jay_beckner

I play poker and trade options, seeking edges from study, reflection and analytics.

Poker 2017

Poker 2017

Trying to make a living at poker or trading, or anything else that involves risk, means you might fail. You might end up broke or friendless and miserable or dead. Or worse. If you don’t really believe that, if you think that God or the universe or a Hollywood scriptwriter guarantees a happy ending for a shrewd, good-hearted adventurer -or that nothing really bad ever happens to people like you- this book will do you more harm than good. Of course, since God’s looking out for you, you don’t have to worry about that.
— The Poker Face of Wall Street, Aaron Brown

That's a bleak, all too real passage. A lot of days in poker feel like the dark foggy image above. The only constant is the arrow pointing forward. And analytics.

Be it by timing, variance, choice or an incomprehensible greater force, I'm here: a 2017 currently-low-stakes live grinder, paying bills and concentrating capital to move up in the poker ecosystem and meaningfully participate in the financial markets.

On January 1st, sitting $1/2 no limit hold'em (1/2 NL) at Horseshoe Southern Indiana, I looked down at my $277 stack and realized those chips represent a year's earnings. It was a sobering thought...

$30,000 would more than double my lifetime poker earnings, and that mark can only be achieved with an activity level that exceeds any pace I've previously set. However, it's what I've been building toward since mid-2014.

Consider the dashboard below that includes cash game data from early 2006 to now. For this post, I spent several hours refining the analytics and charts and annotating my "poker life."

My cash game history, current activity and projected results. Moving averages reflect the elimination of online cash games as well as improving live results.

My cash game history, current activity and projected results. Moving averages reflect the elimination of online cash games as well as improving live results.

Shifting focus from profit/hour to profit/session is one of the biggest takeaways from that work. Highlighting the two bottom-left charts (expanded below), it's clear that playing shorter, more frequent sessions correlates to higher hourly profit. Conversely, constraining one's self to the poker room for the sake of "getting hours" or "volume" has the opposite effect (and seasoned pros could name many reasons why).

The strategy: play frequent sessions (not long ones), game select aggressively and don't linger without reason.

Hourly and per session profit charts. Any explanation for the divergence exhibited in the bottom one?

Hourly and per session profit charts. Any explanation for the divergence exhibited in the bottom one?

Below is a performance card that I created to summarize my quarterly activity. Zooming out to a 3-month view is consistent with this site's cadence, and it helps me stay resilient to the daily, weekly and even monthly swings.

Quarterly performance card reflecting 2017's first 8 days.

Quarterly performance card reflecting 2017's first 8 days.

The 55 sessions goal equates to the number of days one would work a traditional full-time job with 4 weeks vacation and weekends off. I expect to work more than that between now and April, and I'll refine this activity target with more experience. Last quarter, I played 41 sessions spanning 155 hours and earned $5,622.

To put the card's profit/session and /hour metrics in context, last quarter's numbers were $137 and $36.4 respectively. We're getting the 2017 "run bad" out of the way early!

Projected profit is calculated by averaging profit/session for the last 50 sessions, multiplying that value by the (number of) sessions remaining and adding the result to the current profit (or loss). As you might assume, the small silver number to the right is an annual figure.

In the poker room, I use the Evernote and Toggl apps to record the following session info:

  • Date
  • Buy-in amount
  • Cash-out amount
  • Hours played to the nearest quarter hour
  • Venue

The charts and graphics above were created using that data in Microsoft Excel (from scratch). It's amazing how many insights can be extracted from a handful of data points!

Poker players who understand risk management principles can play more aggressively in larger-stakes games with smaller bankrolls and have a better chance of succeeding.

Going slow guarantees both not learning and taking a fall.
— The Poker Face of Wall Street, Aaron Brown

Given a successful 2017, poker for me becomes an equation that maximizes the average session profit variable. The main inputs include but are not limited to: 1) improve my game 2) increase average stakes 3) maintain relative risk 4) find better games and 5) add other poker variants (e.g. PLO and MTTs or multi-table tournaments).

Assuming proper bankroll management and your entries carry a positive expected value (+EV in poker parlance), MTTs are a great way to give your annual income some upside. For cash game players, they may be the only way to get "career validation" from those friends and family members who think poker is the WSOP Main Event TV coverage on ESPN. Or... I could figure out a way to Twitch live poker. But, I'm no J Carver.


With the trading challenge upon which I based this site failing, I may have to push out my trading goals to a later date and replace them with a poker challenge - I'm not superhuman after all! More in the upcoming quarterly update...

This year, I want to set aside $10k for living expenses without any credit card debt -almost there- then build a $20k growth & income investment portfolio that represents my poker bankroll. Beyond that, we'll see how things evolve in poker and what opportunities the market affords independent traders working to better their skills (to compete with the machines).

Bernie's Day is Coming

Bernie's Day is Coming

Trip Report - Las Vegas

Trip Report - Las Vegas