HokieGreg Answers Your Questions

As a result of this forum thread, HokieGreg recently sat down and answered your questions.

HokieGreg Answers Your Questions

gar1_od: I'm a micro stakes player and my question is how do you stay motivated to grind after say winning 3 or 4 games in a row? Normally when this happens I kind of get that fear of losing what I've won and feel like I've done enough for the day, when in reality I know volume is the key but can't get past that stumbling block in my head. I really feel this is one of my biggest leaks at the micros and is stopping me from progressing as a player.

Hokie: Your poker career is one long session. Variance takes far too long to even itself out for us to pay strict attention to our $ results on a daily/weekly or even monthly basis. When you win 4 straight games, you should feel pretty fortunate because your winrate is probably only around 54% so you were not supposed to win 4 straight (the same for when you lose 4 straight). Playing poker for a living is similar to being an investor in stocks or real estate. It is completely unrealistic to allow your satisfaction with daily results to be based on actual dollars - there is just too much variance across small sample sizes.

A major part of progressing as a player is improving your tilt control and having a realistic outlook on the game. You can improve this by developing a deeper understanding of variance (playing with the husng.com variance calculator, reading articles on variance and how winrate effects it, bankroll management articles, etc). If you already have a reasonable understanding of variance, but still find yourself getting tripped up by these 'stumbling blocks', then I would recommend reading Jared Tendler's book 'The Mental Game of Poker'. It will make you understand why it is logical that you will have these types of mental leaks, and how to resolve these issues and develop a stronger mental game.

WesDone: Did you ever grind somewhere else than your house/room because it helped you motivate and focus more?

I'm asking because I think it helps to wake up and go to a public place with your laptop and just grind. It will probably feel like you have something to do on a day instead of waking up in the afternoon and staying indoors all day long.

Hokie: I used to do this for the exact reason you suggest. Their is one big problem with this - public places are distracting and our goal should be to be as focused as possible when we play. Playing in a public place to make poker feel more like a job is simply putting a bandaid on a bigger problem. I believe that if you have sufficient life balance (gym regularly, social life, family, etc) then it is unlikely that you will feel the need to "get out of the house" when you grind. Of course everyone is different and playing in a public place may work for some, but for me this was the case and fixing my life balance solved the problem completely.

vzhong: What separates winning small stakes regs from players who can beat $100s+?

Hokie: The biggest thing that separates $100+ regs from <$100 regs is that the higher stakes regs are typically better poker players. I would guess it is likely that many successful $33 regs are just as good as many $100/200 regs at beating fish. The difference between the low/higher stakes regs, and what makes the higher stakes regs better poker player in my view, is that things like risk tolerance/dealing with variance/ability to beat winning players/shot-taking are all very important skills and lead to higher longterm profits and overall hourly rates.

I've seen successful $110 regs say about the some of the guys who beat 1k/2ks, "They are sick. I wish I had balls like them." It's not "balls" or courage, it's just skill. The 1k/2k regs simply deal with non-strategy aspects of the game better, and are also almost certainly better at strategy as well.

vzhong: Would you recommend learning hyper turbos and what do u think about the hyper turbo bankroll management?

Hokie: Being a successful poker player over the long term is about being willing to adapt to an ever-changing poker environment. When I started taking husng's seriously a few years ago, you really didn't need to be skilled at playing thinking players. These days the ability to do well against thinking players is a necessity if you want lobbies consistently at $100+. Now many players (and lots of fish) are jumping over to hyper turbos and the action in turbos/regspeeds has dropped off significantly. Since our goal is to maximize our long-term profits, it is important that we become knowledgeable with <25 play. I don't think you need to switch completely to hyper turbos yet (I haven't), but I do think it is a mistake to avoid learning hypers entirely.

The bankroll strategies suggested in articles on 2p2 are very unnecessary. As long as you are willing to move up and down responsibly you will be fine. You can be as aggressive as you want. I remember reading about Spamz0r taking shots at 220s with <2k roll - he was willing to move down though, and probably did a few times. I think a lot of players make the decision when they move up, "I'm a $200 reg now". This creates a mental block for moving up or down again for a lot of players because they feel more committed to the buyin level with statements like this. Just move up when you feel rolled for it and are playing well, move down when you are thinking about the money too much. With this approach, you will not go busto and you don't need a bunch of complicated math analysis to understand it. It's a lot more simple than people realize.

tmle09: How do I balance college (I actually want to do well in college) with poker/gym/social life/family?  I usually get around 150-200ish game a month when I'm in college, which kind of sucks because I don't really make much money.  Should I start multitabling?

Hokie: Multi-tabling seems like a decent answer for you, since you don't have a lot of extra time to devote to poker. Just make sure you understand that multi-tabling is a skill. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to add another table and just go about your business like nothing has changed. A lot of students I work with will tell me that they "suck at multi-tabling." They likely never approached multi-tabling as a skill and worked on improving it.

