazy and I didn't ALWAYS have that sadistic part of my brain working that way, but some of the times, my rooting paid off, villain won, and it didn't phase me at all and I might end up getting it back as I hoped even happier than if I had won it to begin with. It's like I felt more in control than I ever have and knew it's just a matter of time before I would get most of the players' money. To date, $100NL has been my favorite stake - from start to finish. Hopefully, I'll get to play higher stakes more often, but there is something comforting to know in the poker landscape as it is now that $100NL full ring exists

    Of course, it wasn't all fun and games. There seemed to be a LOT more shortstackers and nitty, tight regs. Both of those groups probably log hundreds of thousands if NOT MILLIONS of hands. They tended to make my life more difficult and I definitely had to make adjustments. Speaking of which, I've been enjoying my stints @ FullTilt much more for this reason. FullTilt had less shortstackers in general compared to Stars and now since they raised the minimum buy-in to 35bb, it's even better. And because there is no VIP program, I think there are also much less of those nitty regs who take up space and rarely pay you off unless it's a cooler or you steal their blinds. So, I don't plan to stop playing @ FullTilt any time soon and I'm glad I started playing there. I really hope Stars changes their structure to a 35bb minimum on their standards games. There are many good games on Stars and it's still my main site of choice, but there are also many BAD games and it doesn't have to be that way and it shouldn't. I may do a full Stars versus FullTilt write-up sometime in the future from the eyes of a player who has only played @ Stars and recently deposited @ Tilt.

    For my overall game, I think I need to do more studying and have gotten away from that a bit. I plan to go over WiltOnTilt's Math Series again as there are some basic concepts that wouldn't hurt to brush up on and some more advanced concepts that I think will serve me well. In the full ring forum, I want to continue to hone my HU and short handed skills as I start a lot of my own tables and it's just such an invaluable skill to have I think. When you're a proficeint HU to short handed player, it makes full ring that much easier. I'd like to start breaking down regulars' play. I tend to focus on fish and lump all regulars into nitty, aggressive buckets, but I think I need to start studying each of their individual games better as they also become better and tougher to generalize.

    In the next few days, stay tuned for a $100NL retrospective.

    How High Can You Get?
    Level 1 ($ 2 NL) - 12/13/2008 @ $100 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 11k hands (As of 01/22/2009)
    Level 2 ($ 5 NL) - 01/22/2009 @ $150 -> Winrate for level: 36bb/100 or 18ptBB/100 over 8k hands (As of 03/03/2009)
    Level 3 ($10 NL) - 03/03/2009 @ $300 -> Winrate for level: 24bb/100 or 12ptBB/100 over 20k hands (As of 06/18/2009)
    Level 4 ($25 NL) - 06/18/2009 @ $750 -> Winrate for level: 15bb/100 or 7.5ptBB/100 over 18k hands (As of 07/18/2009)
    Level 5 ($50 NL) - 07/18/2009 @ $1,500 -> Winrate for level: 5.62bb/100 or 2.81ptBB/100 over 71k hands (As of 11/24/2009)
    Level 6 ($100 NL) - 11/24/2009 @ $4,000 -> Winrate for level: 6.86bb/100 or 3.43ptBB/100 over 57k hands (As of 02/04/2010)
    Level 7 ($200 NL) - 02/04/2010 @ $8,000
    Level 8 ($400 NL) - ??? @ $16,000


    Overall Winrate 10.59 bb/100 or 5.3 ptBB/100 over ~210k hands (As of 02/04/2010)
    - Jason

  52. #52
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    great thread. sick graphaments! I just moved up to 25nl a while back and i completely agree with your statements about ppl being much more agg. people will raise second pair to a cbet, call down fairly light ect..its a MAJOR bitch when your not hitting.
    Also your comment about good tables getting nitted up quickly is also very true.

    Keep up the good work
  53. #53
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    Congrats on moving up to 200nl.
    I wanted to respond to your comments you left in my op so I tried to put them in red (we'll see if it works).

    Are you still playing 2 to 4 tables? How do you select tables? What are your VPIP/PFR stats? How many notes do you take? How big is your notes file? If you are hardly ever calling down with the worst hand, you're folding too much plus you're not giving yourself a chance to determine the outcome and take notes. I'm not giving you a liscense to spew, but you should be putting your opponent on a range of hands and along the way, your opponent will make bets with good made hands, marginal made hands, draws, missed draws, and air. It's your job to assign that range and then assess your equity compared to that range. Don't get caught up in thinking "I have the best hand or they have the best hand". Determine how good or bad you are for that situation and try to make the best play KNOWING the actual result of that hand may not be the outcome you're looking for. Right or wrong, reflect the hand and make sure you are on the right path. Just because you win doesn't mean it was right. Just because you lose doesn't mean it was wrong. Not to mention, you'll want to be evaluating your own image and how your perceived range fits into that so you can make good value bets and bluffs when needed.

    I still play 2-4 tables of FR. Usually 3 so that I can pay attention well. I select tables by trying to find them with VPIP>23% and with an ave pot of >$1. If I notice it drop uner 20% or the ave pot decreases, I leave.
    I do take notes. I try to include things like what type of hands they raise in what position and what their raises post flop mean and try to take note of the size of the raises etc. I'll take note on their tendencies to donkbet and whatever else I think will help me play against them.
    My stats are about 13/11/3. I steal about 30% of the time in the late positions.
    I have called down with the worst hand at times but I don't see a lot of showdowns (about 20%) and win about 55% of them. Its the large pots that go to showdown that I seem to lose and I often fold on the turn when I get reraised in a large pot but the board makes it likely that I am well behind.
    I sometimes make my decisions based on "I think I am ahead" or "I think they are ahead" and forget to look at equity. However it seems like when I do make the call based on a range, its in a smallish pot against a 20/5/1 type villain who doesnt often bet the river unless they are confident so I make the call simply to get some kind of a read. I had the good pot odds, but it was pretty obvious given the players stats and tendencies that I was behind and sure enough, I am. These little ones tend to add up.


