Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One year as a semi-professional poker player

The year is coming to an end its time to review. I would say that overall the year went pretty well. I set out with a set of goals in mind, but as time went on they changed as I and my game did. I made many mistakes, but I feel I have learned from a lot of them.

The year started off well in January. I was playing KO Doublestack Turbo 90 mans on FTP. I crushed the games pretty well, having my biggest month ever to date winning just under 6500. I only played about 90 hours in that month, but considering every sessions was 4+ hours it made it much harder to put in 30 hours a week. At the time I viewed this as just the beginning of my reign of terror upon the masses of retarded fish at the 90s. Alas, February did not go as well as I expected.

One of the main reasons I had decided to go semi-pro was because I was making less than 1k a month at my job, didn't have a car, and lived with my parents. So flush with the success of January, I decided it was time to buy a car. In the beginning of the month I withdrew the majority of my roll and put into a down payment on my brand new Honda Civic SI. This same month I decided to move out of my parents house and into a house with my girlfriend. All of the expenses of a new unfurnished home as well as the time it took to move all our stuff left me with a very poor month. I went on a relatively small downswing, but with my relatively small bankroll it hurt hard. I didn't have the discipline to move down in stakes, and by the end of the month, I was busto. I made some obviously critical mistakes in February. I would say the big things I learned were that to space out big changes in my life. Buying a new car while moving in with your girlfriend while attempting to go pro at poker was way to much. I also left myself no reserve fund. Many of my bills were overdue, and I was in a state of near panic over whether I would be able to pay them. It was a terrible feeling and definitely made me play much worse. And the third and probably most important mistake was that I failed to respect bankroll management. I was trying to 12 table 26$ sit and gos with a 1k roll, which anyone will tell you is very reckless. My lack of discipline and need to satisfy my ego kept me from moving down and averting bustoness.

In March I emerged from the rubble. I deposited the last 100$ I had available to me and started grinding 3$ 90 mans. Luckily for me I ran well right off the bat, and was able to slowly advance through the stakes and was back up at the 11$ level by the end of the month. I grinded a ton, many many more hours than any previous month. I was driven by necessity, I had bills to pay and literally no other way to pay them. Through tons of volume and some good play, i managed to build my roll up to 1500$. I had to cash the majority of it out was able to pay the bills.

If you are capable of basic math, you will realize that in April my situation was not all that much better. I had around a 300$ roll, and faced another grind up at the 90s. I had too much pride to be stakes, though I'm sure I could have easily have gotten a deal as my winrate was steady and my variance was relatively low. But the thought of grinding 3$ sit and gos made me sick, and at the beginning of April I decided to try my hand at Heads Up No Limit. The only experience I had at playing heads up was from when me and my buddies would get drunk and try to run 50$ up to 5k. I had several good runs, getting to 400nl several times before going bust, but never completed my task. Looking back at the hands now, I realize I was running pretty hot and playing mediocre. Still, I thought I must be somewhat good at HU to make those runs, so it was worth a shot. With my 300$ roll I began my venture into HUNL. After breaking even for a few thousand hands I went on a tear, winning 30 BI in about 5k hands. At this point I thought that I had found my game, and the world was mine. Then disaster struck. With my new found hubris, I decided that it would be a good idea to 3 table a good reg on deep tables. I had the worst session of my life thus far, losing 22BI and running 10BI below EV. I certainly played poorly and got absolutely wafflecrushed my the guy. I had never really battled a reg before, and had no idea how to play against a frequent 3 bettor. I was calling a ton of 3bets, and would often go broke with second pair 200bb deep on the flop, chalking it up to a cooler. I tilted like never before, and soon found myself with a nearly breakeven month. Thank god for rakeback, the only thing that saved me.

By the time May came around I realized that my hubris was what had led me to such a crushing blow, and vowed to have humility and work hard. I started watching videos and really worked on my game, while also putting in a lot of volume. I ran about 12 BI above expectation, which always helps as well. I remember watching my lifetime winrate slowly rise from the grave and thinking that maybe all was not lost for me. I decided that I would play 100k hands at 50nl before I moved up to 100nl, as I was feeling very cautious given my previous swings.

When June rolled around, I decided to say eff it and made the jump to 100nl. I had a great month for me, and luckily ran very well in my shot. I also took a shot at 200nl, which was successful. For the second month in a row, I ran above expectation, but even if I had ran expectation I would have been very happy with the results. I continued to work on my game, and my confidence began to grow. The only thing I was unhappy with from June was that my volume was only half of what is was in May. I think I was feeling very nitty and didn't want to mess up my pretty graph (lol).

July was an absolutely awesome month for me, and still my best to date. Despite running 1200 below EV, I managed to book a near 10k win with rakeback. I was really coming into my own and looking back on that graph, I am very proud of it. I worked hard, putting in more volume then ever before, while still maintaining a very high level of play. However, this new high brought out my arrogance again, as I felt the world was mine.

August was a great month for me as well, though I did fairly poorly in HUNL cash. I played some tournaments, and managed my biggest score ever in a 125$ tournament on Full Tilt, for nearly 6k. I also played a bit of live, and managed to win around 2500 in just 10-12 hours of live 500nl play (ran very hot). I ended up the month with another nearly 10k win, but things were starting to unravel. I was no longer actively working on my game, and my volume and level of play had suffered significantly.

September was another low volume month for me, putting in only about 20k hands. I did fairly well, but only won about 3500. Its not chump change, but my level of play was not what it was the previous months.

In October the shit hit the fan. I ran worse than I ever had before, but my I seemed to be on permatilt. I didn't adjust well to my opponents, and chalked every hand up to a cooler. I lost about 2k in October, having the first losing month of my career. This wouldn't have been so bad, but at about the same time I withdrew almost all of my roll in order to finish paying off my car. At the same time I used the rest of my available funds to furnish my new office. This left me with a small bankroll that was unable to sustain the swings. I even moved back down to 50nl, but to no avail. By the end of the month I was busto.

November began with me back where I had started, with 3$ 90 mans. I had only a 100$ bankroll again, and I need to build it fast. Unfortunately, the games had gotten somewhat tougher, and instead of maintaining a 100% ROI as I had done over a large sample before, I was running at around 30% ROI. I was making only about 10$ an hour. I kept it up though, despite my frustration, mainly because I had no choice. A couple good days grew my bankroll to 500$, but I stagnated there. Once again I found my self say eff it, and jumping back into HU. I started back out at 50nl, and once I had 25 BIs took a shot at 100nl that went pretty well. I was back again, and starting to really work on my game again.

At the beginning of December I withdrew a large portion of my roll to pay bills, and was back at 50nl. I went on a tear and quickly took a successful shot at 100nl and then 200nl. Overall this month has been pretty good, though there have been some large swings.

So looking back again at this year I feel that I made many mistakes, but have learned a ton from them. #1. Always keep a healthy bankroll, no matter what.
#2. Space out big changes. #3. Keep a one year reserve fund so the pressure of paying bills never effects your play. #4. Putting in solid volume is the result of living a balanced life, with plenty of sleep and exercise.