Sunday, February 15, 2009

Last Post Addendum

Here is a strategy article I wrote that never got picked up by anyone. I'll post it here for you guys as a last thank you for support and reading my blog : )

The Most Important Top Secret Strategy Article You’ll Ever Read (For Players of All Levels)

When I first graduated college, the first thing I did was light my diploma on fire and get a job for a poker magazine. It was 2005, poker was glamorous, and I was crushing the biggest online games that Party Poker play money had to offer.

One of my first assignments was covering a huge thousand-player plus WSOP tournament. I got to sweat the cards of some of the great ones, and I immediately went to go seek out my favorite player, Mike Matusow. I tried to understand some of his plays, but they were just too advanced for me. Raising in middle position with 92o? Shoving all-in on gutshots on the flop? What was the method behind this guy’s madness? He busted towards the end of day 1 and I asked him for a little insight into some of his decisions.

“Kid, I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Matusow told me. “You don’t gotta be a great player to beat the %#&(*@ idiot donks at this game. You just,” he paused, “You just plain can’t blow up.”

At the time, I thought Matusow was just trying to weasel his way out of giving away his secrets. I have been playing poker professionally in Las Vegas for a year and a half now and given up writing almost totally, but only now have I realized how powerful his advice truly is and bothered to write it down.

If you are a competent player at whatever form of poker you enjoy, you have the capacity to be a winning player. You do not have to be good, or even average. I see players who most local pros agree play slightly poorly but are bigger winners in the year than some of the best players at the Bellagio.

Poker is much more psychological than people give the game credit for, and reducing strategy articles to mathematical formulas or dictums only serves to distract from the real game at hand. Poker is an amorphous game, and the most important thing you need to know is to recognize when changes are taking place, notably when others are starting to steam and when you are beginning to steam.

Manipulating others’ steam:

When players focus on their sessions, they tend to only focus on big hands, and coolers on that note. Coolers are a silly part of the game, when both players play their hands perfectly but one wins a big pot and one loses a big one. This will most certainly effect if you win or lose a session, but truly it should be forgotten about. The other source of big pots is when a player loses a cooler and begins to steam.

When my friends tell me about their sessions, they tell me, “Yeah, I lost blah blah and a steamed off a little after that, but if I just hadn’t had that cooler, I would have walked away with a big profit.” Well, sorry to break it to you friends, but coolers will happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s what you do after it that you can control.

If a player starts audibly complaining, this is a gold mine. If you are sitting at a table in a poker room and a player’s friend comes from another table to tell him the bad beat he just took, change tables now and go to that man’s table! If you notice a player has just lost his significant profit, play more speculative hands against that player. He will get his stack in sometime in the next few orbits, I promise you.

If you are playing at a casino, chat it up and see who has a set deadline for leaving. If a player gets stuck and they only have a little bit longer to play, you can bet that they will be playing a lot faster trying to find any excuse get their money into the pot.

Keep an eye on people’s stacks and make an extra effort to play more hands against people who are losing, especially losing big. If you are playing hold’em and you see 9 7 offsuit in the cutoff and you normally fold, give it a go if a losing player is in the pot. Conversely, play less hands against people who are winning – they will make less mistakes.

If you are playing online, check how many tables your opponents are playing. If they are playing 10+ tables, they probably will not even notice a bad beat and won’t steam much. If they are playing 3 or 4, open up a few of them and check to see when they take beats on other tables. If you’re playing sit and gos, check their sharkscope graphs and see if they’re in the midst of a downswing. Players who have been losing will always play worse than if they were winning. These are the guys you want to target and play.

Manipulating Your Steam:

The second part of the equation is learning how to recognize when you are steaming and prevent it.

Even the best players all steam, and we all play universally terrible when we steam. The top players all know how to play almost flawlessly. However, the games are still profitable because occasionally, they will still steam and not bring their total A game to the table.

On a recent episode of Poker After Dark, for example, a bunch of players including Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu all put up $100,000 before play started and did a coinflip to see who would win all the money. While this seems like silly gambling at first, it is actually a great litmus test as to who the great players are. You better believe that the weaker players were playing faster to try to get that $100k back.

