20/12/2007

When It No Longer Cuts It

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

There will come a stage in your poker life where you will desire to test yourself in bigger and tougher games. You may get a few thousand ahead playing $2-$4 no limit and then decide to try your hand at the $10-$20 game with an exploratory $1500 buy in. Nothing wrong with taking a shot at a bigger game and the big boys do it all the time.

I mean….if we all had to wait until we all had the correct theoretical bankroll before we played every level then most of the players wouldn’t even be playing the game. But in some cases, most of the players who take a shot at those higher games fail for the reason being that they are taking their current style of play with them and not deviating.

I remember reading an article a couple of years ago about a scene in the Bellagio where a regular $30-$60 limit pro just happened to walk past one of the big limit tables and noticed that Jennifer Harman had called an early position raise from the button. He apparently slated her play on some forum for being poor and said how she should have been raising to create dead money and to isolate against the early position player, and if you could not raise then the only sensible alternative was to fold.

Good solid advice from a good solid middle limit pro that is a good solid way to play in middle limit games. The only problem was that this was not a good solid middle limit game and the early position raiser if I remember correctly was Brunson. On top of that, the rest of the table was populated by very high calibre players.

You could literally spend an entire evening discussing the multi-level thinking that goes on in some of these games. Did the guy seriously think that Jenny was ignorant of the tactic that he had just been talking about because if he did then he ought to read Harman’s section on limit hold’em in Supersystem 2. You need some new weapons in your arsenal when you move up beyond certain levels.

Someone came to me a couple of years back and wanted my advice on his fool proof system for hitting the betting exchanges knowing that I was also a keen sports bettor. He had in his possession a set of charts that told him how frequently horses that were at certain prices on track went on to actually win. His idea was that if horses that were priced at 33-1 historically won on average one race in 75 for example (cannot remember the exact stats), that he was on safe ground laying the horse at 40 on the exchanges.

He could not see the weaknesses in his “system”. The obvious one being that his fifteen year history of frequencies of winning horses at certain prices were just averages. He had failed to take into account that not all 20-1 shots are the same and not all 33-1 shots are no hopers. The shrewdies on the exchanges would slowly but surely drain his bankroll and this proved to be the case some months later when he failed to heed my advice and duly did his money in when a series of long shots won in quick succession and busted him.

What has this to do with poker? Well for a start, you had better be careful about how you interpret your PokerTracker stats in a $25-$50 NL game for example. I realise that most players do not play at these levels but many players do at some stage try their hand at $10-$20 or higher and these are the people that I am aiming at.

Conventional play will be punished severely by players that have the game to not only steal from the stealers but who can take it a level higher than that and steal from the people who are stealing from them stealing if you get my drift. This leaves the shot taker losing even greater chunks of money when he is forced to fold because his opponent has placed him in a very difficult decision with a weak hand.

For instance, a 24-15 player at $2-$4 cannot necessarily be compared to a 24-15 player at $25-$50. Assuming this would be making the same error as the guy with the betting exchange system. It is very difficult for PokerTracker to assess situational trickiness by good players. Although it has to be said that the most difficult players to play against are not always the most profitable players. This is because many players get side tracked into being too tricky and just end up conceding too much equity.

Most good players don’t even know that they are going to make a certain play until various factors align themselves and one of those factors is the way that they are reacting to the way that you are playing now and what they also think your current mental state could be.

But at the lower levels, most players fit into identifiable patterns and most players do not try too hard to deviate their play but the opportunity to do that is limited anyway through multi-tabling. Also, good sound solid play will get the money at the lower levels anyway and this is where PokerTracker really comes into its own.

But I think that once you get beyond $5-$10 then you will have to look at your PT statistics in a whole new way. Anyone who has sat and watched people like Prahlad Friedman or Alex Dalaklis (limit) play online will have had an education in itself with regards thought patterns in highstakes poker.

So the next time you are considering taking a shot in a bigger game, take a minute to think about the tools that you have in your bag and whether they are the right tools for the job at hand. Because if they are not, then your best move may be to just simply stay where you are and save the money! Anyone who wishes to discuss this article with me is free to do so either through the forum or through my website at www.pokersharkpool.com.

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