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Old 01-10-2011, 04:49 PM   #1
*Split*
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Exclamation COTW - Execution In Poker

This COTW will be all about execution, what that means in poker, and some ways that we can improve in our own execution. In poker, I would say that there are 3 different components:
  • Strategy
  • Execution
  • Luck
Of course, we can really only improve in two of them (although I would gladly pay insane amounts of money to have someone solve the “luck” component for me =) ). Most of the COTWs have, and rightfully so, talked about strategy. Strategy is quantifiable, logical, and relatively concrete (although it may not seem so at times). Execution is a tough concept to talk about because it is incredibly personal, but ultimately what pays (or doesn't pay) the bills, assuming the strategic component of our game is strong.

Execution is simply how we perform our strategy. How we play our hands in real-time, how we react to certain players and actions, and how we perform when facing any level of adversity. While a good strategy is imperative to our poker success, it can be near useless if we can't perform the strategy well. How many times have you gone through your DB, found a horribly played hand that you know exactly how to play, and yet you still pushed the wrong buttons? Probably a ton, although hopefully you find less and less of these overtime.

There is good and bad news though. The good news is that, as you improve your strategic knowledge and execution, you should make less mistakes and make more money in the LR. The bad news is that you will always make mistakes. You will tilt, you will make sub-optimal plays at times for one reason or another, you will mis-click, you will over/under use impartial information, etc. So does knowing that you will never perform perfectly mean we have a pass and can just say “meh, whatever, I'm going to make mistakes anyway.”? Not really...but it is an important thing to comprehend for numerous reasons.

Let's review some of the standard pitfalls in execution:
Having a bad strategy to execute: Even we execute at 100%, it can be useless if the strategy we are executing has holes in it. If our strategy uses an incorrect PF range, 3bets in bad spots, or double barrels versus wrong player types, our execution is going to get us hurt. Strategy is something that should be strong, hopefully in all areas. If your strategy is weak, go read some other COTWs, watch videos, etc.

Tilt: There was a solid COTW on tilt awhile ago, and you can also look at the COTW on handling stress, as both are related. Tilt is usually the most common ailment that causes players to execute poorly.

Execution Environment: The physical place where you execute, or play, can be vital to your success. If you play a location where there are factors that would increase the chances of tilt (noises, added stresses, annoyances, etc.), you could easily begin to execute worse and worse. Think about it. If at best you can execute at 85%, but where you play can effect your execution by 0-100, it can make for a bad place to play (especially if you have other options that would create less chance of executing poorly)

Quote:
[EE]EV = 85 – X (where X can be 0-100)
Our goal is to get X as close to zero as possible. Having a “safe haven” where you can play poker, eliminate (or at least lessen) possibly tilters, and concentrate is imperative. Make sure you find or create a place like this to grind in.

Distractions: I know some people play while watching TV, movies, listening to music, chatting on Skype, etc. For some people this works for them (the added stimulation of their side-activity relieves boredom and doesn't allow them to play extra hands that would get them in trouble). For most people this is disastrous. While this is very personal, most players would be better suited to turn off the Skype, turn off the TV, and just focus on the task at hand.

Stress: We should always be monitoring our stress levels, before and during sessions. Stress forces our brain to process information differently, and usually not in the way we would best prefer at the tables. Make sure not to start sessions when your stress levels are high (when your best execution % is probably lowered right off the bat), and also monitor it throughout the session. If you begin to feel stressed/tilted at all, it might be time to take a break.
This is actually why the “thoughts on botting” arguments are always so interesting. A bot never has to worry about the execution aspect. Bots are designed to execute flawlessly (well, flawlessly in the sense that stress/tilt/etc won't effect their performance). If we could simply perform like bots, and had a solid strategy, we would have higher win rates, hourlies, and have a higher chance at being solid pros. Thus, our goal when executing is to take our best strategy, and keep performing it. Adjust it as it needs to be adjusted, but ignore things that would negatively effect the way we execute our strategy.

In this COTW I wanted to talk about some of the ways I have improved my execution over the years. I will say this now though, I am not the best executor in the world. In fact, I would say that execution is the worst aspect of my poker playing. While I have gotten better at it over the years, and have given many people tips to help their own execution, it is something I am always working on. Once your strategic knowledge is built up, the only thing left to work on is execution, which becomes more and more important as edges get lower and lower.

Discipline: Everything in execution boils down to discipline. If you know it is a bad 4bet spot but you still make it, you are executing poorly and losing money in the LR. Discipline is the cornerstone of everything in poker. Having the knowledge to do something, but not the discipline to follow through makes the knowledge near useless. We can improve in discipline with time and practice, but it is a vital skill and should always be worked on.