    From what I remember about $10NL, it was a bit nitty and not always easy to extract money, but it was still very beatable, widely profitable with PLENTY of fish. So, my gut reaction is that you're not table selecting or you're missing out on some very key concepts. In every hand, if you're sure you have the best hand, ask yourself, "how do I get the MOST $ for THIS situation LONG term based on villain's range and tendencies to act with that range?". If a $2 river bet gets called a 100% of the time but a $7 bet gets called 40% of the time, you should bet $7. If you think you're behind or drawing or could have a dominated hand, you need to take lines that will minimize your losses, too. Folding is often the right option for this, but knowing stack sizes, pot odds, and opponent tendencies are key, too. Do you have any fold equity? How much do you need? Some of these concepts may not even apply to most $10NL games, but you need a solid foundation and the ability to use different tools in your toolbox.

    I dont know how I would table select better. The tables are quite full when I start playing and I do go on waiting lists for the juicy tables with high ave pot. I just don't seem to do much on them. I would think that I'm missing out on concepts instead of table problems. I just don't know what I'm missing out on that allowed me to crush 5nl but so far get destroyed at 10nl.
    I cbet a lot. Prob too much esp at 5nl. At 5nl however, if I cbet with missed overs and was called, I knew I could check the last two streets and usually see a cheap showdown because they didnt often bet the turn after I cbet the flop and then checked the turn. A typical hand in 10nl has me raising pre, I miss the flop, I cbet, get called and c/f turn b/c they are almost always playing back at me after I check the turn. Of course this doenst hapen in every hand but its hands like these that just trickle the money out of my BR. I cant double barrel every hand. I try to make my cbets vilain dependant. If the board is very dry I will play it different vs a 25/5/1 station vs a 5/2/2 nit.


    If you haven't already, I would highly recommend reading Miller, Mehta, Flynn's "Professional No Limit" and Sklansky's "Theory of Poker". In fact, if you haven't read them twice, I would highly recommend that, too. Those books were instrumental to me starting out and if you really understand and are correctly applying those concepts, I think you'll be beating $10NL quite handily.

    I have read Sklansky/Miller NLHE Theory and Practice as well as Harrignton on cash vol 1. I havent done Theory of Poker yet but plan to.

    Also, are you using proper Bankroll Management? You should have made 30 buy-ins @ $5NL or $150 before you moved to $10NL and you should have had 30 buy-ins total in your bankroll @ $10NL or $300 when you moved up and should not drop down until you hit 20 buy-ins or $200. If you hit 20 buy-ins, that means you have LOST 10 buy-ins. I've played 6 levels of stakes from $2NL to $100NL and the largest buy-in downswing I've hit thus far around 5 playing from 1 to 6 tables. So, my point is that you need to give yourself a full chance to play the stake and LEARN the stake and if you lose the full 10 buy-ins, it's HIGHLY likely at that point that you're not getting coolered or having bad luck - you're not playing winning poker. That's yet another virtue of Bankroll Management - when used properly, it is one of the best indicators of assessing your skill. Losing players can rarely win 30 buy-ins at a stake. And winning players who don't massive multi-table (and anyone trying to move up SHOULD NOT BE PLAYING TOO MANY TABLES) rarely go on 10 buy-in downswings.

    I moved to 10nl with 25 BI's. I told myself to drop down if I ever went below 20 BI's. I'm one away now....
    I was up a little but have been on a continuous 8 BI slide.

    I hate to generalize but it seems like my bread and butter hands at 5nl (TPTK, TPGK) that usually got me a call on the flop and turn now dont even get a flop call. If they do, I am usually behind or against draws (which is fine).
    A typical problem for me: Raise pre to say 50 cents, get a call, hit TP, bet flop and they fold. I win about 65 cents.
    Next hand, raise 50 cents pre, get a call, hit nothing, cbet 80 cents, get a call. Figure in my head that the board makes it likely that his range hit better than mine so I check turn and villain bets at me and I fold usually. I've now lost $1.30. See what I mean? I win more pots than I lose but I lose more than I win, leading to a slow bleeding process....thats where I am at...and I don't know how to get out of it yet.


    Any how, thanks for listening and for your help. Its always appreciated.
    I won't believe their lies - I can still see through these eyes
  54. #54
    Micro2Macro's Avatar
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    Easy does it

    nh
  55. #55
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    $100NL retrospective
    How does the play @ $100NL differ from $50NL. I'll be honest. When I left $50NL, I had a bad taste in my mouth about poker. I felt like the tables were so nitty and I was pulling teeth trying to get players to put money in the pot. I mean, I WAS winning, but not as much as I wanted because it was so fit or fold or waiting for coolers. My fear was this trend would continue or get worse. I was struggling to figure out if there were major holes or leaks in my game that kept me from eeking out more $. Not to say there aren't leaks in my game, but fortunately, the pendulum swung the other way and $100NL turned out to be a joy by comparison. In fact, this was only the 2nd time of 6 moves up that I actually was able to increase my win-rate relative to the last stake - the other time being when I switched from $2NL to $5NL. At $100NL, I found that players actually liked to put money in the pot again. Those are the games I look for and like to play. There seemed to be more fish - tougher, regs? Sure. Pesky short-stackers setting up camp? Sadly, yes. But I was glad to see that the games were looser and pots were getting bigger in terms of big blinds.

