Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Issues with Motivation

I've played an abysmal number of hands this month. In fact, I've barely played more hands than I used to play when I was working fulltime out of the office and only playing poker "recreationally" (or whatever my relationship with poker could be said to be). It goes without saying that in order for me to succeed at playing fulltime, I need to have the discipline to put in the hands I've decided I need so that multiplied with a low estimate of my win-rate I end up making an amount of money each month that I can sustain myself (ourself, really) with. That amount is roughly $3k, but in order to be on the safe side, I've set my volume goals such that I'll end up making roughly three times that in an average month so that even if my low estimate of my win-rate ends up being too high, and even if I have a bad month, I should still be able to scrape on by. And an average month can make up for two very bad months.

So this month, I'm up $8,356 after having played only a third of the hands I had set out to play. I'm absolutely positively running hot; I figure this is at least twice my average win-rate and is almost certainly not sustainable. So what's my problem? It's that I don't want to ruin it. I've had a great month and I've made the amount of money that I wanted to make, and I don't want to have a couple of really bad days to end an otherwise perfect record.

It's results oriented thinking at its best (or worst, depending on your sensitivity to sarcasm) and I'm well aware of that. It's just really hard to find any motivation to sit down and play when I have everything to lose and nothing to win. Of course, I do have something to win, but it doesn't feel that way. I feel like taking the money and running. The fact that I'm not excused from poker forever - in fact, I need to try and repeat this feat starting in just a week - doesn't seem to stick. I just want to ride this wave of confidence for as long as I can. And if I can make it last until June 1st, great.

But, consciously, I know that I need to get back in the game immediately. I need to play more than a paltry 800 hands a day, even if I'm up a buy-in at that point and feel like I want to just escape the risk of losing it again. Consciously, I know that even though I've made $8k this month, I need to make $15k in order to live off of it until September 1st, and so I'm just about halfway. Consciously, I know that I'm no more likely to lose in the next session than I was in the previous one and that all my paranoia about the next session recoiling like a spring because I've run so hot so far this month is unwarranted. I'm still good enough to beat the games and my next 3 hours at the table still have a positive expectation.

My conscious self just has a really hard time convincing my subconscious self that despite Baby Benjaming being more interesting than Party Poker's 200NL tables,  despite the weather being awesome,  despite me feeling a bit tired, the good movies on TV, the lawn needing mowing, Civilization IV being a fun game, online forums being interesting, visiting friends sounds like fun and last but definitely not least Lori wanting to hang out with me (and I with her) I still need to park my butt in this chair and grind.


After lunch today, we're walking over to feed the cats of some friends of ours who are out of town. When we get back, I'll mow the lawn. Then, dammit, I'm going to play 3k hands of poker.

Or at least 2k.


Unless there's a really good movie on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In Preparation for the WSOP

this isn't actually me
#1: Making all the hotel arrangements.
As part of the package I won, 7 nights of stay at the Monte Carlo hotel is included. Since I won't actually know if I've won any money yet after 7 days (we arrive on the 1st of july, I tentatively play my first day on the 6th) we booked the flights to stay for 15 days and just hang out in Vegas if I get knocked out early on. That way, should I happen to survive to day four, say, we wouldn't have to perform the highly expensive trick of rebooking the plane tickets.

Now, since Party pays for the first 7 nights of the hotel, and we're staying 14 nights, how do we work this out? Ah, Party informs me that as a service to me they can book extra nights for me and I can pay directly with my Party Points. Sounds like a great deal: Party has a similar system to Poker Stars where you "buy bonuses" with your points, and the exchange rate on "points to cash" for the hotel room would turn out to be as good as the best bonus. Plus, I didn't need to worry about the exchange rate. Awesome.

Except, here's what boggles my mind: They charge me $1,199 (or the corresponding in Party Points) for one week at the Monte Carlo. I assume they get good rates on the rooms in booking them, since they're likely putting at least 100 people in that hotel during those two weeks. So when I go to Monte Carlo's website and check how much it would cost me to book it straight through their website, without any coupon or special offer, I should really expect to find a sum higher than $1,199 for 7 nights, right?