Repetition: I have a pre-session routine that I do before I play to get myself into the right mindset. This gives my brain a chance to get warmed up, prepared to play, and creates a relaxing intro to executing. For me, I just turn on a single song (that I will listen to on repeat for the entire session), look over my last few sessions and check some hands, and then turn off all my distractions while turning on all my poker stuff. Just the simple process reminds my brain that it is time to go to work, and eases me into playing.

Results-Orientation: We always want to do our best to not be results-oriented. There are plenty of times when we made a good shove and just so happened to run into the absolute toppest part of his C-Range. Just mark hands and review them later. Also, I usually suggest not checking the cashier/DB/etc for results during a session. Many times it can create winners tilt (wanting to book a win, “playing a rush”, etc.) or classic tilt (“I need to get unstuck”). Again, eliminating anything that has probably -EV effects (especially if there are no +EV effects attached to that action) is a good idea.

Rules: I personally set rules for myself before my sessions. This allows me to work on my discipline, but also helps me stay within a range that I am comfortable with. For instance, one of my rules is “if more than 2 bluff 4bets fail, no more for the session.” I also use rules like stoplosses (2.5BI/session, 4BI/day), no stacking off light versus fish, and taking an extra 2 seconds every time I get to the turn or river. These rules keep me focused and disciplined.

Talk Out Loud: I have been doing this for years, and suggest it often. I personally treat every sessions as though I were recording a video. I talk out my thought process while playing and have full discussions about situations. I do this for a few reasons. For one, it forces me to slow down a bit (giving my brain an extra partial second or so to process information). For another, it gives my brain an extra chance to catch mistakes. My brain processes information an extra time (the first when I see it, and again when my brain hears it), giving me an extra chance to catch mistakes or logic gaps. I also ask myself things like “am I feeling tilty? And if so, why?” If my answer is anything but “I am a lil mad because of something totally out of my control”, I will usually get off the session. Assuming you can do this all without looking like a nutjob in front of anyone else in the room, I def suggest it =)

Monitor Everything: In having full dialogues while playing I am monitoring my stress and tilt levels. If they get too high, I simply get off my session and restart when I am calm again. There is no reason to play when you know your execution cap is lowered to the point where your WR might be negative, or break at best. If conditions change in your environment (your GF got pissy and is now yelling at you, the dog just peed on the floor, etc.) just monitor how much you think your execution is going to suffer and make a decision whether to continue the session or not.
Again, most people just need to improve their discipline when it comes to execution. The discipline to get off sessions when things go bad (either on the table, in our head, or other), to make the correct play when we know what it is, and to play solid poker as we know it. While this may seem incredibly simple, it is the cornerstone of being able to function as a successful poker player.

The last thing I want to say is that you will never always execute at 100%. Ever. You will always make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes will be strategically based (a sub-optimal bet size, an over-aggressive CR, a mis-read in stats, etc.), and sometimes they will be execution based (playing in a bad mood, not recognizing tilt before it manifests itself in a play, getting distracted, etc.). All we can do in this game is improve in both aspects as best as possible and perform to the best of our abilities. While everyone has different levels of ability and capped ability, do your best to work with what you have. Remember, even Durrrr doesn't execute at 100% every time, and you aren't anywhere close to Durrrr =)

Let's start a conversation...

(btw, remember that the way you, myself, and others execute will be different. No personal bashing please)
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Old 01-10-2011, 04:57 PM   #2
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Frist?

Reading now...
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Old 01-10-2011, 04:59 PM   #3
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

First?

Last edited by SaberTJ; 01-10-2011 at 04:59 PM. Reason: I read the thing first before posting :)
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Old 01-10-2011, 05:12 PM   #4
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

This is certainly something I need to focus a lot more on. I have had week long stretches where i can't make a mistake, rake in the dough etc... But then I have sessions where I spew, stop thinking as much about ranges, and instead force a hand or situation to my own peril.
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Old 01-10-2011, 05:16 PM   #5
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Good post . I think alot of my execution problems come from feeling rushed to make a decision . Even playing 2 tables I sometimes feel rushed , and make the wrong decision . Like if I had more time to analyze the info , I would make the correct choice . Maybe it's just inexperience , and with practice the choices become easier /faster to make ? I dont know . I do think that execution is the biggest leak I have tho . Nice post Split

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Old 01-10-2011, 05:19 PM   #6
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaberTJ View Post
This is certainly something I need to focus a lot more on. I have had week long stretches where i can't make a mistake, rake in the dough etc... But then I have sessions where I spew, stop thinking as much about ranges, and instead force a hand or situation to my own peril.
Kinda the same thing I was saying , but you worded it a little better . Maybe thats what Split is talking about where he says the better you get , the fewer mistakes you will make .

