Friday, 31 December 2010

December review

The month started out really well with a couple of awesome days but soon I felt like I was having to pay back for my early good fortune and I ran below EV and breakeven for a few thousand hands. Volume and motivation dropped a bit as they usually do for me during periods like this, but I managed to get back on track and make the most of the soft games over the holidays to finish strong.

It's not quite a record month, but a very solid one matching November. The last four months of the year have been my 4 biggest months of all time.. all within $500 of each other, so it has been a great way to finish up the year.

I've now updated the final results for the year.

I hope everyone that has been reading my blog this month have found it useful and/or interesting - thanks for all the comments. However, the primary reason for me doing it was as a way to review my own year and think about what I want from the next.

Hence my goals for 2011 are:


I think this has to be my primary goal for next year. 470k hands feels like a lot to me still, but I know lots of people who are doing 70k-100k/month regularly. I'm not going to find more hours in a day for poker, so the only way I am going to get the extra volume is through playing more tables. Where I'm playing 2-6 tables now I need to be aiming for 6-10 I think. I started playing a few tables so that I could fix leaks and get better and I think I have achieved that this year, so I should be able to cope and I've put some 10-tabling sessions in recently without any problems.

As for a number, 1 million hands could be a little ambitious but I'll be pleased with 750k+. I'll need to work on playing with fewer distractions as well as all the other aspects to achieve it. It is expected that Full Tilt will add another tier to the Black Card programme in the next few days requiring 1500 ftp/day for an extra multiplier of full tilt points. As of today my average is 817.27 so quite a way to go to average 1500, but I think my hand target and reaching the new black card level will be closely linked so that is some extra motivation to achieve both.


I'm not going to set any specific results goals. Playing extra volume and continuing to work hard should lead to good results. I'd obviously like to do better than this last year, and it would be a nice milestone to achieve a $10k month at some point.


Its been over 12 months since I last had coaching so I think it is definitely time to find a coach to help take my game forward. I hope to get something organised by March if not sooner.

Within the first few months of this year I'd also like to get to the stage where my student feels he is able to go solo without regular sessions and be winning at a decent rate. I'll take time to review with him how it went so I can evaluate my own coaching skills and think about taking on more students.


I feel like I've been due for a decent torunament score for a while but it hasn't quite happened yet. I've been close a few times this year... coming 49th of 28,000 people in one of the miniftops events recently was a bit frustrating after playing well for several hours, going out JJ v KK aipf. I'll continue to keep trying as well as do some work on my MTT game.

Live Play

I'm going to try to approach live play with a bit more dilligence than I have so far. This will involve trying to build a proper live bankroll, keeping better records and accounting for it along with my online play. Vegas 2011 will account for a large part of my live play this next year but I'll also look to play a few larger live events than I have this year in the UK. With my online record I feel I should be better placed to sell some action so I hope this will create some more opportunities.


I'd like to up the amount of time time I spend studying this year:

  • at least 1 training video per week
  • continue regular hh reviews with Gary & Darren
  • continue to do more villain analysis
  • spend more time with pokerstove and understanding odds and equity and general theory
  • do more sweats and talk to other players


I'll definitely be heading to Vegas for all of June & July but I'd also like to go somewhere else new this year and stay in a house with other poker players. Thailand, Australia or somewhere else in the US are all possibilities. If Gary will have me, I'd love to be able to go see the Redskins play in Dallas.

Other goals

Other goals I have are a bit harder to put specific targets on but I'd like to
  • continue to work on my mental game
  • try and live more healthily
  • achieve a better life balance
So, thats it for 2010. Just a few hours more of grinding and then I'll post my December review and update the year's results.

Best of luck to you all for 2011 :)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

As I've been making the posts this month I've been thinking about this one and wondering if I wanted to post an actual $ amount for how I've done this year. In a "real job" I certainly wouldn't tell people my salary and they wouldn't ask, but when it comes to poker I've been asked a lot, even by people I didn't know well. I guess the perception of it is different even though it isn't really.

