Let me preface this by saying there is nothing special about me. I'm not ranked in the top 75 in tournaments, you won't find me listed on any fancy sites as a teacher or scholar of poker. I'm an ordinary guy with a passion for poker.
I have been playing poker for almost four years now and playing it seriously for about a year. Six months ago, I decided to quit my job as a manager and go into free lance web design. It was a great decision as it also freed up more time for me to work on my poker skills. <READMORE>
Over that six months i worked hard on my poker game, i read books, spent lots of time at various sites reading up in the forums, and of course practicing. Because of the nature of my freelance work, i was fortunate to gradually move to more poker and less web design, as i continued to improve. A little over a month ago I made the switch to full time poker, and I have had alot of success.
So I wanted to compile a list of what i have learned over the last month, to help some of you who are contemplating "The jump". Again im no expert, but maybe you can learn from both my successes and mistakes and be encouraged.
1. Determine your Goals
As is with anything in life you need to decide specifically what goals you have for your poker game. When I first started playing poker, being the competitive person i was, I wanted to get to the top of the Pocket Five Rankings. Nine 100+9 tourneys later ive cashed once when i made it to the money with 135, YES 135 chips left.
I realized that i needed a more practical goal and set out to make 3k a month on poker. It is important when setting a goal to make something realistic and obtainable. if your goal is too easy and you reach it to fast, you can always set a new goal. But if you set your goal too unrealistic(like moving to the top of the rankings when you havent even played a 100+9 tourney before), then you set yourself up for failure, disappointment and frustration.
Ask yourself why you play the game? What kind of $$$ you need or want to make and what your purpose for playing poker is? In my case I wanted to make 3k a month because it was better than i was going to make doing webdesign, and it would provide for my families situations. Once you have those goals you can then determine what you need to do to obtain them.
2. Look at poker like the stock market.
We need to stop looking at our money as bank rolls and start looking at them as investments. Any good business man especially in the stock market, will look at his assets(cash), and determine the best possible investment for their $$$. Instead of looking at our bank roll as cash we need to look at it in terms of investments.
Say you have 100$. Instead of just looking at it as a hundred dollar bank roll, you need to see it in the many ways that it can be invested. for example that is 3 30+3 buy ins, or 9 10+1 buyins. its 4 buyins at $25 NL. Look at the many ways that your bank roll can be invested, then take the time to figure out what is the best investment.
When i first started making the transition to full time it was during the gidders craze. I jumped
on board and through my first 50 sngs was doing real well with a 66% ITM and a 88% ROI. But then it taled off over the next 100 and imy ROI went down to 18%.
Then i experimented and moved to the mini steps at party poker. People said oh they are a waste, because of how much you lose in entry fees. Well that may be true but in a little over a week i hit level 5 6 times and cashed 2900$.
Steps were great for me but the challenge was sometimes u could go days without hitting level 5. So i wanted to go back to something more consistant and went to the 30+3 sngs at party. I found myself making anywhere from 200-1000$ a day just two tabling them.
All these were much better investments than the original 100+9 tourneys i kept blowing my money on. At this point i have a good idea of what types of investments are wise / foolish for me and i have a good idea of where to invest my money. For you it could be that 100+9 tourneys are where you have your best investment. But think through it.
Too many times we only look at the best possible outcome. We look at the 6k first prize that comes to a 100+9 and forget about the 200 or 500-1 odds of us reaching that.
What business owner would invest 100$ for even a 100-1 shot at 6k? Yet 3 30+3 sngs give us a decent shot at gaining a steady return on your investment. Remember what we said about setting realistic goals?
3. Determine your niche.
I know that people will tell you that a real poker player should be good at all forms of poker. Thats retarded. What athlete is excellent at baseball basketball and football? They are all sports right? I love holdem. I really do, but i had to come to a realization that i was much better at omaha 8/b than holdem and i could make more money off of it.
For me the complexity and math involved in omaha 8/b gave me a huge advantage over the average person. It was also a game with less bluffing and reading players than Holdem, which was one of my weaknesses. Since i moved over to omaha 8/b tourneys i have had major success in 50-100$ buyins as well as 20-30$ rebuys(including a 4th place finish today).
I don't know if ill ever be ranked in the holdem world, but i think that my omaha play is up there with alot of good players, and i wouldnt be intimidated to play with any pro at that game.
I wonder how many truly phenominal razz or 7 card stud players, were never discovered because they locked themselves into holdem since it was the most popular. If your goal is to make money then dont waste lots of time playing games that arent your best. Experiment at low levels not to see if you can make money at certain games(because you can always make money at low levels), but to see which games are more natural to you.
