I downloaded the Tiger Gaming client so that I can find out more about how to play Chinese Poker. I started out with $1000 in play money but decided to defend that roll as though it were my real bankroll, just like the Cake challenge. And while it is not exactly the same as real money tables (rake being the most notable exception) I do find that I'm learning lessons because I'm forcing myself to survive with my initial buy in. Here's my progress:
My initial purpose was to play Chinese Poker so that was where I started. Lowest game is $5/point so I figured no problem. I'm flipping coins anyway so .5% stake is not a biggie, a cheap way to learn. Well my education ended up taking over a quarter of my bankroll away. I was making rookie errors like not setting my hands in the correct order which was costly and by not staking myself properly I had opportunity cost as well (detailed in my bad beat comment). After I stopped shooting myself in the foot I stabilized my tailspin and was holding even and after I learned basic strategy I started playing EV+.
Lesson: Try to play as small as possible when learning a game.
I really have no idea how Hellmuth could possibly have dumped half a million at 2K/point stakes to Ivey. That seems statistically impossible to get that deep in this game. Sometimes, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that some of the bets we hear about are inflated. If there is a story about a prop bet for $10,000, I wonder if there is actually only $1000 on the line instead. But I digress.
I think it was Greenstein who said that even in a coin flip game like Chinese Poker, it is possible for a pro to have an edge mostly because you run into people who don't know how to play and make the dumb errors that I did. I would agree with that. When I see someone play their kickers wrong I know that I'm at a table where I should be EV+ because that player is feeding the table. When I see the table overbuilding their second row, I'll sacrifice my middle and put any pair up front which should scoop all fronts.
Lesson: Capitalize on other player's mistakes.
I know that I'm playing rake free but recently I have started keeping an eye on that and my target for a session is to be up at least $5 for every 20 hands of Chinese Poker played which is the rake on the real money tables. I also gauge my play based on the average win amount versus the average loss amount. Having a larger win amount than loss amount coupled with a lower win % than loss % tells me that I am optimizing my hands correctly but just am not getting the cards. Having a measurement of play quality really helps because if you base your play just on your stack that information can be deceiving.
Lesson: Using the stats allows me to see what is actually going on.
Wanting to heal my bankroll I moved to something I'm more familiar with so I moved around to different tables. I played some 5/10 fixed limit Hold'em and made up some money there. Jumped around to 7cs hi/lo and that worked out well too. D0nkeriffic play abounds. Really atrocious ignorance. I am check calling in 7cs and when I get Tens up I start leading. Calls around. I boat up on 6th street and have two pair showing(!) calls all around. Lead out on seventh street and get folds only after people whiff on whatever they were trying to hit which probably still would have lost. I also found that with calling stations you can optimize play by finding a heads up table which allows you to draw for one bet instead of having to worry about getting raised behind you. When you are heads up with a betting station you can basically see every river you want but when you see a river it is with a strong hand or strong draw that you are pushing money into and when you have a weak hand you can just check/call to see it cheaper. You end up losing the blinds when the betting station stabs at every flop but that is more than made up by the wins when you hit.
Lesson: Location, location, location - or in poker parlance...table selection.
Part of the problem with table selection is that the site is so thin on users that you cannot always get the table or even the game that you want. I ended up at a 10/20 table by accident once. I was in a great short handed game and was rolling over the table because players were calling with crap and paying me off when I had my foot to the floor and valuing the crap out of the nuts. I was up to $2300 and change at one point. Double my bankroll. But as the tables give, the tables taketh away. That same table ended up drawing more players and I couldn't control the pot sizes like I could before. I got some hands cracked by runner runner draws and players calling with bottom pair were tripping up etc. Standard limit play. But now I started tilting and started to try to crack other player's hands and rationalizing putting more chips in with bad hands (I'd call them speculative but they were in fact just plain bad). The familiar refrains of "oh, it's just one more bet" followed immediately after by "well if I call the extra two bets at least the pre-flop action is capped and if I hit..." I had bought in for $1000 of my $23xx (can you say HORRIBLE bankroll management?) and had actually run my stack up to $2500 then plowed straight through the entire amount and pulled another $1000 from my bankroll, half of which is my original roll and not even sugar (can you say even WORSE bankroll management?). I'm tightening up my hand selection and making decent second best hands or raising with AK and not hitting. I have chewed through all of my sugar and am working on the meat of my bankroll. I pull up the blog and am reading Marsh's Cake challenge post and the comments as I've squandered away over two grand by mostly chasing and then as if by divine intervention two beautiful Aces fall into my lap. I raise at every opportunity and get the pot maxed out pre-flop, not uncommon for that to happen but this time I'm in the lead, at least for now. Flop is a raggish low rainbow board, just about ideal for this situation. The guy two seats to my left is in a raising war with me and we shed about half the table going into the turn. Another low-ish mid card which might have made some arcane straight possible, I forget, I just know that I'm either going to take down a monster or die trying. Three handed to the river which bricks and I'm still getting action but I don't feel beat. We cap the river and my Aces hold up. I put him on QQ or KK. Other guy on AK that never wins. I rake in a $800-$900 pot and dodge a huge bullet. That puts me back in sugar territory and I vow never never ever to pull a stunt like that again.
Lesson: Don't jeopardize your bankroll by playing over your roll...seriously...ever...I mean it. That's just plain gambooling!
Since then I've been playing solid in right sized games. I'm back up to $1800 and lurking for soft games. 7cs H/L seems to be the game that is most easily exploited. Players have absolutely zero hand selection and will go as many streets as it takes until their hand cannot beat something showing or all the way until the last down card. Even if I miss I can bet and they cannot call with no hand and no valid low.
Lesson: Most money to be made where you can find the biggest knowledge/skill gap.
Yesterday at SLP I mentioned to Ryan/table how playing online in different games helped me dump my QT pre-flop when a Q was flashed during the deal because it was taking one of my outs. Ryan asked if I was only *now* figuring that out. And I knew that in theory but having played 7cs it really becomes second nature to keep track of dead outs. I had a decent Spade flush going at one point but after I see three other exposed spades I bail on my four-flush. You really should have a decent chance to make a low too for maximum efficiency. One tip I read for 7cs is "look for reasons to fold" and that really helps put you in the mindset for playing correctly. If I want to play tight in Hold'em I apply Omaha principles to my hand.
Lesson: Playing a variety of games strengthens all of them.
Bottom line: I know it is fake money but you can tilt it off just the same. You can care about protecting and building it just the same. You can learn lessons from it just the same. That said, I'm talking with Joe to set up a real Cake account so I can play along with you guys and measure how I'm doing with a direct comparison now that I've picked up some tips without putting any real Cake dough on the line. I'll see you guys when you get to the finish line...