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Thread: Chris Sparks (GoMukYaSelf) is Under the Gun

  1. #1
    SparX's Avatar
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    Post Chris Sparks (GoMukYaSelf) is Under the Gun

    "A stranger is being shown around a village that he has just become part of. He is shown a well and his guide says "On any day except Saturday, you can shout any question down that well and you'll be told the answer."

    The man seems pretty impressed, and so he shouts down: Why not on Saturday? and the voice from in the well shouts back: Because on Saturday, it’s your day in the well."


    I really enjoyed answering some of your questions in my brag post thread January Cash Game Graph (because essentially thats what it was LOL) and wanted to give back to the BBP community. Also, I am starting to coach low stakes cash game players as well as considering some offers with the major Video Training sites online so I wanted an opportunity to think about and discuss some of the common questions players will want addressed about playing cash games.

    In this thread I wanted to open up the floor for BBP members to ask me anything they want about playing cash games online and I will answer to the best of my ability. Anything about theory/approach/etc. is welcome, but I would rather keep any questions about specific hands (i.e. how would you play this?) to other threads.

    So... if anyone is interested... fire away!

    -----Added 3 Feb 2009 at 12:19:04-----

    Here are some questions I addressed in the other thread to get things rolling:

    Originally Posted by Ivan_Drago45
    How many tables do you play at once? How long are you typical sessions?


    # of tables varies. If I am playing all full ring games (9 players) I will usually play between 20-24 tables depending on how I feel. If I am playing more shorthanded I will cut down on the number of tables to 16-20. I have gotten a lot into starting tables recently (sitting alone at a table and waiting for others to join). Fish dont sit on waiting lists, so you will often not be waiting a long time before they will join your table and dump you all their money since they are so terrible at heads up/shorthanded play.

    I had a pretty sick session the other day where at one point I was playing:
    15 full games
    5 shorthanded games (3-6 players)
    4 heads up
    3 tournaments

    Not normal, but pretty impressive I thought =)

    I don't really have a typical session length. I just play as long as I want to and as my schedule allows. If I ever feel like not playing, I just don't. If I feel like I am not playing my A game I will take a break to clear my head and regain focus. If I come back and am still not playing well I will end my session immediately. I have had sessions where I just "didnt have it" and I quit after 15 minutes. I have also had sessions where I have been playing lights out and have gone for up to 8 hours straight. If I had to guess, I would say that my average session length is 2-3 hours.

    Originally Posted by Chipless Wonder
    What website are you playing cash on these days?

    I only play on Stars... I have been playing some tournaments on FT and I am playing some FTOPS events coming up. Eventually, if/when I get up to playing 5/10+ full-time I will likely game select between the two sites since not many games usually run that high on Stars. However, I dont have any rakeback with FT at the moment so that is my primary consideration for sticking solely with Stars (rakeback for MTT is pretty negligible)

    Originally Posted by Ivan_Drago45
    What are some of the main differences in how to approach a cash game vs a tournament?


    Tough question that I am sure others could answer better. Most obvious is that the blinds never increase so there is no immediate pressure to win pots. Also, because of stack sizes you can take more creative lines that have a high probability of success that would most likely risk too much of your stack in a tournament.

    Basically, you are looking to extract more value postflop rather than usually closing the action preflop and controlling the size of the pot rather than always trying to be aggressive and unequivocally protect your hand. It is much more "player dependent" rather than "hand dependent" so it is much more important to know thy opponent. Cash game play is so much more complex than tournaments but is well worth the time and energy required to master it.

    Originally Posted by Ivan_Drago45
    Here I thought you were a tournament specialist. Would you mind sharing some of your secrets on how you do so well in cash games?


    I was strictly a tournament player for 4 years. I switched mostly to cash games last December and started playing cash games full time as my sole source of income last June. I still play the occasional tournament online and live, most of the time on Sundays.

    My secret to success in poker is same as secret to anything in life - work your ass off and be honest with yourself about where you need to improve. People ask LeBron James how he got good at basketball... obviously he is one of the most naturally talented athletes who has ever lived, but what most people don't see is all of the work that goes on behind the scenes. He works out and studies film for hours every single day. He takes 2000+ shots every single day.