Omaha comes very natural to me, i can count my outs quickly, and i know my percentages right away. A friend of mine in town is a 7 card stud wiz, and its the only game he wins consistantly at. Take the time to find your strengths.
The same could be said for different tourneys if your a big tourney player. I am always looking for tourneys around 100 in size, cause i do very well going from 100 to top 20. U might be better at bigger fields or smaller ones. You might be better at rebuys deepstacks or shootouts. Different blind stuctures might benefit you. Take the time to find out what your niche is in all aspects of the game as it will only help you to improve where you invest your money.
4. Don't burn out.
With poker being played in thousands of casinos and online poker rooms, you can play poker 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This is a bad thing. Again with all things in life, you can put 40-50 hrs a week in consistantly, 60-70 in for a week or two, but anything more than that will burn you out. Poker is the same way. If you spend too much time playing poker and never do anything else you will burn out. The difference between burning out in a normal job and burning out at a poker is that the latter costs u $$$!
Once you have found your niche, be intentional about taking time off both from poker and from your niche. Omaha is my best game but when i feel myself burning out on it, ill jump down to a .25 /.50 holdem for a while, or enter a tourney or something to mix it up. I never risk tons of $$ on it, but just the act of getting my mind off omaha for a while seems to help my game.
I also take breaks every day, every week, every month, and every year. Rest is important. I always find when i am well rested i play better. If your having a frustrating run take a break and come back to it. Dont ever play tired or burned out.
5. Have a backup plan.
I was very fortunate to be in freelance webdesign, because i can jump back into it at anytime. You need to have a backup plan if your luxurious jump to poker doesnt turn out so luxurious. A friend of mine decided to make the jump once and saved up 5k in bank roll to move down to st.louis and play cash games at the boats.
Before he left he talked with his boss explained the situation left on good terms and made sure if he came back some day he could apply for his job again. Sure enough 3 weeks later he was back and took his job back. He actually did ok at playing down there, but the swings were so great that it made him too uncomfortable and too stressed. He jumped back in to his job without any trouble and didnt risk anything in doing so.
The same can be said about your bank roll. When you get a nice bank roll or you have a big month, put money away for a month or two's worth of bills. That way if you have a bad month or two and it looks like full time poker wont work, u have ample time to find a part time or full time job and your not in a position of desperation.
YOU NEVER WANT TO BE IN A POSITION OF I HAVE TO!
Ever been in a sit and go or a tournament that you had to win? I can remember losing streaks where i got frusttrated and put my last 50 or 100 into one tourney. DONT DO IT. You will never play good poker when anything is depending on that specific game. if you have a bad day and you have 50 left, go to 10 or even 5$ sngs. Play 5$ buy in NL. But dont spend it on one thing your just asking to break yourself.
6. Gain the support of your family / friends.
I have stayed in close contact with my wife and family about the poker situation. Its not something i do behind her back and me and my wife have set both limits and boundaries as to where poker will and wont go. Gaining support helps in two ways. First it encourages you to be the best you can be. Its way harder to improve at something when people are against you. Second it helps you to be accountable.
Because my wife and me are on the same terms, it prevents me from blowing my money on stupid things. Remember the goals? I want to support my family and give them a good life. Anytime that tilt meter starts to go off in my head, i remind myself of who im playing for and i calm myself down to making smart decisions knowing that they will be affected by it.
Because of their support i never play out of my bank roll and i try not to waste money. Im still playing off the same $50 i deposited 3 months ago.
7. Give some of your winnings to something other than yourself.
This is probably the most important one of all! I know what some of you are thinking. Why the hell should i give my winnings to anyone! Simple, because money will never buy you hapiness. Trust me. Money can get a lot of great things, but those who fall in love with money always want more and more and more and are never satisfied. Some of the richest people in the world are some of the most miserable. Money cant buy you health, hapiness, true love, or fulfillment in life.
Its a dangerous, dangerous trap, and the best way to avoid it is to give something to other people. Anytime i have a big win i always make sure my wife gets a little shopping spree, my best friend who works two full time jobs gets some extra cash to bless him, and i like to give to a church or charity. The giving reminds me of how lucky i am to have what i have, and it helps money to not have a hold of me. Being a slave to money can be very bad for a poker player.
TRUST ME ON THIS ONE!
8. LEARN LEARN LEARN LEARN.
I assure you Doyle Brunson is still learning more about poker every day. This game is so vast and complicated and unique, that you can always improve. Read books, read forum messages, watch videos. Take in as much as you can. Never look at your self as the end. Even if you teach poker you can still learn from others! If you convince yourself you have made it and learned what you need to learn you will sell yourself short of who you could have been.
