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.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Survivor! At last!

Before I get into this, big congrats to Aaron for his first official day out of the corporate universe and working for himself rather than working for the man. Aaron has completed the transition into making online poker his full time job, and I am very excited to learn all I can from him.

Now, onto a post I've wanted to write up for a long time. For about ten years now, one TV show has garnered the top spot on my must see list every time it comes on. The show exemplified appointment television for me and is a must watch as soon as I possibly can. With the advent of Tivo, things become much easier in that regard. I have three shows that are must sees for me every year. They include 24, The Amazing Race, and of course Survivor

What I've always found interesting about Survivor is that I decried it when it first debuted "That sounds terrible, why would anyone watch that." However, I along with 54 million people decided to watch the finale of the first survivor, and I was hooked. As soon as I got the chance, I picked up the first season on DVd and I was blown away by just how much better at the game Richard Hatch was than anyone else. Even while watching the second season and every season thereafter I felt that noone would touch Hatch's mastery of every aspect of the game. He laid back when he was supposed to, he proved his worth with the fishing spear at just the right time to keep himself from being booted, and he ran an expert four person aliance all the way to the end, and he exploited his other competitors when the merge came, specifically Joel's asinine and rediculous alphabetical voting scheme.

But then last season came along, and Hatch was usurped as the master of Survivor. The irony of the whole thing? The new master did not win the game, and looking back there is no way he could have. He was a victim of the evil bitchgodess Variance, one with whom I am very farmiliar. Russell (that would be our new master) was the quintessential Survivor player. he was cunning, unbelievably smart, a good actor, and (for the most part) kept his mouth shut when he was supposed to and looked strong when he was supposed to. But Russel really had no chance to win with the group of people that he was playing with.

Survivor at its core is the simplest of games. 16-20 people are stranded in the middle of nowhere with minimal supplies. It is up to them to make all the materials they need to survive, catch food, make shelter, and basically find a way to live in the wilderness with very little help for 39 days. Every three days one person is voted on to leave the wilderness by the remaining players until only one remains. Simple right? Well like I said, at its core, yes. But the game has many twists and turns to help keep it interesting and entertaining. First, instead of all 16-20 people living together, they are split into two seperate tribes. Before someone is voted out of the game, the two tribes compete to see which tribe has to vote someone out. before that (usually) the two tribes compete for some sort of luxury that will provide comfort or sustinance to help give them an advantage in later competitions seeing as the other tribe would have less comfort/food.

So what makes Russel so good that he will go down as the best to play the game? A lot of things. Lets go back to Mr. Hatch and do a quick comparison.

1. He laid back when he was supposed to. Count it. One of the most major screw ups of this game is being too loud, too strong, too quick. On Russel's season, the girl who probably would have been the strongest of the female competitors this season was the first to get the boot, and why? Because she was too loud, too strong, too quick. Being a strong loudmouth when surrounded by a group of new people will immediatley put a target on your back. So what did Russel do? He recognized the strong loudmouth and he put into the minds of all those who were placing the target on her back that she had to be the first to go. Walla- the threat is gone. Russel lays low, survives the first cut and is able to get time to get to know people and get an aliance together.

2. he proved his worth with the fishing spear at just the right time to keep himself from being booted Whats that? You mean Russel knew how to do things in the wilderness as well? You're damn right her did, and after the second week, having eliminated two of his more serious threats, Russel was able to show the goods, as at this point, having a strong team to compete is important, and thus strength becomes coveted and weakness is quickly eliminated.

3. He ran an expert four person alliance to the end of the game Lets add another one to Russel's list. 4 seems to be the magic number when it comes to Survivor alliances. The very first Survivor Alliance was 4 people strong, and the most recent was as well. The most succesful seem to always consist of 4 people determined to get to the final 4 and then battle it out. This strategy is in stark contrast to a game such as Big Borther where a two person alliance is essential and any further players added to the mix can get messy (unless they are pawns specifically used for votes, knowing that your two person alliance is strong and that pawn will be voted out when the time becomes right) So, after taking out a majority of their team because they were terrible and couldn't win an immunity challenge, Russel and his tight alliance of four infiltrated the other camp at the merge, created tension and stuck together to take out a much weaker group of 8.

