Mar 122012

I’ve just had the worst week I’ve ever had in my poker career. I’m pretty sad that my days as High Stakes LHE player are already over but I have no regrets at all. I’ve had a lot of fun again playing poker this last 1,5 month but I have to be realistic and I just can’t handle the swings money wise. I literally had a Mike McDermott (Rounders) blow-up moment, playing in games you feel you can beat but if your pockets aren’t deep enough you might not be able to play long enough to beat your opponents.

As mentioned in one of my earlier blogs I switched to 6-max somewhere last year and when I returned from the Bahamas I accidently got into a $50/$100 game. I had been pondering about jumping in these games for a long time and this was the right time. I wanted to do something else then playing 16+ tables of low/mid-stakes and playing 1-4 tables of high stakes was the solution. Normally you need at least 500BB’s but preferable 1.000BBs to be sure to handle any swings and that is only if you are a winning player. If you are a losing players your pockets can never be deep enough. I wanted to go as far as 200/250BB’s, so it was nothing more than taking a shot but there is nothing wrong with taking shots in poker. Sure it had to do with some ego as well, playing the highest games with the best in the world but during this 1,5 month my ego has never won it from my common sense. I played as high as $50/$100 as long as there was at least 1 big fish in the game. If I had a bad position at the table I often skipped the game, especially when the 4 others guys were monsters. Always when I played high stakes I quit all my other tables to have full focus on the game and I never played more than 4 tables. I could play $100/$200 as well but only if there were at least 2 fishes in the game, I would not play any higher. As soon as the fish left, I had to quit. While waiting for the high stakes games I would play $5/$10 and up and basically with the same rules as above. Only play with the fish and leave as soon as the fish leaves. The only difference was the amount of tables I would play at the same time.

I only played 4 days in January but I had a good start:

So I rolled into February and was swinging up and down. I don’t think anything really strange happened, I could have had a bit better winrate but the sample was still pretty small. I was running hot on the higher limits and it’s hard to see in the graph but I ended the month roughly $2.400 up again. The lobby hunt game went better and better since it’s pretty important to be one of the first to join the table. Often nobody wants to get up from a good table so it’s important to sit as soon as the fish sits and hopefully be able to do some seat selection as well. I spotted more fishes every day just by watching the other regulars sitting down or getting up. Nobody plays each-other at these high-stakes so when a game is running you basically always know there is a fish playing in the game. (Mike McDermott: “It’s like the nature channel… you don’t see Piranhas eating themselves, do you?”).

With a full month behind me on the high stakes I was getting pretty acquainted with the swings involved. I didn’t had any huge swings yet, both ways. I was discussing these things a lot with a buddy of mine and I knew that I would get into heavier swings at some point. I talked about it with two other guys who are playing these games as well and they warned me for the heavy swings. The question was whether the first big swing would be up or down? In the first 11 days of March I found the answer. I started with a plus $2.1k session on Saturday (3rd of March) followed by another good session on Sunday afternoon winning $2.6k. A pretty good start and Sunday evening I was chilling on the couch playing an online homegame tourney with friends on my laptop. I wanted to go to bed to lock down the profit and catch some sleep but saw a good $30/$60 game running with two fishes. One thing led to the other and a couple of hours later I was down $6.4k for a total loss of $1.7k. I was pretty pissed at that moment since all Sunday evening I was really happy being up $4.7k for the weekend and somehow lost it back trying to play one more game before going to bed. On the other hand I had done nothing stupid. I saw a fish, played him and chased him around as he moved up and down in stakes. This time I lost but that’s really part of poker.
The best about this whole thing was the fact I was really eager to play at all times. I tried to squish in small session anytime I could and that was something I hadn’t done in a long time. That’s also exactly the difference between seeing poker as work or hobby. When poker felt like work I would only play on the days I had scheduled myself to play, now that poker really felt like a hobby again I was playing all the time. That also happened on Thursday evening when I came home at 23:30. I saw a $50/$100 game just getting started and I jumped in. I pretty much one tabled $50/$100 and played 188 hands in which I won a total of 2 hands at showdown. A lot of other hands I made a pair or better and couldn’t win, resulting in putting in a lot of bets in pots which I didn’t win. Not a single pot I could have won if I had played it different, I might paid 1,2 maybe 3 bets to much in those 188 hands but even that is probably thinking to result oriented. I knew that a big swing would come one way or the other, unfortunately it was down and not up.

A pretty bizarre feeling to lose $9k like that on a Thursday evening in not even 2 hours of poker. Sure I wasn’t happy but it didn’t affect me that much the next day. I normally just need a good night sleep and I’m ready again to play some poker in the morning and this time it was no different. I was down $15k from my highest point, that was pretty disappointing but nobody wins in a straight line. I still had some money left for my “shot” and at least I knew now how worse things could get. I was still as eager to play, maybe even more eager and when I came home Saturday Evening at 02:00 I saw a juicy game and jumped in again (Mike McDermott: “It’s immoral to let a sucker keep his money..”).

