Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Q and A: What Are Your Goals and What Are You Willing To Do To Achieve Them?

Faithful reader Anonymous asks:
Would you be willing to move to succeed? Would you be willing to get a job flipping burgers just to increase your bankroll? Would you sell your car to take a shot at a main event? Think about it. Also, what are your goals? A grinder (like Rakewell) or do you aspire to be the next Jennifer Harmon?
To which I answer:

1) Moving is the big thorny question for me. I'll know I've chosen to go ahead full-throttle as a poker player when I decide to move. It is absolutely the case that I'm not there yet.

2) "Flipping burgers?" That would be a very long, tedious, and inefficient way to build my bankroll. I am quite sure that I could build my bankroll faster playing poker than flipping burgers. And if I need full-time employment, I have to believe that ~ even in a recession ~ I could find a job that pays significantly better than burger-flipping, and is at least somewhat more interesting.

3) No. That would be really, really foolish bankroll management. Even for the most skilled players on the planet, a seat in the main event is a 1/8000 lottery ticket. Besides, my car isn't worth 10K, and I might need it to get to my burger-flipping job. :P

4) I do not aspire to be the next Jennifer Harmon. I will never be an elite tier poker player: I simply don't have the combination of personal attributes that would make that possible. I would, however, be very pleased to be a mid-stakes cash grinder and/or a modestly successful tournament player. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am perfectly content with a low-overhead lifestyle. I would be delighted beyond words to get some kind of sponsorship deal. I would be thrilled to have a degree of success that would increase publisher interest in the book I'm writing. My ambition, while not neglible, is hardly outsized.

Faithful reader Loose proposes that I quiz myself, as follows:
Ask yourself "what have I learned in the last 6 months?", "Am I a better player then when I started?", "Have I acquired the skills necessary at my current level to be a long term winner?", and the most import question of them all, "Where will my income come from? (Atlantic City, The Crime scene Game, One big mtt score a year, LasVegas)
To which I respond:

1) I have learned a lot, some of which I've documented in this blog, but much or most of which I have not. I've studied books and forums, I've reviewed my own play to identify strength and weaknesses, and I've talked strategy with people who I think know more than I do. A great deal of what I've learned has been about poker, and even more has been about myself. It is also clear to me that the learning never ends, and I am well aware that I have to continue actively acquiring knowledge, skills, and experience.

2) I am definitely a better player now than when I began this project. I'm also a better player than I was last year, and a much, much better player than I was two years ago.

3) I don't know whether I've acquired the skills at this level to be a long term winner. I don't have a "long term" valid sample-size of results. During the time I've been keeping records, I am definitely a winning player. Am I ENOUGH of a winning player to live off my poker income? I don't know that yet, either.

4) My income won't come from Atlantic City because it's a big fat zero of a city and no amount of money on earth could induce me to live there. My income won't be earned at the CSG or other equivalents locally because the stakes are too small and the games too infrequent. (That's assuming that I can actually beat the CSG in the long run ~ recent results notwithstanding.) If I'm going to do this full-time for a living, I'm going to have to move to Las Vegas, with its vaunted 55 (give or take) cardrooms and plentiful MTTs. My data currently shows that I am most profitable playing tournaments. It remains to be seen whether that will hold true for higher-stakes, larger-field tourneys. My next trip to Sin City (next week!) will put that question to the test once again.

I will add that I disagree with two of Loose's other observations. Loose says that I have done NONE of the things I could do were I committed to being a pro. I have certainly not done ALL of the things I could do, but I think I have taken many small but important steps to lay the foundation for such a choice. Loose also opines that I am "comfortable in my current situation." That is absolutely, positively not the case. The "current situation" is not tenable for the long haul, nor would I wish it to be; sooner or later I will have to fish or cut bait (wait a sec... there's a better phrase to use here... um... oh yeah! "raise or fold").

As always, I welcome your questions and comments. I am continually struck by the variety of approaches, attitudes, and tones of voice with which people choose to communicate, and I find something valuable and interesting in them all. Thank you for being engaged readers!

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Q and A: Is Poker Academy A Good Way To Learn?

Faithful reader Anonymous asks:
"I was wondering how much Poker Academy contributed to really understanding the game, rather than [what] can be gained from playing low-limit online poker?...Also do you still play Poker Academy?"
PA was very helpful in the early stages of my learning. It was good to be playing with other players who were also trying to learn and took the game relatively seriously (given that it was for play money). Low-limit play for real money at most online sites is generally tougher, though ~ especially at the relatively small number of sites that still accept US players.

Studying (not just reading) good poker books is really important. It's also very helpful to spend time playing live with other players who are trying to get better. I have yet to look into online video training, but I know others find it useful. It is difficult to improve one's poker game without investing a lot of time, effort, and ~ eventually ~ some money too.

