Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Poker Stars Hall of Fame and A Look Back (With Results)

I just earned my five millionth VPP and an induction into the Poker Stars Hall of Fame.  I haven't actually submitted my bio yet but I should be up shortly.  According to the site, I'm the first exclusively fixed limit player to make it and the twenty-second player overall to earn at least five million VPPs.  It's one of my biggest accomplishments as a poker player, a reflection of all my hard work and dedication, and something I'm very proud of.

I vividly remember the first night I started the SNE chase about four and a half years ago.  I was sitting on a bed in a Las Vegas hotel room and opened four 10/20 tables.  In fact, I have a picture of it that used to be my profile picture for this blog.  I remember being very excited and possessing an incredible desire and motivation to play.

Although I've been playing on Poker Stars for about eight years now, prior to my decision to go for SNE, the majority of my play was on Ultimate Bet, and prior to that, Party and Paradise Poker.  I remember making the decision to leave the safety of my UB hosting job with 100% rakeback, and feeling very apprehensive about playing on Stars.  Although I played in a lot of tough short-handed games against other hosts on UB, I wasn't really a 6-max player and I felt like I was going to have to practice very strict game selection to succeed.  I think I was very fortunate the first year to run really well at 15/30 which initially was my highest limit.  That allowed me move to 30/60 very quickly where I also ran fairly well.

This is what my lifetime results on Stars have looked like:

Looking at these results it looks like it's been a walk in the park but the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.  I've experienced countless 300-900 BB and 50K-100K downswings.  The graphs don't come close to doing justice to just how wild of a roller coaster ride it's been.

These graphs are something I will refer to anytime I'm in the midst of a downswing.  In fact, that's something I've always done over the years.  As miserable as some downswings can be, once they're put in their proper prospective, they don't seem nearly as bad.

The thing I'm most proud of looking at my results is my specifically 6-handed play.  I've averaged nearly 1 BB/100 hands for 1.2 million hands.

I've spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours over the last five years working on my 6-max game.  I remember towards the end of my hosting job at UB, where I was primarily a heads up and short handed player, looking at specifically 6-handed results and having a negative win rate.  I sent an email to several other hosts asking to check their 6-handed results.  Every one of them responded to say theirs was negative as well.  This really jolted me and brought me to the realization that there was an enormous amount of room for improvement in our games.  This is when I committed a lot of time and effort to studying preflop situations in PT and HEM, analyzing postflop decisions, and discussing hands and strategies with friends.  And these are all things I do to this day and will likely do as long as I"m playing.

Back to the present day, I had a great month last month, in fact I can't remember even having a single losing day.  I ran exceptionally well and played equally as well.  This month it feels like someone flipped a switch and I feel lost at the tables.  I'm around even big bet wise and up a few thousand but I've had incredible difficulty focusing and even keeping track of the action.  I've probably made more mistakes in six days then I did all of last month.  I wish I had an explanation for this but I don't.   This has happened to me a number of times over the last few years and I always seem to snap out of it.  But it's always scary nonetheless.  It's a really uneasy and strange feeling to go from playing my A game for an extended period to immediately playing my C game and not being able to find an easy way to snap out of it.

I think the grind of playing ten hours a day, every single day, may have something to do with my lack of focus.  I'm feeling pretty burnt out right at the moment.  My brother is coming to visit me next week so I'm planning on taking some much needed time off from the tables.  By time off, I mean playing five hours a day instead of ten hours a day.  As ridiculous as that sounds, it will give me time to go to the beach, some restaurants, play tennis, etc.  All things I've done very little of this trip.  I'm up to about 700K VPPs and need to average around 4400 a day to be done by October 15th.  It shouldn't be a problem but I need to find motivation and focus quickly.

Good luck at the tables everyone.


  1. Wow sick. Congrats.
    I wish I were half as good as you :)

  2. congrats...I want to be you. If only satan was real Id sell my soul to him.