Sunday, always a great day for poker. I didn’t want to skip the Sunday Million 6th Anniversary but apart from that I wanted to play cashgames. The evening started with a couple of good $30/$60 games and soon two $50/$100 games started. I did pretty bad in the $30/$60 games but was doing good in the $50/$100 games. Games died as soon as the fish left but others games got started as fast. From the start I was down all the time but I was still playing in pretty good games. However around midnight I was down $3.8k. Two good $50/$100 games had just stopped and there were no good high stakes tables left to play. I was down $6.2k at one moment so I was happy I grinded some of it back but obviously I wanted to win it all back. A $200/$400 game started with a fish I had played earlier, not a lot of regulars seemed to be online but jumping into a $200/$400 game would be pretty stupid. Then two $100/$200 games started with one of the biggest fishes which I had also played earlier that evening. Argh! I wanted to play in those games especially since the other regulars were not the best regulars at those stakes. Still these players are good but normally the line-up is a lot worse. Then all of a sudden in one of the $100/$200 another fish gets a chair and I put myself on the waiting list. A couple of minutes later I somehow get a chair in the game and I’m playing a $100/$200 game with two fish on my left. Right would have been better of course but I’m still playing a lot of pots with these guys. (Mike McDermott: “I want him to think that I am pondering a call, but all I’m really thinkin about is Vegas and the fuckin’ Mirage.”)

The first hand I play:

Poker Stars $100/$200 Limit Hold’em – 6 players
DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History Converter
Pre Flop:
(1.5 SB) Hero is CO with A of clubs T of diamonds
2 folds, Hero raises, 2 folds, BB calls
Flop: (4.5 SB) A of diamonds J of spades T of hearts (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets, BB calls
Turn: (3.25 BB) 4 of hearts (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets, BB calls
River: (5.25 BB) J of clubs (2 players)
BB checks, Hero checks
Final Pot: 5.25 BB
Hero shows A of clubs T of diamonds (two pair, Aces and Jacks)
BB shows A of spades 5 of diamonds (two pair, Aces and Jacks)
BB wins 2.618 BB
Hero wins 2.618 BB
(Rake: $3.00)

Nothing really special but I rather win hands like this of course. After this hand I lose some pots where I had or flopped a pair so I have to pay some bets. Then I get AA and the hand played as followed:

Poker Stars $100/$200 Limit Hold’em – 6 players
DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History Converter
Pre Flop: (1.5 SB) Hero is BTN with A of hearts A of spades
3 folds, Hero raises, SB calls, BB 3-bets, Hero caps!, SB calls, BB calls
Flop: (12 SB) 2 of hearts 3 of diamonds K of clubs (3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets, SB calls, BB calls
Turn: (7.5 BB) 4 of diamonds (3 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets, SB folds, BB calls
River: (9.5 BB) 5 of clubs (2 players)
BB bets, Hero calls
Final Pot: 11.5 BB
Hero shows A of hearts A of spades (a straight, Ace to Five)
BB shows Q of hearts A of clubs (a straight, Ace to Five)
BB wins 5.742 BB
Hero wins 5.742 BB
(Rake: $3.00)

Being in a 4-bet pot pre-flop with the two fishes is the best thing that can happen in a game like this. Not winning this $2.300 pot and splitting it again is pretty annoying. I felt like Dorothy tumbling down the rabbit hole. An orbit later I get into the following hand:

Poker Stars $100/$200 Limit Hold’em – 6 players
DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History Converter
Pre Flop: (1.5 SB) Hero is CO with T of spades T of hearts
2 folds, Hero raises, BTN 3-bets, SB caps!, BB calls, Hero calls, BTN calls
Flop: (16 SB) 4 of clubs 7 of hearts J of hearts (4 players)
SB bets, BB raises, Hero 3-bets, BTN calls, SB calls, BB calls
Turn: (14 BB) T of diamonds (4 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets, BTN calls, SB calls, BB raises, Hero 3-bets, BTN calls, SB calls all in, BB calls
River: (25.677 BB) K of clubs (4 players – 1 is all in)
BB checks, Hero checks, BTN checks
Final Pot: 25.677 BB
Hero mucks T of spades T of hearts
BTN mucks Q of hearts Q of clubs
SB mucks A of spades K of hearts
BB shows K of spades K of diamonds (three of a kind, Kings)
BB wins 0.968 BB
BB wins 24.695 BB
(Rake: $3.00)

