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Top-10 lessons from a marathon online poker session

7 Feb 2011

By Aaron Todd
Last week I wrote about what I learned when I four-tabled Rush Poker on Full Tilt Poker in an attempt to earn 500 Full Tilt Points in one day. And while the overall lesson is important, I also wanted to take a closer look at my play and discover what I could about leaks in my game and areas to improve on. And considering I went broke, there was a lot for me to digest. Here are the top-10 lessons I can take from that session.

10. The odds always work out in the long run
When I play poker — whether it's online or live — 200 hands is a long session. Over the course of 200 hands, you can get hit with the deck, or you can be utterly card dead. But eventually, over the course of time, you are dealt good hands as often as you are statistically likely to get them. During my marathon session, I played 9,288 hands. The likelihood of being dealt pocket aces (or kings, queens, or any other specific pocket pair) is 1/220. In a perfect world, I would have been dealt each pocket pair 42 times. I was dealt aces 40 times, kings 35 times and queens 44 times. That's pretty darn close to what it should have been.

9. The best hand in Hold'em is pocket aces
Okay, no surprise here, but this number shocked me. I went 40-for-40 with aces. I didn't lose one hand with them. Sure, I won a lot of small pots, but I won a few big ones, too. Seven of the hands I won with aces netted me more than 10 big blinds.

8. Ace-jack isn't as good as it looks
I was dealt ace-jack (both the suited and unsuited variety) 125 times. I lost 341 big blinds in those hands. I won a little less than half of the hands I played when I was dealt ace-jack, but well over half of those wins amounted to less than five big blinds. Meanwhile, I spewed five or more big blinds 24 times.

7. I need to tighten my button range
The button is supposed to be the most powerful position in Hold'em. But other than the blinds, the button was my worst position. I raised almost 15 percent of the time from the button, but only won money when I saw the flop 40 percent of the time. My only profitable positions were the cutoff and the hijack. The button raise is perhaps a little too obvious these days.

6. You can, however, still steal from the button
Even though I lost money on the button, I was a big winner when I had a chance to steal and raised. Of the 252 times I made the attempt, I won nearly 83 percent of the time and netted nearly one big blind per attempt. And it would have been much more, had my lone "steal" attempt with pocket kings not run into a two outer on the river.

5. A pair at showdown just isn't that great
I went to showdown with just a pair 190 times, and won just 64 of those hands. It's no wonder I lost the most money holding a measly pair.

4. Pocket pairs, however, are pretty darn good
I was profitable with every pocket pair except eights and sevens. In fact, pocket sixes were my second-most profitable hand, most likely because they're so easy to play. I won more than 20 big blinds with pocket sixes seven of the 49 times it was dealt to me. I made a set on the flop on five of those hands, improved to a full house three times and made quads once. Meanwhile, I only lost 10 or more big blinds with pocket sixes twice, including once when I flopped an open-ended straight draw against an opponent who held pocket jacks.

3. I'm a wuss against a three-bet
I folded my pre-flop raise 64 percent of the time when someone three-bet me. I don't know what is typical for a winning player, but this seems pretty high. The easiest way to remedy this is to tighten up my pre-flop raises, so when someone does three-bet me, I have the type of hand that can withstand that three bet and four-bet to put the decision back on them.

2. Suited connectors are not my friend
I didn't play suited connectors very well at all during my Rush Poker session, especially bigger suited connectors. I lost nearly four big blinds per hand playing queen-jack, jack-10 and 10-9 suited. Most of my big losses with these hands came when I hit a pair or a draw on the flop and got all the money in, only to find myself facing an overpair. I should be playing suited connectors looking to make a big hand, not check-raising all in with top pair while holding 10-9.

1. PokerTracker is worth the money
All of the statistics produced for this story are available to me because I downloaded PokerTracker prior to playing this session. I had tried PokerTracker once before on an old computer several years ago, but this is the first time I used the software for anything approaching a statistically significant number of hands. The software taught me volumes about how I should change my game to improve in just a single day, and I'm sure that if I were to attempt to rack up 500 FTPs again, my performance would be vastly improved thanks to what I learned by looking closely at the numbers aggregated by the software.
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