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My first double-up

As I wrote about in a previous blog entry, I am in the process of spinning up one million play chips on PokerStars to 100 million. Those of you conversant with your base-2 logarithms will realize that it's going to take me about five and a half double-ups of my bankroll to get there.

First double-up complete.

I started playing 250/500 PLO, thinking I should give myself 20 buy-ins. I was up to about 1.5 million and thought, "I think I can get along with 15 buy-ins", so I switched to 500/1K games. Within a little while, I'd broken through the two-million barrier. Furthermore, I think I can get by on ten buy-ins, so I'm playing a bit bigger now.


Anyway, here are the things I've learned while playing high stakes play money PLO on PokerStars...

There are some veterans here

One day I look at the player next to me, the screen name is "Autumn". Not "Autumn_359", not "Autummnn", just "Autumn". You didn't come along in 2009 and get the screen name "Autumn" on PokerStars. I checked - Autumn joined PokerStars in June of 2002; that's old school right there.

Shortly thereafter, I came across "PhilHellmuth" - joined in 2003.

These people have been (to quote Adam Schwartz from 2+2) "Grinding the play money tables" for over a decade. I think that's kinda cool - it makes me wonder how many newbies they've turned onto PokerStars in that time.
People are trying to play well

That's not to say they are playing well, but they're trying to play well. They're folding, and check-raising - the stuff that you do when you actually care about your results and aren't simply looking to flip for stacks every hand.

Now, is the play as strong as real money poker? Well of course not. But let's not overstate the quality of real money poker either. For example, I note that preflop raising has little effect in the 1K/2K PM PLO games I'm currently playing in. But I refer you to this post on the 2+2 High Stakes PLO forum, where they normally talk about real money poker. Here's the description of the players before we get to the hand description:

Button: super-action player. will call any raise preflop, and call light until the river. Winning ~40% of the hands.
SB: hero has been very quiet. occasional calls preflop/fold flop entire session.
MP: super-action player. will raise 80% of hands preflop. if he's stacking chips/getting drink/etc. on his pre-flop action he'll raise blind.

Yes sir, those high-stakes real money PLO players are careful with their chips.

To be fair, this is a pretty good description of a bunch of the opponents I've been encountering. In fact, I had the most amazing thing happen a couple of days ago: I had made the nuts on the river (as you do, on occasion). My one opponent checked to me, and I bet. He check-raised! This sort of thing happens - I've certainly check-raised the worst hand on the river sometimes. So I obviously shoved, and he... folded.

Wait, what?

This is play money; he's supposed to snap call. Assuming it wasn't a mis-click, he either check-raise bluffed the river (which is not exactly a "Poker 101" play) or he thought he was value raising and then folded when he realized the error of his ways. Either way, the guy is thinking about what he's doing.

Playing higher stakes requires mental adjustment

As I've moved up in stakes, I've had to accustom myself to the sizes of everything. You get comfortable with certain preflop raise sizes, or post-flop bet sizes in a one-raise pot - that sort of thing. Then you double (or quadruple) your stakes, and suddenly you find yourself saying "That's a big bet..." But it really isn't - relative to everything else, the bets and raises are perfectly normal.

In fact, I've started using only the bet slider to control my bets - that allows me to think clearly in big-blind units rather than "Do I really mean that many zeros?". A raise is either three BBs (there's a button for it!) or full pot (also a button!). When I bet, it's "1/2 pot plus two clicks to the right" or whatever. Those bet buttons are the nuts.

See you in a couple of double-ups

I won't write every time I hit a new double, but about the time we start seeing the bet sizes in scientific notation, I'll let you know. I'm playing as "LeeJ@Play" - if you see me out there, say hi.

Lee Jones the Head of Poker Communications at PokerStars; he first joined the company in 2003. He has been involved in the professional poker world since the mid 1980's.

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