But Russel took things a step further by being the first player in many seasons to actually seem like he was attempting to win the game from day one, instead of just enjoying the experience. He found 3 (!!!) hidden immunity idols hidden around camp. And he did it all without one clue. The determination of this guy to keep himelf strong by having a backup idol was awe inspiring and shows another reason why he SHOULD have won the game.

But again, the reason for this post is why Russel didn't win, and in fact why the chances of him winning with the group of players he was playing with was basically none. Lets start with when the players were seperated into two seperate groups. Russel did everything he could at the beginning of the game to make his team dependant on his strength and skills. Again, as I said before this was neccesary to keep him strong and keep a target off his back. He burned socks, destroyed water supplies. Did everything he could to make his team miserable and count on him to help them. While this was important to keep him around as long as possible, it created a detrimental effect of having the team so weak that they couldn't win an immunity challenge. This was a problem because the final group of jury members who vote on a winner are made up of the last nine survivng people other than the final three. By eliminating a majority of your tribe early in the game, the jury then becomes made up almost entirely of the opposing tribe who have no reason to vote for you to win, unless you are up against other remaining memebers of your original tribe. Luckily for Russel, he was able to make the final three players from his tribe, and the jury made up entirely of people from the other tribe save for one.

One other crucial mistake Russel made in the game was to introduce the fact that he was already a millionaire outside of the game. As unfair as it is, this caused him to be judged by the jury as less deserving of the win because he "did not need the money" and "it could go to someone more deserving." Of course, the winner of the game should be the person who played the game best, but when you have humans deciding the outcome of something, more will come into play than just who played the best game.

And this is where variance kicked Russel in the ass. Because as important as it was for him to be able to be strong without putting a target on his back, thus having a weaker team and losing players who may have voted for him on the jury, it was equally detrimental. Had the jury been made up entirely of his tribemates, there is little doubt he would have won the game. However, by keeping the stronger member of his tribe around, it was more likely that he would have been eliminated early after the merge and would not have made the final three. He was caught in a double edged sword.

The final part of the ass-kicking variance is that the final jury was a bunch of idiots that had no idea what the game was about. And there is nothing Russel could have done about that. The jury eventually awarded the first place prize to a very quiet but nice young girl who made no moves and did nothing to improve her overall status in the game other than align with Russel. Unfortunatley, the jury (being the idiots that they are) were always going to vote for someone nicer who did not orchestrate their ousting than for Russel. For that reason, Russel was drawing dead, and had no real shot at winning.

However, tonight starts Russel's possible redemption as he has been recruited for Survivor: All-Stars 2.5 It will be interesting to see how he fares against people who actually know what the game is all about. Seeing as this post is entirely too long, I will be reviewing Survivor on a week by week basis. You'll get my thoughts and opinions each week. It may not be on Friday, as Tivo is a lifesaver, but when I get to it, I will.

Student of the month? Ohhhhhh boy.

Believe it or not, after 26 years of life, I have my first official student of the month award.

Thats right, Screw Del Roble, screw Herman, and screw Oak Grove, I have been named the Rainman poker school for turning fish into sharks first official student of the month. I am overjoyed by the fact that I was chosen by Nick and his coaches as the first student of the month for his coaching program. It really validates just how much effort I have put into improving my game and making sure that when I play I do so at optimum concentration and efficiency. Nick wrote up a nice little blurb that you can check out on

Once again, I am stoked, and very thankful for the opportunity that I have been provided, and my work and effort is just going to improve from this point forward. I have recently gotten the chance to mix in a few of the larger games with my mix of 2's and 7's, and have already seen a nice profit from them. I feel like my game actually excels playing against better players.

That is an interesting phenomenon actually. The ability for poor athletes/teams etc to step up their play when playing against better talent. (Now, I'm not saying that i am a poor player in any sense, but there are certainly guys that are tiers and many tiers above my play ability at this time.) Anyway, Back when my old girlfriend played softball for a college that was division 1, but well below the ranks of other division 1 schools, there was always one team that the girls really excelled against, and it just didnt make sense. On a regular basis, the team would get blown out of the water by teams that just weren't very good on the grand scheme of things, but about once a year, the softball team would make a trip to Knoxville and take on a team that made the women's college world series every year, and the strangest thing would happen. The softball team would start playing well. They would hit their spots, make amazing plays, and constantly frustrate this team that was 100 times better than them. Not only that, but they managed to take 2 wins of the ten times that they played. That to me is an incredible stat, and any time I watched them play against this clearly superior team and somehow step up their game was really very interesting to me.