  3. Thanks guys. And my life isn't nearly as glamorous as it probably seems. It's a ton of hard work and long hours.

  4. Congrats and GL in the future. You are more motivated then most of us, belive me!

  5. well done !! do you have freetime in life? or its a 24 hours day job ??

  6. super impressive Tony!

    grats and gl in the future

  7. Thanks a lot guys, and good luck to you to Hen, except in my games. Just kidding :)

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Congratulation and respect! Super impressive, GL in the future! :-)

  10. Where do you find motivation to play so many hands from year to year?

  11. To be honest, money is the primary motivation. I have a mortgage and a seemingly endless number of bills so like everyone else, I'm fighting to stay ahead of the game.

    But aside from that I actually love to play and compete. It does wear on me very quickly though and there are so so many days where I'd much rather be doing something else than playing poker. But I do get the last three months of the year off if I can make SNE by October so that's what I'm always shooting for and looking forward to.

  12. Well done mate! Keep on rocking

  13. Thanks Vince, see you at the tables!

  14. ya, still on st.barth. will be back in 2 days ;-)

  15. Very nice indeed tony ;)

    Could you please tell your STEAL % also?

    Im having problems finding the right amount to steal ;)

    And finally, would you say that you could beat the 2/4 and 3/6 games also with your playing style? I mean the rake is higher there ;)

  16. My steal % is right around 50%. I used to think I couldn't beat 2/4 and 3/6 due to the rake but some people have posted their long term results in this blog and it does appear beatable. Also I believe rake was reduced in the past few years on Stars so that would also make me believe it's beatable.

    Good Luck.

  17. Tony, congrats with your results.

    Am I right or wrong with this point of view:

    The very best online LHE only players make very little money compared to the very best players in other games.

    That is because LHE is more or less a solved game where the regs style of play is incredibly similar and is easy for a person with a high pokerIQ to learn fairly fast. The top LHE(only)-players stick to LHE because they are not smart enough to compete in other games with a much deeper level of complexity.

    To put it in another way, my claim is that a winning 50/100 LHE only-reg is likely to struggle in any pot- or NL game above ~3/6 but a winning 3/6 NL/PL reg would be a winner in a 50/100 LHE-game after a few months of practice.

    Good luck at the tables.

  18. There are a few things I don't agree with:

    Limit HE is far from being solved, the bots haven't solved heads up yet (though they're very close) so you can imagine how far away they are from 6-max play. And now consider that it's humans playing and there's still quite a margin of error and even improvement among the best LH pros. If there were a scale from 1 to a 100, 100 being solved and 1 being someone randomly clicking buttons, I'd estimate we're at about 90 now.

    I think it's quite a stretch to say the top LHE players stick to LHE because they're not smart enough to compete in other games. Many of the top guys right now play other games like KPR, St!ckman, ZZeigler, BrazzMokey, JesusLebTnot and are very successful at them. In fact now that I'm thinking about it, I'm the exception among the top players in that I don't play other games.

    I think my situation is different than others because I can't afford to play other games. I don't have a huge bankroll and I have a insane amount of expenses with a house, a wife, and having to travel all the time. My wife and I also live a very high lifestyle, which of course is a choice, but that also cuts into my bankroll. So I'm forced to constantly grind and go for SNE which is worth about 120K a year. I've also paid 100% of my taxes on poker winnings over the last 8 years, well over a million dollars. Many LHE players don't pay taxes because they live in countries that don't tax gambling winnings. And I'm sure others don't pay the full amount or even pay at all even when they are required (I know of a few such players in Canada). It really can't be understated how big of a difference not having to pay taxes is. If I were in that position I would have a 7 figure bankroll, would have no pressure to play, and could focus on learning other games. And I absolutely would do this. This has been one of the most frustrating things for me the past couple years. I'm watching fixed LHE die but don't have the time to learn another game.