To learn how to control your tilt, you need to immediately recognize when it begins. My friend taught me a technique where every time you are under the gun, you ask yourself honestly how you are feeling. If you are frustrated, it is time to take a short break before the blind gets to you and sit out an orbit. Doing this every orbit will allow you to regulate and recognize your emotions.

Even if you are not feeling frustrated, you should be taking short breaks every few hours. It is a bad thing to become too invested in the game you are in, and if you feel like you cannot take a five minute break every few hours, this is when it is most important to do so. You have lost all sense of perspective and need to regain it immediately before you lose respect for your money and start playing recklessly.

The most important time to control steam is after you have lost a big cooler. If you even have the slightest doubt though that you may tilt off your money, go take a break.

Another strategy to control your own steam is to remember all the previous times you steamed, all the disastrous results that followed, and how terrible you felt afterwards. Do you really want to do that to yourself again? You must drill into your head how important it is not to steam! It is the most important, top-secret weapon you have to destroy your opponent. If you can control yourself at this moment, you cannot be beaten in the long run.

The most important thing, though, is confidence and lack of fear. New players have trouble not steaming because they are heartbroken. They have been losing and they feel dread at knowing that this is going to be another losing session. They lack the ability to control the weapon that you now have, and they start playing faster to get unstuck and try to eke out a small win or get buried in a huge loss.

If you have confidence that you will make back the money you lost through maintaining your mental control, you will make it back. Maybe not this session, but eventually. If you know you won’t steam, then you won’t steam. If you do not fear having a losing session, then it will make you stronger because you won’t bury yourself in a huge loss. There is nothing wrong with having a losing session – it happens to everyone. There is something very wrong with having a monster 5-buyin loss. If you can accept losses knowing that you played great and did not steam, then you cannot be beaten in the long run.

Many people will disregard this article and try to find some secret technical method while ignoring the psychological aspects of poker. This is good for me and you. If they don’t realize how important the secret weapon I just gave you is, you will still beat them. Remember, you don’t gotta be great to win. You just can’t plain blow up.

Final Post

This is probably going to be the last post I'm making in this blog.

Last month, after having my first breakeven month in three years, I decided to leave Vegas and become a student again. I had a great year playing pro poker financially and lived a lifestyle of extreme comfort; sleeping whenever I wanted, working an average of 28 hours/week, and making more money than basically anyone else around my age that I know (with the exception of one crazy wall street guy). It was also a pretty nutty environment in terms of living the "balla" lifestyle, getting $600 bottles at clubs, getting VIP at strip clubs, etc. etc. (read: colossal waste of money)

The reason I decided to quit was just because poker is so empty. I have gotten to a level where I think I have a really strong mastery of full ring cash no limit hold'em and it is a completely trivial accomplishment. If I continue down this path, I will probably be grinding $10/20 NLHE live within the next year, but I will feel like total shit doing it.

Not only is poker completely devoid of any joy for me any more, but it makes me feel like I'm just absolutely wasting my time. It is very difficult to reconcile the idea as a professional poker player that you are living by basically siphoning off people's wealth and causing them misery. You are doing a service to no one - the world would probably be a better place if you were not in it. Additionally, you are basically crippling your future, leaving vast amounts of empty space in your work history and ensuring that you will not be able to get the job you probably deserve that is in line with your skill set, but rather a much more menial job that can afford to take a risk on you.

You have to really LOVE this game, I mean LOVE it in order to succeed as a pro. I really liked playing poker; I probably thought about poker 90% of the day, listened to poker podcasts, watched videos, read 2+2, read every poker book in my library then every poker book in my bookstore for six years. I didn't love this game enough.

I don't know a single professional poker player that has been playing for 3+ years and is truly in a place where he/she feels happy with life. That is a telling sign; I am talking about a pool of over a thousand players I've met. It's awesome short-term, but it completely wears on you. In all fairness though, these are people that are mid-stakes grinders, making like $30k-100k/year. Maybe when you get really good and are making like $150k+ life gets better (?)

Poker has taught me a lot though and I certainly appreciate it still in certain aspects. I probably never have to worry about getting fired from a job. I have financial security and a safety blanket in that I can always go back to it and make good money. I make better decisions in my life generally by being able to think about situations analytically and weigh the expected value of my decisions.

