Archive for February, 2010

Reflections on Pro Week

Posted: February 16, 2010 in General

So what of the lifestyle metrics and success criteria I’ve been tracking throughout the pro week experiment?

Game selection is the most important decision any poker player, amateur or professional, will ever make. As a real pro (i.e. unemployed as far as the govenment are concerned), I really wouldn’t expect to make a great deal of profit from the much nittier afternoon casino games, which are in the main populated by other folk making their living from poker. The easiest money by some margin is available in the core boozing hours of 9pm through 1am mid-week; later on a Friday and Saturday. Effectively the life of a poker pro appears to become a vampire like existence, endless nights spent hovering in the shadows waiting to pounce on the wallets of the unwary.

I imagine that there would be advantages to working a nightshift of 7pm through 3am, however maintaining a family and social life isn’t one of them. To balance the health aspects of a sedentary ‘career’ you’d definitely need to make firm use of a gym membership, and I do have to admit that my health and diet suffered as a result of so much time at the poker table during this experiment. Although a daily intake of sushi for lunch goes a long way towards maintaining a glow of health, I only managed to cook and eat properly one evening during pro week, the rest of my nights powered by either casino restaurant dining or snack-and-go tableside eats. Fine for a week, but hardly the definition of ‘living right’.

What of the enjoyment factor? Despite that I grumble about it from time to time, I do take moments of pleasure from my day job – the occasional glimpse of satisfaction at achieving something worthwhile, even if only in the pursuit of wealth for my company’s shareholders. Apologies to any readers who hold the role, but I’m afraid I can scarely think of a less worthy job than professional gambler. To be fair I guess this lifestyle choice could be balanced with voluntary work; and perhaps the ability to choose your own hours would make it easier to compress the working week into three or four days, yielding a weekend (but not the golden nights of Friday & Saturday) and an extra day to spend in pursuit of charitable causes? It’s a nice intention, but is it something you’d be able to follow-through with consistently during a patch of extended bad variance? I doubt it.

I made my fair share of mistakes during pro week, almost certainly halving the profit I could have made (and therefore potentially doubling my ‘salary’ should I ever achieve the unreachable nirvana of a consistently error-free game).  I poo-poo’d a poker book I recently read by Tommy Angelo, dismissing it as vacuous nonsense (my purchase prompted by this post over at the rather well written Thinking Poker), however on further reflection perhaps there is something to Angelo’s suggestion that it’s of paramount to ‘quit right’. To learn to stop playing and go home at the point where you no longer believe you can maintain your A game. I played beyond this point on at least two of the five pro week sessions, trying to push the envelope and seek out an end-of-the-night gamble to parlay a small win up to a big score or a loss. My two biggest errors of the week were as a result of super-lag lines played in pots that should been kept small, or even folded. Were I ever to go pro for real, I’d need to kill this tendency dead. Life is all one long game, and the same players will still be there tomorrow. It’s unnecessary to throw away chunks of bankroll simply because some arbitrary end of session milestone is approaching.

One of the metrics I said I wouldn’t assess for pro week was profitability (or lack thereof). Despite that I wasn’t judging the success of the week based on money, it is still interesting to consider how this tiny sample week might scale-up to an annual salary.

Over the course of a modest working week of 33 hours, I made a £605 profit. In fact I locked this up entirely on the second night, spending the remaining four days flucutating up and down by small margins. However that’s the nature of variance, and as a professional player I imagine all you can do is to minimise your losses on bad days, and maximise your wins on good days. I’ll say it again, this is far too small a sample to be considered representative, however were we to extrapolate this result we could estimate a win rate of £18/hour; in poker terms a fairly modest 9 BB/hour. A good rate would be considered to be more like 20 BB/hour, so either I played badly or I ran badly (net – sorry again Dev!) over the course of the week.

Multiplying that up by 45 weeks to a working year yields a salary of just over £27,000 after tax (as in the UK at least, gambling income is untaxed). Approximately equivalent to a pre-tax salary of £40,000 pa. Not bad, but honestly not really sufficient to keep me in the luxury to which I’ve become accustomed, let alone to support a wife (recently acquired), new house (imminently about to exchange), two cats (yet to be purchased); oh and ideally some sort of retirement plan.

