How to know if you are a losing player or experiencing some variance in live play

Phil EbbsPhil Ebbs Red Chipper Posts: 257 ✭✭✭
edited March 2018 in General Concepts
Just a general question for some experienced live cash players out there (I play mostly 1/2 and recently moved to 2/5):

How long do you have to lose before you say you aren't good enough for the game, and it's not just variance? A couple weeks ago, I transitioned from 1/2 to 2/5, and I feel like I am a winning player, but I lost 5 buy-ins in my first 5 sessions, and am starting to doubt myself. I don't want to be the guy that just complains that he runs bad and punts off stacks, but I don't want to be a fearful quitter either. Some of these losses were obviously not bad( I ran AA into KK preflop and lost a stack, also ran AA into AJs preflop and lost another stack), but some of them are maybe more questionable (I flat a weak CO raise from the SB with Ah6h, big blind comes along, 3-way flop comes AcKc6c, I check-call down three streets along with the big blind to see CO flopped a flush. That could be a mistake). How long do you recommend I go before I say that I'm a losing player and move down until my game is better?

I'm looking for some thoughtful answers, not just condolences on how variance sucks. What do some experienced guys think? If I lost another 5 BIs, would that warrant a serious look at moving down?



  • AustinAustin Red Chipper Posts: 5,483 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Post some HH and wait for feed back.

    What makes you think your a winning player at 1\2 and 1\3? What's your sample size and win rate? The three games play very similar just a little more aggro as they open but a lot of live tells and ranges are still there.

    If you can answer why your a winning player at the lower level (positive thinking) then you can answer your own question. My biggest live swing happened over the course of a month where I lost 15 buyins. Just kept studying and playing and bounced back. I did have some leaks I wasn't aware of until i started posting hands. Calling SCs or small pairs when stacks were not deep enough. Playing draws passively or too aggro without FE.
  • Yanming ZYanming Z Red Chipper Posts: 294 ✭✭✭
    1. Make sure you are properly bankrolled, I would say at least 30 max BIs, so for a $1000 BI 2/5 game, you should have $30k put aside just for poker. 5 BI down swing is gonna happen and it shouldn't have you questioning yourself.
    2. How much were you winning at 1/2? I'd recommend obtain 10bb/hr over a decent sample size before moving up.
  • jfarrow13jfarrow13 Red Chipper Posts: 1,253 ✭✭✭✭
    1. Make sure your rolled
    2. 5 buy-in down swing can be normal, don't sweat it
    3. If you keep losing or it affects your mental game, move back down to $1/2 to book a win or two and get that confidence back
    4. Why not split time between $1/2 and $2/5?
  • moishetreatsmoishetreats Red Chipper Posts: 1,819 ✭✭✭✭
    Might you be transferring the image that you have of your opponents from the 1/2 and 1/3 games to the 2/5 game? Might you have a different image in each of those games because the players there look at you differently? It's possible that you have the image game down at 1/2 and 1/3 and are basing your 2/5 images (yours and your opponents') on your lower-limit tables. I think that moving to 2/5 warrants a hard reset -- or at least the strong possibility that images might be very different... and that your play, as a result, needs to be very different, too.
  • AustinAustin Red Chipper Posts: 5,483 ✭✭✭✭✭
    My biggest improvement is not fast playing over pairs on T87dd flops. Controling the pot where caller has range advantage.
  • jfarrow13jfarrow13 Red Chipper Posts: 1,253 ✭✭✭✭
    You know I always notice that my win-rate seems to plummet a bit when people see that I've 3-bet K9ss and 108ss, and I don't adjust my 3-bet hands.
  • kageykagey Red Chipper, KINGOFTAGS Posts: 2,241 ✭✭✭✭✭
    If I can be honest @Phil Ebbs - a lot of your posts here seem to be results-oriented.
    And for me, that's not how I would judge whether or not I moved up too quickly.
    The way I'd measure it would be how often was I lost in a hand... or was confident I had the best hand and called off my stack (but was wrong)... or was sure I was beat and folded the best hand.... essentially, was I outclassed in my 2/5 games. Did I get outplayed?

    F**k the set over set, overpair vs. overpair and the untimely str8s and flushes that hit the river... the question you need to ask yourself was - did you know exactly where you were on all streets in the hand - and did you play your hand optimally?
    did you bet correctly? did you check/raise or re-raise properly? did you fold even though you really wanted to stack that donkey because you didn't have proper odds?

    The only time you need to be concerned if you're properly rolled is if losing a buy-in makes you reload but play tighter... or as "scared money."

    The BIs, the win rate and the graphs are for the accountants. We only do such for long-term analysis. What you should be focusing on are your decisions... both in your losing hands AND your winning hands. Did you always make the right decisions? Did you take advantage of the proper spots to bluff? Did you fold when it was obvious that you were beaten?