However, the fact is that a lot of this information is in the public domain if you know where and what to look for. So, in the end I've decided to post the info for this year at least. I'm only going to cover $ won at the tables, so exactly how much I've made from rakeback, bonuses, tournaments, live play, coaching/staking, the contracting work I did in April/May and the overall total can remain a mystery making me feel a bit more comfortable with sharing.

I'm obviously really pleased with the results given the stakes I play and volume I put in (it helps to run above EV too!). I think it has exceeded my conservative expectations that I had at the beginning of the year and is exactly what I needed to prove to myself I can make it work as a pro and gives me a lot of encouragement for what I can achieve next year.

Finding hands to pull out from almost 1/2 million is pretty tough, so I've only got a couple to share.

Hand 1

This isn't an amazing hand by any means and the cards fell really well for me. However, it sticks in my mind because by the time we got to the river I knew he had AK, and I knew he was confident I had AQ which allowed me to get max value. I guess it was one of the first times I felt really in control of a hand against a decent 100 TAG reg on all 3 streets and good hand reading made it possible to raise river with complete confidence to win a stack without have the stone cold nuts.

$0.5/$1 (9 handed)

Known players:

MP2 (Hero) = ($157.65)

MP3 = ($24.85)

CO = ($40.50)

BU = ($109.85)

SB = ($201.20)

BB = ($43.50)

UTG1 = ($162.30)

UTG2 = ($136.65)

MP1 = ($152.65)

Preflop: Hero is MP2 with 9, 9.

UTG1 folds, UTG2 raises to $3.00, MP1 folds, Hero calls $3.00, 4 folds, BB calls $2.00.

Flop: ($9.5) Q, 9, 6 (3 players)

BB checks, UTG2 bets $7.00, Hero calls $7.00, BB folds.

Turn: ($23.5) A (2 players)

UTG2 checks, Hero bets $14.00, UTG2 calls $14.00.

River: ($51.5) K (2 players)

UTG2 bets $22.00, Hero raises to $117.50, UTG2 calls $90.65(All-In).

Final Pot: $281.65.

Results follow:

UTG2 shows two pairs, aces and kings(K A).

Hero shows three of a kind, nines(9 9).

Hero wins with three of a kind, nines(9 9).

Hand 2

This hand was the biggest pot of the year .. a whopping 780BB vs one deep fish. We'd both been dominating the table (me more skillfully than him obv!). We were both very deep with 388BB effective stacks vs each other and he was playing 59/24/3 with 17% 3bet, 8% fold to 3bet, 4bet range 5.5% over 200 hands. I was aware I'd been in situations before being deep against volatile fish and hadn't felt comfortable.. mistakes can be a lot more costly and there is always the danger they just get lucky on the river and cause a lot of pain. It is hard not get attached to a large stack and losing it hurts a lot more than a 100BB stack. I was thinking if I'd got AA vs his pfr I obviously keep reraising this deep, but there would be a good chance that he would flat at some point and not put it all in preflop which could put me in a nasty spot. I thought jokingly to myself that it would be nice and easy if I could only flop quads.. 5 minutes later this happens.

$0.5/$1 (8 handed)

Known players:

MP1 = ($100.00)

MP2 = ($100.50)

MP3 = ($388.30)

CO = ($100.00)

BU (Hero) = ($534.05)

SB = ($86.30)

BB = ($147.10)

UTG2 = ($141.90)

Preflop: Hero is BU with A, A.

UTG2 calls $1.00, 2 folds, MP3 raises to $4.00, CO folds, Hero raises to $14.50, 3 folds, MP3 raises to $25.00, Hero raises to $77.50, MP3 calls $52.50.

Flop: ($157.5) T, A, A (2 players)

MP3 checks, Hero bets $35.00, MP3 calls $35.00.

Turn: ($227.5) 6 (2 players)

MP3 checks, Hero bets $107.00, MP3 calls $107.00.

River: ($441.5) 6 (2 players)

MP3 checks, Hero bets $169.00, MP3 calls $168.80.

