Sunday, November 2, 2008

Slow down, you move too fast.

I became involved in a lobby chat at Poker Academy the other day. A fairly new player (to the site, apparently not so new to poker — playing for 2 or 3 years, like I have) was having problems in the lower buy-in rooms, and particularly in the freerolls (no surprise). I was counseling patience and to think of poker as a pursuit, not one session’s result. The advice was appreciated.

Advice is easy.

The player then asked me if I had ever taken the test at I said that I hadn’t, but I would find the time to take it. He then asked me if I could email him my results, and if I did email him, he might have some other questions for me.

Why me? Most of my blog readers know me from Poker Academy. Admittedly, I have a reputation at that site as one of the more successful players. I was the #1 ranked player for a fairly long time, and am now, I believe, still #4. I have cut back on my play there as bastin as I have 100 buy-ins for the top cash game provided (400NL), and have taken on two other nicks in order to practice bankroll management. One of those nicks is now in the top 100 players, and all three nicks are at all-time personal bests in terms of rolls. Pretty good, huh? So yeah, I have a solid rep with some chops to back it up. I know that I’m not as good as some other players, and I’m more than okay with that, as I believe, I’m respected, maybe even feared (as far as play money is concerned). Yet I’m also known as an affable guy who, when he can, will advise newcomers who seem to be sincere in wanting to improve their game. It is, after all, an Academy.

I took the test. “Average player. Likely to gradually lose in raked games but winner in home games.” Was I devastated? No. Was I embarrassed? A bit. More confused than anything else. Not by the results, for the assessment seemed accurate, but by what seems to be the perennial conflict for me: If I do so well at PA, how is it that I in fact lose gradually in raked games (and, yes, I do consistently win at the home game)? The test site offers an extensive analysis of one’s game based on the test for $9.95. Perhaps I should take the test again and purchase the analysis. I can drop $200 bucks with pocket Aces to Q8o in a flash, so comparatively, it might be a good investment.

Did you catch the humor there? Of course you did.

I emailed the PA player, informing him of my test results, and suggested that he might want to look elsewhere for poker advice. I haven’t heard back from him yet, and I suspect that he also did better than me on the test.

Now, of course I may be giving unmerited authority to the test results, even though the synopsis appears accurate. What is apparent, if not only because it should be a constant pursuit, is that I must take a closer look at my game. For instance, I know, even without the advantage of analytical software, that I am losing large amounts with big pocket pairs. Can’t, won’t lay them down. That is the most glaring error. I am aggressive post-flop regardless of when the betting patterns suggest that I slow down. On the bright side, in that I have recognized these tendencies, I have taken steps to diminish the negative results. Not everyone is calling with a gutshot to the river. As I also suggested to that new player, the absolute nuts just don’t happen that often.

When people compliment me on my success at PA, I typically respond that my game is merely adequate. Granted, compared to the purely recreational player, I am damn good; yet, compared to the old farts who inhabit the local casino and have been playing for forty years, or to the 24-tablers online, I am a novice. It’s been less than three years and 200K hands. A drop in the bucket. I have read very few poker books, which, I know, also puts me at a disadvantage, the School of Hard Knocks notwithstanding. I am, at best, a B- student.

So, where does that leave me?

“Patience, Grasshopper.”

Yes, I’m probably getting ahead of myself, and here’s how: The success at Poker Academy is a bit of an anomaly, and not an accurate determinant of skill. The bulk of the players are in fact recreational, content to kill some time with a game they enjoy. In the casinos, and at online money sites, the vast majority of players have skills equal to or better than mine. Therefore, there are no laurels upon which to rest, as if there ever should be.

I’m getting a little redundant here, so it’s probably a good time to let this go, resolve to finally get around to reading Harrington, stick to the 10NL, which I can beat readily, build that bankroll back up so I can continue to regale you with the occasional poker-related tale, and not be so results oriented. You got to make the money last.

Thank you for this indulgence.


Memphis MOJO said...

If the place where you took the test is selling lessons, then their credibility goes down. They would rate you on some level to get you to purchase their product, no?

Forrest Gump said...

I'd still argue that 10NL is as hard if not harder than 25NL. And from my excursions into 50NL, it also seems to play the same but I'm not really comfortable with dusting off $50 to a bad beat or cooler. :/

I am waiting on a new reload bonus from Stars which I reckon they'll release to coincide with the WSOP final table. I was dubious about them at first but now i wish I'd jumped on them sooner.


bastinptc said...


Mojo, bless your heart. It's connected to something called Poker Zion. I didn't even bother to look before. I am such a bumpkin sometimes. But you probably already knew that. And I write ad copy?

Still, anything that can get me to analyze my game, make me kick my own balls, so to speak, so much the better. I'm still going to read Harrington. Really.

And my dear Sr. Gumpo, I hear what you're saying. I'll be back to 25NL soon enough.

Cardgrrl said...

Oh god. Please no self-ball-kicking. That's just gross.

See the extensive discussions of that test on the 2+2 Forums. Which if you're not already reading, you should be.

Harrington too.

Memphis MOJO said...

I did what Cardgrrl said and did a search on 2+2, and found this comment:

I feel very strongly this test says very little about one's skill level as a poker player. Specifically, I think the biggest winner in MSNL could easily get the same score as a breakeven regular at the same stakes.

Not to sound arrogant, but some of those decisions are simply too close and a good argument could be made for taking different lines based on information that isn't given in the test.

Memphis MOJO said...

The first three Harrington books are slanted towards tournaments, and I don't think they'll help your cash game.

He has a new one out that is strictly for cash games. I didn't find it very helpful (but I'm not much of a cash game player, mostly a tournament kinda guy). He has one main lesson and that is to vary your play so the villains can't read you.

PAPro_SandMan said...

I don't know if you'll take this as good, bad, or neutral, but I scored a 91... Also "average"... Also "lose in raked games, win in home games". In fairness, I was interrupted on multiple occassions and even had to walk away from the test for a solid half hour at one point, so I'm sure I got marked down severely if the test was timed.

But still... I tend to agree with the quote from 2+2. Some of the questions were slam dunks, but many could go more than one way depending on a lot of factors.

I'm better than a 91 out of 150. I'm better than the majority of people who sit down at $1/$2 No Limit Hold 'Em in Las Vegas.

So I wouldn't treat your balls too badly... Along with the test being questionable, I think there's a lot more to poker skills than one can possibly quiz on poker...

Forrest Gump said...

I did that quiz when it first came out. I think i got a mark for writing my name correctly but overall averaged less than the multiple choices available. That's just how my luck runs though.

IMO most of the questions were horribly worded and didn't have anywhere near enough information so make informed choices. Mind you, I could be saying say cos i failed so dismally.


matt tag said...

Harrington 1-3 are all tournament books. They taught me how to play tourneys, and I still use the concepts they teach every time I play a SNG on FullTilt.

The two cash game books are very good, as well, but tailored to 100BB+ deep stack play. The cash game I play in right now has a somewhat unusual $40 default buy-in ($1 BB), so the stacks are too small to do some of the implied-odd stuff that the books teach.

Dave Jenkins said...

I put this in just for the record. I scored 108 = Average player blah blah.

I think the test would be a whole lot more meaningful if the questions used a hand replayer of some kind.

The questions we're asked to answer in poker aren't usually put in such and academic way.

My score does reflect my current level of abilities.