Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

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

Thursday, July 16, 2009

By The Numbers

Month 11 will be over in two days, and I'm only planning to play live once more before then, so the books on M11 are basically closed. My Year of Risky Business will be over soon, and I've already begun the difficult process of trying to evaluate my progress and prospects as poker player.

It would be nice if the results were clear-cut. It would be very, very convenient if I were either a roaring success or an abject failure. Alas, I am neither, and so my results require interpretation. So here, instead, are the observations (based on spreadsheet data) that I'm working from. See what you make of them.

Month 11 was my best month ever, and by a meaningful margin. This was largely due to my outrageous winnings at the Rio cash games, but I also did well in tournaments (WSOP cash and Harrah's AC nightly 2nd place) and playing cash in AC. It is very difficult to know how much weight to put on these results. The juiciness of the Rio game probably cannot be replicated outside the context of the WSOP. On the other hand, the increased experience and confidence I'm bringing to the table is undoubtedly a contributing factor in my success this month, as is simply not running like crap. Bottom line: I could live comfortably on a monthly income that was 2/3 of this month's take, and I could get by on 1/2 of it.

For the last eleven months, my tournament ROI in smaller-field (fields <200) tournaments is over 90%. With the exception of a few minor cashes, I have not done well in the bigger buy-in, big field events. On the other hand, I haven't done more than about fifteen of them (including the 4 WSOP events), so the sample size is not large. Still, the big events are bankroll-busters unless you are properly 'rolled for them, and I am not. I took my shot and didn't get there.

For me, the tournament sweet-spot is probably a buy-in somewhere around $100-200, and fields of no more than about 150. Many of the Las Vegas daily tournaments with decent structures fall into this category.

I am a losing player at 1/2(or 3) cash. This had been my gut impression, but I ran the numbers carefully and now there's no doubt about it. It's embarrassing, but true. There are some venues and circumstances where I'm ahead, but overall, NOT. Really not.

I am a winning player at 2/5 cash. I made nearly twice as much money playing 2/5 than I did playing in small-field tournaments, but I had to put a lot more money at risk to do it (almost three times as much).

I only started keeping precise data on my hours at the cash tables in Month 5, so I have to estimate winrates a bit. I would say I am losing at about -4BB an hour at 1/2(3), which ~ let's face it ~ is PATHETIC. I have definitely seen enough hands at these stakes to render these results reasonably reliable.

My results for higher stakes are significantly less meaningful, as I have logged only half as many hours at 2/5 as at 1/2(3). Currently, I estimate I'm averaging somewhere around 15BB/hr. This is probably unsustainably hot. The problem is I have no idea whether a statistically more reliable sample size would end up showing me to be a loser at 2/5 as well, which seems like a serious possibility. I just don't know.

It has become clear to me that, as I've mentioned before, I'm just NOT going to have enough concrete data to make a sound statistically-based decision any time in the near future. And yet I must begin making some decisions based on incomplete information anyway. I'm going to have to do it based on some combination of math and my gut intuition, and in keeping with my personal style and comfort zone.

Does that sound to you like any other kind of decision I've had to make a whole lot of for, say... THE LAST ELEVEN MONTHS?



Blogger Crash said...

You mentioned the juicy cash games near the wsop. There must be other events around the country that attract 'poker juice.' Reno, Mississippi, etc. You could be a juice follower. I know (indirectly!!) that certain members of the adult entertainment trade come here in large numbers, to Minneapolis, for each Vikings game. I, myself, would not like that lifestyle.

But, you seemed to like LV a lot. Maybe more research there would help.........

You seem really happy doing this, why impose an arbitrary cutoff just when you have discovered your 2/5 specialty? Were you to concentrate on just 2/5 for x more months, then you would have your answer.

7/16/09 4:53 PM  
Blogger Fredrik said...

Just curious, why 12 months? I just want to understand, is that a deadline you've placed on yourself, or is it set by some outer circumstance?

If it is the latter, then I cannot really help you.

However, if it is the former, I think you also should consider the fact that you most likely have improved your skills over the eleven months, and as such really shouldn't use the full year for evaluation. Perhaps you should use the last six months? And also extend your test period with another six months so you have a full year?

