Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It finally happened. After almost a year of playing poker at pretty much every opportunity, some internal gear shifted and the engine of my poker mind moved to a different place.

I played this past night at the Crime Scene Game. The room was hot and humid ~ in the new location there isn't yet any air-conditioning, just a couple of fans that sluggishly push around the moist DC summer air and the sweaty body heat generated by a roomful of players.

As is regrettably common, things started off badly for me. Within a few hours I had had to top up twice, and was down to less than a third of my chips. I felt a bit unfocussed and as if I weren't taking the game sufficiently seriously. The table was a little short-handed, and one of the players announced he was leaving. I started to despair about the sustainability of the game, and did my best to keep the table going by encouraging another to stay.

And then the heavens parted, angels sang, and a school of fish swam into the room. Suddenly we had a full table and lots of money to be won. I settled into my seat and told myself that I was not going to end the night without a significant profit. I just wasn't. I was going to sit in my chair and make good decisions and walk out at the end of the evening with twice as much money as I had put on the table. Whatever it took, that's what I was going to do.

And for the five hours after that I just ground it out. I watched each player until I knew what he or she was up to. I patiently picked my spots, and got my money in good. I didn't panic when I lost a pot; I didn't get overconfident when I won one. I didn't indulge in Fancy Play Syndrome. I just let other people play worse than I did, made it easy for them to make mistakes, and let go of my losing hands the moment I ascertained that bluffing would not be profitable. There was nothing flashy about my play, nothing to particularly boast about in terms of hero calls or fabulous reads. I just kept my head in the game and did the right thing almost every time.

I was not gambling. I was not trying to entertain myself. I was not looking to impress anyone. I was doing my job: I was playing poker.

Of all the money I've made playing cards, this $473 dollars of profit is somehow the most precious to me. Because as I made my way home in the rising morning light, I realized that I am a professional poker player. I have good-enough skills and the wherewithal to improve them. And ~ what's even more important ~ I have the right temperament: the patience, the evenness of keel, and the persistence to do what it takes to survive and profit.

I can make this work. Now I just have to decide if I want to.



Blogger Poker Dreams said...

Well Congratulations!!! Its about time that you have awoken to the reality that we(your adoring support network)have known all along. You are a damn good player.

Last night was an important lesson in persistance. You as well as I are brutally aware of how the cards can fall the wrong way at times. Sometimes for weeks on end. It is important and in my eyes and the sign of a professional to be one who does not overreact and allows the game to come to him/her and maintains a level head until it gets around to coming. This grit and determination is what will seperate you from the field in the long run.

I am not sure if it is a sign that my life needs more excitement or the fact that in reading your posts for the last 6-9 months that I have become a firm believer in your ability.

I sat on my couch for two days watching the update blog and monitoring the real time(almost real time) chip count updates, twittering and watching your every move online while you were in your wsop event run. In the end, mistake or not on your final hand you managed to beat 90% of the field and cash in a wsop event. I believe it will not be your last.

Finally why would you not want this other than the obvious variance and downswings. Cmon cowboy up and be a professional. You have what it takes and after a year of this I dont foresee that you would react well to an overbearing boss with an ego back in the business sector.

You are damn good and I hope you stick with it


7/29/09 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Malcolm said...

Nice blog. Glad I found. I'll be checking back for further updates very soon!


7/29/09 8:52 AM  
Blogger FkCoolers said...

I'm assuming this was 1/2 NL based off the profit and context?

I'm not sure how your results have been over the course of the year, but they don't sound spectacular if $470 was a poker epiphany and something you're considering basing your entire career choice around.

You need many nights like this, both against fish and realy players, before you can even come close to making the decision to play full-time.

Just from reading the past two dozen or so entries from your blog? You're not ready. You second-guess yourself way too much to handle the variance of having all your income come from poker.

7/29/09 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh, I called this metamorphosis after watching your AC Video.


What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.


7/29/09 2:37 PM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

"...if $470 was a poker epiphany and something you're considering basing your entire career choice around." -- FkCoolers

What you read and see and what I read and see are different.

I think the epiphany was in the self-confidence department, not it the amount won.

7/29/09 3:47 PM  
Blogger BWoP said...

I would have to agree with MemphisMOJO on this one. It's about the mindset - the ability to consistently make good decisions. Sometimes the actual dollars won don't reflect that perfectly on a per-session basis . . .

7/29/09 4:15 PM  
Blogger Rakewell said...

I know of at least one person who (1) has a pretty clear idea of what it takes to eke out a living at the game, and (2) has spent a decent number of hours watching you work. (Secretly, he harbors suspicions that you are, at core, actually better at the game than he is.) He has virtually no doubt that you have the wherewithal to succeed. He is glad that it seems that you are spending more time in the state of sharing that confidence.

7/29/09 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it sounds like a forced epiphany.

don't get me wrong. may you make a million bux.


7/29/09 8:21 PM  
Blogger FkCoolers said...

Either way, one session does not a breakthrough make. It takes many times like these to make an informed decision.

It's far too common and easy to follow this up with a few losing sessions and lose any semblance of self-confidence you once had.

Good luck.

7/30/09 3:47 PM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

@Aki: I have to say, I just don't know what to make of your comment. "Forced epiphany?" Huh? I am describing my state of mind. What's forced about that?

@FKCoolers: The actual dollar amount of the modest profit from this session is completely irrelevant. I've made much more (and of course less, as well) in other sessions many times. I've been doing this for nearly a year. I have a pretty good grasp of my own capabilities at this point. What I describe in this post is a shift in attitude, but it's also one that's been a long time coming.

And sure, I could be wrong. Yes, I could go from being a winning player to being a loser. Anything is possible. After having suffered through a nearly four-month downswing, I am well aware of that. But I also think you're mistaken if you believe that introspection and occasional bouts of second-guessing have no role in a successful poker player's life. The only person with perfect self-confidence is a fool.


This blog has always been about a work-in-progress. I'm not looking for a cheering section ~ although it is touching to know that some people are rooting for my success. I'm happy to have people offer a constructive critique; in fact I welcome it. Feel free to throw up warning flags (although it may be hard to identify ones I haven't already spotted myself) or suggest alternate routes! But simply denying that I have had the experiences that I report is, frankly, both useless and a bit insulting.

7/31/09 4:02 AM  
Anonymous joxum said...

Want to throw in a couple of cents worth of comment too, but all I can really think of is telling you to keep it up.

You know you can win, so I guess your next real challenge will be to learn how to voluntarily shift to and from the (mental) zone where your A-game is.

Thumbs up!


7/31/09 5:25 AM  
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7/31/09 6:38 AM  
Blogger Poker Dreams said...

If you want to look at a gap. It seems like every session you get down early and have to dig yourself out. Why do you feel this occurs. I have similar experiences when I play but I attribute mine to anxiety because I only play 3-4 times a month. I think I want to get off to a great start and push marginal situations without getting a feel for the table first. What do you feel causes your early drop?

7/31/09 8:25 AM  
Anonymous REX55 said...

I never had a doubt ;)

We gotta catch up in AC soon btw or I gotta come down to DC and check out some of this action lol...

Also, I just finally got an Rss feed for my new blogsite. The link is on my old blogsite or you can just go here and change it


talk to you soon girl.. keep on crushing!!

8/1/09 2:09 PM  

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