When you win, poker seems so simple. Yet it's the simple things that are hardest to explain. In order to post a winning session your big hands have to hold up, you have to come from behind and beat a superior hand, you have to make your draws, your opponents have to miss their draws, your opponents have to make mistakes, and you have to minimize your mistakes. On the days that you're a big winner, it seems that everything falls on your side of the fence.
Then there are those dark and dismal days when you can't win a race, you can't hit a draw to save your life, and all of your big pairs get smoked. That's when desperation sinks in and tilt circles your soul like a pack of hungry vultures waiting for the rest of your integrity to kick the bucket, so they can swoop in and feast on your dwindling bankroll. The lost ones are seeking a miracle ... for the light to break where no sun shines.
In early 2006, I stopped playing tournaments and no-limit cash games and focused on limit hold'em. Tournaments were my biggest leak. I played too many of them and did not produce any big results. I was not confident when I played cash games and made too many mistakes at the no-limit tables. I played too aggressively and I tried to run over everyone on every single hand. I lacked patience and discipline. I switched to limit in order to focus on ABC poker. I grinded my way out of a losing streak and managed to boost my bankroll. Those small weekly wins eventually added up.
Limit is a grind. You usually add to your bankroll a little bit at a time. It's hard to win two or three buy-ins during a single session of limit, when there are times when you can win three buy-ins on one hand at a no-limit table. No-limit is a high risk game with the potential for a high reward.
At the end of 2007, I craved some excitement at the tables, so I played live no-limit cash games in Las Vegas and in Australia for the first time in a while. It felt weird for me to play $1-$2 no-limit after consistently playing $15-$30 and $30-$60 limit tables online. Sitting down with just $200 took a bit of adjustment. I had quickly refamiliarized myself with playing low-limit no-limit. Once I was comfortable, I moved up to $2-$5 no-limit. My goal is to play higher stakes this summer when tons of dead money flies into Las Vegas during the WSOP.
Switching back and forth between limit and no-limit has been beneficial for my game. Limit for me is automatic. In no-limit, I'm relying more upon my instincts and my ability to read people at the tables. I had forgotten about that extra edge you can gain by processing body language. Tourists have no idea on how to mask their tells or give off reverse tells. I made a lot of plays and calls during a recent trip in Las Vegas that I normally wouldn't make. But it seemed obvious what my opponents held.
Jumping back and forth between long periods of inactivity, I played no-limit by pure instinct until I was able to get a consistent rhythm going at the tables. After an extended break, it takes me a few sessions to play my style of poker ... patience and disciplined, yet aggressive and unpredictable.
My transition to no-limit cash games has been smooth due to my ability to contain my leaks and take advantage of the numerous mistakes of my opponents. Most of the time, I walk away a winner not because I played magnificently ... but because my opponents played so badly that they spewed away their stacks. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.