Pokernews are pleased to welcome UK online grinder James Atkins for a new regular column. Former BlackBelt Poker Grader James has a fondness for taking on incredibly high volume online poker challenges as he tries to find out what his best poker game is. Right now he is taking on the 180 man SNGs on Pokerstars and 45 man SNGs on Full Tilt.
After a disappointing end to the BlackBelt Poker Grading, I felt like I was at a crossroad in my poker career, and wasn't sure which to take. It had been several weeks since I'd made any money, and I really needed to boost my bankroll as my finances (or lack thereof) were starting to catch up to me.
Part of me wanted to go back to playing Heads Up Sit & Goes, as I had for most of the first three months of the year, and where I was successfully making money. Part of me wanted to experiment with 'Double or Nothing' tournaments, as I felt I had learned this game well during the Grading, and could make a potentially low variance income; albeit at the risk of my sanity. Part of me wanted to find a new game, and see if I could surpass the hourly rate that I had been achieving in other games I had detailed figures for in 2009.
This is when I read on the forums about how Simon 'Amatay' Jones was intending to grind some Multi Table Sit and Goes for the next couple of months, and was expecting to make $5-10 a game at only the $26 level. This got me thinking. MTTs are one thing I have never played at volume, as I didn't like the idea of the ridiculous variance that come with them, even though I feel they are a strong game of mine. I did some research on the forums, and on Sharkscope, and discovered that a 20% Return on Investment was definitely achievable in these games.
After eeking out a 9% ROI on Heads Ups for much of the year, this appealed to me, especially as I was aware I could potentially play more of these an hour multi-tabling. I also thought these might be a good game to play to avoid getting 'burnt out', as I have found happens with HUSNGs, as I have previously perceived MTTs to be almost a 'fun' form of poker. With me being quite lazy at putting the hours in, I was also hoping this would encourage me to play more each day.
I loaded up $1200 on Pokerstars.net, the recommended 100 buy-ins for the $11+1 Turbo 45 man and 180 man tournaments I was going to hit (for some reason the 90 man tournaments never get running). I started off playing 12 tiled tables, though I have since tweaked this to 10 tables (9 small tiled tables on one monitor, and an enlarged table on my 2nd monitor intended for the tournament that I am deepest in). I cut down after passing KK to a 3bet because I timed out, and open passing 99 because I thought it was 89 off(!).
On the first day I managed to notch up 72 tournaments in just a 5-hour period, scoring a $400 profit. I thought I was onto a 'gold-mine'; I was surprised I could win quite so much playing at such small stakes. But a break-even day and a losing day later, I realised I hadn't given variance a chance to set in. The $6 profit a game became a seemingly more realistic $2 a game. However, with managing to play around 13 games an hour, I realised this was still a solid win-rate.
I had a look at my results, and it turned out I had exactly broken-even at the 180 man tournaments over the three days. I had been brutalised a few times with 2 tables left, and I was on the wrong side of variance. My graph for 45 man tournaments was already taking a decent upward gradient in it, and I made the decision that I would have a go at only playing 45 mans for the next few days. I'm not a big fan of variance, and I did a bit of research and someone on the forums had a similar feeling and pointed out that for every Final Table you make in a 180 man tournament, you can expect 2 top three finishes in a 45 man tournament.
I've been winning solidly since I made this decision, and my results so far have definitely made me want to continue playing these tournaments. I think I have run above expectation the last couple of days, so I'm not getting too excited by my win-rate, but it's way above 20%. I've also had a little dabble on Full Tilt Poker, whose 45 man games have a slower structure. However I've found I prefer the software on Pokerstars.net, and have found playing on both sites at the same time to be a little annoying.
I think my adaptation to the structure has helped my results. Playing 180 mans and 45 mans at the same time perhaps wasn't all that wise, as the dynamics of the late game are so much different. The same scenarios come up so often in 45 man tables, as you can be expect to be involved in the late game (2 tables short handed and beyond) over a third of the time, and you learn what moves with what stack sizes are wise, and which aren't so wise.
Here are some random observations from the last weeks play:
• If you can get in cheaply with a pair or suited connectors early, and in position, then do…
• You can't be shy about shoving with marginal hands in late position
• You have to learn to re-shove light with less than premium hands if you suspect thievery or short stack desperateness. With the turbo structure, both of these things occur at high frequency
• If you're playing at volume, TableNinja and PokerShortcuts are pieces of software you may wish to invest in.
• Talking of software, SNG Wizard and Hold 'em Manager are invaluable too
• Don't get carried away with Ax in early position just because you have less than ten big blinds.
• Running badly on ten tables simultaneously isn't fun, but it's made up for when you bink a first place here and there.
Hopefully the next time you hear from me I will have moved up a level, or if not, lets hope things are at least still going well! 322 games is still not a big enough sample to prove conclusive, hopefully my data by next time will be a bit more reliable, and still in black coloured font and not red!