I’ve been supporting myself as a poker player for nigh on six years now. I’ve been through rich times where I was bringing in five figures a month easily; I’ve been through downtimes where I lost more money in a couple weeks’ time than many people I knew made in a year. I’ve been through spots where I was scraping by and spots where I was flush; spots where I was steady rolling and spots where I was crashing. Way down, way up.
Lately, I’m just frustrated. I’ve been trying to rebuild my bankroll from scratch, more or less, and in 16 months on this project I have barely made any headway. When I started it in December 2009, I had about $2000 devoted to this project. Today, in April 2011, after factoring the money I have to take out for rent and other living expenses, I have… less than $2500.
The games I play now are NL100 heads-up on Full Tilt, NL50 rush 6-max on Full Tilt, and small-to-medium buyin tournaments on Full Tilt and PokerStars.
I keep thinking that once I move up to NL200, I’ll be able to make enough steadily that I can outpace my spending and actually allow my bankroll to grow to the point where I can, for the first time in years, have a legitimate financial cushion. Except that the last two times I made enough to move up to NL200, I immediately dumped 15 or so buyins at the new level and had to move back down after shredding 40% of my bankroll. Nothing is more depressing than seeing weeks and months of grinding effort go up in flames in two or three days.
So then I think, maybe I’ll grind some tournaments! I’m always good at those, and no matter how much people have “figured out” the game, $10 and $20 tournaments will always be populated with donkeys, right? Well, this is true, but it only matters if you can a)Play your best all the time and b)Have the work ethic, bankroll, and patience to wait out the long swings and stretches without wins.
I’m very skilled at tournaments, but I have huge tilt problems and find them maddeningly frustrating. If I played my A game all the time, I would crush them and bring in some good money, even if I just stuck to low- and mid-stakes buyins. The problem is, it’s very frustrating after the 200th time in a row you fail to win twenty-five consecutive coinflips and end up playing eight hours to make nine dollars. All it takes is one mistake late to be the difference between the game-changing score and the one that means you spent your day working for $1.20 an hour (if you even made any money at all).
If that wasn’t enough, I haven’t actually won a tournament in at least eighteen months. Each of my recent deep runs has been punctuated with some absurd screwjob on me– heads up, losing an 80/20 all in; three handed, repeatedly running hands like AJ and AQ into AA when I’m second in chips.
When it happens often enough, it’s hard not to feel that it’s personal. They say luck isn’t personal, but when your last deep run in a really big tournament involves losing a 98/2 with 14 left that costs you approximately $80k in equity, and every tournament since then (not an exaggeration) is a loss somehow, where even the “good” scores end up screwing you out of a few grand (or more) in the endgame, how can it not feel personal?
Of course, people say that the only real way through those stretches is to grind harder, to pump in more volume until the bad stretches even out and your long-term advantage is realized. But the problem I have with this is twofold:
-One, I have a wide variety of interests in my life. I’m simply not happy when I grind all the time. I neglect my health, my other interests, and I become an automaton. I’m miserable that way.
-Two, My game significantly deteriorates beyond a certain number of tables. If I start playing 10 or 12 tables at a time again, all my decisions are rushed, I miss important hands, and most of all, I can’t figure out how my opponents are playing, so I can’t adjust to take advantage of them. You can play “generic winning style” in tournaments, and you’ll be a slight winner subject to lots and lots of variance. But to become a really solid winner, you have to be attentive to your tables and know when you can make moves and pick up pots beyond simply what the cards will allow you to.
Anyway, on to my purpose with this blog. I still am a believer in my talent and skill enough that I believe I can really make it as a poker player; if not “big”, then at least something where I am living and saving well above subsistence level. But I need to make changes in my life to do that. I need to spend more time working than I am now– but I need to be efficient with that time. I need to accurately evaluate my play and get outside feedback. I need to be aware of what’s going on surrounding the culture of my games and the tournaments I want to play, and I need to take the steps necessary to get myself put in those tournaments again. Long-term, I want to be fiscally independent and have all my old debts paid off, with enough in my bankroll, savings, and steady income to live comfortably. Longer-term, I want to have a homestead I can retire to, with enough passive income that I can continue to live comfortably without actually working. Longer still– I hope to have done this at a young enough age to go out and do some good in the world, but I also understand that doing good is an everyday process.
This week, I’m setting up a plan in place that I’m going to implement for playing and blogging. Next week, I will put it into action.