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The One Good Reason To Reduce Variance In Your Game


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#1 rxbandits

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 03:49 PM

tl;dr = nit it up.I've always scoffed at anyone who wanted to reduce variance in their game. "Wimps," I said. "Sissies," I called them. After all, if you're playing a winning game shouldn't you take any edge no matter how small every time it's offered provided you're properly bankrolled?I couldn't find one good reason to not take a small positive edge (or sometimes at best an estimated small positive edge). If you said you didn't take a certain edge because of bankroll, I'd respond, "Don't play if you're not properly bankrolled and can't handle the risk; show some discipline and play within your means." If you said you'd pass up on a small edge now for a bigger edge later, I'd say, "Later may never come; fish go bust and claim online poker is rigged practically every second of every day." "Get while the gettin's good," I'd say.And honestly, I still feel this way regarding these two reasons that people use in order to justify not taking every edge. But enough experience has finally taught me there is one well-justified reason to pass up on small edges in order to reduce variance and that is this: if doing so will keep you on your A-game longer.For example:If I just 3-bet a guy and got 4-bet and am thinking of jamming with king high (because he opened from a steal position, has a high 4-bet percentage, and a low call 5-bet percentage) I have to ask myself what my mental state will be like after I win or lose after jamming in this spot, and what my mental state will be like if I just let it go. In my own experience I've found that I'll feel pretty good if I jam and take down the pot, but not as good as an "on top of the world" high. "The amount I won was only about 20-25bb," I'll realize, and continue playing my game. But if I get called and lose 100bb I know my mental state will drop pretty low. "That was stupid," I'll chide myself, "I didn't need to do that." If I jam and win, that means I will have sucked out... and while it feels good to win 100bb, I still feel pretty sheepish and terrible getting my money in bad. Finally, if I just give it up and fold I find that my mental state is pretty close to where it was when it first started and not too far below the high I get from winning 20-25bb. So I lose a 3-bet, no big deal. I can handle it. I move on. And my A-game continues.This is how grinders I know play longer sessions. They forgo variance so they can cruise along on their A-game for extended periods of time.I'm great at quitting the moment I notice the slightest tinge of tilt. It's something I've practiced by reading Tommy Angelo and others and it's something I'm proud of. But because I've insisted on playing a high variance game and taking every edge I can see, I've had to quit after 10 minutes of 12-tabling. My high variance game has kept me from playing long sessions sometimes because I'll lose a small edge (for some reason the smallest edges are in the biggest pots) and feel my mental state drop and then I'll (rightly) quit playing.But if I consider that I could forgo a small edge and therefore keep my mental state up more often and play longer, I realize that I can make more money by passing up these small edges in big pots.You can look at 'reducing variance to keep you on your A-game longer' in a bigger picture sense as well: in terms of how you approach your poker career, not just each session.I've gone near half a million hands break-even. Although I've made a tidy profit playing online poker professionally now for 2 years, this is what a winning high variance game looks like: steep ascents up and loooooong break-even stretches. It got so bad that I had to take 2 months off from the game recently. Two months! Two months' salary lost... just to maintain my sanity. I tried to remember the 200 buy-in score I took in one month, but all I kept feeling was the crushing weight of four months of nothing. Combined with the 2 months off I took, I went 6 months as a professional poker player not making a penny in profit.My high-variance game led to long stretches of break-even which eventually led to burn-out.Wanting to get back in the game lately, I looked at the stats on some other winning professionals. A lot of guys I respected had a 10 to 15 buy-in difference from their best day to their worst day. I had a 30 buy-in difference. Their graphs were slow, steady inclines from lower left to upper right. Mine was steep climb up, plateau for a while, steep climb up, plateau for a while.I've chatted with a few of these guys. We agree on so much, except they would always say, "I'd wait for a better spot," or "You don't need to push such a small edge there." And I could never understand why. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I learned it.If poker can be summed up into two things as Haseeb "INTERNETPOKERS"Qureshi writes, then by my count...The two things about poker are:
  • Your A-game is the eager and willful exploitation of the leaks in your opponent's game once you spot them.
  • You should take steps to ensure you are on your A-game as long as possible.


#2 dead money

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 05:43 PM

View Postrxbandits, on Friday, April 1st, 2011, 3:49 PM, said:

tl;dr = nit it up.I've always scoffed at anyone who wanted to reduce variance in their game. "Wimps," I said. "Sissies," I called them. After all, if you're playing a winning game shouldn't you take any edge no matter how small every time it's offered provided you're properly bankrolled?I couldn't find one good reason to not take a small positive edge (or sometimes at best an estimated small positive edge). If you said you didn't take a certain edge because of bankroll, I'd respond, "Don't play if you're not properly bankrolled and can't handle the risk; show some discipline and play within your means." If you said you'd pass up on a small edge now for a bigger edge later, I'd say, "Later may never come; fish go bust and claim online poker is rigged practically every second of every day." "Get while the gettin's good," I'd say.And honestly, I still feel this way regarding these two reasons that people use in order to justify not taking every edge. But enough experience has finally taught me there is one well-justified reason to pass up on small edges in order to reduce variance and that is this: if doing so will keep you on your A-game longer.For example:If I just 3-bet a guy and got 4-bet and am thinking of jamming with king high (because he opened from a steal position, has a high 4-bet percentage, and a low call 5-bet percentage) I have to ask myself what my mental state will be like after I win or lose after jamming in this spot, and what my mental state will be like if I just let it go. In my own experience I've found that I'll feel pretty good if I jam and take down the pot, but not as good as an "on top of the world" high. "The amount I won was only about 20-25bb," I'll realize, and continue playing my game. But if I get called and lose 100bb I know my mental state will drop pretty low. "That was stupid," I'll chide myself, "I didn't need to do that." If I jam and win, that means I will have sucked out... and while it feels good to win 100bb, I still feel pretty sheepish and terrible getting my money in bad. Finally, if I just give it up and fold I find that my mental state is pretty close to where it was when it first started and not too far below the high I get from winning 20-25bb. So I lose a 3-bet, no big deal. I can handle it. I move on. And my A-game continues.This is how grinders I know play longer sessions. They forgo variance so they can cruise along on their A-game for extended periods of time.I'm great at quitting the moment I notice the slightest tinge of tilt. It's something I've practiced by reading Tommy Angelo and others and it's something I'm proud of. But because I've insisted on playing a high variance game and taking every edge I can see, I've had to quit after 10 minutes of 12-tabling. My high variance game has kept me from playing long sessions sometimes because I'll lose a small edge (for some reason the smallest edges are in the biggest pots) and feel my mental state drop and then I'll (rightly) quit playing.But if I consider that I could forgo a small edge and therefore keep my mental state up more often and play longer, I realize that I can make more money by passing up these small edges in big pots.You can look at 'reducing variance to keep you on your A-game longer' in a bigger picture sense as well: in terms of how you approach your poker career, not just each session.I've gone near half a million hands break-even. Although I've made a tidy profit playing online poker professionally now for 2 years, this is what a winning high variance game looks like: steep ascents up and loooooong break-even stretches. It got so bad that I had to take 2 months off from the game recently. Two months! Two months' salary lost... just to maintain my sanity. I tried to remember the 200 buy-in score I took in one month, but all I kept feeling was the crushing weight of four months of nothing. Combined with the 2 months off I took, I went 6 months as a professional poker player not making a penny in profit.My high-variance game led to long stretches of break-even which eventually led to burn-out.Wanting to get back in the game lately, I looked at the stats on some other winning professionals. A lot of guys I respected had a 10 to 15 buy-in difference from their best day to their worst day. I had a 30 buy-in difference. Their graphs were slow, steady inclines from lower left to upper right. Mine was steep climb up, plateau for a while, steep climb up, plateau for a while.I've chatted with a few of these guys. We agree on so much, except they would always say, "I'd wait for a better spot," or "You don't need to push such a small edge there." And I could never understand why. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I learned it.If poker can be summed up into two things as Haseeb "INTERNETPOKERS"Qureshi writes, then by my count...The two things about poker are:
  • Your A-game is the eager and willful exploitation of the leaks in your opponent's game once you spot them.
  • You should take steps to ensure you are on your A-game as long as possible.
Wow. Just wow. You just blew my mind. I deeply thank you. I started reading it and was picturing every session I play wondering why I break even. Remembering staring in disbelief at the computer screen after a 4 hour 10 tabling session wondering how I blew 20 buy ins. Looking back on my slow decline into tilted ineptitude. It was almost as if you have been watching me play for the last 2 years. Everything you wrote is exactly what happens to me and know you have opened my eyes and you have shown me what now seems so painfully obvious.
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#3 Ninja Ace

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 11:50 PM

Hi, I'm a Tiltaholic named *******Big big +1 to this post. My several month spree of insanity and spiral out of control cash game play was caused mostly by ignoring the seemingly common sense this post offers. Never forget you are human. Never forget that human factors greatly outweigh small and minuscule extra mathematical edges. And the bottom line is that if you absolutely need those edges to continue to be a winning player, you should look for another game.
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"Mixing it up" doesn't magically rationalize anything you do. It's like you walk up to a pencil sharpener, pencil in hand, and think, "Everyone expects me to sharpen this pencil, but I'm going to mix it up." Then you whip out your cock and sharpen that instead and yell, "Ha ha, bitches, you never saw that coming!" Well, no, they didn't. But you still have a dull pencil and bleeding dick.

#4 potatoman

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 11:44 AM

Great post. I'll be sharing this with others. The human factor and being aware and honest about your own leaks and limitations is something not a lot of poker pros discuss. Players shouldn't strive to be "Phil Ivey". They should strive to play their best as the OP suggests. It's the only thing they have control over.Thanks for posting this.