Final Pot: $779.3.

Results follow:

Hero shows four of a kind, aces(A A).

MP3 shows two pairs, aces and kings(K K).

Hero wins with four of a kind, aces(A A).

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Again, not the most exciting topic to have picked in hindsight. Drawbacks:

  • Can feel a bit socially isolated playing long hours on your own
  • No protection if you are ill (forunately I haven't been)
  • No ability to get any credit (loan/mortgage etc) as your income won't be recognised
  • Potential for more mental pressure if results don't go well

Monday, 27 December 2010

Not the most exiting topic as I guess the benefits are pretty obvious

  • You can work the hours you choose and when you feel at your best, and not have working hours imposed on you
  • You can work anywhere in the world as long as you have a laptop and internet connection
  • When you work hard and do well you get full receipt of the benefits and don't have others or a company take the credit
  • No boss to answer to (except yourself!)
  • Limitless potential to earn more
  • Tax-free in the UK
  • Freedom to do other things

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Year 1 as a Pro - Goals

Goals are an important way to push yourself to fulfilling your potential. I think the tricky part though is understanding which goals to set and how ambitious to make them. It comes down to knowing your own self : what motivates you, what demotivates you, how success and failure affect you.

In poker there are certianly plenty of goal choices available - results, volume, learning targets etc.. and you can set them to be daily or even over a year or more as well as making them firm "I must.." and weaker "I'd like to..." targets . Setting short term results goals is inherently wrong due to variance and the fact we play for the long term. However, if you play for a living, bills need to be paid and the long term won't help with that.

When I started the year my primary goal was to work hard enough on my game and prove to myself that I could win enough at poker to make a living from it and I'm proud to say that I have achieved this goal.

Monthly I always wanted to do a decent amount of volume, but have never set myself a hard target but always enough to achieve the max iron man level at FT. Results-wise I always hoped to do better than previous months, and I've had 5 "best month ever"s this year.

Starting at 50 I hoped to move up and as the end of the year approaches I now feel established at 100, taking occasional shots at 200 but still playing 50 if the games are good.

Making the trip to Vegas was a goal I wasn't sure I'd manage in my first year, but it came together at the last minute.

I have had some failures as well that I have already mentioned such as improvements towards a healthier lifestyle and playing with less distractions.

With a year as a pro under my belt now, I can set some more specific targets for 2011 which I'll cover in the final topic - "The Future".

Saturday, 25 December 2010

With regard to live play I think the best approach is pretty simple.. keep it friendly. I know there are some great players who have an ability to manipulate others and make them tilt, but its just not my style.

Online I think the same rule applies in general... don't tap the tank! I wrote about table chat a few months ago and still stick by what I said then.

The most contentious etiquette issues tend to revolve around how regs perceive each others' actions at the table. Most of the regs are very aware that it is going to be +EV to play at a table when there are bad players and also when you have positon on those bad players. Hence, decisions around seating choices and when to sit in/out can be the cause of some really bad feelings between regs.

At the end of the day we're all playing to make money and to make or avoid decisions so that other regs feel good isn't part of that. To do the best you can at the tables you need to pretty ruthless in your table and seat selection decisions so I won't shy away from making a choice that might annoy another reg. Some are very blatant in their choices and I'm probably considered by some to be one of those although probably not the worst, while others are pretty passive in their decisions and will be losing out as a result.

Its quite understandably frustrating when you have been trying to start a table for some time, finally get what looks to be a bad player sitting down with you, and another reg magically appears and takes the best possible seat. However I'm sure I've seen pretty much every reg that seems to have a bigger problem with this do the same to others at some point (perhaps only in the context as what they perceive as "revenge" on someone who has done it to them before).

