Friday, August 13, 2004

Notes from Readers on the Six Month Wrapup

The tale of woe I posted last night has drawn some good comments from longtime readers. Haloscan deletes messages after three months, though, and I think there's a lot here to respond to, and to learn from. So I thought I'd do it in another main post.

From "dankhank":


I have been reading your blog for your entire pro career, and it is definitely near the top of my list of favorite sites. My interest was piqued the day you quit your job (at Home Depot I believe it was) and said you were going pro. I can remember being slightly skeptical about your chances at the time, I forget why, but maybe it had something to do with your profits mainly coming from a big multie-table score or two, and the notion that you could be a pro playing low limit tables like 3/6.

My skepticism waned as you started off well, posting profitable weeks. Sometimes you wouldn't make your "nut" and you would be unhappy about that, but your "nut" was slightly higher than your bare-minimum needs so it didn't seem to be a big deal.

As you started to slow down in profit, you started leaving your comfort zone and trying new games and limits. At one point you got desperate and went to 15/30.

In my own experience, as the bankroll dwindles your decision making becomes more desperate and bad. As the bankroll enters a comfort zone your decision making is steady, right, and grindingly profitable.

As I've read your blogs these last few weeks I didn't really think you were in a desperate situation. You said you weren't winning as much, but you still seemed to have lots of winning days, both online and live. But when I read that you only have $800 in your party poker account and that you're doing this for a living, I immediately said to myself that you're in a desperate situation. $800 isn't enough of a bankroll to play with every single day, even at limits of 2/4 and 3/6. And if you have bills hanging over your head that is even worse.

Basically I don't see how you can make good clearheaded poker decisions in the shape your bankroll is in now. If your bankroll got back to the comfortable level of week15 then I think you would find the game more profitable. I know this is an intangible connection, but I believe it to be true.

What to do? Two things: 1) I plan to play poker professionally some day, and I've had a great year, but going to a job every day that pays all my living expenses allows me to come home at night and play poker basically stress free. I sit down, I play my game, and even if I have a losing session I see my bankroll growing over time and I don't worry about a thing.

2) Regarding your own situation I will give you some advice from Mike Caro that I really like: "If your bankroll is big that means it's harder to re-create via non-poker methods. Protect large bankrolls. If your bankroll is small you can be more wild with it, because it can be rebuilt from non-poker methods."

What does this mean for you? Well, it could mean a couple things. One, you might want to play 3/6 or 5/10 and try to turn that $800 into a solid bankroll again. Or, you might want to get a job and recreate a $2500-$3000 bankroll. Or you could just trust in your +EV poker game and keep playing 2/4-3/6 with $800 and slowly grind out a living/existence.

In some of your non-poker posts about the type of person you are I can tell we have a lot in common. If nothing else we're both from Michigan. So I understand what a bummer it would be to start on a new life, to enjoy it immensely, and to then have to admit defeat and do something else. But the thing is, at least you do have a bankroll right now. At least you do have a roof over your head, an income stream, etc. It could get worse. It could get better.

You can either do some things in your life (ie job) that will increase your future odds to make a big positive step forward, or you could take a chance and try for a quick positive step, or you could continue on doing exactly what you're doing.

In closing, I'm sure you have many years to live, and Vegas will still be there in 2006. Poker is a great game and isn't it nice to be good enough at it to turn a profit?

My Response:

Well, Okay, Yeah, Vegas will still be there in 2006, or 2007, or 2008. The main reason I originally thought I'd move there in "the fall" is that it sounded conveniently far enough away that it would be doable.

Here's an analogy. Let's say that I was working or not working, but my biggest love was skiing. Now, Michigan has places to ski. They get better the further you go from town, but even the best in Michigan isn't a great place to ski. Skiing in Michigan actually boils down mostly to standing in lift lines, because the mountain is so short that it seems like that's all you're doing. That's not the point, though. If I were a skiier, I'd want to be in Colorado, or maybe Vermont or California or Utah, but probably Colorado.

I'm a poker player. There's poker being played in Michigan, but it's (legally) played only very far from town, and even the best poker room in Michigan is far from the best place to play poker. The rake is higher here, the rooms aren't as well run, and mostly each room offers at best two or three tables per game, so game selection leaves a lot to be desired. My favorite room in Michigan often has only a single game running. If I'm a poker player, I should be in Las Vegas, or maybe Atlantic City or Los Angeles, but probably Las Vegas.

