Monday, 20 February 2012

Poker Post!

It's been more then 6 years since I first took up poker, and it really has become old hat.  For a considerable amount of time while I was first learning, I was filled with emotions while playing, and depending on the way the game went, I was overcome with these emotions after the game.  I played scared, I was hoping not to lose my money, rather then hoping to win.  In many cases I was completely naive to how experienced and in some instances how talented the players I was playing against were.  For the first couple of years that I played live, I did not track my results.  I waited for big hands, made my raise, then waited for the loose and aggressive sharks to take me out.  I can't count the amount of times that guys would call in behind and just wait until I showed weakness, then fire in a big bet and take the pot away from me.  I enjoyed the game at that point, mostly because the fear I felt while playing was a great adrenaline rush.  There is nothing like having top pair against a draw for $500 to get the heart racing a little bit.  I am not trying to be macho here, I still get sweaty when there is a large amount on the line, but I have managed to gain a level of maturity about what I am doing. 

I have been calling poker a job for the last few years.  In reality, it is.  The definition of "job" on has five meanings listed. 

a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price: She gave him the job of mowing the lawn.
a post of employment; full-time or part-time position: She was seeking a job as an editor.
anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility: It is your job to be on time.
an affair, matter, occurrence, or state of affairs: to make the best of a bad job.
the material, project, assignment, etc., being worked upon: The housing project was a long and costly job.

Of course, I went ahead and posted that list, read the list over, and I now realize that poker as a profession doesn't fit into any of those 5 definitions perfectly.  It is "a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price", but it is only part of my routine because I chose it to be.  As well, the financial compensation is hardly agreed upon.  One of the things that keeps me playing is that you have no clue when he sit down to play whether you are going to win or lose that night.  I might start my night feeling great and be in an excellent frame of mind, but that doesn't mean that everyone else at the table doesn't feel the same way.  I have to battle the other 9 people playing, the cards themselves, and myself.  When I first started I was easily intimidated as I already stated.  If I had a cold streak I rarely looked at my own play but chose to fault the cards, or bemoan just how wild and aggressive everyone else was.  Over the years, I have become more comfortable and my game has evolved.  I play to make money, but at the same time, I have come to realize that you need to enjoy yourself while playing, or you won't win.  Take a gamble once in a while, make a silly raise, sometimes it works, and other times you look like an idiot, which also has its benefits.

When I started typing this morning, I wanted to focus on poker as a supplemental income.  I went off on a bit of a tangent, but back to the point.  In 2009 I started tracking my results, setting up a spreadsheet and recording my wins and losses each time I played a session.  At that point I believed I was a winning player, but being that I am a bit neurotic about numbers, I wanted a more precise measure of where I was at.  It turned out that 2009 was a great year.  In 2010 I began recording how long I was playing for in addition to my wins and losses.  I feel that recording my results like this has helped me view poker as one long occupation rather then focussing on whether or not I was winning on a particular night.  When things aren't going well, it's nice to escape with a small loss, conversely, recording helps me realize when I missed opportunities as well.  I feel like I am less likely to loosen up when I am winning if I am not looking at the particular session in a bubble.  
For part of 2010 and 2011 I had a second job in addition to my work as a support worker, so poker was a third job, one that I really didn't need to rely on.  I still had decent results, but my focus was not always there when I was playing.  Towards the end of last year and going into this year, poker has held an important place in our household income.  The volatility of the outcome can be frustrating, but I am now confident in my abilities to the point that I know the wins will come on the long run.  I was a winning player in 2009, 2010 and 2011 so it isn't a stretch to say that I want to be a winner again this year.  I have been bandying about making specific goals for the year, and initially set a goal of $12000 profit for the year, or $1000 a month, or roughly $250 a week.  I don't play the same number of hours every month as things come up and family of course is a priority, so setting goals can be difficult.  I have since adjusted my goal.  I feel like $500 a month is more reasonable, with an hourly rate of ~$17-18 per hour.  If I make an effort to be focussed, well rested and ready when I sit down each time, I don't think this is unreasonable in the least.  I have made a decent start to the year, and look to have it continue for the rest of 2011.  Now I leave you with a hand history from yesterday that still has me smiling today.

