You bet it’s time for Vegas. Yes, four days of drunken bliss where the free booze is flowing and sleep is strictly optional. The regular crew is being joined by Brick House, Injun Joe, and Smithers. The three rookies have Vegas chops. Brick carries with him a +3 Cup of Drinking while Joe has demonstrated primal poker talent even with continued rumors of poor drinking ability. As for Smithers, well, the jury’s out on Smithers… he’s on the cusp. Full report when we get back.
The name of the game in Vegas is still Texas Hold ‘Em. I cleaned house the last time I was in Vegas with some well played 3/6 against various Vegas rookies. Since I’ve returned, I’ve played both online and at local card clubs with the following results:
- Online — I generally win at sit’n'go tournaments. By generally, I mean… if I don’t finish in the top three, I’m pissed. As for regular ring games, I’d say I’m up overall, but it’s hardly as consistent as the tournaments. A decent chunk of my bankroll for this Vegas trip comes from online winnings which is a first.
- Card clubs — I suck. It’s not abysmal suckage, but overall, I’m down since I came back from Vegas.
Hmmmm. Same game… same rules… so what’s the deal? How is my game changing when I’m facing real people?
Believe it or not, it’s NADD. Mittelfinger pointed this out the other night and after chewing on the comment for a night, I made an adjustment to my strategy and have had three winning sessions in a row. This could still be a fluke, but with each passing night of poker, I grow more confident my NADD adjustment is paying off.
Before I explain the adjustment, we need some context:
Brain dead differences between online and card room play. First, there are people. This is intimidating for novice players, but once you’ve played with real people a few times, the butterflies vanish and you begin the task of trying to figure people out. That’s another column.
Second, the stakes in person are generally higher. This is a personal choice as there are plenty of 2/4 tables online, but I tend to play lower limit games such as .5/1. Given I play the same number of hands online as in person, this would mean, in general, I am taxed less to play online.
Third. Problem is, I play MORE hands online because the game moves faster because the dealer is a computer who doesn’t stop to yell at new players. How much faster is a compuDealer? I dunno, I’m sure someone does.
The differences roll-up is this: in person, I am playing against people with higher blinds and I’m playing less hands because less hands are being dealt… and I’m generally losing money. Given I’m playing the same way online and winning, the logical deduction is that I’m not playing the same way… and that’s right, I’m not… I have NADD.
The major difference between online play and card room is that when I’m playing online, I’ve got two flat panel monitors covered with things to do when I’m not in a hand. It goes like this:
- Hand is dealt. KingClubs, 10Spades. Not suited. Fold
- I now have approximately 37 seconds to goof around elsewhere on my computer before the next hand is dealt. How do I know it’s 37 seconds? It’s because I have NADD and my entire life is measure in 37 second spurts of activity. Mail, IM, Poker, IM, Safari, IM, Poker.
When I’m playing with real people, I’m bored. When I fold my hand, I’m not watching how the hand is playing out, I’m thinking about the four Rands articles I’ve got in my head, I’m chewing on a piece of code… I’m doing any number of things while OH HEY ANOTHER HAND TO PLAY YAY.
Here’s the problem. With NADD, you’re always looking for an intellectual fix… a high. It comes in a variety of forms and varies depending on the person, but you know it when you’ve found it. It’s nailing a problem in your head. It’s the blissful depths of the programming zone. It’s discovering a weblog entry that explains it all. NADD is a quest for these highs.
Poker is NADD friendly because ever hand has the potential to be a fix. My issue is that when I play online, I play correctly because if I fold a hand I have my other twelve windows to sooth my NADD… when I play in person, I have less outlets which means I do the worst possible poker maneuver. I call loosely.
Loose calling is poker is really simple to define, but hard to enforce. A loose call is when you call a hand that you are statistically unlikely to win. Sure, sometimes you get lucky and hit that flush with 10-8 of clubs in your hand… but in the long haul, you will get beat down. I know I do.
My thinking process is this when I’m playing with live people:
- Hand is dealt. KingClubs, 10Spades. Hmmmm… haven’t played a hand in awhile and, weeeeeeelllllll….. King… 10… It’s a face card right? Ok, call. $2.00.
- Flop comes. 10Diamonds, 9Hearts, 6Hearts. HEY TOP PAIR WOOOOO.
Stop. Let’s enumerate just a couple of reasons I shouldn’t be in this hand. There’s a straight draw there… a flush draw… and you know any Ace will screw me. Problem is, I want to play… I’ve got top pair and I’m going to see the river which is going to cost me a total of $10… just because I want to play.
Multiply this scenario by five hundred hands and it becomes obvious why I’m down. Loose calling. My rationale at the time was, well, I’m not calling complete crap and, well, it’s only $2.00 at a 2/4 table. It’s not $2.00… I’m guessing, on average, a loose call is costing me $4-$8 a called hand… PLUS I GET TO PLAY.
The question is: do you want to play or do you want to win?
If you want to play, go for it, play those cards. Poker is an amazing game and you’re going to like it, but you’re not going to win unless you’re cognizant of basic odds and employ a calling strategy based on those odds. YES I KNOW ABOUT THE TIME YOU WON $700 AT 3/6 TOTALLY HAMMERED OUT OF YOUR GOURD.
For me, the solution was painfully simple. Rather than just telling myself, “Don’t loose call”, I put myself on a schedule. I allow myself one loose call every thirty minutes.
Here’s why it works for me. First, it gives me a structure to work within. It’s the same solution program managers employ when they pick a deadline out of thin air for my development team. I know the date is a myth, but it’s a start… it gives my team a date to focus on. We’ll deal with the irrelevancy of the date later…
The other reason my loose call window works is that I’m given the impression that I CAN loose call… just every thirty minutes or so. This placates my I’VE GOT A PLAY problem with the idea that I’LL PLAY REAL SOON NOW. Mind games with myself… you gotta love it.
The last reason this works is obvious. I play less crap hands. If you assume that my hand selection criteria is now decent then I should be winning more hands… which I am.
Poker purist are going to giggle about my thirty minute loose calling window. They will say the same thing as every column in every poker rag… AVOID LOOSE CALLING AT ALL COSTS. Yeah, I know, but I am not and never will be a professional poker player. I design software for a living. Still, my NADD compels me to understand poker as much as possible… I need to study it and then play it… make adjustments… and play again… and once I understand it, I’ll move onto something else.