m5 - How To Cope With Downswings
You can do all the mindset work you want. Nothing is going to prepare you for the biggest downswing of your life. It's sort of like being a surfer who has only surfed 10-foot waves. Then, one day, a 20-footer comes out of nowhere. Before you even have time to react, this massive thing is on top of you, and it's about to crash.
There's no going over or under the wave. You can't go around it. You just have to ride the fucking wave, and it's really scary. But once you come out the other end and realize you survived, you're not as scared of 20-foot waves anymore. Maybe 30-footers are the new 20-footers, and now you look at 20s like you used to look at 10s. That's called growth.
But growth is never pretty. When you're down an amount of money you're not comfortable with, you're not going to play your A game. It's impossible. I used to not want to admit this to myself. I prided myself on having a rock-solid mindset. But I have made some mistakes during my last two huge downswings that I really don't think I would have made unless I was under extreme performance stress.
This actually isn't such a huge problem as long as you know how to manage it. First of all, if you're a winning player, then you should only experience these massive downswings a small percentage of the time. But when they do happen, the tilt can be pretty costly, and we obviously want to minimize that. So here are some practical tips for not losing your mind:
Don't expect yourself to play your A game. Instead, shoot for a B+. Maybe you won't make the really sick plays that you make when you're totally dialed in, but you'll still be very profitable in the games.
Don't change your volume schedule significantly. Increasing volume will reduce your ability to focus. Decreasing volume will make the downswing feel like it's never going to end. Just put in the hands you planned, give or take a few thousand, and try to play as well as you can.
Put the variance in perspective. A lot of players don't realize how hard it is to punt even 10 big blinds in a single hand. If you're on a 20 buy-in downswing, that means you would have needed to make 200 of those mistakes if there was no variance in the sample. Spoiler alert: you didn't play that badly, you just got unlucky. If you're a winning player, try reflecting on your results over the past year instead of focusing on the past month.
Beyond that, I can't give you much advice except to put your head down and play through it. Remember that downswings are only temporary. If you're a winning player, that means by definition every downswing you have ever had has been offset by an even greater upswing. At some point you just have to realize that it's stupid to get mad every time. As long as you have good bankroll management, you're not going to go broke. Downswings don't kill you, they make you stronger.
Aug. 15, 2019 | 4:18 a.m.
Random Poker Thought/Rant
Poker bots are not your problem.
There is so much paranoia about poker bots these days. I simply don't understand it. IMO it's just an easy way out for people to not take any ownership over why they are losing poker players.
I play on Ignition. It's an anonymous site which I am sure is flooded with bots, and I welcome the bots for a couple reasons:
Bots suck at poker, period. Unassisted bots play a simple, low win-rate strategy to capitalize on fish. They only make money by pumping huge amounts of volume. Playing against one of these bots is sort of like playing the ChessMaster bots with ratings in the 800-1400 range. If you are a pro poker player and you don't think you can beat a simple poker bot in 2019, you need to reevaluate your life. Maybe the day will come where some superbot like Pluribus is easily accessible and gets unleashed en masse on poker sites, but trust me, we are not there yet.
Bots give the illusion of more traffic, and traffic generates traffic. As a fish, would you rather play in a poker room where there are three tables running and almost all the players are pros, or would you rather have your choice of half a dozen tables with a mix of pros and barely +EV bots? Obviously you would choose the latter (especially if you don't even know you're playing against bots), because you will have a higher chance of winning.
A lot of people think spreading fear about bots is necessary, because we need to raise awareness about them before they "ruin the game forever." I believe this sensationalist attitude will actually have the opposite effect on the poker economy. If you write alarmist posts on forums or make YouTube videos freaking out about bots all the time, you're more likely to scare off the recreational players than the pros. The recreationals are just here for fun and can go play other games if they want to. The pros are stuck here, bots or no bots.
Of course I think we should be concerned about unassisted bots becoming more powerful. And I do think there will be a day where a bot like Pluribus (assuming those researchers were being genuine and accurate about their bot's performance) is more easily accessible. But for now, we should just accept that bots aren't really that big of a problem, and if there are accounts that are using unethical means to gain truly massive edges, then it's up to the poker sites and their security teams to ban them.
