This week was interesting for poker. I studied my face off but played very little.
1. Bodog ran into issues with reg tables.
2. I am having mindset issues with wanting to book a win, and it's tough than I expected.
My NL25 shot went really well, and I felt like I was waiting for the moment where it all came crashing down. I would win 1-2 BIs then want to stop the session. Initially I thought I could just blast through it, but it a very powerful sensation. My strategy to deal with this was to play for 60 minutes, and it was about 90% of what I could take. Then take an hour off and come back for another 30 minute session. Coming back for this session helped a lot. After doing this for a few days it was easier. I have a lot more cushion at NL25 now, so I think this is helping as well, but there is something telling about my mindset here:[b] I have a emotional connection to short term results.[/b] There will be a battle with this all the way up. I don't want to play more than 90 minutes on weekdays for now, so this strategy will be ok for now.
I feel confident in my play in these pools they are just so soft, so I am not sure why I want to book a win so bad. Darius gave some advice about not trying to numb yourself to the sensation, and be aware of it, and I think it's really good advice. I am just not certain how to implement this. I hear good things about meditation. I will need to look more into this.
I came through some theoretical break throughs as well. I posted this in my Darius's discord, and I don't want to give away too much but consider this example:
Lets say, for the sake of example, a player is at a river node and they have 10 value combos and 100 trash combos. The play decides to bluff trash at 10%. What is their bluffing percentage? Most people think 10, and that could be correct if their choice is value betting, bluffing or checking. But after deciding to bet they have 10 value combos, and 100*0.1 (100 trash combos bluffed 10% of the time) = 10 bluffing combos, so the rate they are bluffing given they have bet is actually (10/20)100=50%. We are printing here.
This example demonstrates balance is really dependent on not just your frequency, but your actual combos you hold. If we don't get to the river with a different range than a solver and the solver says bluff 25%, the RNG won't protect us. We could be over or under bluffing here. Something to keep in mind. In practice probably only 1-2% I would think. But I Believe this gives a lot of power to min exploit strategies. I need to play around with some solves, to see how extreme this can get, but I think you could put yourself in a position where you can be exploited on the river and there is nothing you can do about it with your river strategy.
I am learning a lot about how to get better. I actually had a lot of issues with adjusting before starting up poker again. I think it was an artifact of Zoom, where you just had to do it so infrequently, but now I play very differently against "regs" than "fish".
I had some really great advice for bluff catching as well, and seeing other people better than me execute these, and post the hands have been really helpful to calibrate my own thresholds.
I have been using the trainer in GTO+ for some of the simple strategies too to help calibrate how a solver plays here. It really helps with lines that are less familiar. I mostly drilled BTN vs BB in SRPs, and it actually helps a lot with very little hands. It's actually interesting to see how the solver tries to exploit you. When you realize pop will never do this, you can almost see where the EV is coming from.
I don't think I have ever been on a heater like this before. I wanted to share this sample since it's so pretty haha. Again no sample and not sustainable, but sure looks nice.
The next week I want to be more focused in my learning. I have been all over the place. I am going to spend the next 3-4 days on OOP SRP strategies (BB vs SB and CO vs BTN), and then after that I will go to bluff catching or three bet pots.
I would like to get more volume in next week as well, but we will see. It's still early days, so one day at a time.
That's it for me today.
Jan. 22, 2022 | 9:07 p.m.
Start of Blog post.
This week was a lot more consistent with poker. Darius’s group, and his approach to improving is great. There is a lot of gold in his group, and it’s conceptual, meaning you can use them to build your own strategy, which is what I want. As a tangent here, my goal is to just get good at poker, and the money will come. I think working on things, doing them yourself, realizing it wrong, fixing it and repeating is slower to get results in the short term, but your roof will be higher in the long run because you understand it more.
The general approach for getting better in a spot is: data (solves, MDA, whatever) -> simplify -> adjust -> practice.
For pre-flop that is taking some pre-flop solutions, building a strategy that is pure, or simple mixing, then adjusting it for population tendencies. In microstakes people don’t 4bet as a bluff for example, so we could add more three bets since they will see the flop more. Then we learn them and use them at the tables.