    I watch a ton of poker videos online - usually one every night when I am going to bed. I study all of the cash game regulars tendencies and review all of my tough hands after a session(PT is great for this). I have spent hours getting the math down pat for just about every common situation faced in a NLHE cash game. I am active with posting and commenting on hands on strategy forums. I have read several books on the psychology of lying/ decision making/ etc. and have tried to incorporate the findings into my play. I just got a well respected poker coach for the first time (first lesson was today) to get an unbiased opinion of my game and learn from the best. [shameless plug: I am starting coaching again for $300/hr, PM for details]

    Obviously some natural talent/ability is required to make it to the top level in any profession, but you will not find a single player at the top who has not worked extremely hard to get there.
    Last edited by SparX; 02-03-2009 at 01:19 AM. Reason: Auto-merged double posts
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  2. #2
    Dr Fill Good's Avatar
    Dr Fill Good is offline Shark
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    I'm definitely interested in snagging some wisdom from you, as I see a definite limit to how much I can make as a purely tournament player. So basically within the next year or two I will be shifting slowly and steadily to cash games. Anyways, that wasn't really a question so...

    How long did it take you to get up to playing 24 games at a time? How important is poker tracker to you while making decisions? Would you be able to win without pokertracker? I've heard that the game actually gets easier to win large the higher you get, as players feel they can push people off of hands because so much money is at stake... have you noticed something similar on your journey upwards? How hard of a transition was it from tournaments to cash, or did you have cash experience prior to your switchup?

    I could go on, but if I typed much more you could probably justify charging me 300$ for the response.

  3. #3
    SparX's Avatar
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    answers in bold below

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Fill Good View Post
    How long did it take you to get up to playing 24 games at a time?

    long &complicated answer... let me know if i need to elaborate on anything more.

    it didnt take too long to adjust to the volume, but it took awhile to play optimally with that kind of volume, if that makes sense. at lower stakes, the players are generally bad enough that you can just play a tight/exploitable style and people will just pay you off anyway because they aren't paying attention. however, as you move up and players start to get better you have to be mixing up your play or people will catch on quickly and you will not ever get paid off.

    i think the easiest way to increase the number of tables you play is to slowly build up to it... just start with 4 and as you get comfortable you can add a couple more at a time.

    there is so much software out nowadays that makes multitabling so much easier...

    Stars software is so awesome... it automatically buys me into a table and automatically buys me back in if my stack gets depleted. you can set up your table layout manually so that tables automatically open up in pre-set locations. you can get a big monitor for really cheap (i think 24" monitors can easily be found for ~ 200 on craigslist/similar sites) I recommend cascading your tables if you are playing > 10-12 because they will pop-up automatically when action is required and will greatly reduce the amount of head movement.

    As far as must-have software for multi-tablers on stars... (check out sites for basic info, can ask ? here if you want)

    Table Ninja ($20) - calculates all my bet sizing for me plus it can do a bunch of other stuff which i havent even scratched the surface of yet
    TableNinja - Hotkeys and Utilities for PokerStarsŪ

    Stars Assistant (free) - reduces mouse movement, prevents me from timing out, takes a seat at a table automatically
    StarsAssistant - overcards.com: The Poker Wiki

    Table Mods (varies, usually $10) - makes everything easier to process quickly (larger cards, different colors/backgrounds, etc.)
    TiltBuster Custom Online Poker Mods



    How important is poker tracker to you while making decisions?

    semi-important... i use PT mostly for analyzing my own play. i know most of the regulars games inside and out but having a HUD available to reference for specific situations is very helpful (what % of time do they steal, what % of time do they fold to a 3 bet, what % of time to they cbet flop, etc.) since I am not really able to pay attention to unknowns PT is also helpful in giving me a "snapshot" of how they play

    Would you be able to win without pokertracker?

    without a doubt, but why would i want to? i want to utilize any advantage or information that i have available to me. anyone who plays poker semi-regularly and does not have PT or holdem manager is lighting money on fire.

    I've heard that the game actually gets easier to win large the higher you get, as players feel they can push people off of hands because so much money is at stake... have you noticed something similar on your journey upwards?

    no this is a common myth and is completely false, predicated (i think that is the word) by losing players who want an excuse of why they cannot win at lower limits. i like to call this the "Respect My Raises Fallacy"

    yes it is true that you can get folds more often at higher stakes, but think about it... why would this be considered a good thing?

    the strategies are simply different at lower stakes vs. higher stakes. at lower stakes, bluffing most of the time simply will not be profitable. you will make your profits by value-betting. to maximize your winrate at low stakes you have to be comfortable with value betting very very thinly, especially against fishy players (if you never value bet the worst hand you are playing too passively) and with making tough folds when it is obvious you are beat.

    simply put, fish are easy to play against.

    1) they want to see flops (dont let them see flop cheaply, punish them in position)

    2) they want to chase draws (make them pay the maximum)

    3) they want to see showdowns (VALUE TOWN THEM!)

