01/12/2008

How Strong is Your Style?

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Now that I have spilled the beans somewhat regarding my recent poor results in the NLHE games online, I feel that I really ought to pull my finger out and get back on track. The problem is that you can’t play decent levels anymore without running into the proverbial dogs balls wherever you look. Why cant everyone just be mugs and pass me their bloody money like they used to...its just not fair. I get a bit sick and tired of having to concentrate to the point of getting a migraine just to eek out some wafer thin value from somewhere.

I guess the good old days are gone, the days when the big sports bettors used to drop in with five figures and play loose poker. Everybody has the bloody game figured out these days and my favourite game, limit hold’em is just so tough now above $30-$60.

I have been thrashing around recently trying to get something going and short handed PLO has been going better than it used to be. I have also been experimenting with heads up NLHE and that has been going well so far. Somewhere in all this seems to be a message, I started out years ago playing full ring and then slowly gravitated to short-handed and now heads up play... the next step is obvious and that is me on my own playing with myself...a ghastly thought.

But I have been using a hit and run type of strategy in the heads up games over the past week or so and it has been working like a charm (about time something did). I don’t like it because my ego tells me that I ought to stay and fight because this is what real men do and the cowards pinch a few bob and then scarper before they get clobbered.

Well to hell with the ego, its my bloody ego that has got me into trouble in the first place. Closer inspection has revealed that I have been too aggressive in heads up situations in 6-max ring games and I have been getting picked off. It took another player to spot this but I am glad that they did. I don’t even know where the hell this part of my game came from.

But I am playing poker now like I used to play blackjack, hit and run and don’t let them figure your style. Of course this means playing very aggressively in the heads up matches and you can get away with this initially because your opponent has no data on you. It also means that you cant play the same player twice but they have to respect aggression in the absence of data that confirms to them that I am basically trying it on (unless they have a hand).

The way that technology is changing online poker these days then it may become more and more important to conceal your style and this may mean chopping and changing sites to escape detection in the same way that we used to chop and change casinos and big bettors years ago.

But in the past, I never actually analysed my style of play from the other side of the fence (not while playing poker anyway). Now it is important to place yourself into the seat of your opponent and ask yourself “how easy would it be to play me?”

Highly aggressive play usually tends to get punished by the strong players in online ring games sooner or later (usually sooner). The aggressive ratios have to be correct otherwise you just get picked off. But that can be avoided by hitting and running and in a heads up match, strong aggressive play from the get go can catch even a strong player off guard and once they figure your style you are off with a couple of hundred dollars of their money.

Only time will tell how successful this style of play will remain and just like everything else, it will have a shelf life. But over the years, there have been definite transformations in my character and mindset. So much so that I have become less disciplined in certain areas. I am convinced that this has affected my ability to play full-ring and maybe other forms of poker too.

So heads up play may be just what I need, that and to spend less time concentrating on sports betting.

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