Life Shouldn't Be A Fuckin' Grind

I will never be a poker pro, but my lifetime poker ledger is positive and I think that's something to be proud of.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Putting the Dream on Hold

When I first started this blog a little over a year ago, visions of TP/MM danced constantly in my head. I thought it would be relatively easy for me to take over the poker world. I figured that moving up in stakes would just be a matter of logging a few thousand hands at each level, then jumping up. I set aggressive goals for myself and I came pretty far in a relatively short period of time. However, I've come to realize that if I ever am a pro poker player it will likely be a long time from now. Even if somebody handed me the bankroll to play professionally tomorrow, I'm not sure I'd be ready to handle it mentally. I've been in a pretty bad downswing this month and I haven't had things really go my way in a couple of months. Those things have caused me to start re-evaluating my goals and questioning my game. I've come to the conclusion that I don't think I would even enjoy a career as an online grinder even if I could get there. Maybe I could play live for a living, but I kind of doubt that too.

My current six months at 2/4 6-max goal has been de-railed due to the bankroll hit that my current downswing has put on me. I no longer have enough in my bankroll to where I really feel comfortable in those games, so I'm dropping all the way down. I'm going to reduce my overall bankroll to about $1200 and put the rest in my savings account. If I did go broke on that $1200, I'd probably re-load some from the savings account, but I'm no longer planning to consider that money part of my poker roll. I shouldn't go broke either because my regular cash games are now going to become .5/1 limit hold'em (I'm going to start trying to play a mix of 6-max and full-ring I think), .25/.50 NL (occasionally), and $10-$25 tournaments and SnGs. I may also play a little 1/2 HORSE on Stars and some low-limit Stud variations on FullTilt.

I'm reading Todd Brunson's Stud Hi/Lo section of Super/System right now and I'm really liking it. My next Super/System section will be O8 and hopefully I can get some good info out of that. I also just got done re-reading SSHE; though I don't feel like it's done me much good the way I've been taking it up the ass in LHE lately. I think next on the poker book agenda may be a re-read of HOH1 (if I can ever get it back from my friend), of course all of that reading will be just bits and pieces in my spare time.

For now, I'm putting the TP/MM dream on hold. I'm going to start approachign poker more as a recreational thing and a hobby. It's a hobby that I've made several thousands dollars at in the last year or so and that's a plus. My hourly rate may not be good, but that's not that big of a deal, it's a hobby, not a job and my hourly rate playing video games, watching movies or reading novels is exactly $0/hr. If I make $1/hr playing poker I'm going to come out ahead on my main hobby. Ultimately I'd still like to giving playing professionally a shot someday (maybe after I retire or something); I'd like to get in some high buy-in tournaments or higher stakes live games. In fact, I plan to start playing the $10/$20 game at the Argosy pretty soon. My live roll is pretty short, but I'll probably take a shot the next time I go to the casino and try to get it up to 50BB. That's all I plan to keep in my live roll for a while, because I'm not playing professionally and it won't be the end of the world if I lose that money. I can always get my hand $150 and go play 3/6 or something. I've got a little better than 50BB for 6/12 right now and the plan is to keep at least half of my wins in the bankroll to pad it for the inevitable downswings, but I'm willing to take shots on shorter money than that to try to get in the 10/20 game. I'm pretty sure the 10/20 game was a better game than 6/12 the last time I was there, so there's no reason not to give it a shot.

Anyway, that's the plan for now. I'm officially a recreational player. Sure, I'm a winning one and I'll probably still take money out of my BR from time to time, but I'm no longer going to approach the game as a means to make money (as I had been the past couple of months). Let's see where that takes me.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Micro Limit Superstar...

