My name is Jason, and I have been bluffing myself for eight years.
I grew up and live in Texas since the day I was born. Casinos and poker rooms are not legal in Texas, so I didn’t have the easy exposure so many others have had. I first learned about poker during 2002. The World Poker Tour had just debuted on the Travel Channel and I watched with my father. I was absolutely glued to the screen every week. I had watched poker on ESPN before, but it was absolutely boring without seeing the hole cards. The announcers could give actual analysis on the hands as they played out and could explain things to the newcomer such as myself very well. I first learned about “Tight-Aggressive” from Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten. When Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP, I (along with 800 million other people) took to the computer to get hooked to the craze.
I started out buying a couple books, each praising the TAG style and promoting it. I decided in my mind that’s how I wanted to play. It seemed to give the least opportunity to get the money out there with weak or marginal holdings. I started playing online, never as a big winner. I also started to fall victim to the online speed trap, loosening up in a bad way and playing crap hands in crap positions. My favorite hands in the early going were 74 and K9. Such phenomenal holdings. I read more books, reading more about pot odds and implied odds. I started thinking about pot odds a whole lot more, not only how much I was getting to call but how much I was giving my opponent when I bet.
My style just developed on its own. If anyone were to ask me what kind of style I played, I would look them in the eye and honestly tell them that I wanted to be tight aggressive but felt like I was tight passive sometimes. I kept reading and the books kept praising tight aggressive and I kept telling myself that’s how I played. I kept playing online, mainly at the smaller sites since I just could not find a groove on the big PartyPoker and PokerStars games. My “TAG” style struggled against some solid LAG players. I hated LAG and the monster it was, in so many hands and raising and betting a lot. While I tempted myself to switch since I saw those people win, I never did consciously do so since TAG was still the style of choice for books. I had some wins, made some cash outs, but never really huge. $40-50 here and there, most of the time it found its way back online. I found a free poker league in town and started playing there. I ended up become hired on to run tournaments at bars around the area. This was my full time job for six months, getting $75/night to run 2 tournaments. Then I was running a regional monthly tournament when someone introduced me to an underground game in the area. I took $50 and checked it out. 90 minutes later I was driving home busted. The next night I took the $75 I earned from the tournament I ran that night and went back. 22 became my new favorite hand as I took down my first sizeable pot in a three way all in with a set. The rush was indescribable. That didn’t stop me from trying to describe it to my girlfriend. She became interested too and we began to play together. Again, no major success. Mostly break even overall. Each of us had some monster nights, and then there were nights that one of us made enough to make up what the other lost. We’ve both had our awesome wins and rough losses.
After playing live, I just could not take online as seriously anymore. I didn’t want to put a couple thousand online to play the same levels. I just could not keep myself motivated at the lower stakes, when moving up on the money table was the difference of a couple coins in my couch. I never had a large savings or anything to put behind a significant poker roll. Online became mainly recreational, fun for a couple bucks here and there. Live was where I spent my serious poker time and money at. A couple Indian casinos now have nice poker rooms to attract me north.
While I enjoy playing live much more than online, I was inspired to try the micro stakes again by the Boku87 challenge that he successfully accomplished, going from $5 to $100k. Since the minimum deposit is $10, I set $5 for the challenge aside and have used the other $5 to do whatever I want. With the $0.10 360 person SnGs, I have been doing terrible in them overall. I’ve also mixed in a couple $0.25 90 person SnGs to see if the smaller field would help me. 20 SnGs in I have yet to cash in a single one. Most of the time I am not busting out early, getting past a break or so but not being able to sustain to the money. My avg finish in the 90s is 37th and in the 360s is 98th. I am seeing progress but no results yet. Obviously 20 is a tiny tiny tiny sample and a single final table can rebound it back quickly. With the other $5 I’ve been messing around with some $2 MTTs. I’m 2 for 2 in making the money in those, going out of one of those with an above average stack getting it in as a 96% favorite (sickest beat I’ve ever taken). I’m sticking to the challenge still, but became curious about what I was doing different to have success in the bigger tourneys. I downloaded PokerTracker and uploaded my hand histories to get an analysis on it. And the results shocked me.
I had been bluffed. By myself. I’m not TAG. Nowhere close.
VPIP 32%, pre-flop raise 17%, Aggression Factor 3.37. Nowhere close to the 15-18% VPIP of the TAG player, the number I expected to see. Kind of close to the 9-12% pre-flop raise of the TAG player, the number I expected to see, but far enough away to be noticed. I never realized how loose I had become, how aggressive I had developed until I downloaded and used PokerTracker for the first time in eight years. Now I know it’s a small sample size. So I singled out what hands I’m playing and in what position. I kept trying to convince myself the numbers aren’t right. The sample is too small. But there’s truth to the numbers. I’m showing a more LAG hand selection style. I’m showing LAG tendencies on when and where I raise pre-flop and with what. Without realizing it, the style I once hated and despised has become a natural style for me.
So now that my bluff is flipped face up, I want to start working on more intricacies of the LAG style that I have avoided in the past. I’m done running from it and am now ready to embrace it. The first step for me is to realize what I’m already doing that’s LAG and not loosen up more and get more aggressive to the point of being counterproductive. So come find me at the tables. I’m ready as ever to adapt to my new style with anyone and everyone who wants to take me on.
I’ll see you at the tables. I’ll be the one with the bigger stack, because I’ll be out if I don’t have a bigger stack.