    I thought I would have to split time between $100NL and $50NL as I had done before between $50NL and $25Nl because of poor table selection availability, but fortunately I was just able to hit the ground running and not look back. My theory for this is that $100NL is a good price point and round number that attracts fish. In fact, aside from better games, I also liked little things like the easy units of big blinds. I take notes like "Villain made a 3.5x PFR with AA" and @ $50NL I had to multiply numbers by 2 to figure out the factor. At $200NL, I have to divide everything by 2. But, at $100NL, assessing stack sizes and multiplication factors of the blind requires no math

    @ $100NL, a couple of quick, obvious differences is the increased number of nitty regs and annoying short-stackers. I honestly don't remember having a big problem with short-stackers. Now, I hate them and ESPECIALLY the ratholers who double-up and leave. I can't wait until PokerStars implements 35bb minimum standard tables and if they don't, I wouldn't be surprised to start spending a larger portion of my time @ Full Tilt. In fact, I already have been, but still call PokerStars home. I don't want to turn this retrospective into a debate or rant, but players who buy-in for 20bb, mostly push all-in or fold, and then LEAVE if they win are simply scavengers trying to take advantage of a loop-hole with the buy-in for a very negligible profit, if any, relative to players who actually try to PLAY more than 1 street of poker and win. Now, if the player buys in short and STAYS after a double-up, I don't have a problem, because now they have to adjust to 40bb's instead of 20bb's just like I have to adjust when I go from 100bb's to 200. When they LEAVE, to me, it's just so cowardly and wrong. At the very least, the ratholing time needs to increase to 24 hours.

    There was more leveling in the games that I was used to @ $50NL. For example, I made a LOT more hero calls with ace high, 2nd pair, or 3rd pair and was right compared to previous games. I also double and triple barrel bluffed and was successful moreso than past games. You might say this is the first stake where they begin to "respect your raises" In fact, I sometimes found it difficult to regress back to $50NL on FullTilt when I first started because of that. My bankroll on FullTilt was low because it was my first deposit and I tried $50NL with several stumbles usually by calling down light and losing. I finally said "screw it" and played $100NL and have been doing reasonably well ever since. So, I found it more important to understand your fold equity and the lines that villains take so you can bluff and pick off their bluffs.

    One more interesting detail that isn't widespread but at least one player seems to be doing regularly and I believe quite successfully is playing HU on full-ring tables and then shorthanded but leaving when the table gets full. I get the feeling that he specializes in HU and/or 6max but is taking his game to full ring either to have a better selection of players or take advantage of the new Stars VIP program which seems to favor HU and 6 max play on full ring tables. At any rate, just like shortstackers, it is a little discouraging for a player to play like that when he has the advantage and leave once he feels his advantage is negated.

    Even though I did enjoy this stake, I definitely wouldn't recommend anyone think about skipping $50NL to get here. If I hadn't paid my dues @ $50NL, I don't think I would have been nearly as successful. I also had one of my worst, nasty break-even to losing streaks since I started playing occur while playing $100NL, so it wasn't always an easy ride to the other side. The skill-set leading here definitely built on the past stakes and aggression @ $100NL is just as bad as $50NL if not more so and you don't get exposed to as much of that @ $25NL and lower from my experiences.

    I'm anxious to see what the $200NL pool is like. Early going, I REALLY like the # of VIP's generated. I was behind pace for Platinum for the month and it would have taken me several days to make it up, but just one afternoon of $200NL and I'm not only caught up, but ahead for the month and poised to get back on pace for SuperNova relatively soon. But, VIP and FPP points are just a side benefit. Winning, getting better, and having fun is my concern.
    - Jason

  56. #56
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    you are the freakin man jason
  57. #57
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    nice work dude. 200nl plays a little tougher, but you'll kill it regardless. Keep enjoying poker

    Have we tangled? davenigma on FTP
    also:
    Quote Originally Posted by jason
    I may do a full Stars versus FullTilt write-up sometime in the future from the eyes of a player who has only played @ Stars and recently deposited @ Tilt.
    interesting...
  58. #58
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    Heh, thx, although I'd say I'm just A man.

    Hey Daven, I've been logging a lot more time on Stars, but that user name sounds familiar so I would guess so. I'd have to look it up to be sure, though. My results on Tilt have been very volatile and inconsistent. I'm hoping I can develop some normalcy sooner rather than later, but finding a groove isn't always easy when you're so used to something else.
    - Jason

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    Bump
  60. #60
    Jason's Avatar
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    Mile 2 of 12 is complete towards a $25k finish line:

    YTD Total $5,495.10 (+ $1,327.93 ahead of pace)
    February Total $2,982.97 (+ $899.64 ahead of pace)
    January Total $2,512.13 (+ $428.30 ahead of pace)

    February Total ---> $2,982.97
    Venue ---> Profit ---> Profit%
    PokerStars ---> $931.90 ---> 31.24%
    PokerStars Bonus ---> $890.00 ---> 29.84%
    FullTilt ---> $508.10 ---> 17.03%
    Live Games ---> $378.25 ---> 12.69%
    FullTilt Rakeback ---> $154.72 ---> 5.19%
    FullTilt Bonus ---> $120.00 ---> 4.02%

    February was another fun and interesting month. For starters, I went to Tunica during the WSOP and was able to win some money @ the $1/$3 games. It's been a LONG time coming, but I'm gradually building my live bankroll to the point where I can play regularly - I'm still not there yet by my online rules, but inching ever closer and good outings go a long way. I saw Jamie Gold when cashing out my morning session and Sunny Mehta, co-author of "Professional No Limit Hold'Em", during the evening session playing $5/$10 next to my table. On Stars, I moved up from $100NL to $200NL early in the month. Wow, the VIP's seem to come in so much faster. I haven't really been tracking VIP accrual from stake to stake but it seems to be most pronounced difference now. I was averaging about 0.36 VIPs per hand playing $100NL full ring and now I'm averaging 0.57 VIPs per hand. As long as I can stay @ $200NL, I think I will add back SuperNova as a target because I should still have the luxury to table select on FullTilt whenever I want and be well within reach.