That's what I seem to be. A micro limit superstar. It's pretty sick when you think about it really. I got home from work today and 3-tabled .5/1 6-max for a while. I played a bit over 300 hands and won $44. Yes kids, that's 44 BB in about an hour. How fucking sick is that? The players aren't discernibly worse than at 2/4, in fact one table I was on had a bunch of TAGs, but for some reason I seem to run fine at .5/1 and not so much at higher levels. Well, one thing I did notice is that it seemed like less hands went to showdown than a 2/4. Maybe that's something I should examine in my game. It's possible that I bluff too much with overcards and get called down a little too much. Not really sure I need to examine the went to showdown percentage on multiple levels and see if that might be a leak. But, it did seem that there were less showdowns at .5/1 both on my strong hands and my bluffs.

Oh well, guess it's back to 2/4 next session since I certainly didn't seem to be in a downswing on the .5/1 game. We'll see if that carries over. If not, well then I've probably got leaks that need ot be examined. At least I'll always have my status as a micro-limit superstar though. I'll always be able to beat the weakest games online and live. I guess that's something to hang my hat on.

I Never Thought it Would Happen to Me

I used to read posts all the time on FCP and other places talking about how sick the variance was in poker and in shorthanded games in particular. I never really thought much of it. I ran decently, I had bad days, but never anything too ridiculous and never for a protracted period of time. I never realized that I wasn't bulletproof. I never thought that I'd hit that massive downswing like you read about. I never thought it would happen to me...until it did.

This month I've played a little over 3400 hands of 2/4 6-max limit hold'em. For the first 1000 I broke even. I started out stuck then, got back to even with a couple good sessions and I distinctly remember looking back and seeing that I'd broken even and thinking that wasn't bad. Then things went to hell. In my last 2400 hands I've lost 210 BB ($840), a little of that is probably due to tilt and the occasional misplay, but even when you're running good and winning you're gonna misplay some hands. The bottom line is that I've run like absolute shit for the last 2400+ hands, which has spanned about 2 weeks or so. This has put a major dent in my Party Poker account and my overall bankroll. I'd never really realized until now how important it is to have that 400-500 BB roll to play 6-max games, but now I'm finally starting to get it. If it hadn't been for the $375 or so I won by finishing 10th in the $40k at the beginning of the month I'd be almost broke on Party Poker right now.

As it is, I think I may drop down and try to ride it out until I start winning consistently again. It's not that I don't have the bankroll...if I add up all the money I have on various sites and in my savings account (which is a part of my roll which I took offline a couple months ago) I still have enough to be properly rolled for 2/4, especially considering that I can't expect to run this bad for too much longer. Still though, I think the money is starting to affect me a bit and I may want to drop down until I book a couple good solid winning sessions in a row. After that I can move back up with confidence. And to anyone who still thinks you won't hit a terrible downswing, remember it can and will happen to you at some point.

Friday, August 18, 2006


I think this is by far the biggest downswing I've ever been in since I started playing poker seriously. In fact, if you included the 150 or so BB I lost at 3/6 in May and June you could probably really shake my confidence. However, I still think I have a pretty significant edge of the players that I see on a regular basis in the 2/4 games on Party (I'm not so sure this was the case at 3/6). At this point my 2/4 downswing is sitting at about 175BB over right around 1700 hands. It could be worse, but on one of my last hands Wednesday night I raised with JJ and got 2 callers, the beautiful flop was JT6 and both players called my bet. The turn was a 6 and we ended up capping it 3 ways. On the river I think we got in 3 bets 3-ways and one villain flipped TT and the other mucked winning me a pot of like $96. I decided right then that that was a perfect time to quit on a good note. I'm hoping that hand will signify the end of my downswing and the beginning of an upswing, but only time will tell.

I didn't play on Thursday and I won't be playing online today. Since it's Friday night and I'm off work I will almost certainly be heading out to Argosy to play the 6/12 game. I've done very well in that game so far, and I know that's one place I'm not running bad. When I do get back to the online game on Saturday or Sunday I'm sticking to 2/4 for a while longer. Like I said, I really believe I should have a pretty significant edge over the average player I've seen at those stakes so I see no reason to quit the game right now. I have roughly $600 in my Party account at the moment and if I lose all of that, I will then drop down. I actually have enough in my overall poker roll that I could lose the $600 and play 1/2 pretty comfortably, maybe even 2/4, but if I suffer a downswing of more than 300 BB in addition to the money I lost at 3/6 I will have no choice but to conclude I'm doing something wrong in these shorthanded games and at that point I think dropping down to .5/1 and trying to figure things out again will be my best course of action. At this point I really don't expect to have to do that though. This downswing has to end at some point and like I said, I believe a small portion of my losses have come from tilt and misplays, but I still believe I have a solid edge in the game so things are bound to turn around soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Finally Starting to Understand Shorthanded Variance