There's a big difference between identifying a specific poker bot and reporting it privately to a security team (productive), and spreading paranoia publicly on forums about bots in general (unproductive and harmful to the ecosystem). If you're the kind of person who does the latter, maybe you should start thinking about why it's so appealing to you to assume the game is rigged and it's impossible for you to win. Frankly, it's a sign of low intelligence. You're not helping anyone, and the person you're hurting the most is yourself.
Aug. 7, 2019 | 10:31 p.m.
Ignition is surely flooded with bots but that's no reason not to play regular tables. The regular games are soft as hell.
Zone is beatable as well, but I don't think the added volume is worth the sacrifice in win rate.
Aug. 7, 2019 | 9:56 p.m.
Looking at your graphs and high WWSF numbers, we can see you are making a lot of money by getting players to fold. Is this by utilising the research done in the Night Vision courses that show hotspots where population doesn't defend enough versus PIO recommendations?
Yes, and I have done a lot more research on my own beyond what was done in Night Vision.
Without giving away all of your secrets, have you found additional spots where you can take down more pots without showdown?
Yes. I'm not going to get too technical on this blog or post a lot of hand histories, but one example would be that a lot of people know to attack missed c-bets because the population doesn't protect their checking range and has a very hard time defending vs. stabs, but you can also be very aggro with raising flop c-bets as well, because the population is c-betting way too frequently in almost all cases.
Also, finally, do you employ a lot of overbetting to generate folds, or do you just employ a strategy that includes lines on certain textures that you know population just overfolds? and would this strategy work in non-anonymous games?
I do my fair share of overbetting :)
I guess I can't really say whether or not my strategy would work just as well in known pools until I put in a good sample in a known pool. There are some other guys on here that are using similar strategies in PokerStars Zoom pools and putting up great results. I doubt the average online reg would counter me enough for me to want to significantly change what I am doing. That said, it's pretty easy to dial things back and become more balanced, or just disguise your exploits a bit more. I do this all the time when I play HU and my opponent has a larger sample on me and/or is paying closer attention.
Aug. 5, 2019 | 9:18 p.m.
I'm not going to make a habit of posting monthly results, but I thought I would share this graph of my first month mixing 2000nl. I have almost 30k more hands at 1000nl with a 15 bb/100 win rate. I hope in a few months that I'll be looking at a graph of 100k high stakes hands at 20+ bb/100. When I first heard Andrew Graham say he did this on Joe Ingram's podcast back in 2017, I thought it was impossible. But now I'm inspired to top it. Shout out to Cindy.
I've been watching a lot of Magnus Carlsen's streams lately (highly recommended). He said something here which really resonated with me:
"I was a bit of a chicken, unfortunately, back in my youth. In my case, the appetite certainly came with the meal. I don't think that's an expression in English, but whatever. What I'm trying to say is that as I got better I got more ambitious as well."
All I ever wanted from poker was $100k per year on my own terms. I think it's safe to say I have exceeded my goal. But even now I see a lot of ways that I can improve my game and I have my sights set on bigger achievements. I definitely feel like I'm just getting started and I'm excited to see what comes next.
July 29, 2019 | 11:08 p.m.
How did your scientific background help you in poker? I am asking because I have a math/CS background myself, so your experience could help me as well.
It definitely helps me when it comes to proficiency with programs like Hand2Note and understanding the statistical relevance of the results I get from Hand2Note. In general I approach my research projects with a strong sense of organization and direction, whereas I have seen other people kind of just flounder in their attempts at doing research.
During your "breakeven" stretch (and before that, and after that period), did you aggressivey move up and down in stakes? Could you elaborate on your bankroll management and mindset when you encountered downswings?
I broke even at 200nl for 2-3 months. It felt longer than it actually was because I had three weeks of planned travel and vacation in the middle of that period. The lack of consistent volume during the downswing probably hurt the quality of my play as well. I think at my lowest point toward the end of the stretch I had around $10-12k to my name, can't remember exactly. That was my bank roll and my life roll so I knew I really had to get serious or I was going to run out of money.
