I’m playing in a high stakes tournament in Las Vegas tomorrow, but it doesn’t involve poker. Tomorrow I play in a 100 person fantasy football tournament hosted by FanDuel at the Cosmopolitan called the FFFC. It’s the biggest fantasy football tournament in the world: the total prize pool is 7 million dollars, and 1st place pays 2 million dollars. In some ways (if there was a buyin, it would be $70,000) this is the biggest tournament, poker or otherwise, I’ve ever played.
I was fortunate enough to qualify for the FFFC in week 2 of the NFL season, winning one of two seats in a $25 qualifier. I’ve been waiting months for this tournament to come since then, so it feels pretty surreal that it’s finally here. I’m nervous and still am not totally sure who will be on my team, but I have some ideas. I’m especially excited about some of the sleepers I’m planning on using that I’m pretty certain almost no one else will have.
I’m hopeful that my picks are correct and I end up with a top 5 team, but even if I don’t, I consider my first year of Daily Fantasy pretty successful. I’ve made more money this year in Daily Fantasy than all but a few really good years in my poker career. It’s been more lucrative than I imagined, and I plan on putting even more time into next year. If you’re a poker player looking into getting something new, I recommend it.
If you want to follow my progress in the FFFC, this is a link to the leaderboard: https://www.fanduel.com/contest/fffc-live/. My screen name is massimo09. The tournament only covers the morning and afternoon games, so it will be over by about 4:30 PST. I’ll be posting my lineup after the “lock” on twitter, so you won’t really have to check this leaderboard to know who to root for (or root against?). Wish me luck!
- Published in Uncategorized
Surprise, surprise, I’m posting about daily fantasy again. This time it’s good guys I promise.
FanDuel hosts a 100 person Daily Fantasy Football championship in December that awards $2,000,000 for 1st, and I just won a seat via a $25 qualifier. The seat is worth approximately $70,000 in EV, and I’m guaranteed a minimum of $15,000. Needless to say, I’m pumped. I’ve worked very hard to develop my daily fantasy game and it’s being rewarded in a big way.
If you’re curious to learn more about how exactly I won the seat, check out the article I wrote on my Daily Fantasy website http://dailyfantasywinners.com/won-fanduel-fffc-seat-2000000/. I really recommend that you try Daily Fantasy Football out guys, it’s getting very big and there’s a lot of money to be won.
- Published in Uncategorized
Now that the World Series of Poker is over, most of us are back home grinding our local casino or home games. These games are unlike the tight, shallow stacked tournaments we play over the summer. The play is loose, the stacks are deep, and the blinds are small. As a Las Vegas resident, I grind cash games often, and I see many mistakes made by pros and recreational players alike in the games, and most of them are easy to fix. Here are a few tips to help you make that transition back into cash games from the tournament grind.
Blinds are Small, Stacks are Deep
One crucial difference between live cash games and tournaments are the size of the blinds relative to stacks. In a 5/10 game in Las Vegas, for example, most players are buying in for $2000-$5000, but the BB is only $10. This means playing an orbit costs next to nothing, and even sitting down for hours will only cost you a couple hundreds bucks, even if you fold every hand. I know, I know, this is obvious, but if you sit down in a 5/10 game you will quickly notice players playing like their life depends on winning every other hand. It’s easy to fall in with the loose play of these games, but with a lot of money thrown around every hand on a regular basis, if you are patient enough to wait for a good spot or a big hand, you are almost guaranteed to have a solid win-rate.
Another difference between tournaments and cash games is that many hands will go 4, 5 or even 6 ways to the flop while in tournaments most flops go heads up or 3 way. Preflop hand strength is completely different in 4 way-plus pots, and many players don’t grasp this concept. For example, low suited connectors like 46s do well in 3 way pots, where you will get paid off nicely when you hit a hidden two pair or a flush. But in a 5-way pot, when you hit a flush, it’s frequently dominated if big money is going in. Two pair will also rarely get a lot of value, and hitting trips with unpaired holding is a long shot. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you aren’t in position or getting great pot odds–which is rare in cash with raise sizes being 5x the big blind or higher–I’d avoid playing low suited (one and two gap) connectors in big multiway pots. These are hands that are much better for squeezing OOP, where you a) have fold equity to take down quite a few chips pre and b) will likely get isolation or a 3 way pot against players playing not-so-strong holdings.