To improve your multi-tabling:

Once you are feeling good in your session, add a 2nd table. Continue with 2 tables until you find yourself beginning to struggle mentally. Allow yourself to struggle for a while, challenge yourself to improve, if you find yourself struggling too much then stop. Drop back to 1 table and finish your session. Afterwards, take some notes and analyze how you reacted when you began struggling 2 tabling. How long were you able to 2 table? What caused you to lose focus? You are basically creating a mental game sample size to analyze your ability to 2 table. 

Find the point where you begin to struggle. Maybe that is on average about 40 minutes into 2 tabling. Stick with that point. Continue to analyze and work on improving. Build more mental muscle and you will get stronger. Increase your 2 tabling sessions another 15 minutes, see how that goes, analyze/reevaluate. Continue that process and you will eventually find yourself 2 tabling throughout your entire session without any real problems.

Antagonistical: Do you try to have some structure in your poker career? By this I mean do you try to play say 2 sessions a day, getting in x amount of games each time? Or for a certain period? Or do you just go with the flow of how you feel? It seems, at least for me, that I need a little more structure to poker, considering that there is absolutely none in it to begin with.

Hokie: I think that my recent article on 2p2 answers this well.

So basically: rest, warmup, push yourself, cool down, repeat.

eldooder: How do you cope mentally with moving up through the levels in terms of monetary value? Do you have some kind of mental strategy or way of thinking about it? For instance, I usually get a bit daunted by the prospect everytime I move up. Even though the skill level doesn't seem to change much from just one stake below, but obviously the monetary value usually doubles and scared money syndrome sometimes kicks in even though I'm well rolled for it.

Hokie: Set aside a certain amount of buyins that you are comfortable possibly losing and take a shot with it. A lot of players seem to have this idea that if they move up and lose 20 buyins that it will be some major setback to their career. When you drop back down, you will still be the same player you were before and go back to crushing (you might even be a better player from the experience you gained at higher stakes).

Everything is relative. The money meant just as much to me at the 33s as it does today at the 1100s. That's because it was the same % of my liferoll that I was investing (it probably meant more at the 33s though, since my risk of ruin was higher then for a lot of reasons). Try to look at the money you use for poker as a tool for investing. Start looking at 20-30% of your money as investing money - money that you invest which could be gone any day. Your "liferoll" is the remainder. You can't get too attached to your money in poker.

adastfe: Do you have any tips how to keep your mind focused while playing long sessions? I can play with full concentration for about an hour but after that quality of my game decreases - I start auto-piloting. 

Do you have any tips how to become better at playing 2 tables. I stop noticing a lot of things about villains' game and end up not adjusting properly. Especially if villains are doing something unusuall, taking non-standart lines. As a result my edge decreases significantly.

Hokie: Focus is a skill. Improving your focus and the length of quality session takes work and gradual improvement. I think the approach to improving multi-tabling in Question 6 works well for this too.

Think about it like you are in the gym lifting weights. 

If your goal is to be able to benchpress 130kg, but currently you can only benchpress 80kg - it is completely impossible for you to just "suck it up" and benchpress 130kg. Adding a table when you aren't prepared to, doubling your volume, never tilting, focusing 100% of the time, etc: they are all equally impossible for us to expect ourselves to be able to do immediately. You might not physically injure yourself like you would trying to benchpress 130kg, but you will almost certainly mentally or financially hurt yourself (burnout and have to take a bunch of off days, tilt, lose a ton of money, autpilot). 

So how do we improve? The same way we would go from benching 80kg to 130kg! Gradually. The realistic way to increase your benchpress would be to slowly work your way up - 85kg, 90kg, etc etc etc. After a while, you are able to bench 130kg. Volume, multitabling, etc. are all very similar since they require the "mental muscle" that I refer to in my article linked in Question 7.

dinamozg: I've read that during your career you had large losing/breakeven period. Can you give some good advice to low/midstakes players who are still learning a lot how to deal with those periods? For me it happens that I start to question every aspect of my game and I start to feel very insecure in my game. That probably leads me to change something in my game that was good before.

Hokie: I ran about 210 average buyins ($315 avg stake) below ev over the last 7000 games I played on Stars. It was a brutal stretch and extremely difficult to go through. At times it felt like nothing would ever turn around. Looking back on it, it was a very positive learning experience for me. Their is no better teacher than adversity.
If you deal with a difficult stretch positively, it should force you to reflect on your game - ideally, we would check in on our games regardless of our variance but most don't seem to do that, haha. Study hard and talk with other thinking players as much as possible. This will help to maintain your confidence through the downswing.

Variance is a necessary evil for us to make money. If weaker players weren't capable of getting lucky in the short term, poker wouldn't be a very profitable game. You have to remind yourself of this constantly throughout a long downswing. If you play poker long enough, you will run into a stretch similar to this at some point. It's just part of the game.

dinamozg: What kind of learning would you suggest for players on 30$/60$ dollar level who still cant afford to hire a coaches for more intense learning?

Hokie: Twoplustwo and husng.com are great tools for players who can't afford to invest in a good coach. Another method I have seen a lot of players taking advantage of recently is forming Skype groups to discuss strategy. Talking to other thinking players has been the most valuable learning method throughout my career.
HokieGreg is currently teaching his second heads up sng bootcamp and is #1 on the Merge network total profit leaderboard.

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