I wouldn't say I moved up super aggressively once I started winning. I always had at least 30 buy ins before I even took a shot at the next limit. I never had to move back down after taking a shot due to good game selection, high win rate, and a bit of luck.
July 28, 2019 | 9:58 p.m.
Random Poker Thought
It seems like a lot of online poker players care more about people on the internet thinking they are good at poker than actually making money.
Probably my number one rule for poker is: An idea that sounds smart isn't smart if it doesn't make money. An idea that sounds stupid can't be stupid if it does make money.
July 28, 2019 | 8:05 p.m.
Why not invest in H2N if you like the data-based approach? I know it's not exactly cheap if you're a low stakes player but in the grand scheme of things it's worth it. Can't give you the map to success but I can tell you that if you want to succeed you have to invest in yourself and in the right tools.
July 27, 2019 | 3:49 a.m.
m4 - The Downswing Antidote
Fun session at 1000nl from a couple weeks ago:
The antidote to a downswing is volume minus urgency.
The biggest mistake people make when they are on a downswing is they think they need to change something.
While downswings can be useful to help a player learn from mistakes and improve, most players take the upgrade mindset way too far. In reality, you should always be questioning your decisions in a healthy and productive way whether you are winning or losing. If you only question your plays when a bunch of them don't work out in a row, then you will always limit your growth because you will hold yourself to low standards when you win and impossibly high standards when you lose.
In reality, the only way to get through a downswing as quickly as possible is to patiently play more hands. This also happens to be the recipe for success for poker in general. Most people underestimate how strong it is to just play a solid system over a large sample without making any huge mistakes. You can have a good win rate all the way up to high stakes just by steadily working on your game and not self destructing when things get really tough. Of course that's easier said than done, but what alternative do you have?
Consistency is a virtue. In the long term, the players who are consistent end up with a lot less stress and a lot more money in the bank.
July 26, 2019 | 8:06 p.m.
This is one of several reasons why I left ACR, because their HH function (among other things) was broken when I was playing there.
To be honest I don't know what to suggest other than to move to a site which has hand histories. Reviewing all of my hands has been and continues to be such an integral part of my development that I can't imagine going without it. I'm not saying it's impossible to succeed without hand histories, but personally I think it would be a lot harder to learn from my mistakes without them.
July 26, 2019 | 7:53 p.m.
m3 - The Reason You're Losing At Low Stakes
I want to talk about the patterns I have observed that separate winners from losers at low stakes. There seems to be a lot of confusion about this topic on the internet. Whenever I see it get brought up on a poker podcast or training video, people seem to jump to two explanations:
- Winners are stronger technically than losers
- Winners have stronger mindsets than losers
These explanations make no sense to me for a couple reasons. First, there are tons of fish at low stakes. There literally people who don't even know how to play, and just deposit $100 on a website and click buttons until it's gone just for fun. So even if you are pretty weak technically, you should be able to still turn a profit just by playing any reasonably sound strategy. Second, the other regs at low stakes are not good either. If they were good, they would be playing at higher stakes where they could actually make some money. The average reg in your low stakes game probably has just as many technical leaks as you do, and the same can be said for the mental game. So it has to be something else entirely.
And yes, I know the rake is high, but it's not that high.
So here's my theory: I think if you're losing at low stakes, which despite the rake, should be the easiest place to win, then you are breaking down at the logistical level. That means there is something fundamentally wrong with the way that you approach poker as a profession.
Just do me a favor and picture this. I am going to paint a picture of a hypothetical poker player. This person plays poker about 80-100 hours per month–not a ton of volume but definitely a respectable amount. When he does play, he makes sure that he is as focused as he possibly can be. He's not distracted by anything that's going on around him, he doesn't have his phone nearby, and he's not surfing the web while plays. He's just hitting his volume goal and playing really high quality poker, month in and month out.
