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2015 Poker Goals – January 2015 Review

February 2, 2015

Every month I’m going to reflect on the previous month of poker and see how well I’m doing at accomplishing my 2015 goals – well, the ones that are applicable for now anyway.

log 750 live hours

I played nearly 137 hours of live cash game poker last month – a stark increase over any output in recent memory and on pace to destroy my 750 hour goal for the year (current pace: 1644 hours).

focus on how well I played, how well I controlled tilt, and how well I paid attention to game flow instead of how well I ran.
continuing taking notes throughout all my sessions and combing through them later.

I did a really good job of this in January. I kept consistently accurate notes whenever I was planning to play an $8/$16 session. While I never tracked my play during $4/$8 sessions, I did track it if I was waiting to get in a bigger game later. Note-taking really helped me keep things in perspective – if I took a brutal beat, I’d just jot the hand down, and move on. Overall, I felt like I ran a bit poorly for the month of January — at the $8/$16 level anyway. There were a few moments when I started to get frustrated, but they were pretty brief and I felt like I did a good job of controlling my emotions overall. Also, being able to look through my notes later really helped me see how much variance affected my results and allowed me to spot potential mistakes and find holes in my game that needed plugging. Over ten years into my LHE career and I feel like I’m a much better LHE player in February 2015 than I was in December 2014 and I’m quite grateful to be able to find that much room to improve.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at some of the more obvious spots where variance affected my results in January:

-I won 57 of the 150 times I played a pocket pair (38%).
-I won 43 of the 90 times I had 99 or better (47.8%).
-I won 19 of the 42 times I had QQ or better (45.2%).
-I won 26 of the 72 times I played a suited broadway hand (36.1%)
-I won 35 of the 68 times I played AK or AQ (51.5%).
-I made a flush 13 of the 51 times I was drawing to one (25.5%).
-I made a straight 12 of the 32 times I was drawing to one (37.5%).

Notes: There were times I made a flush or straight and lost the pot anyway. I also folded plenty of pocket pairs preflop, AQ once or twice, and probably a few suited broadways. I also started tracking my flush and straight draws differently during the middle of the month, including backdoor flush draws and gut shots in the mix since it seemed unfair to count those hands when I hit them but not when I missed them.

I’m not exactly sure what a good percentage for some of these hands are, but I’m certain that losing half the time you have QQ or better is below average. I’m also quite certain that running at 25% on your flush draws is below average, particularly when you lose some of the ones you hit.

spend less than 20% of my total hours in 4/8 games

I spent 50 of my 137 total live hours playing $4/$8 which accounts for 36.5% of my total hours. That seems like I missed on this goal, but 28 of those hours I was propping my game while I was flooring and another 6 hours were while I was waiting for a seat in the bigger game. Excluding those hours, I only played 13 of 103 hours in $4/$8 games (12.6%). Goal achieved.

log 100 hours of spread limit

I played zero hours here, but I have plenty of time to achieve my goal. I want to have at least five figure bankroll before I start playing the Muckleshoot spread game regularly – even then, I think $10k probably too small to play that game on a regular basis, but taking some shots is probably fine.

play a tournament series in a city I’ve never been to before

Didn’t happen this month, but I am developing plans to visit Canterbury Park Card Casino in Shakopee, Minnesota, possible as soon as late February. While this isn’t a tournament series and I actually have been to Minnesota previously, I suppose this would half cover this goal.

continuing reading about mental game, develop mental game profiles, and improve my c-game
focus my learning — don’t study multiple variants at the same time or games I’m not playing frequently

I was pretty consistent with these goals this past month. The only poker reading I did was on mental game and I did well at incorporating what I learned into my play, sticking to my plan, and using my notes to improve my play. Also, I only played LHE, so my focus was extremely narrow for the most part.

treat poker like a job with set hours and not like a hobby

I did pretty great here. Whenever I planned to play, I went and played a full session and crushed my overall hours goal. Also, I was very focused and in the zone when I was playing a real session – something that is much harder to do when I’m merely propping a game.

watch opponents closely in tournaments and develop exploitative styles for each of them instead of playing laggy for laggy’s sake
take my time in critical pots and really think things through before acting
set a new career high tournament score

Meh. I played three tournaments this past month: $180 monthly @ Little Creek, $220 monthly @ Muckleshoot, and $115 weekly @ Muckleshoot. I went 0 for 3.

