Friday, December 29, 2006

More On The PokerRoom.com Scandal

This thing is getting bigger with more negative buzz. The thread on PR's forum has surpassed 102 pages. Here's a great article about the current developments:

http://www.blondepoker.com/index.php?q=node/6378

IMHO, not only is this bad publicity for PokerRoom.com, but it is bad for online poker in general. I hope the $13,170 dollars they saved is worth it to them.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Alleged Shifty Dealings By PokerRoom.com

Players on PokerRoom.com allege that they had winnings from a "Guaranteed $19k" MTT taken from their accounts when they were told by support that it had been advertised incorrectly. Some speculate that the real reason for the claim of a "mistake" is that there was too much overlay in the $20+2 tourney for PokerRoom.com to accept. Here is a thread on the site's forum:

http://www.pokerroom.com/pokah/forum/messageBody.php?threadNumber=187790

Boy, this sure helps the claim here in the US that online poker is safe, secure, & regulated. You'd never see Full Tilt or Poker Stars do something like this (allegedly).

Friday, December 22, 2006

Doyle's Room Review & Back At UB

I’ve been playing at Doyle’s Room for a few weeks now, so I figured I’d share a short review of the place. Overall, I really like it so far. The software is pleasant to maneuver through and the game play is smooth. Here is a list of hits and misses, in my opinion.

Hits:
· The average player population seems to range from 8000-12000 at one time. Never a “dead” period.
· Plenty of fish. Not a many as their ads would have you believe, but enough to be easily found.
· A wide range of stakes and games. From micro-buy-in SnG’s & MTT’s (60 cents) to high-stakes cash tables. They even have Badugi.
· A full featured lobby screen with buddy list, avatar chooser, public profile, and a versatile waiting list feature. There’s even a live chat room.
· A “Manager” button pages live staff. You can ask a question, share a complaint, tattle on a potty-mouth player, or they will even put out a system message if you need more players at a cash table or SnG.

Misses:
· No “players per flop” percentage listed on table screen.
· PokerTracker supports ring HH’s only.
· The software is very resource-dependant. Older computers might run slowly, especially while multi-tabling.

Even with its minor shortcomings, I would put Doyle’s Room in my top 5 favorite online poker sites. To me, the place just has a good feel to it.

Back At UB:
Well, Ultimate Bet put on another reload bonus. Since they fixed their hand history restriction issue, I decided to give them another go. I still think they have the smoothest running software of any of the online poker sites I’ve tried. The table animation is just so tight. They actually sped up the animation earlier this year. Not only do they make more rake with faster games, it also can benefit a player. More hand dealt per hour can potentially mean more profit per hour. In addition, their “mini-view” for tables is a real plus for multi-tablers. I like how they pay bits of their bonus as it is earned, too. Very convenient and it never expires. Anyway, I’ll probably be there and Doyle’s for a while until another reload bonus pulls me away to somewhere else.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Correct Stakes Helps Aggression & UB's Latest Update

Correct Stakes Helps Aggression:
I have recently noticed another thing regarding the subject of “Bankroll Psychology”. Lately I have been playing No-Limit Hold’em online at the lowest stakes I have ever played. Since then, I have noticed my aggressiveness has increased tremendously. My pre-flop raise percentage has doubled and my post-flop aggression factor has risen. Previously, I had been fine in STT’s & MTT’s, but I had struggled with being too “tight” at cash tables. I was afraid to bluff as much as I should and was frustrated at my lack of aggression. I believe this was because of the psychological effect of playing stakes that were too high for my own personal comfort. Experts can say you should play stakes that are a certain amount of your bankroll. However, if a player is not comfortable playing at that level, these “rules of thumb” do no good. At my new stakes level, I have even lost my stack and stayed at the table long enough to make it back up and then some. My confidence is brimming and my winrate is greatly improved. It is amazing what some experimenting and a simple adjustment can do.