Big Pots = More Fold Equity
It’s very simple, but also very true: If you want fold equity in a live cash game, build a bigger pot. When you can put more chips on the table whenever you like, it makes throwing away a few hundred dollars hurt a lot less. So, if you suspect your opponents are playing loose preflop or on the flop, make a big bet or raise early so you can get them to fold easier later in the hand when the pot gets big. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a spot where you are certain your opponent is weak, but cannot get him to fold without overbetting because the pot is too small.
Some players like to play tournaments exclusively or cash games exclusively, because the play is so much different in each of them. Transitioning between two different styles of poker is tough, but if you follow my guidelines above, you may find that the transition is easier than you think. Good luck.
- Published in Uncategorized
As you’ve probably seen on twitter, I’ve gotten into Daily Fantasy sports recently and I’m doing pretty well. The biggest fantasy sport by far is Football, and the season starts in just over a week. There’s absolutely a boat load of money to be made on sites like DraftKings and Fanduel for anyone who is smart and knows a little about football.
Below is an article from my website, http://dailyfantasywinners.com. If you’re new to daily fantasy, this article should help you understand the elements that go into creating a lineup. If you end up signing up for DraftKings or Fanduel after reading this article, please sign up using the banners on http://dailyfantasywinners.com or by using this link http://partners.draftkings.com/aff_c?offer_id=489&aff_id=29984. You can also use the promo code ‘DFW’ on Fanduel for a 100% deposit bonus up to $200.
And if you want to learn more, feel free to tweet me or DM me, I’m always happy to help.
Creating a Lineup on DraftKings
Discovering Daily Fantasy Sports like DraftKings is, well, exciting. You can see by their promotions that the money to be won this year playing is absolutely massive, and as someone who already loves fantasy, this seems right up your alley. However, once you enter a tournament and start the process of making a lineup, you may find that you don’t really know where to start. Unlike season-long fantasy, you can play whoever you want every week, which means the lineup combinations are endless. But by understanding a few simple concepts, making a lineup can actually be very simple, easy and fun.
The goal of this article is to show you how to make a lineup by letting you see a real DraftKings NFL lineup that I will use in week 1. I will explain the key concepts and reasoning that go into each pick. After reading this article, you should be ready to make your own lineup and already have a big edge on other players who may be playing on DraftKings for the first time.
DraftKings: Salary and Salary Cap
On almost every Daily Fantasy website, each player is assigned a salary and the website gives you a specific payroll that the total salary of all your players must fit under. On DraftKings, salaries can range from anywhere to $3000 (i.e. Tedd Ginn Jr.) to $10,000 or sometimes higher (i.e. Peyton Manning). Salaries vary from week to week, based on an algorithm DraftKings has created in order to price players fairly. However, their algorithm isn’t perfect. Some players will be drastically mispriced due to injury, matchup, or other factors. Our goal in creating a lineup is to find the best value out of all the players in the NFL and balance that with players we think will be the top performers of the week.
QB Colin Kaepernick ($8000) – This is a play based on Matchup, Value, and Vegas.
Kaepernick is going against a defense that was absolutely atrocious last year in the Cowboys, and they almost certainly have gotten worse with the losses of Demarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher in the off-season. Targeting star players who are facing bad defenses is essential in creating a top team.
Sportsbooks (I use thegreek.com for lines) are projecting that the 49ers score 28 points against the Cowboys, one of the higher point projection totals you will see throughout the year. Sportsbook over/under lines and spreads are a big part of predicting big fantasy performances. Handicappers are very good at their jobs, so the lines in general are going to be very predictive of the actual outcomes of games. We want to use this to our advantage, so when the Sportsbooks say that the 49ers are going to have a great game, we believe them (Read more on why Vegas sports betting lines are so good here: http://dailyfantasywinners.com/vegas-trust/). Kaepernick is a massive part of the 49ers offense, so a good team performance almost certainly means a good performance from Kaep.