He also doesn't have any major health issues. He sleeps well, he exercises most days, and he puts good food in his body. He studies about 20 hours per month, sometimes more when he's really feeling it. (And that includes reviewing all of his pots that he has played over 10 or 15 big blinds to make sure he is able to justify all of the significant decisions he's making.) He has access to a coach who is better than him who he meets with on a regular basis. He's not under any extreme financial pressure because he has alternative sources of income, at least for now until poker becomes more profitable. He also doesn't have any major bankroll management issues and he has a solid plan for how and when he is going to move up in stakes.
Basically he knows his plan is solid, so he sticks to it. He doesn't worry extensively about his plan failing. He doesn't try to do so much that he completely burns out or forgets to enjoy his life outside of poker. He doesn't expect succeeding in poker to be the most difficult thing in the world. He just knows that if he lines up enough good decisions in a row, eventually he'll win enough to move up to mid stakes, and then mid stakes will eventually become high stakes.
Now imagine this player is doing all of that, and he is losing at low stakes.
You can't picture this person because he doesn't exist. I am so certain of this that I will make you a bet: if you can prove to me that you did what I just wrote for six months straight and you still lost money at low stakes, then I will give you an hour of 1-on-1 coaching, free of charge.
Until that day comes, I'm sticking to my theory. If you are willing to trust me on this, then all that is left for you to do is take an honest look at your effort over the past few months and ask what went wrong with your plan.
From what I have seen, there seems to be two types of players: the underachievers and overachievers. The underachievers never seem to put in enough effort no matter what they do. There's always some reason why they didn't hit their volume goal. "I was stressed," "My internet went down," "I had a headache." The overachievers, on the other hand, are capable of putting in extremely high levels of effort, but only for short periods of time, Then they inevitably burn out and turn into some kind of zombie that is even less productive than the underachievers. Eventually, after weeks or even months, something motivates them to get of their ass, and the cycle begins again.
Winners, on the other hand, know that the real challenge lies in putting in a consistent amount of solid effort over long periods of time. If you can't do this, then I honestly don't know what to tell you. If you don't change, you're never going to succeed. And it's not just going to kill you in poker, these are essential life skills for success in any career.
So I'm sorry for the tough love, but I'm tired of seeing losing players search endlessly for the one technical upgrade, or the one mindset shift that's going to turn things around for them. And I'm tired of seeing coaches who profit off of this whole shit show. The only thing that's going to determine your success in poker is the quality of your effort over the long term. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. The good news is almost no one else at low stakes is willing to do what I've said here. So if you have what it takes, then success will come a lot faster than you'd think.
P.S. If you liked this post, I highly recommend Elliot Roe's courses. He is one of the only coaches in the industry that I see giving the logistical side of poker the attention it deserves.
July 24, 2019 | 10:14 p.m.
I am glad that Pio has helped you and others. All I am saying is that doesn't mean Pio is the only tool or even the best tool out there, especially for a person who says it's really not helping him.
How can you be completely sure of PIO not being necessarily even the best way to study?
All I said was that Pio is not essential. Most of the important concepts in poker can be explained with simple equity calculations, i.e. optimal bluffing frequency, mandatory defense frequency, and so on. You don't need a solver for that.
July 23, 2019 | 10:45 p.m.
If you wanna improve as a player, I’m completely sure using a solver is the best thing you can do nowadays.
How can you be completely sure of this? While I agree with some aspects of your response, it is never going to help this student. The student is trying to tell RIO that the Pio videos are not helping his game, and you are basically responding, "Pio is the only way."
It's like someone saying, "I honestly can't stick to a diet no matter what I do." And a trainer responding, "Sorry, you have to stick to a diet otherwise you will never lose weight." There is more than one way to skin a cat. Pio is not essential, and it's not necessarily even the best way to study, especially if this student is struggling at low stakes.
July 23, 2019 | 6:26 p.m.
Check out my first two articles on my new poker journal for my answer to this question: https://www.runitonce.com/chatter/mobius-poker-blog/
July 23, 2019 | 5:50 p.m.
m2 - You Should Probably Stop Playing Zoom
In my last post, The Money Spreadsheet, I talked about why playing high quality poker is far more important for your profitability than the amount of volume you play. When I wrote that post, I mainly had in mind low stakes players who struggle because they play way too many hours per week, or they play distracted or exhausted, and end up crippling their win rates by playing lazy and unfocused poker.