UB’s Latest Update:
Ultimate Bet has finally come to their senses. With their latest software update, they allow a seated player to call up 100 hands instead of only 4 (as previously posted). This ought to make PokerTracker users very happy. Even though I’ve been in some SnG’s that have lasted 125 hands or more, the slight inconvenience should be tolerable. This just might entice me to go back to them. We’ll see.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Your Stakes Level DOES Matter: Bankroll Psychology II

After I posted my original idea about "Poker Bankroll Psychology", I got to thinking that there was more. More to how the human brain reacts to visually seeing a number (the total amount of one's poker bankroll) fluctuate up and down. Gains and losses. Bigger and smaller. I wrote about how keeping a smallish bankroll of around $210 pooled on only one site until it gets bigger could help the brain deal with seeing the amount fluctuate, thus helping to avoid tilt. But what about the amount a player sits down with at a table at one time or even while multi-tabling online? This is also a "chunk" of our total, right? There's no way to avoid "chunkage" (lol). So how big of a chunk should we break off when we sit down at a table?

First off, I've read a few poker experts say that a player should never sit down with more than 10% of his total bankroll. I say it is a matter of comfort and confidence. Some players may feel fine risking 20%. Others (like me) might only like 5%. Other than learning the hard way, the best way to find out this comfort level is to look at the amount one has and then think "How would I feel if I lost $xx?" Would tilt rear its ugly head? Would the player have the confidence that he could make up the loss in a calm and timely manner? The answer depends on the person and their skill level. The key is to find a number that the player would say "It's OK. No problem. Now let's make it back." Now, my opinion is that this is NOT a negative train of thought. I believe in preparation. "What would I do if my house caught fire?", "What would I do if a robber broke down my door?", and "What would I do if I lost my stack at a poker table?" All preparation (yes, we hope the first 2 are much, much more rare).

After finding this personal comfort amount, a player then has to set out and find what stakes level is appropriate to fit that amount. Many experts have a pat answer, which is anywhere from 100 times to 500 times the big blind. My opinion is that it depends on the site, both live and online. For example: I played $2/$4 Limit Hold'em at the Reno Cal Neva a few weeks ago and my stack of only $40 was just fine. But there's no way I'd play a table at Full Tilt at that level with less than $140. But I'd play a 2/4 table at Titan with about $80, no problem. Skill of competition and hands dealt per hour are the major factors. Unfortunately, the only way to find out the right stakes level to play at a certain site is to try different ones. So one should be careful! Some levels might be harder to figure out or take longer to sample than others. A significant dent in the bankroll might occur before the realization comes about that a stakes level is the wrong one. It should go without saying that a player who plays STT's and MTT's doesn't need to go on this fact finding mission since the buy-in amounts are cut and dried. What needs to be considered in this case is a player's skill level, winrate, and how many losses in a row at $xx buy-in he could handle comfortably.

What this breaks down to is a tip I've learned by experimenting (yes, I learned the hard way). Again, this is much more psychological and has very little to do with poker strategy. I'm an average poker player, so the strategy posts may be years down the road. But I'm also a problem solver and I seem to have cured many aspects of my tilt through self-analyzation and trial & error. I hope these "brain tips" relating to one's poker bankroll can also be of some help to readers. Cheers.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Poker Bankroll Psychology

What I'll be writing here won't be your basic "Poker Bankroll Management" article. There's plenty of folks who've already done that. I've decided to write about something I've learned on my own. I'm not sure if it's already been written about or not. But here's my take on what I call "Bankroll Psychology".

I believe the size of one's bankroll has an effect on how he plays. This is especially true in online poker because the numbers are usually right there on the screen. There's also more fluctuation in an online bankroll since more hands are dealt per hour. Seeing these numbers going up and down erratically can directly influence a player's style of play (Though it can happen live, also. Especially if you are like me and are constantly counting your chips to keep up to date).