I made a swift exit in the $220 event after (arguably) getting quite unlucky. During the first level, with blinds at 25/50, a middle player raised to 200 and three players called. I looked down at AA from the small blind and realized that I was in a great situation. This is such an obvious spot for a squeeze that I figured I could make a substantial raise and get some unwarranted action. I made it 1500 (30 bigs) to go and managed to get it heads up – a great result. Then, figuring that my opponent’s most likely hand was a pocket pair and that I looked like I was trying to steal preflop, I checked the 632 rainbow flop, hoping to jam all-in vs a bet. Instead, my opponent checked back. I bet about half pot on a board-pairing turn and he called. The river brought in a back door flush, but I felt pretty confident putting out a 40% pot bet. He called and showed me the KJ of hearts for the running flush. I dunno. I think my thought process is okay here. Obviously it’s a pretty bad result that starts with my flop check, but a free card hurts me so rarely that it can’t be that bad.  On the other hand, since I think he has a pair and I think it looks like I could be bluffing, checking the flop seems like the wrong conclusion for my best possible line – clearly betting is better if I’m not expecting him to fold.

After losing about 70% of my starting stack on that hand, I opened QQ during level 2 with a 33 big blind stack, jammed over a 3-bet, and busted after I lost a race to AK.

I finished 8th of 65+ players in the $180 event… and 6 cashed. I was very happy with my overall play, but my bust out hand leaves me unsatisfied. I’m not convinced it was a standard spot and I feel like it’s a clear violation of the second goal I have posted above. This was the situation:

I’m sitting on a stack of roughly 20 bigs holding 75o in the big blind. We are at the 1500/3000/500 level and two late players limp in, the small blind completes, and I check. We go four-handed to 743 two flush flop. I decide to lead out a mere 5000 into a pot of 16,000 – which seems extremely small in retrospect. I get called in one spot. The turn card is an offsuit 2 and at this point, I decide to take a pot-control line and check. My opponent bets 20K into 26K and I go into the tank – but not for long enough! Ultimately, I decide that a) I think I had the best hand on the flop, b) I can’t call this bet and fold on the river when I miss my straight draw, c) this is a great spot to apply pressure on me after I show weakness, and d) if I’m not folding, I have to shove – which I do and he snap-calls with A5 and I’m out after the river bricks off. During my brief tank, what I didn’t consider was: a) is this extremely marginal spot worth betting my tournament life on? or b) if I fold here, I’ll have 18 big blinds, plenty of play, and an opportunity to find a much better spot. Obviously, this is one of those spots where it’s okay to take extra time to really think things through and evaluate everything at hand.

In addition, during the $115 event, when we were down to two tables, I picked a really bad spot to bluff the river after checking back on the turn that cost me a large portion of my stack… another spot where it was pretty obvious my opponent is never folding to a standard bet and I didn’t really stop to think it through enough. So while I felt like I played pretty well overall in these events, the spots where I felt like I choked are the exact situations that I’m wanting to improve in.

double my current bankroll size
maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate at 8/16
start playing 20/40 regularly by end of year

Despite my whiff on tournaments and average/bad luck in $8/$16 games, I still managed a winning month. However, it didn’t do much in helping pad my bankroll – especially after using it to buy a really nice Valentine’s Day gift!

I ran at 0.99 BB/HR overall, 2.34 BB/HR @ $4/$8, and 0.22 BB/HR @ $8/$16.

Also, I’m not sure if $20/$40 should be my end game. Perhaps the $5-$500 spread game at Muckleshoot should be my goal.

Overall, I guess I’m happy with January, but I know things could be much better (or worse – to be fair…). Looking forward to February!

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