Flop, turn and river strategy can follow a similar pattern. You get a bunch of solves, and simplify it by reducing the number of bet sizings etc. I don’t want to give away the actual strategy that Darius recommends we start with, but I think if someone wants to experiment with finding simple strategies with GTO+ they can get quite close. Post flop for example if we used 3 bet sizing on 3 streets IP we would have 3^3 decision points = 27, OOP we add in a check so that’s 4^3 = 64, so if you simplify the flop then you really simplify your overall decisions.
Once you have a simple strategy down you can go through your complex strategies / solves and add in a small piece each time where you’re simple strategy is costing you a lot of EV. Eventually your simple strategy can be really complex, and it’s customized for you.
I think a lot of people want the “just tell me the lines so I can go crush”, but I think this is really flawed thinking. Eventually the game will change and you will rely on others again, and for some people that’s ok. Personally, I want to be able to make my own strategies and get better at the game myself. Limitless doesn’t get the lines from someone. Sure he gets ideas and stuff from his friends/coaches, but the absolute sickos figure it out. I want to be a sicko.
I have been really motivated for poker. Study has been easy and play has been easier. I have been “wanting to book a win” a lot, and I have been forcing myself to decide on the time I am done playing and then just staying at the computer for that time. Practicing my Reg strategy at the tables has been tougher because there are like 3-5 fish at any given time, but that is minor. I have been running insanely good. Volume is really hard with regular 4 tabling, I am use to being able to get 2k hands pretty quick with zoom, but now it’s hard to get 500. I have been ramping up and playing more now, so volume will work itself out.
I have been getting some hands reviewed in Darius’s group, and then reading and trying to work out what I would do in all the posted hands. There are a lot of people who play a lot higher than me in there, so I am learning a whole lot from them.
I have been running so good that I need to start shooting NL25, with the deposit bonuses getting unlocked as well I am at $900 bankroll. (I started ~800 USD I think I up like $100 or $120 with the bonus). I played a little bit on NL25 last night, and there is a lot of fish at the tables still, so we will see how this goes. Shot taking hasn’t really been good for me in the past, but I think getting use to it now is really important. I get really nervous when doing it, but I don’t want to let it win.
I decided to post my graph as well. This is no sample, but I want to be open with results. Hands just take longer.
Obviously a very sustainable winrate 😊.
I still see a lot of people talk about GTO vs Exploitative, and I think it’s very clear now that they are two sides of the same coin, but I think there could be an interesting discussion. I there is a continuum of pure GTO vs Max Exploit, and there are dangers at both ends. If try and play GTO against all players all the time you’re protecting against things that aren’t really going to happen. You’re going to be worrying about picking the correct bluffing hand with blockers when it might not matter, missing out on a lot of free EV, and spending a lot of energy on deciding. Pure max exploit and you risk opponents adjusting very quickly, and the data you must exploit might just be coincidence and not a real leak (google overfitting). Where on the line should you sit? There is also min exploit where you exploit at one decision node, then play equilibrium post that node.
I think you need to consider the factors: will they notice, if they notice can/will they adjust correctly, and if they adjust how hard is it for you to re-adjust. If they can’t or won’t adjust correctly then it’s all good. Fish for example, just aren’t going to counter you properly because they aren’t fish. If regs see you getting out of line with fish there isn’t much they can do about it, since they aren’t in the hand with you.
In the case where you have some secret against regs, what do you do? Can you slightly exploit them to where they don’t notice? Can you exploit them with some strategy then move back when they adjust? How do you know they have adjusted?
I don’t want to be in a situation where if I get found out I need to leave the table. Especially if it is on a named site then I am done for good.
It is an interesting problem and I have some ideas, but I am not sure I have the complete answer. What do you think?
That is it for me today. Next blog I will post more life stuff and less poker stuff, but for now I am motivated to keep improving. There are going to be dark times as they are in every blog I have read it’s the nature of poker. I am hoping to get through it.