Kaepernick is a high potential fantasy player for his ability to both run and pass. I expect him to be one of the highest scoring players week 1, and in order to win a big tournament like DraftKings Sunday Million, you will absolutely need to have the top scoring players of the week on your team. You save a couple thousand by using Kaepernick over Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, but he has as much potential as either of them.
Arian Foster ($7,200) – This pick is mostly due to an expected improvement this season, and matchup. There are many reasons a player’s salary may be lower than it should be. Foster had an injury-riddled, sub-par, season last year and consequently his price is significantly depressed week 1. But now he’s healthy and his backup Ben Tate is starting in Cleveland. This means Foster should get the majority of carries against the Redskins.
While the Redskins have made some improvements to their defense, they still will be a mediocre to poor defense this season. Vegas has the Texans scoring over 24 points week 1, and like Kaepernick, Foster should play a major role in the Texans offense. This is a great matchup for Foster.
Want to see the reasoning for the rest of my picks? Read more by going to http://dailyfantasywinners.com/create-nfl-lineup-draftkings/
- Published in Uncategorized
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about, well anything. All of my strategy articles are now going to my regular column in American Poker Player Magazine, I write an article every month so check it out.
I’ve started getting into Daily Fantasy more and more, mostly spending my time playing whatever is available on Fanduel.com and DraftKings.com. I feel like this may be the next online poker. There is plenty of money to be won in Daily Fantasy, especially in Football, and it’s growing at a rapid rate. I’m so into it that I’ve launched a new website with my twin brother and a writer at Bleacher Report, that talks about everything strategy wise with regards to Daily Fantasy. It’s called dailyfantasywinners.com, check it out if you get the chance. Recently, my older brother wrote an article on how he won $10,000 using our daily fantasy golf strategy, so feel free to check out that article as well http://dailyfantasywinners.com/won-10000-playing-fantasy-golf-draftkings/.
- Published in Uncategorized
The following is an interview I did with Aaron Steinberg. You may have heard of Aaron recently from his interview on the Strategy with Kristy Podcast this Monday. The interview has been blowing up all over social media, but after listening to the podcast myself I had so many more questions. So I asked Aaron for an interview, and he agreed. Aaron isn’t a big name in the poker world, but I have a feeling that he may become one of the biggest in the poker psychology arena very soon. Aaron is one of the most qualified poker psychology coaches out there, he’s a certified life coach and just completed his Masters in Integral Psychology from JFK University. He has done coaching with many poker players in his career, but his most notable work so far has been as resident psych coach for Saucestakes.com, Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky’s very successful staking group, where’s he’s coached almost all of Sauce’s horses. He’s also my brother, so I know him and his work very personally. Whenever I’m having any mental game issues, Aaron is always on speed dial and I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours talking about the psychological side of poker with him.
Max: One of the main points that I extracted from your interview on the Strategy with Kristy Podcast was that the common quest of poker players to be, “emotionally dead” is impossible. That begs the question: how do we as poker players, in the face of strong emotion like anger from a bad beat or depression from a downswing, play our best poker while feeling strong emotion?
Aaron: Just to be clear, I mean that while it’s possible to become emotionally dead on the outside–i.e. no longer aware of your emotions–it’s not possible for a healthy person to eliminate the subconscious effects of emotions. On some level, the emotions still occur and affect you, but you don’t feel them on a moment to moment basis. If you’re used to feeling strong emotions, which most if not all of us are, then you cannot just flip a switch and successfully ignore them. Emotions are meant to affect us; it’s their job to help us survive and thrive in a more sophisticated, nuanced way than simply fight or flight.
The short answer to your question, then, is practice–as the annoying psychological stereotype says, feel your feelings, and don’t suppress them. Then, in addition to feeling your feelings, it’s important to understand more specifically what past experiences led to certain emotional circumstances that arise in present time. Many people feel some fear in an all-in pot, for example, and fundamentally it’s because losing money is threatening to our well being. But the specific meaning of that fear differs from person to person. One person may want to prove to his or her family that poker is a viable career, and the other may be afraid of losing money because it’s been heavily valued by people he or she loves. These are the types of things players need to understand more honestly about themselves.