Anyway, maybe its an actual phenomenon, maybe it only happens to certain people, but I really feel that I play my best when surrounded by those who are at the top of their game. And don't get me wrong when I say that the players in the 12's are all at the top of their games. They aren't. Instead of about 95% of players being terrible like you will see in the $2 games, you are more likely to see about 80% of players being terrible. There is a much higher number of regulars who make a living playing the $12 and $36 games than there are at the $2's, but there are still plenty of terrible players joinging the game to take their shot. It is those players who help pay the salaries of all those who make a living doing this, and we welcome them with open arms. When one cracks your aces with A7o on the bubble, you just smile, shake your head and reload and really hope that guy puts any money he wins back into the pot later on.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Keeping sharp

A couple random thoughts while I'm on my lunch break at the daily grind. (Good name for a newspaper by the way.)

During my breaks and lunches, I try to do something to help keep my mind sharp. A sharp quick mind is one of the most important tools to possess when playing multiple poker tables at once. Often 6-9 decision need to be made in quick succesion, and as I've noted before, making the right decision a majority of the time is imperative to being a winning player. So during my downtime, when a majority of poker websites here are blocked, I need to find something else to keep my mind sharp. Two activities I have found that really help are Sudoku and Gin Rummy. Gin Rummy is a very complex game where knowing which cards are deadwood is the difference between winning and losing. I play online against a computer, and while the computer makes some terrible plays at time, just learning which plays to make and when helps keep me sharp. One of the greatest poker players ever (Stu "the kid" Unger. And I would suggest looking him up on wikipedia. His is one of the most interesting stories of any person I have read. Such an incredible mind wasted and destroyed by the allure of drugs) is also considered by many to be hands down the best Gin Rummy player ever.

Anyway, just a quick rant. I hope you all enjoy when I rant. I tend to do it a lot, and hope it keeps your interest. I've got some in the near future I want to touch on, including a look forward to the next season of survivor (which will include my recap of last seasons, I swear), why online poker isn't rigged, and why people think it is; and a discussion on the UIEGA and what it will mean for my pro poker hopes if it does or does not get repealed.

Well now I HAVE to update. + January results

So January has come and gone, and I didn't update my blog nearly enough. For those of you close to me who never get emails, or facebook responses, or e-cards, or basically anything that has to do with getting on the computer and typing, you know that it doesn't happen very often. It just so happens that a blog does require both getting onto a computer and typing, so keeping it current is a fair struggle for me, though something I'm really going to try to start doing in the spaces after I complete my sets. At that point, Ill be able to have some reflection and go over whatever is on my mind at the time. It may cost me an extra 10-15 minutes of sleep, but sleep is overrated anyway.

As for my title this time around, I got linked on Nick's blog at, and so i figured I should really start keeping this up in earnest, as I may have some more visitors to my little corner of the interweb.

Good news is that I have finally figured out how to post pictures. So, once I get home I will be able to post my first graph and show how I did for the month of January. The most important number that you'll see isn't how much my total profit was, (as judging your play based on total profit is useless) but the number of games I played. That's right, I met my 1000 game goal, and was very excited to do so. I kept my ROI at a very respectable level while doing so, so I was very happy with my results this month.

February, I have been set forth a very ambitious goal by Nick of 1000 games. Two days into the month, I have a respectable 70 games completed. At this pace, I would finish at just under 1000 games. However, with some free time on Fridays and Sundays, I should be able to kick it into high gear and complete the 1000 games.

February is a very important month for me. Maybe this is just in my mind, but I feel that this month will really set the bar for my future in the game. My focus will be 100% upon my poker game during every free minute that I have, I am studying, preparing, and analysing upon completion because I want to get better. By the end of the month, I expect to be at the next level of games, and the next level is the one where playing for a living can become a reality. I am very excited about my possibilities, and feel very confident in my game right now.

That's all for now. With my new found internet skills, Ill have my graphs up tonight.

Until then.