    SuperNova Pace -> Total 20,228.54 (4,064.16 AHEAD of pace for this YEAR)
    February -> Total 12,506.47 VIP's (4,173.14 AHEAD of pace for this month)
    January -> Total 7,722.07 VIP's (611.26 BEHIND pace for this month)


    I've been playing more @ Stars still but FullTilt has been really swingy. I think I've played reasonably well, although I could definitely play better. I do remember at least a couple of bad suck-outs that were each worth a buy-in. I seem to have been running pretty bad HU on Tilt, too. I got the nuts top set TT all-in versus JJ on the flop and the turn binks a Jack to give him a higher set. Then, I seem to be on the wrong end of a cooler that holds up in villain's favor like a made str8 versus a better made str8 using two cards or full house versus a better full house using two cards or whatever crazy situation. I'll watch Krantz or WillOnTilt make HU videos where 2nd pair is constantly the nuts getting stacks :/ ... heh. I still think the games are overall softer with more fish, so I just need to keep doing good things and trying to eliminate bad things and keep trying to find a groove. I could still be battling familiarity but I believe if I stick with it that it'll be a good long-term move.

    Even though my 2009 winnings were modest, I had a meeting and hired a tax accountant to ensure that I'll keep all of my income legitimate now and moving forward. I'm very relieved to have this plan in motion as I want to make sure I avoid FPMITAP.

    I recently finished reading two books related to poker: "Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker" and The Godfather of Poker: The Doyle Brunson Story. I really enjoyed them both and in different ways. The first one really examined the history of the game and how far it has come from the wild west to the Internet. It made me feel privileged to be part of a game that has such a long and rich history like poker does. I thought Doyle's book was even better and could hardly put it down. I didn't realize how exciting and dangerous his life has apparently been. I was surprised to see that we both had a similar background in athletics, although he was much more accomplished than I was and could run close to a 4 minute mile among other things. He also described the link he felt between competition with sports and poker and it helped me understand more why I love poker. I have a new-found respect for him in that he has been so successful for so long in the game of poker. It really inspired me to NOT get burned out and try to have some lasting power in this game even if I'm not a superstar or celebrity. I really hope that in 30 years or so that I'll still be playing poker, making money, and enjoying the game. I'm currently reading another biography Mike Matusow: Check-Raising the Devil and it seems very entertaining early going.

    In addition to this poker goal, I started a life goal to pay off my mortgage early ala "There's No Place Like Home". Although it is not directly a poker goal, poker should have an influence on the outcome as I will likely need significant extra income to pay off my house by the date I am aiming for. So, success to see "How High Can I Get" could breed success to make sure "There's No Place Like Home".

    Heading into March I just want to keep doing what I've been doing and try to keep making money and winning @ $200NL. In April, I'm planning to go to St. Louis during the WSOP just like I did in Tunica and in June I'm planning to go to Vegas during a weekend of the WSOP. Both of those trips are with cash games in mind. I'll also have my laptop should the games turn sour I can still play online.
    Last edited by Jason; 04-01-2010 at 12:54 AM.
    - Jason

  61. #61
    !Luck's Avatar
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    Sick man. Just sick.

    Keep it up.

    Have you ever failed at moving up?
  62. #62
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    Thx. If you define fail as moving up to a level and then losing so many buy-ins that you have to drop down to the last, then, no, I haven't failed yet. But, the games just get tougher, so there is still plenty of time for me to fail Every move from the start has been as I've described it in this thread. There was a time @ $50NL where I got discouraged some because my win-rate @ $25NL was yielding me more money than $50NL and game selection seemed to get dramatically tougher and I ended up playing $25NL more than I anticipated, but I stuck with $50NL and beat it for the full 30 buy-ins plus some more. Win, lose, or draw, we're all going to have struggles along the way, so trying to work through them is key.
    - Jason

  63. #63
    Wow, after reading this thread over and over I was really motivated to switch from mtt back to cash. I've just recently started playing 5NL with 30 buyins and I'm trying to follow the kind of bankroll management rules you've used. What are your general idea's on cashing out from bankroll aswell? Also would love to see more constant updates.

    Cheers
  64. #64
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    wow, this was a fantastic read. i love how your discipline is one of your biggest strengths!
  65. #65
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    Thanks, glad you enjoyed reading. This year I'll probably pop in at least once a month to do a check-up on my $25k progress plus if I'm lucky enough to move up to the next stake, I always post about that, too.

    As for cashing out, my feeling is that you can do it whenever you like, BUT if you plan to spend that money or take it out of your bankroll, then you have to win it back @ the tables. As a simple example, you've got $2,500 in your bankroll playing $50NL and are eager to play $100NL, where you need at least $3,000 (30 buy-ins). You withdraw $500 to spend on a net-book. Now you have $2,000 and have to win $1,000 more instead of $500 before you can think of playing $100NL.

