Play longer, lose more

by ~ July 31st, 2009. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Poker psychology.

After a down session, and a long one (because I was playing while doing ftp transfers) I’m thinking it’s time to look at some characteristics of my down sessions.

Often I think they start out badly fairly early, but two things I know for sure,

  1. The $ size of the down sessions average larger amounts than the up sessions,
  2. The length of the down sessions average longer than the up sessions.

Tommy Angelo talks about playing only when you’re on your A game, or at least lopping off your C game by not playing when you’re not on your A or even your B game. But either I’m not recognizing when I’m off, or that’s not the issue for me.

Variance always plays a part in poker. I know that in my last session I was not getting hands to play, plus many of the tables were full of TAGs, or worse yet, I had LAGs behind me to my left, meaning it’s harder to get position raising from the CO or HJ and harder to steal blinds. I changed tables but never found any really good tables or seats.

So I was changing tables trying to find better ones while waiting for cards/situations to come up. In the meantime I stacked off with a misread of a player who min 3bet me preflop, and again with a flopped set in a multiway limped pot on a T96 board. This one was okay I think; he more often has two pair or pair with a draw as much as a flopped straight. But other things were happening, like a player who 3 bet me twice so the third time I 4 bet 85s, and he shoves.

A common thinking pattern to these long losing sessions is that I think that I’m playing okay, I know variance will turn things, so I decide to “wait it out”. I do what I can, looking for better tables and not getting over-aggressive, but usually I don’t manage to recover what I’m down and usually get down even further.

On the other side, when I’m doing well and especially if I have a big stack at one table I’m anxious to get off because of the implied odds that I’m offering any other big stack. It’s not so much that I’m afraid that I’ll spew it off, but that I know that I feel really bad if I do lose my winnings, more bad than I feel good when I win, and more bad than when I lose a stack when I’m at 100bbs even if it’s the same amount.

So perhaps when I’m down there’s less at risk emotionally than when I’m up and I think that’s why the sessions tend to be longer, and the longer sessions give me opportunity to lose a larger dollar amount.

What’s the answer? Well, when I’m playing well I can leave the tables where I’m up (ratholing my winnings) and look for new tables rather than quiting. And when I’m not playing well, if after a few table changes I haven’t found any juicy settings, it’s time to quit, or switch to a tourny, where I can’t hurt myself or my bankroll as much.

Are there other options? Can I play tighter, less aggressive to keep my stack at less risk, while remaining at the tables where I’m winning? On the other side, I don’t want a $ stoploss on particular tables, but I do have a stoploss in terms of the nature of a table. In other words if the table is too TAG I’ll leave, or if the players to my left are too LAG I’ll leave, or if players change and too many shortstacks are sitting down I’ll leave, or if the fish on the table leave to be replaced by full stacks (likely to be regs searching high flop frequency/big pot tables) I’ll leave. I guess if the nature of the table changes where I’m winning, these should also be reasons to move.

And maybe I do need a stoploss in terms of how many different tables I try, or how long I’ll sit at a table when I’m losing trying to catch a hand against bad players. Maybe I should also consider increasing the number of tables when I’m winning, and decreasing the number when I’m struggling, assuming that I’m going to continue to play in both situations.

This last idea is the first one that takes into consideration the quality of the game that I’m playing, but that’s largely because either I’m mostly maintaining my game play, or I’m too oblivious to when I’m off my game. In either case, I don’t have a means of identifying differences well and so the theory can’t be applied.

The problem then arises that this is based on winning/losing, and winning/losing is a function of variance as much as the skill level of my current game versus the current competition, but I don’t know what else to base my adjustments and decisions on.

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