    4) they dont like to bluff and when they do, they bluff in terrible spots where their line makes no sense at all (if a fish bets strong, give him credit for a strong hand until you see otherwise)


    How hard of a transition was it from tournaments to cash, or did you have cash experience prior to your switchup?

    i had never played a cash game online until last december. i will be brutally honest, it is a very hard transition to make from tournaments --> cash (just ask all of the "famous tournament pros" who dump money to me in cash games every day) but any smart player can do it if they are willing to put in the time and effort.

    you have to be honest with yourself with what you are looking to get out of this game.

    if you are looking to have some fun... cash games arent for you.
    if you are looking to get on TV and "make it big"... cash games arent for you.
    if you are not willing to bust your ass... cash games arent for you.
    if you are not extremely disciplined and honest with yourself... cash games arent for you.

    but, if you want to make the most $, you came to the right place.
    trust me, "the juice is worth the squeeze."

    Last edited by SparX; 02-03-2009 at 02:54 AM.
    Find me at the tables:
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  4. #4
    Ivan_Drago45 is offline Dolphin

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    Excellent thread, Sparx. I have tons of cash game questions, but I'll try not to ask too many here.

    What stakes did you start out playing?

    How many buyins should you have before you start playing at a certain level?

    Can we see some of your other graphs (like a total, or some from when you first started)?

    I signed up for deucescracked.com yesterday. Any good videos you would recommend starting with?

  5. #5
    SparX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan_Drago45 View Post
    Excellent thread, Sparx. I have tons of cash game questions, but I'll try not to ask too many here.

    What stakes did you start out playing?

    I started playing 1/2NL last December. I moved up to 2/4NL in April/May. Starting in June I played anywhere from 2/4-5/10 depending on what games looked the best and this is still the case although usually there are enough good games going at 3/6+ to only play these stakes.

    How many buyins should you have before you start playing at a certain level?

    Depends on a few factors...

    your playing style (LAG will be higher variance thus more buyins)
    number of tables (more tables will decrease your day to day swings but you will be putting more $ at risk at a time)
    your winrate (the better the player you are - i.e. the higher your "average expected winrate is", the less likely you will lose money over an extended sample"

    If you are very disciplined, and stick to a good stop loss (i.e. if you lose 10 buyins at a level you will move back down until you build back up) I think that 50 buyins should be fine. There are others who say you should have 100 buyins minimum but most of these are the same people who have been grinding out a small winrate at the same level for years. You have to be willing to "swing for the fences" sometimes in life as long as you are responsible about it.


    Can we see some of your other graphs (like a total, or some from when you first started)?

    I had some issues with my old database and I had to reinstall PT late last year so I dont really have too many other hands to show. I will say that I had been winning a consistent 30k/month late this summer but in October-November I hit a huge downswing that caused me to be almost breakeven for over 100,000 hands. Not too uncommon for cash game players, to be honest, but admittedly I was not playing my A+ game and used my unlucky streak as a crutch. The last 2 months I have definitely run above expectation but I feel like my game has advanced by leaps and bounds from where it was.

    There are other long-term winning regulars I know who have had 300k hand breakeven stretches (I have only played 1 million hands in my entire poker career to put this in perspective) and who have had $30,000 (60 buyin) downswings. Variance is one cruel mistress, this game is definitely not for the light of heart sometimes.


    I signed up for deucescracked.com yesterday. Any good videos you would recommend starting with?
    Congratulations, that subscription will be one of the best $30 you have ever spent.

    My current poker coach, BalugaWhale has some outstanding small stakes videos. If you would like to learn how to play FR, some videos a few friends of mine have made are a can't miss. Check out Bottomset and Goldseraph for small stakes and Nolan for medium stakes. Also, I have never seen his videos personally, but I hear that sthief09 is the best small stakes strategy poster out there so definitely worth checking out. If anyone is interested in 6 max or higher stakes videos let me know and I can post some rec's for those too.

    I'm excited to announce that I am in negotiations with a couple of top sites to become a video pro and should have a deal to announce within the next couple weeks. =)
    Find me at the tables:
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  6. #6
    Ivan_Drago45 is offline Dolphin

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    Thanks....I'll definitely check those videos out.

    OK, last couple questions then I promise I wont ask any more today.

    When you are playing, do you always add-on when you get below the max buyin?

    What is a normal, or beatable, rake? I don't have the bankroll to play much above .05/.10 yet and I have heard that the rake at this level is too hard to beat.

  7. #7
    Chipless Wonder's Avatar
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    Very cool of you to offer this up Chris.

    You really have me thinking of giving cash games a serious effort some day!

    -----Added 3 Feb 2009 at 10:27:44-----

    Oh, and a question...

