How to be a Poker player

    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      :spade: :club: :diamond: :heart:

      The idea of starting a blog to keep me motivated and help me explore poker has lingered in me for quite some time now. I have always been fascinated with this exciting game and attempted to become successful at it in the past. However, none of those attempts turned out to be as I envisioned them in my mind, which, of course, was flying through the limits, crushing my opponents and having a healthy bankroll on my account.

      Except for failing, those attempts had some other things in common – lack of determination, unwillingness to keep working on my game and no specific goals apart from monetary ones, which made my approach to the game extremely results-oriented. It goes without saying, that in the end I never got where I wanted to be, and could only admire those who lived my dream of being a Poker player from a distance.

      Now, a couple of years later, I believe my understanding of poker has changed significantly, thanks to Jared Tendler and Haseeb Qureshi to whom I owe the name of this blog. After all this is what it is all about - the journey of becoming a Poker player. Now I know that this journey consists of huge amount of work, dedication and passion for the game, and I am prepared and very excited for what lies ahead. So how does one become a poker player? I am ready to find out!

      Last couple of months I have been grinding the micros to build up a bankroll and I managed to beat NL5 and NL10. Then I noticed the Get Rich or Die Tryin' challenge and decided, what the heck - this is a good a time as any to start my blog and try to climb that poker mountain I have been staring at for so long. I know poker makes no promises but that doesn’t make me enjoy it any less, so here we go!

      :spade: :club: :diamond: :heart:

      I will try to add some intermediate goals for every week of the challenge but for now, here is my first climb:

      :diamond: Starting bankroll: $787.78 (yeah, I know :f_grin: )
      :diamond: My goal for the challenge: $5000


  • 217 replies
    • Lazza61
      Lazza61
      Headadmin
      Headadmin
      Joined: 23.03.2011 Posts: 10,259
      Hey elpsycho,

      Welcome to the blogs. :) Excellent first post. I feel like I already know you. Jared Tendler's Mental Game of Poker was a great help for me. I have always been a tilty person (on the tables and in RL) and now I'm almost tilt free.

      Initially I was only trying to repair my game, but soon found a lot of the principles can be applied to RL as well. :)

      Following for sure.

      Good Luck

      Laz
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      Thanks, Lazza61!

      I’m with you on that one. It’s mind-blowing how working on mental side of poker can translate to a lot of things in real life. Sports, relationships, you name it. Have you read Haseeb’s psychology book? I know he had a rough time with the poker community, but I think his book is incredible. It is quite different from the Jared’s book and I think it is a must-read for every serious poker player.

      :spade: :club: :diamond: :heart:


      And now a little bit about my game


      Couple of months ago I started playing Zoom/Rush and overall I broke even.



      However, that wasn’t the biggest problem. While fast poker helped me hone my abc game a lot, I never got enjoyment from it. Of course you play with a lot of same opponents, but the momentary dynamics and maybe even dynamics in general, especially at micros, are almost none-existent. Wasn’t poker about constantly adapting and reading your opponents? Fast variants of poker have their pros, don’t get me wrong. And I’m not saying that they are better/worse than regular tables, but for me personally poker is first and foremost a Game, not a grind.

      Here is a quote from Haseeb’s book that I find very appropriate:

      Poker should be played. Played! We use the word so easily that we sap it of its meaning. Poker should be fun! Not only because it makes it easier, but because it makes us perform better. Being at play, enjoying when you’re playing not only maximizes your sensitivity to learning (as we’ll discuss later), but also makes you more creative, free-flowing, and open to experiment.

      Even if it is your passion, even if it is your livelihood, always remember that poker is a game. That is not to say that you shouldn’t take it seriously— of course , you should. But if you are not enjoying it, then you should walk away until you can find a way to enjoy it again.

      Qureshi, Haseeb. How to Be a Poker Player: The Philosophy of Poker.


      Then I switched to regular tables and that was a relief. I was craving to play, not because I ran good or because of a change of scenery, but because I genuinely enjoyed sitting at the same table trying to adapt to my opponents and treating each situation as unique, not generalizing my plays, as it was while playing zoom. Maybe I caught an upswing or maybe my attitude changed something in my game, I really don’t know, but it helped me build up my bankroll.



