Monday, October 8, 2007

My first day....

This is my first day playing poker full time. Just having a window here beside me while I type this is such a huge initial improvement. I left a job in structural engineering because everyday that I sat in that drab grey cubicle a little bit more inside of me died. I had contemplated making this move for a long time. But taking the leap from having a comfortable twice-monthly paycheck is a hard thing. Especially when you have expensive apartment rent and student loans to pay. And honestly it wasn't until this summer that I think I became good enough that I could consider playing full time.

So this blog entry is going to be about my poker history. Then I'm going to write my next entry about my baseball aspirations. And after that I'll probably update with the ups and downs and the interesting things that happen along the way. Maybe it will be a real bore and not worth reading. But whether exciting and humorous or dull and repetitive I think it will be a good way for me to remember this experience. If nothing else I'll have something to look back at and remember when I decided to take a shot at a couple of my dreams.

Poker...where to begin. I first became interested poker when I first saw some of my baseball teammates playing on a road trip in '03. They were playing a bevy of wild card games as well as some blackjack. Considering all we had was meal money to play with these guys were gambling fairly high. There were pots worth a couple of hundred dollars, and needless to say the big winners usually had to buy the beers for that weekend. I had no idea how to play, assumed it was gambling, and being the frugal person I am I stayed away from their games.

The next 12 months I started seeing reruns of the 2003 WSOP (ty Mr. Moneymaker) as well as WPT events. For a super competitive games player like myself (I grew up playing multiple sports and was an avid Magic: The Gathering player for about 4 years) this looked like the perfect hobby.

I quickly began trying to find games to play in. We had some $5 buy-in games on occasion, but that wasn't working for me. While I was home for about 6 weeks that summer I purchased my first set of poker chips. They were fabulous 11.5g casino clay dice chips (all the CTers reading this will get a kick out of that). They were total crap, but I thought they were awesome. Apparently so did all of my friends back at school. When I went back for summer session to take a couple of classes I had no trouble getting a game going almost any night of the week. I was waiting tables most nights with a couple of friends, so when we would get off work around midnight we would grab a case of beer and get around a table and start playing cards. One of them had one of those felt tabletops, so obviously we felt like real gamblers. None ever won or lost more than $10, but it was a great bit of fun. The 2004 WSOP coverage was coming on ESPN, and I was getting more and more hooked.

When my teammates came back in town the games continued. We played at least a couple of times each week. I quickly became known as one of the better players. I credited most of my success to having bought a copy of Super System before fall break and reading it over the break. Mr. Brunson's ideas revolutionized my game at the time. Suddenly I was an aggressive and dangerous player that other people stayed out of the way of. I began to crush those games. I even made enough money in $5 increments to pay for my books in the spring of 2005 (which isn't cheap if you've seen the price of textbooks recently). Even when I had homework to do I would just take it with me to the games and play between hands. Poker was one of the few things that the baseball player could to for fun. We couldn't go out and party like most students since we had practice or a game nearly everyday.

Around November 2004 I created an account on UB and started playing play money and freerolls. I built up my playmoney to several million at one point, but lost it all in tilty sessions over Christmas break. That was my first taste with losing, and even though it was only play money it really bothered me. By this time I had Cloutier's NL and PL HE book (which is garbage) and I felt like I really knew what I was doing.

Spring 2005 came and went. I was swamped with finishing up my undergrad requirements for my two majors. We were finding less and less time to play with so many games, assignments, road trips, finals, etc etc etc. Eventually graduation came and went. I moved out of the dorms, and into an apartment off campus. I was planning on going to grad school the next year and playing baseball for one more season so this wasn't a big shift.

I found an offer for a free $100 on party poker through someone on (great website with everything you could ever want to know about poker chips) and soon was playing SNGs and $25NL on party several hours a night. I quickly ran my $100 up to $300 before variance began to kick in. For the next 8 months that $100 would fluctuate between $75 and $600 pretty rapidly as I tried to figure out how to beat NL cash games. I typically played 6max NL25 and usually 2-4 tables at a time. I had tilt issues, and also had no idea how to pick out a good table. So of course variance was high. I can proudly say though, that I never deposited a dime of my own money.

