Friday, November 2, 2012

Streaks and stakes and punting stacks

I was chatting the other night with a friend who has left his job to try to go pro. He's been having a good year so far so fingers crossed for him. His preferred games are the bigger guarantee Stars games with lots of runners. I advised him that while these are some of the most profitable games out there, they are also the highest variance. So he needs to be prepared not only financially but also emotionally for long periods of downswing doldrums. I pointed out, for instance, that he needs to be able to deal emotionally with periods where he keeps bubbling or hitting the crossbar (getting close to the big prizes).

I know what I'm talking about here. That basically describes my live year to date and my current run of live tourneys without a cash. The key in those periods is to try to not let it affect you. The current streak includes several bubbles or near bubbles. If I was just focused on ending the streak there were several times during it when I could have shut up shop and locked up a min cash. Contrary to what some might think though I base my decisions in running in tournaments entirely on what I think will make the most money in the long run rather than what will get me into the money the most often.

I had one such spot about 20 from the bubble in the Irish Winter festival main event at the weekend. Comfortably stacked with almost 100k I could have battened down the hatches to ensure getting into the money. Instead I kept playing my normal game. It didn't work out and I ended up short and open shoving nines into queens and ace king three spots from the money but I have no regrets. When I told my friend David after how I'd gone from 100k to 30k he summed it up perfectly as "So you kept playing poker". I hope to keep doing so no matter how long this streak lasts.

The one adjustment I have made is I am tending to play a lot tighter than I normally do live. At dinner the next day with David, Jason, Daragh and Smidge I told them  the reason for this was I don't feel I'm playing my A game at the moment and one of the hidden advantages of playing tight is you will have less unclear marginal decisions to deal with. When I said this David challenged me on my assessment that I'm not playing my A game and asked me to back it up with specific hands I'd butchered. I wasn't able to but that's not the point. I don't think the difference between my A and B games is how many clear mistakes I make. It's more a case of getting more than my fair share of the marginals right (where a decision is so close that in the long run neither option is a mistake) and my spidey senses telling me when to diverge from "standard" lines. I actually don't think it's possible for anyone on a bad run to continue to play their A game. The more important question is how good your B game is. I know several players whose A game puts mine to shame, but not as much as my B game puts their B game to shame. In terms of long term profitability, the B game is the bigger factor.

A curious anomaly in the betting markets saw me stay at the same price (80 to 1) as I had been before the event at the end of day one despite having almost trebled my stack. Anyone following me on Twitter knew that early on day 2 I had virtually doubled up again early on. With almost 2% of the chips in play I think the price was very generous and apparently several others did too, plumping on me before the market was suspended. All of which meant immediately after my bustout I felt I should go around  apologising to people like Reggie Corrigan who had told me they'd bet on me. I changed my mind though when I ran into Parky who pointed out with his usual pith "Apologies are no good to anybody mate".

I busted just before the doubles kicked off. Jason Tompkins had asked me ages ago if I'd like to enter this with him. Teaming up with an EPT and WSOP final tableist seemed like a good way to try to break the streak so I went for it. Things were going to plan early when Jason kept leaving me with 20 big blinds or less. I'd spin it up and come back after his level to find Jason grinning guiltily and leaving me 20 bigs again. That was working nicely till a bit of a rush saw him leave me a good bit more than the 20 bigs. As he tagged me in he reminded me that I could now raise fold. I did a bit of that till it was a shoving stack again and then lost a three way flip with sixes v ak and aq despite flopping the 6. Jason seemed pretty relieved at the news as for some reason he was not being allowed to play cash in the levels I was playing even though at least one other player in the tourney was doing just that. In general I give credit to Paddy Power for the way they ran the festival and apart from this the only other criticism I would have is that if you are running a novelty side event like this, you should try to prioritise the novelty and fun aspect rather than turning it into just another side event. While I understand the rationale behind it I think the rigid enforcement of a rule preventing the non-playing partner from interacting with the playing partner (or even being in the area) detracted a lot from the banter possibilities. It felt less like doubles and more like two guys playing half a tournament each punctuated by long breaks.

