For the period ending March 31, 2017
This was a quarter of rapid growth and improvement. And one of intense frustration.
It started with the continuation of a win rate downswing; the breakeven stretch lasted most of the quarter. I stepped away from live poker in February to play online, work on my game and write. About a hundred and fifty hours spent playing online cash games, building ranges and journaling strategy led to several poker revelations and renewed hope for higher earnings. I closed the quarter with an 8-day trip to Hollywood Casino Columbus - it highlights my dedication and sacrifice to find capital and momentum.
While I wasn’t trading this quarter, primarily due to capital constraints, I noted a ton of strategy/framework ideas, developed new analytical tools and algorithms and added more books, podcasts, feeds and websites to my resources.
In January, I set an annual profit goal and recapped my poker life in a blog post, Poker 2017. Most of the quarter was spent breaking even until a flurry of profit came in late March.
I attribute the lackluster results to some persistent run bad, playing in unhealthy local player pools and spending a chunk of time in tough, low-stakes online cash games. The latter, however, led to several poker revelations and fueled my end-of-quarter push.
As shown in the quarterly performance card above, I played 68 sessions, 330 hours and earned $3,486 ($51/session and $10.57/hour).
My volume was split between 4 venues: Horseshoe Southern Indiana (1/2 NL, 28 sessions, 110 hours, $1,549 profit, $55/session, $14.11/hour), Jack Cincinnati (1/2 NL, 3 sessions, 16 hours, $74 profit, $25/session, $4.63/hour), Hollywood Casino Columbus (1/2 NL, 8 sessions, 56 hours, $1,671 profit, $209/session, $29.70/hour) and Ignition Casino online (25NL Zone primarily, 29 sessions, 148 hours, $192 profit, $7/session, $1.30/hour).
I also played 51 online MTT/satellites and two sit and go tournaments; ($8) was the tally. The quarter’s “leaks” included online PLO ($267), video poker ($137), untimed NLHE Zone +$4 and live limit hold’em +$24.
My profit and session analytics give further insight into the quarter’s cash game experience.
The profit/hour and session length chart (above, top), displaying a 10-session moving average, shows longer sessions persisted while profits remained low for most of the quarter - the grind was long and bore little fruit.
The second chart, a 50-session moving average of profit /hour and /session, shows win rates that peaked last December and moved toward zero during the quarter. About half of that downswing was live cash, the rest online. End-of-quarter profits lifted my win-rate back to a minimum workable level.
Zooming out, I haven’t found a 1/2 NL lineup in which I didn’t consider myself a big favorite. I feel my poker skill, awareness and discipline are at a level where I would be competitive at 2/5 NL and possibly higher stakes. I just don’t have the stake, and playing below my skill level for so long is taking its toll on my resolve and emotional control.
For now, I am shifting my focus to MTTs (multi-table tournaments) live and online. I would recommend anyone playing cash games on a short bankroll consider the move. The mathematical variance is higher in tournaments, but playing suboptimally in cash games (the primary impact of a short bankroll) can impact expected value so much that MTTs become the lower variance play. Besides, empirical evidence suggests the recreational player to grinder ratio is growing less favorable in cash, whereas most tournament fields are still good. Perhaps it’s because tournaments are more fun, and there’s more upside!
Trip Report - Columbus
Ideally, this section would be a stand-alone blog post, like Trip Report - Las Vegas, but between the trip’s dour tone, my tech transition and general busyness, I put it off. Consider this the lite, lighter version.
Hollywood Casino Columbus is one of the healthier poker rooms in the area. It’s newer, has a rake structure that enables good promos, is a relatively pleasant environment and management runs and markets the room well.
From Louisville it’s about a 3.5 hour drive, and with a Subaru Crosstrek setup for “poker camping” it’s a doable multi-night trip on the cheap. The paid to play promo and high hand overlay made Columbus worth a shot to “save the quarter.”
The plan was to earn the $500 bonus for playing 45 hours (of 1/2 NL) Sunday (March 26th) to Thursday, then play the high hand sessions Friday and Saturday, finishing with the $10k guaranteed $160 buy-in tourney on Sunday. After seven long days of poker, I picked up my bonus on Sunday and skipped the tournament.
