Ratholer - A player who removes chips from the table, usually to avoid having to go all-in more than they intend to. Ratholing is typically performed by shortstackers who play really tight, double up, then move to another table.

High Roller - A player who usually plays in high stakes poker games that require betting large amounts of money. As a result large amounts of money can be won and lost within minutes.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Poker Book Review - The Mammoth Book of Poker

The Mammoth Book of Poker - Paul Mendelson - UK ISBN 978-1-84529-807-4

This was the first book that I picked up when I decided to take NLHE seriously.
I would really recommend it as a first read, although I have not read the Little Green Book or Super System, this book gave me enough knowledge to base my new game style on.

Sections Include:
Texas Hold Em - The basics of the game
NLHE - Starting hands, loads of examples
Tournament Strategy - A good starting strategy for low BI tourneys
Online Poker - Things to remember when playing online
Home Games - How to set up your own home game
LHE - Limit Hold Em
Other Poker Variations - Explains the rest

And the best bits are the bonus ones:
100 Tips for Hold Em - Really good read, helped me a lot.
Tables and Stats - Easy Ref
Tells - Good for Live Poker
Bad beats

On of the best things about this book was the many many sample hands and little quizzes at the end of each section. The book teaches the ABC TAG style of play, which is most recommended for Micro stakes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Step 4: Long Term Thinking applied to every session

Even though poker is a long term game, consisting of millions of hands, it all starts with each session you play. I try to always make sure that I follow these rules when playing. These rules ensure that I always get the best out of each session.

Session Goals:
Practice good BRM
See Step 2
Apply the maths
See Step 3, know when it is profitable to call.
Try some multi-level thinking
At micros, only 2nd level is really required, "What do I think my opponent has?" Try putting them on a hand or range of hands.
Be patient, remain calm and focused
Above all, if you are emotional while playing, you will tilt.

Cash Game Rules:
Use proper game selection
The most profitable tables for TAG players are those with a high % of players per flop, a big pot size and a high number of hands per hour.
Always buy in for the maximum and top up if needed
This will allow you to play big stack strategy. Remember that chips are tools that can be used to extract chips from other players.
Learn to identify when you go on tilt and activate the killswitch
When I am 1.5 BI down for the day, I stop for the day. If I find myself calling mediocre hands OOP, playing too loose or making bad decisions, I take a break.

Tournament Rules:
Number of Rebuys
Only 2 rebuys and 1 addon per tournament to stay within BRM
Only rebuy if you had the best hand when the money went in
This forces me to make good decisions.
Only addon if it will take you over the average stack size or if you are already over the average stack size
This makes sure that I am not just feeding the big stacks.

Always remember that each session contributes to your long term goals... Keep these in mind and if you are a decent player, your BR should grow.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bankroll Update: December

Hey all,

Hope you are enjoying the silly season. Here is the first of (hopefully) many updates.

Start: 2010/11/22 R1800 (after 2k withrawal)
End: 2010/12/23 R2300
Winnings: R500

Full Tilt
Start: 2010/12/01 $50/R350
End: 2010/12/23 $20/R140
Losses: $30/R210

Start: R2150
End: R2440
Winnings: R290

Short Term Goals Abandoned:
Increase number of simultaneous tables to 6 online (Cannot be done on Piggs without playing different stakes)
Up the stakes from $2NL to $10NL on FT (Need to practice more first)

Short Term Goals Attained:
Know the maths (Applying this to every session)
Practice multi-level thinking (Applying this to every session)
Up the stakes from R20NL to R100NL on Piggs (Currently playing R100 NL)

Short Term Goals in progress:
Read 2 poker books (Busy reading - Poker Wizards "Warwick Dunnett") (On Xmas list - Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth "Dusty Schmidt")
Play more live games (Playing more home games and went to Silverstar once)
Check and record stats once a month (you're looking at it)

New Short Term Goals:
Stop playing on FT, focus on Piggs
Play 4 simultaneous tables consistently

That's December, ups and downs ;)

Step 3: The Maths and what you NEED to know.

Outs and Odds...

Now any of you that know me, know that I'm not a big maths fan. What I have realised though is that if I try to work out the outs and odds for every hand, even the ones I am not involved in, I could write it all into my memory and make it a habit, rather than have to worry about the maths on every hand.

You would normally only use the maths if you need to make a decision on whether to call a bet a not. If you think you have the best hand, raise. If you are unsure, use the maths to help make your descisions.

I do not profess to be an expert on this subject, but you can find all the info you need to know here:
Poker Math

That is the best article that I have found that explains the basics of what you need to know.