I try to be friendly to most regs in chat if not always in my choices of where and when to play and I fully expect them to do the same to me as it is all within the rules. On occasion I won't push it as far as I can... I remember a few months ago finding a table with a reg playing HU with a deep fish. When I sat he politely asked if I would leave him to play HU. It was clear that the fish had been running good, stacked the reg a couple of times and the reg was keen to have the best chance to get his money back. I understood where he was coming from and as he asked nicely I was happy to leave him to it and he said he'd owe me one. Another reg took a seat a few minutes later and was asked to leave the game HU too, but he either chose to ignore it or didn't read the chat.

I guess my point is that its a part of the game that you just have to accept and make the most of. Harbouring hatred for some other reg due to their behaviour just isn't worth the energy and can create an unnecessary dynamic that affects either their or your play.

One reg (who might be reading this) told me in chat the other day "I used to like you, but you are just like the rest". I'd taken a short break from my tables to make a drink and when I sat back in it just happened that one of the tables had almost broken and he was playing a fish HU. Sitting back in my original seat he had perceived that I'd jumped into postion on the fish. For some reason he doesn't seem to want to use AIM/Skype to chat and I had no desire to launch into a debate about table etiquette in public chat at the tables, espeically with the fish there, so I just left him to his perception of what had happened. Since then he has said a few things in table chat that I've not been too happy with, like quoting my winrate with a number of unknown players at the table, but again I do not want to launch into some debate in public chat with him about the ethics of what he is now doing. So, if you are reading this sir, get AIM and add me. We've had some fun at the tables in the past and there is no reason to do/say things that are going to affect how much we win.

So, in conclusion, keep it friendly, keep it fun, and save all your focus for making good decisions.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Friday, 24 December 2010

The bulk of my poker playing is online, but I do enjoy playing live for a change of pace and actually getting to see some real people!

Last year I played in the Office Poker league (a saturday afternoon tournament at the local casino) and finished a respectable 3rd. This year I've played again but it has been a bit of a shambles with a change in ownership and the new owner being out of the country most of the time. It was a great structure and a fun and friendly event but numbers have dwindled down to only 2 tables for the final event this year. I think it may unforunately die if it doesn't get some love and attention early next year. The events are generally holdem although there had been some PLO and a team event. There were some more varied games this year which I loved (especially getting to play PLO8 and win) but unfortunately I think it contributed to the reduction in numbers.

Last year a clear winner emerged fairly quickly, but scattered attendences this year meant that everyone realised with only a couple of events left that the league (and £500 prize) was still quite open. Going into the final event there were 4 of us playing with enough points and a chance to win. Two were knocked out and I reached the final table with one other who was 3pts ahead of me with up to 1-12pts available at the final table. We were both pretty short and it didn't last too long... I shoved JJ allin over a raise but it was a pretty easy call for him with AQ and the turn A ended my chances. Congrats Tam!

I obviously played quite a lot of live poker when I went to Vegas: 1 WSOP event, 1 Venetian Deepstack Extravaganza event, a $200 torunament at the Rio, a few small satellites as well as some live cash. I mainly played $1/$3 live at the Wynn and Rio however I didn't play that great or run very well which curtailed the amount I could play due to bankroll limitations.

I've come back from Vegas more determined to play better live and have definitely played better on my trips to the casino here since. A live cash games usually runs in the evenings but it has a lot of preflop nonsense so I've stayed away not wanting to put in the hours to get through the variance and have stuck to torunaments instead.

I'm looking forward to being back in Vegas this year and will try and play more live than I did last time.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Poker is an information war and some information is just too significant to share. I'm not saying I know some magic secret that can make you a winner at poker, but any information that if shared could affect your own winrate should be guarded carefully. There are some things I'm sure others would find interesting if I discussed them but it is not in my interests to share it here.

As there is no real content in today's post here is a wonderful picture from a post by Baz that really sums up a lot of the things you need to think about if you are going pro.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I decided to add this topic just to talk about playing games other than your main game. PLO and PLO8 happen to be two of my favourite alternatives to holdem but I've played most others at some point.. even Badugi recently.