As you practice feeling feelings and learning about how you’ve made meaning about experiences over the course of your life, you’ll start to notice “Yep, I feel anger at losing that pot,” but it won’t cause you to play worse. The emotion will still exist, but you’ll still have that freedom of choice that exists in emotional homeostasis.
Max: You also talked on the Podcast about having a “strong relationship to your emotions.” What does that mean and how does one develop this? Why would someone have a weak relationship with his or her emotions?
Aaron: A strong relationship to your emotions means being emotionally intelligent, and this intelligence is on a spectrum where you become more skillful and intelligent over time. Take poker skill as an example. At first, one small decision takes up all your mental capacity, can stress you out, and often takes a while to make–because you’re not poker intelligent. As time goes on, you understand all the variables that go into the decision and it comes much more easily, and you can play multiple tables at a time, etc. The same thing is true for emotions.
An average person who has not considered working with their emotions, psyche, consciousness, whatever in any way has limited emotional intelligence, in that feelings take up a lot of mental space and energy. Sometimes you don’t know why you’re feeling the way you do, and you feel compelled to act outside of your overall best interest. As you start to understand why your emotions are arising–and this will be different for every person in the details but fundamentally similar, as I tried to explain before–and practice feeling them, your emotional intelligence will increase (instead of decrease like it does when you try to become emotionally dead), and you’ll develop more fluidity with your emotions, meaning, again, feelings come and then pass through as opposed to getting hooked inside you and dragging you into bad choices.
This strong relationship to your emotions can also be understood like a relationship to a person. If you don’t know someone very well or trust him or her, you can be easily thrown by stuff he or she does or says and you feel kind of on edge hanging out with that person. As you get to know him or her, you feel more at ease and there isn’t as much turmoil that comes from challenges or conflict between you.
People have weak relationships to their emotions because a lot of emotions don’t feel good to experience, and when you’re not emotionally intelligent, they produce crappy life results. It makes perfect sense that we would want to get rid of them. But that solution is like saying we should get rid of cars because some people die from driving. Emotions have evolved to help us–in the same way we created cars to improve transportation–and we can learn to use them well and productively instead of be at their mercy.
Max: You have talked privately with me about one’s intuition as essential to playing great poker. What is intuition and why is it important?
Aaron: I’m not sure what intuition literally is. People have different opinions that vary widely based on their spiritual and religious, or lack thereof, viewpoints. I like to understand it as a flash recognition of the aggregate of everything inside you that relates to the present stimulus. For example, when someone tells you something and you think they’re lying–and you’re right–but you can’t explain exactly why until later, or maybe never. In poker, then, your intuition to make a particular move at the table will be an aggregate of all of the info you’ve stored over time that relates to the particular spot. But intuition, even in poker situations, will also include things that are related only peripherally, like fear of failure or money issues, etc., because our brains want to compartmentalize things to make them more usable for us in situations that threaten our survival. (For a further discussion of connections in the brain, I think Daniel Kahneman does a great job in Chapters 9-11, I believe, of Thinking, Fast and Slow).
When you’re first starting out in poker, your intuition is going to weigh heavily on things not directly related to poker play. Your mind will relate the poker spot to other examples of competition, success, money, etc. in your life, as these are more of the experiences it has to draw on at that point, rather than other situations where you raise preflop and someone donks into you on the flop, for example. At this stage, it’s extremely important to think through your decisions, because you’re learning about new things that your mind is going to try to organize into not-new categories to keep you safe. As you progress at poker, however, your intuition will draw more from poker experiences than life stuff and you can trust it more–it’s become trained intuition.
The tricky thing about this (and this is something I haven’t tested as much as the other concepts but it seems likely) is that even if you have a lot of experience playing poker but you also have a lot of suppressed issues and emotional baggage, your intuition will still rely too heavily on other non-poker factors. Your mind, or consciousness, seems to favor things that have been suppressed because your mind’s main focus is safety and if something has been suppressed it means by definition that it’s unsafe and needs to be weighed very heavily.
Max: One Poker Psych idea that’s circulated around the poker world is that a player has an A, B, and C game (their ‘A’ game being their best state of mind to be playing, ‘C’ being the worst) and players will unavoidably play their C game on occasion. Therefore one has to improve their ‘C’ game in order to improve their mental game. What do you think of this idea?
