This is part 2 of 2 in the confessions of an online poker player series by a friend of mine who goes by the name of “NNNobodYYY” in the online poker world. Enjoy!
The life of a poker player can range from really boring to really exciting, depending on what you make of it. For me, when it gets too exciting (volatile), I make it more boring with changes to my playing system. When it gets too boring, you can make it more exciting, but if you want to succeed you have to be persistent and put in the hours at the table.
For the last week, my life has shifted from a very monotonous, grind it out poker system to one of the most exciting weeks in my poker career. This happens every time a championship series rolls around, but I usually end up miserable and full of regret. This Sunday I won the FTOPS VIII Heads Up Holdem Event for $72,000. That is more than I earned all year grinding it out! It makes the most sense that I’d win that event, rather than any other in the 27 Event online poker championship series, because I am a Heads Up ( 1 on 1 Poker) specialist.
Heads Up Freeze Outs
On a standard day, I play heads up freeze out (freeze out is a poker term for a game that is played until one player has all the chips and the other player(s) are eliminated) matches, $100-$200 per match and I play 30-50 matches each day. It is a very simple system; if you play for $100 a match the winner wins $100 from their opponent. If you can manage to win 60% of your matches, that’s $1000 a day in a 50 match day, minus the $250 that will go to the poker site in rake, which would total to $750/day.
It’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. Heads up poker requires complete focus to maintain optimum play so it is almost impossible to play more than 20 games in a row and maintain the discipline and focus to play your absolute best. You cannot play as many tables at once and it is much more mentally draining. The reason I chose this system is because I struggle with the swings, this system mitigates swings because it has the lowest standard deviation for returns. You could do the same thing playing 9 person sit and go tournaments, but the swings would increase because you aren’t going to win as often against 8 other opponents as against 1 opponent, but when you win, you will obviously win a lot more. I feel it is necessary to split up daily sessions with hour or longer breaks between every ten games. During the prime hours 10PM-2AM, I will play 20 consecutive matches.
My Work Day
My work day is pretty flexible, but I do have some rules. It’s not necessary to play during the day, but I try to play a couple hours during it just to get a ten game session out of the way – generally between 2PM and 6PM. It’s not a great time to play, but it’s not bad either. I wouldn’t recommend playing before 2PM. The best time to play is between 10PM and 2AM (I think 6PM to 10PM is fine too, but that’s usually my time off). I force myself to play these hours almost every night, sometimes starting at 11.
I used to treat the weekends like anyone else and took a break from playing poker, but since I bought my house a month ago I’ve been playing both Friday and Saturday Nights. This experiment in a really crappy life (in order to rebuild my reserves after the big down payment) has made me realize how necessary it actually IS to play on Friday nights. Friday nights are the most profitable because you have a lot of bad amateur players coming home from the bars (*cough * cough* J. Money). But for some reason Saturday nights are NOT as good, and I’m not really sure why.
During Championship Series
During Championship Series I change my whole schedule around to a much more brutal workload. I tend to work 12-16 hour days playing satellites into major events, winning a lot of event entries and never doing much in them. A satellite is a smaller buy-in tournament that awards a certain number of seats into a major event. Satellite poker is played slightly different because you’re trying to survive ’till 20 or whatever number of players are left, rather than trying to win the entire tournament. Satellites are easy to win and a good way of playing the major events without having to front $200-$1000 entry fees (but they do require a lot of time). The actual events are much more difficult because they have massive fields that pay out about 10% of the field, and the payouts are very top-heavy so you have to be making final tables to be profitable playing tournament poker.
Even in the Heads Up event, which is my expertise, winning is still close to impossible. You have to win 10 consecutive matches to win the tournament, 3 to make the money, which is more reasonable. All I can say is Sunday was my day, and things HAVE TO go your way to win a tournament. I think to the 6pm event where I got eliminated ALL IN on with 1 card coming with AA on a 7 high 3 club board, holding the ace of clubs vs a guy holding two tens without a club. He had one out in the entire deck and it came, a 44-1 shot.
That is tournament poker and that is why it is generally miserable. Now I figure, normally I win that hand double through with 2000 players remaining, maybe make the money, but likely something else happens long before the final 100 players, and I’m eliminated. I guess you never know, though. I was only all-in as a statistical underdog once in my ten matches and it was the second match. I pushed in with Q8 on a 976 board on a semi bluff, was insta-called by J9 and hit running diamonds to double through. If I didn’t get lucky there, the following 8 matches wouldn’t have occurred and I wouldn’t have won that $72,000. In fact, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.
Since I did win the event, though, I had to press on and fight for the top slot on the tournament leaderboard. Just one significant win in another event could have been enough to score it, which would then have given me free entries into all of the FTOPS IV events, not to mention serious prestige. I know better than to play the hold’em events with massive fields and bad structure – those are not my events and I generally do poorly in them. I came super close in a $300 shootout event (each 9 person table is played down to 1 winner and then those winners get reseated and have to win another table) on Tuesday, losing heads up with a chip lead to a bad player.
Then I lost a $530 Horse event on terrible luck – Horse is a fixed limit event, I’ve had a lot of success with it in the past, but if you can’t win any hands you don’t have a chance. Today, I ran my chipstack (not to be confused with chapstick) up to $20,000 in a Pot Limit Omaha event, before taking a few bad beats and losing on a foolish play.
Tomorrow is the end of the road for me, with the Pot Limit Omaha heads up event. It’s heads up which is good, but I actually don’t think Omaha is a game that fits well with Heads up tournament style freeze outs. Pot limit Omaha is a drawing and money odds math game, so most freeze-outs end on essential coin flips between made hands and great drawing hands, unless you’re lucky enough to play someone horrible :)
Moment of Clarity
Over the past week, every waking hour was in front of my computer playing poker. I ordered 2 large pizzas from Papa John’s on Sunday and been eating leftovers, since. Naturally, I got sick from such an unhealthy lifestyle. I had the same problems when I’d go to Vegas and Atlantic City for major events too – eating unhealthy foods and buffets all the time, being up all hours of the night.
I finally had a moment of clarity and introspection to write this after 5 days of nonstop play. The life of a poker player is always going to be more stressful than pretty much any other job, but you can choose how stressful you make it. My day to day life is pretty normal (compared to other poker players) and requires about 5-6 hours of work a day for a steady solid income. I choose to bump up my days during major events for a shot at a big win and when you get it, it feels great.
In the end, I am happy with my big win, a little disappointed I couldn’t do better in the other events, and very much looking forward to taking a week off and things going back to normal.
I hope everyone enjoyed the read,
(Part 1, in case you missed it: Confessions of an online poker player)
This Series in the news:
- MSN Smart Spending: Secrets of an online poker player
- 2+2 Poker Forums: Confessions of an online poker player