It is important to stick to one main game if you are playing professionally I think. However, certainly for me, I feel there are some benefits of playing other games at times. It can give you a different perspective of different elements that are common to all forms of poker .. ranges, lines, position, aggression etc... In the early days I switched between holdem and plo8 a lot, and each time I came back to the other game I felt better at it. It can also provide a welcome mental break if things haven't been going so well - being able to shove a few draws in a cheap game and win for a change can feel pretty good and get you back on a more even keel without threatening your bankroll. I started playing poker for fun, and its good to rememeber that once in a while if you feel grinding your regular game is getting you down.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A database and HUD are essential tools these days and the only real choice is between PokerTracker 3 (PT3) or Holdem Manager (HEM).

I started out using PT3 but a few months later I trialed HEM and decided to switch instantly. I'm not sure how PT3 is these days, but at the time it seemed buggier, had less features and the HUD seemed slow and hungry on resources.

Getting to know your database is critical so that you can make the most of reviewing hands, analysing villains and looking for your own leaks.

Getting your HUD and popups right is a very personal thing and something you should re-evaluate and tweak over time. I'm sure others would find my HUD interesting but I'm not wanting to share. I know a few of my regular opponents are reading this and I'd rather they weren't aware of the details.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Year 1 as a Pro - EV

At some point you will run worse
than you ever thought possible

It is a depressing statement but statistically inevitable. I prefer the other version which is also true

At some point you will run better than

you ever thought possible

I know of good players who have been breakeven for 300,000 hands, some who run 100BI below EV (Expected Value) and all sorts of other horror stories. The fact that this is possible, even if you are playing a reasonable A-game, means that someone could fail to make it work playing full-time. I'm sure a lot of people with potential to succeed at poker have been crushed before they ever really had a chance. Running like this can have huge consequences for tilt and it is inevitable that it will affect your game in some way, especially if it goes on month after month.

The "All-in EV" stat in HEM/PT3 is a useful guide as to how you are running, but it doesn't tell the full story and shouldn't be obsessed about. Running into the top of a villains range or getting most of the money in when you are ahead also comes under running bad. In fact it is possible for almost every element in poker to have some kind of EV value.. getting good seats, getting AA when someone else has KK rather than the other way around, being at the tables at the right time of day and how marginal the decisions you face are etc...

I think it is really important to focus on your awareness of all these things and how it is affecting you - it can only lead to improving the decisions you make, be it when to quit and take a break or which areas of your game or attitude could do with some attention. Preparing yourself for worst runbad of your life could be one of the most critical things you do as it could be bad enough to end your poker career.

I've been lucky that I haven't hit one of these really bad patches this year and that I'm still playing. As I've said before I don't downswing much at all compared to others (yet!). When you start out it is hard to know how good you are and it is possible that good early results are just some rungood, but as you put in more volume it becomes easier to evaluate your ability. In the first few months I really didn't know where I stood, but having done almost 500k hands now I can feel more comfortable. We all play for the long term, but that is still much more than we can measure in a few months or even a year. There is a handy online EV simulator that can give you a feel for the possible statistical variance.

The last 15k hands have been about as close as it gets to a downswing for me... only 6.5BI below EV and other hidden coolers but in the scheme of things it is nothing.

I'm hoping it turns around so I can finish the year strong. As for practical things you can do to deal with it other than just putting volume in and making good decisions you can
  • take breaks when you are aware it is affecting you
  • talk to others and discuss hands to make check your decisions
  • do some sweats
  • get some coaching
  • study something
  • watch a training video
  • play something else that can't hurt your BR but give you some satisfaction of finally winning some flips!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Bankroll management is critical if you are going to make poker your primary income.

When I played recreationally I was happy to play with a BR of 20-30 BI, but it is important to have a deeper BR when it is your job and stick religiously to it for 2 reasons:

  • It protects you from going busto.. you can't make money if you lose all your BR
  • It protects you from unnecessary mental anguish and pressure if you go on a downswing
The common wisdom seems to be a 100BI BR if you play full-time. You must also be able to drop down stakes if your BR takes a bad hit and try and rebuild it from there. Taking shots with less BI at higher stakes can be ok too (say 50BI) if you pick the moments the games are softest. Some people also use a stop-loss limit for a given day but numbers seem to vary a lot depending on the person and their tilt control.