By this point it was winter of 2005 and I had a decent library of poker books. I had become tired of the constant fluctuations of my "bankroll" so I started keeping a serious log of my wins and losses, hours played, hands played, etc. My goal was to figure out what went right when I won, and what went wrong when I lost. Keeping the log was the first thing that started to turn me into a winning player. Before long I actually had a clue what I was doing. I also decided to try playing some limit because I thought it sounded like a decent change of pace. I really loved the .5/1 limit games where felt like the players played horribly. The more limit I played the more I liked it. I didn't feel like I tilted as much. Plus I was a curious player, and limit let me see what opponents had without blowing through stacks.

By the summer of 2006 I was playing 100% limit. Typically my sessions would be a couple of hours long and I would play 2-3 tables of 1/2 full ring on party. As I wasn't working a job and just house sitting for friends, I had a lot of free time. I ran my small bankroll up to $1.2k a couple of times, and then experienced bad swings down to $450 a couple of times. A few times I thought about quitting because the ups and downs were driving me crazy. I took a break for a few weeks to move to Boston in the end of that summer.

When I got to Boston I decided that it was time to take things more seriously if I was going to win at poker. I had already purchased Small Stakes Shorthanded by Ed Miller, which had improved my game by leaps and bounds. I was playing quite a bit of 2/4 now, and felt like I had a decent handle on the game. I decided to purchase pokertracker and start tracking my data. Soon I was able to get reads on opponents, and actually put thought into my table selection. Suddenly the game made much more sense. I began to look for leaks using poker tracker, and quickly figured out some weak spots in my game.

About that same time the US govt. passed the UIGEA and the Party was over. I used Neteller to move my roll to Full Tilt, and got a rakeback deal. I decided almost immediately that I should be playing 2/4 full time on FTP because that would make clearing the bonus faster (sound logic eh?). So while my bankroll went through pretty large fluctuations, I cleared the $600 deposit bonus on FTP, and got my first taste of rakeback. That $300 in my account that month was amazing. Free money for playing poker! I was pumped.

A couple of decent months of play and I was able to move up to 3/6. Soon I was 4-tabling 3/6 regularly with my PT stats and HUD fired up. I was reading and posting on 2p2 regularly, and my poker book library was quite extensive. I was a regular multi-tabling HUD 2p2 TAG. The kind of folks that you hate to see at your table. Now I was still just a so-so player, but I thought I was good. I was playing higher than ever before, and I was winning, so I had to be good right?

I decided to take a shot and deposit some money on AP and take advantage of their RB and bonus. Before I knew it I had a couple of grand between my two accounts. The RB was rolling in and I was beating 3/6. Not for a huge amount, but I was beating the game. I actually thought for the first time in the winter of 06-07 "I could do this for a living". How wrong I was.

In January of 2007 I decided I'd had enough of full ring. The games were drying up because of the UIGEA, and everyone who posted on 2p2 said that 6max was the way to go. I gave the small 6max games a few shots. I played like a total lag idiot. I opened any Ax from any spot in the table, 3-bet suited connectors, over played every pair etc. It was like I forgot everything I knew over my past year of playing full ring. 50k hands of limit poker in the last 6 months and I was playing like an idiot. But somehow my understanding of general hand reading, odds, relative hand strength, proper aggression etc was still keeping me above water. By hand 15k I was beating 6max for a small amount. I still had a lot to learn, but I was a full convert. The games were more interesting. I got to play more hands. I had to challenge myself. Poker was more exciting than it had been in months.

After about 30k hands of steadily beating 3/6 6max I decided it was time to take a shot at 5/10. My first session went smoothly and I left up about $220. I thought, "Man, this is easy money". Again, how wrong I was. Despite my success at 3/6, I knew the games were pretty bad last winter. The fish hadn't yet come back from the UIGEA scare, and tables were full of grinders and LAGTAGs. I decided to make the move to 5/10 full time after a good run, and it was almost the end of my poker roll.

