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  • Hello JL/PC community!

    Hello everyone! I'm a long time lurker, watching many of JL's vids on YouTube but not actively participating in the community and site... until now

    I'll use headings so you can skip over the irrelevant stuff if it's deemed unnecessary!

    Personal background

    I'm a 26 year old PhD student (stipend funded) from the UK. I'm studying Philosophy and am hopefully on the road to being an academic (currently have one publication/international conference presentation to my name). While doing my M.Phil degree part-time last year and earlier this year, I also worked as a Hardware Writer for a popular PC Gaming website, and I now occasionally freelance PC Hardware pieces while working on my PhD. I play guitar, write songs, occasionally play video games, and lose more bb/100 than I like to admit (luckily at 2NL so it doesn't break the bank).

    Poker background

    I started playing poker about two years ago, because I joined my University's poker society which hosted weekly low stake tournies. I studied a little and improved a little, but then stopped playing poker when I went part-time and moved away from Uni for my job. Since then, I've been back and forth with poker, playing for a couple of months only to move onto a different hobbya couple of months later. I've started again, and this time I'm taking it more seriously. I'm now set on my PhD for 3 years and feel stable enough (and have enough free time/choice of my own work hours) to commit to playing and studying poker regularly without life interruptions.

    What's my current poker knowledge/winrate/skill?

    Simply put: not great. I play 2NL Zoom on PartyPoker. I'm tracking my hands with PT4, and over the past month or two I've played 17k hands with at first a break-even line, and then a steep drop. I'm not too bothered about my winrate for the time being, though, because I'm considering these few months (November 2020 to, say, April 2021) as pure learning ones. I.e. As long as I'm improving, learning the fundamentals, and making those fundamentals second nature, I'll be happy.

    Because I quit poker for a fair while before beginning again recently, I'd forgotten a lot of the fundamentals. So I've been trying to re-learn everything from the ground up. What I'm doing at the moment is using a combination of (a) JL's Mastering Small Stakes book; (b) Pete Clarke's From the Ground Up video course; (c) my own hand history analyses; to really master the fundamentals. For instance, the past four days I spent focusing on Flop C-betting. I read the relevant section (and made notes) from JL's book, watched the relevant videos (and made notes) from FTGU, and then put a few thousand hands in focusing solely on this aspect of the game. Then, in PT4 I analysed my biggest losses to see what I'd done wrong, and also analysed hands where I was in a position to C-bet on the Flop. I'm aiming to tackle every scenario like this, laser-focusing on each scenario for a few days at a time before moving onto the next one.

    One thing I've noticed is when I start learning new stuff (e.g. I recently learnt how to properly C-bet my entire range on Flops that greatly favour my range as the PFR), I do reaaaally badly for a while. It's like my brain needs to learn how to process the new info and implement it properly before it stops being a losing strat. So I expect only once all the fundamentals are solidified will they becoming winning strats for me, personally.

    What's my plan moving forwards?

    I'm going to continue with my plan described above probably for the next two months at least. I'll do this until I feel like I know the fundamentals inside out (i.e. a simplified GTO strategy for every common preflop, Flop, Turn, and River situation). One thing I'm really struggling with atm is figuring out which ranges do well on which boards (apart from the obvious ones like T98sss is good for the PFC). I understand that this is one thing JL's homework will greatly help with. So, my plan after nailing the fundamentals as I described, hopefully by April time, is to purchase PokerCoaching standard or premium and really start working through the homeworks and quizzes. And doing some heavy Flopzilla work and hand analysis. And, through all of this, hopefully speaking to others on here about different hands and situations!

    My plan winrate wise is pretty flexible. Until April-ish, when hopefully I've mastered the fundamentals, I don't really care what my winrate is as long as I'm improving, learning, and internalising everything. After then, I'd like to pretty quickly 'beat' 2NL, skip 5NL, and move on to 10NL. Hopefully by the end of this year I'd like to beat 10NL and move up to 25NL. Then next year hopefully be able to beat 25NL and make at least a little bit of extra money as a side-income by playing 10-20 hours of 25NL per-week while continuing my studies... That's the dream, anyway! As long as I'm improving I'll be happy, though.

    So, nice to finally meet you all after lurking on YouTube videos and occasional streams for so long. Fingers crossed my graph stops its descent and turns itself around before too long!

  • #2
    Welcome aboard! Certainly sounds like you are smart enough to achieve your poker goals.

    Learning new strategies in poker is like making adjustments to your golf swing (or tennis swing) - it feels alien and uncomfortable at first and you are consciously having to focus on it, therefor your performance drops off. Once you get fully comfortable with the new strategies and they become second nature (or intuitive) your performance will pick up.

    There is a big difference in overall player pool skill level between 2NL and 10NL. If you can afford it I would skip 2NL, and play 5NL whilst you are learning. At least at 5NL you will be playing against some competent opponents and therefor be able to learn something useful from your hand analysis. At 2NL there is so much weird stuff going on and people showing up with random junk on the river that it will drive you mad trying to analyse situations logically.