This is what makes waiting so distasteful. I feel like I'm 14, and I want to visit a friend, but my mom won't drive me, and I can't drive myself because I'm not 16. I feel like I'm being cheated about doing what I want to do because of those two years on the calendar. Maybe that analogy's not great, because I sound like I'm being petulant about it, and maybe (in this scenario) my mom has a good reason for not driving me; I was mean to my sister or something.

It might seem backwards by pop-psychology standards, but it's not admitting defeat at poker that is my hangup here. I'm OK with admitting that I might be pretty good at poker, but I'm not great at poker. There are a lot of things that I'm good at but not great at. Most video games with online components, I don't play online, because there are so many people online who will completely dominate me and capture my battleship in two moves, or blow up my headquarters, or reach the center square. I might be good, but I'm not great.

My hangup is going to work. I probably have to do it, but I am unbelievably depressed by the prospect, rubber-room level depressed. The last couple of days I've been hoping for some deus ex machina to swoop down and save me from a fate that to me is literally worse than death. Literally.

I ask myself if I can put up with it for six months to rebuild a bankroll. I'm not sure; six months to a year is historically how long I last on a job. But more than that, I have tasted the sweet nectar of freedom, and selling my indentures back into servitude is not exactly thrilling me. Could you have told the US' slaves in 1865, "Hey, if you guys could just go back to slavery for three more years, then I promise after those three years are up, by then we'll have this really great plan worked out for you." The slaves would have said, rightly, "Fuck off, chump, it's MY plan, now, motherfucker!" At least, that's what they would have said if it happened in a Quentin Tarantino movie.

I admit freely that I leapt before I looked last February, when I left Lowes. I didn't have a real plan, and I wasn't really good enough. I figured $100 a day was doable at lower limits, with just the bankroll I had, but mainly I couldn't stand another day of getting up at 5:00 to work my ass off pointlessly. The money was good, but that was all; I was looking for deus ex machina to save me from that situation, too. Fortunately I found another option, and for the first few months, it seemed like a good option.

This is turning into more whining, and I don't mean it that way. Most of what you say is valid; I should be able to descend into hell for a relatively brief period in order to rebuild my bankroll. I just don't look forward to it.

Your semi-suggestion of taking a desperate gamble is an interesting one, but I don't think poker is the right way to do that, at least not the ring games. It would probably be either to dump all of my money into a single long-shot tournament, or pull my money into a casino site and bet it all on Black, and probably to let it ride once. The second option, stupid as it is, might actually have a greater chance of success.

By the way, I appreciate strongly your response. I don't want to give the impression that I disrespect anything you said. If I'm worthy of criticism, please criticize. It's either valid or it's not, and if it's valid I'd do well do pay attention to it.

Where in Michigan are you, actually?

From Denis

[some formatting mine, LG] I continue to read your blog regularly and it's disappointing to see someone who depends on poker to pay their bills to be on a bad swing.

I understand that you don't want to have a job, who does, right? Everyone wants to be their own boss and wants to enjoy what they're doing. I think the best thing for you would be to get a job, but get something you enjoy doing, something involved with poker, maybe? What about getting a job as a poker dealer in a casino?

Yes, you have to be there at a certain time, so your alarm clock will be ringing, but it won't be something you'll dread. And, you can have fun on the job at the same time. This way, you'll have a steady income doing something that interests you, so that when you do have free time at home, you can play poker and not be as stressed about making a certain amount of money a week from playing online poker.

My Response

If I lived near a casino, I'd probably do this. As it is, though, the closest casino is more than 90 minutes away. I've done commutes of an hour in the past, and I know people who have 90-minute commutes, and the route wouldn't be a stressful traffic-filled one, but: That's the closest casino. If they didn't hire me, the next-closest would be over a two-hour commute.

I've thought about this. Yes, I could probably deal poker, and I'd probably enjoy it, for a while. But my understanding is that there's a hierarchy of dealers at most casinos, with poker dealers pretty much at the top. If I were to hire in, they'd probably have me dealing in the pit at first. And I would not enjoy that. I don't know that the local casinos have such a hierarchy, or if they'd decide that someone who knows poker (including a lot of the goofy rules) should be dealing blackjack and pai gow.

On the other hand, the standing up would be good for me.

If I had the cash to chuck it all and move to Vegas and get a dealing job there, I'd do it, but I'd probably face the hierarchy problem there, too. I don't know a lot about the politics inside Vegas casinos. I also suspect they do very little hiring off the street, preferring to hire someone with references from another casino or from a dealer school.

By the way, I've been in front of a judge a few times on traffic misdemeanors—that wouldn't screw up a background check, would it?


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