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Grinding Strategies

Brian

What is poker grinding?

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I would say it is putting in very high volume while still maintaining a high level of play and focus.
What I mean by this is not just putting in volume for the sake of volume, but having a smart and well thought out approach that maximizes our overall return.

Motivation for grinding:

Many of us are playing this game with one thing in mind: profit.

This can be achieved many different ways, but many of them are impractical or very difficult, an example would be playing high stakes live games because generating a decent profit from low stakes games is almost impossible.
So what are the benefits to grinding?
  • High volume allows us to play relatively low stakes and still earn a decent hourly rate.
  • Variance is kept low and downswings, relatively speaking, are short lived compared to other strategies
  • Bank roll relative to earnings potential has a very low ratio.

Clearly there are some downsides to grinding as well which could include learning less strategy while we play and much less focus on intricate details including player reads.

For most players though, grinding is the best approach to achieve steady earnings as well as to grow our bankroll with the lowest risk possible.

Some comparisons for hourly rates:

Let’s say we’d like to earn $20 an hour playing poker.
This means we need to do some basic calculations which involve win-rates.
A win-rate is essentially the end product of edge in a particular game, over a large sample size (number of hands), measured most commonly in bb/100 (big blinds per 100 hands played).
A decent winning player will generally have a win-rate at their given stakes of around 2-4bb/100, a very good player will be around 5-6bb/100 and an exceptional player will often be 7bb/100 or higher. Conversely, an inexperienced recreational player might have a win-rate of -20 or even -50bb/100.
Hourly rate calculation: Stakes * winrate * hands per hour (big blind * xx bb/100 * hands/100)

Live Player

We are limited to one table, and we’ll assume we get to play 25 hands per hour.

At a 1/2 game ($2 big blind) this means we would need a 40bb/100 winrate! (2 * 40 * 25/100) and this is virtually impossible.

A more realistic approach to achieve this hourly rate might be at a 5/10 game where we would need an 8bb/100 winrate.

Consider, though, that we would be sitting down with a $1000 buy-in, the variance would be quite high and a reasonable live bankroll might be something like $20,000!

This is highly unrealistic for the vast majority of people and it takes considerable skill to beat a live 5/10 game.

Low volume mid stakes online:

Let’s assume we can play 4 tables online at 100 hands per hour per table.

At 100nl ($1 big blind) this would require a win-rate of 5bb/100 which with some work is achievable for people who work hard at their game (1 * x * 400/100 = 20$)
This would still require hefty bankroll of about $4000-$5000 and at these stakes there is still considerable variance (swings) which can be uncomfortable for many.

Very high volume low stakes:

Here comes the ultra grinder.
We’ve studied the game, apply sound preflop ranges, post flop strategies, we don’t do anything too crazy or outside of the box but we consistently find profitable tables and go for volume.
At only 25nl (25c big blind) if we can play 16 tables simultaneously we would then need a winrate of 5bb/100 (0.25 * x * 1600/100 = $20).
Factoring in some rake-back (at high volumes, most sites will generally give back around 20 or 30% of rake paid) this means our win-rate could actually be much lower, say 3bb/100, to still achieve the hourly goal of $20.
The amazing thing here is that a realistic bankroll for these stakes might be $1250 total and the variance would be quite low. The skill level also is not that high and we do not have to be a great player to beat these stakes.
The end result for all these scenarios is the same: earning $20/hour playing the game of poker.

The end result for all these scenarios is the same: earning $20/hour playing the game of poker. The fact is there are massive differences in skill level and required bankrolls, so the appeal of the multi-tabling-mass-grinder is clearly visible.

Strategies for grinding

1. Find a site that allows playing many tables at the same time, we can even play two sites at the same time.
2.Poker database and HUD: whenever possible we want to use tools that give us an edge and help us make quick decisions based on statistical information
3.Play consistent sessions: Start software, add tables until maximum is reached, play for 1.5 hours, then take a break of at least 5 minutes, then repeat
4.Maximize table profitability: Ensure recreational players are always on your right, avoid loose aggressive players to your left, stay at tables with high average VPIP (looseness), leave any table with only regulars!
5.Trust your bankroll management: If we know we have enough buy-ins (let’s assume 50) then checking our results after each session or day is not necessary, so we can just check once per week and track our results/rates.
6.Eating: Make sure you eat a balanced diet including a good sized breakfast, and a must is to avoid large meals before grinding – this will cause loss of focus and ability to play our A-game.
7.Sleeping: Get consistent sleep, minimum 8 hours and keep a constant schedule (get up at the same time every day)
8.Distractions: Stay away from chat programs, e-mail, television, mobile phone etc, imagine you are a race-car driver and you cannot do anything but focus on the road and driving that car! Music is generally okay.
9.Daily limits: Try and limit yourself to no more than ~ 6 hours of grinding per day, at some point your brain just can’t keep up anymore and it doesn’t take much to go from a winner to a loser without realizing it.

Tools of the trade

Use a decent mouse that’s ergonomic but accurate and responsive – this is your main source of interaction with the poker site.
Set up an advanced gameboard using hot-keys.
Use your non-mouse hand for this device for such common actions as: fold, bet 1/2 pot, bet 2/3 pot, bet pot, sit out at all tables etc as this will have a direct influence on your hands/hour!
Monitor: either use one huge monitor with a very high resolution, or two decent sized monitors with a reasonable resolution, again both very important and a must investment for the serious grinder.
A decently fast computer is also a requirement. Chair & desk, you’ll be doing a lot of sitting, make sure the chair and your positioning is comfortable so you don’t fatigue as quickly.

Grinding Downsides

It tends to take away focus from study and improving which is an important part of the game as well as making better reads and figuring out situations in real-time.
It also leads to higher stress for many players because our brain is having to work extremely hard and we have very little time to act and make decisions at the tables.
It essentially dumbs the game down to a very robotic state where we just chug along and there isn’t much excitement, we essentially make our widgets and fulfill our daily/weekly/monthly quota.

Summary

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Grinding is very real and appeals to many players because it is quite possible the best way to start earning a living playing this game.
It doesn’t require a huge bankroll to do so, it doesn’t require a lot of advanced skills.
It does, however, require determination, extreme discipline, focus and dedication.
It’s easy to get complacent and forget many the little nuances that lead to grinding success, so stay sharp, even give yourself a report card every week checking what you did well and what you didn’t based on our guidelines.

Best of luck at the tables and have an awesome day!
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