Friday, November 9, 2007

Healthy disrespect for money vs. stakes mattering

I think we've all probably heard that to be an effective poker player you need to have a healthy disrespect for money. In other words, you need to just treat chips as chips and ignore the fact that each one may be worth a dollar, ten dollars, a hundred, or a thousand. The correct EV+ move should be the same regardless of the stakes. Jason's and Ryan's comments about Marsh's AdKd hand brings something else into focus. That same "disrespect" for money should be applied in the other direction, playing for dimes or pennies. Nonetheless, stakes do matter and the game is played differently depending on what is on the line.

I don't like Jason's analogy about scaling Marsh's hand up to 2/4 stakes. As Ryan pointed out the .02/.04 table will behave differently. Clearly, shoving for $5 is going to be easier than shoving for $500. There is a scaling issue. Anyone online is already probably laying out $30-$50 for Internet access per month, has a computer purchased for hundreds of dollars, and likely will drink a buy-in's worth of coffee on the average day. Five bucks is just a lot more accessible to poker players than five bills and the AdKd hand will be played differently on a micro table.

Even with play money, I can see that the game is much better at 500/1000 than even the 100/200 tables. In fact, I sat and watched a play money 10K/20K HORSE game being played and the table was *incredibly* tight. Very very few showdowns, zero defending of bring-ins, discerning hand selection. I would even go so far as to say that high stakes play money is a much tougher game than high stakes real money. With real money, the highest stakes is still going to be a pittance to somebody and that can equalize out a lot as we saw with Andy Beal. But with play money, there is no way to amass that much money without spending a lot of time and effort. Even if you dumped chips to yourself from a second account, it would be a pain to do it 1000 chips at a time and if so, then what? Build up a roll of 1 million then go and d0nk it off only to have to spoon feed 1K of chips at a time back to your stack? I don't think so. I'm quite sure that the players who have seven figure play money rolls got there by winning it based on how tightly they held on to their chips.

How about well heeled players playing well below their worth? I think that it is much easier to be aggressive and overbet the pot with amounts that are a fraction of a percent of a paycheck versus a fraction of a paycheck. How would the game change if, as an experiment, a deep pocketed poker enthusiast funded a game where everyone played for the same percentage of their annual salary. A player making $50K buys in for $500 and a player making $500K buys in for $5000. If the guy with the higher salary doubles up his chips, the sponsor would cash him out for $10K. How would that scenario change how you play? Would it allow you to be more free with your aggression knowing that it will cost your opponent so much more in real dollars to call?

Anyway, just some food for thought since we are all playing such a wide range of stakes. I am working with play money that has no worth in the real world, Cakers are playing with pennies, and we all have played 1/2 or higher. How are your decisions affected?


Ryan said...

For me, it's all about that sweet spot: high enough stakes that I care about the results, but appropriate enough to my bankroll that I'm not letting fear of losing my buyin affect my play.

I actually have a pretty wide range for "caring about the results," I'm a competitive enough gamer that even at small stakes, I want to win. It's playing above my comfort level that can and has totally affected my game in the past.

And that's why building an honest roll and sticking to proper stakes is so critical for my play. Following Ferguson-style bankroll management principles with money I've won entirely from others is my wheelhouse. I'm playing with "house money" while easily being able to withstand a few crushing sessions.

Marshall said...

I would even go so far as to say that high stakes play money is a much tougher game than high stakes real money.
Please tell me you aren't serious here. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Marsh, OK, poor choice of words. Swap in the word tight if that helps. The point is that at those stakes, everyone is very protective of every bet they make and I these tables represents the furthest extreme of "stakes mattering" that I have ever seen based on the very conservative play.