I doubt many readers of this post have ever slept in a parking garage, worked out and showered at Planet Fitness after hitting Chase and Starbucks, played long poker sessions and hit repeat - it’s not a getaway that anyone should choose, really. When I said dedication and sacrifice above, this is what I meant. This “nit cast approved” approach, a label fans of the Thinking Poker Podcast will know, isn’t a foundation for positivity and shouldn’t be attempted without an end game.
Some sense of how the week went can be gleaned from my results:
- Sunday +$295 including $77 allocated paid to play bonus, 7 hours
- Monday ($289) including $110 bonus, 10 hours
- Tuesday ($81) including $113 bonus, 10.25 hours
- Wednesday +$864 including $135 bonus, 12.25 hours
- Thursday +$121 including $65 bonus, 6.75 hours
- Friday +761 in three sessions, 10 hours total
- Saturday ($224), 6.75 hours
Trip totals: 9 sessions, 63 hours and earned $1,447 ($161/session and $22.97/hour)
The one highlight came on Wednesday following a two and a half day, 25 hour stretch of run bad and an ATM trip.
Throughout that stretch, texts with a few friends, two of which don’t play poker, revealed some cracks in my armor...
Mid-day Monday [reflecting]
“If I weren't improving I'd have a hard time justifying continuing…”
Early Evening Monday [irritated]
“Been a tough day here. Been trying to dig out of an early hole all day. Found some good games on this Monday, but... First 60-90 mins, I was on the big pairs beaten by straights run. My fav one of the stretch was a guy in MP opened to 11 I call [with AQ] and bb calls. Check check the Q87 flop and I bet 18. bb calls. Turn the 5. bb check I bet 40. bb calls. River 4. bb check, I check behind. He shows Q6o [for the river straight]. Lol… But he called 9 more in the bb pre and all the bets post… AND checked the river when he binked! Oh not complaining one bit about the action. They've just been getting there today.”
Late Tuesday [tilting]
“Just got KcQh on the button. I raise three limpers to 11 and get called in two spots. Flop QcJc6c. Guy check raises my 15 c-bet to 40 then leads blank turn for 35 (small) with 110 behind. I put him in. River bricks and he turns over 9c2c. The Al Pacino looking #@!% was pissed when I sat down that he couldn't have my seat. I read he wanted to play any two vs me and was right...
180/300 now after being 450/300 early and 375/300 when I sat at this table. Zero more poker dollars in my wallet!”
Mid-day Wednesday [defeated]
“Somebody has to run like this I guess? Make a big effort to get out of town and put in volume... Seems to always go this way - it's the main reason why I've been anchored. Just haven't had enough goodness in poker to take any leap. In 2014, I just didn't have the experience... I probably haven't taken enough risk, but why would I?
Down to $15 after Ah9h runs into AA on a T high two heart flop multi-way. ATM for $200, put $100 on the table just trying to survive the run...”
I’m not proud of these texts. I’ve been doing some deep introspection, channeling all of my thoughts into writing and strategy, and expanding my knowledge with related books and podcasts. I know my experiences on and off the felt, over the course of many years, have predisposed me to emotional responses. I have to stop lamenting my poor luck and timing; I am working on it and will eventually turn it into a positive.
All in all, the trip was productive, albeit tiring. I took home some hard-earned profits, stretched my frame of reference for dealing with negative variance while traveling for poker and made new friends (a few in high places).
I’d definitely recommend this well-run poker room to players of all skill levels.
New books and podcasts: The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler (free with your Audible trial), PartTimePoker.com podcast, Adventures in Finance: A Real Vision Podcast, Chat With Traders podcast, Macro Voices podcast, S-Town podcast
Listening to @TAGRtrades talk about how journaling helped his development as a trader reinforced my February experience journaling online play and strategy. This practice when supported by analytics can greatly accelerate development/improvement in many disciplines.
Ongoing fitness efforts, activity and diet-related, are improving my body composition and has me printing decade lows in weight!
In a quarter when a controversial new President took office, Atlanta blew a Super Bowl lock (a.k.a. Brady got lucky again) and we remembered the Challenger crew that died 31 years ago (I was watching the launch in a 4th grade classroom), I might have been moved most by Sergio Garcia’s Master’s win!