Aaron: That seems fine to me. It reminds me of the idea that professional golfers are better because their misses don’t miss as badly. To me A, B, and C game is a kind of arbitrary distinction. However, one of the most important things about psychology and consciousness is finding metaphors and languages that really–although I hate this word–resonate with you, and if this idea makes you feel motivated to learn and you can frame growth around it then it’s quite useful.
In reality, there is no such thing as an A, B, and C game. It’s just a metaphor to help explain something much more complicated and cloudy. I could also say your logical, mixed, and emotional game and mean basically the same thing to most players. The important thing, again, is to find metaphors that work for you and use them as a framework and map for improving your poker psyche-mind-consciousness.
Max: The most talked about issue in poker right now is the time professionals take to make individual decisions at the poker table, more specifically how absurdly long it takes for some players to make decisions. This has many players calling for a shot clock in tournaments (players would only have a limited time to act every hand). Why do you think modern players take such a long time to make decisions?
Aaron: I think it’s because there is a lot on the line, and people tend to think that the more they consider a decision the better the decision will be, and this is true and not true at the same time. I also tend to think, cynically of course, that people are imitating an idea of what they think good poker play is supposed to look like. I’m sure even seasoned pros do this without being aware of it.
Max: Do you think, in general, the more time you take the better you’ll play?
Aaron: I think it depends on how much poker you’ve played and how emotionally intelligent you are. When I think about this question it reminds me of Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. He tells the story of people at the Getty trying to determine if this sculpture was fake or real. They did tons and tons of analysis on it and came to the conclusion that it was real, and subsequently purchased it. However, every art expert they brought in had had an adverse reaction to it and thought there was something wrong with it. Later they could put words to it, but at the time they just intuitively thought something was off. I think we can extrapolate some important information about poker from this.
As I said, people with well-trained intuitions probably don’t need to take a long time to make the right decision, whereas people with less experience likely do. Also, when you’re very good at poker, over thinking can often lead you astray from your gut instinct that was, in fact, correct. Last, when a human plays poker and is dealing with equities that are very close together, no amount of analysis is going to spit out “52%, you should call,” like Poker Snowie might do. It’s kind of like asking “How do I know I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?” We’re dealing in gray areas, which are invariably eventually intuitive decisions. However, one thing I like to do in those situations is think about every piece of information I have, bring that to the surface, and then as what my gut says and go with it.
I know this isn’t really an answer, per se, but my general thesis is yes for less experienced players or experienced players with lots of un-dealt-with emotional issues, and no for very seasoned pros who are emotionally intelligent and experience life balance, whatever that means to you.
Max: Do you think a shot clock is a good idea?
Aaron: I guess I’d say yes, because it encourages improvement, as the better players who’ve done the work won’t need 11 minutes to make the right choice. Also, your choice really isn’t likely changing during those times when you think it is. Depending on how compelling the stimulus is, many choices are made for us before we’re conscious that we’re making them. So a lot of this time being taken is just bullshit. Not all of it, but some, certainly.
Max: A player approaches you for mental game coaching but on one condition, he will not talk about his personal life. Would you coach this person?
Aaron: I’d certainly try. My goal is to help make people’s lives better, and that doesn’t mean only a certain type of person. However, I don’t think we’d get very far because I believe that everything inside a human is connected to everything else, e.g. fear of going all-in for your tournament life is not going to be totally unrelated to other fears you’ve experienced. And really this isn’t so much a belief anymore as just scientifically proven reality, as research by many people. Your emotions and instincts need to put everything into boxes to make sense of them and keep you safe, and there just aren’t that many boxes to put stuff in such that poker can be separate from everything else in your life. In this case, however, I’d just give the person as much help with poker-specific tips as I could.
Max: Is there a poker mental game concept that you’ve heard about that you think is unequivocally wrong?
Aaron: The thing that I speak out against, and have already said I think is wrong, is emotional deadness, but that’s not something that came from poker psychologists, it came from poker players enacting a slightly misguided strategy. Other than that, not really. I think that the information out there that exists is generally great–especially Jared’s stuff–but only a part of the whole story.