A pretty bizarre hand. I open, fish 3bets, the other fish caps and the BB (good player) calls. The fish that capped the pot c-bets, the BB raises and then it’s on to me. Since no A, K or Q hit the board there is no way I’m going to fold my TT here. I can cold-call two bets or 3-bet and try to get the button to fold (hopefully at least one over as well) so I get last to act on the turn. The BB doesn’t necessarily has to have a really good hand and since the board is drawy his raise doesn’t have to mean a lot. I 3-bet and everybody calls. Now on the turn the T hits (I get lucky) and I think nobody puts me on TT here. Probably most people put me on an overpair or AJ, some other hands are possible as well. I bet the turn and after two calls I get raised by the BB again. I rule out that the 2 fishes have me beat but what about the BB? JJ and 89 have me beat, I beat all other hands and I’m ahead vs the other 2 fish which are probably never ever going to fold a pot this size as long as they have one out (or maybe even already draw dead). I raise, see no cap and I know I’m ahead in a $5k pot! I don’t want to see any A,K,Q or 9 but the K already hit the board. I’m not certain that I’m beat but I check anyway. The BB shows KK and the show is over. I click on the “sit-out next big blind” button, split another put and manage to lose another $600. In these 39 hands I lost $5.7k for a total of $9,5k.

I open my PokerStars Cashier, convert 500.000 FPPs into $8k to at least still have a 5 digit bankroll and stare at my PokerTracker for a while. Is playing $100/$200 with such a roll a smart thing? Maybe not, but I do not regret it at all. The game was really good, it was part of the “shot” I took and I didn’t violate any rules I had set myself. If I don’t split those 3 pots and win this one I’m actually up for the evening, variance is a nasty factor in poker. (Mike McDermott: “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either.”) I watch how Bandano (who was playing in that $100/$200 game as well) finish 3rd in the Sunday Warm-Up (grats!), see two other great high stakes game start without me. I surf to YouTube and watch the full Justice – A Cross the Universe Documentary ( I played the high stakes for 5 weeks and my bankroll was not big enough to handle the swings. The total amount of hands I played at the High Stakes ($15/$30+) was only 9.3k hands, there is a lot of variance in such a small sample. Too bad I got beaten with the wrong end of the stick or maybe I’m not good enough but to me it didn’t feel that way.

Today I woke up seeing a good $50/$100 game running. My shot is over, so I leave the open chair empty. I see a fish sitting with money, I know I can beat the game but for all these years as professional poker player it’s my mind which has made me a winning player, not my ego. Luckily I have plenty to do this day, doing something different then watching the PokerStars lobby. When I get home in the afternoon I see 3 good high stakes games running and I tell myself I just shouldn’t look at those games anymore. I never did before and I shouldn’t look at them for the coming time. I’ve been up and down stakes many times before and this time should be no different. I’ll move down and do what I’ve always done, grind it up again. However you don’t have to start grinding the next day, you probably shouldn’t. Playing $100/$200 one day and $2/$4 the next is probably not really motivating. Still my fingers itch to play, literally now another $50/$100 game starts. I’m definitely not playing tonight, I might even take a longer break so I can work on my cycling or at least shift my main focus to cycling and play some poker on the side for the coming 2/3 weeks. I wanted to go to Valencia at the end of this month but I don’t think I’m going to do that either, although it could also be good to play some live poker. What I do know for sure is that I’m going to Vegas, the World Series of Poker! (Mike McDermott: “First prize at the World Series of Poker is a million bucks. Does it have my name on it? I don’t know. But, I’m gonna find out.”)


All hands since the 1st of January (High: $11.328 Low: $14.284)
All hands at the High Stakes $15/30+ since the 1st of January (High: $13.785 Low: $11.133)




 Posted by at 6:48 pm

  2 Responses to “Swings in High Stakes LHE: What comes up, most come down! (Rounders Special)”

  1. Yo Tzen1, tough luck. I think you just took the shot at the higher stakes with good table selection and a solid ‘shot’ bankroll. I cannot say for a LHE strategy but it seems like you were pretty unlucky in key moments and thats it. If you had those spots in your regular games you would probably not even blink.
    Thats the thing with taking shots – you are playing less tables, less hands and yet for more money. Thats why you will remember wins and loses here for longer time. And loses especially. If you can say to yourself that you were playing good, then you just need to take a break, filter the lobby to not see high stakes, and focus on your regular grind. With the new experience you will get back to the higher stakes in no time and this time variance will be your bitch.
    Also, I think that it is important that you are able to writ a honest blog just after big loosing streak. Thus, you are keeping yourself in check and examine your conscience. Good poker player must be honest. You are.
    I still hope to see you in Valencia, and if not, then at Ibiza for sure.
    Good luck!

  2. Great post man, I tried to skim read this earlier over dinner but had to give it my full attention just now. Sometimes I think about giving LHE a spin but you always manage to convince me it’s not anywhere near as easy as I think it is. All the best.

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