Monday, July 12, 2010

The Start of something big.

"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." - Stephen King


Four months is a long time. I know this, I understand it, and yet when your day is filled to the brim nearly every day, its tough to get online and write a blog. All this I guess begs the question of why today I'm able to actually take some time out and write down what has been happening in the recent past and will be happening to me in the near future. And there is a lot to write about, so this post may very well fall into the "Holy crap, thats a lot to read" territory. Since I know some of you may not want to read 6 pages worth of material, I'll get to the main reason for my post immediatley, and work from there.

Today is my last day punching the clock and working for someone other than myself. Hopefully forever, at the very least for the forseeable future. When I started working with Nick back in November, my ultimate goal was always this. Work hard, learn, improve, and absorb everything I could, really looking to determine whether playing poker full time is a viable career option. After 8 months, I can say now that everything I have seen and done has shown to me that this is something that I can do and support my family. Obviously, transitioning into a full time career playing poker has both its pros and cons, but after weighing them both against each other, the pros (getting to spend more time with my family, no commute, saving on gas, working from home, income increase, potential future earnings) far outweigh the negatives (fear and doubt, uncertainty, surviving variance.)

So two weeks ago, I gave my notice at Verizon. I had quite a few people ask me why I wouldn't just quit and get to grinding, and while its a valid question, the answers aren't hard to find. I came to Verizon looking for a job during a tough time, and while my employment was beneficial to them, they also did not turn me away. Couple that with the fact that of the call centers I have worked for, this one is by far the best and treats their employees with the greatest amount of respect, it is easy to see why I would give them the courtesy to be able to look for a replacement. After working here, it is clear why I will be a Verizon customer for life. I leave with no ill will on either side, and if the need arrises in the future, hope to be able to return to continue my employment.

As Mr. King says in the above quote, hard work is the key in tapping into talent and using it to help make you succesful. I'm sure there are people out there who will feel that what I am going into will be easy, a cake walk, walk in the park. That being able to set my own hours, wear what I want, vacation when I want etc. are all this job will be about. While there are some wonderful perks to working from home, playing poker for a living is far from glamorous. For those of us that are considered grinders, poker is exactly that, we put in a large amount of hours every day. We deal with negative variance that can at times make us question our abilities. Online poker, playing 10-14 tournaments at a time is very mentally taxing. While a lot of the game is fairly automatic to me now in a lot of situations, there are still many many times a day where a very important decision must be made weighing mathmatical probabilities, possible outcomes, how the decision will affect my image, and most importantly whether the decision is correct in terms of expected value, all within the span of about 20 seconds max. In comparisson, in my job right now, I cannot remember the last time that I've made any significant decision, and the output from my brain required to do my job is virtually nil.

While there were a few moments of fear and uncertainty when I finally reached the decision, with each day that has passed towards my end date with Verizon, a greater sense of calm has come over me. The decision has been made, the papers have been signed, and starting tomorrow, the only thing I will need to do is get up, get myself ready, go to my computer, and treat poker as a job. Poker is no longer a hobby or recreation for me. For millions, it is still exactly that, and it is now my job to take their recreation money and put it into my pocket. I am part of a very small percentage of people who can call this great game a career.

How much work will actually be required of me then? Best I can tell, Ill be looking at anywhere from 45-50 hours per week, and while some may say "Well, aren't you working more than you were at your other job?" Well sure, if you don't count in my two hours of commute every day, my one hour lunch, and the fact that I didnt see my family hardly ever. I however, do count those things, and I wasn't being paid for any of it. My goals (And while I say goals here, this is more or less a requirement. Its the same as if your boss says he needs a 20 page report done in 1 week. You wont make a 20 page report your goal for that week, you'll finish that 20 pages because its your job.) for the month to start with will be 2500 games. While I'm not setting a monetary goal, my current per game win rate puts me at a comfortable earn rate to support my family. It is important at this point to continue to focus and improve, making the best decisions possible with every game that I load. Its not fullproof, errors still occur, but learning from them is key. My errors come few and far between now, but recognizing them quickly and correcting them is what makes me a winning player. I made a large mistake last night that cost me a good shot at a win, but its not something that will happen again, heat of the moment or not. With that, I think I'm going to break this into two parts. The second part is going to reflect more on the past four months, and how the changes there have affected my decision.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Heads up poker picks

Here is the top half of the bracket. Circled in red near the bottom you can see my final two Jason Mercier and Howard Lederer

And here is the bottom half. In the middle you can see JM= Jason Mercier stands alone with a 2-0 win over Lederer. Good luck to all who are playing. I will update as the day goes along.

NBC Heads-up Bracket Challenge.

