Thursday, August 12, 2004

Six Months Later: A Tale of Despair

I promised a total taking-stock six-months-in post, and this is it.

I'm not sure how long it's been since I've posted my numbers. Weeks 23 and 24 were both up $450ish, which is fine, even if I need a couple of $1000 weeks. Then I kind of went into the crapper: up $200 in week 25, up $300 in week 26, and down $450 in week 27. So, three weeks of zilcho when my bankroll is already at ruinous levels.

The numbers that best illustrate the problems I've been having are these:

Cumulative winnings, Weeks 4–15: $4,73822
Cumulative winnings, Weeks 4–27: $4,82457

Yup, that's right, twelve weeks in a row where I managed only to break even. I was reasonably bankrolled at the start of that run, but didn't also have a roll for living expenses, and so over those three months I have been drawing down my bankroll to do things like, say, eat. I haven't even been doing that as frugally as I might; most of my meals include a bar tab. Anyway, I find myself now with the $800 or so that I've got in my Party Poker account, and that's it. I also find myself with about $1000 worth of bills I've pushed back during my recent funk.

I realize that I've done a lot of this to myself. My flirtations with $15/$30 a couple of months ago were the biggest thing that acted to derail this train. More recently, I've taken shots at the $5/$10 bad-beat tables on Party, which are horrendously loose, but manage to kick my ass up and down both sides of the street. Let's see, as long as I have my spreadsheet open ... well, it's worse than I thought, but not much; I've lost $124475 lifetime at the $5/$10 BBJ. It would seem that 124 big bets is beyond what can be explained by variance, but I know how to adjust my game for a loose game, and still I was way down at this. That's not even the point; the point is that I returned to the scene of the crime despite my losses there.

With the lower bankroll, the last couple of weeks I've (mostly) been playing below my usual game, namely that I've been playing $2/$4 rather than $3/$6. I've said a couple of times that I've found $2/$4 to have about the same upside as $3/$6 without nearly the downside, but now I'm not sure that's true. Te upside is smaller; I can't find a case where I've pulled $200 off a $2/$4 table, but that would happen fairly frequently on the $3/$6 tables. On the other hand, I think I'm right as to the downside; my biggest loss at a single $2/$4 table seems to be about $75, which is half my biggest win at a single $2/$4 table. At $3/$6, my biggest win is about $430, and my biggest loss about $260. That sounds like a lot bigger swing, relatively, but I've had more than ten times the $3/$6 hands to acquire some outliers on the ol' bell curve. The point is, that playing lower limits, I'm cut off at the knees as far as rebuilding my bankroll.

There seem to be two possibilities. Either my play is sound, or it isn't. If it is sound, then the appropriate action is to find a backer. (Anyone want to volunteer?) If it isn't, then the appropriate action is to quit playing poker and get a job.

At the risk of courting a drunken comment from a prominent member of the blogging community, I'll reiterate my intense hate and disgust at the second option. A job might be necessary, but it will return me to the despair I felt before I began this pro career. "Despair" is the right word; the idea of getting up when the alarm tells me to every single day for the rest of my life to spend eight or ten hours at a job I hate drove me to suicidal fits of the blackest depression. Go back and read my January archives; almost every post contains something to the effect of, "God, I hate my fucking job."

Yes, I know it's something that people have to do, and that other people don't seem to mind so much. This is an impenetrable mystery to me. I can conceive of no job where one must conform to someone else's schedule, or even really any schedule at all, that would not become hateful in a matter of weeks or months. I can conceive of no boss or manager whom I would not resent and loathe for telling me what to do. (I really hate being told what to do. I'll listen to advice, but compulsion really pisses me off.) There are a lot of hard words there, but that is how the world looks to me. I've been told it's childish, I've been told to "relax," but I fundamentally don't understand how people are able to resign themselves to a lifetime of a job they hate and end up with a house and two cars and a wife and kids and a timeshare in Colorado. I simply and truly and fundamentally don't get it.

Contrast this misery with the last six months of poker. I've been able to go to sleep when I want, wake up when I want. If I don't feel like taking a shower, or I feel like going to work in my bathrobe, I can. If I feel like reading the newspaper on the job, well, it might not be the brightest thing I can do, but nobody's going to say "boo" about it. In fact, if I want to write a lengthy semi-hostile blog entry, I can do that, too. If I break for lunch, I can go to lunch for three hours, and not have to worry if the boss will smell beer on my breath. I can even justify a midweek Tiger game, despite the stadium being three hours away, because I can play poker afterward (or beforeward). (Okay, I haven't been in a couple of months, but you get the idea.) Overall, I've been a lot happier the last six months than I have in probably ten years.

Nonetheless, I find myself in a position where I (probably) have to find a job. One of the thoughts rattling around in my noodle is to move to Vegas to get said job; if moving there is my goal anyway I might as well get a crappy job there as here. I'd have to work out what the bare minimum is as far as moving expenses, but I'd guess it's around $1000, if I moved with someone with whom I could share those expenses, and around $2000, otherwise. Even so, that'd be living pretty much on the wire for a few paychecks, and I'd be jonesing from lack of poker until I got those paychecks. Especially being in Vegas.

Looking Back

I was all set to post this, but that's not the complete tale of the last six months. There are some positive things that have happened over that time. When I began, I was a player who would call after a raiser with King-Ten offsuit, and now that's a hand I hardly ever play. My hand-reading skills have improved, my ability to adjust to different games has improved, my ability to play simultaneous games has improved, and overall I'm a better player than I was when I started. I look back now and think that I wasn't truly a good enough player six months ago to turn pro. But it's also likely that if I look back in another six months, I'll be amazed at how much my game sucked back last August, and conclude the same thing.