Jan. 15, 2022 | 6:35 p.m.
New blog post
I decided to just post one blog a week now, otherwise it’s going to be me rambling about results. This week I had to re-calibrate my study. I joined the EQ-Poker Patreon. I almost don’t want to mention it because the value for $40 CAD a month is insane, but he is a really nice guy so I thought I would give the few, but amazing, people that read this blog a shout out.
His first few videos explained a lot about GTO, why we simplify and how the structure of poker it self makes it very hard for humans to be balanced. I really didn’t think about it like this. I am a really big fan of this approach and it makes the path to improving much clearer.
The basic outline for how to improve is like what I was doing, but slightly different. Simple flops and then focus on learning turns and rivers. This is well known for now. A lot of the MDA is done for me and I can study for effectively with working full time. He made some very insightful points about river ranges that I never would have figured out on my own.
I switched to his pre-flop ranges to study for now, and I have some fish protocol lines that I am making sure I understand. There is 3+ fish at my table all the time, and I am in a pot with them so often that I thought it would be most beneficial to start there. Most of my money is going to come from them so I am studying these for now. I will do deeper work in cycles. There are just so many bad players that I almost can’t work out a reg strategy at the tables yet.
I am also running a bunch of sims in the background for study later. For now I think I have a good enough idea for simplified flops that studying weirder spots won’t give me that much EV. I feel really good about knowing how to improve and then just putting the work in.
I am still going to priorities study over play. I have been studying 1hour every day, but play 30-60 minutes. This will change, but for now I more so want to make it a habit.
My mindset has been ok / poor. Vancouver is in lockdown and everyone is out with covid or not coming out. I have been feeling anxious again lately. I was going to go snowboarding this AM, and I just didn’t. I am forcing myself to go tomorrow and will post about it here for accountability. Right now it’s the only form of exercise I can get. Gyms and BJJ is locked down.
I found myself worrying about work a lot. It’s not a bad place to work, and I was told I am doing really well. I don’t know if this will ever go away, but when it’s bad I want to lay on the couch and be alone a lot and it isn’t healthy. I tend to want to eat a lot of junk food. I did not do good on eating healthy this week either.
Dating has been pretty meh. Lots of matches on the apps, but it’s hard to find someone you connect with. Just patience there.
The poker part has been fun / easy. I am running well, but still not super happy with my play. I will stick to NL10 for a few months and see what happens. Not being able to work out feels like it’s feeding my other bad habits.
Next week I will cook at home the whole day. I will just worry about it one meal at a time. No junk food until Saturday.
That’s it for me.
Jan. 8, 2022 | 8:48 p.m.
Bro awesome first post and excited to hear what you will write
further. From your writing, i can relate to alot of what your saying.
Especially the confidence aspect, which is prevalent amongst us
asians, which im assuming you are from your screename. With your
knowledge and passion for AI, i think you can achieve way bigger
things in life, especially in todays market. Keep poker as a fun hobby
and limited passion, since this is coming from someone who has played
poker for 10+ years semi professionally and has a full time job. Hope
you achieve great things.
Thanks man. I am actually not Asian, but I can see why you would think this. I got this nickname about 15 years ago in a different name, and it was an offshoot. I really appreciate the kind words, especially from a crusher like you!
Hey man.. you know I’m following you. Let’s get it!
Thanks brother, looking forward to studying with you.
Subscribed, seems very promising. Keep it up!
Wow, hey thanks man. Your blog actually was so inspiring. It really was the catalyst for me to start this blog. Thanks!
Start of the actual blog post.
The past 4 days I have mostly been studying from videos. I am away from Vancouver, have no access to a solver/poker until Sunday. I am excited to get home and get some real work in, but for now this is all I can do.
The course material I have been studying has been really good for understanding how to build a strategy. There are a few small things that I have learned that might come into as a big factor later. It triggered some thoughts on my end, so since I don’t have much poker to talk about I thought I would post them here.
