Leveling Up

I had just finished a session. I had decided to go play poker on this night so that I could earn the remaining points to secure my rewards status for the following year and while I had been successful at doing that, I was not feeling particularly successful in poker. It had been one of those nights where it didn’t matter what I tried to do; the poker gods just did not cut me a break. I flopped an open ended straight, turned the straight but then got counterfeited by the river and had to play the board. I had a premium pocket pair and got called by a couple of players. By the turn they are getting it all in and I must fold because how am I ever good in that spot. I was right, but it sucked because what are they doing calling preflop? I 3-bet preflop and then out of no where a player who almost never raises, cold 4-bets. It was like that all night, one hand after the next.

As I walked out of my session, I saw a friend sitting at the slot machine and decided to stop and say hi. Maybe this would help me take my mind off the session I just had. He is a cool guy and is always praising me for the chip stack that he sees me with. He is always telling me that I am winning but funny enough, sometimes those big chip stacks are just breaking even. He noticed me as I walked up, and I teased him about playing on a slot machine. He asked me how I did, and I told him that it wasn’t a great night.

We started talking about some of the hands that I had played that night when our conversation led us into open bet sizing. Just a couple years ago I was a believer in the pain threshold concept. It’s a concept in the game of poker that when you open at one size if it doesn’t get the folds you want, you begin to open bigger. Slowly you keep increasing the price that you set until your opponents start to fold. While there was some validity to this kind of strategy at one point, poker has evolved. The thing is you can still come across a lot of players who will still make big opening raises in the $1/$3 games that I play in. This is what he asked me about; because he knows I don’t make huge open raises. Instead, I tend to open relative to the size of the pot and position. My open raise can be a little bigger if there are other people in the pot, but I try not to invest a lot of money preflop.

My friend shared with me the hand that prompted him to ask me about open raise sizing. He complained how when he had these premium hands, he wouldn’t get any action. As I listened, I thought about how I would respond. I wanted to choose my words carefully. If I was going to answer this question of his, I wanted to make sure that my words would be taken seriously. I presented him with a question as my response, “What sort of hands do you think are going to call when you open that big?” He looked at me and with a big smile he said, “Yes, you are right, but you can only open like you do in bigger games.” My friend began telling me how in games like $5/$10 and even in $2/$5 you will find players who will even make minimum raises. The players in these games want to play poker and not shut out the weaker hands, but he believes it was not possible in $1/$3. If you open small, then everyone else calls and you are not able to play your hand. I challenged him to think about my play and think about when he last saw me open larger than three times the big blind. I could see the gears running in his eyes. He is familiar with my play style and knows that I am not afraid to mix it up. I could tell that I had given him some food for thought on the subject.

As the conversation kept going, we got into 3-betting and the differences between $1/$3 and $2/$5. We even questioned each other why we played the stakes that we played. I told him my goal is to move up, but I must play at the stakes that my bankroll can afford. No matter how much I study the game or how prepared I think I am, I must manage my bankroll properly. He didn’t really have an answer, especially after he said that he liked to play deep stack. It seemed odd to me that he would come to Caesar’s to play the 100BB capped $2/$5 that they spread. In my opinion the best option for him to extract maximum value would be to go play the deeper games at higher stakes.

All this talk about different stake levels got me thinking… What really motivates players to play the stakes that they do? Why is it that they don’t seem to move up? Some of these players appear to have a roll deep enough to play other games. I don’t know specifics of every reg in the room, but it stands to reason that eventually you will see some of the regs move up. In fact, any time I can encourage someone to try higher stakes, I tell them to try it. Not many people listen to me because they think I am crazy at the mention of risking larger amounts of money. There was one player that did move up to $2/$5, but as of late I have seen him grinding $1/$3 again. If that player can do it, then it stands to reason that other players can do it as well.

I started to think about the poker ecosystem. Maybe these types of players are needed to keep the lower stake games going. What would happen to the game if there was a constant fluctuation of players from $1/$3 to $5/$10? Its possible that games would be softer but at the same time its also possible that players would leave the game faster than they could be replaced. What ever the reason for these players staying at these stakes, it gave me motivation to do everything possible to not be one of them. I have been told by friends of mine that they know people at the low stakes that make enough money to live off. While that is my goal, I also want to know that I put forth the maximum effort I can into my skill. Its not going to be a once in a lifetime run but eventually, I know I can make to where I want to be.

Bizzy’s Gains 2022: -$2703.97

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