Little's poker Bankroll Builder series wrap-up

January 28, 2013  

As many of you know, I’ve been grinding 5-cent/10-cent and 10-cent/20-cent 100-big-blind no-limit six-handed cash games for the past 126 weeks for the Bankroll Builder Series. I started with $300 with the goal of moving up as quickly as possible. Sadly, things didn’t go quite as planned. I wanted to keep at least 25 buy-ins for whatever game I was playing. I had high hopes of sitting down, running hot and ending at something like $2-$4 a few years later. I am going to explain why I didn’t reach my goal of making it to the mid-stakes games.

First off, I ended up winning $250 after rakeback. This means I won at around $2.50 per hour, as I played around 45 minutes in each video. While this may not sound like much, you have to remember I was playing 5-cent/10-cent for the most part. Winning at 20 big blinds per hour is actually a respectable win rate in pretty much any NLHE game. So if I was winning at a nice win rate, what was stopping me from moving up?

The main reason I didn’t move up quickly is because of a lack of volume. Over the past 2.5 years, I only played 90 hours of poker for this series. Seeing how the average small stake grinder puts in around 45 hours per week, my results are what should be expected over a two-week period. While I always have preached poker is a volume game, these results confirm it. If I put in 45 hours per week over the past 2.5 years, I would’ve been up around $14K, which is $2.50 per hour x 45 hours per week x 126 weeks = $14,175. Obviously I would’ve moved up over this time, hopefully maintaining my win rate at the higher stakes. Hopefully this shows how actually putting in hours, as a profitable poker player, will easily allow you to grind up a bankroll.

I’m confident I wasn’t playing optimally to beat the micro stakes, at least at the start of the Bankroll Builder Series. In high-stakes games, which I usually play, you win by making opponents fold incorrectly while hoping to break even or lose a little at showdown. I took this style into the micro-stakes games and was often left wondering what I was doing wrong. I eventually reasoned out that in micro-stakes games, most of your winnings are going to come from making decently large folds, like KQ in a reraised triple-barreled pot on K-6-4-8-9 board. In a high-stakes game, you would happily call down with a hand like this but in a low-stakes game, if someone is willing to put a lot of money in the pot, top pair with a marginal kicker is rarely good.

I also learned to stop getting in with hands such as A-Q and J-J preflop. Again, in high-stakes games, these hands are premium as long as you are against a reasonably aggressive opponent. In the low-stakes games, it is often better to call and take a flop, especially in position, as you’re usually crushed when you get four-bet. In general, players four-bet much less frequently in the micro-stakes games. I’m not sure if I ever saw a cold four-bet as a bluff, which is something you encounter at high stakes regularly. If someone raises from the cutoff and you reraise on the button with A-K, if the small blind four-bets, you have an easy fold in the micro stakes against almost all opponents whereas at high stakes, folding is rarely an option.

What this series has reemphasized to me is poker is a game of ranges. At the micro stakes, there are some decent players that would be classified as mediocre regulars at the mid-stakes games and there are some players who are what we would all classify as awful. It’s mandatory you don’t play against all the players in the same way. I’ve taken this knowledge to the $5-$10 and $10-$20 live games with excellent results. It’s important to get in the head of each opponent you play against so you can figure out their range, which will allow you to play your hand better. If a player only thinks about his cards, poker becomes a simple game. If instead he’s thinking about his hand, your range, his perceived range and your perceived range, poker becomes much more difficult, but still beatable if you keep a clear mind. My problem, at least initially, was I assumed everyone was thinking with some level of competency whereas in reality, most were simply thinking about their hand. Once you figure out how opponents think, you’ll make optimal decisions, which will make your win rate skyrocket.

— Jonathan Little, a representative for Blue Shark Optics, is the author of Professional Tournament Poker Vols. 1 & 2, owns the poker training site FloatTheTurn.com and 3bet Clothing, plus check out his iPhone app, Instapoker.