8-30-05 [poker] - 1

8-30-05 [poker]

I had a horrific day of poker yesterday, playing the $200 No Limit tables. First I had some really bad luck and lost about $400. That happens, that's variance. The bad thing is it put me on tilt. I wanted to make back my loss quickly and started playing badly. That let to about another $400 in losses from donkey plays. The result is I almost wiped out my profit from the last few days. That's a scary thing about those No Limit tables - you can lose money really fast when you're playing badly. When you're playing well, it mostly comes slowly. Even when someone else at the table is giving money away, you only have a 1/5 chance of getting that money (at a 6-way table there are 5 other players who are roughly equally likely to receive the fruits of the donkey's benefaction). That's one nice thing about tournaments - there's a good upside when you play well and get lucky, but if you play badly or get unlucky the downside isn't that bad. One horrible play in a tournament and you lose your entry fee, not a huge deal. One horrible play at a cash table and you can lose your whole stack, rather a big deal.

Playing No Limit is really different than Limit. I've mainly played low limit online and it's given me some bad habits. In low limit, you draw at a lot more hands, because the implied odds are generally very good (everyone is very loose), and you don't have to worry too much about drawing to second best hands. For example, you can draw to low flushes (eg. if you have the 76s, you can draw to the flush). You can draw to flushes when the board is paired (eg. a house is possible), you can draw to straights when a flush is possible. In limit hold'em, in the rare cases where you make your draw and it's second best (eg. someone has the higher flush, someone has the house when you make your straight), you just pay them off, it's no big deal, it's just a few bets, you make up for it in all the cases where they don't have a better hand. In No Limit, it's different. When you get to the river, you might have to play for your whole stack. Suddenly the flush you made with the 76 doesn't look so good. The straight you made with the board paired doesn't look so good. The implied odds aren't so good because you have to be afraid to bet or raise here since you might get reraised for your whole stack.

Basically in No Limit you want to be drawing at the nuts, or very nearly the nuts. Really you almost never want to be drawing. You want to have the best hand and play it aggressively. Reading Harrington is very interesting.

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