I actually started the year with about 150BI for 50 and I was taking a few shots at 100 too. As the year has progressed as I've made withdrawls my BR has fluctuated between 100BI at 50 and 140BI at 100. I don't seem to go on as many downswings as others and when I do they aren't very severe (yet?!). Hence, I'd feel pretty comfortable playing 100 with only 50BI now and might even take some shots at 200 on 25BI. I recently played a few hands at 400 on 25BI but its not going to be a regular occurrence. I will always strive to get my BR up to 100BI for the main stake I'm playing and right now thats 100BI at 100, taking a few shots at 200. Fortunately, I haven't been forced to move down at all, but I mix different stakes and might only play 50 one day depending on how I'm feeling and how the games are. If it comes to it I know I'm prepared and able to play lower stakes if my bankroll dictates it. As I don't downswing much I haven't felt the need for a stop loss and instead focus on making good quitting decisions.

The point is, that BR requirements are going to be quite different for everyone depending on their style and games they play and how they handle it mentally. Setting the limits generously to start with should give you the flexibility to adjust things at a later date if you feel it still gives you the protection that BR management is there for.

EDIT: I forgot to add that I also had some contingency in a savings account when I started - enough to survive a few months if there was no other income. I didn't want my career to end before it even got started due to variance, and I knew I'd need some time to improve my game to win enough each month.

I've not needed to use any of the contingency this year which I'm really pleased about, other than borrowing a bit from it around Vegas for cashflow reasons, but it was repaid soon after I got back.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

As a full ring (9 seats) cash player, most of my experience and comfort zone is with 7 or more players. Playing with less opponents is definitely harder and higher variance due to everyone having wider ranges of hands and therefore decisions being much more maginal. However, it can also be very profitable and should not be ignored or passed up.

It wasn't until I felt competent at full ring that I felt I could try to play with less people. Some of the hardest things become much more important - understanding ranges, bet sizing, lines, hand reading and villain types for examples. However, there are 2 great side effects of trying it and working on all these areas

  • We get better as a player and can bring a better A-game to full tables
  • Villains play worse than they might full ring as it is harder and will make more mistakes and therefore it can be a great source of profit
Heads-up with just 2 players is obviously hardest but is still great for your game and profitable. Starting tables also has other great side effects because as the table fills up the villains are generally weaker - casual players just want to play so they fill find a seat as soon as they can rather than wory about waiting lists or game selection. Often these kinds of opponents are there for a quick gamble so will stack off much lighter than usual. Regs are usually busy multi-tabling they don't always have the time to see new tables starting and will take some time to find them so you can generally get at least a few orbits before the casual players start to bust and leave and be replaced by regs. Taking notes on villains and their HU play is extremely useful and I need to do it more as often there will be opportunities to get your stack in within a hew hands. Generally, the biggest winners at each stake are table starters so the cycle of getting better and playing in profitable situations definitley pays off.

In these short-handed situations its important to keep your eye on how profitable a situation it is as the dynamic can change much more quickly than at a full table. You also need to be ready and be aware of when it is +EV to change seats as again it can make a huge difference. There are times that I will choose not to play against a certain collection of or single villain becuase they are good (or just plain lucky!) or it is hard to get into good spots with a weak player due to seating options. However, it is also important to recognise when there seems to be an appetite for seats at your stake - a few hands HU with someone who you wouldn't choose to play for profit as your edge is tool small or negative is worth it if you can get a full soft table running quickly.

In the situation where there are a few regulars and only one or 2 weak players or as tables start there are obviously some strategic manouverings going on between the regulars.. either in seat choice, range adaptation or in simply choosing when to sit in or sit out. There are some fine lines between making the situation the most profitable it can be and table etiquette and each reg seems to have a different opinion of where these lines are drawn... I'll post more about this under "Table Etiquette".

