Friday, July 01, 2005

Focus Part I

Here comes one of those “I know a guy” stories.

I have a buddy we’ll call Easy E who is part of our Tuesday night home game. When the game started three years ago, he dominated the hold ‘em portion of the night. When I joined the group eighteen or so months ago, Easy was the player I felt I had to beat if I was going to be successful.

Well, he immediately went on a six month streak in which I do not think he placed in the money once. My opinion of his play was that he was solid but was making questionable decisions, especially early, that were costing him too much of his chip stack and putting him in an untenable comeback posture in the games. After two hours of dealer’s choice, Chicago, 7/27, Shave the Monkey, etc., we each put in $20 and play a NLHE tournament. The blinds start at .50/1 and double every hour, so overplaying an early hand can easily siphon half your stack.

When I joined the game, my experience was limited to online play augmented by the reading of a few books dealing primarily with LHE. Fortunately, I had been playing $10 NLHE sit-n-go's on Party so the structure of the game was familiar even if the players were not. It took a few months but I eventually started to do pretty well, almost always finishing in the top 3-4 and placing in the money over half the time.

As I played and learned, I realized Easy’s problem. He often spoke of his online game, and how well he was doing on True Poker playing 4-8 and 5-10 LHE. Typically, when someone tells me how great they are doing online, I cut their alleged winnings in half in my mind and then put a minus sign in front of it to assess their true situation. Hey, everybody wants to be thought of as a winner and not everyone is as honest as the blogging crew about their results. Easy didn’t seem to be bragging though. He talked about it in hushed terms as though he was scard of offending Poque and incurring his wrath.

My results with LHE have been mixed. At that point, I was definitely a losing player online and going through the typical swings. I had run $100 up to $1100 on True Poker in a month, then lost back down to $100 in two weeks. I ran it back up to $1000 again, cashed out $500 this time, ran it back up to $1000, moved up in limits too fast and lost it all. I decided to stalk Easy on the site, watching him operate at the tables without alerting him to my presence so I could get an accurate observation of his play. Let me tell you. That boy can kill a short-handed LHE game at the 4-8/5-10 level. Without seeing his hole cards, I have no idea what his starting hand requirements were; I just know that when he had to show, he showed winners. He exhibited aggression, playing a lot of hands, raising if he came into a pot, re-raising a good bit, but also folding in some situations after showing early aggression when I guessed he knew he was beat. His money in play went only one way. Up. Why then, was he having such a hard time in ht home game?

After observing him for a few weeks, I identified what I thought his problems were. Rather than making changes to account for the finality of busting out, Easy pushed as he did in LHE, making bets and staying in pots with hands that were reasonable if one was allowed to rebuy after the times they did not hold up. Another problem was not making sufficient bets to shut out the draws of others. Four dollars, four dollars, four dollars, four dollars was a typical betting pattern for Easy in a hand. Well, if I had a good hand and I called four dollars on the turn, I was definitely going to call for only another four on the river. I became comfortable playing hands against him as I felt I had a read that would enable me to lay down a hand if I was in real trouble.

He suffered through a stretch of losing before adjusting and over the last twelve-week cycle and accumulated the most points in our Summer series. This gave him more starting chips for our quarterly Pig Tussle, a contest in which we vie for the contents of a bank we have been filling over the previous twelve weeks. To compound the problem of overcoming his chip lead, Easy busted out the second place finisher in the first ten hands, adding his chips to an already dominant stack. I was able to wait patiently until I picked up QQ and got all-in versus JJ to almost double. From there, Easy knocked everyone else out until it got down to us with E having an 11-1 chip lead. I was able to draw to within 2-1 but two rivered flushes destroyed my two pair hands and Easy was the champ on his last night in our group. He informed us he was moving out of town and I think everyone felt sorry for him and showed their sympathy by dumping chips. Heartless (poker) bastard I am, I made him work.

I am taking the opportunity to reflect on lessons I have learned from Easy and my observations of him. I will have one or two post focusing on those lessons over the next week. The theme will be Focus, a trait I have in spades in the live game but which is non-existent in my online play. Easy has convinced me of the need for focus in the online game and I will try to articulate the reasoning in my follow-up(s). Hopefully, I will listen to my own advice.


TripJax said...

I look forward to reading the follow ups...

Ihavedoneit3 said...

Life's TRUE Winners. Author: jim Peters. The test of a true Winner is how they act when they're NOT Winning. Reaad more about it at Life's TRUE Winners