My summer holiday is over and it's time for another update. In short, poker has been going pretty badly.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, I went to Prague for a few days to play some live poker. I played about 36 hours in total there and lost around 1,2k € at stakes equivalent to about 200nl - 400nl. I also played one session at my local casino and lost 800 € there as well, so I'm down about 2k € on live poker since the last update. I'm not too worried about this though because I'm very confident that I've had a significant edge at every table I played at and have just been losing most of the big pots.
Online hasn't been great either and I'm about breakeven since the last update (stakes and graph since the start of this blog). I decided to move down to 50z for a while because I'm not too confident I can beat 100z and I guess I'm a bit demoralized by the live poker losses so I feel like losing a bunch at 100z right now would be a big mental blow to me. 100z has been my nemesis for a while though and I wouldn't call this challenge a success unless I beat that with a good winrate by the end of the year so I will have to go back there at some point (provided that I beat 50z obv...).
I have been watching a ton of videos and been going through hands a lot with a solver and I do feel like my thinking is starting to improve. What I find incredibly difficult though is trying to remember all the information and weighting all the different factors anywhere close to correctly while playing. I often feel like my mind is too slow in figuring out how board textures, actions, villains stats, betsizes etc. affect ranges that I don't have time to come up with proper strategies for the different parts of my range and end up just pressing buttons and butchering hands. I also tend to forget the actions of a hand by the river if I've been too focused on some other hand. Maybe my brain is just built more for the slow pondering type thinking rather than the quick type of thinking where you have to take a lot of factors into consideration and make good decisions quickly based on them. Even if it is, I'm sure that if I just play enough, I will start to develop heuristics and start to recognise patterns, which will make things easier. In other words, volume is probably the only solution to that problem.
Now that the summer is over, it's time to really focus on getting better at poker. I have to prioritise poker higher for the rest of the year and try to find a lot more time to play and study or I wouldn't feel like I've given this challenge a proper go. This will have to mean saying no to a night out drinking more often, no watching tv, using quiet moments at work efficiently etc. I should be able to play at least 30k hands a month and still increase time spent studuying.
Aug. 14, 2019 | 11:35 a.m.
It's been two weeks since I started this and I reckon it's time for an update.
I've been doing a fair amount of studying and some playing and so far it's all been a bit of a struggle. I’ve been watching a bunch of Nick Howard and Ben Sulsky videos and have been toying with GTORB. So far I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress and sort of just feel more confused than before, which I think is to be expected this early on.
Studying does feel quite overwhelming since the game is so complex and there is so much information, so many tools, and so many different approaches to take that it's hard to decide what’s important and what to focus on. Because of the massive amount of noise and variance inherent in poker you also can't really get reliable feedback about whether your approach is working without playing tons of hands. I'm sure any studying is beneficial though as long as you try to deconstruct the logic behind what you're learning and form your own opinion on it and don't just try to mindlessly copy what a solver or a high stakes player does. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that there will never be a definitive step-by-step guide for a path to success and I can’t just be paralyzed by the complexity and the noise. I should just work hard on anything I think is likely to be most beneficial at any given time and trust that knowledge will eventually compound and things will start to make more sense.
I think I’ll continue by studying solver solutions in-depth from many different angles one spot at a time to develop an understanding of how the dynamics of the game work at an optimal level. Based on that I will try to figure out where people are likely to make mistakes and how I can take advantage of them. I don’t have a large enough database to verify my suspicions about where mistakes are common or where people are over- or underbluffing etc. but I’ll definitely have to do some database analysis once I have played a lot more hands. One thing I can do now that will probably have a good effect on my winrate is go through hands that went to showdown and make notes on them. This will also give me a better feel for how the pool plays in general so I will definitely start doing that a lot more. In addition to this I will keep watching videos and I will try to also focus on improving my mental game since I have sort of neglected that so far.
I don’t really know what to say about playing. I don’t think I’ve been playing horribly but at the same time there are certainly lots and lots of spots where I feel completely clueless and lost, but then again I’m sure a lot of people do. I guess 100z isn’t easy but it certainly has felt beatable. I have no idea if I beat it at the moment though, probably pretty close to breakeven either way. I have only played about 5000 hands so sample size is basically meaningless but money-wise I’m breakeven and ev-wise down about three buy-ins (Stakes Graph).
