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

Poker Players' Lament

Poker Players' Lament

As he racked up a gift from the just departed guy on my right, the nice older gentleman on my left said, ”You’re a good player.”

Looking around for my “good player chips,” I nodded in acknowledgement and replied, “That’s not the problem.”

This post, to be read with Poker Players' Resilience, is for winning players in that tough spot before their hard work can produce sustainable profits.

"Betting strategy,” a Tommy Angelo-ism, isn't their problem. It's what I call the "life inputs." Things like bankroll, location, expectations, relationships and perspective prevent them from realizing their edge.

I am writing on the heels of losing my last 3 big pots. I created large edges but failed to realize my equity. Sound familiar? It's a microcosm of my last few marginally profitable months.

The hand histories only support the argument that poker isn’t dead, but what’s the math?

Hand 1, 1/2 NL: 82.4% edge in a $450 pot where the money went in on the turn heads up (hu)  |  Hand 2, 100PLO online: 80.2% edge in a $300 pot vs the covering player in a three way turn all in  |  Hand 3, 1/2 NL: 78.0% edge in a $525 pot where the money went in on the flop hu.
Sequential probabilities: <1% to lose all three hands and $555, 52% to win all three hands and $720 (profit), approaching 100% to roughly breakeven.

The very favorable percentages are painful, yes, but --reality check-- we aren’t entitled to win any pots without 100.0% equity. Heck, it’s possible to keep getting the money in 4/1, the average odds above, and lose forever.

Enter the resilience created by aligning one's life inputs for long-term profitable poker. Most players are aware that outside forces affect their ability to play well and deal with losing at the table and session to session setbacks. Far fewer work on them for their game's benefit. (It's often easier to just get better at poker.)

For the up-and-comers relying on the game for income and growth or change, the biggest limiter is bankroll: you grind, make some money, pay some bills by paring back to your “starter roll,” look to get ahead and move up, then variance forces you to access your non-poker cash and credit.

The cycle is rather poetic in its misery:

The #1 challenge of the competent, undercapitalized poker player is hanging in there to find the good stretches or playing a full-time schedule to realize his edge.
Take a bad beat or two - financial stress. A few more - mental anguish. Apply more discipline - entitlement issues. Play less.
Play online. The stakes are lower; the long-run seems possible. The beats come faster - trust issues. Resilience ebbs.
Break. Reset.
Back in the poker room. Up against it -- still.
The #1 challenge of the competent, undercapitalized poker player is hanging in there…

Layer on psychological triggers, opportunity costs and social pressures, and the up-and-comer is almost certain to stay in this cycle until he burns out. So, play hard, be resilient, run good like Shane Buchwald and move up!

This song isn't a perfect fit for the poker player looking too long for his breakthrough; it's a better fit for my days spent working in Alaska. However, the chorus rings true for all risk takers looking for fulfilling, acceptable and sustainable success.

Last night as I was out a ridin’
graveyard shift, midnight ‘till dawn
the moon was as bright as a readin’ light
for a letter from an old friend back home

He asked me why do you ride for your money
Why do you rope for short pay
You ain’t getting’ nowhere
And you’re losin’ your share
Boy, you must have gone crazy out there
— Michael Burton
Lead image source: Google Search. Assuming Creative Commons license until I learn otherwise. Modified.
Poker Players' Resilience

Poker Players' Resilience

The "Not So and Sos" Return

The "Not So and Sos" Return