Archive for the ‘variance’ Category

I have now been playing poker online for 2 years. I bought in for $50 vowing to never put any more money in. Well I did break this, not because I went broke, but because I thought I would take advantage of the Pokerstars offer in July where you get a 40% bonus up to $600 for further deposits. I put in $250 to get a $100 bonus which I have now qualified for. Additionally, I have now qualified to become a Silver VIP allowing me to cash in FPPs for another $100.

I started the month with just over $500 coming off a bad end to July. With a $300.45 win plus the $200 bonus my bankroll is now over $1000 for the first time! August  2008 has clearly been my most lucrative month so far. And my bankroll is $700 above what I have put in.

Some of my stats and comments are as follows:

1. 15, 194 hand. Won $300.45 (just over 12 buyins) at 3.95 BB/100 hands.

2. The month was clearly split into 2: after the first ~ 9,000 hands I was even; however I went on the hot run I have been waiting for with a 12 buyin streak over the last 6,000 hands (~10 BB/100 hands). Here is the graph from Pokertracker:

Results for August 2008

Results for August 2008

I am thinking more that your results with pocket AA’s and how many times you flop sets plays a large part in swings either way. Therefore:

3.  I won $318 (ie more than my monthly win!) with AA. The W$SD with AA was 80.95% (compared to ~70% over 80,000 + hands since April) at a win-rate of 883 BB/100 hands (compared to 500BB/100 hands since April).

4. For the first month this year (ie since using Pokertracker in April) I flopped more sets than predicted. I flopped 84 sets with my 674 pocket pairs which is 1 in 8.0 (compared to predicted 1 in 8.3). My win rate with flopped sets in August was 914.76 BB/100 hands which is very similar to my average since April (1002 BB/100 hands). Despite the good ‘flopped sets’ month, I still have a lot of catching up to do! Since using pokertracker in April, I have flopped 389 sets with my 3641 pocket pairs at 1 in 9.4. If I had flopped the predicted 1 in 8.3 I would have flopped 439 sets …… I am 50 sets behind still!!!!

5. Despite my feeling that I have not had a good year (even with my August result), the reality is that I have won 4 out of 5 months. July was the only losing month.

6. Last point is a comment rather than a stat. Using a 2 buyin stop loss has definitely been a useful introduction… it is a great tilt-buster.

Good luck in September all!


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Technically speaking I could put this post under the ‘Variance’ banner. But in reality it is a brag post…..lol. However there are also some discussion points in how my opponent played the hand.

To give some background, I was up 2 buy-ins when this hand happened. I had scooped a few big pots but also had the usual run of coolers and suckouts that I have had recently. Part of the brag is that I had wanted to finish the session about 10 minutes before this hand happened and had closed down 4 out of the 6 tables I was playing. The reason I kept the other 2 up was because I had identified a yummy donkey who was big stacked at the table where I was also big stacked. He was playing loose and passive preflop, but aggressive post-flop with a lot of bluffs. Indeed, most of my stack had been acquired by picking off his bluffs. Anyway, recently a lot of my sets have been hammered by players calling large bets with flush draws and hitting. The villain hit his flush  with this hand but……………………

PokerStars No-Limit Hold’em, $0.10 BB (6 handed)

BB ($25.80)
UTG ($4.80)
MP ($11.20)
CO ($9.50)
Button ($7.45)
Hero ($27.45)

Preflop: Hero is SB with , .
1 fold, MP raises to $0.3, 1 fold, Button calls $0.30, Hero calls $0.25, BB calls $0.20.

Flop: ($1.20) , , (4 players)
Hero bets $0.5, BB raises to $1.4, MP folds, Button folds, Hero raises to $3.5, BB calls $2.10.

Turn: ($8.20) (2 players)
Hero bets $6, BB calls $6.

River: ($20.20) (2 players)
Hero bets $17.65 (All-In), BB calls $16 (All-In).

