We play our games on PokerStars.net which has the beneficial features of being easy to create private games and having a good mix of various poker types that our group (mostly) enjoys. I've stated before that a lot of our crew is a bit technologically challenged, but getting up and running on PokerStars is not much of an obstacle (getting everyone up and running with video chat on Discord took a few more of my and MHS's hours—but definitely well worth it!). One of the downsides for the free-to-play games on PokerStars is that you just have to trust that the software awards pots to the winning hand, as "opening" hands (i.e., showing the hands in play) at showdown only occurs for a very brief instant (about a second for tournaments, surprisingly somehow even less when playing in ring games) and there is no hand history feature allowing one to look back in time to see what had been played. This isn't as big of a deal for a game like hold'em (which doesn't have an overwhelming amount of new information shown when hands are opened), but creates significant challenges in high-low games with many personal cards (such as 7-card stud hi/lo). The lack of a longer showdown feature actively prevents us from inviting certain players who we know would struggle with that aspect of the game.
I played from March into August and just "dealt with it." I tried to make the most of what I was seeing, but if I couldn't figure out exactly what happened, well the next hand was already in progress and let's just play some f'in cards, right? But I wasn't happy about that. From our Felt Club website:
I wrote:The Appeal
Hold 'Em poker appeals to different people for different reasons. I like it because it's a brain-teaser (like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, video games, golf, etc.) with constantly-shifting parameters to be figured out. Other people will like it because it gives them a chance to show up their friends and take a little bit of their money to boot, or because it's a low-impact social activity and easy way to kill a few hours with friends a few times a month. Very specifically to Hold 'Em, it's a great mix of simple rules allowing for complex strategies. Tournament Hold 'Em (of the variety we play, at least) has the right mix of rewarding skill and allowing folks to get lucky to keep excitement levels high.
What good is a brain-teaser when you aren't given enough of a chance to ever really try to figure things out?
So, in early August, I started recording my screen for about every third tournament or so (especially those tournaments with more complicated showdowns). I did this for a couple of reasons. Primarily it was because I was toying with the idea of periodically posting video recaps of our tournaments on YouTube (documenting some of our games, especially some of the non-typical variants we play), but going through the hand histories (seeking out good hands to use in my clips) I realized that this was a super effective way to start to drill down on mistakes I was making. And while I was focusing on my hands, I did pick up a thing or two that I saw some of my competitors doing, but realistically 90% of my focus was actually on my own game, especially in conjunction with an equity solver (hat tip: http://www.propokertools.com/simulations
) to evaluate whether or not I was really doing things correctly.
Turns out I found a lot of leaks.
And I made some adjustments.
August ended up being a good month for me. Not live-games-in-January-or-February good, but still, the best of my online performance so far this year.
Here's the run-chart for my net in each of our online games (we're up to 57 tournaments), broken out by game type. You can see the big jump in the running total corresponding to a particularly juicy week in mid-August.
The run chart is getting to be a bit too compressed to comfortably include all the dates, so I thought maybe it'd be fun every month to focus on one of the game types:
HORSE (If you're not familiar, I talked a little bit about what this game is in my 08/08/2020 post)
11 Events, averaging 13.2 participants, with my average finish position of 6.4th place. Buy ins total $170, and my cash out totals $265, for an net average of +$8.64 per tournament.
It was a HORSE event in early August that was the recording I combed through for the potential video (which I haven't made or uploaded) that kicked off my self-reflection that's improved my results. Hilariously I finished in 9th place of 9 participants in that tournament (still managing to log 95 hands over the span of 75 minutes, sufficient to find significant opportunities
in my strategy). I also recorded the hold'em tournament which we played later that night, that I ended up winning outright, but I haven't even opened that particular video.
One not-so-apparent particularity in HORSE, is the implementation in PokerStars (matching what's generally occurring in the casino poker) is that all the mixed games are played with a fixed limit betting structure. That means there's no all-ins, and "bullying" your opponents is severely lessened. FL poker (of any game) is more of a mathematical exercise. And since the majority of our players have very little experience with the three stud games in the HORSE rotation, there's a lot of chips to be won by someone who's spent some time understanding just how good they are on any particular street (the stud games also "feature" more open information about your opponents' hands compared to the two flop games). In essence, a little bit of study goes a long way towards improving one's HORSE fortunes in our group (as the yellow up-ticks at the right-end of the Running Total chart can attest).
All tournament types to date: 57 events, averaging 13.6 participants, my average finish in 6.9th place, returning a net average of +$8.03 per tournament (+50% return on investment).
I'm not certain that I will end up actually making those YouTube videos (I have lots of complicated thoughts on that topic), but if I do end up producing something, I'll be sure to link them in this thread.