Is it necessary to your development as a poker player to make these mistakes ? like pushing edges that are not there . and forcing things etc ?
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Old 01-10-2011, 05:52 PM   #7
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Why do you never stack of light vs fish? Some chump sits down with 42bb, shoves his fifth hand, I'm calling with JJ
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:03 PM   #8
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

^ I wouldn't call that stacking off light at all. JJ is an obv get it in hand in that situation.

Thanks split, another great COTW, and a great way to start a new year in COTWs.
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:20 PM   #9
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

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^ I wouldn't call that stacking off light at all. JJ is an obv get it in hand in that situation.

Thanks split, another great COTW, and a great way to start a new year in COTWs.
that...and thank you =)

i should have mentioned that another way to improve execution is to understand your strategy front and back. when reviewing a hand don't just review the hand with all the inflection points in it (player type, critical action points, etc.)...also review the hand changing some of the inflection points ("what if this player were a TAG or fish?" "what if he had checked the turn?" "what if he had made a different size on the flop?"). that way you get more reviews/hand, and the thought process gets faster (and thus should allow us to execute more efficiently and effectively)
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Old 01-10-2011, 07:04 PM   #10
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Ah, a new COTW. My stress levels are decreasing by the minute.

Execution is rarely talked about on the forums, but it is the reason that poker remains beatable. Chip Reese, when explaining how he managed to stay at the top of the poker food chain for decades said, "My key advantage is that my 'C' game is about the same as my 'A' game." A good portion of Tommy Angelo's coaching isn't about how to play like durrrr, it is about eliminating your "C" game.

I read somewhere that biggest differentiator in determining which musicians reach the top of their field and those that fall short is practice time, not initial skill. Those that practice (which means working on improving, not just going through the motions) are the most are the most successful. Poker works the same way. Split can write all the COTWs he wants. If someone doesn't take the time to incorporate that knowledge in their game through practice, they won't get the benefit of the knowledge.

Repetition is the only way you'll eliminate the mistakes.
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:07 PM   #11
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Thanks for this Split. Good stuff
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:17 PM   #12
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Quote:
Originally Posted by venice10 View Post
Ah, a new COTW. My stress levels are decreasing by the minute.

Execution is rarely talked about on the forums, but it is the reason that poker remains beatable. Chip Reese, when explaining how he managed to stay at the top of the poker food chain for decades said, "My key advantage is that my 'C' game is about the same as my 'A' game." A good portion of Tommy Angelo's coaching isn't about how to play like durrrr, it is about eliminating your "C" game.

I read somewhere that biggest differentiator in determining which musicians reach the top of their field and those that fall short is practice time, not initial skill. Those that practice (which means working on improving, not just going through the motions) are the most are the most successful. Poker works the same way. Split can write all the COTWs he wants. If someone doesn't take the time to incorporate that knowledge in their game through practice, they won't get the benefit of the knowledge.

Repetition is the only way you'll eliminate the mistakes.
agreed (and glad i could help decrease your stress levels =P )

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Thanks for this Split. Good stuff
np. glad you liked it

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leroy_Jenkins45 View Post
Good post . I think alot of my execution problems come from feeling rushed to make a decision . Even playing 2 tables I sometimes feel rushed , and make the wrong decision . Like if I had more time to analyze the info , I would make the correct choice . Maybe it's just inexperience , and with practice the choices become easier /faster to make ? I dont know . I do think that execution is the biggest leak I have tho . Nice post Split
I'd have to imagine that's why Durrrr takes 2min/decision while playing live. he actually gets the luxury of time (as opposed to online), lol
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Old 01-10-2011, 08:38 PM   #13
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

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Originally Posted by *Split* View Post
Talk Out Loud: I have been doing this for years, and suggest it often. I personally treat every sessions as though I were recording a video.
I soooooo need to start doing this.

Great COTW Split. Thx for this
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:09 PM   #14
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Excellent post.

For the longest time I have always talked out a hand out loud and now I am glad to know that I not the only other crazy person out there who does this!
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:15 PM   #15
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

What's the song you listen to on repeat?
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:53 PM   #16
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

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I soooooo need to start doing this.

Great COTW Split. Thx for this
for sure =)

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Originally Posted by TorChi9857 View Post
Excellent post.

For the longest time I have always talked out a hand out loud and now I am glad to know that I not the only other crazy person out there who does this!
not crazy at all (by my standards anyway =) )

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What's the song you listen to on repeat?
depends. usually Fur Elise by Beethoven (or some electronica song like Slip or Handguns (Dadalife remix))
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Old 01-11-2011, 01:45 AM   #17
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Nice post Split - execution is my biggest weakness too - I know where all the right buttons are, it's just finding a way to push them.

