Sunday, 5 December 2010

Year 1 as a Pro - Volume

When I first started playing cash I knew the common wisdom seemed to be that to make money at poker you had to multi-table and as many tables as you possibly can (without affecting winrate to the point its not adding more). There were some that played less but they were definitely an exception.

I'd started out with 1 table like everyone else when I first started playing poker, but slowly added a few more over time. When I first started playing cash I varied how many I was playing.. anywhere between 4 and perhaps 10 with the intention to try and add more but never really found a number that worked for me. I think this was as a result of not playing great poker rather than an issue with the number of tables.

At the beginning of this year I knew I needed to play a lot of hands to be able to make a living but didn't have any real idea of how many that might be. My future winrate, stakes and multi-tabling ability were all fairly unknown and I didn't waste any time trying to estimate what with was required. I knew I had time on my side in that I knew I would be able to put in a decent number of hours a week. However, from experience, I also knew that I had a lot of leaks to address before I would be able to comfortably multi-table without making bad and costly mistakes.

When things clicked in January I was only playing a handful of tables at a time. Not wanting to lose/break whatever I had found I stuck with a similar number of tables (2-6). As results came in month by month I was making enough that I wasn't compelled into re-evaluating how many tables I played so just stuck with the forumla. I also was able to continue to improve at a greater rate. In a game of edges, it is important to take every edge you can, and playing fewer tables affords quite a number even if they are small

  • more time to make decisions as a whole
  • fewer misclicks due to slower action
  • fewer misreads due to table/HUD size
  • more time to navigate HUD popups and notes
  • more time to take notes
  • more time to observe game flow
  • more time to read hands that others take to showdown
  • ability to always tile tables on monitor and not miss any action
  • good players with an edge over you are probably playing more tables and will therefore have their edge reduced. (I haven't done it often, but being able to be aware of other big decisions they have at the same time as being in a pot with you can marginally influence the decision in a hand)
  • easier to perceive your table image on each individual table
  • more time to game select
  • more time to seat change/select
You do need to be aware of getting distracted too much when there is little action. Also, you need to make sure you aren't trying to play too many pots for the same reason.

You do get to see every brutal showdown - I've noticed when playing more tables that I sometimes am vaguely aware of having made a river bet or raise and don't remember seeing the result. For the mental aspect of the game and tilt control it is probably a good thing not to see every result and just focus on good decisions. The flip side of the coin is that if you don't see showdowns how are you able to adjust your game based on your perceived range of cards that the villain had against what they actually showed up with? Sure, you can review hands later and make notes but the information is most valuable right there.. in that moment and the hands following it. People you play may be creatures of habit, but I think its definitely possible to pick up on how people may be playing slightly differently that day.. particularly if they seem to be on tilt they are likely to be putting their stack in within a few hands and you can adjust accordingly.

Another downside of playing fewer tables is reduced rakeback and bonuses. However, if you can achieve a better winrate then money made at the tables can more than make up for any "lost" income. If the poker rooms change their promotions you are also less affected by any changes (e.g. recent ft rakeback changes and Black Card). The other plus of a greater winrate is quite honestly - it just feels good to crush the stakes you are playing. It feels good to win and I think it helps the mental side and the bad days probably don't feel quite as bad and tilt is much reduced; and less tilt = more money :) I have huge respect for those that can play 16+ tables but I don't like the idea of playing more for bonuses than anything else so I don't think its for me.

Having said all of this, I have played a session or two of 10 tables this month. The number of leaks I had have definitely reduced to the point I think I can safely add a few tables when I'm feeling good and the games are good without affecting things too much. As I try to move up stakes I may find edges are much smaller and it might require playing more hands/tables. I'll continue to fine tune things to try and find the sweet spot that works for me but I'll definitely not be 24-tabling for SNE next year!

So, with the year-end approaching, I've played close to 500,000 hands but don't think I'll make that milestone. Volume was down in April, May and June due to doing a 9-5 to guarantee the trip to Vegas and then being in Vegas itself. I haven't got back to the volume I manged in Feb/March primarily as I wanted to keep the number of tables down while moving up to 100. Now that I feel established there I'd like to push back towards 60k and perhaps even try for 100k one month next year.