Keeping Your HeadIf you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
If, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)Gambling
I'm not a gambler. I don't find much fun in playing a game of pool without there being a pound or two riding on the outcome. I ocassionally like to have a pound on a football accumulator at the weekend for interest. I did a couple of £10 challenges trying to roll it up to £100 and had two 'big' bets to push me over my target that both failed. I didn't try a third time. I have put the odd £5 in a roulette machine and cashed out at £10. I've played blackjack in a casino once and lost £40. I put $100 on the roulette table in Vegas and blew the lot in three spins. I'm not a gambler. I do like to gamble though.
Maybe the truth is that I could easily have been a gambler, but there is a cautious side to me that feels I have much more to lose which overcomes the lure of the gain I stand to make. Maybe I also realise that I don't have an edge in any one particular field to gamble to win, rather than just for fun. Of course, I also gamble three or four nights a week when I invest about fifteen dollars across five or six small stakes poker tournaments online and I think I have an edge in these games. . This is not the place to take up the argument whether poker is gambling or not, but to say that it is fits with my theme.
The relevance of this introduction is that I have been wondering recently whether I gamble too much in certain spots in online MTTs. I'll come on this more in due course.Sanity Check
I was originally going to make this piece a simple forum post, but felt I could stretch the whole thing out and find a blog idea when ideas are short. The games I play are on the biggest European network, ipoker, and online casino and sports betting site, 888.com. I play there because I think the fields are soft, the tournaments are run at convenient hours and end early enough to get a good night's sleep before real-life work begins, and I believe that there are too many gamblers which I can exploit, especially on 888.com. I have had moderate success in tournaments on both sites, but am losing on ipoker at -22% ROI over 138 tournaments and winning on 888.com over 215 tournaments at 101% ROI for a total profit of $564. The hourly rate will be very poor, but this is a hobby not a job so I'm not going to concern myself with that as my time has undoubtedly been spent improving my game, increasing my edge, and most of all enjoying the game.
I started taking up the coaching course I often reference in late September so have filtered results since beginning of October 2012. I have played 114 tournaments across the two sites and made a profit of $96 which makes a total 84% ROI over this small sample size. Again, most of my profit comes from 888.com where I have a huge 306% ROI in this time due to a win in a £1.2k GP for $311. This is as much a sanity check as anything so thank you for bearing with me through those numbers. Variance
I am almost certainly running through a bad patch of variance despite results indicating that I haven't had too bad a time of it. Of course, one of the problems with running bad is that it inevitably becomes a time to reflect on whether we are playing badly too - becoming results orientated is a danger. I have been questioning whether I am taking too many gambles in mid-late stages of tournaments when playing a stack of around 30 big blinds and under. I think my push/shove game is not too far off and I mostly make good decisions. I have kindly been pointed in the direction of a very helpful piece of equity calculation work which I am yet to use.
My gift, in return, to fellow MTT players: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/23/small-stakes-mtt/updated-pushbot-spreadsheet-1000-post-thank-you-824728/
Recently, when sharing hand histories online for feedback on questionable spots, I note that there is an often used reply 'I would wait for a better spot'. I think that there are times when this phrase is thrown around but not always with enough substance behind it, like many other stock comments poker players like to throw around. I have been of the opinion that pushing small edges to accumulate chips in tournaments is mostly a good idea but also dependant on your edge or lack of edge over the opponent in question or table you are sat at. A previously sponsored pro player that I had some chats with suggested that he rarely folds AK in pre-flop all-in spots in these games as opponents can often show AQ/AJ or worse and he would gladly take a flip for a stack otherwise. I might not always agree with that, but with dead money in the pot I am rarely going to fold unless I feel strongly that my opponent has me crushed with KK or AA.Flipping & Moaning
There is another well worn statement that you 'have to win a few flips to win a tournament' and that has got to be true most of the time I think, even if we don't actually mean what most of us know as 'a flip', an AK v small pocket pair type spot. We are going to have to often win hands where we have an unpaired hand vs 'two live cards', AJ v QT would be an example. We might have to hold when we dominate with AT v A5. We might also need Aces to hold, but let's not go silly expecting the impossible! This last comment might count as a moan, but I think I may have got away with it. In fact, I hope that this whole blog does not come across as an excuse for a 'bad beat' story, unless by doing so I manage to moan one in - I'll take 'em anyway I can get 'em.