I had been playing for a while and was ahead a small amount on the day.  I was under the gun with 10 10 and chose to just call the $2.  I don't limp the strong hands too often, but due to the table, and the afinity of some to call, I wanted to try something different.  If I make it $15 to go (standard raise at my casino), I will either lose everyone, or get multiple callers, the latter being more likely.  Not many flops will be to my liking if I have a number of people to act behind me.  Also, if there is a raise behind, I have the option to re-raise depending on who makes the raise and how many callers there is on the raise.  If there is $45 or more in there when it gets back to me, making it $75 to take it down is a strong possibility.  In the end, no one raises and we go to the flop 6 handed. The pot is $12.

The flop is J76 2 hearts.  I didn't mind the flop, but I checked after the blinds did.  Last to act, a very loose player makes it $7.  The big blind to my right calls, a young woman who I haven't played with.  In the hour since she sat down we had clashed a number of times, she fired off a 3 barrell bluff on me and showed when I folded.  She recieved a number of compliments at the table for that hand, then she made a solid top pair lay down when I went all-in.  I told her it was a nice fold even though she had me beat (she didn't, I was just trying to build her confidence).  She also loved to "float" meaning that she would call with nothing hoping to hit on the turn or river.  Due to these factors, as well as the loose image of the raiser, I went ahead and check raised to $30 looking to win the pot right away.  There was a distinct possibility that neither had a jack.  If they were drawing at the straight or the flush they might call, but the draws missing on the turn could let me win with a big turn bet, or we could all see the river for cheap with a check around.  Ultimately, I got called in both spots.  The pot is ~$100.

The turn is J clubs.  An interesting card in that my hypothesis about no one having a jack seems more likely now, but at the same time, are both opponents drawing?  If so, I am going to need to make a big bet here to fold them both out.  Before I can think to long, the lady in the small blind bets $40.  I was a little surprised as she was quite passive on the flop, opting to just call twice.  Her approach to the hand could have been a weak jack, she was in the blinds and on the flop a jack without a kicker would possibly play it her way.  She also had been bluffing lots as her confidence and her stack grew.  I tried to get a read about the other player in the hand,  and decided to call with confidence, hoping to fold out the third player.  He did go ahead and fold, and we went to the river.  The pot is ~$180.

The river is a 6  of spades, pair the board a second time.  At this point I was convinced that I had her beat, but this did not stop her.  She didn't seem inclined to giving up on a pot once she took the lead, and she began counting out the bet.  At first it looked like $40, but she continued to add to her bet.  I was going to make a super quick snap call just to show how convinced I was that she was bluffing, but opted to slide out 12 red chips to make the $60.  I asked "Do you have it?"  She shook her head, I tabled my 10 10 and the table went silent.  Not only was I happy about my call, I think I had a few people confused about the way the hand played out.  In the end ~$300 sent my way.  I gained satisfaction from this as well because she had frustrated me for 45 minutes, taking a few pots from me and driving me close to making a bad decision or two.  She moved seats, going from my left to my right, and those who play cards know that if someone is outplaying you as she had been, its much easier to deal with when you are acting behind.  She fired off the rest of her chips, ~$200 before the hour was out.  Its these small victories that keep me interested, and the money is nice as well.  Any poker players reading, let me know your thoughts.


  1. I just came here to say that I really enjoyed the way you told the hand's story above - giving detail about the game, the players and some tendencies.

    This is something that is severely lacking in a lot of poker stories now a days and it makes it a lot more enjoyable to read and to actually follow through processes.

    Also, good job on having 3 years in a row of profitability - I'm sure great things will happen for you again this year.

  2. Thank you for the compliment. I am not one to tell poker hand stories very often, but I felt that this one was intriguing due to the details involved. I have endured enough generic bad beat stories to last a lifetime, I try extremely hard not to tell them myself.

  3. I wasnt there but I can totally envision the hand. Well played sir.