Monday, December 27, 2004

2004 Poker Year in Review

My Year in Poker: 2004

Overall it was a good year, by whatever benchmark you want to measure it. Despite having to cash out the bulk of the bankroll twice (once to start the year to pay for my house then a second time to pay for my wedding), I ended the year with a decent bankroll and nice overall profits.

For the year I showed an overall profit of $17,263. While I don’t have a completely accurate accounting of my time at the tables, I’ve got good ballpark numbers, which work out to an hourly earn of a bit over $22/hour. Not quit your day job numbers but nice part-time, supplemental income numbers.

Of the overall profit of $17,263, bonuses accounted for $5,890. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. It’s probably a good thing, if one assumes that similar bonus opportunities exist in 2005, as I can be reasonably certain of reproducing my overall profit results from 2004. It could be a bad thing, however, as I cleared the majority of the bonuses at ½ tables and could have potentially showed a higher overall profit if I’d been playing winner poker at higher levels, instead of chasing so many bonus dollars at micro limits.

Aside from the actual numbers, I feel like I made good progress in my poker game itself. I’ve got a much better handle on selective aggression, better feel for short-handed play, and more tournament experience. Above and beyond all that, though, is that I’ve got a much greater awareness for the game, both at the table and away from the table. I’m finally absorbing a lot of the material I’ve read and, more importantly, gotten to the point where I can determine what to use and what to toss away. Yes, there are many great poker books out there, but blindly adopting any one style, with no regard to your strengths and weaknesses, is a dangerous thing.

I’ve finally, finally gotten better about tracking my play and results, both via PokerTracker and by old-fashioned Excel spreadsheets. I can’t emphasize enough how important and helpful that is. Your brain is a sneaky, conniving beast and will always strive to selectively edit your perception of things to suit its own nefarious purposes. Don’t let it. Track and account for everything.

As far as particulars, here goes:

Top Ten Poker-Related Lessons I Learned This Year

1) Poker is a grind. It just is. There’s no magic bullet to cure your poker ills, no panacea for horrible beats, suckouts, and bubbling in tournaments. Moving up (or down) in limits won’t cure it. Playing SnGs and MTTs won’t cure it. Playing NL won’t cure it. Playing PL Omaha won’t cure it. Successful poker players win money in the long run by grinding it out. It’s just that easy. And just that hard.

2) Party Poker is not where it’s at. This is sure to cause raised eyebrows and counter-arguments but Party (and assorted skins) isn’t the most profitable site to play at for skilled players. It just isn’t. Playing at the assorted Cryptos (InterPoker, Caribbean Sun, Will Hill, PokerPlex, Total Bet, UKBetting, et al.) is far more profitable. No, really. Even if you discount their monthly bonuses they’re more profitable. The simple reason why is that they have casinos that constantly feed gambling idiots with money into the poker room. Which is exactly the same reason why Pacific > Party. As far as tournament offerings, you can make a good argument for Party, but as far as ring games go, Party ain’t the place to be.

3) SnGos are fun but –EV. MTTs are fun but –EV. I fought this battle for a long time but I think I’ve finally made peace with it. I really enjoy SnGos and MTTs but they don’t make me money. Or, more importantly, they make me much less money than I’d make sitting in ring games. I know people occasionally post amazing SnG results, showing them to be highly profitable, but almost everyone I know (and trust) that’s played in a significant number of them usually ends up break-even overall. The variance is through the roof and while you have great runs you also have back-breaking dry spells of no cashes.

4) Discipline > patience. I used to equate these two but I think that’s a mistake. Patience is good but it leads to nut-peddling too often, leaving too much money on the table when aggression would pay off. Discipline, however, is much more powerful. I used to remind myself to be a patient player but now I battle to be a disciplined one. Patient players wait to be paid off; disciplined players punish others for making mistakes while constantly fighting to avoid the same mistakes themselves.

5) Bonuses are your friend. If you’re building a roll, building experience, building confidence, poker bonuses can be your very best friend. You won’t show a profit on every bonus you chase. It’s not guaranteed money and it can be frustrating at times, playing on sites you don’t particularly like, carefully managing your bankroll, etc. But bonuses are the best way to rapidly build a bankroll and greatly speed the learning curve, as it buys you time to make mistakes and learn without having to dip back into your wallet repeatedly.

6) Be aggressive. This is hard for me and doesn’t come naturally. I’ve posted about this more in-depth elsewhere, but aggressive poker really does win. I think the key is realizing that, but, more importantly, finding the level of aggression that fits your own playing style. Don’t just mindlessly follow the guidelines and suggestions in SSH. I’m not saying they’re wrong or that the style the advocate isn’t optimal, but that you have to be comfortable with the level of aggression you employ. Amping up the aggression knob from 4 to 10 will likely result in one thing: turning you into a frustrated, losing player, even if 10 is the theoretically correct setting. Gently turning the same aggression knob from 4 to 7, though, might make a huge difference in your results.

7) Life > poker. Poker will always be there. Yeah, I know, when you’re in the grip of poker addiction you want nothing more than to be slinging chips. But guess what? Poker will always be there. That’s the beauty of online poker. It’s not a trip to Vegas where you have to cram in the maximum number of table hours into a small window. Online poker ain’t going anywhere. Enjoy yourself. Get exercise. Do other stuff.

8) Only play when you can play. I used to hop on for quick mini-sessions, trying to squeeze in a few orbits before work, before going out for the evening, etc. And would inevitably find myself getting involved with marginal hands, not pushing hands as hard as I should from fear of losing too much in ten minutes, etc. To the point where that would be bouncing around in my head, even when I was sitting down and firing up the computer. The simple solution is just don’t do it. If you have any doubt, just avoid it. Remove it from the equation.

9) Set specific goals. Don’t just wander aimlessly around from table to table. Don’t tell yourself that all you want is to “improve” your game. Even if money doesn’t motivate you, use it to set specific goals and targets. It may be arbitrary and results-oriented but you’ll go crazy if you don’t set yourself demonstrable, transparent goals. Argue against being results-oriented all you like but it’s virtually impossible to set an aggressive monetary goal (and reach it) without your game improving as well.

10) Use thy tools, but don’t abuse them. PokerTracker is great. I love it. You should love it, too. But don’t be obsessed with it. Far too often I see people posting constantly about improving their aggression rating, lowering or raising their VP$IP, etc. Don’t let yourself be consumed by the tool. It’s great for harvesting data on other players, great for identifying trouble hands that you tend to become involved in too frequently, and great for showing your positional stats. But when you find yourself acting at the table in a way with the effect on your PokerTracker stats in mind, you’ve got a problem. Tools like PokerTracker are great for when things go awry and you’re looking for leaks but not so great when you’re trying to address larger strategic issues in your game.

1 comment:

Donkeypuncher said...