I stopped just short of scolding myself, in my first quarterly report, for spending time on poker variants that yielded lower (immediate) dollar returns for my time. Now, I realize those efforts were important in building experience and uncapping my potential as a player. Over the last month, while grinding online cash games, I had several poker revelations.
Playing on a short bankroll, I have often been a "short stack," but the dynamics of my regular game (1/2 NL hold 'em with a 25/100 big blind min/max buy-in) create low SPR spots (i.e. fewer, simpler decisions) just about every hand. Grinding that game for a couple years, my focus narrowed to cleaning up the short stacks by creating low SPR spots with a strong range, and I neglected (developing) my deep stack game.
Profitable poker players earn lots of money in certain "bread and butter" spots, but relying on them isn't a good long-term strategy. We must continually build, test and revise our hand ranges and strategies, for our current game and the evolution of all poker variants.
"Of course," you say. But, what I realized through actively engaging in that process to beat the games on Ignition, the effort is NOT acute - your prior experience becomes much more valuable (see: revelation 1 above) and it can accelerate your overall development.
When I started back online, I made the assumption that the games would be tougher than this time last year (and they probably are). I thought basing my strategy around a narrow or tight opening range would reduce variance. While that's a good starting point, staying there has some interesting manifestations.
Remember the live, oft short-stacked game I discussed above? Tight is usually right, and players with any relative skill advantage can profitably execute that simple strategy. But, the upside is capped, and your poker experience will generally feel like running bad (especially if your SPR senses are dulled). Too often big loses to bigger or random trashy hands, leaving you in a frustrating box of low profit relative to your effort (and anguish).
This is especially true online where the beats, and resulting tilt, are compounded by volume. If you're not playing anonymous poker at Ignition, then opponents start exploiting your narrow range and general inflexibility (making your life even worse). Serious players must grow beyond narrow ranges and develop more robust, balanced strategies, or prepare for a lot of long "unfun" hours. Perhaps I'll get into what I've been working on in a later post. Or, maybe not!
Okay, here's a glimpse... For starters, a playable hand doesn't have to be in your main opening range. This somewhat obvious statement will mean different things to different players depending on motivation, experience, style, mental wiring, etc. With the core concepts of position, probable SPR (new term?) and bet sizing, I'm using that thought to anchor new strategies.
In addition to my strategy work and many hours grinding online, I've been writing a piece on downswings. It's an experiential, all-encompassing work that's ballooned into something bigger than I intended it to be. Originally, I was motivated by my last material online poker stint, that concluded with a pronounced downswing, but a recent LONG break even stretch live added another major layer to my thoughts on the topic (and jump-started the writing). Stay tuned.