In my last 1200 hands I've dropped 120 BB. Slightly more disconcerting is that I haven't had a winning month in cash games since April and it looks like it's gonna be mighty hard to pull this one out now. I'm gonna keep playing though and try to pull through. I don't think I'm playing badly really. Sure, I make some mistakes here and there and I get a bit tilty every now and then, which does add up, but on the whole I'd say I have an edge over my average opponent in the games I've been playing. I've just been running really badly. Perfect exampled hand; I'm in the BB with QhTh, folded to SB who raises, he's been raising my blind alot, so I re-raise, he caps and I call...flop comes some like 862 with 2 hearts, he bets I raise, he 3-bets, I cap (probably a mistake), turn blank, he checks, I bet, he raises, river blank he bets, I fold. I missed every out I had in that hand...sure I could have played it a little less aggressively, but I was operating on the assumption that he didn't have to have much and I doubt he did, I think any Q, T or diamond would have been good there.

Tonight I played 220 hands and I think I saw only 2 premium pairs. I'm not hitting hands when I need to often enough, I'm getting coolered alot and I'm getting raised and re-raised every time I try to bluff. It sucks, but I'm not gonna dwell on it. I'm gonna play my 5k hands this month, I'm at 2200 at the moment so I've got some work to get in. I'm gonna see where I am after that. If my Party account gets down to $300 or $400, I'll likely hit up .5/1 for a while and try to grind my way up, maybe working on my multi-tabling while I'm at it. That's still more than 100 BB away and hopefully I can pull out of this downswing before that happens.

Just wanted to add, my total bankroll is not 200 BB for 2/4 limit, I have some money on other sites, though not as much as I'd like because I haven't final-tabled a tourney (outside of the Party 40k a couple weeks ago) in quite a while. Even so, I have a bankroll that is overall capable of sustaining 2/4, it's just not all on Party and I figure I should drop down if go on a 200 BB downswing anyway so that I can work on my game some.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

In a Good Mood

I'm in a very good mood at the moment. Nothing monumental, but I do feel solid confidence in my game right now which is very good. I played 7 hours of 6/12 last night, got on a table around 9:45 and the game broke around 4:45. I cashed out for $163, so I guess 13.5 BB winner on the night. Not huge like last time, but I felt really good about this one because I felt like I was really grinding most of the way. I was an up and down session and I was stuck a couple of times and came back. I did miss some bets here and there, which I something I want to work on. Mostly it involves having the courage to bet marginal hands for value on the river (and sometimes the turn) when no one has shown any real strength up til that point. I sometimes have trouble pulling the trigger because I give people credit for better hands than they have.

For instance, I had a hand late in my session where the game was shorthanded and I raised with QQ. Nearly everyone called and the flop came A9x, I bet it and the only caller was the biggest donkey at the table. The turn was a deuce and he was first to act and reached for chips like he wanted to bet, then checked...I read this as strength and checked behind thinking he might have an Ace or 2 pair, the river was a 9 putting two 9's on board and once again he fingered his chips, then checked...I figured that the 9 was one of the possible hands he could have had on the flop and didn't want to get check/raised so I checked behind and I think he showed something like 62o for a pair of ducks. So, I realized that his "strength tell" that I picked up on the turn probably did mean strength, he was just so bad that he thought one pair was strong enough to call down with...of course, he called the flop with no pair no draw so it shouldn't be surprising. The thing is that I knew he was a donkey and should have known that he didn't have to have the Ace to be calling, in fact he was aggressive enough that he probably would have raised with the I missed a couple of bets there. I think that's the main thing that I have to work on in live games. I need to get better at picking the right spots to value bet marginal hands on the later streets. I play pre-flop and the flop very well, but I'm weaker on the turn and river.

