I didn't win much money in 2009. I made a little bit, but only a little. It was my worst year of poker in terms of profits since my rookie year of online play in 2004.
What went wrong? How did I go from winning so much in each of the last three years to barely making a profit this year?
There's no single answer to this question, but here are a few plausible explanations:
1. The games have gotten tougher. There are still plenty of fish around, but overall, everyone is improving their games. Even the fish are more likely to be aggressive than loose-passive, which was more common in the years immediately after the boom.
2. My efforts to improve have sacrificed short-term profits for long-term gain. Over the last 18 months, I've changed a lot of things about my game. I played heads-up for a while, tried to become more of a LAG, forced myself to make more postflop decisions and dropped down in stakes to 2/4. It's essential that I continue to learn new things and incorporate them into my game, but those efforts don't always pay off immediately.
3. I played poorly. My efforts to reduce spew were replaced by leaks that led me to pay off too often. As I loosened up my game, I wasn't as comfortable playing aggressively because I was playing a weaker range of hands. I lost my ambition to keep moving up in stakes, which cut into my motivation.
4. I switched to shorthanded NL exclusively, cutting the one or two full ring tables I previously played. There are just too many shortstacks in full ring games, and game selection becomes tedious.
5. Full Tilt stopped allowing data mining of observed hands. Data mining observed hands wasn't something that I abused by leaving the client running when I wasn't playing, but it definitely helped me decide what tables to sit at because I could wait 10 or 20 hands to get an idea for how they were playing.
I'm comforted a little bit to know that I was unlucky this year, according to the Showdown Equity Calculator, which figures out street-by-street equities and compares them to results. SECT showed that I ran about 40 buy-ins below expectation this year. I guess that makes up for my good fortune in previous years.
For 2010, I need to do better. I need to pay off fewer value bets, play fewer hands out of position and refocus on game selection.
Good luck to you all in the new year!