GTO..as least on the river has an unstable equilibrium. Meaning a small change to opponents range can mean a big deviation in your strategy. For example if Villian is slightly over calling we just stop bluffing all together, and if they are slightly over folding then we fire all of our bluffs. I think this actually makes things simpler in game. Very simple set of reads, or population data can really make rivers easier. At least in a vacuum.
Since the equilibrium is unstable I think it would be very very hard to construct anything balanced at the tables. It doesn’t surprise me that some of these twitch streamers estimate a frequency and roll a rng for their action. My understanding on balance is: since they don’t know what villain is doing then they will be winning sometimes against certain villains and losing against others. I hear the argument that we don’t know what this player will do so we play GTO, but I don’t know if I agree that the line of thinking, while valid, is the best approach. I think I hear Doug Polk even making this argument. “Could be better, could be worse? Who knows”
Consider the analogy of ranges, lots of new players, myself included, try and put someone on an individual hand, when they are new. We do this because we, as humans, think deterministically rather than probabilistically, and it’s what makes poker really hard. However putting someone on a single hand is not good because we need to consider the range at a given point. If they are bluffing 30% of the time with a half pot bet, we need to call since we only need to win 25% to be better than folding. With a single hand we are going to calling or folding almost at random since we are only picking a hand that beats us or we beat, and will be biased. Every time we fold there we are losing money.
So why, if we know hand ranges are good, are we not considering a range of villains? How often does a villain with the stats we have seen so far call too much on the river? If we know 75/100 villains with these stats overfold this river we really want to start bluffing a lot, we might be wrong for this villain, but overall (which is what we care about) we are right. What percent of them will have the tendency to be on one side of the equilibrium or the other. I think this is a better way to try and make some of these decisions, rather than to assume they are balanced. Being balanced on the river is really hard, so why are we assuming unknowns are doing it?
GTO does have a nice property where, (in heads up only..this isn’t guaranteed for multiway), if we play closer to GTO than our opponent we will beat them for some win rate. But there is no guarantee there is a lot of win rate. If you play with a solver, and solve for equilibrium, note down the EV, then node lock villain to have some crazy actions. You can see against the static GTO range you get an EV increase, but it usually isn’t a lot compared to if you re-solve for the exploitative strategy against that crazy villain range you just created. Is the default assumption of balanced the best way to make long run EV?
This ended up being quite long, so there is more about mixing I noticed while playing around with solvers but I will leave that to another day.
I am not pretending to have the answers here, there may be huge gaps in what I am missing here. Everything I am saying here is really on paper, and there may be practical considerations I am missing. I expect my mind to change a lot.
Any comments on this above rant is appreciated wether you think I am asking good questions or a huge fish. I like to hear other points.
Dec. 30, 2021 | 6:42 p.m.
I am posting this blog as I am hoping that is it the beginning of the new chapter for me. I am a life nit. I am anxious, and scared to take risks. I currently work as a AI Engineer/ Scientist at Microsoft, and I am very passionate about machine learning. Previously I worked as a software engineer at Amazon. I went to the big companies to learn, and because it felt safe, and the money.
I am soon learning that the hedonic treadmill is very real. "If I just make six figures I will be happier, if I just get promoted I will be happy, if I just get a pretty gf then I will have it all." Unfortunately that is all shit. The truth is true happiness is much harder than this. Debt can make you miserable, but I don't think money will make you much happier.
This blog isn't really a poker blog. I will focus on poker, but I really want this to be the blog that will document how I stopped being a scared little life nit. Let me explain: I have lived my life in anxiety, or should I say I think anxiety has lived my life for me. I always did the things that were the right thing to do, or would avoid things that scared me. I don't know if the reader knows what I mean by the "scared child" feeling. It's something that is still in my brain stem. The feeling where you have no control of your destiny, at a young age, and that no one is there to help you.