I am going back to school now to finish up my premed classes and apply to med school. I am really enjoying my classes and being back in an academic environment. I was always very comfortable in school and it feels great to be rewarded for putting in hard work (not the case many times in poker). I'm still playing part-time to cover bills, probably like 15 hours/week or something.

Don't make the same mistake I did. If you love playing poker, harness that joy and just play part-time as a hobby. You can still make serious cash and be a really great player while having the comfort and security of a regular job. It's a completely different life just making your existence about poker. You will keep the love of the game too, which is really the most important thing.

I will still be maintaining my other "life" blog at if you would like to keep up.

I would love to help people if they are struggling with the game too. If you want to talk poker, shoot me an email at

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Octubre Results

Had a pretty terrible month. Not going to include stats any more because I don't want to create an electronic record in case Mr. IRS comes a knockin', but it was bad and I ran ice-cold, losing 4 figures in flips on flop color in the process.

I am now 0-10 lifetime in $100+ flips, which really pisses me off. How is that even possible?

Highlights/Lowlights of the month:

-Busto player/friend asking me to "invest" $10k in marijuana farm to prevent him from getting beat up (declined offer)
-Losing 3 $1000+ pots AI on the flop when I was 98%+ to win
-Accidentally mucking a $1k winning hand on the river when I made a move w/ 92o against AA on the flop and hit two pair on the river
-Playing $10/25 HU NLHE and winning $1k while paying a nice $400 in rake in 2 1/2 hours
-Winning two pots calling $100+ river bets with Q-10 high and A-J high
-Having to drag a friend away from Jean Robert Bellande in the parking lot of the Wynn after friend drunkenly called him a douchebag
-Listening to Joe Cassidy tell Jean Robert Bellande that the three girls that were "so into him" were definitely hookers

Sunday, October 26, 2008

strip clubbaments

Went to the Spearmint Rhino last night with some poker players. I kind of hate going there as I find it to be a huge waste of money and also somewhat depressing, but I decided to tag along anyway.

The guys I were with were pretty ballin', so they decided to get a table and bottle service at the club. Sitting in the VIP section of the Rhino, the girls come to you in droves assuming you are looking to throw a couple thousand down the tubes. If you've ever been in the Rhino at all, you know that the girls kind of don't leave you alone and are pretty aggressive at times, to the point of being really annoying. They are also completely transparent about trying to get the most money out of you as is humanly possible, which makes me usually huddle in a ball and act like the poor crazy homeless guy that somehow wandered in.

After sitting in our booth for a while, one of the guys named Ben told me "Hey, let's play a game."

Being kind of bored, extremely drunk, and competitive, I agreed. "What's the rules?"

"Think of the most fucked up hilarious thing you can say to a stripper, then say it."

"Sounds good to me."

A few minutes later with the game on, a young White girl in a string bikini came up to me and whispered, "Hey, you look pretty cute. Wanna party?"

I looked at her, paused, and asked "Actually, do you think I can just look into your eyes for a minute?"

She rolled her eyes, probably used to guys trying to pick her up. "Haha, sure babe," she chuckled.

A moment of silence passed, as I gazed deeply into her eyes. She began giggling nervously and fidgeting with her hips, eager to start dancing and end the awkward silence. I leaned over to her ear and whispered, "You know what?"

"What's that babe?"

"You look exactly like my mom. That's so hot. Can I have a dance, mom?"

"What the fuck? What are you, some kind of weirdo," she laughed as she started to walk away.

"Will you at least tell me you're proud of me?" I yelled as she left.

Ben was howling, rolled up in the corner of our booth. "OK, you win, I don't think I can top that," as he paid me the wager of our bet - one dollar.

I then proceeded to drunkenly shove the entire dollar in my mouth and begin chewing for no apparent reason. It was at this point while straining to think of what to compare the taste of a dollar bill to that I realized, "Hey, it's probably time to go home."

The answer I came up in the cab was sand, in case you were wondering.

Friday, October 17, 2008

props and profiling

I was playing in a game yesterday with 4 Scandinavian players that are all 5/10 6max regs on stars. It was 6 in the morning and our 2/5 was the only nlhe game going, so they all sat down together and proceeded to 3bet almost every pot preflop. The local rocks were petrified stiff and one tried to get all four of them kicked out by asking the floor to check their IDs.