#5 CobaltBlue

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 02:29 PM

Excellent post, rxb.

#6 FARGOpokerND

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 04:45 PM

View PostCobaltBlue, on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011, 5:29 PM, said:

Excellent post, rxb.
+1

#7 babylondonks

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 04:59 PM

Couldn't agree more with this post, letting results affect my A-game and leading to burn out is definitely something that has stunted my growth as a poker player for a while now, and it's great to see it all written down in such a clear format. Great post and welcome to the forum sir :club:

#8 BroilFlush

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 12:23 PM

I'm so glad I finally found a place where people are smart about poker. Great post! I have a question for you guys because out here in Wyoming poker is legal in certain bars etc. Is that the same where you guys all are? It is pretty nice being able to go on to some kind of online review site and read about where the good games happen before I go out and play. Have you guys ever checked out angies list?

#9 KingJames

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 10:07 AM

Got a few hands where I just want to ensure my lines/bet sizing etc is good... thanks for any inputMerge Network $0.02/$0.04 No Limit Hold'em - 6 players - View hand 1366528DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History ConverterUTG: $3.18MP: $4.72CO: $8.90Hero (BTN): $4.19SB: $2.81BB: $4.45Pre Flop: ($0.06) Hero is BTN with K :club: K :3h2 folds, CO raises to $0.14, Hero calls $0.14, SB calls $0.12, 1 foldFlop: ($0.46) Q :ts 2 :4h J :qh (3 players)SB checks, CO bets $0.30, Hero raises to $0.96, SB calls $0.96, CO foldsTurn: ($2.68) 4 :5c (2 players)SB checks, Hero bets $3.09 all in, SB calls $1.71 all inVillain is 24/6 and I think has a lot of flush draws when he check/takes two to the face, but we have teh Kd if he does have a lower flush... dead vs AXdd tho :jh
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#10 KingJames

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 10:09 AM

Villain is 41/24/.8... Always gonna be 88 and 9T? Is there a better line to take on the turn?Merge Network $0.02/$0.04 No Limit Hold'em - 4 players - View hand 1366531DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History ConverterBB: $8.10Hero (CO): $5.98BTN: $3.12SB: $7.70Pre Flop: ($0.06) Hero is CO with 7 :club: 7 :5cHero raises to $0.08, 1 fold, SB calls $0.06, 1 foldFlop: ($0.20) 8 :3h 7 :4h 3 :qh (2 players)SB checks, Hero bets $0.16, SB calls $0.16Turn: ($0.52) J :ts (2 players)SB checks, Hero bets $0.40, SB raises to $1.06, Hero raises to $2.28, SB raises to $7.46 all in, Hero calls $3.46 all in
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#11 mtdesmoines

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 10:42 AM

View PostKingJames, on Saturday, July 9th, 2011, 1:09 PM, said:

Villain is 41/24/.8... Always gonna be 88 and 9T? Is there a better line to take on the turn?Merge Network $0.02/$0.04 No Limit Hold'em - 4 players - View hand 1366531DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History ConverterBB: $8.10Hero (CO): $5.98BTN: $3.12SB: $7.70Pre Flop: ($0.06) Hero is CO with 7 :club: 7 :5cHero raises to $0.08, 1 fold, SB calls $0.06, 1 foldFlop: ($0.20) 8 :3h 7 :4h 3 :qh (2 players)SB checks, Hero bets $0.16, SB calls $0.16Turn: ($0.52) J :ts (2 players)SB checks, Hero bets $0.40, SB raises to $1.06, Hero raises to $2.28, SB raises to $7.46 all in, Hero calls $3.46 all in
I have no prob with this. If this is 88 9T 80% of the time, we should all quit playing poker.
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#12 CobaltBlue

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 02:51 PM

KJ, any particular reason you're flatting KK on the button against a CO raise?

#13 KingJames

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 06:20 PM

View PostCobaltBlue, on Saturday, July 9th, 2011, 4:51 PM, said:

KJ, any particular reason you're flatting KK on the button against a CO raise?
sb was a fish and bb was 3b happy...when I'm losing (as I was in this session), I get FPS like whoa
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#14 CobaltBlue

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 08:50 PM

View PostKingJames, on Saturday, July 9th, 2011, 10:20 PM, said:

sb was a fish and bb was 3b happy...when I'm losing (as I was in this session), I get FPS like whoa
Fair enough. Just wanted to make sure there was some reasoning. You didn't really give us any reads on CO either.

#15 KingJames

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 09:00 PM

View PostCobaltBlue, on Saturday, July 9th, 2011, 10:50 PM, said:

Fair enough. Just wanted to make sure there was some reasoning. You didn't really give us any reads on CO either.
just assume all hands I post are bc I was tilty and playing fancy... and randomly clicking buttons
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#16 Swift_Psycho

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Posted 19 July 2011 - 02:20 PM

This is easily one of the most insightful posts I've read on this site.




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