What the Dickens is Going On Here?
[Sorry for the very long hiatus--week in the Caribbean, busy work, and the desire not to pull in too much traffic when saddled with Venino's evil banner all conspired to suppress my January posting.]
An apt description of my live versus online results as of late. An even more apt description is made possible with the help of an awesome little web-based utility provided without cost: PokerDominator. I was able to massage the data from my own custom database with several hundred records into its format (with a little MS Access work and the very cooperative and accessible PokerDominator administrator) and for the first time really break down my session data across the live/online, hold'em/non-hold'em, tourney/ring spectrums. Here is the big picture from September:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity . . .
As you can see, the trends are clear (particularly online) and inverse. The relatively smooth line for online is clearly the result of the much higher frequency of play.
My preliminary conclusion is that online play is rigged: September 1, someone kicked the doom switch on me.
Okay, that's not my preliminary conclusion. But what is?
I decided to slice up the data a little more. Was I playing more tourneys online than live (or vice versa)? More non-hold'em online (definitely). Any other explanations that would lead me to action?
Tourney versus ring:
Live, I'm a bigger tourney winner than a cash winner, largely because of my four cashes in the 250+25 my old club used to (and hopefully will again hold). Nevertheless, albeit with a significantly lower hourly rate I have profited in ring games as well notwithstanding one devastating November morning at the Taj--ask the Rooster about it, he knows it well enough to tell it himself--and notwithstanding the low limit Blogger games in Vegas where I heed and I hawed. Online during the period, I pretty much lost in each with the same curve roughly.
Hold 'em versus not hold'em:
One of my favorite things about playing online is the wider variety of games. I enjoy Razz now and then (masochist that I am). Triple draw is a refreshing change of pace. Stud I never liked that much, but occasionally gave it a ride, particularly when sitting with Weak Player, who back last fall made it one of his mainstays. OPL I definitely like and O8 I scored my first ever limit tourney final table with.
But apparently, I'm better at hold'em. Well, no limit hold'em. My losses in the other games (with the exception of O8, explainable with that final table cash in a 50+5), particularly in a two brutal razz sessions, one very brutal triple draw session and one abysmally bad stud 8 session (which I had no business playing at 10-20) outweighed a number of sizable razz wins, small triple draw wins, and water treading at OPL and O8.
Still, my online hold'em and my live hold'em don't seem well correlated, if less inversely so than other games.
Large stakes versus small stakes
Here is where I found the most interesting results, and I had not really noticed them so I'm glad I've gone through the exercise. In general, big tourney versus small tourney buy-in, I've done substantially better live in (relatively) big buy-in rather than small, where I've basically broken even. Online, I've done roughly equally poorly.
However, my online ring game results diverge radically in low stakes (relatively defined by me as less that 1-2 200 buy-in) versus 1-2 and 2-4 (I've avoided taking shots online at bigger games). In live ring games, I've had no opportunity to play less than 1-2, though the max buy-in at that level has varied from as low as 100 (IP, Turning Stone and Windsor with the Bracelet, the last Canadian!) to as high as no max (my old club, with average buy-ins however only around 3-500). Generally, I have played mostly 1-2 500 max or thereabouts in NY clubs, or 2-5 500 max in various casino card rooms. Interestingly, albeit without sufficient sample size online in the period, my "big" stakes online play results have roughly followed my general live ring play results, i.e., generally profitable.
1) I need to improve my non-hold'em play in those games I really want to keep playing (Razz, Triple Draw and the Omahas). I need to stop playing entirely those that I don't particularly enjoy nor do well at, i.e., stud and stud 8 (I realize this conclusion is not particularly profound).
2) I need adjust examine my low stakes online low stakes NL and general tournament play. There are two dimensions I see here.
First, in both tourneys and ring games, my aggressive style may be overly so. My style, which isn't all about bluffing but certainly depends upon a certain level of fold equity in many of its elements, is much less effective where people don't fold as often. This clearly applies to low stakes on line ring and tourney, but I think also to a lesser degree to bigger buy-in tourneys. People just call where they wouldn't live--either because lack of shame, stupidity, too much experience in being bluffed at or simply the ability to buy into another tourney if you bust out. I need to adjust my style accordingly. I always think I am doing just that, but a certain point, the results are starting to persuade me that it may not be simple variance.
Second, in low stakes games, I need to play as focused as I do in high level games, or I need to stop playing them, or I need to accept steady losses as "entertainment value". Realistically, since I have never been good at enjoying a game if I'm losing at it, it's got to be be one or two.
Finally, I note here that the data provides some evidence of at least what I have often felt--that I play better against better players.
This is nothing to be proud of: it's not that I am playing so well against good players but rather that I am playing so badly against bad players. I should be able to exploit worse players and profit off them far greater than I do off of better players. How to do this? I suppose it's about going back to the fundamentals: tighten up (no need to mix it up if they're not paying attention), let the maniacs bet for me, reduce the fold equity factor in decisions (not just less bluffing, also less semi-bluffing, not to say none) and, particularly in tourneys, avoid pushing marginal edges when huge ones are likely to be waiting for me around the next corner.
Comments welcome. See the flop...