Thursday, December 31, 2009

Focusing on the Long Term

Just a few days ago, I began ruminating on the concept of "focusing on the long-term."  Widely accepted as the wisdom of dealing with bad beats and bad temporary results, poker authors everywhere have been regurgitating this advice for years, much to the dismay of...oh, just about everyone.  In fact, I can not think of a more abstract or depressing way of viewing this game.  After all, they say we can never get too high or low about a given cash game session as it is really just one long game that goes on and on and on and on and ON..... Apparently the journey of a thousand miles not only begins with the first step but ends somewhere far beyond the visible horizon at a place that we won't even recognize when we get there.  Luckily for all of you, I have managed to take this poorly constructed yet well-meaning advice and turn it into something usable.  I will be the first to admit that there is nothing groundbreaking that I am about to present here, yet I am sure that some of you have oft overlooked it.

This meditation first began when pondering the effects of attempting to win the rake chase at Pokerworld for the month of January.  That wasn't a typo- for those of you who don't know, a rake "chase" is different than a rake "race" in that there are guaranteed tiered payouts for everyone who reaches specific rake plateaus.  The one in question rewards an extra $1,400 in cash to all those who rake at least $8,000 (high volume, if this is not already obvious) and $3,000 to all of those who rake at least $15,000 (extraordinary volume!).  Being that you are rewarded for consistent performance, this is superior to the alternative.

While this goal seem ludicrous to me personally when I saw it, it seemed quite doable the first time I raked $800 in a single day and realized that it was about 9 hours of play.  Though I knew it was unreasonable to think I could do this every day, I was quite happy to realize that it would only take 19 sessions like this.  Doing some quick calculations yielded that it would take somewhere between 180-200 hours of play of 9-tabling.  Further examination showed me that not only would I bring home that extra dough, it would also glue me to the table and force me to play when I would otherwise quit, creating much higher earns overall.  Being that I can track my rake to the penny using HEM, the previously abstract "long term" now had an end in sight.  When you have a distinct end point in that is actually tangible and achievable, the bad beats become much more tolerable and the long sessions now have a meaning other "win more" or "get unstuck".

The "goal" of winning at poker over the long-term is no better than the goal of finishing college, losing weight, or making Supernova Elite next year.  All experts say that these things must be broken down into manageable sub-goals that are achievable and measurable and preferably have some kind of reward for each step.  The above goals would be better stated as taking 6 credit hours each semester, limiting yourself to 1,500 calories per day, or earning x FPP's each day.  While the idea of raking $15,000 is unheard of for myself personally, I know that I can get through each day visualizing that $3,000 pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

For those of you who would like to follow my progress towards this goal, click here and search for the player name "Papa Rozzi" at Poker World, right at the top of the list!

P.S. A quick word of caution: do not let goals of earning FPP's or rake or rakeback distract you from your ultimate goal- making money.  Do not consume yourself with pushing past your maximum table limits to quickly reach a goal that will happen on its own.  As always, if the amount of money you earn at the tables is ultimately eclipsed by the rakeback you earn on a monthly basis, you are doing something wrong or misusing your focus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Moving Up and Losing Me Bottle

After last month of playing mostly $1/2 with some $2/4 and $3/6 and showing success in all of these stakes, I figured that the best move would be to start December playing only $2/4 and $3/6 from that point on, being well rolled for both games.  Being that playing the bigger pots in the larger games was distracting me from playing well in the smaller game, it seemed to make logical sense to eliminate the smallest game from my menu and enjoy the better win rates in the larger games.  Naturally, had this worked out so well, there would be no reason to make this post.

What I am attempting to explore here is whether or not you will do better in the long run by moving up now, EVEN IF you are well rolled and competent enough to beat the higher game.  Here is what I have found out:


Coventional poker knowledge: you should always keep playing when you are winning.  Short stack hero says:  HORSESHIT. Don't get me wrong here: I am not disagreeing with what all of the poker authors are saying in spirit, but rather, what they are saying in practice.  They have never addressed the psychological fact that people experience more pain due to a loss than the joy they receive relative to an equal win.

When I first started the month, I went up about $2,500 right out of the gate, in 3 short sessions.  Most of this came in $1,000 spurts experienced in the course of short runs of about 1-2 hours.  While this might feel quite good while it is happening, it is totally eclipsed by taking a dinner break and giving back $1,000 in 30 minutes.  The result?  It is very easy to go up a lot (relative to the smaller stakes you had been playing) and then find some external reason to quit and enjoy your win for the day.  To make matters worse, we create our own psychological barriers according the law of diminishing marginal utility.  It feels good to win the first $500 of the day and very good to hit $1,000 for the day, yet beyond this point, things begin to change.  Going up to $1,500 will make me feel only slightly better, yet dropping down to $500 for the day will make me feel lousy, with the irony being that had you told me the previous day that I would be making $500 tomorrow, I would be satisfied.

In sum, though $1,000 is still the same to me that it was in November, when you are playing just $2/4 and $3/6, it is an average of 2 full buy ins.  Easy to make and easy to give back.  My mind was simply not prepared for this.


This requires no extrapolation, for all of us have done this a some point.


We all know by know that poker profits are not just measured by the month, but also by the day, the hour, and to some people, by the hand.  No matter how big a single session is, time spent afterward away from the table will likely hurt your profits more than a long, slightly tilty session if you are a competent player.  The second week of the month was terrible.  I lost about $2,800 in the course of 3 short sessions and ran $3,300 under EV.  I had intellectualized that this would happen at some point, yet I was stilled floored by the fact it not only did, but that it happened so soon.  When you take a loss that is this disruptive, the thought of sitting at your desk becomes burdensome, if not intolerable.  Some people are made of stone and things like this just roll of their backs.  I am not one of them and I imagine that you are most likely not as well.


Damn short stackers have completely infested the full ring $2/4 and $3/6 games at Full Tilt (not for much longer, though)!  Rather than whine about it though, I just won't sit and play with them if there are too many and they have position on me.  Likewise, the higher you play, the fish become fewer and less frequent.  So for guys who are used to playing at 16-24 tables with little thought, this just becomes much more difficult to do.

As if it weren't difficult enough to make money at this game, making more money requires even more consideration than simply win rates and bank roll management.  Am I saying not to give it a try?  Absolutely not- just keep this on the back burner and be self-conscious at all times.