      It also jump-started my desire to study the game and to become as good at it as I can possibly be. I know that nowadays everyone is talking about how the game has changed and that it is almost impossible to make decent money playing poker, but then again, we never know where we can get if we never start climbing that mountain, right?

      Now let's start that challenge and hit the tables!
    • IvicaIliev77
      IvicaIliev77
      Bronze
      Joined: 31.05.2012 Posts: 4,246
      Great start of the blog!

      Can you share more info about that mental game book that is not Jarred's?

      Appreciate it and best of luck!
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      Hi Ivica! Nice to see you here.

      The book I was talking about is Haseeb Qureshi’s “How to Be a Poker Player: The Philosophy of Poker”.

      While Jared’s “Mental Game of Poker” deals with mental game issues and offers strategies to combat them, this book explores the concept of being a poker player. Attitude towards poker itself, learning, living as a pro etc. There are, of course, some similarities between these books and even cross-references but for me Haseeb’s book was more inspirational than a how-to guide.
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      :spade: :club: :diamond: :heart:

      The biggest problem in my game at the moment is lack of studying routine. I have some free time, which I would like to spend on learning, but where do I start?

      I know that studying and learning the game is essential for becoming a good poker player, so I feel that this problem should be tackled head on.

      I watch videos regularly and try to make notes, but it’s definitely not enough. I tried doing hand history analysis, but this habit never caught up and I always end up procrastinating on it. I even tried doing range vs range analysis on certain flops “Matthew Janda style”, which I enjoyed very much, but I felt like I was wasting my time in a sense that it is unnecessary on micros.

      So here is the question. How does a studying/theory session look like? We all know how to grind through the hands, but how to prepare for this grind, which is merely a performance of our skill that should be trained away from the tables?

      Maybe there is no ideal studying routine and it solely depends on a player. Maybe there is. But there definitely is a routine that can increase player’s poker skill given time and determination.

      Therefore, my goal is to find one that suits me.

      As I mentioned earlier, I really don’t know where to start, but I have some ideas.

      During this bankroll building challenge, I will try to do following things and maybe I will be able to form a studying routine around them:

      Strategy

      :club: Marking and reviewing hands (yeah, I feel this one is kinda essential)
      :club: Making a list of weak concepts and studying them one by one
      :club: Playing with Flopzilla
      :club: Analyzing regulars in DB, writing notes

      Mental Game

      :diamond: Writing a mental hand history during sessions
      :diamond: Keeping a Tilt/Mental game profile
      :diamond: Analyzing signs of A-,B-,C-Game and working on necessary improvements
      :diamond: Include warm-ups before the sessions and try to reach the elusive “zone”
    • mikelito85
      mikelito85
      Bronze
      Joined: 19.08.2012 Posts: 1,105
      Nice introduction, im following you! Im finally reading Jared's book after one and a half year I bought it :f_thumbsup:

      you play SH or FR?
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      Hi mikelito85! Nice to see you in my blog.

      I play SH but funny thing is that recently, during one session, I didn't have enough tables and decided to add FR tables to put some volume in. I noticed that there are a lot of weak players and some lines are more profitable on FR than on SH. Of course I didn't play a large sample and my opinion can be biased. But still, maybe I will start exploring FR to find some juicy tables, especially at higher stakes.

      As for Jared's book, it is totally worth it. Well, both of them actually. :f_grin:
    • IvicaIliev77
      IvicaIliev77
      Bronze
      Joined: 31.05.2012 Posts: 4,246
      Originally posted by elpsycho
      Hi Ivica! Nice to see you here.

      The book I was talking about is Haseeb Qureshi’s “How to Be a Poker Player: The Philosophy of Poker”.

      While Jared’s “Mental Game of Poker” deals with mental game issues and offers strategies to combat them, this book explores the concept of being a poker player. Attitude towards poker itself, learning, living as a pro etc. There are, of course, some similarities between these books and even cross-references but for me Haseeb’s book was more inspirational than a how-to guide.
      Hi elpsycho! Happy to be here man :)

      I have googled a bit for the book, haven't found the whole copy yet anywhere.
      Any chance that you can send me a link for it via PM?

      Appreciate it man !
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      Originally posted by IvicaIliev77

      Hi elpsycho! Happy to be here man :)

      I have googled a bit for the book, haven't found the whole copy yet anywhere.
      Any chance that you can send me a link for it via PM?