9. Be Respectful.
We've all had our blow ups. We've all been a phil helmuth once in a while. But no one likes a whiner or a jerk at the tables. The very word professional speaks of a mature and respectful attitude. Theres nothing professional about screaming and cussing at tables(even though we have all done it). The more we can learn to appreciate the ups and downs of poker the more people will appreciate us in our ups and downs.
You never know what friends you will miss out on because you show a tirade at a table because your AA was busted by K6 off suit. If you have to blow up do it in your computer room, but not in the chat room. People will respect you for it!
10. Remember this is a game of skill and luck.
Imagine this, Duke and Arizona are playing for the national title. Duke hits a jumper with 1 second left to take a 2 pt lead. duke has been leading or tied all game. Arizona throws the ball in throws up a half court prayer and swishes it for the win! The fans go crazy. Arizona runs out on the court, and all of the sudden all the duke players jump in their face screaming about how that was a bad beat and how they should have just left the ball on the court and not shot because it was only a 18% shot!
Isnt it funny how in sports when someone makes a rare lucky play we cheer and show it on sportscenter, but when someone gets runner runner to beat you we complain! Do i like losing to runner runner? Of course not, but if your willing to marvel at the odds of it, and how impressive it is to have caught that, you can let the sting roll off a little.
People tell me that poker is wrong because its gambling. My arguement to them is that poker takes skill and luck, just like sports. What is the difference between paying 40$ to enter a bowling tournament with a first place prize of $500 and entering $40 for a poker tournament where the first place prize is $500?
They both take skill and both have luck involved. But in order to make that argument you also have to marvel at luck and longshots as both are part of the game. The reality is that luck is what makes the game skill.
Let me say that again, luck is what makes the game skill.
Let me explain. If the favorite hand ALWAYS won. if AA always won and 27 always lost, there would be no skill involved because you winning or losing would SOLELY be determined by what cards were dealt to you. Because there is luck now there is skill in determining your risks and when the best time to get your chips in is.
So the same thing we complain about is what makes the game so good.
Good luck to all of you! See you at the tables </READMORE>
Hey, great post man. I'm actually a college student trying to pay all my bills and tuition with poker winnings so I definately appreciate the input. Where do you play the most and what screen name? I'd like to check you out some time, and maybe see if I can learn something, lol. Thanks! -Sokpuppet7
I really enjoyed your post. Even though I only play for small sums of money, I should print it out and keep it by my computer. I could do a lot better if I followed your advice in points #1 to 3.
I have a question.
You said your goal is to earn 3000 a month. That would average out to 36k a year before taxes. You also do not get any health and other benefits that a regular job would normally provide. Are you able to make ends meet on that salary or does your wife work also?
Thanks for your insights,
"I wonder how many truly phenominal razz or 7 card stud players, were never discovered because they locked themselves into holdem"
I would rather be a phenominal assisstant crack whore than a phenominal razz player! jk. Excellent article, best of luck to you.
If you've been playing poker for 4 years and you quit your job 6 months ago, then I don't understand this statement?
"Im still playing off the same $50 i deposited 3 months ago."
Were you playing online for 4 years? Did you go broke in the past?
fantastic post and I agree with PhiDelt, you show me a awesome razz player, I'll show you a person on the brink of suicide...GOD I HATE RAZZ! I thought a bad round of golf was the surest fire way to get me stewed...nope I was wrong.
Truly a great post, lilprog. I especially liked the analogy of Ariz. hitting the half court shot to end the game. Yes, it is true that it is VERY frustrating to see your hand lose to runner runner, and I've smashed three mice already because of it, but we still have to act with some semblance of class when it happens. Following that advice alone will make everyone a better player, as you still want that donks to make those horribles calls. Good luck in your endeavor
"Imagine this, Duke and Arizona are playing for the national title. Duke hits a jumper with 1 second left to take a 2 pt lead. Duke has been leading or tied all game. Arizona throws the ball in throws up a half court prayer and swishes it for the win! The fans go crazy. Arizona runs out on the court, and all of the sudden all the duke players jump in their face screaming about how that was a bad beat and how they should have just left the ball on the court and not shot because it was only an 18% shot!"
this is an awesome quote, and i think i'll look at bad beats a little different from now on just from reading that short paragraph. great post lilprog, i wish you all the success in the world.
p.s. i would've liked a shoutout to University of Illinois basketball, but great post nonetheless :-D