Wednesday, December 30, 2009

09' in Review (Long)

The year started with me quitting the safety of my hosting job at Ultimate Bet and taking on the challenge of trying to make SNE on Poker Stars. I started the year primarily playing 10-20 and 15-30 with strict game selection. I was also selectively playing some 30-60 games but usually only heads up. To begin the year I really had no idea whether I’d spend the whole year at 10-20 and 15-30 or be able to progress into higher limits.

I was fortunate that 15-30 went well from the beginning and it wasn’t long before I stopped playing the 10-20 games. The 15-30 games generally play a little bit tougher than the 10-20 games but the 2-3 blind structure works in my favor. My strength has always been short-handed play and specifically play in and around the blinds so the added small blind money at 15-30 contributed to my success. Also working in my favor is that nearly half a big bet per hundred hands less is raked at that limit compared with 10-20. It’s hard to quantify the skill level difference between 10-20 and 15-30 but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s significantly less than ½ a big bet per hundred.

In April I started playing the 30-60 games with a lot more regularity and most of my hands from that point on were split between 15-30 and 30-60. There is also about a ½ big bet per hundred less that is raked between 15-30 and 30-60. I think there’s a more substantial skill level jump between 15-30 and 30-60 compared with 10-20 and 15-30 but it’s probably slightly less than ½ a big bet. My results reflect this as well, I maintained about the same post-rake win rate at these 2 levels over the course of nearly 300,000 hands at each.

I believe I started playing the 50-100 games with more regularity sometime in June or July. The 50-100 games play similar to the 30-60 games. On a whole I’d say slightly tougher than the 30-60 games but again the difference in rake likely more than compensates for the skill level difference. The big difference at 50-100 (and above) is that there are a lot fewer games going. It’s also much more difficult to play heads up at that limit since there are fewer heads up players and the tables fill almost immediately when a bad player sits. So generally I would sit for extended periods without getting a game. Eventually a poor player would sit, I would play a few hands, and then several regulars would sit. As most of you know the bulk of my winnings and win rate is due to heads up and short-handed play (see graph below broken down by # of players ) so this was a big contributing factor to my struggles at 50-100. I also ran exceptionally bad at this limit for about two months and at one point I was down about 400 big bets.

Looking back now, I far exceeded my expectations at the beginning of the year. I believe I won more money at both 15-30 and 30-60 than any other player online. I very likely played more hands than anybody at those limits too, this came from my work ethic and love for the game. The name of the game is to make money and that’s what I did from beginning to end. My focus was singular the entire year and that was to make each and every decision to the best of my ability. I minimized distractions as best as possible by staying away from chatting and getting caught up in the mind games that many players like to engage in. Many players, including some of the regulars tried to get in my head throughout the year either through the chat box, forums, or even in-game play. Although I took notice of what was going on, I never acknowledged it back through my play or any other way as that would only be to my detriment.

The most important thing looking back at 2009 is that I was constantly improving as a player. I made a lot of changes to my game throughout the year, some small and some major. I’m continually reading, watching videos, and studying my game. I also pay a lot of attention to the better players in my games. Whenever a good player sits at my table, I look at it as an opportunity to learn. I try to focus on their game and the decisions they make with the intention of getting in their heads and understanding what they’re trying to accomplish and why. There’s a lot to be learned from good players and I was able to incorporate different things from different players into my game over the course of the year.

Looking forward to 2010, it’s going to be a really busy year poker-wise. My wife and I are planning on renting a house in Vegas for the World Series and I plan on playing around 20 events. I’m also scheduled to play the PCA next week, the EPT championship in Monte Carlo, and the WCOOP main event on Stars. To be perfectly honest, my no-limit game needs a lot of work. I’m not all confident in my chances in NL tournaments given my current skill level. As a result I’m intensely committed to becoming proficient in NL next year. One of my goals is to put a lot of time in the NL cash games next year and I’d like to be a consistent winner at 5-10 by the time the year is over. I played about 50K hands of 2-4 last year and I was a very small winner over that sample so I’ve got my work cut out for me. I do have a good deal of NL tournament experience so I feel comfortable with the transition between cash games and tournaments and feel like if I can become a winner at cash games, that it will make me a lot stronger tournament player.