In Jared’s first book he talks about how if one doesn’t resolve the root cause of a problem, the problems will just come up again and again. I agree with this completely, and so I’d say any advice that doesn’t attend to the root causes, at least as a bigger picture intention for the work, is wrong.
Also, I don’t totally agree with the way people use Jared’s idea of injecting logic. I think his idea is really powerful, but people take it to be a comprehensive intervention to mental game issues, and it’s not, and I don’t think he intended it to be. I mean that mental game issues are mostly emotional and instinctual, and those parts of the brain are pre-logical, so often logic doesn’t solve the emotional issue in itself. There is a big difference between understanding an idea and being able to embody it, so to speak.
Furthermore, affirmations, which are my language of what injecting logic is, are much more powerful if the root of the issue is addressed within them. For example, it’s one thing to say “I know variance is part of the game and I will weather it today,” or something like that. But why do you get upset about variance? Is it that when you have bad beats the less sophisticated parts of you start to doubt your skill and worthiness of winning? Then you’d want to say “I am a talented poker player and I deserve to be successful,” or something that speaks to you. This may sound corny, but to snap you out of emotionally charged states, you need to get to the core of the issue. Again, whether we like it or not, these issues get ingrained in us when we are children and can’t think in the sophisticated ways we can now. Imagine yourself like those Russian stacking dolls. The part of you that is getting bent out of shape isn’t the most surface doll; it’s one of the smaller ones toward the middle.
Max: You play the WSOP Main Event in 2025. You quietly observe the table for an hour. What do you see?
Aaron: That’s a really good question. It’s hard to know how much and quickly people will evolve over the next 11 years, especially with so many advances in neuroscience and all the sub categories that go with it like neuro-psych. I would guess overall people will be calmer, less yelling, less angry ranting and making a big fuss about everything, but that would be more for amateurs. I don’t really have a good answer. I’m sorry.
The only thing I can think of is that more sophisticated poker games will have to become more popular as Hold’Em and Omaha become more solved, like limit games are now less popular and Hold’Em and Omaha are king at the moment.
Anything I say is extremely speculation, but the question makes me think of developmental psychology and stages of worldviews as researched by Clare Graves. Most poker players seem to be in the individualist/scientific/materialist/modern stage, which means they tend to have kind of an Ayn Rand-ian, primacy of matter, everything is math and random and meaningless worldview. For all I know this could be the highest stage of development and the rest of it is a bunch of bullshit. But the next stage is pluralistic/post-modernity, which states that there is no such thing as absolute truth or that we can’t know absolute truth and it completely removes hierarchy. This worldview believes all perspectives contain some truth and need to be taken into account. After that is the integral stages which brings back hierarchy while still maintaining the validity of all perspectives being true and partial and becomes less about survival needs and more about self-actualization.
What does this all mean in terms of poker? I don’t really know, but I thought maybe people would be intrigued by that/learn something I couldn’t forsee.
- Published in Uncategorized
You’re in Day 2 of a WSOP Event and your opponent, a 30 something year-old white male, just bombed all in on the river for 100k into a ~125k pot. You check your hand, you have TPTK on a fairly harmless board, a strong hand but just a bluff catcher when facing this bet. You stare at your opponent. He is stoic except for shuffling his chips in his right hand. You start to count out a call and he slows down his shuffle slightly. You look at him again. He stares down at the felt, avoiding your gaze. You ask, “If I fold will you show?” He doesn’t respond. You say, “Call.”
This is a classic story of making a read on your opponent. We imagine looking for subtle physical clues after a big river bet or trying to induce our opponent to reveal his hand strength by saying or doing the wrong thing in the long wait before we make our decision. But this story is a misguided idea of how to make a read.
The first time I ever heard about physical poker tells is when I heard about a popular poker book you all probably know called Caro’s Book of Tells. It was extremely popular during the moneymaker boom and is also completely unhelpful in modern poker. Most of these tells are what I call “level 1” tells, they apply to rank amateurs who are unaware of their own appearance while in a poker hand. These people are such novices that they aren’t thinking about what they look like to us while playing their hand. Sound familiar? I didn’t think so. Most reads in modern poker are what I call “level 2” tells, the player is aware of what he looks like to others, so he is purposely trying to manipulate his appearance to get his opponent to make the wrong move. This makes reading more complex, but not much harder. My philosophy on live reading is that everyone is different, and that every thing someone does can be interpreted differently through the context of who the person is. This sounds hard, but by making a few observations about our opponent, it can make level 2 reading a lot easier.