Undoubtedly, volume is a key element to acheiving a good long-term ROI. If we only play one tournament a month and never make the cash that is not so surprising. If we play hundreds, or thousands of tournament across the year we should be closer to acheiving a true return based upon our edge, or lack of edge, in the games we play. It is always difficult to keep perspective here, as one man's monthly volume could be another's weekly or even daily volume. Many players think they are on a downswing or that they understand variance, but you only have your own experience of it. You can look at the swings other players endure through online tracking sites, such as sharkscope.com and pokerprolabs.com, and measure the biggest winners ROI percentages.The Upside of Variance
Despite all this, it remains difficult not to let the variance get you down. When you put in seven or eight sessions over a fortnight, feeling sick when AA comes third in a three-way showdown, lose endless crucial flips, run your AQ into AK again when open-shoving, and face opponents calling off with such little equity and still getting there, it feels like a long-time losing. In reality it probably isn't and the sanity check brings me back to earth as is its purpose, showing me that I am winning at a reasonable rate. It is also easy to forget that when you do win, although you may not have won any of the outrageous all-ins you usually lose but never get in yourself as you don't call off in the same situations, you still may have found some very fortunate spots where you flopped a flush vs a straight, or set over set. This can also be attributed to variance, or being on the right-side of a cold-deck. Did I mention I have been getting cold-decked often too?Be Proactive
The great thing about online poker is it's always there, so you can take a break and come back to it if that's what you feel the need to do. You can always spend time improving. You can read more, take a more focused approach to different aspects of your game, join in with online discussions, post hand histories, work on equity calculations, or you could just clear your mind of poker completely. I have a business idea I have been meaning to crack on with for the last year. It's not going to make me a fortune but it might keep my reward levels through referrals and it is another outlet to get my blog and other ongoing discussions going. You've probably guessed it's a referral site, but it certainly won't just be one full of links to a multitude of poker sites that look smuch the same as every other affiiliate site out there. When it ready to go live I will publicise the link here and I hope you will take a look and that I can keep coming up with original content for you to make regular return visits.#lovethegame
Something I talk about a lot is inspiration. Finding that spark to reignite your quest for the goals you have set yourself. I found something which greatly inspired me recently, such was the story, the writing, and the passion. If you can find your way over to this it really is worth reading from the start, although it is a mammoth task to get through the lot so you may want to skip it in parts.
Alex Goulder is a young live pro cash grinder who has had a journey from the 50p/£1 cash tables at Dusk til Dawn, life with the other Nottingham rounders, tournament highs, variance lows, motoring mishaps, a mysterious Eastern European lady, hilarious videos, croquet, Countdown, choirs, travels across several continents with great trip reports, crafty prop bets, and even a lost cat incident. http://blondepoker.com/forum/index.php?topic=51305.0
I am always trying to make more friends in the game too. It is one of the reasons why I spend a lot of time on forums and twitter. I've found that by cross-posting over a few forums the feedback multiplies and the range of insights is greater. When you make new friends in this game your resources expand, your knowledge base increases, and you learn more. You have to give something of yourself first though. That is what keeps me writing this blog, contributing to forum discussion, starting new threads, and posting interesting hand histories not only for my benefit but those I think will reveal interesting discusssion which can help others. You get out what you put in.Summary
You might not be running as bad as you think, you need to gain perspective and can use tracking sites to see what are the winning rates for those who are putting in volume and what kind of swings they experience along the way.
Do not always assume you are running badly. Keep working at your game and look for areas where you can make improvements.
Variance works both ways and you may have run well at times, and the deck has been stacked in some situations where someone else was on the wrong side of a cold-deck to help you on your way to a score.
If it at get's on top of you, you can take time out and put your energies into something away from the tables.
Contribute to the game and the returns will be plentiful
Here endeth my February sermon.