    To this point, I haven't really withdrawn any money because I want to keep moving up. I personally think withdrawing money slows down players' progress because withdrawing the money is basically like losing it. However, a separate issue to consider, I'm at the point I have so much money online, I'm considering taking some of it out, but not to spend it, rather to put it in the bank where it's safer and can draw interest, but also be available to me to deposit if I need it again. If you withdraw in that sense and don't spend it, it's fine and still part of your bankroll.

    It's also acceptable to "pay back" your bankroll if you want. So, if you bought a $500 net-book, you can then make $500 from your day job and later redeposit it into your bankroll if you have it and want to replenish it. That's acceptable, BUT you can't lose $500 at the tables and redeposit $500 to make up for THAT $500. The only money you can "pay back" is money that was withdrawn.

    Good luck @ $5NL and moving up the stakes.
    - Jason

  66. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason View Post
    , I'm considering taking some of it out, but not to spend it, rather to put it in the bank where it's safer and can draw interest, but also be available to me to deposit if I need it again.
    do this
    and RSA tokens are where it's at - just in case you don't have one already
  67. #67
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    The first quarter of 2010 is over.

    YTD Total $7,749.80 (+ $1,499.80 ahead of pace)
    March Total $2,254.70 (+ $171.37 ahead of pace)
    February Total $2,982.97 (+ $899.64 ahead of pace)
    January Total $2,512.13 (+ $428.30 ahead of pace)

    March Total ---> $2,254.70
    Venue ---> Profit ---> Profit%
    PokerStars ---> $2,646.85 ---> 117.39%
    PokerStars Bonus ---> $200.00 ---> 8.87%
    FullTilt Rakeback ---> $82.25 ---> 3.65%
    Live Games ---> $53.25 ---> 2.36%
    FullTilt ---> -$727.65 ---> -32.27%

    I've spotted a few leaks and am trying to take steps to plug them. On FULL RING tables, I think I've made some very nice progress in my HU and shorthanded game and had several AHA moments. To celebrate, I decided to play more HU @ HU tables and unfortunately it didn't go so hot as my initial shot didn't. It's amazing how FULL RING players seem to have an overall different style, approach, and personality compared to HU and 6max players EVEN if you're playing the same game like HU or 6max on a FR table. It's hard to say how much of my shortcomings on HU tables is due to my bad play versus villain good play versus HORRIBLE rake structure versus bad luck, but at any rate, I think I just need to stay away from HU cash tables for a while UNLESS Stars or Tilt offer lower stake games @ a reasonable rake structure (not likely). I'll try to satisfy all of my HU needs in the full ring forum OR micro stakes HUSNG's for the time being. Another leak that has slowly revealed itself is playing on my laptop. At first I was a big loser, then brought it even, and now it's just been a slow, steady decline. I've been wanting to study more and analyze villain's play more and I've decided that I'll start doing that on my laptop instead of playing. I think this will be a huge improvement to my bottom line and overall game. The only special circumstances I might allow myself to play on my laptop is if I'm in a nice, quiet setting by myself with plenty of time to play with no commitments to leave any time soon AND I'm in a situation where I can't play in my normal set-up because I'm out of town.

    I reconfigured my HUD so that I can play 7 tables and still see all of my stats. I played @ 6 tables long enough where I think I can graduate to one more. Viewing all of my tables @ the same time is paramount to my success so I can see all the action and still take notes. It's funny because in January I was worried about making SuperNova and now at the end of March I'm on pace to make it over 150k VIP's - moving up stakes and adding a table makes a big difference. If I just continue @ the same pace of VIP's I made during March and ESPECIALLY if I am able to move up to $400NL at some point this year, I should be able to hit double nova, which by itself is worth $13,399.70 or 40.2% rakeback. Again, though, VIP targets are just secondary concern relative to playing my best and trying to move up the stakes.

    VIP Total 40,233.77
    SuperNova Pace -> 15,576.24 AHEAD of pace for this YEAR
    Double SuperNova Pace -> -9,081.30 BEHIND pace for this YEAR

    Even though I didn't log many hands @ Full Tilt, I had a bad month there specifically and some of that was due to playing HU and playing on my laptop and since I've been logging much more time on Stars, I'm sure some of it is still just lack of familiarity or comfort with the site and software plus I'm sure some bad play and bad luck. I like the idea of having money on Tilt and the option to play there and I'm a decent winner there overall, but on the other hand, since I really want to make Double Nova, I'm not sure how much more time I'll be willing to log there. Chalk it up to the VIP system @ Stars I guess, but from my calculations starting @ Platinum and making SuperNova by the end of the year is equivalent to $5,199.70 or 31.2% rakeback and starting from Platinum and making it to Double Nova is worth $13,399.70 or 40.2% rakeback. It shatters 27% and if I'm making more profit, it's a no-brainer. I'll keep monitoring the situation, but it also seems like Tilt games got tougher or table selection more difficult after they introduced Rush poker. It's like I was hitting a groove and stride and right around the time Rush poker was introduced, it stopped. It's hard to say, though.

    The jump to $200NL is generally so far so good. On a side note, looking backwards, it really feels like I've "run bad" more-so than any stake that I can remember. I don't know if it's true or selective memory, but it doesn't really matter. I'll just keep trying to play my best and move forward. For the most part I have only played $200NL, however, I recently started peeking @ $400NL tables and the table selection appears to have a big drop @ this stake in terms of just number of tables running. In anticipation of this, I've just recently started playing some @ $100NL again when I don't have a full slate of $200NL tables going. I want to get back in the habit of playing two different stakes concurrently so that if and when I jump up to $400NL, I can still play $200NL and not miss a beat. I've had some experience with this when I moved up to $50NL from $25NL, but when I played $100NL, I stopped playing $50NL completely, so I need to dust off that rust.

