Grinding for Value Online
Monday, 10 May 2010
By Paul Zimbler
You'll be amazed how many players are playing online at the wrong levels for either their skill level or their bankroll. You’ll see a lot of players at $2-5 and $5-10 who are simply giving it a shot. What does this mean? Well, I’ll tell you…
These players may sit with $500 or $1,000, but their bankrolls are not the recommended 10k or 20k. Instead, they may be sitting with two or three thousand in their online accounts, which means that they will be playing under pressure and making mistakes accordingly. They’ll make overbets in an attempt to try to build their stacks before either leaving the game in a hit-and-run or going broke.
Likewise, as we go down a level or two, especially on Full Tilt in the $1/2, $2/4 and $3/6 games, you start to find the real value. Players like to play loose-aggressive and donate far too many chips for the cards they have.
You need to ask yourself why you are playing. What’s your goal in the game you’re playing? Should you even be there?
Personally, I play a lot of 2/4 and 3/6 NLH because I play to win money.
You hear of big wins – the guy who has been up playing for three days with his whole bankroll and gets it all, but that guy has experienced a miraculous spin up. These are the rare and far more often people go broke doing this. Time management is as important as bankroll management.
Business is business and winning is the goal. Good game selection helps, as do all the programs that are available for to you to buy to give you an insight into your opponents’ games. But hourly-rate should be a major factor in your game if you are playing for a living.
So, back to the good value in the $2/-$4 game.
I’ll give you an example. Recently I was sitting with $280, playing heads up while waiting for the table to fill. I normally sit with between $280 and $400, depending on the other players at the table and their stacks.
I’m usually playing one or two tournaments, and also a STT or two, plus a game of $5-$10 or $8-$16 razz. Incidentally, that’s where the real value is. If the razz were pot limit, I would be retired now on a beach, but let’s stick to the NLH game.
I’ll habitually sit and grind while watching how bad these players are, praying to get involved in pots with them. I try not to lower my game to gamble too much with them, as I know the time will come for me to get their chips. I wait for hands or situations and get paid. Simple.
The other night a hand occurred that tickled me, and I have seen many a player make this mistake. To be honest, it amazes me.
I’d got my stack up to about $480, and then raised in late position with 8-8, making it $16 after there had been a limper in the pot. The guy on my left, who was a little aggressive, re-raised me to $50 and the others folded. I wasn’t over the moon about the re-raise or calling out of position, but for $34 I decided to see the flop, which came Ad8s2d.
Now, normally I would bet out with my set, especially with an ace showing, but with the re-raiser behind me I didn’t want to scare off K-K or Q-Q. Instead I decided to look weak and let him hang himself. I checked and he bet out $84. This is a strange bet, but online players make weird bets all the time. I let the clock tick down and flat-called.
Why the flat call? Well, I knew that if he had a big ace I’d probably get all the money anyway and I didn’t want to spook him. If he didn’t have a hand, I needed him to keep bluffing.
The turn card paired the deuce which was great for me. I checked again and he didn’t let me down. He now bet $103. Here I decided to min-raise to see how strong his hand was. It would be tough for him to pass for a min-raise in a pot now worth $589. If I just call here and check the river, he may just check behind me, while if I were to value-bet the river I would only bet around $125, so by raising here I am setting up the hand to stack him and get a full double up. To my amazement he moved all in within a split second of my raise.
I typed “this is sick” into the chatbox because I was expecting to see him with A-A, but he only had A-Q and was drawing thin, which meant I took a nice pot of $967. That was a profit of $687 in less than one hour. He typed back, “What is sick?” and I replied simply, “You are!”
This is something bad players don’t really look at. I had been playing solid hands all hour and had won all of my showdowns with good cards. At what point do you think he thought he was behind during the hand? I’d say never.
Now, let’s look at this in more detail. How can A-Q get all his chips in here? A-Q is a hand that can get you into a lot of trouble. Okay, he could have just called me pre-flop but he decided to take control of the pot. Fine. The flop was pretty good for A-Q, or so it looked, and I checked to him. By betting and getting called when the board paired, he thinks he is safe and bets again. There are mistakes here: I think he should have checked one of the streets for pot control. The problem is that players think they need to get big pots on the go every time, but in fact he didn’t have any info about my hand. Did he just assume that I was just going to stack off here with less than A-Q?
And if A-Q was winning, why not try to look weak? Or check the flop or the turn and play a $400 pot? A-Q on an A-8-2-2 board may look good, but what hand is check-calling the flop and check-min-raising the turn, ready to call a shove? A hand better than A-Q, of course.
I was now the biggest stack on the table and, not wanting to give my opponents value, I sat and played for a further 30 minutes before leaving the game and taking the wages. There was no reason to stay other than to give them all a shot at my stack. Yes, I could have stayed playing for hours, but variance gets involved and my opponents all had stacks at least half the size of mine. I’m there to win money, and 90 to 120 minutes is an okay session online – more like playing for five or six hours live.
If I managed to play every day for three hours and make an average of $100 pre hour, five days a week, that would be $1,500 a week, $6,000 a month and $72,000 a year playing for fun at low stakes poker.
So, why play $5-$10 where you can win or lose a month’s income in one session? Instead, play within your means, where you can control the table and get the best value.
The other problem a lot of players suffer from is boredom. They just want to play all the time. They have nothing else to do. I used to be like this and it is a sickness. You could be up $5k in an hour but you will not stop.
Get a hobby, get a job, do something with your life, and, if you can’t do any of the above, play small stakes STT’s or tournaments – you’ll still get the buzz from playing poker but you will not be jeopardising your balance. One-dollar or two-dollar STT’s might sound silly but you can’t lose too much. Set yourself a challenge to win $50 a week in $1 STT’s. This keeps the boredom at bay and money management in good order.
Check out more TIPS and read Paul’s blog www.theinternationalpokerschool.com