The first and most important thing to observe is if our opponent likes to project tells. Some people will try to project feeling differently then they actually feel. Have a monster->Look nervous. Bluffing -> Try and look confident. Have a flush draw-> Look like you don’t care about the river card. Value betting the river -> look tense and still. I find people like this are really common. Most people are aware of the concept of tells, so instead of trying to hide them they try to manipulate them in their favor, just like they do while betting their hand. This idea alone is massively helpful while reading our opponent.
However, people will project in other ways that aren’t as simple as projecting the opposite of what they feel. I find it common with players who rarely make a peep or move at all, that when they do end up saying or doing something physically, no matter what it is, they will have a hand. Because the only time they feel comfortable enough to do anything is when they are comfortable with their holdings. That being said, I think these people think they are projecting something to manipulate us, but it’s just see-through.
These are just a couple things I use when trying to make a read. When I’m in a tournament, I’m always passively observing my opponents and thinking about how they may project themselves in different scenarios. Doing this takes practice and real world experience. Reading this post is only the first step to realizing how easy it can be to make a read on someone in the modern poker world.
Poker has evolved immensely over the last 10 years strategy-wise. In 2003, some pros played laughably and even those who were considered the best made some eyebrow-raising plays. In 2013 even the “bad regs” are “pretty good.” In the same way, the live and physical aspects of poker have also evolved. 10 years ago amateurs were so bad that they weren’t even aware of what they looked like when they totally butchered a hand. Now it’s hard to find an amateur that isn’t covering his entire face or is self-aware and savvy. It’s going to take more then Caro’s book of tells to get better at live-reading, and if you want to survive in modern poker you should start learning now.
- Published in Uncategorized
Every poker player knows that it’s hard to be emotionally unattached when playing. Even losing a little pot can take us from clear thinking and calm to angry and clouded. There are many ways to take on this issue. Lots of us have turned to mental game coaching or meditation or some more outrageous things like snapping a rubber band against our wrist the remind us to be present. But while working on our overall mental game is important, sometimes we overlook the little things we can do.
Sometimes I’ll be watching my friend play poker online, or coaching someone, and I’ll find that I have all the answers. I give great advice, make good reads, and I find that if I were to play with the same objectivity and clear thinking that I display when coaching, I would be a millionaire. Then I start playing, whether it’s live or online, and I find that I don’t feel the same way I do when watching someone else play. What’s the problem?
One quality that I have that is both a blessing and a curse is that I can become completely engrossed in a task. If I’m reading something interesting, you could yell in my ear and I wouldn’t hear you. My girlfriend could take off her shirt while I’m adding a backup running back with potential to my 3rd fantasy team and I probably won’t notice. And when I’m playing poker, absolutely nothing is going to disturb me. The blessing of this is that I am extremely focused, but the curse is that I become very emotionally involved while playing. I’m very much in my head while involved in a hand and that means my thinking becomes clouded when I’m experiencing emotion.
This is a big issue that is hard to fix, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do little things to help. One thing I’ve realized is that my physical self will affect my mental self. When most players play poker, they are leaning into the table with their hands on their chips, a posture that is literally throwing them into the action. I used to do this too, but one day I was at a final table with hole card cams and a high rail, and it became very hard to lean in and touch my cards and chips. Instead of leaning in, I put my hands on the rail and sat up straight, and it felt much better.
What I realized was, if I didn’t physically lean into the table, and sat up straight almost pulling myself away from the table, my mind felt more like an objective observer. There was something about physically putting myself away from the table that mentally also took me away from the table. I felt like I was coaching a friend, and I felt like I played a lot better. And my posture was better too.
I still get emotionally engrossed in the action sometimes, that’s just me being me. But I find it’s easier to get back to the objective mental state I would like to be in when I sit at the table in this way. Sometimes doing little things can go long way.
