In what may seem to be a part II of my latest poker strategy article called “Making Improvements,” I wanted to briefly touch on a few random topics that have been brought to my attention within the past few weeks. As both the live and online games continue to get tougher, we’re in need of finding more and more ways to maintain our profitability. The players are getting better, the venues seemingly becoming less populated with fish and the places which we can play are decreasing in number. Depending on your geographic location, you may not be able to play live or online poker at all.
Sure, we all have our exceptions. But as I mentioned just one post ago, we need to be doing things to ensure that our community progresses as a whole.
Unfortunately, through frequent participation on the popular poker forum Twoplustwo.com, I find that even the brightest poker minds aren’t collaborating enough to make sure that our game evolves. Me, being a live low-limit No-Limit Hold’em grinder, I tend to spend most of my time reading elaborate and thorough posts from veterans such as “venice10”, “dgiharris” and “mpethybridge” to name a few. There are plenty of other reputable and valuable pieces to the LLSNL forum, however, I think that if we all consistently posted the way they do, our game would both improve on and off the felt at a faster clip.
Excluding specific names and post titles, a recent thread that I participated in revolved around the decision on how to play a premium pair after being the pre-flop aggressor and being donked into. For me, given the information the original poster provided, this seemed like an easy raise. In order to inspire further debate, I tossed around the idea of min-raising. While you may need to understand some of the minute details in the thread (none of which I prefer to list because of their length), to some this suggestion may seem really odd. However, while I didn’t necessarily state this right away in my post, I did have merit and reasoning behind my proposal.
In a surprising response, I was told that this was terrible advice, and that the thread was losing its credibility as a whole because of several other posts that followed. But what irked me is that despite the direct criticism, little was done to rectify the situation by providing a detailed explanation as to why this was considered such obscene guidance. The lack of a thought process on Twoplustwo.com is something that I believe many players need to work on, and is becoming a bit of an epidemic for many regular posters.
It may seem stubborn or even a bit juvenile to vent over my frustration with such an issue. But players and beginners need to understand that forums such as Twoplustwo.com were created in order to help players develop. This isn’t possible with paltry posts, condescending responses and even worse, unjustified criticism. It’s hard for our fellow posters to want to come back to an environment in which they receive unfair treatment and little information to help them succeed in their poker quest. Regardless of whether they’ll be playing poker for years, or are just really curious about the hand they lost and want reassurance, we just provide unbiased and well-thought out assistance because it’s our responsibility as ambassadors of the sport.
It’s not that every poker situation has a right and wrong answer. That’s what makes our sport so unique and interesting. Ultimately, as you move up, you’ll need to modify your lines so often that there isn’t a default line you can take to maximize expected value.
In high stakes poker, they’re so adept at understanding how players think and react that the player who tends to make the quickest and most efficient adjustments in-game will end up ahead for that session. The margin in terms of overall edge is so minuscule, that players of this caliber use creativity and balancing in order to force their adversaries into mistakes. Playing a fixed ABC, TAG or LAG style won’t work anymore, you’ll need to really think about EVERY move you make.
This is what I was trying to stress to visitors of that thread. I don’t mind what conclusion you come to, as long as you can explain how you got there. But there’s been a gaping hole in this area. Players think that because they’ve posted over 1,000 times that they’ve somehow acquired immunity in undermining or devaluing the comments of others who have given their two cents – usually with more thought than they have. I’ll be the first to admit, not every single post deserves a long explanation, and yes, even some threads are comical, but let’s avoid harsh criticism and instead lead players in the right direction by giving them appropriate information.
Unfortunately, for veterans who have been playing for awhile and have logged many hands, we can come to a point in our poker development where things start to become stale. We’ve experienced so many different situations, played against similar opponents, and implemented strategies that are particularly lucrative. But what happens when we play in a game which isn’t so standard? What if we encounter players who make us think about the game in ways we never thought about before? What if we consider that the line we’ve taken is +EV, but it’s not the maximum EV?
Years ago, players would’ve never considered players of the likes of Vanessa Selbst or Tom Dwan successful, because their play was too unorthodox. But these players have instead taken a solid fundamental core, and rearranged it to allow players who have remained stagnant to make mistakes against them or view them as weak. It’s important to note, and a proven fact that these players have become two of the most decorated and feared opponents on the planet. Sometimes you need to think outside the box (or at least around the edges), to become the most efficient poker player you can be.
For me, what helps keeps me focused is modesty. I think that with forums such as Twoplustwo.com and also when you discuss strategy with friends very close to you, there can be a bit of groupthink. We feel redeemed in knowing that everyone agrees to play a hand the same way we do, so we must be right. WRONG. You may be playing effectively, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best play.
In order to challenge ourselves, which we want to do regularly, we need to be looking at our play very closely. And in order to be objective, we need to be humble. Think for a moment that you suck at poker. You have a lot you need to work on, even if you are good. (Despite my attempt to boost the egos of the few out there that will continue to think they’re invincible, about 99% of you still have things to improve upon, or you do suck.) Most of the time, it’s the fact that we’re proven winners of the game – either through documented online tracking charts or our own notes and calculations – that gives us a sense of superiority. But I’ll give you a secret tidbit: The best poker players in the world always work hard to improve their game, almost everyday, by studying their opponents and both their winning hands and losing hands even if they are huge winners.
For some that may be a revelation, for others it may be commonplace, and to those who fit in the latter category I applaud you. For those who aren’t quite as determined, I’m writing this post to motivate you to get there, through hard work, evaluation and the assistance of others in a positive and candid manner.
There are a slew of tools on the Internet as well as downloadable resources for mobile devices and your database programs. Tools such as Leak Buster or Poker Stove will begin to lead you in the right direction, however you must be able to apply the information you gain from these resources to specific situations to make the information applicable and worthwhile. You can freely find all of the items you want – they’re no good unless you know how to use them. After finding a program that seems to be sensible, make sure you consult with other players to get their opinions on it, tips on utilizing it, along with other reviews from various sources to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your new finding.
Let’s continue to think about what we’re doing – in our posts, in our hands, and in our habits on and off the felt. Having a well thought-out plan can relieve most of the stress and burden that poker places on us. Hands will become easier to play over time against certain people, but there is no substitute for thinking and we’ll need to call upon this trait eventually once we encounter the right resistance.
Good luck, and maybe I’ll see you at the tables.