You've guessed it by now, but the answer is "no." If I book the room myself online, it costs me about  $650 for a week. So, if I'm correct in assuming Party gets a good deal on the rooms they're booking, they're sticking a 100% profit margin on their own players who book rooms through them. Nice job, there. Incidentally, if I wanted to spend $1,199 on 7 nights at the Monte Carlo, I could get a suite for that amount. I'm almost tempted to do that.

#2: Baby Benjamin and cats
Despite my objections that he's a big boy now, Lori still insists that we bring him to Vegas with us. I thought we could have him stay home and watch the cats for us, but apparently he's "too young."

Flying 18 hours (not counting the time spent at airports) with a two-month-old is going to be a challenge, but we've arranged it with KLM that we get a "baby basket" that we hang on the wall in front of us - which also gets us seats with a wall in front of us, for better or worse.  So that should be OK. The hotel shouldn't have any problem in just sticking a crib in our room and now that I think about it, I think I'm going to call them and ask if they perchance have a baby stroller to rent/loan.

Also, because we're planning on getting Benjamin a dual citizenship (Sweden/US), we have to get him an American passport before we go. Apparently the rule is such that if an American citizen ever enters America on a passport of a different nationality, he can lose his rights to citizenship. And apparently this is also valid for two-month-olds who just haven't had time to get a US passport yet. So next week, we're driving him up to Stockholm to go visit the US Embassy and get all the papers in order. I assume they're not so difficult about this that if they fail to issue us a passport in time, they can't just give us a paper saying "it's OK, use your Swedish passport." Then again, Ben does look a little bit like a terrorist, so who knows.

The cats, however, cannot come with us. So we're scrounging up favors from people we know who may consider coming by our house once a day filling up their food bowls, emptying the litter box and making sure they're alive and well. So far, we have the first week covered, with some "maybes" for the second week, so it's looking good.

#3: OMG it's a tournament. LIVE!
If you know me - and seriously, if you don't, why are you reading my blog? - you know that I'm an online cash game player. I play 6-max 200NL and 400NL. I don't play tournaments, unless I'm trying to rid myself of Poker Stars FPPs and use them to buy tickets to the Sunday Warmup. So that's the entirety of my tournament experience; that, and reading Harrington on Hold 'em two years ago. So Alan - my former coach, now just poker buddy - suggested that I'd consider getting poker tournament coaching to make sure to straighten out any rough edges I might have, and so I contacted Matt Matros from Stoxpoker for a one-hour session talking specifically about the WSOP Main Event, what to expect, preflop play, flop play, day 1 play, bubble play, etc. It was a good investment, I feel, and not only for the information, but for calming my nerves a little bit.

The most important thing I could take away from the session was that if I get close to the bubble, there's absolutely nothing wrong with folding my way into the money. A cash in the WSOP ME would effectively double my bankroll, and my chance of going deep isn't significantly altered by me playing aggressively on the bubble since I'd still need to fade 600 more people before reaching the final table. Day 1 and Day 2, though, all my goals are aligned and I should just play my best exploitative cash game style. I was pleasantly surprised that Harrah's have increased the starting stacks this year and we're now starting with 300 big blind stacks, which gives a LOT of wiggle room for a skilled player, and I think that suits me perfectly.


So, I've gone from nervous to excited. This'll be fun!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Yeah, wow, variance. I don't really know what else to say, but...

... but April 1st is when I decided to play fulltime, and suffice it to say that I didn't get the best start. My confidence shot to hell, wondering what I was doing wrong, and generally freaking out about this decision to try to survive on poker income. Fortunately, April didn't last forever and May has been fantastic so far.

But, and this is really the lesson I took home from this, downswings aren't all bad. For me, they serve as a humbling setback, so that I don't forget to think about the game. Because even if I play well constantly, it's still valuable to reconsider some lines I take, to run filters in HEM, to try to achieve better results. Now, I made the image small and perhaps too small to discern any numbers, but from peak to bottom in April, there was a $6k drop (or 30 buy-ins) which is monstrous by almost any standards and definitely the biggest downswing I've had in my no-limit career so far. Still, when I thought through some lines I had taken, some hands where I feel I could have played better, what I found was this: I could have broken even for April. I don't think I could have won money - there was decidedly a lot of very unfortunate hands that took place and I don't think the best regular in the world would have come through this series of hands with a big winning month - but I could have played better in some spots.