I just started my vacation and won’t have to go to work in four weeks so I’ll have a bit more time to dedicate to poker. I’m going to Prague next week with a friend for a sort of poker holiday where the plan is to do the normal holiday stuff during the day and then play lots of live cash games during the night. An unofficial target is to play at least 40 hours during the five days that we are spending there. This means that I probably won’t be studying much or playing online for a bit but when I return I’ll pick that up again. I’m still planning on enjoying my vacation and like I said in the last post, social life is a higher priority than poker, but I’m sure I’ll still have plenty of time to focus on getting better at poker as well. We’ll see how it goes. Have a great summer.
July 12, 2019 | 1:09 p.m.
I plan public transportation and you're right, I do have plenty of downtime. So far I've mostly spent that time reading e-books on the browser or just pressing F5 repeatedly on some internet news site. I have done some poker studying as well in the past but that's certainly something I can start doing more from now on. I play cash so doing sims on GTORB and reading and posting on forums seems like a good place to start.
June 30, 2019 | 11:54 a.m.
June 30, 2019 | 11:42 a.m.
I'm a 29-year-old Finnish person who is bored with his life and thinks starting a poker blog might change that. What follows is a wall of text so you may or may not want skip to the end where the cliffnotes are located.
I'll just do this in bullet points to try not to be boring:
• Started playing
• Studied a bit
• Started winning
• Kept playing
• Studied way too little
• Won consistently and rose up to 400nl online
• Also played live at my local casino every now and again
• Started military service
• Didn't play during military service (it lasted 6 months)
• Started playing again
• Didn't bother to study
• Started university
• Didn't bother to study
• Poker went horribly
• University went horribly
• Came very close to going broke
• Quit university
• Started studying poker again
• Started winning again
• Started another school (one step below university so maybe college?)
• Was making ends meet by playing poker (was still living at my parents house at this point so not impressive at all)
• Moved out of parents house
• Tried to cover expenses by playing poker while studying
• Income was lower than expenses so went broke
• Got a job
• No time for college, job, and poker so played only very occasionally
• Graduated late 2015
• Switched over to current job mid-2016
• Still didn't play poker
• Felt like starting to play poker again
• Deposited and started at 25nl zoom
• Finally put some effort into studying and started winning
• Started playing at the 250nl game at my local casino on average maybe once a month (only on the weekends because of work)
• Rose to 50nl pretty quickly and kept winning (winrate was on the smaller side but I felt good to finally be a clear winner again)
• Started playing 100nl zoom and got crushed
• Moved back down to 50nl and was about breaking even
• Got demoralized, decided it wasn't worth it, and quit playing online
• Was a decent winner at the live game and was enjoying it so kept doing that
• Deposited online again and started playing mostly at 100nl (MPN and RIO)
• Have won about 800 € online and 2600 € live this year
As you can see, my poker "career" has basically been an endless loop of doing alright for a while and rising in stakes, then starting to lose, then losing interest and quitting, then getting back into it and repeating the whole thing. It's not been terrible but I've never really been able to break out of this cycle of mediocrity. I'm fine with the amount of hours I've put in, the problem is that those hours have mostly been spent playing and not enough of them have been spent studying. An even bigger problem has been that the quality of the studying has been too low. I've watched videos and played with solvers without really going through the thought processes required to understand the concepts on a deeper level and applying them correctly. This has obviously lead to some very questionable poker playing on quite a few occasions. That said, I think I've gotten better on this front and last year I went through Mathematics of Poker incredibly slowly and meticulously, which I think has helped my understanding of poker theory quite a bit. There is obviously still an incredibly long way to go though.
Numbers-wise all of this amounts to maybe 60k € in winnings. I didn't keep any records from the first couple of those years so this is just an estimate based mostly on skrill transfer history, bank statements and memory. Below is a graph and stake breakdown of the hands that I still have in a database (the zoom hands from 2017-2018)
I'm at a point where I can't keep devoting so much of my free time to online poker and barely making any money at it. I'll have to either brake out of this mediocrity and start making some actual money or quit playing actively and use the time to pursue other interests. I do love the game and I don't think I'll ever truly quit but if I can't make it I'll probably play very little online and just focus on playing live when I feel like it and have the time. If I can't make it, that's sort of fine, but I feel I've invested too much in this and have come too far not to give it one more push. I'll give myself until the end of the year to learn how to play. If my results are still mediocre at that point and I feel like I haven't improved much, I'll stop dreaming about poker as a serious source of income / profession and just treat it as a hobby. There is one more layer of uncertainty added to this by the fact that the Finnish government is considering blocking online poker to all other operators except the state monopoly. This would effectively kill online poker in Finland above maybe 50nl so it sort of seems silly to put a lot of effort into learning now when it might all be in vain if the law is passed. However, this is out of my hands and passing this will probably take a long time anyway. I'll also still be able to play live poker so it's not like the knowledge will be totally useless even if the law is passed.
