Monday, November 30, 2009

November in the Books

I ended the month at 918K VPPs which puts me slightly more than a day ahead of pace. I've been experimenting lately with 8-9 tabling the 10-20 games. I'm able to earn over 1000 VPPs an hour which basically means I can earn a days worth of VPPs in about 3 hours. The downside is that I'm probably playing break even poker for that time so I'll be giving up some money by doing it. I'm too close to getting SNE status though to take any chances. I will probably spend at least 4-5 hours a week over the next few weeks multi-tabling the lower limits so I can have a 3-4 day cushion heading into Christmas.

November ended on a 350 big bet, 20K downswing. I still ended up about 40K on the month so I'm very happy with that. As has been the case with many other months, the overwhelming majority of my winnings have come from short-handed play. This is what I'll be focusing on next year across multiple sites.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Breakout Day

Anyone who has regularly followed my blog knows I've struggled a lot with 50-100 this year. It's been about the only negative in otherwise really great year. Every time I decided to make the jump up in limits, I hit a 200-300 big bet downswing and was forced to move down. Well that finally changed. Over the last couple weeks I was able to recoup the 150 or so big bets I lost earlier in the month at 50-100. And today I went on a tear winning about 200 big bets.

I feel a lot better. Even though the downswings were overwhelmingly due to luck, it was starting to get in my head. When I play 30-60, I never think about the stakes I'm playing, I'm solely focused on making the right decisions. Lately whenever I'd start playing 50-100, the most prevalent thought in my head was that I was playing 50-100. And I had the mindset of expecting everything would start going wrong since it had so many times. I'm glad I finally hit a good run of cards, it's what I need to get over the hump.

I've been really busy lately playing trying to stay ahead of pace. I'm still about a day and a half ahead so I haven't gained any more ground but I'm going to play as much as possible these next couple weeks. I'll keep you posted and hopefully I can get a strategy post or two in by the end of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crunch Time

I've really been slacking on the poker front the past couple weeks. As of writing this I'm at 883,500 VPPs which puts me 4,100, or 1.5 days ahead of pace. With two holidays, New Years Eve, a round trip to Boston, and a trip to the Bahamas all within the next 45 days, I really need to get it in gear. This means playing a minimal amount of pool over that time. Ideally, I'd like to be a week ahead of pace going into my Boston trip for Christmas. In order to get there I need to play about an extra 400 hands a day which is an extra hour or so. I think that's doable. Really it has to be done, I don't have a choice at this point.

Things have really turned around since my last blog entry. I'm on about a 500 big bet, 35K upswing, very similar to my last two months. More importantly I'm playing very good poker right now, perhaps the best all year. I took two days off this past weekend, which I believe is my longest stretch without poker in 6 years and it helped refocus me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Turning Pro

I’ve had a few people ask me what it takes to be a professional poker player so here are some of the more important things needed (in no particular order).

Good Work Ethic

There are no schedules, hours to work, or projects to do like a normal job so it’s really important to have a good work ethic. There’s no one to tell you whether you’re doing a good job and no one to let you know when you’re slacking. So, you need to be self motivated to put in hours at the poker table and play to the best of your ability at all times, even times when you’d rather be doing something else.

Mental Toughness/Ability to Handle Stress

Poker is an exceptionally stressful profession. I remember watching a WSOP broadcast a few years back and one of the players they were talking about was a former air traffic controller. The ATC said that poker was more stressful than his job and I believe him. There are very few professions where you can work hard for weeks or even months and make no money. Or worse, lose money. And it isn’t that you’re necessarily doing anything to cause yourself to lose, it’s often due solely to bad luck. It’s human nature to second guess, question, and assume you’re doing something wrong. And that can be stressful and frustrating especially if you’re not doing anything wrong or doing anything differently than you had been doing.