I can understand why some regulars only want to play full tables - usually as they require more attention than you might have when multi-tabling or they simply don't feel as comfortable. However, as tables are breaking up it is worth keeping an eye on the changing dynamic and it can often become a very profitable situation again within a few hands. I can't sometimes believe when a regular leaves after a couple of seats become free when there is still a really bad fish at the table, especially when they have a deep stack. I'm happy that they are leaving easy money on the table, but the times it causes the bad player to leave because there aren't enough players makes me sad :(

Friday, 17 December 2010

If you are playing for a living its important to maximise your earnings and take advantage of as many bonuses, offers and promos as possible.

Rakeback is common to most sites and essential to get so that you can get back a percentage of all the rake you pay to the poker room. It can be problematic on some sites depending how you first signed up, but although my full tilt account is old I must have just downloaded it via their website so was able to get rakeback. If you are unable to get it at your preferred site you should seriously consider changing where you play.

For a while at the the beginning of the year I was taking advantage of bonus offers at both Absolute Poker and Full Tilt, but as the year has gone on I've stuck primarily with Full Tilt. It is worth being aware of the offers on other sites if you play enough to meet the requirements for their promotions. At times your chosen games at your main site may not be running or just not be very good so you might want to consider what else is available and take advantage.

The requirements for some promotions can be quite complicated and often require you to opt-in rather than being given to you automatically. The poker rooms need to have these to compete with each other, but they obviously would prefer if they didn't have to pay out to everyone. Full Tilt's "Take 2" and "Iron Man" promotions are good examples of this in that you have to elect to participate. Hence, its important that you take the time to read emails, promotion pages and research what is available.

Full Tilt has a number of schemes that it is worth taking advantage of if you play cash games:

  • Rakeback - 27% of rake paid back weekly
  • Iron Man - worth up to $600 of bonuses every 6 months, plus more from "iron man medals"
  • Black Card - double full tilt points, exclusive store with cash bonuses and a little more
  • Take2 - extra full tilt points during promo period
  • Happy hours - extra full tilt points for playing specific games at specific times of day
  • Rush week - bonus for playing rush (rigged so I wouldn't recommend it!)
  • Miscellaneous one-off or seasonal bonuses
I think its important to keep in mind that these are all just bonuses and not get too attached to any of them. The poker rooms will makes changes and suffering from losing one just isn't worth it. There has been a lot of hate directed at Full Tilt after their recent change from dealt to weighted contributed rakeback and the Black Card scheme which many had over-hyped for themselves by expecting it would compete with Pokerstars. If many regulars leave for Pokerstars as they are saying they will, then Full Tilt games should become a little softer, so it isn't all bad!

One danger of getting bonuses and trying to achieve or clear them is to rush through the extra volume required. A few times I've managed to lose more than a bonus is worth by playing more than I should or games that I shouldn't.

Full Tilt have just started a promo where you can get up to $100 bonus if you spend 140k ftp in their store. Yesterday I bought a $500 Black Card bonus for 125k pts and plan to buy another cash bonus to make it up to the required 140k ftp spend. With the volume required to clear these, plus the $100 bonus when it comes, plus working off the Iron Man $600 bonus in January I need to put in quite a lot of volume over the next 8 weeks. I was definitley affected by this yesterday and played some things I shouldn't and effectively threw away some of the bonus that I was trying to get.

I play some torunaments now and again and treat these in a similar way to bonuses - if I can win some extra then great but no problem if I don't. Spending iron man medals or full tilt points on tournaments can achieve a much higher rate of return on them in you are competent. I also find playing tournaments can be a great motivator to put in some good volume at cash while the tournament is running or just to take a mental break from cash games. Swapping some % of yourself or buying a % of others in torunaments can help smooth out the variance too and make a return more likely (especially if it is with Gary! - he won me $900 the other day while I was asleep.. definitely a nice bonus :)).

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Year 1 as a Pro - WSOP

One of the dreams of going to Vegas was to be able to play in the World Series. A shot at the $10k main event was well beyond my bankroll, but one of the $1k events was affordable if a rather extravagent compared to my usual live tournament buyins.