I know I said there’s no way I’d ever try to make SNE again but I don’t feel that way at the moment and I’m giving strong consideration to trying it again. I went through the “rakeback” calculations today – rakeback being defined as any money Poker Stars gives back either through bonus money, tournament entries, or milestone bonuses. Over the course of 2009, my rakeback amounted to 51%. With the new VPP structure changes being implemented next year that reward heads up and short-handed play and the fact that I would start the year at SNE (earning more FPPs), my rakeback would jump to almost 82%. In dollar terms, it would be an extra $67,000 or so that I’d earn if I played the same amount of hands while keeping the same short-handed to full table hands ratio. Also influencing my current state of mind is that I realized over the last month how easy it is to earn VPPs by multi-tabling lower limits. Although I don’t want to spend a lot of time 8 tabling 10-20, only a couple hours a day earns me almost 2/3 of the VPPs required to make SNE.

For now I’m going to enjoy the last couple days of the year and my time in the Bahamas. I’ll probably make a final decision on whether to pursue SNE by the end of the trip. I’ll be updating my blog from the tournament; hopefully I can make a run in it.

If anyone has questions about becoming SuperNovaElite, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments. I know a lot of people are considering trying next year and I’d be happy to help if I can.


  1. Great job! Good luck with your next plan. :)

  2. I see you still cant beat the 2/4 limit games. :)

    CONGRATS on the year!

  3. Thanks!

    Yeah that damn 2/4 has always been my nemesis.

  4. Congrats Tony! Your blog is inspirational and I'm strongly considering giving SNE a shot next year. Your 15 and 30 win rates are just sick. Any techniques or tips for pushing through the grind when you are running bad? I think this will be the hardest thing for me, since when I run bad my motivation to play goes way down (a nice built in self defense mechanism, but not very conducive to reaching SNE).


  5. Good work Piranha, I'm glad I didn't go for it this year as I would have had to play even more with you!


  6. Hey thanks guys I appreciate the comments and support.


    I think this was probably the hardest thing for me too. It's really tough to keep playing when everything imaginable is going wrong. I did a lot of cardio throughout the year so anytime I was getting beat up at the tables and stressed I would work out for an hour and I'd feel refreshed. I also would take my dogs for long walks through hills near my house. I'd just try to refresh my mind, forget about what happened, and focus on playing my best. There's no easy solution and the solutions probably vary from person to person.

    I know you're a good heads up and short-handed player so don't neglect doing that and getting those hands in. It makes such a huge difference to your bottom line and ultimately mental state. Usually I'll sit a couple empty tables and even if I have 5 or 6 tables going I'll start the heads up game and drop at least one of the other tables. I had a couple 500 big bet downswings this year and without hu and 3-handed it's probably a lot worse.

    Hope that helps and good luck if you decide to go for it this year.


  7. Man Im sure all that good cooking didnt hurt either. Got to eat right and your mind will work right.

  8. Yeah no doubt, I'm lucky to have a wife that can cook and likes to cook.

  9. Wow awesome reults, most players aiming for SNE see their results collapse or at best breakeven, congratulations!

  10. Thanks. I noticed a lot of the limit players going for SNE, multi-table lower limits and play a very straightforward ABC game, almost robotic. I definitely didn't want this to be me otherwise the results probably would have broken down. Right at the end I was forced to 7-8 table the 10-20 games and I pretty much played breakeven poker over 20 or 30K hands. If I was doing this all year, I would have gone nowhere in terms of improving my game. So to anyone trying for SNE this year, I'd recommend trying to avoid that robotic multitabling style. It might payoff in the short-term by reaching SNE but it's not going help your overall game. In today's environment where the players are improving, it's dangerous to remain stagnant for a long period of time.

  11. Nice work. I'm currently starting the SNE grind myself. I've just started playing more HU and the swings have been much bigger than anything I have experienced. I've started to sit in some 15/30, but I don't think we've played yet. What were some of the best and worst swings you had playing HU?


  12. how to add "BB/100 pre rake"? I searched HEM forums but didn't find.

  13. Absolution-

    I just looked at a graph of heads up last year and I had 2 or 3 175 BB downswings, that was the most. I was very selective with who I played and averaged about 5 BB/100 over the course of the year - those are the major contributing factors.

  14. BB/100 prerake is a custom stat that a friend made for me.