So this is pretty short notice, but I am running an NBC heads-up bracket challenge. Works just like a standard March madness bracket challenge. The bracket can be found here. Fill this out, take a screenshot and send it to me at The cost is $10 to play. Send the money direct to my Master3004 account on pokerstars. Money and Brackets must be submitted by 1 PM Pacific time today in order to count. Good luck to all. I will post my Bracket picks before the 1PM deadline so everyone knows this is on the up and up.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where ya been?

Yeah I know, its been a while, shut up.

First of all, I know some of you have talked to me about how hard its been to post comments. I made some changes to the settings on the blog, you should be able to comment much easier now.

So where've I been? Between taking care of children, working, and grinding, I just have not had the time to get on here and update. No worries though, I should have a bit of time this weekend to go over my february results and March goals. So check back here soon for that.

I just had a quick second to jump on, cause I wanted to put down to writing something going through my mind. Last night was bad. I made two terrible plays late in a tournament that have been wearing on my mind the past 12 hours or so. These kinds of mistakes are what are seperating me from acheiving the results that some of the other students have acheived to this point. The leaks must stop, and they must stop soon. Regardless of whether anyone else is, I myself am losing patience in mistakes. Yes, when you start something new there is generally a learning curve, but after a full quarter, my mistakes should be lessening to the near nil point.

Tonight I get back into a more simplified grind. I've been attempting to add more tables recently and I think it has added a bit more to the mistake log. Tonight I scale back to 9-tabling and providing complete concentration to making the correct play, especially in the late game. No longer will I feel bad about my play. Playing well and losing is one thing. Playing like shit and losing is a completely different monster, and I won't stand for it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Poker player math

So, I've had questions from people since starting this. The questions that I wanted to talk about today is one that comes up fairly often, and its an important questions to regard when deciding to play poker full time. I also feel that once this questions can be answered correctly, it is at that point that poker can begin to become a full time career.

So, that question is normally a very simple one to answer, and when asked to someone with a job that pays a certain dollar amount per hour can be answered within seconds. How much money did you make today?

All you non-poker players, answer the question in your heads and think about how long it took to answer. 5 seconds? ten? Ok great.

Now all you poker players, answer the same question and think about how long it took. The answer isn't hiding in the Cashier tab on your poker client, it isn't accesible by logging onto sharkscope, and in fact, the question should be able to be answered just as quickly as any other person out there.

So here is where poker player math comes in, and is probably one of the hardest concept for those outside of the poker community to wrap their heads around. Today we will deal with the ever popular Player A, and his exploits into the poker world on a specific day.

Now Player A plays primarily $12 NLHE 180 man tournaments on pokerstars. His average ROI is 30%, so for each tournament he plays, he should expect to earm $3.60. Player A on this particular day played for 8 hours and managed to play 80 tournaments, resulting in playing ten games per hour. However, variance decided to be the hateful beast that it is, and Player A failed to cash in any of the 80 tournaments. So, the questions is, how much did Player A make per hour today?

Lets do the math the non-poker player way, and then the poker player way.

So, as a non-player we would look at Player A's losses for the day. He played 80 tournaments at $12 a piece and made $0 profit. Therefore, he lost $960 dollars over 8 hours, or made -$120/hr today. Wow, Player A is terrible.

Now, lets do the math the poker player, or correct, way. Player A played 80 tournaments at $12 a piece and made $0 profit. Player A played 10 tournaments per hour. His normal hourly rate is $3.60 per tournament. Therefore, Player A made $36 per hour today. Wow, Player A made $36 an hour. Thats a hell of a lot more than I make.

You see the difference? Short term results in poker mean absolutley zero. Player A may have lost 960 dollars today, but what about when he wins 3000 the next day? Short term results mean nothing. Long term results, ROI over a large sample of games divided by hour played = your hourly rate. Regardless of how much you have made or lost that particular day. When you are able to seperate Short term wins/loses from the bigger picture, you are well on your way to becoming someone with a professional mindset. Those outside may never understand that, and maybe they aren't supposed to. Maybe thats why we are poker players and they are not.

Just something on my mind today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A clarification. And why PLO is a fun (and frustrating) way to spend an evening.

I wanted to provide a bit of a clarification from my student of the month post. We got to talking about this last night during the training session, and I don't think I made myself as clear as I needed to be. When I brought up the comparison of a sports team rising to the level of competition of a better team, I was actually including this as one of my faults. The simple fact is that I should be playing at my highest level, whether I am at a game full of people who have never touched cards in their lives, or surrounded by nine guys who have played for ten years straight. Stepping up my game when faced with better competition is something I feel is a detriment of mine that I will continue to work on. By playing at my highest level at all times, I will increase my winrate and win more often. And that, is what poker is all about. As Nick said yesterday, "What are we here for if not to win and make money?" And with that, he isn't saying that we need to win every game, because we won't. And we all know that, or at least we should, because we wont win every game. Hell, we won't even place a majority of the time. What I think Nick meant, and I'm sure he will correct me if I am wrong, is that we need to continue learning as much as we can so that we are making the correct play as near to 100% of the time as possible. Because as we have seen in other posts on this blog. Correct plays + number of games = profit. Therefore, the more correct plays we make, and the more games we play will equal to outrunning variance and making a profit.