A lot of these break even players are currently multitabling on PokerStars Zoom. The speed of the software, combined with their grueling play schedules, allows them to put in a ridiculous amount of volume. Upwards of 60,000 hands per month is not uncommon—a sad fact considering these players are not making any money. It’s like the guys who go to the gym 6 or 7 days per week but still don’t get results. I always suggest these players cut their volume goal dramatically, find some softer games, and put all their focus on improving their quality of play.
That being said, there are plenty of Zoom players who actually play solid poker. They generally have healthy playing routines and they don’t try to put in more hours than they can handle. The speed of the software still allows them to get in plenty of hands per month and they gradually make money in their games. Still, almost all of them find their win rates hovering around the low single digits and are struggling to move up in stakes. But why? Is poker really that hard to beat, or is there something else going on?
As a side note in the last post, I wrote: Sites like PokerStars spend a lot of time and money making fancy software to make pumping volume as easy as possible so that you can pay them more rake.
These days, PokerStars Zoom seems to be the crown jewel of the MSNL reg, which is why I feel obligated to offer the following counterpoint: Zoom is fucking stupid. I realize that may be somewhat incendiary, but hear me out...
Zoom does not exist because it’s in your best interest to play Zoom. Zoom exists because it’s in PokerStars’ best interest for you to play Zoom. Poker sites are incentivized to reduce players’ win rates because when win rates are lower, the money stays on the site for longer. Players have to play more hands to turn a profit, which means the site gets paid more rake. (This is the same reason why many poker sites do not offer high stakes heads up games.)
Most of you probably understand this intuitively, but you’re willing to make the trade off because you think you get disproportionately more volume for the amount of win rate you give up. I think this is a mistake for a couple reasons:
Even if you are able to slightly increase your hourly rate in theory by playing Zoom, this does not account for the fact that lower win rates increase the probability of a loss. This will be detrimental to your mindset. More importantly, it will massively increase your risk of ruin. That means you will need to be much more conservative with your bankroll management and it will be difficult to move up. This is a significant hidden opportunity cost that most people never even think about.
With every hand per hour you add to your volume, you reduce the amount of focus you are able to allocate for each individual hand. Thinking less about your decisions at the tables means you will learn less from each session you play. This will stunt your development as a player, which will have compounding negative impacts on your earnings over the long term. Again, this is a substantial penalty, and most players don’t know how much it’s costing them.
Take a look at the chart below, which plots the minimum bankroll needed for less than 5% risk of ruin vs. win rate. In other words, this is how large of a bankroll you would need to ensure that a downswing will not bankrupt you more than 5% of the time. I would suggest multiplying this number by 3-5x for your normal games, but it’s fine to be a little riskier when you’re taking a shot.
As you can see, a player whose win rate is 3 bb/100 needs a bankroll of at least 50 buy ins for less than 5% risk of ruin. A player whose win rate is 15 bb/100 needs a bank roll of only 10 buy ins for the same level of risk. As win rate decreases, risk of ruin increases exponentially. So if you’re moving up in stakes, you want to ensure that your win rate is as high as possible.
If you read my introductory article, you know that I played Zone on Ignition back when I was moving up through 200nl and 500nl. Luckily, my win rate was pretty high and I only had to grind those games for three or four months before I took a shot at high stakes. That being said, if I could go back and do it all over again, I think I would probably stick to regular tables from the start.
If you’re crushing Zoom and your win rate is greater than 5 bb/100, it’s probably fine to just optimize for volume if that’s what you prefer right now. But if your win rate is less than that, I think you should strongly reconsider your strategy. And if you’re breaking even at Zoom, well, any amount of volume multiplied by a win rate of zero is still zero, so you should get out of those games immediately.
