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!