Hope Step 3 gives you positive results.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feeding the fishies and turning donks into sharks...

I have started noticing a phenomenon on the tables at Piggs that doesn’t seem to happen on FT. Coaching at the tables… Here we are grinding out our BB/100 and a couple of suckouts turn the better players into coaches, trying to stop the donks from calling to hit the flush on the river if they don’t have pot odds.

I used to do this myself, but having experienced a player that was a recipient of this information, suddenly start winning tourneys and having seen other donks that have received good advice turn into sharks, that it is –EV to coach at the tables.
You are teaching them to be better players, allowing them to take their money back and all of this without having to do any of the work that we have had to do, scouring forums and reading poker books, analysing hands and putting in the hours that it takes to be a better player.

So just a plea, leave them, let them call, in the long run they will be your best source of income… If they want to get better, let them do the work.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Downswings and the nature of the game.

Over the past few days, work has really taken a bite out of my normal poker timetable. I am getting a few hands in a day, cos I know this is the best way to learn.
Over the past week or two I have had a bit of a downswing, and although I know that I should be looking at my swings monthly, I still feel the effects.
Work has therefore afforded me the opportunity to do what I normally do when I have a downswing of epic proportions.... Take a break.

Now I have the weekend to focus more on my game again and get those numbers up. Let's hope the break helped. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Step 2: What you need to know about your Bankroll

Ok, got some goals, so what's next? Your Bankroll.

We are going to look at why and when proper Bankroll Management is important, what stakes you should be playing and when it's recommended you should move up or down in Stakes.

First the why:

Because poker is a life long game with an element of luck. Therefore, even as a skilled player, you will have downswings. The idea behind proper BRM is to make sure that those downswings don't bust your BR. Thankfully, over enough hands, variance seems to even things out, and if you are a skilled player, you will profit if you have used proper BRM.

The other reason is twofold. One, you don't ever want to play with scared money. You know how you feel when you get a bad beat and the tilt starts to rise? Well, when you can't afford the losses, that tilt is magnified. The quickest way to go broke is to disregard your BRM and encounter on of those tilts...

The other reason is that without proper BRM, you will never be able to use big stack strategy. I like to think of it like this: On the poker table, chips are tools. You use these tools to extract chips from other players. And everyone knows it's better to have a big tool! :) But seriously, use whatever tools available in order to maximize your profits. In the end, that's the goal, isn't it?

You will see, after a few months, with some skill and proper BRM, you will turn a profit.

So when should you practice proper BRM?

Well, always. But when it's the most helpful:

When you are on a cooler - When you seem to just be losing and losing, it may be time to cut your losses and take a break. If you have set a budget and you lose 2-3 buy-ins(BIs), it wont seem nearly as bad as losing half your BR.

When you are on tilt - When you feel your emotions getting the better of you, you start playing mediocre hands OOP, and find yourself in pots with hands that look like feet, you are on tilt. Activate the kill switch! Get up, walk away, just take a break, remember that it's a lifelong game and that "more is nog n dag".(there's always tomorrow)

When you have moved up in stakes but you're getting hammered - Stay as long as you feel you are actually getting the hang of it. Don't be a hero and stay cos you can afford it. Most of the time I play way over rolled, just for the social aspect, the action and the table selection.

What Stakes should you be playing?

I like to conserve my BR, so these may seem a little low for you, but good for a starter and easy to work out.

You have quite a bit of cash:
Decide on a starting bankroll, let's use R2500 as an example.
With that BR, you are rolled for R100NL cash game (50c/R1 with a R100 max buy in), R25 MTTs and R50 SNGs. To work it out, for cash games take your BR divide by 25, that is your max buy in, divide by 100 for your big blind max. For MTTs take your BR and divide by 100. For SNGs take your BR and divide by 50.
This should see you through the downswings, but if you are a starter player, I suggest you try  the lower stakes first just to get the hang of things.

You have a bit of cash:
You will need a minimum of $50 to play 2NL on a US site or R500 to play 20NL on an SA site using proper BRM.

You have no cash:
You have 2 options, freerolls (better on SA sites) or a deposit bonus. For the deposit bonus, you must not have an account on Fulltilt. Go to http://www.pokerstrategy.com/u7TYTU, do the training, pass the quiz, register on FT and get $50. That will be enough for 2NL on FT.

Ok, a long one, but almost there, when to move up and down in stakes?

If you are crushing your current stakes, when you have 25 BIs for the next level up, you can try your hand at it.
If you move up in stakes and are losing consistently, once you are down 3 BIs at your new stakes, I would suggest you move down and grind it out on the lower stakes till you are ready to try again.