Final Pot: $52.20

Results in white below:
Hero has 2h 2s (full house, twos full of fives).
BB has 4d Ad (flush, ace high).
Outcome: Hero wins $53.85.

So he hit his flush card giving him the nut flush, but it was a beautiful flush card for me. Was it a bad call on the river by  the villain? In his situation, given the bad run I have had recently with so much already in the pot I probably would have called too. I could have had a smaller flush or even an AA or KK. But it was a horrible  call on the turn. The way I was betting I was clearly ahead at this point. I put 6$ into an $8 pot giving him pot odds of 1.3:1. He had 9 outs with 44 cards left (about 4:1 odds = ~20%). He either had to push hoping to get me off a high pair, or fold. As it turns out, of course I would have called had he pushed.

Just out of interest, this pot gave me a 2 and a half buy-in win, however it represents a 5 buy-in turn around, which was 1/8th of my whole bankroll at the time! That is, if he happened to have had a higher full house, I would have 5 buy-ins less than what I do now.

The other comment to make is that this hand illustrates very nicely why you should always play with the maximum buy-in. You can’t win this amount in a pot if you always buy-in short and then leave when you get up a bit.

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Well I am toughing it out at the moment…really struggling. Looking over my post about WCG|Rider is helping because over the last 17,000 hands I have been going nowhere. My bankroll has been fluctuating between $400 and $450 over that time….at least I haven’t had a big downturn. It is just very frustrating when every 1,000 session you have coolers and suckouts preventing you from going forward. In the last session it was my set of Jacks going in all on the turn when my opponent had 2:1 pot odds calling with a flush draw and 7 outs…..guess whether he hit!

It is exactly for these periods of difficulty that I am writing this variance series. Preventing tilt is vital to becoming a winning poker player, and unfortunately I haven’t mastered this yet. I have definitely improved but I still have tilt tendencies that results in major leaks holding back the winrate.

One thing that I would like to do in this series on variance is comment on what the pros have to say about variance and bad runs. How do they cope with it? Well, perhaps some of them don’t cope with it that well. Have a look at this’blogfessional’ (on www.pokerroad.com) of Eugene Todd Bro.

This is recorded during the 2008 WSOP..he is a bit frustrated..and realise that he is actually a bit ahead thus far having had a good cash. As he mentions, there are many players who thus far  who haven’t cashed at all, including Phil Ivey (we are up to Event 38).

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I was looking at my current run at 5c10c NL last night and comparing it to the run I had at the end of last year and earlier this year. The 2 runs were separated by 15,000 hands of 10c25c NL. I have now played over 38,000 hands during this run and I am up $185 which is 18.5 buyins and represents a win-rate of 2.4 BB/100 hands. At the same stage of the first run I was up over $400!

So am I a worst player now? Or do I put this down to variance? Well actually I think I am a better player now. I am more aggressive both pre- and post- flop, steal more blinds and I am better at folding big hands. Before I knew that I was too passive. Apart from the occasional hand here or very occasional session there ( like last Saturday night) I am very happy with my current game. I just think I am running bad.

Take last night. I played 1,500 hands, which is a lot for me for a week night. I ended up winning a grand total of $2. Sounds like a benign session winning about a buyin less than I should. Sounds not too bad. The reality is it was frustrating beyond belief. I should have been up at least 5 buyins. I lost 2 buyins with AA where I was favourite when the money went in. The second hand is one where you just know things are not going your way. AA all in preflop against two fully stacked players with AKo!! Yummy, Yummy…. I am 92% favourite here to go up 2 buyins in one hand. Flop 10 J Q ROFL………

Now let me point you to a fantastic article that I read about 18 months on tworags.com: Variance – The Grossness (or Beauty!) of Poker.

This is the opening paragraph that pretty well summarises what I am trying to emphasise with these posts:

While many players realize that statistical swings are part of poker, very few have a real understanding of variance and how it can affect results and bankroll. But the ability to understand and, more importantly, handle the swings is a key characteristic in winning poker players. Even a rudimentary understanding can keep you off tilt, help you be a better judge of your game and better manage your bankroll.”

