Sunday, December 31, 2006

Breakout Year

One year ago, I was preparing to move to Hawaii and start a new job. I didn't know what I should do with my poker game, although I was committed to climbing up the limit ladder. I had extra motivation because I wanted to get my bankroll over $9,000 so I could play $15/$30 limit hold em again -- a feat I had briefly achieved in November before going on a big downturn.

For the first half of the year, I bounced around from month to month and game to game, averaging about $1,500 a month. That was a decent amount, but I repeatedly got shot down any time I tried to play a limit above $10/$20. I started out at $5/$10 shorthanded, then played some full ring limit games, then tried massive multi-tabling of no limit games, then back to limit.

By the summer, I was getting frustrated with my lack of progress. I was making a profit, but mostly from rakeback, deposit bonuses and monthly blackjack bonuses. In fact, that had been the story of my poker career. I have always been a winning player after bonuses, but the $2,000 I earned in 2004 and $14,700 in 2005 came while I basically broke even at the tables.

One day when I was chatting with Vic, he told me he was still baffled over why I insisted on moving up through the ranks of limit hold em. I had always been a winner in no limit games, and that's what I decided to focus on.

The only problem was that my no limit strategy was incredibly static. I played only full-ring games and used a tight, aggressive strategy in which I waited for cards and then bet them for value or took down pots with continuation bets. That worked well for a while as I picked up the scraps of other people's money at 1/2 and 2/4 NL games on Party Poker.

Then came the turning point -- the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was attached to a port security bill in the late night hours before Congress went on recess. The law itself only prohibits U.S. banking institutions from doing business with gambling sites, but its passage caused Party Poker and many other sites to shut out U.S. players.

I withdrew my bankroll immediately while I waited to see how severe the law's impact would be. That week I didn't play poker and just relaxed. This may have been one of the best decisions of my poker career.

When I returned to the tables (now at Full Tilt), I never looked back. From October to December, I averaged more than $10,000 each month and brought my total yearly winnings over $51,000.

I quickly moved up from 2/4 to 3/6 and started killing the shorthanded tables. Armed with a subscription to Cardrunners, I learned how to better apply my knowledge and really attack the tables. The money kept flowing, and it wasn't long at all before I jumped in the 5/10 NL games.

These games are very good. I know some people say that online poker has gotten more difficult since the UIGEA, but I don't see it. These 5/10 tables are filled with people who are itching to give their money away, and I was so happy to take it.

From October till now, I haven't had a bad run. Even when I go card dead it seems like I make money. Almost every day I play, I can expect to rake in at least a few hundred dollars and as much as $4,000.

How did this happen? What changed?

I believe there was no one ingredient that improved my game to the point where I can be a consistent winner at these fantastic mid-limits. It was a matter of learning to play better in 6-max ring games, becoming more aggressive in position, integrating more bluffs in all parts of my game and learning how to let go of overpairs when someone is playing back at me on a non-threatening board.

Somehow, I get plenty of action when I want it while people fold to my bluffs. I keep my game simple most of the time, but even fancy plays are often successful. On top of that, I'm one lucky bastard -- I almost feel sorry for my opponents who I rain bad beats down on.

I continue to question how this is all possible. I feel like I've improved a lot this year, but I never thought my profits would climb so rapidly once I got the bankroll to play 5/10. Part of me wonders how much of this can be attributable to a sustained run of above-average cards, and I have to think that contributes to my success. On the other hand, perhaps I make a lot of my own luck by playing solid poker that constantly puts pressure on my opponents.

Either way, this year has been a tremendous ride, and I am incredibly optimistic about 2007. There are a lot of areas I want to improve on, but there's no reason for me to think I won't be able to (eventually) beat games at 10/20 NL and higher.

If there's one idea that may have helped me more than any other, it's the concept that players prove themselves when things are tough. Anyone can win when they get great cards. Being able to lose less money with second-best hands without tilting will salvage your bankroll.


kurokitty said...

The talent is there, but sometimes it takes a great offense to bring a team above the rest. Thank you, Cardrunners.

Variance said...

inspiring post. best of luck in 07!

easyE said...

Been meaning to reply to this post for a while. Hope you still check/see comments to earlier posts. Anyway, congrats on a great year. I knew you were doing well based on your posts recently, but didn't realize it was going this well!

One question if you don't mind. You mention you started using Cardrunners and it helped your game. I too am a member of Cardrunners and have had some difficulty trying to "morph" my style from a TAG game to more of a LAG game. Do you feel you have successfully done this? If you don't mind, would you be able to post some of your key PT stats (e.g. VPIP, PFR, etc.). Thanks much, and congrats again.

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