a whole new genre
Thursday, September 19, 2013
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Friday, June 28, 2013
PokerGuru Feature: Heads-up With S%%%%%% Se%
32 years old S^^^^^ is a Research and Development geophysicist by day in one of the biggest energy companies in the world and an online HU cash game player most nights. He has played HU No-limit and PLO almost exclusively since the middle of 2010. In 2010 and 2011 he was one of the top 10 winners across all table sizes for 100nl on PokerStars and in the top 15 for 200nl on Pokerstars in 2011, as per PokerTable Ratings. He has been coached at various times by Nick Frame (TcfromUB on PokerStars), but his basic game is modeled after a well-known HU nit Markuis on Full Tilt Poker.
First off the bat, you have had a downswing recently and April was a negative sum month for you. This was surprisingly your first such month. MTT-ers have downswings all the time but they know a huge score maybe around the corner and they will recover. As a HU cash regular, how are you dealing with it, considering it will take some time and effort to replace the losses?
It is not that big of a deal really as long as you are properly rolled for most of your games.
I got crushed in a couple of 4 tabling grudge matches, dropping 20 buy-ins and 15 buy-ins in successive sessions. But that’s poker, shit happens. You just need to man up and play through it. Most important thing is not to lose confidence and end up tweaking your game too much. When I do feel I am losing confidence I stop sitting my higher limits and instead focus on small goals like I’ll start adding the higher limits only after I have made 20 buy-ins at a lower limit. This works pretty well for me. Also having played a boatload of HU hands, I know my limitations very well. For example, I have a nasty mental block that I play extremely bad, irrespective of the villain, if I don’t have 100buyins+ for any particular limit. So I am quick to adjust and move down in limits when needed.
There are a lot of upcoming poker players in India and who are harboring thoughts of going professional. You could have gone professional yourself but haven't done it yet. Your thoughts on this and any tips to young players just starting out.
For those looking to be MTT pros, just the variance pretty much guarantees that unless you are Shaundeeb or Seabeast or Selbst your life is going to be as shitty, unhealthy and depressing as possible. Add to that being married to a computer for countless nights and hours pretty much flipping a 65-35 biased coin at best for a living, your potential lifestyle doesn’t look like a joyride. So before taking the MTT plunge maybe one should consider how long one can sustain this lifestyle. If somehow your answer is greater than five years then you are pretty much kidding yourself. I can name hundreds of MTT Gods all of whom have come and gone since I started following poker and only a select few have had the stick-ability to last for more than 3-5 years and still show decent earnings.
Now if you look at some of these elite players who were able to stick around, and consider the players right in the middle of this pack and then see their OPR and Hendonmob then you’ll find that these guys, over a period of 8-9 years, have made about a million in online profits and cashed around 1-1.5milly live. Since most MTT guys are backed, that gives them 500k in online earnings and giving them a super high 70% live ROI and generous 50-50 deals adds another 500k in live winnings. Factor in costs of travelling the circuit and the general “I am poker-player-balla” lifestyle and the very best haven’t made more than 100-150k a year. Now I guarantee you that if you are living in the US or Canada or the more affluent European countries a 100k gross income with no benefits and perks doesn’t go a huge distance.
Online cash games are obviously better than MTTs, but at this moment I don’t know of a single online Indian cash player who has even a semi decent extensive database and track record of any note, so I wont even talk about online cash. Now the live circuit or home game circuit in India could be your thing. If it is, then all the power to you. I don’t know how the Indian casinos or the home games look like, but if someone asked to me go to Vegas and make a living grinding 15h/hour playing with a group whose vocab is dominated by “everything is sick” and that too for atleast a few years, I might as well end the agony by slitting my wrists before I board that Vegas flight.
Me, personally, I have never thought of going pro. It is just too hard and stressful to make 150k+ for years playing poker and without that money I wont be able to sustain my lifestyle. I will say this though, that I’d quit my job and start playing online cash as a pro the day I have a seven figure portfolio invested in some other things I am interested in.
There has been a lot of debate in the poker forums about Game Theory and playing Game Theory Optimal. Have you studied this and tried to employ it or can you give your thoughts on it?
What learning tool (coaching/video series/books/forums etc) would you say has given the sharpest jump in your learning curve and what is your current skill improvement tool (going over HH in Pokertracker / coaching / watching videos)?
Well right of the bat let it be clear that NO-ONE knows what GTO (Game Theory Optimal) play for NLHE/PLO is. Instead what the advanced “GTO players” tend to do is to incorporate some approximate GTO based dominating strategies (nemesis strategies in GTO terminology) into their standard exploitative strategy and try and play a overall “balanced” strategy. When you are trying to figure out your nemesis- strategy, you are trying to develop a set of empirical +EV lines for a wide variety of situations that you frequently run into. There are a few ways of doing that.