The number I'm referring to is the amount of chips with which a player sits at a table in relation to their bankroll ON A SINGLE SITE. I used to believe in spreading my smallish bankroll out amongst 2 or 3 poker sites. It does fight boredom. This made for separate bankroll numbers on each of the different sites. If I were to sit down and lose a stack on a bad beat, it would appear worse in relation to the amount I had on just that site.

For example: Let's say I have $70 on each of 3 different sites. I then sit at a 5c/10c NLHE cash table with $20. A few hands in, I push with a King-high flush and get beat by the Ace-high flush. The effect on my bankroll appears to be worse than it really is. That $70 went down to $50, which is almost a one-third loss. It doesn't always register in the brain that it was a loss of $20 from the whole $210 bankroll. A player like me could see that near-1/3 loss of that one site's total and go into desperate mode. Looking for the homerun ball. Playing any 2 suiteds, trying to hit the flush. Slowplaying aces to bring in more money, dangerously allowing cheap draws. Etc., etc.,etc.

I've found that most people would be better off putting the whole $210 on one site and getting a better mental picture of how they are doing. To see that $210 go down to $190 should be less of a shock and more of a motivation to excel. I say "most people" because there are a few out there who, for whatever reason (poker panic, drunkenness, etc.), would be less apt to plow through their whole bankroll if it were separated into more parts. But I believe they are quite the minority.

Now this psychology can work in winning, also. Take the $70 X 3 example: If I sit at table with $20 of my $70 chunk and leave the table with $50, I may get a false feeling of security. I may think "Hey! I'm at $100 now." Then I might loosen up to "keep the rush going" or I might move up a stakes level. This dangerous behavior could happen because I saw this large jump in the small chunk of my bankroll. I may not realize that $30 is less than 15% of the total bankroll and can be as easily lost as it was won.

Now many experts advocate keeping track of total bankroll progress with a spreadsheet (as do I). This works great for goal setting, problem solving, basic accounting, etc. But unless a player has it in view while playing (not practical), the spreadsheet probably won't help in keeping the mental bankroll perspective in the heat of the battle. It's just too easy to forget that magic overall bankroll number while check-raising the supposed nuts. The other little numbers seem to take over. Remember, I'm referring to BR "psychology" not BR management. That's a different subject and well written about by people more qualified than I.

Anyway, this "philosophy" on "psychology" seems to help me keep things in perspective and helps limit my tilt factor. If you are having management problems with your smallish bankroll, maybe try this to see if it works for you. Then, when your BR gets large enough, multi-site play is the way to go. Keeps the boredom away.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Verbal Abuse In Online Poker

I've finally decided to write about the subject of verbal abuse in online poker site chat. I've been thinking about it for a while, but it just crept up and kicked me in the head while playing. In the past 24 hours while playing online heads-up $5 NLHE SNG's, I've been subject to the following gems:

  • After I beat an easily-read player's busted flush draw with Queen-high: "Q2? You ****ing donkey! I hope you die. A donkey like you doesn't deserve to live."
  • After I won the match by mimicking this player's type of aggressiveness: "You suck. You ****ing donkey. ***k your mother."
  • Before the match started, a player from Europe typed: "The US sucks. I hate all you Bush-loving pig ****ers."

I swear I'm not making this up! You have to wonder what each person's story is here. Are they mentally challenged? Are they 12? Does losing $5 really irk them so badly? Are they behind on their rent? I guess we'll never know the answer to these questions, but I wish I knew because it needs to be addressed.

I have to admit that I am fighting (and starting to win, so far) a battle with "sore loser chat", but the worst I'll come off with is "donkey", "ATM", or "idiot". I realize that even those words are low class and I'm about 80% cured. I know that any kind of commenting may make a bad player play better, thus ruining my future profit from them. But I would never get as personally vicious as the 3 lines above. I've also seen vicious observer chat happen to Mike Matusow, Phil Hellmuth, and even Annie Duke. A couple weeks ago, some guy went at my friend "Freak" for over an hour during and after he was out of our game. Just because he disagreed with some plays, he went on about what my friend does with his dog. Sometimes I'm ashamed to be of the same species as other human beings. They just seem to disgrace us as a whole.