As a live poker pro there’s no opportunity to increase your win rate by multi-tabling, so all you can practically do is to work your way up the levels. Soft £1/2 games are easy to find any night of the week in a metropolis like London, but it may get a bit trickier to reliably locate easy money at £2/5 or £5/10. Is not something I’ve tried yet, however I think it would be necessary to be averaging ~10BB/hour at £5/10 (pre-tax equivalent of a six figure salary) to support a good lifestyle in London. I’ve no idea whether it’s possible to find enough games to get in 40 good hours a week, but were I to be considering going pro for real, this would be another of the prerequisites.

So in summary, while life as a poker pro might work well for a man of leisure, having taken the life decision to marry and one day have a family it’s not something I feel would suit me well. Perhaps once the kids are (conceived,) schooled and sent out into the world I’ll come back to the idea, but for now I’m more than happy with the balance of no more than two nights a week.

Glad I undertook this experiment nonetheless. It’s been an interesting experience, albeit not one I’d recommend nor repeat any time soon.

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Pro Week

Posted: February 14, 2010 in General

With a full working week of poker behind me, I intend to share some final summary thoughts on pro week.

Not today though.

It’s finally Sunday and my day of rest – I’m looking forward to spending the afternoon having absolutely nothing to do with poker. There’s a good book and an unwatched Park Chan-wook blueray to bury myself in, I might pop out for a run while there’s no snow on the ground, and perhaps get experimental in the kitchen this evening.

It’s been a fairly heavy week, one that was enlightening if not extremely profitable (albeit profitable nonetheless). I think there are definitely some life lessons to take into my future game, however I’ll leave distilling them to another day.

Bon soir regular readers. Oh, and by the way, according to my web stats apparently there are 500 of you now – mostly courtesty of the excellent and highly trafficed Magical Mystery Poker Tour).

Pro day 5

Posted: February 14, 2010 in General

I’m done.

After a marathon 10 hour session today, my total playing time for the week is up to 33 hours. That’s approximately 700 hands of poker, mileage an online pro could no doubt clock-up in a good two or three hour session multitabling.

Another small loss recorded unfortunately, which I’ll primarily put down to slightly sub-standard cards and one rather -EV move. Rather than try to summarise the whole session, will share an excerpt from my IM conversation with the Baron and Snake between about 8pm and 1am:

Luke: Wow, quiet here. Four tables of single boys and a small list, rather than the usual horde of lingerers. Guess it’ll go crazier than usual 10pm onwards when the happy couples have had their Valentine dinners and come to gamble.

Luke: Couples trickling in…

Tom: Seriously? What an excellent way to spend valentines, jesus…

Luke: Mmm, some girlies gangs here also, but mainly boys tbh

Mike: Good luck mate. Stacked anybody yet?

Luke: Nah, all quiet really. Made a few moves but ran into sets and flushes each time. May be on wrong table, just nosing around now. Waning a little tho to be fair. May be overpokered…

Mike: Then quit mate. You’ve put in the hours so far.

Luke: Will quit when feel I’m playing bad. At moment playing solid TAG fairly effortlessly. Not sure have LAG in me at moment tho.

Luke: New table just opened, I’ve switched. Going to try to turn it on for a bit and see how I go. Right in the doorway, full of Valentine romeos. Not a reg in sight. Yumyum…maybe

Luke: Right. Nicked 2nd pot with 52o double barrel. Showed to much amusement. Angry man on right now. Lol. Lots of shortstacks on table at moment. Need to maneuver carefully if playing LAG.

Tom: Come on pro, sat night, time for a big score

Luke: Indeed. Early yet, you can’t push these things. Well, maybe you can, but you’re ‘special’ Tom.

Tom: Special?

Luke: Special == mentally deficient at poker table

Luke: Just doubled up someone’s top pair with 53o no draw shove on flop. Have table covered. My rep looking good, it got a big laugh.

Luke: Think it’s getting infectious. Four player all in.

Luke: It’s on. Shoved 99 pre and got 2 callers. Let’s see what happens!!! … Ace on flop … Oops. Vs QQ and KK. Lol!!!!!!!

Mike: Luke is busto..

Luke: Ha ha, yes!

Luke: So much for LAG. At least am enjoying myself for first time in a few hours tho.