A Proven Track Record of Winning

Poker can be very deceiving in this way; I’ve had 50,000 hand stretches where I’ve lost money and 50K hand stretches where I’ve run 2 big bets per hundred above expectation. If you are a live player with the same expected win rate as me, you could play 40 hours a week for a year and lose money. If you’re a small to marginal losing player, you could get lucky and win money for a year. The point being, you need a long proven record of winning, preferably hundreds of thousands of hands. Absent this I’d want a good enough understanding of the game to realize that I know more than the people I’m playing against. This requires honestly assessing your abilities.

Discipline/Self Control

It’s important to always play within the limits of your bankroll even if this requires dropping down in limits. One of the biggest mistakes I see poker players make is playing limits too high for their bankrolls. Ideally, I’d like to have 1000 big bets for the limit I’m playing. At a minimum, I’d want 500 big bets and some type of rakeback deal.

Also important is the ability to recognize the times you’re not playing your best game and to have the discipline to get up from the tables and call it a day even when you’re stuck or losing. I struggle with this one a lot. My mind plays tricks on me, especially when I’m tired, and I’ll continue playing for hours when I’m clearly not on top of my game. Recording videos while playing can help with this.


Poker isn’t about being the best, it’s about winning money. Being able to recognize when you’re in a bad game and having the discipline to leave it is an important skill. Unless you’re Phil Ivey or Tom Dwan, they’ll always be somebody better than you.

Desire to Learn and Improve

The level of play in poker has improved the last couple years and I expect that will continue for years to come. It’s important not to get complacent with your game and stop studying, reading, learning, etc. I’ve been reading more and more stories lately of previously successful players calling it quits because they can no longer win. I’d guess many of these people stopped improving at some point and too many players surpassed them in skill.

A Significant Other/Balance

It helps immensely to have someone who supports you and understands what you do. Having someone there on those days where you’re stressed out is incredibly helpful. It would be impossible to list all the benefits of a significant other but suffice to say it’s tough to make it as a professional poker player without one.

I put balance with significant other because your significant other provides you with balance. Life isn’t all about poker when you have somebody to share it with. Poker can be all-consuming as any job can be and that’s not healthy.

I was asked whether poker is lonely and isolating. It can be but it doesn’t have to be. Having other things to do in your life and having someone to share your life with prevents this

This list isn’t all-encompassing by any means; it’s just what came to mind when typing this.

Last, I thought I’d share one of the last emails I sent from old job at Bank of America. I sent it to myself and it was a list of rules to follow when I first started playing. I’d encourage anyone starting out to make a list of rules, list of goals, or both before you start playing full time.

>Subject: poker
>Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2005 14:28:31 -0500
>1-2 Hours Reading/Watching Poker
>1-2 Hours Gym
>4-6 Hours Playing Poker
>I will stick to this schedule at all costs.
>I will not play when tired, emotionally upset, or not at my best.
>I will not play limits above my bankroll in an effort to recoup losses.
>I will take shots at bigger tournaments if my bankroll permits.
>I will play more live poker to gain experience.
>I will take breaks between sessions and extended breaks if I'm feeling
>worn out.
>I will be selective in my games unless I am looking and feeling up to a
>challenge (bankroll permitting).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November - Another Rough Start

I've had nearly identical starts in my last three months. Each month has started out up 10 or 15K, followed by a vicious downswing. This month I was cruising right along, up about 15K, when I hit a 325 big bet, $30,000 downswing over the course of 2 days. Ouch!

So I'm back to playing 30-60 again and there'll be little 50-100 until I can build my bankroll back up. I typically leave 50-60K in my poker account which isn't a whole lot for 50-100. And now that half of it's been depleted in two days, I have no choice but to stop playing. I should keep more money in my account for this reason. I struggle a bit with keeping too much money online.

I feel pretty good mentally. Although I've been relentlessly pounded at the tables for two days, it's not going to deter me. I need to stay focused on making the right decisions and forget about how much I'm up or down.

On the VPP front, I'm at about 860K, about 6 days ahead of pace still.