11.03.2005

Infection Points (With No L)

I'm a limit player. There, I said it. Feels good to get that off my chest. I play limit poker. I'm not great at no-limit and probably won't be unless I devote a lot of time to unlearning what I've picked up over the last year (and though I still consider myself a poker novice, I learn really fast and unlearn at the proverbial snail's pace). I enjoy the occasional no-limit or pot-limit game, as a challenge - it's easier to stay interested in a live game if it's no- or pot-limit, because attention must be paid on so many levels. But ultimately when it comes to taking money away from the table, limit is and probably always will be my best choice. In limit play you don't have to think so much about inflection points - there's only so much pressure that can be applied, especially in a typical hyper-aggressive online game where most pots are heads-up after the flop. When maximum pressure is the norm, it's simply not possible to be abnormally aggressive. Turn checkraises will be called down by ace high with great frequency, not least by me. The only royal flush I've hit in recent memory was called down by unimproved A9o. It's the reality of the limit games I'm playing in now: bad habits are inculcated as a necessary defense against aggression. Since the betting patterns dictated by position and preflop action have become almost enshrined in ritual, the only significant action happens when a semi-bluffer's draw comes in or someone overplays an overpair/TPTK against two pair or a set, and there's little variation in those betting lines anyway. The fact that there is almost no possibility of forcing your opponent to lay down a hand means that inflection points, as a concept, don't really apply. In certain rare instances a river three-bet bluff at the ultimate scare card - four to a suit on the board, mostly - can take the pot, but making that play without a flush is a substantial risk. I dutifully read Harrington's books, and liked them quite a lot, but there isn't much in there that's useful to my limit cash game. (I can credit Action Dan with loosening my NL tourney game - how do you like them apples?) No-limit offers players the opportunity to make much bigger mistakes than in limit, true, but it also rewards those mistakes commensurately. This is why I've become such a fan of the Hollywood Park 6/12 game - it's got the implied odds of NL combined with the limited exposure of limit. Harrington's (and other people's) talk about inflection points has got me thinking about mathematics once again, in a very tentative and admittedly abstract way. Inflection points are the points at which a function, when graphed, changes concavity. Not necessarily where it changes direction - just the point where the rate of change moves from positive to negative or vice versa. They are points at which there is a change in momentum. I'm thinking about this more right now because I'm suspecting that my game may be at an inflection point. Diminishing returns is the name of the game at the moment. I've been on a significant plateau for a couple of months now - feast or famine at the tables, most often famine with the occasional feast to make up for it. I've made small adjustments to my game from time to time - tinkering mainly with positional aggressiveness and preflop selection - but I can't see the problem. My momentum is gone, and it's hard to evaluate your play without significant results one way or another. Yes, there's the agonizing hand-by-hand micro level, but since I've tried to open up my game to play better in more marginal situations... well, I've been in many more marginal situations, where the line between correct play and donkishness is awfully fine. Most likely it's a combination of factors. Defending the blinds (not because they're "mine") can be very lucrative, but obviously voluntarily playing weaker hands out of position leads to higher variance, and I haven't been hitting flops well enough to make up for it. Playing against a smaller field of players (PokerRoom 5/10 for the most part) means that serious opponents have plenty of hands on me, and my attempts to mix up my game and be deceptive have gone awry too often. And, of course, there's the problem of ego - as in, I haven't figured out exactly where my ego fits into things. I find myself fluctuating between a state of zen-like grace and a sense of entitlement, something that's never happened before. Too results-oriented? Maybe. I had a dynamite first year as a poker player, and was obviously due a smackdown or three. And one of the perils of thinking too much is that you do too little. You can talk yourself into or out of anything, given enough time. I'm talking to myself a lot these days; I'm just not sure what I'm saying. Anyone care to interpret for me?

2 Comments:

Blogger hdouble said...

"Variance sucks and I need to start taking shots at bigger games."

11/03/2005 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger StudioGlyphic said...

"I'm a limit player and limit's an old dirty whore."

11/03/2005 06:52:00 PM  

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