All that said, it's good to know what needs to be worked on, but the bottom line is that I still have a ton of confidence in my game after tonight. I'm not afraid of anyone that I play with at the these live tables, I'm better than all of them and I'm proving it. I intend to continue to play as much 6/12 as I can for the next several months, then maybe move up to 10/20...which by the way looks like a pretty juicy game at the Argosy. My biggest goal right now though is to put together enough cash to go to the WSOP Circuit Event in Louisville in October and take a shot at the 10/20 game there and maybe play a couple of Sats or a $500 tourney if I put together some winnings.

On Tilt

I wrote the below in response to a post about Tilt on FCP. I think it deserves memorializing here in the blog.

I steam much more easily playing SH LHE online than I do playing LHE live. Not exactly sure why, but it could have something to do with playing more hands and seeing more beats at a time. I think I'm starting to improve a little though. The other night I was playing and felt myself tilting a bit and once I managed pull out of it I think I got a bit of it back, but still quit down for the night.

The next day I played a session where nothing went right and I didn't tilt at all. I realized that I was running bad and there was nothing I could do but make good decisions. I really felt like I had turned the corner a little bit. Tonight, I was playing live and one of the first hand I played I called a raise out of the BB with JTo and flopped top two pair. I checked b/c the original raiser was just to my left and I wanted to check/raise, he bet, then and MP player raised and I went ahead and 3-bet. The original raiser then called 2 bets cold. We checked it around on the blank turn (a mistake on my part, I really should have bet for value, though it really wouldn't have mattered); anyway, the river was a Q and I check/called and the original raiser showed AK for the rivered gutterball. The MP player had JT also and looked and acted really pissed, I just smiled and told the guy "nice hand." And, amazingly I didn't feel angry at all. Again I felt like I'd turned a corner a little bit.

The point of all of that is that I'm starting to think that one of the keys to not tilting may be getting used to taking beats, realizing you're not always going to win when you should (mathematically) and really taking a step back after a bad beat and realized what you could have done better or just consoling yourself by realizing that you played it right and there was nothing you could have done. This is hard to do online sometimes because you're playing multiple tables and there's another hand right there, but I really think that giving yourself a moment to consider the hand can be really really helpful.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Haven't posted in a few days because I haven't had much to write about. I've been running bad in cash games the last 800 or so hands. Today I played 250 hands and picked up QQ-AA 7 times and won once. Sucks, but what're you gonna do. I just have to play through it. I'm trying to keep my confidence up and keep playing. I went on tilt a little bet Wednesday night I think, but hopefully not too terribly and I plan to start working on noticing a little bit better when I'm tilting a bit. I probably won't play today online since I'm off work and it's Friday, so it seems like a pretty good time to go to the boat. I think I'm still pretty close to on pace for my 5k hand goal for the month and that's all that really matters. Hopefully I can turn things around in the next 3k hands and put together a winning month.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Final Table....

Today I played a 400 hand session of 2/4 6-max and got my ass handed to me to the tune of 50BB. After a 20 minute break I signed up for the 20k guarantee on FullTilt, the 40k on Party and a Stars 180-man. I went out before the first break on Stars and FullTilt. On FullTilt I'd gotten a decent stack going, then lost some and had about 3k when I raised to 350 with QQ and blinds of 50/100. I got 3 callers and the flop came KJ9 with 2 spades, I had the Q of spades. Both blinds checked and I bet about between half and 2/3 of the pot, the SB then check/raised me all-in and I only had about 1500 left behind. I decided to go with it even though I knew I shouldn't and sure enough he had 99 and that was that. I also donked off $11 in the new FT 5k guarantee at midnight.