Just a thought.


7/16/09 5:06 PM  
Blogger Shrike said...

Good luck with your decision-making, I hope you succeed in whatever choice you make.


7/16/09 5:54 PM  
Blogger BWoP said...

And yet I must begin making some decisions based on incomplete information anyway. I'm going to have to do it based on some combination of math and my gut intuition, and in keeping with my personal style and comfort zone.

Yeah, that sounds about right . . .

I know that whatever choice you make, it will be the right one. And even if it's not, then you can always change your mind.

Perhaps give yourself another mini-test run at a non-WSOP time to see how that affects your thoughts on the matter. And stay away from those $1/$2(3) games!

7/16/09 8:39 PM  
Blogger genomeboy said...

I'd be interested in how many hours of 2/5 you played compared to 1/2(3). But, to me, the most obvious thing is that to really make a decision, you're going to have to physically relocate yourself to one of 3 locations where you can play frequently enough as a live pro to make it sustainable.

Obviously, I'm talking about LA, Las Vegas or AC. To me, given my year of following your musings, you'd be most suited to LA. The cost of living there is similar to DC, so you'd be even there. You could move to Philly, which would put you in a metro area with less than one hour to AC if you lived near one of the bridges, yet not too close to nowhere. Finally, of course, you could go to Vegas. I don't think you sounded thrilled there, but obviously, if you game selected well (more difficult mid-july through may w/o WSOP) you might do better.

I think in the winter, the 1/2 action in AC is pretty tough, and if I'm not mistaken, that is likely where most of your 1/2 came.

Frankly, I also discount your home games, as to me they are not representative of what you'd face against mostly random opponents (of course, Bob W's results would seem to bear this out, as he doesn't seem to face many regulars often from my brief discussions with him on this).

You've written before about the importance of friends. Of course, you have the biggest network in DC, but imo, you really didn't give yourself the best chance of succeeding in your main game (1/2nl) because you didn't play enough hours in an environment that could sustain you playing for your livelihood.

I think you need to think about it this way. You work (or are trying to decide if you want to work) in an industry that is centered in very specific geographic regions. Sort of like the biotech/pharma industry for me. Do I love living in NJ? wellit's ok, but maybe not my first choice, but this is where the jobs are for me (along with San Fran and Boston, but NJ is closest to my family, and kids need grandparents...). It may not be your first choice, but to me, if you want to be a poker pro, you need to live where the industry is. That seems to be LA, LV or AC.

Good luck in your decision! I hope you stick with it.

7/16/09 9:20 PM  
Blogger bastinptc said...

I have to concur with above thoughts. If 12 months isn't etched in stone, then continue to collect data. These last 11 months have flown by, and I'm left with the feeling that not enough time has lapsed for you to draw conclusions, evident in this post.

7/16/09 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My vote is for you playing poker so I can continue reading your blog. Maybe write a 2nd book with your poker experiences in year 2 and what improvements you've seen. Then maybe year 3 will be your book of how you eclipsed 1 million dollars in tournament winnings.

7/17/09 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also hope you continue blogging since it is an enjoyable read. However I have to disagree with the above posts, to play devil's advocate if you will. It seems to me that there is a clear answer from your results above - poker is not winning for you, or for anyone posting here. If one were to look at it without any ifs ands or buts.

7/19/09 10:15 PM  
Blogger Poker Dreams said...

I agree with the above as far as looking at your last six to nine months of results. Prior to that you were adjusting to a totally new lifestyle and fighting anxieties of playing for a living.

You mentioned at the wsop that your bankroll eclipsed your starting point again finally. Playing poker successfully in my opinion is being able to support the lifestyle you choose to live. You have lived for a year playing a game and if you are truly even, Then you have paid for all of your travel, food, gas living expenses etc without dipping into your bankroll/savings. So as to wether or not you continue I ask, Do you enjoy your life, are you happy with yourself? Because frankly if you look at 80% of the workforce Their Savings is not increasing at an alarming rate. Playing poker for you is a means to an end. Not always a get rich quick scheme. From what I can see you are making it and striving to improve.


7/22/09 7:43 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home