And it's important to remember that even when I'm running hotter than the sun, there's still more money to be made in making my lines better, adding new tricks to my game, exploiting opponents more efficiently, sizing my bets just a wee bit better. And when nothing feels like it's working out for me, I can still make the loss smaller by playing better. I can always play better.

I'm really excited about my results for May so far and right now - knock on wood - I'm firmly on my way to my first 5-figure month. If I can manage a few of those before September 1st, I'll have passed this experiment of mine with flying colors.


Also, I'm headed for Las Vegas to play in the Main Event in July. I lucked myself into a seat through a Party Poker/CardsChat tournament which, for whatever reason, was only contended by seven other people. Talk about overlay. I'm nervous about playing in such a large tournament, and live no less, but I'm going there with the expectation of being knocked out on the first day and if I should happen to do better than that - even, heaven forbid, make the money - then that's great. But I'm viewing this as a paid-for experience and a free-ish trip to Las Vegas for me, Lori and Benjamin.

Anyone in the Linköping area who could be persuaded to look after our cats for two weeks?



Monday, May 4, 2009

Random but sombering thought.

As I lie sleepless (why I'm sleepless I really don't know; I'm tired but can't manage to fall asleep), I think about stuff. Maybe that's why I'm struggling with insomnia, who knows. But I think about stuff. Occasionally, I think about something interesting enough that I have to get out of bed and go look it up, or perform calculations on it, or, as was the case here, run filters in Hold'em Manager on it.

Basically, I've been slamming my head against the problem of "where do I leak money that made April a losing month?" and not really getting anywhere. So I lay in bed thinking about hypotheses for stuff to look for. Like, am I bluffing recklessly? For instance, if I check-raise the flop and get called, am I too "sticky" and bet the turn, shove the river, in spots where I should really just give up?

Or perhaps I don't bet enough rivers for value? Do I check back stuff like top pair on the river when I could have eeked out a little value?


So I look through this stuff (this, by the way, is why I'm at the computer at 2am), and I realize, in passing, really, that I lost about $2k last month - not including rakeback and bonuses, which made thankfully breakeven - but that I paid over $5k in rake. This should come as no surprise; when you play 50k hands, you pay a lot of rake. But this realization has a psychologically important feature:

I'm not losing to other players. Even last month, I beat the other players to the tune of 3BB/100; it's just that I'm paying even more in rake.

Does that matter? Not really, in the sense that my net result is none the better from me coming to this, but it does at least put a stopper in this lingering idea that I'm being outplayed. What I learned is that generally, I play better than my opponents - even when the cards I get are as shitty as they were in April. And that will hopefully make me sleep better at night.

Speaking of which...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Oh. Hi!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I've been too busy with other things in life than blogging, but I wanted to get back in the saddle and try to document some of the stuff that I've been up to, poker-wise. If you want to know more about how Benjamin is doing, you're not going to find out here. At least not in this post.

From the perspective of poker, April was a really bad month for me. After the first week (which went really well) it was like someone pulled the plug and after a 25-or-so buy-in rush down, I struggled for the last two weeks just to keep my nose above water. I didn't quite succeed; April is officially the first - I hope I at some point get to add "only" to this title - losing month in my entire NL career. Now, here's what I get to take with me from this month, though:

1. Even a month as bad as this one still saw me breaking even after bonuses were included.
2. Had I been dealt this same string of cards 6 months ago, I would have lost so very much more.

#1 is good for my bankroll. #2 is good for my psyche.

When I run bad, I need to remind myself that I'm not losing as much as I could have; that learning all the stuff I've learned really does pay off - just not in money made right now, but in money saved. So while I hate having to start my temporary pro-career with a losing month, I'm trying to keep a good perspective on things: I hate a tough month, but I've learned a lot, my bankroll's still healthy, and I have great hopes for May being my best month ever. Hopefully without jinxing it, I'm hoping for a five-figure net result.