At the end of this article there is a link to download a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet file that shows beautifully what variance can do. I highly recommend downloading (it is safe from a virus point of view) and going through the exercise. “The spreadsheet allows you to run a scenario where you are a favorite over and over again. You can run just a few scenarios or up to 5,000 scenarios of the same hand and see what type of variance you should expect. Each time you click F9 (the recalc key in Excel) the graph and summary results section changes to reflect new and potential outcomes. “

Have fun!

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I thought that this was an opportune time to start this series on my favorite poker topic: variance. I think that understanding variance is one of the most important aspects of poker that one needs to master to become a winning player. I have put the number “1” in the title as I expect to make several posts about this; I don’t have a structure in mind but there are several ideas that I have that need to be discussed.

For this first post I thought that I would use the recent (and ongoing) experience of WCG|rider who recently gave up on his well publicized bet to win $10,000 in one month playing 10c25c NL Holdem. I blogged about this earlier. Firstly I should say commiserations but also congratulations to Doug; whilst he failed I think he gained a lot of fans, including myself.

In his ‘giving up’ blog Doug lists several reasons why he thinks he failed. Number 4 is an interesting one: “4) I didnt realize how invalid my prior sample of 140k hands at nl 25 was. I beat it for 7-8 ptbb/100 over that sample and thought wow, i could just light this up. Didnt happen.” I personally think a big factor here is that during the challenge he was mostly multi-tabling 24 tables. Now I have recently been experimenting with multi-tabling and I struggle with 10. The number of decisions that have to be made every minute means that big moments in a hand have to be decided on in a very short space of time. The result is that mistakes are made affecting the win rate. How he does 24 tables is beyond me. He is half my age and I am sure that is a factor, but the mind boggles that in addition to playing all of these tables he was reading and writing in chat rooms and god knows what else.

So what did he win? Well he posted this graph the day before he stopped.

He lost a bit on the last day, so this represents a win of ~ 130 buyins over 260,000 hands which = ~ 3PTBB/100 hands. But the point of this post is not to point out the difference in win rate between the 140,000 hands at 7-8 PTBB/100 hands prior to this challenge and the 3PTBB/100 hands for this; I think there are plenty of reasons beyond what Doug has mentioned. I wanted to point out what happened during the challenge over the quarter of a million hands. Look at the graph: After about the 65,000 hands mark Doug went on a losing run that lasted almost 50,000 hands!!!!! But also notice that this happened after a hot streak that lasted about that long as well.

There are several factors that determine the degree of variance, but I think the 2 most important are degrees of ‘looseness’ and ‘aggression’. The looser and more aggressive you play, the greater the degree of variance, and the longer a bad run can be. It is interesting to note that Doug actually changed his style after a slow start and became loose aggressive, and I think that played a large part in him having a 50,000 hot streak followed by a 50,000 hand losing streak.

It is also interesting to see what he has done since stopping the challenge at much higher stakes. He posted this graph of 20,000 hands over 4 days and variable levels. The same thing! A hot streak over 10,000 hands where he won $10,000, followed by a losing streak where he lost almost all of it.

My experience? Well since monitoring my play firstly with Poker Office, and then PokerTracker, I have certainly lost over 10,000 hand periods but overall am a 4.5 BB/100 hand winner at 5c10c NL Holdem on PokerStars over ~90,000 hands. Now think about that….10,000 hands. Playing live at 30 hands per hour it would take more than 300 hours of play to get up to 10,000 hands!. So you could be a 4.5BB/100 hand winning player and expect to have 300 hour losing sessions. And whilst I am aggressive, I am certainly not hyperaggressive and play tight.

So the point of this blog is to emphasize what variance can do. All players who play enough will experience the bad side of variance over and over. The key is to recognise that it is variance and not bad play. Recognizing variance leads to a better ability to control tilt, and this is one of the most important factors in becoming a winning player.

Until next time!

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