The Tsunami

Strategize. Optimize. Pulverize.


Reflecting on my 2009 Poker Results: Into the Mirror Black

The strengths of my poker game are my theoretical understanding and my ability to dissect nuanced scenarios. I was chatting on AIM with a friend of mine today. As he put it, “you definitely have the most rigorous understanding of the game out of anyone i know/or even read about…except maybe sklansky. haha”

These strengths have made me a great poker coach; I really know how to teach people to become self-sufficient when it comes to thinking about their poker. Unfortunately, my results in 2009 hint at a well-known saying that goes something along the lines of “those who can’t do teach.” I’ve profited in 2009, but it looks like that by the time the smoke clears, 2009 will be a year featuring profits not even breaking into 5-figure territory. Though I haven’t put in a ton of time playing this year, I’ve still managed a fairly high volume of hands and tournaments in 2009, so such a year is simply not acceptable. As a result, I’ve reflected a bit about my poker in 2009, and I’ve reached the following conclusions:

1.) Over the past 1-1.5 years, I’ve been increasingly interested with lines of play that are tough to exploit as opposed to focusing on strategies that aim to maximally exploit specific opponents. In doing this, I’ve been thinking about (and implementing) some unconventional no-limit hold’em (NLHE) lines of play. I’ve also been breaking into other games with the same philosophy. Because of some difficulties associated with the analysis, I haven’t dissected my lines of play as thoroughly as I’d like using the type of analysis I emphasize in Killer Poker by the Numbers. I’ve been operating on assumptions that haven’t stood up to my usual rigorous standards, and I think it’s been getting me into trouble. I need to start dedicating more time to rigorous, away-from-the-table (AFT) analysis.

2.) My poker intellect is my strength, but I handicap myself by playing as many tables as I can physically play (i.e. such that I can just barely manage to click and perform actions). Something in the realm of 700 hands per hour (HPH) is what I should playing instead of the 1,000+ HPH that I maintained during a bulk of my sessions in 2009 (I’ve had 6-max cash game sessions this year where I’ve cranked out 1,500 HPH).

3.) This one is largely based on playing too many tables at once, but I haven’t been doing a good job at exploiting specific opposition. At a fundamental level, exploiting specific opposition is something of a guessing game. Just because a player has shoved all-in preflop every prior hand, it’s not guaranteed that he’ll stick with that same strategy going into the future. This is why I’ve been focusing so much on trying to find lines of play that are non-exploitable instead of maximally exploitative. However, except in the case of heads-up short-stacked jam/fold play or any other poker situation for which a Nash Equilibrium strategy is known, I think I need to go towards playing a semi-exploitative style. By semi-exploitative, I mean using well-founded lines of play that are extremely tough for any style to exploit and then making adjustments that allow me to take advantage of the opposition without leaving the door too wide open for them to counter and exploit me.

I’ve mostly been playing one of the following 9-table mixes over the past few days:

  • 6 6-man NLHE Sit ‘N Goes (SNGs) + 3 NLHE Multitable Tournaments (MTTs)
  • 6 6-max NLHE cash games + 3 NLHE MTTs

Obviously, a few days isn’t a huge sample set. However, I’m feeling better about my play. With the recent setting and breaking of the world record for most hands played in a day, it’s tempting to increase my volume (I think my personal record is somewhere around 15,000 hands – combined cash game and tournament play – so the newly set 50,000ish hand mark is simply amazing to me). But I think that reducing my tables will be good for my hourly winrate, enabling a faster climb to where I want to be.

The reduction in tables has resulted in some interesting hands that I’ll be covering in future blog posts. I was in the middle of trying to include one here, but the analysis was taking too long. I have clients that need work from me, so for now, I’m I’m Audi 5000!

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

Tony Guerrera (The Tsunami)

P.S. Into the Mirror Black is a reference to one of my favorite metal albums. Sanctuary was incredible. Too bad they only released two albums. Fortunately, some Sanctuary members went on to form Nevermore, another band in heavy rotation at the home office


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