Another thing I'm unhappy with is the work. Objectively, it's absolutely fine. It pays fairly well, I'm good at it, and I'm given way more time than I could ever need to do it. It's just that I find it incredibly boring and uninteresting, and my colleagues are mostly about 20-30 years older than me and have completely different topics of interest so conversations tend to be either work-related or feel forced, shallow and awkward. Most of all what bothers me is the same thing that would bother me with any regular job. It's the fact that it takes up such a massive bulk of your time, ties you to a time and place for most of your days, and that you really have to basically plan your whole life around it. I'm not delusional enough to think that achieving financial independence to do what I want and follow my curiosity is somehow easy, but at least I can try. And if poker doesn't work out, I should certainly find something more interesting to do. If I can't make enough money from poker to play professionally, and maybe even if I can, I think I might go back to university (probably Economics or Computer Science). There is this ridiculously good benefits program in Finland for adults who have at least 8 years of work experience and want to go back to school. The amount of the benefit received depends on your income level but I would get about 1800 € a month for 15 months for doing nothing but studying. I've always loved school so that seems too good to pass up.
Plan Going Forward
First of all, social life and exercise take priority over poker and I obviously do have to work so my available time is limited. Summers in Finland are also short so I'm planning to enjoy it while it lasts. With that said, I still have plenty of time to spend on poker if I just prioritize it over watching tv and things like that. Here is my rough plan to improve at poker for the rest of the year:
July - September:
• Find effective ways of studying and focus heavily on building a strong theoretical foundation (any recommendations for the "must see" videos or other sources with this goal in mind would be super appreciated)
• Play enough to keep the feel for the games but do not focus on volume (will probably start with 100z and will also be trying to start games at RIO)
• Be very careful not to try change your game too much too quickly without knowing what you're doing, incremental changes are the way to go
October - December:
• Keep improving your game but start shifting emphasis on putting in more volume at the tables
• Hopefully results will follow
• Have been playing for 12 years, have won maybe 60k € during that time so nothing to brag about (winnings also heavily weighted to 2008 & 2009)
• This year have played mostly 100nl online and 250nl live, barely up online and do ok live
• Have until the end of the year to become a good player or I quit
• Also bored with working for a living
June 28, 2019 | 1:19 p.m.
Dec. 2, 2015 | 10:43 a.m.
Well, that´s always great to know :). Thanks for the response, Phil!
Aug. 24, 2015 | 10:35 a.m.
CO: $10.00 (Hero)
I haven't really felt like writing here lately because poker has been kind of horrible for me ever since I started this blog (stakes, graph). I know it's a completely normal stretch of variance and that these sorts of runs happen all the time. I think it feels worse now because I've given myself this deadline and it sort of feels like I'm running out of time. I've also never worked this hard on my game and it's quite demoralizing to keep losing all the time. It feels like every decision I make turns out to be the wrong one and it's making me question whether I'm doing the right things. Objectively, I definitely think my understanding of the game has improved though, so I have to trust that and keep doing what I'm doing. With the live poker and online losses I'm now back to breakeven for the year, which obviously isn't great when it's late September
Poker has started to effect my mood off the table as well and I notice myself getting anxious about playing. Usually what happens at this point is that I quit poker for 3-6 months until I feel like playing again and then the cycle starts again. This time I'm going to try to work through this and keep trying at least until the end of the year like I said I would in the first post. I'm going to try my best to reset mentally and keep doing my best to improve and make good decisions on the table. If things haven't improved in 3 months, then fine, I'll quit then. In the last post I said I wouldn't consider this a success if I didn't beat 100z at a good winrate by the end of the year. Given how things have gone, this seems pretty unlikely to happen because I think I'll just play 50z at least until I feel more confident again so I'm unlikely to be putting a significant sample of hands in at 100z by the end of the year. I'm just not going to worry about a specific stake or winrate I have to achieve for me to call this challenge a success and instead will just focus on getting as good at poker as I can and decide whether it's worth continuing at the end of the year.
Sept. 20, 2019 | 1:19 p.m.