Tom: Lol at busto

Luke: Haha. Anyway. I’ve bet at last 3 hands consec. Am in SLAG mode

Tom: Excellent. Far more entertaining

Luke: Am 1 for 3 tho. Reputation tatty. Come on big hands. Anyway, only down 250, small cheese at moment. Plus having fun.

Luke: Have 100 on table. Going to do something daft for laughs in a bit and then top up big.

Tom: All in blind. In squeeze situation

Luke: Went the other way and nicked it on the river with 7 high. Showed of course. Up to 150.

Luke: Vpip 92%. Back down to 100 with a silly steal. It’s a bit of a bugger paying for a SLAG rep, and then running so cold you can’t utilise it…

Luke: Just pulled off hero call with 55 on river on board of 6J888 after I bet the first two streets and he took lead on the end… Genius rep established. Was a stack call against guy I’ve been beating on. His body language when shoved the river screamed mega bluff.

Luke: Woo hoo. Put my first bad beat on someone in days (apart from Dev of course). 99 vs KK aipf, hit set. Unfort he was ultra short stack.

And so I pretty much played like an absolute loon intersperced with moments of genius for the final 4 hours through to dawn. Although you could say that my hand selection went to the dogs somewhat, a reasonble modicum of skill on my part enabled me to keep out of the way of the majority of dominating hands, and just push back on weakness where the pot was there for the taking. And it was there for the taking a lot. Playing virtually every hand from every position, I made steal attempts at somewhere in the region of 3 hands per rotation, getting away with well over half of them. Rather “two steps forward, one back” but eventually undoing the damage of shoving into two overpairs and recovering my moderate loss back to a small one.

And so for the last time will share my thoughts on session success criteria.

10 hours played. Rather than adapting to the situation, I forced my crazy game onto a group of players who weren’t really ready for it – taking at least two guys well out of their understood territory into the land of calling with queen high (sorry, this time I’ve got a pair – try again!). On the whole an enjoyable session, although the first few hours fairly quiet until I found a table I could bully. Only one big mistake, although I’ll admit I was lucky in the sense that didn’t run into too many big hands after the 99/kk/aa incident.

Can also finally say that I don’t have to look forward to playing tomorrow…

Pro day 4

Posted: February 13, 2010 in General

Longest session of pro week played so far, but only a short posting to make – unfortunately 8 hours at the table where nothing really happened.

Bookended my night with two bad decisions. Opening bad decision was to head to the same venue as last night – unfortunately despite that it was a Friday there was no real action to be had. Everybody scared to play anything approaching a big pot, and so with a fairly mundane set of hole cards the hours dragged by monotously.

Had a chance to make a big score around 3am versus a big stack I’d been targeting. However despite that I managed to get him to put his stack into the middle with 73 vs my K3 on a 33Q flop, the second queen on the turn invalidated my lead and we chopped an £800 pot. Rather a shame.

The bad decision at the end of the night? Out of sheer boredom raised blind to £10 from the button, picked-up four callers. Was bet into on a flop of T84, peeked down to reveal the monster that is T2o and deciding to shove for my stack. Managed to run into a slowly played QQ, and all my good work of the previous hours undone and turned a very small £100 profit into a £100 loss.

Anyway though, back to the more important matter of the pro-week success criteria:

8  hours played, not terribly enjoyable, three errors all boredom induced, don’t feel I adapted well – really should have moved on to a different venue as soon as I realised these were slim pickings. I guess I am somewhat looking forward to playing again tomorrow, that’s if I don’t score my stand-in friend-date for Valentine’s night.

Pro day 3

Posted: February 12, 2010 in General

On the recommendation of Snake, I popped into an old favourite casino this evening – the very same venue I played my first hand of poker in a ‘proper’ cardroom back in 1998 or so. A £15 freeze-out beginners night tournament populated by a field of 60 or so similarly green players – tough stuff for a fledgling poker player such as 26 year old fLuke to overcome.

I recall my first hour of cards being a nerve-wracking experience. Only mildly calmed by the wry and humorous tournament direction of their cardroom manager, none other than Roy ‘the legend’ Houghton.

Well, it’s 12 years later and Roy had moved on, but it seems he’s left the same green players behind, and all it would appear they’ve done is graduate from tournaments to cash poker.

My third night pro was unfortunately somewhat spoiled by the stinking cough and cold I picked up last week. I spent the entire five hours at the table spluttering germs over my fellow combatants. The lurgy has been building up all week, and I’m absolutely certain that so many hours sat at a card table handling filthy chips hasn’t done my health any favours.