First is to study solvable toy games that one can map into actual poker situations that can be used to provide some empirical framework and understanding of how GTO is applicable to poker. For example one of the simplest toy game is the Limit AKQ high-card-wins game where I hold a K (bluff-catcher), villain holds a Q (bluff-hand) or A (value-hand) with equal probability and there is an initial $1 ante ($2 in the pot). Villain can either bet $1 or check and I can call or fold. If I don’t fold there is a showdown. GTO play for villain here is to bet all his As and bet his Qs one-third of the time while my corresponding GTO strategy pair is to call one-third of the time. Mapping of this strategy gives you a basic insight into the world of “frequencies”.
There are many advanced versions of the AKQ game where in betting amount, pot-size, hand distributions are all variables (moving from the limit realm to NL realm) and this further gives you an insight on how or if your bluff-catching or bluffing frequency distributions depend on things like the pot size, bet size, card-removal, villain’s perceived hand distribution etc. One of the important results worth mentioning is that in a variable stack size and pot size AKQ game if villain’s hand distribution is skewed (divergence from a polarized range). i.e he has a 60-40 or better nut-air distribution then the correct GTO play for us is to fold 100% irrespective of villain’s bet sizing.
The second step is to start getting your hands dirty. Start fiddling with software like Cardrunners-EV (CRev) and Flopzilla to run rough simplified GTO simulations of game situations and develop the so called approximate “nemesis strategy”. I myself have been using these a lot recently and found them extremely enlightening. For example, say we hold backdoors facing a c-r on a K82r board (something like 67s), and villain has a high c-r frequency on dry boards. If we go through a CRev poker game tree or just plain flopzilla then we will see the most plus EV play in the entire game tree is to float flop and jam any turn card where we pick up equity, when villain’s c-r percentage is around a certain thresh-hold. You can play around with this and tweak your hand slightly and make it 9Ts giving us backdoors plus two overs to second pair or change the board to something like K84r and give ourselves some weak bottom pair and then try and figure out if you are looking to fight in this spot what line is most +EV.in the game tree.
So you can use these tools to develop your fallback strategies for a variety of tough spots. The goal is to have a solid preparation for a lot of spots that you are likely to encounter and thus have a lot of the in-game decisions be automatic. As the online games get tougher by the day tools like CRev and Flopzilla will become a must-know, must-have to maintain/improve your win rate. Of course if you are playing primarily whale-infested games then you shouldn’t really care.
As for videos I haven’t seen one HU video, which is of any worth released in the past 2 years. I don’t know about MTTs, but people I know who are advanced 6-max players feel the same for 6-max videos. For those who are maybe looking to get a start into HU cash, before they play a single hand they must rote to memory everything from the DogisHeadsUp series on DeucesCracked.
You have funds stuck in Lock Poker? What is the latest on that? Has that caused you to play lower limits than you would have played?
Its kind of a bummer as Lock is almost surely insolvent. They have given a June 1st informal deadline when they will supposedly give clarifications on steps they have taken to improve cashouts. But I aint holding my breath. Right now ROW (rest of the world) players are pretty much in the same boat as US players as cashouts requested from even December of 2012 have not cleared for a majority of us. Plus I have the added issue that the initial amount was deposited as a player transfer, which creates a boatload of hassles at the moment. I have mentally parted with the Lock money and whatever I get is a bonus at this point. It’s a double bummer for me actually as I lost decent 5 figures last year when an Entraction skin Purple Lounge went under water.
You have played HU cash on almost on all poker networks. Which network has given you the most joy - considering everything rakeback, reg to fish ratio, cashouts?
Ipoker is pretty much the nut worst site at the moment as nobody will play anybody with even quarter of a brain or a Pokertable rating that is even $10 in the positive. Plus their software is a compete joke and second only to Partypoker in terms of being as user unfriendly and buggy as possible. Pretty much the same deal with 888. I get tilted just looking at 888’s table layouts. I have been playing exclusively on Pokerstars and Full Tilt most of this year and with Full Tilt coming up with their Black Card program; I am trying to rake up as many points as possible.
PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker came out with a lot of new games. Any game you see has the potential to becoming more than just a passing fad?
All the games they introduced are fads. Traffic for Irish NL on FTP has dropped drastically after the first few weeks and I haven’t seen more than 1 table running at 100 or 200 over the last month. Over on PokerStars, none of the PLO regs are interested in the 5-card PLO and Crouchevel and without a reg-pool supporting those games they are pretty much dead as a dodo.
Any set goals for 2013? If yes, how far are you from them?
I had plans to work on my 6-max game, but that needs to take the backseat for now, as a ton of work needs to be done on my HU game, most of it involves CRev and Flopzilla. Also I don’t really have monetary goals, but have some volume goals. Getting Black card on FTP and 300k VPPs on PokerStars again would be nice. A lot of this will depend on my work schedule and since I am travelling a fair bit this year, both goals would be hard to achieve.
Thank you S^^^^^^ for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish you all the best for all your poker endeavours.
Compiled By: Vinay Suchede