Now, I wanted to put a little something here since I see that Nick has sent prospective students to the blog to see what I have to say. If I can offer those that will become the next group of Nick's students one piece of advice, it would be this. Forget anything that you think you know about poker. Shut your mouth and listen. And above all else, if you ever get to thinking after you have been told to make a certain move or do a certain thing that you think is wrong, open up sharkscope, pull up your graph, pull up Nick's graph, and place them side by side. Then ask yourself, who makes more money? When you see the answer, tell whatever thought popped in your head that this move may not be right to shut the fuck up and listen.

Ahhhhh,gotta love the rants

Now, on to my second point.

For those not aware of what PLO is, it is a poker game invented by Satan to torture those of us who are good and just.

Actualy, PLO stands for Pot Limit Omaha, which says the type of limit the game is (Pot limit) and the type of game (Omaha, a 4 card down version of texas hold em, with very different rules.) I'll do a full write up on the game at some point in the future, as it is my favorite and most fun game to play right now. But, for now, while grinding holdem 180 man poker is what I consider my part-time job, there are times when fun needs to come into play, and I was able to take a generous gift from Nick for being student of the month on the brand new poker site to have some fun with. If you are a poker player, check it out for sure. Anyway, I was able to take an night off from the grind and get some time in at my favorite game, and boy what a time it was. The game (being that its on a new site, I hear this is quite normal) was incredibly soft, which is a wonderful thing for someone who understands the PLO game. But PLO can be very frustrating, after being up almost 200 dollars, I ran into a gigantic pot that I ended up losing. Im going to try to do this from memory so bear with me

Two players joined me to the flop after a preflop raise from the button. I held AhQc9c7h. The flop was 8h10h6s giving me a monster of a hand, with the nut straight (best possible hand at the moment) plus a nut flush redraw (The best possible hand if another heart were to come at some point.)

So I did exactly what you are supposed to in the situation. I kept the pressure on. PLO is not a game of slowplaying the nuts on the flop, as there are oftentimes when your nuts can be trumped quickly on the turn or river. There are also times where someone will have the exact same straight cards as you and your redraw becomes very important, as letting go of the nuts on the flop is very very hard to do.

This is running long, so let me sum it up really quick. Both my opponents had backdoor flush draws (they hel two spades in their hand with 1 spade on the board. Two more spades would need to come on the turn and river to make their flush) One had bottom pair and an overpair, which came to basically nothing against my straight, and the other had the dummy end of the straight with the nut backdoor flush draw. Two running spades later, and my money joined theirs across the table. Up 200 playing tight preflop/aggressive post flop. Lost nearly all of it on this one hand. I love where I was, and though I took a bad beat, I was more tilted by the hands I played poorly and won, than the hands I played wonderfuly and lost. That more than anything makes me feel like I am maturing as a poker player.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lets see some graphs shall we?

Hey, I promised pictures, and I always deliver.

First, lets start by looking at my overall graph since I've started being coached by Nick.

Ok, so lets go over a bit of this. First, on the left side, I started working with Nick right around the 150 game mark. You can see that my graph took a pretty severe dip. Nick wanted to see how I played without any instruction, and you can see it wasn't all that great. Since my first session with him, I have been in the black for over 2000 games. Right around the 1600 game mark is when my first runbad hit. I had an 82 game cashless streak, which, while not fun, taught me a whole lot about my game and myself. It also taught me that the hardest thing that will confront me when I make this a career is that there will inevitably be downswings, and I have to roll with them, as you can see that within 250 games, I bounced right back to where I had been at the start of my downswing.

So, simply put, the faster the games are put in, and the more time that is invested, the easier it is to outrun variance. And outrunning variance is often the only way to survive it.

The second graph shows my improvement month over month. I started with Nick in Novemeber, and you can see the amount I have improved each month since then. You can also see at the bottom of February, my progress so far this month. 7 days in, 1/4 of the way through the month I have completed 252 games, juuuust slightly over my goal of 250 at this point. I am pushing hard to get to the 1000 game mark, and I feel I will, I'm in a bit of a downswing, you can see only about $50 profit so far in the 7 days, but I'm feeling good about my game, and sense an upswing coming soon.