Nonetheless, an extremely soft game located once again, if anything even easier than pro day 2. My cards were as cold as ice, but it didn’t stop me playing 95% of hands. I do believe there was a raise once, maybe around 10.30pm, but apart from that it seemed that everyone was content to rely on the basic poker arsenal of fold, check, call and bet.

An interesting dynamic broke-out, possibly one deserving further analysis over a laptop. With the majority of players willing to limp/call any pair, top pair no kicker became a bit of a monster. I was able to stack up rather nicely throughout the night adopting a very simple and consistent line of betting/raising my junk,  and calling down with top pair or better.

I do have to share a fairly hilarious set of circumstances that led to my staying relatively late this evening, rather than allowing my declining health to drive me back to bed. Matey in the seat to my immediate right has made one or two somewhat odd plays early in the evening, it’s somewhat possible (albeit unlikely) that he knows what he’s doing. We get chatting about general rubbish, and within about ten minutes I manage to stack him for about £100, calling him down with 87o after he bet out a TT8 flop and kept shooting. Deciding that he would be the type to trap a ten, I called and called a turn and river of Jh 7s (giving me three pair), and so his final desperation shove made for a pretty straight-forward call. He grumbled and didn’t show, probably an under-pair to the flop, fives or sixes.

He stacked-up soon after, this time to about £300, making the two of us joint big chips versus everyone else’s ~£100.

It’s at this point that I should mention that he had an enormous furry tiger cub as a mascot, sitting on the table virtually blocking my view of his stack. It was around 9pm that I twigged that whenever he had what he perceived as a big hand, he’d pick-up the tiger and shake it at the player contemplating a call, making grrr sounds. It’s not quite as subtle as putting a cookie to your ear, but hey – whatever rocks your boat. I’m not sure any of the other players were paying any real attention, or at least they kept calling with lord only knows what and then passing to his triumphantly flipped up top pair.

Funny (and obviously extremely profitable), but that’s not the comedy gold part of the night. Around 10.30pm one of his buddies wanders over. “What are you playing mate?” he asks.

“It’s poker isn’t it, like you seen on TV.” he explains.

“How does that work then?”

Tigershaker then goes on to explain the game of poker. It’s a long and rambling tale, infused with advice such as “when you’ve got two cards the same in your hand, that’s a pair”, and “when you get two cards the same on the table, and when you’ve got another two cards the same in your hand, that’s two pair”. His advice on bluffing I thought was particularly insightful, apparently “never bluff, because people won’t fold for just £100”. It was obviously a do as I say not as I do lesson, because there were an awful lot of hands where Mr Tiger sat undisturbed over the following few hours, and strangely matey would grumble and pass to my 3x raises…

Staggeringly, the mate, now having been taught the finer points of poker, decides to borrow £50 from his buddy and join the game. Myself and the only other vaguely compos mentis player at the table goggled incredulously over the following 15 minutes as he churned through three buy-ins in very short order. Happily, most of the money ending up back in Tigershaker’s stack where I intended it to be just a matter of time before the lovely pile of black £25s would slide one seat to the left.

Unfortunately though, I couldn’t find a hand to shake a tiger at. And by 11.30pm my coughing was reaching a frequency and volume that I really started to become embarrassed about. With a big game planned for tomorrow night, I elected to cash in my nicely chipped-up stack and to jump in an AddLee home and to bed.

So just before I sign off, a quick tally of performance relative to the pro week metrics:

5 hours played, adapted once again beautifully, no major errors other than perhaps one or two river value bets missed, and apart from the coughing I rather enjoyed myself. Very much looking forward to the 17 hours of poker I need to get in over Friday and Saturday to complete this experiement.

Oh, and happily enough, despite that I’m not considering the financial side of things as part of the experiment’s success criteria, I’m now on a four figure freeroll for the weekend. If I can chip that up further again on Friday, I might have to start considering taking a shot at the 5/10 game at the Palm Beach. It’s at least a £1,000 sit down, so I’m going to need around three grand in my pocket to play the game properly. Probably wise to wait until my health is back at 100%, but something to give consideration to at least.