These guys were all very talented online players, but it was really obvious they had very little experience playing live. They were really clumsy with their chips and one had a very obvious physical tell in which he would swallow after about 15 seconds when he bet and was weak. I played in a decent amount of pots with him since I had position on him, and on one noteworthy hand, I flatted his $20 raise in EP with AhJx, called $30 flop bet, called $65 on the turn, and called $150 on the river on a final board of Qh 5h 6x 2h Kx, giving me the nut nonpair. I took about 3 minutes on the end since it was a pretty hero/idiot call, but I was sure he was just 3barrelling with total air and just prayed he didn't accidental valuebet with 22 or something like that.

Afterwards, he told me that I was one of the best postflop players he had seen in his trip to Vegas and one of the absolute worst preflop players, which is probably very accurate on the second count.

As a bleeding heart liberal, I find it kind of fucked up, but I definitely profiled him in making this decision. Whenever I see a scandi, I know that he is going to be ridiculously aggressive and love to gambol. French guys are almost universally terrible and calling stations. Likewise Armenians.

Of course, young Asian guys are crazy tough with huge egos to boot : )

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Hah! A month that was so good followed by a month that was so bad. That's the way this game goes.

Everything that went right for me last month turned around this month. It was kind of weird too because all of my friends were running horribly this month as well. Saw a couple of my buddies lose $2k+ on craps, which is a lot when you're making $50-100k/year. Luckily I don't like the table games. This was easily my worst month ever expectation-wise and I ran well below what I should have, but I ran above what I should have last month and have probably been above expectation for the year.

I went on vacation this month for 10 days to go back to Chicago and see if I wanted to go back to work in the nonprofit sector. Ultimately, the lucrative $14k salary just wasn't enticing enough. I realized that getting up at 3pm, dressing in whatever you want, and never having any responsibility is pretty nice, although the stress from running bad caused me to have a pit in my stomach all week.

I think I'm going to start posting more in 2+2 and spending more time in general studying the game. Right now I feel like I'm not learning any more, which is the death knell for any poker player.

Thinking of budgeting on $14k though made me really realize how much $$ I am wasting. Also, reading this guy's blog (VeganMav on 2+2, of whom there is a famous thread) is pretty inspiring. He's a high stakes LHE pro that just tries to save as much as possible to give to people less fortunate than him. Eats out of dumpsters to save every penny. He is pretty much my hero.

Hours: 92.5
Total Earnings: $2,374
Hourly: $25.66
YTD: $42,144

Monday, September 1, 2008


A weird month. I was thinking back to when I first started seriously playing this crazy game, and it's kind of nuts to see where I am today. I started playing "professionally" a little less than a year ago in November, just grinding $1/2 and being thrilled with a $150 day. This month I won $3500 in one day playing $5/10 and didn't even really feel anything.

I also had $2500 stolen from me by a pickpocket, which was a kind of sick feeling. I've had many $2000+ losing days, but it felt pretty unfair that I didn't even get to put my money in play before I had it just up and taken like that. It's pretty unfortunate, but a lot of times I have $3k+ in my wallet just because I want to have flexibility and be able to jump in a good game if I see one. Had to take two days off after that one, just sitting in my apartment feeling sorry for myself.

Anyway, this was the month where I finally kind of broke through the $5/10 barrier and had some moderate success. I won about $4500 in roughly 28 hours, giving me a fatty winrate of $160.71/hr. This was pretty nice considering that prior to this month, I was a $3400 loser in the game. Most of this was just due to running extremely bad, so hopefully this will be the start of something big.

If I can break through and be a consistent winner in the $5/10 game, I should be able to average somewhere around $75/hr and pull in $100k+ with a little bit of work. It's looking like I'm going to be making somewhere in the neighborhood of $50-65k, $42/hr at the end of this year, as a comparison.

So here are the numbers ($2500 pickpocket loss not included)*

Hours: 120.5
Total Earnings: $9,818
Hourly: $81.48
YTD: $39,770

After pickpocketing factored in:

Total Earnings: $7,318
Hourly: $60.73
YTD: $37,270

*Note: These numbers are not sustainable. I didn't really feel like I ran that hot this month, but I must have been above expectation to have such a good month.