If someone can't handle losing, poker is the wrong game for them. I've come to realize that and so should these sore losers (I almost typed "idiots", but I'm still in rehab). This kind of "chat" is also a disgrace to the game. How must this look to a completely new, greenhorn player if they happen to come upon it? I want to be proud of online poker and believe in it, despite any new laws. But these venomous people are embarrassing.

SIDE NOTE: Is it me or is the word "Donkey" becoming more and more offensive in poker circles? People seem to use it to try to really hurt each other.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Jimmie Johnson & UB HH Workaround

NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson:
Well, as I said in the first post of this blog a few days ago, I have an opinion on this year's NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion, Jimmie Johnson. I figured I'd share it here.

In his rookie year 2002, I was a semi-fan because he was from California (like me) and looked like he & his team had it in them to challenge Gordon & Earnhardt at the top. I was even disappointed when Ryan Newman beat him for the Rookie Of The Year title that year. Then my attitude changed right about the time he wrecked Tony Stewart at the spring Phoenix race in 2005. Just pinched him right into the wall going down the straightaway (Sure I've been a Stewart fan since 2001, but that's beside the point). Then I noticed how aloof he is in interviews and actually how hard he tries to be bland. Like he has the old "I hate fame" syndrome. When confronted with any sort of controversy, he seems to curl up like a child. The last straw was when he started causing wrecks at Talledega. He's fine when he's out front, but he can't handle it within a pack. Then there have been those cheating incidents & rumors...

There have been a few articles written about Johnson lately that have hit the nail on the head. The writers have relayed the fact that he has much less appeal than previous champions and his winning could even be hurting NASCAR. Maybe he'll improve his off-kilter image with age. But right now, there's plenty to dislike about the new champion.

A Workaround For UB's HH Restriction:
I've found a solution to the ridiculous restriction Ultimate Bet has put on their hand history windows (I reported about this restriction in a previous post). It's actually quite simple and logical. Get a hold of the old version of the ultimatebet.exe file previous to the last update. Then just copy and paste it to your UB folder and overwrite the old one. No re-install needed. The update flag in the program (the prompt to download a new version when logging on to UB) shouldn't be a problem. Mine didn't need it, so I haven't researched if this would be a problem.

Though my problem is fixed, I'm still not sure about going back to UB. It's just the principle. I've read about players who have emailed their complaints to UB, but I haven't heard that they've come to their senses. I think I'll wait to see if they put their customers preferences first or if they say "Like it or lump it" (or if a killer reload bonus comes along, LOL).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

UB's New Hand Histories Restriction

Just to spout off about UB's new ridiculousness:
In case you don't know, UltimateBet.com released a software update last week which implemented a restriction on the number of hand histories a player can call up consecutively. I believe the number is only 4 or 5 before an error message pops up telling the player to close and reopen the hand history window if he wants more. I understand that this is to combat "data mining" with Poker Tracker and a "hand grabber", where in previously a UB user could open numerous tables with each table's hand history window while not seated and run Poker tracker which then records hundreds of hands of potential opponents and allows that user to get better reads on his foes in future games. But UB's restriction also prevents a player using PT to record their own legitimately played hands for the purpose of tracking their progress and help in their own improvement. This is the main reason I use PT. I can usually go back over my played hands and find leaks in my game. This is no longer sensibly possible.

I really liked Ultimate Bet's game & stakes selection and smooth software interface, but this new development has turned me off of UB. As I've read in a few poker forums, I'm not the only one. You would think that after the last major update they did earlier this year, which caused major glitches and the loss of many upset players, that they would think over their future updates more thoroughly. Now is not the time to be chasing off customers since many US players have been looking for new homes since the new law passed and some sites subsequently banned them. They should be thinking of ways to entice this new found flux of potential dollars out there.