    I finished doing my taxes. Because of poker, I did owe money, but it's all good because without poker, I wouldn't have made as much money as I did. With the help of my tax accountant, I have taken steps to adjust my tax withholding so that my payment or refund next year is as close to 0 as possible to avoid any penalties or the imposed requirement to do taxes quarterly. Next month in April, I have a trip to St. Louis planned during the WSOP. Hopefully I'll be able to find some juicy cash games and take advantage. If not, I'll fire up the laptop and watch some poker videos ... or make-out with the gf
    Last edited by Jason; 04-01-2010 at 11:01 AM.
    - Jason

  68. #68
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    A great read, love to hear how it's going for you.
    I do hope you start withdrawing some of your $. You never know what could happen and if something did, you'd be awefully glad you had at least a sizeable chunk of your poker roll tucked away in the bank.
    Another benefit is that when they offer those reload bonuses, you can just pop the $ back in.
    Donk Skills:
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  69. #69
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    Yeah, I guess the question is how much is prudent to keep online? Maybe it's worthy of its own thread. For my situation, for the time being, I think 10k is a good amount to keep online. That's 50 buy-ins @ 200NL, 25 buy-ins @ 400NL, ~16 buy-ins @ 600NL, and 10 buy-ins @ 1000NL. I can always replenish if needed via deposits or just let it start growing again on its own if I ever feel the need to have more.
    - Jason

  70. #70
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    I just noticed that tonight, barely into the 4th month of the year, my earnings to date for this year have surpassed all of my earnings from last year. Conclusion: $200NL>> $2NL
    - Jason

  71. #71
    Jason's Avatar
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    YTD Total $7,380.80 ( $952.53 BEHIND pace)
    April Total -$369.00 ( $2,452.33 BEHIND pace)
    March Total $2,254.70 (+ $171.37 ahead of pace)
    February Total $2,982.97 (+ $899.64 ahead of pace)
    January Total $2,512.13 (+ $428.30 ahead of pace)

    April Total ---> -$369.00
    Venue ---> Profit ---> Profit%
    PokerStars Bonus ---> $150.00 ---> -40.65%
    Live Games ---> $-224.00 ---> 60.70%
    PokerStars ---> $-295.00 ---> 79.95%

    PokerStars moved my cheese ... those bastards! The good news is that I think I found where they moved it. The bad news is that I had a costly losing month in April while searching. Early in the month I was on pace to have a great month around 3 or 4 G's. My trip to St. Louis with live play didn't go so hot and set me back to just on track. Then, I put myself back ahead of my goal for the month with a third of the month to pad my winnings ... or lose it all Two unfortunate things happened that I attribute for the bulk of the bad month. First, I ran really bad for 2 days in a row where all-ins I was ahead when the money went in led to suck-outs and losses in fully stacked 100bb plus pots. I remember one of those days I got all-in 11 times where I was AHEAD 6 times and behind 5. I WON 1 of the six I was AHEAD and won NONE of the five I was BEHIND - not all of those were 100bb pots, but several were. That's unfortunate but I can deal with all that as long as I play enough hands.

    The second, more difficult problem was PokerStars new buy-in structures. I have been playing 20bb to 100bb since I first started playing $2NL. I'm used to it. I understand it. That's my game. I always know where I stand and where I'm going. I don't play 50bb to 100bb tables. Those play different and are good for other players but I haven't cut my teeth on them. I next to never play deep. I never play shallow. It took me a while to realize the effect of these changes, but from MY POV (I know everyone else has their own opinion for their own situation), these buy-ins have really hacked into the quality of full stack play @ the upper small stakes to mid stake levels. I feel like 200NL 40bb to 100bb poker is the 20bb to 100bb equivalent of at LEAST 400NL if not 50bb-100bb 400NL or some 600NL+ hybrid in terms of quality of players and ratio of regs to fish. I was seeing completely different tough aggressive players now that I presume have dropped down in stakes. The tough regs of before are now average. The fish are far and few in between. I used to start my own tables and get fish to average or bad regs. Now, I either sit by myself for minutes on end or get ringers or tough regs to sit down with me. I mistakenly thought my game would stay @ 40bb to 100bb, but in reality I just WANTED it to stay there. I tried to stick with it for a few days but the results were bad three days in a row due to some combination of bad luck, bad play, and good villain play which accounts for the rest of my losses in April. Ironically, on the night of the last day in April I actually got it all-in AHEAD in a pot, that had I won, I would have had a "winning" month for April with a set of 3's versus a shortstack flush draw and a full stack pair of Jacks on the flop. I beat the shortstack, but pocket Jacks rivered a Jack for another appropriate stacking for the month. It looks as though most of the fish and casual players are gravitating to these shallow games. It appears to me as a result, the 100bb games have gotten tougher across the board and to compensate, some players are dropping stakes or at least adding more smaller games to their rotations. That's my observations and conclusions for the time being. However, for players that ONLY played 50bb to 100bb old tables, these new changes may have improved that game or made things better. I just don't have that perspective.