    One area I think we agree is that I think LHE is relatively less complex than other games. There aren't as many variables in a fixed limit structure compared to NL or PL so the game isn't as complex. That doesn't mean it's any easier to get to the top though. Everybody playing fixed limit HE has that same advantage of learning a less complex game so it's no less difficult to become a top player. It is less difficult to "master" the game though due to the lower complexity.

  19. Thinking a little bit more about this, I don't think "master" is the right word in the last sentence. It's easier to become more proficient at the game but not necessarily easier to master.

    If you were to take PLO for example and compare it to limit. You have two games that are basically unsolvable for humans (this may not be true for bots at some point). But I don't think either game can ever be played perfectly by a human being. So is it even possible that one game is easier than the other when neither can be played perfectly?

    I may write a blog post about this, I'd like to hear other's thoughts.

  20. Its an interesting discussion.

    As for top LHE players, I have only seen stickman and jliama playing non-fixed betting games, the others are sticking to limit games as far as I know.

    I feel LHE is more or less a one dimensional game and to stick with your scale I think we are over 90 on the solved scale but still 90 is very very high.

    Compare that with the top players discussing hands on Phil Galfonds forum (or any other HS forum). The depth is just nowhere as close in any limit hand maybe with the exception of hands that play out with 4 players+ on the flop which just never happens in tough games.

    You are probably right that no games will ever be played perfectly by humans but it is indefinetely easier for humans to get to the almost 100 point in LHE than in NL/PL games.

    Isildur is a great example. When he came on to the scene, no one had thought about overbets before and it took him an incredibly little amount of time to get very good at limit games as well. I really doubt it would work like that the other way around with a limit reg entering the NL/PL scene.

    Just to make it clear, I think all of you top players are very intelligent but I also believe virtually no one of you would ever stand a chance against top NL/PL guys in an 8 or 10-game mixed match. Many of you know that so you are sticking to LHE even though there are zero truly bad players at mid-high stakes.

    Regs these days have just dragged the bar in regards to defining a bad player.

  21. As I said nearly every top limit player plays other games and are very successful at them, KPR, JesusLebt,BrazzMonkey, and St1ck are the best examples of this. They aren't playing 5/10 either, they're playing the highest stakes both heads up and 6-max.

    On the subject of Isildur, he lost over a half million dollars playing heads up with Jama-Dharma who wouldn't make the top 10 for LHE heads up players. He also lost quite a bit SallyWoo and KPR from my understanding. In fact, I would go far as to say LHE is Isildur's worst game.

    SallyWoo by the way is another example of a nosebleed limit player that's playing mixed games now at the highest stakes successfully.

    So we have numerous examples of successful limit players transitioning to other games, and to the highest limits as those games, and being successful. This can be verified to some extent by searching through the high stakes database online. Also there's a 2+2 thread that lists the results of all nosebleed games monthly, you'll see a lot of current and former limit players among the names on those lists.

  22. To put it short:

    FL = MANY small Decisions
    NL = FEW big Decisions

    And now to something completly different ;)

    Tony I see you play 28/20 when there are 6 players at the table.

    I know im not nearly as good as you and futhermore I have not played so high stakes as you play, but it seems to me you are very tight. Is it not a good thing to play a little looser? I mean with those tight stats I cannot see you 3 bet mediocre hands when facing a steal? And you must play extremly tight in EP.

    Maby you could loosen up a little bit and gain more BB/100? Or maby you have been looser earlier on and know its no good?

    Kind Regards

  23. I'm definitely not "very tight" but on the tighter side as far as regs go. I think I'm actually about 29/22 and most regs are in the 31/23 range. That's really not that big of a difference.

    Preflop play is something I spend the most time studying and I'm extremely confident my opening ranges are near optimal. My 3-betting and defending ranges vs. UTG and HJ may be off a bit because I don't have enough data to draw concrete conclusions.

    I also have to be aware that the game is evolving and improving. Almost everyone is 3-betting with a high frequency and defending liberally so that leans towards playing less hands.