Ps. In line with expectations, the ‘pool night’ that Baron, Jimbo and Nemo played this evening as a final final goodbye to Smalls turned into stacks poker. It seems the boys didnt even make it until 8pm before they broke-out the cards. Bloody degenerates…

Pro day 2

Posted: February 11, 2010 in General

Tough day at the office, the real office, today. My day bookended by video conferences with HK and the US, each of which required a hefty quantity of preparation, and to be honest no small amount of poker skill to navigate and negotiate trecherous waters.

By the end of my last meeting I really wasn’t in the mood for yet another working day at the table, but this experiment wouldn’t be much of a success if I threw in the towel after day 1, even considering that I played poker on two of the preceeding three days before start of my mini pro career.

Deven got me spurred on though, txting me at 8pm to confirm he was heading to the our venue for the night. I jumped in the car, and arrived just in time to catch him for a quick dinner.

As anticipated, our chosen casino proved to be a complete and utter contrast to the madness of the night before, populated by calling stations and aggressive Chinese men who view TPTK at the nuts. Fortunately my slightly sad run of cards of the last few weeks also came to a juddering halt, as I managed to get it all in pre-flop three ways holding aces versus kings and jacks on my first straddle of the night, to stack Deven and a random chap.

Good cards and solid play followed for a five hour period. I flopped top pair and a flush draw about six times, getting paid or finding passes on all but one.

With my stack increased from £200 to £750, and Deven not far behind having chipped up through a series of rather effective steals, I called time on my first table and switched to take on a different set of unwary opponents, leaving Deven to clean-up alone.

Second table proved to be slightly more fierce, however nothing that pro-Luke’s continue run of good cards and good play couldn’t deal with.

Only one foot put wrong all night really, raising pre- from the button with 65s and double-barrelling the flop and turn versus a chap with a big draw that he just couldn’t lay down. However the mis-step presented an opportunity to show a failed steal attempt, so used that to switch gears into all out thievery mode, nicking and showing a further three successful bluffs before stacking the player who won the original pot after I massively over-shoved my 54s small flush draw and pair versus his bare Q8s flush draw (a move straight out of the Baron’s play book, thank you Sir). My lowly pair of 5’s held and I chipped to a high point of £900.

Once again though, the measure of the pro week experiment isn’t money won or lost, it’s temperament, ability and consistency. So, my self assessed scores on the doors for this evening are:

5 hours played, only one small error (missing an opportunity to buy a medium sized pot with a bet on the river), adapted perfectly to the conditions, really looking forward to playing again tomorrow.

I’ve locked-in Friday with the Nit at the Empire, and with a vacant Saturday morning it’s doubless going to be a monster session. May therefore play a light session tomorrow night, possibly dropping into the International to catch the side action from their regular tournament schedule.

Much as I’d like to play this Saturday night as well, am trying to score a Valentine ‘date’ with a one of the girls I’ve only seen once since the wedding. If that falls through though will definitely plan on continuing pro week into its fifth consecutive day.

Pro day 1

Posted: February 10, 2010 in General

After a rather robust weekend of poker and partying in Nottingham, I skipped Monday and elected to start pro-week on Tuesday night with the regular canine ‘homegame’ at the Loose Cannon. A few of the more nutbar players expected, so there was bound to be plenty of action.

Not disappointed remotely by the performance of my poker colleagues, well over two grand on the table within the first two hours (predictably, the Baron absolutely could not lose a hand), and closer to ten thousand in play by the time I had to retire at 1am ready for a rather important working Wednesday. This might be a 1/2 game, but it plays deep and hard (woof!).

Following discussion with the boys, have elected to not judge “pro-week” on its financial return/loss, as the number of hands played over the course of a 35 hour ‘working week’ is nowhere near enough for variance to run even. Instead my assessment of success is going to be oriented around the following five somewhat softer criteria:

  1. Hours played.
  2. Major errors.
  3. Enjoyability of the game.
  4. How I felt I adapted to the playing conditions.
  5. How I feel about playing again tomorrow.

Tonight’s result a good one, but that’s only to be expected for early in the week. A five hour session, one major error that I (re)learned a lesson from, extremely enjoyable, felt I adapted very well, and am looking forward to playing again on Wednesday.

Obviously the real test of this experiment is going to be at the back end of the week, when I’m tiring and boring of poker while still trying to maintain a solid (and hopefully +EV) game.