    As a result of these changes and bad results, I had to rethink my approach and accept the fact that my old game of 20bb to 100bb has been moved to 20bb to 50bb, so that's where I'm playing 200NL FR. Since I don't want to lose the skill of playing 100bb, I have decided to pick those up @ 100NL. I had already been playing 100NL before the changes, so that's no big deal. Once I earn enough buy-ins @ 100NL 40bb to 100bb, I'll allow myself to move up to 200NL 40bb to 100bb. Once I earn enough buy-ins @ 20bb to 50bb 200NL, I'll allow myself to move up to 20bb to 50bb 400NL. Fortunately, I'm off to another good start with my new strategy of table selection. The bad news is that I'm not earning VIP's nearly as fast. If I am going to hit double nova for the year, I will probably need to move up at least once from 100NL/200NL to 200NL/400NL. I'm currently @ ~ 57k VIP's for the year which is ~23.5k VIP's AHEAD of pace for SuperNova and ~10k BEHIND pace for double nova for the year.

    The big lesson I learned from this is to tread carefully whenever any big changes happen to you or your site. I lost a nice chunk of change exploring Rush Poker when it first came out. I lost a bigger chunk of change this time when PokerStars introduced their new buy-in structure. It's better to error to the side of caution and move up later than the other way around. Try not to operate off too many assumptions.

    Hopefully I'll be back to my winning ways when May is over. It's off to a good start, but, then again, so was April
    Last edited by Jason; 05-03-2010 at 10:47 AM.
    - Jason

  72. #72
    Sucks that you had a losing / break even month, as your other monthly results have been pretty good. I was wondering if you would also post a monthly HEM graph to go along with your summaries. Keep it up man and also thanks to you and this thread, I'm more than halfway through my first goal of grinding my original $150 roll up to $300, so I can move up to 10nl. All the best for May.
  73. #73
    Kijjo's Avatar
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    Best post I've read in a while. I really like how there's not an ounce of whining. Even when you describe your sick allin night, you're describing it, but without complaints. Good luck this month.
    Donk Skills:
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  74. #74
    Jason's Avatar
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    I like to save my graphs for when I'm changing stakes, but for April, imagine a mountain top that peaks and then takes you a little further into the valley than where you started. For this month, imagine a sine wave from trigonometry that doesn't quite get back to even

    Thanks, I try not to whine and be positive, but I probably do at least an ounce worth somewhere ... speaking of which, May is over
    - Jason

  75. #75
    Jason's Avatar
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    YTD Total $6,861.39 ( $3,555.28 BEHIND pace)
    May Total -$519.41 ( $2,602.33 BEHIND pace)
    April Total -$369.00 ( $2,452.33 BEHIND pace)
    March Total $2,254.70 (+ $171.37 ahead of pace)
    February Total $2,982.97 (+ $899.64 ahead of pace)
    January Total $2,512.13 (+ $428.30 ahead of pace)

    May Total ---> -$519.41
    Venue ---> Profit ---> Profit%
    FullTilt ---> $721.45 ---> -138.90%
    PokerStars Bonus ---> $200.00 ---> -38.51%
    FullTilt Rakeback ---> $104.29 ---> -20.08%
    Live Games ---> $64.75 ---> -12.47%
    PokerStars ---> -$1,609.90 ---> 309.95%


    Sorry about the length - Cliff notes are below


    Last month, Stars moved my cheese and during the month of May, I was still searching. I started off playing mostly 200NL 50bb max tables because that's where the fish are. I got off to a great start and then hit one of those "run worse than you ever thought was possible" patches. I don't usually look @ EV numbers or graphs nor do I know how accurate they are, but I do know the running theme to this point ever since I moved up to 200NL both 20bb to 100bb and 20bb to 50bb has been when the money gets all-in with cards to come, if I'm ahead and the pot is LARGE, there is a better than normal chance I will get sucked out on. If I'm BEHIND and the pot is LARGE, there is a better than normal chance I won't catch any cards to save me. Basically, I've been losing a TON of all-in pots when it gets large around a buy-in to two buy-ins large or more. I figure out what cards can beat me, say them out-loud, and like magic, they appear. According to HEM since I moved to 50bb max, I'm $2k or 10 buy-ins behind EV where I should be. And, don't get me started on the coolers. I've got two cards to get the nut flush and lose a huge pot in a RAISED pot with someone who had 53s using two cards for a straight flush. Blind war in the small blind with AJ and flop AJ6 losing to 66. Blind war trying to isolate a fish with KK and get it all-in with a reg who has, what else, AA. In the small blind in another blind war with KK lose again to AA. Twice I've had AK, get an ace, and lose to AA - card removal probabilities be damned Anyway, we've all been there, done that, so you get the picture I'm sure.

    I could live with all that, but the truth is that even if I hit my EV and didn't get coolered so much, I'm still not playing optimally. Part of that is probably due to tilting issues I am both aware and unaware of but I also think a majority of it is related to just trying to learn new games and dynamics due to the cheese getting moved. It's been a struggle trying to adjust to these 50bb max games and I keep catching myself doing things I believe to be sub-optimal well after the fact. The first problem was I started adding too many tables. My theory was that 50bb max was not as complicated of a game as 100bb max and that I could add more tables easily to generate the same amount of VIP and hourly as before. That DID work out well initially, but also eventually came back to bite me as I started missing out on notes and the flow of action. I also realized my pre-flop raises were too big and I was bleeding money as much as a buy-in when it felt like I was playing break-even. Sometimes I would completely lose track of the fact I was playing a half stack and would plan a big river bluff or shove only to discover I didn't have enough left to do that. Or, I would lose track of my stack and get pot stuck where I was probably behind but a call was the right decision based on pot odds and the amount of money I had invested. I think blind steals are not as important in half stack play as they are in full stack play and I think I've been leaking money there. I could go on and on, but the point is that half stack play is not the same as full stack play and I'm having to learn and adjust and it feels like EVERY lesson is costing me in real money @ the tables.