      Appreciate it man !
      I don't think there is a copy on the internet, I never found one anyway.

      I bought mine for Kindle on Amazon.

      Hope that helps :f_grin:
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      Week 1


      So, here is my first week of the challenge:



      Hands: 11,279
      Net Won: -$56.07 (-$55.32 according to HM)
      Rakeback: $21.27
      Result: -$34.8
      Bankroll: $752.98

      The results are meh, but that was my first week fully dedicated to NL25. I'm a little anxious on NL25 after playing a lot of NL10, and the $100 swings are a bit frustrating.

      The good news is that I started writing a mental hand history during sessions, and I feel like it’s helping me understand some underlying mental game problems in my game. I hope this will become a habit.

      As for strategy/technical side of study, it was quite random during this week and I feel a bit disappointed with it. However, I made the conclusion that the weakest part of my game are 3-bet pots. In general, I’m using w34z3l’s ranges from his 6-max walkthrough, but I feel that on nl25 there are regs who are too aggressive, and I need to make some adjustments if I want to improve my game.

      Here is my plan for improving my game in 3-bet pots as a part of my studying routine:

      :diamond: Make pop-ups for calling a 3-bet from different positions
      :diamond: Make polarized/linear 3-betting ranges vs different types of opponents
      :diamond: Analyze aggressive regulars’ 3betting ranges and flatting vs 3bet ranges
      :diamond: Do Janda’s range vs range analysis, which is basically comparing how given ranges play against each other and writing out what would hero do with every hand in his range on random flops

      And of course I will continue to work on my mental game and other aspects that I listed earlier.

      I’m feeling very determined and that’s a good thing :f_grin:
    • IvicaIliev77
      IvicaIliev77
      Bronze
      Joined: 31.05.2012 Posts: 4,246
      Thank you for the advice once more.
      I see great plan that you lay out here. I wish you to go through with it, I am positive it will improve your ROI in future games!

      All the best
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      Week 2


      Second week of the challenge started quite roughly on NL25, so I decided to move down to NL10 for a couple of weeks, or maybe longer if necessary, to build a more comfortable bankroll.



      Hands: 6,285
      Net Won: -$104.65
      Rakeback: $26.92
      Result: -$77.73
      Bankroll: $675.25

      This setback screwed a bit with my plan to analyze NL25 regs, but what the heck, they aren’t going anywhere. :s_evil:

      By the way, is it me or NL25 is MUCH harder, than NL10? I noticed it on Stars and now on Full Tilt. Every coach says that those stakes are pretty much the same, but I just don't see them as such. Maybe it's just me. :f_eek:

      My plan for this week pretty much stays the same – continue working on my technical and mental game, but I think it would be nice to select some tough hands, analyze them here in my blog and also post them in the hand evaluation forums, and then compare the results. Should be fun!
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      :spade: :club: :diamond: :heart:


      Today I had a very interesting spot and wasn’t quite sure what to do on the river. So I decided to play with Flopzilla a bit and try to figure this one out. This is a 3 barrel bluff spot BTN vs BB.

      Full Tilt, $0.05/$0.10 No Limit Hold'em Cash, 6 Players
      Poker Tools by CardRunners - Hand Details

      SB: $14.06 (140.6 bb)
      BB: $9.85 (98.5 bb)
      UTG: $11.71 (117.1 bb)
      MP: $12.58 (125.8 bb)
      CO: $10.15 (101.5 bb)
      Hero (BTN): $10.15 (101.5 bb)

      Preflop: Hero is BTN with 9 7
      MP posts BB OOP, UTG folds, MP checks, CO folds, Hero raises to $0.40, SB folds, BB calls $0.30, MP folds

      Flop: ($1) T 2 J (2 players)
      BB checks, Hero bets $0.55, BB calls $0.55

      Turn: ($2.10) A (2 players)
      BB checks, Hero bets $1.35, BB calls $1.35

      River: ($4.80) 2 (2 players)
      BB checks, Hero ???


      Preflop


      Preflop we are on the button with 97s and there is a fish posting from MP. Of course we would open-raise this hand if everyone had folded to us, but even with one poster in the pot I think the best play for us is to isolate and try to play this pot heads-up against a fish. There is also a possibility of limping behind and trying to play a multi-way pot in position, but I think isolation is a bit better.
      We get a cold call from BB who is unknown but given that he doesn’t have auto-rebuy on he could be a weaker player.