There were several $1k events so I decided to play one of the later ones so that I could get used to being in Vegas first. We took an early trip to the Rio and the sheer scale of everything was pretty awesome. I managed to get some poker celeb pics while wandering around.

Gary had a great run at the $1k Event #24 and I was as ready as I would ever be and registered for $1k event Event #47.

I was pretty nervous as it began.. my biggest live buyin ever, biggest live field ever and first multi-day event ever. There were no celebs (that I recognised anyway!) at my table but Chris Moneymaker was just a couple of tables away from me. As it was the cheapest wsop event the structure wasn't the greatest with not too many chips to start.

I was quite active in the first few levels but there were only a few small pots going backwards and forwards - not getting any action with a flopped set in a 3bet pot was a bit sad in Level 2, but it allowed me to settle down and get more comfortable. A few players came and went in what was quite a mixed field of ability.

After the 2nd break level 5 began and I picked up AK. A shorter stack opened before me and we got it in preflop after I'd 3bet him. However, his QQ held on a QJxxx board and I couldn't bink a T. I lost quite a few chips but certainly wasn't out of it yet. A few hands later another shortstack went allin and it was an easy shove for me with KK. Again, luck wasn't with me and his A4 hit an A on the flop to leave me crippled. The very next hand I had 88 and shoved my few chips in.. there was a quite a lot of action behind me and I was knocked out by TT in the end.

I haven't worked out what I'm going to play in the series in 2011, but I'd like to put together a package of a couple of WSOP events and a couple from the Venetian Deepstack Extravaganza and try and sell some action on 2+2 to make it affordable and give myself some more chance to find some rungood.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Year 1 as a Pro - Vegas

Long before I started playing poker I'd always wanted to go to Vegas. I'd only been full-time a couple of months when the threads went up advertising spots in a house for summer 2010. As much as I wanted to go, I was still getting myself established as a pro and didn't really have the bankroll to be able to commit and know I would be able to pay for both the trip and bills at home. I knew it was going to be a trip of a lifetime and I wanted to be sure I could afford to go without financial pressure and be able to enjoy myself properly so reluctantly delayed my decision.

By chance in April, with only really one spot left in the house, I was contacted out of the blue and offered a contracting job with a company I had worked with on some projects when I was at the bank. I wasn't thrilled about doing 9-5 again and playing less poker, but the length of contract and day rate was enough for me to feel safe committing to the trip. It felt like fate pushing me to go so I promptly took up the last spot in the house and booked my flights, to leave on June 8th in time for Gary's birthday and the start of the world cup and fly back on July 14th.

I won't go into all the details of the trip but it was awesome! - I made some posts at the time if you want to read more - Vegas #1, Flu in Vegas and I shot a zombie with a Glock 9mm.

I had a list of things I wanted to do while I was there and managed most of them including

  • play a wsop event
  • play lots of poker
  • shoot handguns
  • roll dice at a craps table
  • play slots
  • see the desert
  • see the grand canyon
  • play golf
We had an epic last night and in the end I was really sad to be leaving the good friends I'd made and Vegas itself. Even if poker doesn't work out as a long-term career for me, it will have been worth it for being able to fulfil one of my dreams.

There were a few things I didn't get round to doing so I guess I'll have to endure the hardship of going back! I haven't booked any flights yet, but I plan to be there for the whole of June and July 2011. There should be a good number of us back from last year - Gary, Dip and Darren and perhaps DJ and Tim. Gary is already lining up a house for us and it should be way better than the one we had last time. The idea of having an outdoor pool is a tough concept from someone from Scotland but I'm sure I'll cope :)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Year 1 as a Pro - Ego

There isn't a huge amount to say on Ego other than there is no room for it in poker. You should be humble, accept that you are fallible, accept that you have a lot to learn and never let an inflated perception of your abilities affect your decisions. If you don't, you are just setting yourself up for a fall at a later date and risk developing FPS (Fancy Play Syndrome).