    All the best.


    • Automaton
      Automaton commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks! Fingers crossed...

      I think that's one reason I want to laser-focus on specific areas. I think if I learn 20 new strategies at once I'll master none at all, whereas if I laser-focus on a specific common scenario I can make sure I'm comfortable with it and no longer have to consciously think about it too much while I'm learning the next thing.

      Interesting re 2NL/5NL/10NL, I'd not thought of it that way. I can afford 5NL, I just thought while I'm still learning and practicing the fundamentals I'll probably be a losing player, so might make sense to stay at 2NL to lose as little money as possible until I'm a winning player. But if what you say is true and there are better/less weird opponents at 5NL I agree it might make for a much better learning experience. I must say I have noticed many plays that take me completetly off guard at 2NL. Considering I play Zoom, most of my opponents are 'unknowns' and so I try to play fundamentally sound, but then it's difficult to do that when every second or third player calls down super light when my range is crushing them (meaning I can't profitably bluff), or lead-reraises in the strangest spots. There's not much rhyme or reason to it, and because it's Zoom it's difficult to play anything other than simplified GTO with unknown opponents. Is 5NL better than 2NL in this regard, in your experience, then?
      Last edited by Automaton; 01-03-2021, 02:14 PM.

  • #3
    One of those rare occasions where I disagree with you Turbulence .

    I would not advocate skipping 2NL unless you can beat it. Yes, the villains do more "weird" things at this stake, but all that means is that we can beat it by a bigger bb/100 by simply playing a fundamentally sound strategy.

    Automaton - I'd highly recommend working your way through the mastering fundamentals course here on PC.


    • Automaton
      Automaton commented
      Editing a comment
      What do you think about my idea of beating 2NL and then skipping 5NL and going straight to 10NL? The only reason I considered this is because I've heard (on places like r/poker) that the jump between 5NL to 10NL isn't too different from the jump between 2NL and 10NL - but maybe that's incorrect. So I thought if perhaps I significantly beat 2NL (say at least 5bb/100 over 50-100k hands) then I could go straight to 10NL. Of course this is only reasonable if 5NL isn't too much easier than 10NL, though.

      I've added 'mastering the fundamentals' to my list of resources! I'm really delving deep into preflop and flop play before I move onto turn and river. Using a few resources to really understand it all (mastering the fundamentals, JL's Mastering Small Stakes NLHE book, from the ground up, Alton Hardin's book, Grinder's Manual). When I played a year or two ago I used Hardin's book religiously, but I'm preferring JL's and Clarke's resources at the moment - Hardin does a good job of making his stuff at least somewhat GTO unlike most microstakes teachers, but it's still too far removed from 'fundamental strategy that can be deviated from in exploitative ways' imo.

      I much prefer the JL & Clarke strategy of learning simplified GTO strategies and all the reasons why you do these different things, and THEN learning how to adjust that strategy in different spots. E.g. I'd not even heard of 33% range bets with all your range on certain board textures until recently. I get the feeling that stuff like that used to be considered unnecessary for microstakes a few years ago when (for example) people would use Alton's and BlackRain79's material, but now it's necessary (or at the very least beneficial) at the microstakes too. At least, that's the feeling I get as someone who hasn't yet learnt every aspect of a fundamental strategy.

      At the moment I feel like I 'get' poker, in broad strokes. I know why we make most decisions, at least up to the Turn, and what those decisions should roughly be depending on the opponent, action, ranges, and board. But narrowing those broad strokes down to specifics (e.g. specific boards, specific opponents, specific ranges) is where I'm currently struggling. (And of course Turn and River decisions because I've not begun studying Turn and River yet). I'll get there I'm sure!
      Last edited by Automaton; 01-04-2021, 06:46 AM.

    • LondonImp
      LondonImp commented
      Editing a comment
      If you're bankrolled properly for 10NL, and you're prepared to remove your ego from the situation and drop back to 5NL (or even 2NL) if required, then it's reasonable.

      Moving up feels great, but having the discipline to move back down is very tough.

      Hardin's and BlackRain79's material is good if your goal is to only beat microstakes. The tactics employed will get picked apart with ease by the better opponents that you face as you move up.

      Gaining a solid foundation of understanding through the material provided here will help you move up

      I highly recommend Sky Matsuhasi's book "How to Study Poker" as a great resource for planning and structuring your ongoing development. Although, based on your OP I'm guessing you are very good at studying already.

    • Automaton
      Automaton commented
      Editing a comment
      I can afford a 10NL bankroll, but as I've only ever been at 2NL I've never bothered learning proper bankroll management, so I expect like you say I'll have to learn how and when to drop down to 5NL (and make sure I stick to it). And maybe I should make my bankroll a little bigger (I usually go with 25 buyins at 2nl).