Do you have any little tricks that you do that help you at the table or online? Tweet them to me @maxjsteinberg on twitter. I’d love to hear from you.
- Published in Uncategorized
So it looks as though my commitment to mental game work paid off. I wrote a journal entry every day I played last week and felt like my mental game definitely improved. It’s carried over to this week, I find myself making a lot more big folds and reads than I was before. The results also improved tremendously:
I think my week was perfectly capped off on Sunday, where I decided to warm up for todays session (since I didn’t play at all on Saturday) by playing a reg for a half hour to an hour. We played about 20 games 2 tabling and I think I played exceptionally well. My opponent was competent but played pretty damn bad, and I took advantage as much as possible. Looking at my graph afterwards, you would’ve thought I was outplayed. My EV line was down pretty significantly as well as my non-sd winnings, two stats I usually look at it assess how I’m playing. What I realized was that these stats were a distraction for me during my sessions, that day to day or even during a week they just don’t fucking matter. Looking at these stats day-to-day has become an obsession for me and I bet a lot of other players. But in the end, unless I’m looking at them along with other stats and thinking critically, they are worthless.
One last event that convinced me I needed to stop looking at them was a thread on 2p2 about the Sauce vs WCGrider hu challenge. Someone asked if the fact Sauce was winning so much without SD meant that he was clearly better than WCG and/or clearly running bad even though the EV line indicated otherwise. Several great holdem players chimed in and said that with a sample like they had (about 5000), they just don’t even consider non sd winnings since there’s too much variance to put weight on it at all. Sauce even chimed in himself, stating that he used “the exact same strategy on Jungleman and won a lot but his non-sd winnings were actually negative.” With all these amazing players giving little weight to non-sd and EV over what I would consider a meaningful sample, I realize now that looking at these stats daily or even weekly is pointless and probably detrimental to my game.
Today is the start of my last week in Vancouver. It’s been a great trip and I can see myself coming back here in the near future. Hopefully I can end this journey with a bang.
- Published in Uncategorized
When Jared Tendler was my mental game coach, he showed me the importance of goals. Before I met him, I didn’t know why I played poker. If you asked me, “why do you play poker?” I may have been capable of stating reasons (“To make money” “To get good at something” “To achieve a high level of mastery”) but I didn’t know really. After working with him for a couple of months, I got very clear about it. There we’re 2 reasons:
1) I enjoy figuring out how to beat the game.
2) I enjoy the competition of going head to head with another intelligent person and attempting to outwit them.
I realized soon after that when I played well, these goals we’re at the forefront of my mind. I would play someone, and feel the joy of thinking deeply about how I can outplay him. I would talk to Danny about strategy, and get downright giddy over the prospect of incorporating this strategy into my game. When I played poorly, I was worried more about how I was actually faring (i.e. was I down or up? Did my opponent just own me?) than the actual process. I would sulk looking at my stats and the unconfident fear that we all know of, “Am I good?” would settle in.
Today marks the beginning of the 4th week of being in Vancouver in all out grind mode. So far, it hasn’t gone particularly well.
The graph below is exclusively hyper-turbo HU sngs, and it’s not pretty. Even though I’m clearly running poorly (I’m 40 buyins under EV), even if I were running at expectation I would barely be beating the rake. That being said, I play almost exclusively regs and in my entire lifetime of poker my showdown winnings have been higher than my non-sd. The EV line may not tell the whole story. Looking at these results, I’m proud of how I have done so far.
Since I’ve been here I’ve been working ridiculously hard on my game, using cardrunners ev and flopzilla and my database to analyze common spots. I think my game strategically has gotten to a great place. However, reflecting on this trip, I think where I’ve been lacking is my mental game. When I play my best, all I’m thinking about is how to outplay my opponent, and the running bad that I’ve gone through on this trip has clouded that. I easily forget about it during sessions and go into sulk mode, where I expect to lose.
So now that I have 2 weeks left in this beautiful city I am refocusing on my mental game. Instead of rating myself after each session on how well I think I played, I’m going to grade myself on my attitude. I think that this will improve my game tremendously and also make the grind even more enjoyable.
Good Luck Everyone!
- Published in Uncategorized