    When I first started to play 2/5, I once played a hand where I raised pre with AQs and got 3-bet by the bb. Naturally, I called and on the Q-high flop - when it was checked to me, I bet for value. On the turn, I also bet. Then, on the river, the 3-bettor now leads out. Well, I thought, he must be trying to push me off my hand - so I called. Only to be shown KK. I had made some egregious errors in my range assignment and didn't respect his 3-bet. I got out-played. After that, I never underestimated this opponent.

    Having a 3-bet range and being aggressive is ho-hum standard 2/5 arsenal. How you're using this arsenal to maximize your profits is how you should judge whether you're ready or not for the bigger leagues. For example, 3-betting TT is kinda bad. What if he 4-bets you? Now you have to fold a hand that has tremendous equity! Or what if you had called and seen a flop of AT2 - now you could have felted him but instead only won his 2-bet! You're goal shouldn't be to take down pots. You're goal should be to help opponents make mistakes so you can win top dollars.

    Your A6hh hand is another example of your ego thinking you can outplay your opponents with a weaker range, from oop with the world's crappiest equity. Why you would check/call is also a mind-boggler. You should bet or check/raise the flop and take control of the hand as soon as possible. What if he has AK? Well then you shouldn't play A6... right? Either you're going to take the initiative or you should be folding. In this example, you got owned. Calling raises from oop with A6s is a leak, imo.

    So what I'm saying is: nobody but you can tell if you're mentally prepared and game-ready for 2/5. Five BIs are a drop in the bucket. What matters is how you lost those 5 BIs. If it was cooler after cooler, then shake it off. But if it's playing tricky/trappy hands like A6s or 3-betting with TT and losing lots-o-chips... then your game ain't ready.
  • Ruxton_AtheistRuxton_Atheist Red Chipper Posts: 152 ✭✭✭
    edited March 2018
    Phil Ebbs wrote: »
    Thanks for the inputs. I was winning about 8-9bb/hr over a sample size of 250 hours at this particular casino (Twin Rivers, Rhode Island). Maybe a little small, but I also think there are clear mistakes being made by players around me that give me confidence in moving up.

    If you are a studied player who pays attention (Red Chipper), you will observe what appear to be "clear mistakes being made" at every level: 1/2, 2/5, 5/10 and up. Sit in their games for a few weeks. Adjust your game and exploit their mistakes. Observe how they adjust. Observe how your adjustments have in turn opened you up to being exploited. Re-adjust. Now you're dead money. Wait, what happened?

    It's not about you, Phil. Outside of the bingo games, your decisions do not exist in a vacuum. Stop analyzing your game to death, and start studying your opponents. GL

  • jfarrow13jfarrow13 Red Chipper Posts: 1,253 ✭✭✭✭
    Only you know your opponents at the table. If you opponent is folding AK to 3-bets, why not use 9-2o or another trash hand that you would otherwise fold? If this guy is as NITTY and fit or fold as you say, I'd take any blocker hand with some type of dumb equity like K9ss and 3-bet it hope for folds, and then down-size my C-bet if he plays fit or fold post flop.

    I think the point is that 3-betting hands that play well in single bet pre-flop hands isn't the worst thing in the world, and 3-betting super marginal hands 3 times picking up 7 BB's folding out equities that are running rather close anyways, only to lose 40 BB's+ when you run into bad news seems like a losing proposition to me. If you say your balanced, then no big deal. If you know how to navigate it post flop, no big deal, 3-bet it. But if you find yourself praying for sets after you 3-betting hands like JJ-99 like I used to, then you gotta re-evaluate your game and why your taking the actions you do (and this was 100% me. I would 3-bet hands, but I didn't know why or what I was targeting to fold or the % of folds needed for profitability or continuing equity that I needed in order to do it or various board coverage range advantages. Then I got a coach. Just kidding, I still do things and don't know why I do it, but drinking beers gives me at like +15% equity in any hand so it's all good).
  • kageykagey Red Chipper, KINGOFTAGS Posts: 2,241 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Phil Ebbs wrote: »
    I can't tell if you're trolling me or not, but taking down pots where nitty opponents are folding out their 46% equity when being offered 2:1 pot odds seems like the definition of helping my opponent make a mistake. The point of that comment was to show that some opponents are folding way too light, not that I 3bet TT against every opponent every time (which I don't). If an opponent is folding that easily, I guess I'm not convinced that it's a mistake to be 3betting him light.

    not trollin - simply making a point that taking down a few bbs at a time is fine if you're playing in a tournament. but in a cash game - playing post is how you make money.

    you were asking how you can differentiate between a downswing and a player who's a loser... and I'm trying to communicate that base on the few hands you've posted, your range construction is off. maybe it works at 1/3 and maybe it sometimes works in 2/5... but here, at RCP, we don't analyze hands as one-offs, we look at hands played as part of a whole.... as in range vs. range.

    consider TT - you happened to 3-bet a mubsy player - and you got away with it. but in the poker world as a whole, you'll either win V's 2-bet or you'll get shoved on with JJ+ AK & AQs. Now what do you do? You'd probably have to fold out your 35% equity. That would be horrible... esp since you're on the button!

    imo, the point of your comment was to tell how great you play. butI'm not sure this is the case. In many rooms - 2/5 is the stakes where grinders and more studied players play. being hyper aggro with hands like TT might make you feel like you're a superior player - but the probabilities say the opposite. Yeah, you won this pot. But this style of play ramps up your win/loss deviation to where you're either winning a small pot or losing your stack... which may explain why you're down 5 BIs.