The answer to the "data mining" problem is quite simple. First, either deactivate or erase the Hand History button until the player is actually seated at the table. Second, only allow the player to call up hands in which he was dealt. Party Poker implemented this second part and works quite well. Both should be simple to program and would calm the chaos they have now created amongst their customers. Sure, those of us who like the game play at UB could wait around until someone designs a PT patch or helper to open & close the HH window every 4 hands. Yes, there are sites out there that PT doesn't even support and UB might now be thought of in that same category . But those aren't the point. The point is that UB has shown a tendency to not think things through before trying to "improve" their site.

Maybe I'm done with them, I dunno. There's too much competition out there to choose from to be waiting on this place to get it's act together. I guess we'll see if they ever get smart enough to fix this.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Micro-Stakes Limit Hold 'Em & Cardschat

Micro-Stakes LHE:
Today I've figured out the problem with playing online Limit Hold 'em at micro-stakes while trying to build a bankroll. While I know being proficient at LHE is an important part of being a good all-around poker player, playing it at micro stakes is like playing Lotto. Everyone puts their money in and tries to hit the big one. The more players, the better chance everyone has to win.

For example: If I catch KK on the button at 25c/50c and raise a few limpers preflop, they'll just think "It's only a quarter more" and they throw another in. Then against 3 or 4 limp-callers holding suited connectors, the strength of that KK goes way down to something like 45-52% to win. Yes, each of them only have about a 10-15% chance to win. But I think of it as "the field", as a whole, has a 48-55% chance against me. I don't know if that thinking is correct, but it sure seems true. For "only a quarter more", any gambler can try his luck at a bigger pot.

This seems to force me to play incorrect poker by limping in position with semi-strong hands. Though I've read about Sklansky advocating limping preflop to keep the pot size down so that poor odds can be created later, it seems these chasers will call with bad odds no matter what. I often end up check-dumping my AJ on the turn for fear that some clown has hit a 7 to pair his 87 suited or something. I really like playing LHE, with its more prominent odds calculations, etc. But I think I'll wait until I can afford to play $2/$4 or more, where a raise has more strength. I'll stick to NLHE at micro-stakes for now.

Cardschat Poker Forum:
You may be wondering what that "new threads" section is on the right side of the page. I forgot to mention that I was a member of a poker-related online forum called "Cardschat" (www.Cardschat.com). My handle there is "MrSticker". I really enjoy being a member there. I go on there to chat about poker, engage in hand analysis, ask opinions & participate in discussions, etc. But they also have some great online freerolls and money-added tournaments. There's even a "game arcade" section where members can unwind by playing a cool shoot-'em-up or puzzle game. If you decide to sign up there, please put my handle in the referral field. I don't get anything for it except bragging rights and maybe some kudos from Nick, the cool admin there. Even if you don't want to join, you can still click on the links in that feed to just read the cool articles & posts.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Let's Have Some Fun!

First blog post here. My idea for starting this blog came from the fact that I have been looking for blogs by really average poker players like me and I haven't found any. Well, "If you want things done, you gotta do them yourself." I like to read about other common folks' poker experiences, so I figured I'd put my own here. I play mostly online poker right now, but I plan on trying out my local cardrooms soon and I plan on making semi-regular trips to Reno (all as the bankroll allows). I'll try to mix in random poker news and happenings and even some non-poker stuff, just to jazz things up. Don't want to just say "I played and I won" or "Got drunk and I lost." You may see me come up with things like "Why I dislike Jimmie Johnson (2006 Nascar Nextel Cup Champion)." Hmmm. I feel a 2nd post coming on!

Anyway, I promise to update this blog regularly. At least twice a week or more. I hate finding good blogs that die after a few months.