The best way to execute is to say I am going to bet/fold because...

Decide what you are doing and why you are doing it before the action occurs. This prevents spite calling. One downside of this is that it can produce tilt as we always remember b/f and so we think ppl are playing back at us.

Last edited by Lx12; 01-11-2011 at 02:13 AM.
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Old 01-11-2011, 02:56 AM   #18
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

a mid-stakes player used to tell me....think before you make a play. i think most people including me don't consider all the options/info before making the decision.
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Old 01-11-2011, 06:05 AM   #19
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

nice read,
thanks
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Old 01-11-2011, 08:24 AM   #20
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

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a mid-stakes player used to tell me....think before you make a play. i think most people including me don't consider all the options/info before making the decision.
^^^

It's easy to get stuck in a rut, auto-pilot, whatever you want to call it, but yeah. I agree, I guess is what I'm saying. Thinking is good.

Nice poast, Split. Thanks for all of the work you put into these.
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Old 01-11-2011, 08:43 AM   #21
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Thank you for the fine COTW Split. I'm still working on strategy and now I see how execution has to be in play with strategy for it to all work for a winning game. After reading your COTW, I see that I need to work more on discipline, set rules to help me with this, and I think I'll try talking out loud while I play so that I can drive the dog crazy.
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Old 01-11-2011, 12:02 PM   #22
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Good COTW, but im confused by one thing. If you never check your cashier during a session, how do you implement your 2.5bi stoploss per session?? I also find the image of your in-session self dialogue amusing
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Old 01-11-2011, 02:16 PM   #23
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

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Originally Posted by SonOfBadger View Post
Good COTW, but im confused by one thing. If you never check your cashier during a session, how do you implement your 2.5bi stoploss per session?? I also find the image of your in-session self dialogue amusing
I was wondering the exact same thing. I think i might look at my PT3 to often during sessions but I hate it when after a session I think i'm stuck like 3BI and it are actually 5BI or reversed.
And do you really listen to 1 song everytime you play online? That would drive me nuts when it starts playing for the 3th time in a row lol.

But, very good COTW, tnx!
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Old 01-11-2011, 03:01 PM   #24
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lx12 View Post
Nice post Split - execution is my biggest weakness too - I know where all the right buttons are, it's just finding a way to push them.

The best way to execute is to say I am going to bet/fold because...

Decide what you are doing and why you are doing it before the action occurs. This prevents spite calling. One downside of this is that it can produce tilt as we always remember b/f and so we think ppl are playing back at us.
thanks for the first part, and agreed on the second half (i will 3b AQ sometimes and keep saying out loud "I will not stack this off if he shoves, I will not stack this off if he shoves..." =)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Night Crawler View Post
nice read,
thanks
np

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnAnonymousCoward View Post
^^^

It's easy to get stuck in a rut, auto-pilot, whatever you want to call it, but yeah. I agree, I guess is what I'm saying. Thinking is good.

Nice poast, Split. Thanks for all of the work you put into these.
np. glad you enjoyed

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Originally Posted by keylimepie View Post
Thank you for the fine COTW Split. I'm still working on strategy and now I see how execution has to be in play with strategy for it to all work for a winning game. After reading your COTW, I see that I need to work more on discipline, set rules to help me with this, and I think I'll try talking out loud while I play so that I can drive the dog crazy.
glgl

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Originally Posted by SonOfBadger View Post
Good COTW, but im confused by one thing. If you never check your cashier during a session, how do you implement your 2.5bi stoploss per session?? I also find the image of your in-session self dialogue amusing
for me it is more of a feel thing. My brain usually keeps some sort of running tally about how much I am up or down (I wish it didn't, but it does). I can usually just feel when I am close to my SL...maybe it's experience, or maybe I am rainman...who knows? =P

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I was wondering the exact same thing. I think i might look at my PT3 to often during sessions but I hate it when after a session I think i'm stuck like 3BI and it are actually 5BI or reversed.
And do you really listen to 1 song everytime you play online? That would drive me nuts when it starts playing for the 3th time in a row lol.

But, very good COTW, tnx!
ADD/ADHD people tend to work very well listening to one song (without lyrics) on repeat for hours. It is enough stimulation to keep our brain pleased, but not enough to overload us. plus, the repetition is good for the brain.

glad you liked it =)
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Old 01-11-2011, 04:11 PM   #25
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Re: COTW - Execution In Poker

Good read. I really need to stop looking at my DB while playing. At the same time, I've set stop/loss, so how do you handle this? Before, I've been playing, thinking I'm down a couple of buy-in's, then when I look, I may be down 3 or 4.
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