A 275BB losing streak quickly smashed my 4k bankroll. I tried playing more tables. I tried playing fewer tables. I tried changing seats. I got more aggressive. I got less aggressive. Nothing was working. From March 2007-May of 2007 the tables continually beat me down again and again and again. I had thought I knew about as much about limit hold'em as you could, apparently I was wrong. I thought about just giving it all up. Cash out my $2k and enjoy it. The variance was too much, and I simply wasn't good enough. Instead I took about 4 weeks where I barely played any. I reread some books (SSSH, Theory of Poker, Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players). I played some SNGs. I picked up the new book Winning in Tough Hold'em games.

I followed this up with more reading and studying, and posting on 2p2. I finally dipped my feet back in June of 2007. Mostly playing 3/6 and some 5/10. I was winning again, but not steadily. After posting and reading more on 2p2 I decided I needed some coaching. Coaching is a little pricey though, so I settled for the next best thing. I became a member of Their videos were a huge help to my game. I watched terrific winning players break down how and why they played hands the way they did. They had great lessons on tilt control, table and seat selection, and adjusting to the other players. The impact on my game was immediate.

By the end of Summer 2007 I had gone from a close to breakeven TAG grinder at 6max, to consistently winning in the 5/10 games on FTP and AP. My understanding of the game was better than ever before. I could see my mistakes ahead of time. I knew when it was time to get up and leave a table. I knew how to find and sit with the fish. My table and game selection were better than ever. I had cut down to 2 tables and began taking detailed notes on all of the players I played against. For the third time in my 3 year poker journey I felt I had the game figured out, but this time I had learned enough to realize you can't ever stop learning. I may be nearing 100k hands of 6max in the last 9 months, but I realize it wasn't until the last 35k that I actually started to get the game.

I continued to post on 2p2 everyday. I began swapping HH with other players for review, and even did some coaching and HH reviewing for some other players. All of the while my bankroll was growing steadily. I hit the 5-figure mark and decided to take shots at 10/20. I only let myself play when I found a good seat in a good game. Practicing such strong game and seat selection led to immediate good results at 10/20. It really isn't significantly different than 5/10 if you find good games.

Around this same time I decided I had enough of my job. I was making more per hour and per month playing poker than I was at work. I wanted free time to pursue baseball. I decided to take a shot at going pro.And that is where we are now. I am playing poker full time. I consistently play 5/10 and 10/20 6max. I usually play 2 tables at a time and work hard on game and seat selection, taking reads, and paying attention to opponents. I also play some NL, and occasionally low stakes (2/4 and 3/6) mixed games. I feel like I am one of the better players in the games I play in, and more importantly I pick better spots than many of the people I play with.

I just finished up my first session as a full time player before writing this lengthy blog entry. +$800 or 40BB in about 250 hands. It was a nice heater. I had all of the fish to my right and they kept dumping to me the whole session. I don't think the other TAGs were happy that I had the best seat on all 3 tables. When the fish busted I decided to take a break. Guess I'll go check out how the games are now.

My baseball background (to be quite a bit briefer) to come in a few days. I might update with daily stuff before then.

currently listening to: Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College.

Peace and fish grease....themightyjim2k


Unknown said...

As always, a great post. Looking forward to more.
One question, are you going to focus on On-Line games exclusively, or do you plan to mix it with some live action??

Clipper - -


Jeff / FSU88

Jim Perry said...

I plan to play some live. The 20/40 at foxwoods is supposed to be very soft, and with the WPTs World Poker Finals coming up I expect there to be a lot of action. I figure to make a few trips down there in a few weeks and try to catch some of the side action from the tourney. Plus since I'll be filing as a pro for tax purposes my gas and room (if I get one) are deductible expenses.

thanks for the comment, and hopefully the blog will stay interesting for awhile.