      To be honest I completely forgot that moving back down stakes was a thing, which makes moving from 2NL to 10NL less daunting, since if worst comes to worst I'll just move back down stakes rather than going bust.

      I see what you mean re. Hardin and BlackRain79 - I personally prefer feeling like I really understand solid fundamentals rather than strategies that only work at microstakes against exploitable opponents, so the material on this site and others like it feels perfect for me even at microstakes. To be honest even if I could be winning more by only focusing on exploitative microstakes strategies I'd rather win less at 2NL but learn a more solid strategy that'll help me beat the higher levels quicker when I get there.

      Thanks for the book recommendation! I'll add it to my January book list. I'm good at studying in the abstract sense, but poker study is definitely a new ball game for me. My academic and work studies mainly consist(ed) of reading and analysing research and arguments, and writing essays/theses. Poker study is a whole lot more practical and very different, so that book seems like it'll be a good investment!

      Thank you for the help by the way
      Last edited by Automaton; 01-04-2021, 01:17 PM. Reason: grammar

  • #4
    Short-term study goals

    I've set myself a few immediate study goals and ordered them (I got the How to Study Poker book and am taking its advice!). I'm half-solid in some of these areas but I want to be super-solid before I move on to further areas. My plan is to really nail these five areas to the level of unconscious competence before even thinking about working on other things. Here they are...

    1) Preflop ranges

    I've realised my preflop ranges are not adequate. A long time ago I used multiple different sources (JL's ranges, CrushLivePoker ranges, Alton Hardin's ranges, Upswing's ranges, etc.) and kind of combined them in a way that I felt comfortable defending. They're definitely tighter than the PokerCoaching ranges, but not too much so. And I only have two sets of 3bet ranges: one for vs LJ or HJ, and one for vs CO or BTN. Which is just lazy. I should develop 3bet and even 4bet ranges for vs all positions from all positions. And I should learn exactly why they're constructed the way they are.

    I'm doing this first because I believe it's the most fundamental thing to get right, and also because it makes sense to do this before the other items on my list (for example, I can't reasonably begin ranging opponents and analysing flops if I don't know what sorts of ranges Hero and Villain will have based on their preflop actions).

    2) How different flops hit different ranges

    It's all well and good knowing that you should C-bet all your range when the flop is great for your range, but if you don't know how well different board textures connect to different ranges, knowing this is useless. So I need to do a lot of Flopzilla work and compare many different preflop ranges over and over again to different board textures, and really start to internalise exactly how the ranges connect.

    3) How to C-bet from OOP

    I feel like I know C-bet strategies from IP quite well, but don't know much about C-betting from OOP. So I need to learn this.

    4) Responding to C-bets from OOP

    Responding to C-bets from OOP should be the most common response situation, since from the BB you will almost always be OOP, and the BB should be calling a lot preflop, so when you're OTF as PFC you're most often in the BB. I haven't learnt how to respond to C-bets yet.

    5) Responding to C-bets from IP

    This should round out my knowledge of fundamental preflop and flop play. I think once I've learnt all of these things and internalised them so I barely have to even think about them, I should be able to move on to other topics (probably (1) how to play the flop in 3bet pots as PFC and PFR; and (2) how to play the Turn and River).


    • #5
      Hi there.
      First of all good luck with your venture.

      If you are using pokertracker, i suggest you post your positional stats for the different positions, this way one could alfeady figure out some potential preflop errors.


      • Automaton
        Automaton commented
        Editing a comment
        Hey, and thank you!

        I'll definitely post positional stats at some point, but probably not just yet. I'd like to re-learn and nail my ranges first, then get a good 10-20k hands in after that, then I'll start looking at my stats to see if anything needs improving. Maybe in a month or so

    • #6
      Hi mate good luck with your goals just a comment on bankroll management I’m in a similar situation just now where I’m going between $5NL and $10NL playing 6 tables at a time and why I have been doing is taking shots at $10NL when I get to over $300 but then moving back down at $150NL , so far I’m on my second attempt at $10NL as I had to move back down to $5 and will do the same again if need to move down but fingers crossed I can stay at $10NL and aim for my target of $1000 to take a shot at $25NL
      Last edited by weersb76; 01-11-2021, 07:22 PM.


      • Automaton
        Automaton commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you, and good luck with your games too! Just wondering, what has your experience been comparing 5NL to 10NL? In terms of difficulty, player style etc.

    • #7
      At first I gave players too much respect thinking there would be a bigger skill jump and was scared of raises and check raises more than I should of been but now I’m back at my second attempt I feel more comfortable and not actually any real difference to be honest at both levels it comes down to trying my best to work out if the player is bluffing me or value raising which is obviously they key at any level, but there are very good players at both levels but also absolutely terrible players at both levels although to be honest I can’t get a run of winning days at $10NL but could easily get a run at $5NL so just need to keep practicing and studying but I think I am still being over cautious with good hands and not getting g enough value when I’m good but the losing a lot when I get outdrawn or just beat so planning on focusing on that over the next few days