Monday, May 09, 2005

On the Value of Chasing Bonuses

I need to work on my inability to pretend that someone is something other than an idiot, yammering monkey, when they're standing in front of me at work, acting like an idiot, yammering monkey. No, really, I'm serious, I do...

Assorted posts around and about the poker blog universe recently about the downsides of continuing to chase bonuses, once your bankroll reaches a certain level. And yeah, definitely, there's no arguing that a $50 bonus is vastly more valuable when your roll is $200, as opposed to when it's $10,000. And again, yes, indeed, if you run the numbers it's hard to argue against the logic that a winning player is better served to step up in limits and play their A game, instead of grinding out hands at lower limits chasing bonuses on auto-pilot, playing their B game.

With all that acknowledged, I think those arguments overlook a few points. They also make a few assumptions that aren't always the case, especially as far as the role of multi-tabling in speeding up clearing bonuses.

I'm the best example I know, so you're stuck with me. Ha.

I've been splitting my time the last few months, grinding out the juiciest bonuses at 1/2 limit 6 max and then also playing two tables of 10/20 limit. I typically play about 30-40 hours a month, chasing bonuses, and about 10-15 hours a month at 10/20 (a mixture of full and short games).

When I grind out bonuses, I play 4 tables on my main monitor and two tables (usually Cryptos) on my secondary monitor. I'm not a wizard of the clicking or any sort of short-handed savant. Six short 1/2 tables isn't too many to handle once you get used to it. Yes, I make mistakes, yes, I miss bets, but not an enormous number of them.

Crunching the numbers, I'm averaging about $20-$25/hour when I chase bonuses, when you add in profit from play + bonus. That number is pretty stable and comes from many, many hands, so it's pretty accurate.

So far I'm averaging about $35-$40/hr at the 10/20 level. Many fewer hands at this level but a decent amount.

Based on that, I'm losing money playing bonuses, as my hourly rate is lower, and I should just stick to playing higher limits. Right?

I don't think so. Not for me, at least, not yet. The key here is that I'm effectively risking nothing when I clear bonuses and exposing my bankroll to virtually no risk. Not to sound arrogant, but I can multi-table 1/2 on auto-pilot, download Chasey Lain clips on Kazaa, listen to House of Pain and pretty much guarantee myself a certain hourly wage. It's not exciting nor particularly fun but it's easy and, for all intents and purposes, risk-free. That doesn't mean I make a profit every month, as we all have bad runs, but over time I can book a nice, average profit, with no real downside risk to my bankroll.

Two tables of 10/20 is a bit of a different story, evidenced by my own personal Black Friday where I managed to drop over $3,000 in the span of a few hours. There's no arguing that the potential hourly earn rate is higher, but it's not yet significantly higher to make the added risk and exposure to bankroll fluctuations worth it to me. The plan is to keep playing like I am, splitting my time, and to hopefully graduate to 15/30 in a few months. At a certain point the money left on the table from not playing solely at higher limits will likely eclipse the comfortable, safe bonus income by too wide a margin for me to continue to ignore, and I'll fondly bid bonuses adieu. For the moment, though, the extra earnings potential isn't worth the extra risk, especially since I'm still getting my head around the idea of playing at higher limits.

Dipping briefly into the realm of psychology, the transition to higher limits has been easier for me in some ways because I have the safety blanket of bonuses to wrap myself in. The downswings don't hurt quite as much when I know they're insulated to some extent by the winnings I can grind out from bonuses. In the end, either you play well enough to win money or you don't. To win money, you have to have both the technical skills and the confidence to put your money at risk backing it up. For me, monthly bonus income serves as a very nice confidence boost that helps me play the way I need to at higher limits.

Long story short, I'm happy to keep building the bankroll at this stage, spending the bulk of my time grinding away at bonuses. If you can handle multi-tabling and are a winning player, I can't see any reason not to take advantge of the more lucrative bonuses. Yes, your potential hourly earn rate will be lower but it's virtually risk-free, if you're willing to plant your ass in front of the computer and do what you need to do.

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