    You wanna know why you're down 5 BIs... don't look at the hands you've lost. Look at the hands you've won. If you're truly a better player - you shouldn't be so quick to 3-bet and shove/or call shoves when you've got you're opponent on the ropes. Take a look at why you feel the need to get it all in pre and let variance run its course. Doing such takes all the "skill" out of the game!

    anyway - that's what I see in your post. I may be wrong and maybe you're the next Phil Ivey. you wanted a "thoughtful answer"... well, this is as thoughtful as I get. If you don't like my thoughts, feel free to ignore them. As I'm not interested in debating who's right or wrong here. I was just trying to provide you with some food for thought.
  • Albert AAlbert A Red Chipper Posts: 95 ✭✭
    @kagey. Excellent advice with..."the question you need to ask yourself was - did you know exactly where you were on all streets in the hand - and did you play your hand optimally?The way I'd measure it would be how often was I lost in a hand."
    Excellent food for thought when we start "running bad" and the mental boogie man creeps into our thoughts.
  • AustinAustin Red Chipper Posts: 5,483 ✭✭✭✭✭
    In live play you cannot realistically reach the long-term to tell how reliably a winner you are. You need 250-300k hands, which would take you 180 years playing full-time.

    And even so, CTS once posted a graph where, during an era where he was a dominate online player, he was breakeven over 100k hands (3 months). I have 10-20k breakeven stretches playing against non-professional players a few times a year. Variance is real.

    Game selection is important when your focused on winning money and not just trying to improve.
  • NYCRyNYCRy Red Chipper Posts: 336 ✭✭✭
    In live play you cannot realistically reach the long-term to tell how reliably a winner you are. You need 250-300k hands, which would take you 180 years playing full-time.

    Wouldn't a pro play 2k hrs/year @30 hands/hr = 60,000 hands per year? This would reach the long run in about 5 years. Still a long time but not quite 180

  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 4,676 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Austin wrote: »
    Game selection is important when your focused on winning money and not just trying to improve.

    hear hear, I think that idea gets forgotten around here sometimes. If our only goal was to improve with no monetary reward, we could all just go play chess!

  • joesizejoesize Red Chipper Posts: 110 ✭✭
    Phil Ebbs wrote: »
    Thanks for the inputs. I was winning about 8-9bb/hr over a sample size of 250 hours at this particular casino (Twin Rivers, Rhode Island). Maybe a little small, but I also think there are clear mistakes being made by players around me that give me confidence in moving up.

    This is maybe too anecdotal, but here are several things that make me think I'm a better player:
    -I think my preflop play is significantly better. Other players frequently limp with hands that are much too strong or much too weak. I am very careful not to do this, unless I'm in late position and I think it's very exploitable with super low pocket pairs or suited connectors
    -Other players don't have 3bet bluff ranges. I do, and it's balanced about 3:1 value:bluff
    -Other players almost never 4bet, even with premium hands. I'll 4bet AA, KK, AK, QQ in certain spots, and a couple Ax hands as a bluff
    -Other players don't understand pot odds and will check call with things like gutshots, rather than folding or bluff-raising.
    -Some players massively over value hands post flop. Example: last time I played 2/5, early position raised, button calls, the small blind called, and the big blind called. Flop comes T42 rainbow, blinds check, EP bets 3/4 pot, button calls, SB folds, BB check raises. They end up playing a huge pot, and BB turns over ATo. imo, that is massively overplaying your hand, check raising into two players, one of which is the preflop aggressor. The same player later pulled a very similar move with K8o, when the board came 862. Top pair is often played multi-way for way too many chips.
    -Finally, from table talk, I can tell that players assume way too much about other players' ranges. I will often 3bet with something like AQs, or JJ, or A5s, and everyone will fold, and comment that I must have a premium hand. I was on the button with TT last week and 3bet a MP raiser, and he laid down AKs face up. These seem to me to be egregious errors. But, I am 5 BIs down, so what do I know? =)

    Thanks for the input!

  • joesizejoesize Red Chipper Posts: 110 ✭✭
    "... he laid down AKs face up. These seem to me to be egregious errors."

    You might want to go back and watch Doug Hull's video "Sweet Temptations." That might have been a smart fold to your 3bet.

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