Well, hope you enjoyed Step 2. The next one in a bit...

Step 1: Set Some Goals

So, you have decided to start playing NLHE and want to make a profit? Me too! 
But, you don't want to spend all that time reading millions of forum posts that will probably never help you? Don't feel like reading poker sites, some of which make your eyes want to bleed?

Well, then I may be able to help. I am going to stay away from anything too involved for a while, so don't expect any hectic formulas or anything. If you want that stuff, Cardschat or 2+2 is where you want to be. (I recommend the former over the latter)

First things first, before you even register at a poker site, (If you haven't done so already) set some goals. They may be very general or very specific, you decide. 

*Just as a side note, never let anyone dictate how you should play your game. If you do this you are almost guaranteed to lose. Play where, what and how you feel comfortable, keep what works, change what doesn't. If you are over bankrolled and your mates are pushing you to move up but you don't feel ready, just stay put.

Anyways, on that philosophical note, back to the list of goals. Here's mine, use it, don't use it...

Before you start:
Set some goals
Read a poker book
Learn the maths (or at least be aware of it)
Learn about Bankroll Management (BRM)! (more on this in future posts)
Research rakeback (a little known goldmine)
Choose poker sites based on your research (if you have the cash, I suggest rakeback over free deposits)
Choose a game type (Cash Games, MTTs or SNGs)
Make 1 deposit on 1 site (this is your starting Bankroll, now no more deposits for a while)

Every Session:
Use proper game selection (Look for tables that pay, more to come)
Practice good BRM (Critical!)
Always buy in for the maximum and top up if needed
Learn to identify when you go on tilt and activate the killswitch
Apply the maths
Try some multi-level thinking (more on this in future posts)
Be patient, remain calm and focused

Short Term (3-6 Months):
Know the maths
Practice multi-level thinking
Realise a decent profit (this is flexible - I am aiming for 5x my current BR)
Increase number of simultaneous tables to 6 online
Up the stakes from $2NL to $10NL on FT
Up the stakes from R20NL to R100NL on Piggs
Buy tracking software
Check and record stats once a month
Read 2 poker books
Play more live games 

Mid Term (6-12 Months): 
Increase number of simultaneous tables to 8 online
Up the stakes from $10NL to $20NL on FT
Up the stakes from R100NL to R200NL on Piggs
Win a 4 figure tournament on Piggs
Play loads of live games 

Long Term (1-2 Years):
Increase number of simultaneous tables to 10 online
Up the stakes from $20NL to $100NL on FT
Up the stakes from R200NL to R1000NL on Piggs
Win a 4 figure tournament on FT
Win consistently at these stakes
Pay for a poker trip with poker winnings
Move entire BR to FT
Up the stakes from $100NL to $200NL on FT

Super Long Term (2-5 Years):
Up the stakes from $200NL to $1000NL on FT
Win a 5 figure tournament on FT
Win consistently at these stakes
Pay for the bills with poker winnings

Ok, now that we have covered the goals, lets move on to the next step.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The story so far...

The first time I remember playing No Limit Hold Em, the "Cadillac of Poker" was about 5 years ago now. One of those home games at a mates house, set up out of boredom, more than anything else. The haze of smoke and alcohol induced bluffs... chasing gutshot straight draws and calling just to make sure your opponent didn't have the nuts - that's what I used to think poker was all about. If only I knew how wrong I was.

Fast forward to about a year ago, home games are starting to happen more frequently, I manage to scrape ITM a few times and the bug had officially bitten.

I guess I started out where most players who have just been bitten land up, depositing a few bucks online, short stacking, ratholing trying to make sure I didn't bust my almost non existent BR, bust out, watched some poker on the telly, reloaded, tried some pro moves that I learned from the wsop bracelet winners, bust out, reload... It suddenly dawned on me that there may be more to this whole poker thing than what I initially thought.

Then I started reading, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I was consuming poker books, forums and blogs like a raging Vrystad veld fire. Most of the stuff I read just amazed me, the more I soaked up, the more I wanted to hit the felt, the more hands I saw, the more forums I scoured.

Things finally started coming together and I was getting a clear picture of my poker future. This was something that I wanted to do on a more permanent basis. I knew that if I put the hours in, I would see rewards, so I started again, from scratch.

I am improving, steadily. I am by no means a pro, but the intention is to at least go semi-pro in the next 2 years. Things are starting to pick up and I have been asked for tips from micro stakes regs and newbies, then there was the suggestion that I start a blog.

So here it is, how I'm planning to go from Ratholer to High Roller... Hope it helps!