You might agree with my feelings about Zoom, or you might not, but my intention behind this article is to at least get you to do the math on Zoom and decide if it’s actually worth it for you. You should consider all the hidden opportunity costs that I have talked about, because it’s more than just a simple win rate * volume equation. Don’t just play Zoom because that’s what everyone else does. If you pick an average strategy, you’re going to get average results.
July 22, 2019 | 6:28 p.m.
m1 - The Money Spreadsheet: How To Make Money Playing Poker
As I mentioned in my intro post, I play solely on Ignition, which is a site that only allows players to play up to four tables at a time. Ignition has Zone tables (i.e. fast fold) up to 500nl, which allows low and mid stakes players to get a decent amount of volume in despite the four table limit. Once you get to 1000nl and higher, you’re stuck playing four regular tables. The software is slow and, at best, you can expect to get in about 250 hands per hour.
Before I moved up to 1000nl and higher, I thought this was going to be a major problem. I expected 250 hands per hour to be devastatingly boring. I briefly experimented with adding two extra tables on ACR, but quickly got sketched out by what appeared to be an extreme level of disorganization on the part of the site’s operators and pulled all my money out after a few weeks. I also didn’t want to play high stakes on the Chinese apps because of concerns about cheating and collusion. Like it or not, I was going to have to settle for 250 hands per hour on Ignition. Luckily, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise for a few reasons...
First, I noticed that I was able to learn a lot more from my sessions when I had time to think about every single decision I made. I also tried to watch every hand that I was not involved in. This helped me identify fish even faster than my HUD could. I also learned more about the other regs' tendencies. (Even in semi-anonymous games, you can often ID the same players over and over again by observing unique bet sizing sequences, provided you play in a small enough pool.) My improved focus allowed me to bring my A game to every session I played. This, combined with the higher stakes and the greater number of fish at regular tables, had such a powerful impact on my hourly rate that I no longer cared about my lack of volume. You can easily see this inflection point in my graph around the 140k hand mark, where earnings shoot upwards at an exponential rate.
Understanding the relative unimportance of volume is, in my opinion, the most important realization a beginning poker player can have. It seems like most low-mid stakes players these days are trying to leverage volume for all it's worth*. The basic problem with this strategy is that volume doesn't scale.To illustrate this point, I’ve created a spreadsheet which I call the Money Spreadsheet. It allows you to plug in your win rate, stakes, and volume and gives you an annual income projection based on all of these variables. Feel free to download it and tweak it with your own numbers, or just make your own.
*Sites like PokerStars spend a lot of time and money making fancy software to make pumping volume as easy as possible so that you can pay them more rake.
If you play with the spreadsheet enough you will find that the factors which affect your income are: 1. stakes, 2. win rate, and 3. volume, in that order. However, you need a good win rate in order to move up in stakes. Therefore, the most effective way to make more money is to focus on playing high quality poker.
Think of it this way: imagine you are currently playing 20,000 hands in a month and winning at 5 bb/100 at $100nl. That means every 1 bb/100 you add to your win rate increases your monthly income by $200, which is the equivalent of adding an additional 4,000 hands of volume at your original win rate. Each additional 4,000 hands of volume requires exponentially more energy to sustain, and certainly there is some threshold where you will literally die if you try to add more volume. On the other hand, you could certainly add another 5 bb/100 to your win rate, which will take a lot of effort in the short term, but will take almost no effort to sustain. As someone who has doubled his win rate over the past year, I can tell you that poker is no harder for me while I am playing now than it was a year ago. In a lot of ways it's actually easier. Furthermore, we can agree that it would be almost impossible for you to 10x your win rate to 50 bb/100. However, if you merely sustain your current win rate and move from 100nl to 1000nl, you have managed to 10x your income. Again, as someone who has done this in the past year, I can tell you it's not any "harder" to win at high stakes than it was at low stakes. Yes, the swings are sicker, but you gradually get used to them.
In the three charts below, I have plotted the annual income projection vs. volume, win rate, and stakes, respectively, so you can see a visual representation of each.