While all this was going on I was building a stack in the 40k and, after I busted out of the first two tourneys, playing another 65 hands of LHE and getting 15 BB back. In the 40k I dodged and weaved my way into the money and after building a stack mostly through pre-flop raises and continuation bets I ended up with a shorter stack all-in with QQ against my TT and I caught a straight on the river, so that was my luck for the tourney. After that I worked my way down to the last two tables and had about 550k, but then things kinda turned against me. I raised in MP with QJo and the BB push for about 30k more with A7s and I didn't get lucky. Then a bit later it was folded to me in the SB with Q6o and I raised, the BB who was shorter stacked pushed and I was getting 2.7-1, but would have to call 100k chips and be left with only 280k if I lost. I could figuring all I needed was two live cards. He flipped over QJo and I puked. After that I went kinda card dead, but managed to reach the final table as the shortest stack with about 200k and blinds of 20k/40k with 1k ante.

I was in UTG in the first Final Table hand and folded QTs. Then after folding both of my blinds (in one of the hands TT cracked AA to screw me out of 9th place money), I picked up 44 on the button. An MP player raised and I pushed all-in, then the SB re-raised and I resigned myself to needing a 4. However, MP folded and the SB showed AdQd; of course he flopped a Q and I was out 10th for $375. It really kinda bugged me that he re-raised with AQs there and it bothered me more to lose a coinflip than it would have if he'd had an over pair. Can't really explain why though.

I guess the good news is that I made another final table even if I was shortstacked and if I'd caught better cards at the 2nd to last table I'd have had more chips. I put myself into position to do well going into the last 2 tables, but the cards didn't fall the way I needed them to and I may have been a bit over-aggro. At any rate, I did wipe out my earlier losses and I came back on the limit table to post that 15 BB win which made me happy. I'm well on my way to my goal of 5k hands of limit this month and I managed to turn a losing day into a winner. All in all, I can't really complain.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Finding a level you can beat

Most poker players when they win (and even sometimes when they don't) attempt to continually move up in stakes. Obviously to a certain extent this is a good idea. If for instance .5/1 LHE and 2/4 play about the same there's no reason why you shouldn't play the higher level as soon as you have to bankroll for it. Obviously you can make 4 times as much at 2/4 as at .5/1. The problem however that most players run into is that they eventually reach a level they can't beat, then they tend to become donators. The smart ones realize they can't beat the level they're playing drop back down after they've lost a portion of their roll, lick their wounds, grind back up and attempt to take another shot. The not so smart ones usually go broke, and eventually (if said player is a winner at lower levels) they get some money together and work their way back up, and maybe someday take another shot at the level that broke them. All of the true greats worked their way up and took shots at higher levels. But, not everyone is capable of reaching the top level. In fact, very few are and that's where I believe the problem comes in for most players.

It's my belief that the one of the reasons that most players end up losing money at poker is that they don't find a level that they can comfortably beat and settle in at it. Now, I'm not preaching complacency and I think it's important to always take shots, however I think that many players would benefit from finding a comfort zone and settling in there for a while, instead of constantly trying to move up. If for instance you have the bankroll for and are beating 5/10 LHE, why not settle in there for a while and play the game, win money, maybe take a little out to use for this or that and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you want to take shots at the next level fine, take half of your earnings each month and set them aside into a "taking shots" bankroll. When you reach a certain level (maybe 100 BB) in that "shot taking roll", then take a shot for a few thousand hands. If you win and get your bankroll up to a level that can sustain that limit, then maybe you can make that your new regular game. If you lose it, you still have an intact bankroll for the previous limit and can grind back up.

For me right now "comfort zone" is probably 2/4 6-max. I've only played about 6600 hands at that level, but I'm fairly confident that I can beat the game playing 2 tables at a time. That means I get in about 200 hands an hour or about $16/hr if I'm winning 2 BB/100. While, the bottom line is that I'd have to play a ton of hands to really make a lot of money at that game, I'm still making enough to make it worth my while. So, I plan to settle in and make that my regular game for a few months. I'll try set aside a portion of my earnings each month into a "taking shots" roll (at least in my records I will, I may not put it in a separate account). Then, in a few months I may use that to take a shot at 5/10. If I find that game beatable and can build my 100 BB and my old 2/4 roll into enough to give me the bankroll to make 5/10 my regular game, then I'll make it my regular game, if I instead lose my shot money, I'll still have my 400-500 BB bankroll for 2/4 and can grind my money back up to take another shot down the road.