A journey through my spreadsheet, which avid readers know starts in week four, shows me beginning with two tables of $3/$6. However, week one started with me single-tabling $5/$10, since I figured I could make my $100 a day goal a lot more easily at $5/$10, and I hadn't yet begun multi-tabling regularly. At some point, $5/$10 started kicking my ass, and I dropped back to the $3/$6. At another point, I began two-tabling it, and that's where we find me in Week Four.

It looks like Week Seven was when I began three-tabling, still on $3/$6, and it looks like my first three-tabling session set a nice pace. But it also looks like I started spending too much money on multitable tourneys around this point.

I began four-tabling in Week Nine, still at the $3/$6 level, and continued to pile the hands into PokerTracker. It wasn't until Week Fourteen that I began experimenting with moving up in limits, by replacing one of my $3/$6 tables with a $5/$10 table. It looks like that started out great, but when I had three bad $5/$10 sessions in a row, I seem to have decided against including the $5/$10 table. It looks right now like that decision was a bit hasty, though.

In Week Sixteen I moved much of my play to Intertops, a PartyPoker skin, because their tournaments had such great overlay. They probably still do, but when my bankroll problems began, I withdraw my entire Intertops stake to plop it into PartyPoker. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I picked up any of the overlay in their tournaments; I won a seat in a qualifier, and I won a four-person cash tourney (Omaha, no less), but I didn't money any cash tournaments with overlays.

Week Seventeen seems to have been the beginning of the end. On the fifth day of the week (Saturday), I plopped onto a $15/$30 table, posted behind the button, and flopped 666TT my first hand. The $447 pot, $252 of profit, that I pulled down was the biggest pot I'd ever dragged at that point, and was a big part of my downfall. "I'll tell you what, son, you want some of what I'm selling? Let's consider this one a free sample. You want more later, this is my usual corner." I was at the Trump in Gary the next day, but the next day I played nothing but $15/$30. It was three short sessions, to be sure, and it was an up day, but barely one big bet an hour.

I began Week Eighteen losing $800 at $15/$30, in two days, which isn't really that big a deal for $15/$30 but still more than I could afford to lose. I wasn't bankrolled for $15/$30, all along, and so playing at that level is and was stupid. The following day I played $2/$4, the first time I used $2/$4 as my "retreat" level of play. Even though I didn't make a lot of money, I returned to $15/$30 the next day, and somehow managed to make enough that even losing $177 at Greektown in Detroit left me about even for the week. Variance was kinder than it could have been.

However, my weeks end on Monday. On the Tuesday that began Week Nineteen, I had my single-worst day ever, blowing $996 at $15/$30, which blew me off the $15/$30 tables pretty much permanently (for now). Before that, I was merely unsatisfied with my earn; after that, I was in deep shit. And I've been in the shit ever since, trying to find the game that would get me out of the crapper.

I started off with $2/$4, and lost money. Then I went to $3/$6, unsure why, and lost money. Then I went to Single-Table tourneys, and decided I was so far out of practice with these that I'd have to lose a bunch of money to get back into shape. Then I tried some no-limit ring games (50¢ big blind or $25max buyin), and found them profitable. At last, something that was profitable. However, it had been a rough week overall, and I was down over $1300 on the week.

Week Twenty was thus an all-no-limit week, trying out a couple of limits but mostly playing the $25-max. I also had the first Lithuanians game (profitable) and the Hanging Chads game (unprofitable), so I was finally finding home games. The week ended positive about $450, so I seemed to be rebuilding.

In Week Twenty-One, the NL games were much less profitable, but mostly I discovered the $5/$10 Bad-Beat Jackpot tables. These are, as I said earlier, horribly loose games, but they nonetheless kicked my ass, and I had another way-down week, this time to the tune of $850. Since I plan for +$500 a week, that's $1350 down from my goal. And, truth be told, exceptionally non-good.

In Week Twenty-Two, the no-limit tables were beginning to frustrate me, so I returned to $2/$4, and eked out a $250 win for the week. Yay me. That left me free to return to the $3/$6 in Week Twenty-Three, and I managed a $450 win, in a lot more hours than I used to put in when I played $3/$6 regularly before I started to derail. I stayed there in Week Twenty-Four, and did about the same, despite a significant money in a multitable tourney—I ended up spending those winnings on entries into other multitables, figuring I finally had those licked. Apparently not.

Week Twenty-Five was another weak showing, despite one of my best-ever days at the casino, a $519 win playing $4/$8 at Little River Casino. I gave about half of that back the next two days, including my first-ever no-limit ring game live. But, staying up north bled away some of my winnings, as well, spent on hotel rooms in Manistee. I didn't pay a lot for a room in a tourist town in the summer, but it should probably be counted against the week's $200 win.

In Week Twenty-Six, a bad day at $3/$6 pushed me back to $2/$4 for bankroll reasons, and though I did okay at $2/$4 I dropped $200 playing a no-limit ring for the second time. This convinced me that I need to learn a lot more about no-limit ring games, because I felt totally outclassed. I think I published my big $50 fuckup earlier, when I blogged that game. So, another weak week, so to speak, where I earned only $300 in profit.

It's not truly part of the six months, but Week Twenty-Seven has passed, which was a down week for two basic reasons. First was playing at the Trump last Saturday. I wasn't supposed to bust out of that game; the $3/$6 there is usually a good game even if the rake is high. That essentially blew $200. Then I blew another $250 in desperation on the $5/$10 BBJ tables again, figuring a loose game really should be adding chips to my stack. The answer is still no. Between those and a breakeven week at $2/$4, I had a week down almost $500 and I'm at the point I talk about above.

Now I'm stuck how to end this. Ordinarily I'd "look to the future" but that's above. So I'll end it with an Iggyesque random link:

If you're going to drink and drive, do it better than this


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