As I'm now trying to assess whether I can earn a living playing poker, I play very rarely on PAO (and then mostly to hang out with poker friends). I need to spend my poker-playing hours somewhere where I have at least SOME CHANCE of making actual money!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Q and A: A Poker Player Getting Comped? What's Up With That?

Faithful reader phrankguy1 asks:
I'd be interested to know how a poker player gets completely comped rooms at AC casinos (Harrahs again?) on weekends. Do you play table games, etc?
I get this question a lot.

Once in a blue moon I'll run $20 through a slot machine. Or I'll sit at a $5 table game with $50.

But, honestly, it's a rare thing. I do it because someone told me that I'd never, ever get comped a room if I didn't.

I'm not so sure, though. I am currently a Platinum member at Harrah's and wouldn't be surprised to make Diamond level on poker play alone this year. When I go to a casino, I play A LOT of poker. I mean, ridiculous numbers of hours. On a four night trip I can easily rack up 70 hours of play. I think the stakes you play at matter too. On the other hand, on my last trip to Vegas I only played about 16 hours at Harrah's properties and they still comped my whole five-day stay. Go figure.

Most of room comps come from corporate headquarters, or through my casino connection folks. Once or twice, however, the poker room has arranged for me to extend my stay, gratis.

It has occurred to me to wonder, too, whether they are more generous to female players than male. I don't know why that would be the case, but I suppose it's possible.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Q & A: Why the Heck Do You Use ROI to Report Cash Results?

Faithful reader Anonymous queries in the comments to a recent results post:
I've always had trouble understanding the "Results" that you give in this blog.

I understand tournament ROI, but what the heck is cash ROI ? ROI is not a metric that I've ever seen used in cash poker and seems completely usless. I mean, if you buy in for $1000 and win $100 your ROI is 10%, but if you buy in for $500 and win $100, your ROI is 20%, but you won the same amount!

I assume you made that up as a way of giving results without actually discussing how much you won? Or am I missing something?
I started calculating and using cash game ROI for a few reasons, only a few of which may be good ones.

When I began this project, my primary objective in record-keeping was to determine if I could make a living playing poker given my starting bankroll. First: could I be profitable? Second: if so, how profitable? And third: would I be able to support myself given the small stakes and modest bankroll I began with? How would poker-playing compare to other ways I might choose to invest my money? (For example, my money is doing a heck of a lot better in my bankroll ~ right now ~ than it would be in the stock market, or indeed most typical investment vehicles!) I don't think ROI is completely useless as a metric. It gives me a general idea of how much money I have to put at risk, in the games I play, in order to achieve a certain monetary return.

It is true, as Anonymous suggests, that I wasn't particularly eager to reveal publicly the exact size of my bankroll, to always be specific about the stakes I was playing at, or to detail the absolute dollar amounts won or lost. Despite the common notion (probably derived from TV broadcasts that talk about lifetime tournament winnings) that poker players' results should somehow be public information, I prefer to keep these matters private unless I have a good reason to share them.

And, to be frank, I was also clueless about the need to keep statistics that would help me track the information that is most useful in analyzing one's cash game results across various stakes, e.g., BB/HR. (I would point out, however, that the same concern is true for tournaments as for cash games: ROI tells you NOTHING about actual profits. All I have to do is win one larger-buy-in tournament and that makes up for a whole lot of losing at lower stakes in ROI terms, if I lump them all together.)

Recently, I have begun tracking winrate statistics for my cash play, including stakes and time played per session as well as profit/loss results. If ~ after I have accumulated enough data to be worth analyzing ~ they reveal something interesting or meaningful, I may eventually write about them.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ooo, my first Q & A post! Sweet!

In response to my post "Day 22: Running With The Red Queen," gentle reader Dave (known on Poker Academy Online as Civitas) asks:

How many online hands are you playing?
Also do you belong to any of the coaching sites?

At the moment, sadly, I have no way of answering the first question. All the poker-tracking and analysis software worth mentioning is, currently at least, PC-only. Words cannot express how annoying this is to me, and I hope the situation changes in the near future. One of the reasons I bought my new Macbook Air, however, was so that I could install a BootCamp partition with *gack* Windows and run the needed programs.

I have yet to do this, though, so the best way I can answer Dave's first question right now is to say that I play enough hands at microstakes to earn SilverStar status on Pokerstars. When I have some numbers for you, I'll cough 'em up.

As for subscribing to any of the online coaching sites: right now, no, I don't. But I've definitely thought about it. The thing is, I spend so much time already reading, thinking, talking about and playing poker that the thought of adding yet another chunk of poker-time to my schedule is a bit daunting. Especially time in front of a computer screen, which I find much more tiring than reading or playing live. The main argument for checking out the coaching sites, I think, is that my better opponents are likely to have done so too... and it would be wise to have some idea what they might have learned from them.

Should I start to show some kind of meaningful profit, I might reinvest some of it in a coaching site. Although I'd really prefer to have a live, personal coach. That option is a heck of a lot more expensive, unfortunately.

Ask me more questions! This is fun!

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