I hate this feeling. I have realized that I had missed out on a lot of my 20s because of it. My dad passed away suddenly from cancer in 2019. It was a complete shit show. I spent most of my 20s in a library and had very little responsibility other than getting good grades, and trying to get a good job. Before he passed his girlfriend drove him to a notary (where I am from they are allowed to estate plan without being a lawyer) and tried to get his will, without his estate lawyer, or my family knowing what happened. The whole situation was awful, and this anxiety i felt my whole life shot threw the roof, and for the first time in my life I was on my own. My grandparents where too old to handle this, and my uncle was burnt out. I gave him the best goodbye I possibly could, and settled the estate over two years, and handled the drama to what was reasonable. It was here I realized I was a man. When I was young he would always tell me when I was born it seemed like magic, as if a light switch was hit and there was another person in the hospital room, and I never really understood what he meant until he passed. After his final moments I knew he was gone. It was just myself and my uncle in the room.
He always told me he regretted being too safe in life. He had the same demon of fear that I do. He had a safe job his whole life, and didn't travel much, and really missed out on adventure, and I had an epiphany that I want a life of adventure. Despite my nervous system suggesting otherwise.
[b]I really love AI.[/b] But I don't like using it to make people click ads. You know how annoying facebook notifications are getting? How creepy Google ads are getting? Imagine if all that power went into something more helpful that trying to milk a fraction of a percent out of a conversion rate.
I want to apply AI to solve real problems, and I also love poker. I am pretty sure I can use it to help build tools in poker, or solve real problems in science. Eventually I want to start my own AI company and solve problems that I find to be interesting. You have companies like Deep mind solving protein folding, but most of the money is going into trying to get you to click ads for a some MLM's detox cleanse juice 0.001% more of the time, so Google can make another few billion dollars. I am not against making money, and I am not really against advertisements, but holy crap that is boring.
[b]I will do the things that give me fulfillment in life.[/b].
I am going to be a winner at high stakes poker.
I am going to get a black belt in Brazilian Jiu jitsu.
I am going to make my own AI company.
I am going to crack sports betting / daily fantasy sports with AI.
I will combine any of the above as I see fit.
I have learned I really value freedom, and doing the above things are going to be proof that I am truly free.
I am still early in my career, so I don't want to up and quit MS yet. I am actually learning a lot there and it will be beneficial when I start crossing off this list. I am currently going to publish a paper with them in the next few months, and I plan to work there for two years, so in the fall of 2023 I will quit the job and start my future endeavours.
My plan after leaving MS is to go spend time in Asia and work on some proof of concepts. I think I can build an exploitative solver, and I can beat DFS and sports betting with my own invented architecture. This way I will be able to travel, live cheaply and work on these projects all at the same time.
If I am going to build poker tools, I need to be good at poker to understand what is needed. I want to get to high-stakes so this and doing a lot of jiu jitsu is priority 1. I took a lot of inspiration from this blog:
Deliberate practice is something I use all the time.
As I am writing this it is Christmas day and I can't sit still. I want to crush this. The next while of posts is going to be focused on Jiu jitsu training and poker training.
Poker wise I am going to start at NL10 on Bodog, and use MDA, and solvers to really try and build my own play book from scratch. Everyone who seems to get to highstakes in 6 months follows this pattern. Being trained in AI and data science this feels the most natural to me.
I can fund myself all the way up to NL50 if I need to, but then the grind to build the bankroll naturally really begins. But for now I see no reason to avoid making sure I am not just a winner at NL10 before moving up. I want to get better at poker, and the stakes will come naturally.
For Jiu jitsu, I was a blue belt, and with COVID I really fell off. I am going to study Danaher's Dvds and a base and follow the same principles for poker as this. He is dryer than the damn dessert, but his DVDs are gold.
For poker I am going to follow the information from the blog I posted above and prioritize deliberate practice and studying over volume for now. The only downside from this is the pressure the swings will put on my mindset. I am not sure how to balance that with my schedule. I am going to study poker every day. Even if it's a little bit. I have always started getting some pre-flop ranges down, and somewhat intuitive over the past few weeks.
This is it for this ramble fest for now. I am away from my main computer until Jan, but will study videos for nothing else other than to keep the habit. I am going to blog Weds and Saturdays.