      Let’s think about our opponents range. I think he would definitely 3-bet hands like AQ+ and JJ+, and his cold calling range vs my 4 bb raise might be a bit wider than a regular’s cold calling range because he doesn’t have a full stack and can be a weaker player.

      Overall I think his calling range could look something like this:




      Flop


      On the flop we are heads-up and we flop a gutshot with a backdoor flush dro. I think it’s a reasonable hand to cbet with, especially against wide range in position. We can hit some additional equity, barrel some scare cards or hit our draw.

      So I decided to bet, but I think my sizing is too small. The board is not super drawy, but the are some gutshots and straight draws out there, and it might be easier for him to call me with some 3rd pair. I don't now if it matters that much, but I suppose a bet of 0.65 or 0.70 could be a bit better.

      I don’t think he will fold a gutshot or a pocket pair on the flop, especially to my sizing, so I believe he will continue with this range and we have almost no fold equity:



      I suppose he would raise sets and two pairs on the flop, so when he calls, we can discount them on the turn.


      Turn


      Ace is one of the best cards for us and given how bad our fold equity was on the flop I think we should almost always make a 2nd barrel here. As we can see in Flopzilla, he can’t have a top pair and he will fold to our bet more than 50% of his flop calling range. And then again, our plan on the flop was to bet scare cards.




      River


      But he called and the river came a total blank. Which is also the best word to describe my state of mind at that moment. :f_ugly:
      I tanked a little and for some reason thought he wouldn’t fold much. So I checked, but now I see that this was clearly a mistake. He had a lot of draws on the turn and on the river he will fold around 56% of his calling range on the turn!




      If I haven’t made some significant mistakes in my analysis then a 2/3 pot 3rd barrel on the river would be super profitable in this spot. And I missed it! :profit:

      And now I will post this hand in hand evaluation forums and see what judges will say about it!
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      del
    • vonki
      vonki
      Bronze
      Joined: 18.03.2008 Posts: 6,091
      subscribed! gl :)
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      Originally posted by vonki
      subscribed! gl :)
      Hey vonki! Nice to see you here! :f_grin:

      :spade: :club: :diamond: :heart:

      So, I posted this hand and hand judge kinda disagreed with my analysis, but then again, maybe ranges that I gave him were reg-ish and against a fishy player it is a give up on the river. I guess this makes my play correct, but for some reason I wish it wasn't :f_biggrin:

      Originally posted by BogdanPS
      Hi elp,

      Preflop: looks fine

      Postflop: BB is a fish and I doubt you get a fish to fold much on that river... thus for me it's an easy give up.

      Vs a reg type player you can consider a bigger bet to try to get to fold some pairs.
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      Week 3


      Had another losing week, but OMG, so many promotions in December! November was the most losing month for me so far, but I hope to do better in December. I will post my plans and goals for December later, but for now here is my graph for the week:



      Hands: 6,103
      Net Won: -$100.94
      Rakeback: $9.13 + $15 Instant cash bonus
      Result: -$76.81
      Bankroll: $598.44

      My bankroll keeps dwindling, but not my desire to grind. Looking forward to grinding a lot more in December. :f_pleased:
    • elpsycho
      elpsycho
      Diamond
      Joined: 08.06.2008 Posts: 350
      December goals


      There are a lot of promotions in December on PokerStars, so I decided to grind there. Also there is the PokerStrategy Sidekick promotion, which was awesome in 2013, so I just can’t miss it this year. It’s just too much fun. I spent a whole day trying to get the Sidekick working, and after hours of swearing and tilting it finally started to grab my hand history.

      Also I like the milestone promotion (the final stake share part), so that’s another little bonus. But the main goal of my grinding will be to get Gold on PokerStars and clear the current milestone, which incidentally also requires 2500 VPPs.

      I will also continue studying and improving my game which will be the main focus along with getting Gold and milestone.
      So my goals for December are:

      :spade: Get Gold on PokerStars/clear the milestone
      :spade: Study at least 6 hours a week
      :spade: Complete all 4 weeks of Sidekick promotion
      :spade: Stay positive
    • CamboCat
      CamboCat
      Bronze
      Joined: 19.10.2012 Posts: 127
      Awesome blog!
      Going to read the Qureshi-book and will be following your blog
      GL!