    What is the principle behind this bet sizing assistance software?
    Last edited by Chipless Wonder; 02-03-2009 at 11:27 AM. Reason: Auto-merged double posts
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan_Drago45 View Post
    When you are playing, do you always add-on when you get below the max buyin?

    always, 100% of the time
    i only sit down at games where I think I have an edge and the larger the stack size - the larger the skill factor. thus the deeper the stacks, the larger my edge will be, so i maximize my edge by making sure my stack is always as deep as possible.

    a (rare and simplified) example where you would not want to buyin for the max would be:
    5/10 live game, 10k maximum buyin, 9 players
    7 of the players are known to be huge fish and are each bought in for $1,000 each. the 8th player is phil ivey who has bought in for the maximum, $10,000. it wouldn't make any sense to buy in for more than $1000 (at least until one of the fish doubled up) since you are sacrificing equity on every dollar you are putting at risk against better players.


    What is a normal, or beatable, rake? I don't have the bankroll to play much above .05/.10 yet and I have heard that the rake at this level is too hard to beat.

    poker is not just a zero sum game where everyone wins. it is a zero sum game minus some - many players who actually are marginal winners lose money because of the rake.

    beatable rake really depends on the softness of the game... i think that a lot of live games with a 10% rake are marginally profitable at best even though they are almost all ridiculously soft. when you including tips, transportation, etc. you are really digging yourself into a really deep hole and there are very few games that people will have larger than a 10% edge, especially when they can only see 20-25 hands per hour.

    i think anyone who has aspirations of being a professional live cash player (with live cash game poker as their only source of income) at any level below 2/5 (and even that is stretching it) is either borderline retarded or just a plain masochist.

    that being said and trying to get back on track, i believe the rake at all online sites is 5% up to a certain maximum (and actually much lower as you get really high in stakes).

    I hate to be blunt, but if someone is having trouble beating the rake at a .05/.10 game they need to start considering another hobby...
    -------------------------------

    -----Added 3 Feb 2009 at 12:35:42-----

    Quote Originally Posted by Chipless Wonder View Post

    What is the principle behind this bet sizing assistance software?
    The idea behind this is two-fold: speed and unexploitability

    1) speed

    I like to always raise 2.5x PF as the first one in preflop (I raise more if there are limpers / or if i am raising SB vs BB). I am a firm believer in risking the absolute minimum and I believe (FOR MY PLAYING STYLE) 2.5x achieves maximum results for the minimum price.

    ***disclaimer... everyone's game is different. if you are really tight or uncomfortable with deep stack postflop play you should really raise larger PF***

    Anyway, as you can imagine, when you are playing 24 tables and involved in several hands at once, it can be very time consuming to manually type in a 2.5x raise in the bet box. So, TableNinja makes it so my default preflop raise size is 2.5x the BB so I can just point and click and save valuable time and thought.

    Similarly, post-flop I like to bet certain % of the pot (see #2) and instead of having to calculate 2/3 of the pot (or whatever) manually, Table Ninja lets me set my default bet sizing on every street so I can just go from there rather than having to slide the slider bar all the way up.

    2) unexploitability

    this doesn't apply against bad players. against bad players i will bet the amount that leads them to do exactly what i want them to do (bet enough for them to fold, bet small enough for them to call). however, anyone with half a brain will pick up on this.

    thus, to avoid unintentional bet sizing tells, with Table Ninja giving me the optimal bet size that I can use no matter what the situation I become much harder to read and my range of hands is much wider. if you watch any amount of poker videos just about any good pro will emphasize always keeping your range of possible hands as wide as possible to make it hard for your opponents to read you. a very key concept.
    Last edited by SparX; 02-03-2009 at 01:35 PM. Reason: Auto-merged double posts
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  9. #9
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    Do you play anything besides NLHE? I've always loved omaha and fell in love when I discovered Pot Limit Omaha HI/LO and about a year ago playing omaha was like playing hold'em 7 years ago knowing what you know. Omaha players are still bad and beatable online but not quite as bad as they were. However NO ONE has a clue how to play PLO8. What are your thoughts on me starting to play PLO8 cash games online?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by erminator06 View Post
    Do you play anything besides NLHE? I've always loved omaha and fell in love when I discovered Pot Limit Omaha HI/LO and about a year ago playing omaha was like playing hold'em 7 years ago knowing what you know. Omaha players are still bad and beatable online but not quite as bad as they were. However NO ONE has a clue how to play PLO8. What are your thoughts on me starting to play PLO8 cash games online?
    Sounds like you answered your own question. I'm all for it. PLO is the new frontier and it is always good to stay ahead of the curve.

    I dont really have a ton of experience with Omaha cash games personally but I have a few friends who have just very recently switched over from NLHE and are absolutely crushing the games online (seeing some ridiculously sick variance, but I am sure you are well aware of that).

    Only problem you might have would be putting in volume, because as far as I have seen very few PLO8 games actually run online (at least on Stars) and almost none above 2/4.
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