I was very happy though to find out later that two of my favourite people in poker Jen Mason and Rebecca McAdam ended up shipping the doubles. I joked to them both afterwards that Jason and myself could never admit to having played the event now that it had been won by a couple of girls, but I was joking. I know from comments Rebecca made that the ladies had to put up with some boorish chauvinistic behaviour so I imagine that made the win all the sweeter (there's been a lot of debate recently about acceptable codes of behaviour and I intend to give my views on the matter on this blog soon, but I will say for now that there are few things that offend me more than chauvinism in poker, and as a particularly male bastion it's unfortunately all too prevalent). It was also good to see Jen back on the felt. When I started playing she was already one of the top UK players. She is possibly known more these days for her excellent blogging skills but remains a top player.

A few of the better Irish players had deep runs and it was looking good for a home win. Sadly it wasn't to be but honourable mentions for Marc McDonnell and Ronan "Gilly" Gilligan. Gilly continued his amazing year and whatever his secret is, we'd all love to know it. Marc is someone I've known, respected and liked both as a player and person since the start of my career. He has something special that arguably no other Irish player has. Certainly none of the rest of us puts together monsters stacks in live tourneys with the frequency he does. Some feel he has a similarly unrivalled capacity to punt these stacks once he has amassed them, but in my experience more often it's a case of him simply getting unlucky deep. I played with him in the IPC at the start of the year and was impressed how he readjusted and geared back down after being crippled on the bubble. This latest run is further evidence of his maturing as a player and I think it's only a matter of time before he wins a big one.

In a mini reflection of how my year in general has been, at least live, my weekend was saved by a bit of staking. I took a very large chunk of one player who final tabled which gave me reasons to be both thankful and hang around. As I sat railing the final table with some friends, Daragh Davey remarked that it must be nice to be earning money while just sitting there. While it is a nice second best option to sitting at the table making money for myself, the reality is I would much rather be doing my own earning. I'm not a great railer at all: I find it intensely boring and I'm always left thinking I'd much rather be at the table making the decisions myself. So while I'll happily accept for my money to keep running well when put into staking others I'd also like to see my return to being my own most profitable horse.

Finally, a big well done to Jaymo. When I came back on Wednesday night a little tilted from having extended the live cashless streak even further, I was pleasantly surprised to find Jaymo deep in the latest FCOOP, the 4 max. He was fairly crushing it and until he lost a massive flip a few tables out was a strong favourite to win. Consummate pro that he is, he took the setback in his stride and grinded his way all the way to the final table and extracted the maximum he could from the situation (fourth for over €7k). He may not be widely known yet, but in my opinion Jaymo is already one of the best ten tourney players in Ireland. Still only 20, his work ethic, temperament and desire and ability to learn is second to none. It's truly frightening to think how good he could become. The first time I met him (in the Fitz about a year ago) I had an immediate instinctive sense I was looking at a very special talent and prospect. While I give myself credit for spotting that, I have to give more credit for his development into the online beast he is now to himself and David Lappin. Lappin is very much the coaching brains of the firm, and has the uncanny ability to improve the players he works with almost instantly. I rate him as the best online coach I know of, and his record and that of the players he's worked with speaks for itself. To be frank, I'm surprised more Irish players don't seek to hire him for his coaching expertise, but secretly kind of glad about it since it leaves him more time to coach the guys I have a financial interest in :)

When I got word back to Lappin in Tallaght that our boy was deep, he persuaded the ever accommodating JP to put it up on the big screen out there. By all accounts a rowdy rail developed as the punters watched Jaymo chase the FCOOP on the big screen. If he continues to work, show the same dedication and develop as he's going, I expect us all to be watching a lot of Jaymo on big screens in the years to come. And not just online. Watch this space.


Very good blog Dara, I empathise with ur streak of constantly bubbling, stuck in a rut of this problem all 2012 , similarly had chances to end the streak but gone for the higher spots rather than the min cashes in lot of situations, and been unsuccessful! Was starting to think I was mad to be throwing away the guaranteed cashes if I fold thru, but glad to hear u think it's correct, I respect ur views so gonna persevere at what I'm doing for moment, might have word with Lappin sometime too, didn't even realised he coached!

Thanks Andrew. Yeah, Lappin's done a fair bit of coaching down the years and helped create online beasts like Rasmus. He has details of it at his site (or at least did)


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