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Scared money

January 7, 2008

Last night I felt I was playing without my aggressive edge. This came after some intimidating play at a private freeroll against other members of the forum, followed by a foray into a $3 rebuy where a couple people had offered extra prizes for members of the forum for various targets. I ended up rebuying once, topping up at the break and winning a $5 prize for lowest VP$IP during the rebuy period. I played pretty much how I play the freerolls that I mentioned in the Poker Porn post but didn’t get a lot of hands to limp in. One time I did miss was in the BB with A4o but it was raised to me. I could have called and would have if it was suited, but chose instead to fold. The flop came with a baby straight draw which filled on the turn.

Rebuys can be a bit scary. You’re afraid you’ll lose control and just throw your money away with rebuy after rebuy. I’m sure these two tourneys contributed to my weak play in the evening, but there probably were other factors as well.

Scared money is when you play too tight, too weak because you’re afraid to lose. The typical situation is when your bankroll is psychologically too small for the game(s) that you’re playing, but there could be other reasons as well. A general lack of confidence in your game, intimidation because of the quality of players that you’re facing (definitely a factor in the first tourney, and to a lesser extent in the second one as well), a mistake you made at work earlier in the day that you feel guilty about, all these and more can contribute to playing with scared money.

And, I think for me, this applies more to preflop than to postflop. I’m afraid/hesitant to raise sometimes, especially if there are limpers ahead or when I know the table is prone to call raises. At the current levels I play I’d estimate 1/3 of limpers will call a raise from later position even when it is 4BBs + 1 for each limper, so there’s not a lot of fold equity. Then you have to guess whether 1) this is a weak player who limps big hands, or 2) a calling station who won’t fold to a c-bet if he catches bottom pair.

Post flop I have a tendency to c-bet too often against multiple callers or against calling stations. On the turn I sometimes fire a second bullet against calling stations, as well as failing to fire when I have a marginal hand and the fish is chasing. Against reraises I fail to check the player’s stats before automatically folding or calling. On the river I tend to lose value sometimes by not betting when I’m ahead, but often also call a lead bet/reraise after leading the betting in earlier streets, realizing on the showdown that I’ve been outdrawn, often against pot odds.

Here’s a PokerStove calculation using Phil Gordon’s basic starting hands chart. I wanted to see how often I should be playing in general.

starting-hand-percentages.jpg

So, as a starting point, I should be playing and raising about 12.8% of the times that I’m not in the blinds. This is of course mitigated by the table and by the players ahead of me. For example, if there’s a raise from MP I’m not not going to be playing all 30.9% of the hands on the chart. If there are multiple limpers, which happens probably just as often, I’m also not raising or even limping behind with all 30.9%. On the other hand if there are raisers/callers or limpers and I have drawing hands such as medium suited connectors which are not on the chart I’ll be likely to call as well, which also goes into VP$IP but not into PRF.

UTG I always control my opening move, so my VP$IP should be around 3.3%, and it should be almost all raises. The only exceptions should be a few mid-ish pairs and possibly suited connectors at a known limpy table.

Another scary thing about preflop play is that gets you into postflop play. The decisions are harder at this point, and more expensive. Cost is one of the reasons that I often don’t bet the turn, but that creates a situation where you often induce a bluff on the river (or even on the turn if you’re OOP). How do you distinguish a bluff from a donk that caught the Q on the river for two pair with his Q5s?

For reinforcement, I’m seriously considering digging up an old starting hand chart, referring to it, making adjustments based on reads, but doing what I have predetermined that I should do.

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