    I also don't believe there is as much money to be made in the games @ Stars compared to the way things were before. Now, I'm not saying "No money @ Stars, everyone is solid", but I AM saying that for MOST players who play NLHE in the 100NL FR to 400NL FR range, that your ability to earn money has probably gone down. There are exceptions like players who played only 50bb min might not notice much change, but 50bb max games have all the fish just like they used to in 20bb to 100bb games. I'm convinced that by and large a skilled player who was making money @ 20bb to 100bb can't make the same or better in the 50bb max and it's simple math to prove why. The fish and YOU don't start with as much money so you're already capping your upper gains. Then, when you add in all the pre-flop and flop shoving, which seems much more prevalent than before, your edge gets taken away even more-so. Top it all off with trying to adjust for half stack optimal strategy and money just isn't flowing in nearly as fast as before.

    So, why not play 40bb min buy-in games or deep you might ask? Well, I have done some of that, but the games are just awful imo. It's reg, nitfest city, which was exactly how 50bb min games were before and why I avoided those. A 40bb min 100NL game NOW is at least as hard if not harder than a 20bb min game was @ 200NL. I've seen a LOT of players dropping stakes across the board when it comes to 100bb stakes. It only took me 2 weeks to realize I couldn't keep playing 100bb @ 200NL as it was as tough as I imagined 400NL+ games would be and more importantly, NO FISH.

    So, to try to make a long story short (too late, I know), I decided that I am moving most of my play to Full Tilt. It was a difficult decision that I didn't take lightly, but the writing is on the wall that under the current Stars cash game structure, there is little future for me there. Under the old structure, I had visions of moving up to at LEAST 400NL and hopefully 600NL or 1kNL too. Under the current structure of 100bb games, the games seem to have dried up in terms of fish and I don't have the same hope I did before. The goal is theoretically still possible for 50bb max, but those games are very frustrating with all the shoving, very volatile and high variance because of all the shoving, and then you have less possible earn compared to similarly skilled games @ 100bbb and just your edge is slashed overall. The game is different than 100bb and I've spent too much time learning 100bb to give up that skill which is applicable to every other online site and live play. By contrast, I'm not excited about trying to learn half stack strategy where it would only be applicable at Stars.

    So, I've moved to Tilt where the structure is good and the 100bb games are MUCH better than Stars 100bb games and there is hope for more advancement. It does come with a price, though. For starters, I don't have enough money @ Tilt nor a track record of success @ Tilt, so I can't pick up playing 200NL as I was @ Stars. I'm playing 100NL and need to earn the full 30 buy-ins and have a $6k roll before I'll set foot in a 200NL FR game there. Because I'm not used to the software and all of the different dynamics on Tilt compared to Stars, things aren't rolling as fast as they would be @ Stars in the "good ole days", but I am moving upwards slowly but surely SO FAR. I'm just really excited because the games ARE good and there are a lot of fish and the shove fest is over, so I'm very happy about that.

    The really big disappointment is that I was on pace to get Double Nova and will only play enough on Stars to get SuperNova. By not going for Double Nova, I will forfeit about $8.2k in VIP money ($3.4k milestone and $4.8k FPP's) from Stars. I will continue to get 27% rakeback from Tilt, but it wouldn't be nearly as much than if I could keep playing @ Stars. I still think it's a good move long-term as VIP and rakeback are just bonuses to me and my ability to earn at the table and have hope for advancement to move up stakes is where my main priority lies and where I think my best opportunity to earn also lies. On the plus side, rakeback is given back weekly @ Tilt, where I have had my FPP's and bonuses tied up for months to years on Stars. And, even though I won't be going for Double Nova, I still have about $5k of milestone and FPP money waiting for me @ Stars once I get Nova and am able to either get a $4k instant cash bonus or use concierge service or bite the bullet and get a never-ending pyramid scheme cycle of $4k clearing bonuses.

    As much gloom and doom as it seems like, it's not all bad news my mental game has REALLY come a long way. I thought I was mentally tough, but I've been through so much that I realize I wasn't as tough as I thought, but now definitely am tougher. I also realize that new hurdles even worse than this one will always be around the corner, so hopefully I won't be as surprised and ready for future challenges. I've learned a ton about how I can lose focus when things go bad AND when things go good. I'm also glad to rid myself of the Stars addiction. They can really put the pressure on you to keep playing to maximize rewards and it feels great to just play when I want and not have to meet a quota. I didn't realize until now how dependent I was on Stars and to be a well rounded player, I need to have the ability to earn on both sites without missing a beat or at least not missing such a huge beat. But, at the same time, if Stars fixed their games to my liking, it's nice to know I can still come back. I'm starting to get comfortable on Tilt for the first time pretty much ever. But, I do have a long way to go and won't consider myself a success there unless or until I can build my bankroll up to $6k and win at least 30 buy-ins @ 100NL FR.

    So, hopefully this month I can get off the snide and back to winning again, but I'm trying not to have too many expectations. I'm also going to Vegas to play cash games @ the WSOP, so that'll be a great chance to win or lose hundreds if not thousands

    Cliff Notes:
    - I had a bad month on Stars largely due to bad run and bad play which I think are largely related to the new Stars cash game structures but surely me tilting and not being God's gift to poker had something to do with it, too
    - I don't like Stars new structure for many reasons
    - Because of the recent Stars climate, I decided to move to Tilt and play 100NL FR until I have a $6k bankroll and win 30 buy-in @ 100NL at which point I may resume @ 200NL FR as I had been on Stars
    - I'm going to Vegas this month where I'm sure it'll be feast or famine
    - Jason

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