Monday, February 28, 2005

Grinding and nerves

No, not a post about my bruxism problem, but about poker.

"Playing Limit Hold `em is like a job - the more hours you work the more money you'll make. Money management and the self-discipline from which it comes are almost the most important factors in Limit, second only to learning how to become a good player...." - Doyle Brunson, Super System
I switched over to playing mostly Limit Hold `Em games in mid-February for a number of reasons. First I'm grinding away at the 100% bonus on my $50 deposit at UltimateBet. To the uninitiated: most, if not all, poker sites offer some type of deposit bonus, ranging from 20 percent of your money upwards. In my case, since UB was trying to get me back, they sent me an offer around Christmastime offering a full 100 percent on my money.

Since the inducement is to get you to play, not run off with their bonus money, all sites also have some sort of mechanism to ensure that you do play if you want your bonus. In UB's case, they put the bonus in "bonus dollars", which ever-so-slowly get transformed into real dollars dependent on the time you put into the tables.

So, I started playing the $.10/$.25 Limit tables at UB, with the occasional foray into the $5 +.50 No Limit SnGs, and quickly found that I was consistently losing at the SnGs, and consistently making money at the Limit tables... to the point where I started automatically recouping my $5.50 SnG loss by heading over to a Limit ring game.

At the other site where I play, PokerStars, I accidentally signed up for a $5.50 Limit SnG (which UB doesn't offer), and ended up taking first, and $22.50. Yesterday I deliberately found another Limit SnG... and again took first, and another $22.50. Two in a row.

How can this be, you ask? Because he is the Kwisatz Haderach! Whoops, sorry.

I'm not sure whether it''s the influence of the Limit games, but my No Limit game has fallen apart. Limit depends more on staying with playable hands, and bailing on unplayable ones rather than on betting/raising, which is the raison d'ĂȘtre of No Limit. Limit betting is also controlled (that is, as the name implies, you already know the limit you/your opponent can bet on any given hand) rather than unpredictable, sometimes wildly unpredictable, as it can be in No Limit.

My No Limit games follow such a regular pattern that I'm both getting bored, and also losing my nerve, backing away from hands that I know I should be playing because I'm too scared of losing. I'm being raised off of hands I want to play and, in hands where I bite the bullet and stay with a raiser -- and even occasionally re-raise -- I'm being whacked, usually showing the second-best hand if we make it past the River.

Conversely, knowing that I'm losing my nerve, I'll start playing recklessly, and lose early. If I don't, while I'll usually make it to 4th or 5th position at a No Limit SnG, I'm predictably always the short stack at the table because of my conservative play, and always in danger of being blinded out if I don't start gambling. I tend to get past the bubble and into the money either because I get lucky, someone plays recklessly, or both.

And I find I hate having my future depend on either luck or someone else's play. I think that's the key there. In No Limit lately, I don't feel I'm in control. In Limit I do.

So, while Limit doesn't have the heart-stopping skydiving "is the chute gonna open?" feel of No Limit, it seemingly suits my style better at this point in my game, and I'm going to focus on it for the next month or so and see what results I get, as well as grinding up/down the UB bonus without losing my stake.

Proof will be if I can take a Limit money tournament. In No Limit money tournies, I've placed 8th in one (for $60-odd dollars) and 2nd in a UB freeroll that garnered me all of $11 - and a free entry into another money tournament, where I was promptly knocked out - for nearly five hours play. We'll see.

I burned up my deposit bonus at PartyPoker several weeks back, and with a zero balance, have let that site see my departing behind.

ricoM's stake as of Feb. 28th 2005:

UltimateBet: $63.13
PokerStars: $88.01

Total: $151.14 Up +$51.14 from initial $100 stake.

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