The other key to all of this, I believe, is your comfort level with the money that you're putting on the line in any given poker game. Of course, most people will tell you that if a game is within your bankroll you'll never be playing scared. I'm pretty certain that that's simply not true, in fact, a lot of it is mental and psychological. Here's an example. A few months ago an FCPer told me about juicy 10/20 game on Friday nights at a local casino. At the time my bankroll wasn't much more than $3k, however I decided to go ahead and take a shot at the game. Up 'til then the highest I'd played was a 5/10 live game and my regular games were 3/6 live and 2/4 online. I had about $300 in cash that I kept aside to play live games and I pulled another $200 out of my bankroll and sat in the 10/20 game with 25BB. I went in focused and ready to play higher than I'd ever played before. I was a little nervous (which by they way I think is good, if losing doesn't hurt a little bit, chances are you won't play right), but I was focused and I was mentally ready for whatever happened. Losing my $500 would have hurt, but it wasn't going to devastate me, and I knew what I was in for and was ready. That night, the game was really juicy and I hit a few hands and doubled my buy-in early, I lost a few key hands later on, but still booked a win and cashed out up about $250 when the game broke a few hours after I started.

My other experience with 10/20 came just a few days ago. I'd just finished a monster session at 6/12 winning $500 and the game had broken. I wanted to keep playing so I decided to sit 10/20. I found myself feeling uncomfortable almost immediately. I wasn't really playing scared, but I felt scared. My live game cash bankroll had been on life support and this win was a huge shot in the arm. I found myself sitting there wondering if I was about to piss away the majority of my winnings. I realized in my state of mind at that point that I wasn't going to be able to play my best game or really enjoy myself, so after only an hour of play I stood up and cashed out stuck $27 in the game. The point is that I was simply not comfortable putting my money on the line in that game. The key fact that we have to face up to as poker players is that even though we may be a favorite in a given game, it's still gambling and on any given night the best of the best could lose every dollar he sat down with. If you're not comfortable I believe that it's best to simply get up, walk away and come back sometime when you are comfortable.

The final thing that I want to touch on that I believe plagues a huge number of poker players is something that I will call lack of focus. All of the high-stakes players (and I'd venture to guess the vast majority of pros) can play many different poker games well. However, even the pros have games that they are stronger at and games they're weaker at, and they didn't get to a point where they were playing every game well overnight; it took years of practice and play. I think that many relative beginners, like myself, may try to do too much too fast. Every person has his own pace and some may be able to learn (master to an extent) all the games within a short period time, but most players won't be able to do that and if they try to, they'll end up maybe playing several games passably, but none of them expertly or even all that well. I think that a better idea might be to pick your best game and try to become an expert at it (or at least very good) then start mixing in new games little by little. You'll probably always have a best game and it will likely be the one you concentrated the most time on first, but it can give you a winning foundation and something to fall back to if a new game is frustrating you.

For me, that game that I should be attempting to become an expert at is limit hold'em. It's already my best game and in fact I would say that I'm almost an expert in loose/passive small stakes games. However, I have a lot to learn about beating better players and short-handed games; which is why I should spend a ton of time working on it. I'm also already a tick above average in NL Tournaments and I see no reason for me to quit those, in fact I need to mix them in so that I don't lose my game and so that I keep a little variety in my life. After that though, I should probably spend very little time playing other games. Once I've logged 50k hands of shorthanded LHE and really feel comfortable playing for decent stakes, then maybe it'll be time to start branching out and adding in other games. Until then, it's probably detrimental to my development as a player to try to do too much too fast and play every game at once. I'd love to be an expert at every form of poker right now, but I think I'm best off taking things slow and trying to master one game at a time. I think many other players would be smart to do the same thing.