As you can see, the first two charts show a linear relationship. As volume and win rate go up, annual income goes up in a straight line. The key difference between volume and win rate is that increased volume takes a significant amount of energy to sustain. Win rate, on the other hand, is more scalable. Increasing your win rate takes very little energy to sustain because once you get better at poker, you’re just better. It really
doesn’t take a ton of study effort to maintain your current skill level.
The third chart is the most interesting, because it’s the only chart which shows an exponential relationship. Every time you double your stakes, your annual income also doubles, assuming your volume and win rate remain constant. Moving up in stakes also takes very little energy to sustain as long as you don't get lazy and stop working on your game*. Clearly, the stakes you play is the most scalable factor which affects profitability. The hardest part of moving up is the initial adjustment to the slightly tougher regs at the new limit, combined with the anxiety of risking more money than you’re used to. Again, once you adjust to those factors, and learn to stop respecting other players so much, it will not be any harder for you to win at high stakes than was to win at low stakes. You'll just be making a lot more money.
*Here is Linus talking about the same thing.
I see a lot of up-and-coming players confusing volume with profitability. They frequently justify playing their B or C game just to hit some arbitrary volume goal, and I hope this post makes it clear that this is a big mistake. Volume goals are a good idea in general, but like anything else, they can be taken too far. Past a certain point, volume has nothing to do with the one reason why we're all here: to make money. I personally aim to play only 80 hours of poker per month (20,000 hands). If I want to play a little more, I do, but I like how the goal is easy to hit. It makes me feel good, and it allows me to focus on what is really important, which is the quality of my play.
"When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." –Charles Goodhart
July 20, 2019 | 11:03 p.m.
My name is Patrick Howard and I'm a 27 year old high stakes online poker player. I'm starting this blog, Mobius, to offer the community some insight into my approach to the game. If there is enough interest, I may seek out a position as a RIO coach and make some videos in the future.
Most of you probably know my older brother, Nick Howard, who is a RIO Elite Pro. I started playing online poker with Nick back in the Moneymaker era when we were both really young. Nick never left poker, but I took a long break and pursued a degree in physics. After graduating from college, I started a PhD, but quit within a year because I couldn't see a future for myself in science. My scientific background has helped me a lot in poker though. Most of my study time is spent using Hand2Note's Range Research tool on large databases to develop maximally exploitative strategies vs. population imbalances.
After a couple years of post-dropout soul searching, I came back to the poker world in late 2017. I started by helping Nick out with various jobs at Poker Detox and played part time on Nick's stake throughout 2018. At the end of 2018, I created a course called Ether which uses Hand2Note data to quantify the population's bluffing frequencies across the game tree. At the beginning of this year I started playing full time on my own stake on Ignition. I broke even for a couple of months, but things really took off in March and I climbed from 200nl to 2000nl over the course of the last four months. Here's my graph for the year so far:
This blog will mostly be a place to document my musings about poker and the occasional progress update. I may also post hand histories with some technical explanations from time to time. If you guys have any suggestions for additional content, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
Finally, I just want to end with some food for thought: There is a lot of talk these days about poker becoming increasingly difficult to beat. It seems like a lot of people in the community think the only way to succeed is to get closer and closer to GTO. If I only get one point across with my content here, I hope it will be that the population is currently nowhere near GTO, even in a lot of the higher stakes games. Exploitative poker and hand reading are alive and well, and I think my graph is proof of that. Of course, highly exploitative strategies are easier to employ on anonymous sites like Ignition, but keep in mind that most of the hands I use for my research are PokerStars Zoom hands, so even those of you who are playing in known pools can benefit from my findings.
I chose the symbol of the Mobius strip for the title of this blog because I believe GTO and exploitative poker are two sides of the same coin and cannot be separated. Rather than attempt to reproduce Pio's strategy (an impossible task) I choose to study the gap between Pio's strategy and the population's tendencies, and how to maximally exploit that gap. This, in fact, is exactly what Pio would do if we were to give it a break from playing against itself and unleash it on human pools. Balanced strategies only make sense vs. balanced opponents, and in the real world, balanced opponents do not exist. I guess what I'm trying to say is if you're looking for strictly GTO content, then you're not going to find it here.
Thanks for reading. I'll be posting my first article soon.