Thursday, 11 July 2013

Back to zero...?

Hello everyone!

It's been a while since I made a post... Actually, my last one was in April. I didn't write a single word for two months. The last time I skipped an entire month without making any posts was... over a year ago. This post is not an easy one to make and that's why I've been avoiding it up until now.

In the beginning of May I was feeling very prepared for the SCOOP. With our new office all set, my new spreadsheets and all the studying during April, I was ready to go. And the best part of it, we had a trip to Monaco planned during the first days of May. André had a photoshoot there and I decided to tag along for some fun time in Monte Carlo. The plan was to jump right into the SCOOP as soon as we were back, with my batteries fully recharged.

And that's what I did. I got back into the grind. Unfortunately, things were not going very well, so I saw my bankroll evaporating pretty fast. The chart that you will see below is my accomplishment for May. 

Now you may be thinking that 1,8k games during a month and especially during a SCOOP month is really low. And you'll be right, cause those results are from just one week. The thing is, the more I was losing, the less I felt like playing. And when I realized that I lost almost half my bankroll within a week's time, I decided to take some time off to clear my head.


That's when fear started creeping in. While being away from the tables, I started looking back at how the year went until that point. And the truth is, this year I've been losing money.

Another annoying fact is that the whole year so far I've played only 15,5k games. Just to put this into perspective for you, back in December 2012 when I was chasing the Supernova status I played 7k games in just one month. And since it's the hypers we're talking about variance is crazy. In 15k games there is quite a bit of variance involved so I can't jump to any solid conclusions about how bad of a player I am. I'll tell you one thing though: the fact that over the past few months I haven't made any money out of poker has affected my psychology in the worst possible way. 

The Hyper-Turbos

I was feeling like I was stuck in a dead end. I spent quite some time talking to André about the subject and he thinks that there's little value to the hypers these days. I don't know if it's because there are less players trying to qualify for tournaments through the hypers or if it's because the number of regulars increased, but that's the way things are right now. André would describe SCOOP days from a couple years back when he was playing where he would be the only regular at the table or maybe it would be him and one more. But the shark/new players ratio back then has nothing to do with what it is today. Last May, I would open the lobby 1-2 hours before a SCOOP tournament would start with the expectation of getting those great games. To my disappointment, I would open very few tables (far less than 12 which was my ultimate goal) and even those would not be great (3-4 regulars playing). I spent a lot of time staring at the lobby, watching games open with 6 (yeah you read it right - six!) regulars. Most of us saw the potential of the "prime time" before the start of a tournament - the only ones who didn't apparently were the recreational players.

I don't know why this is happening, if it's because people have moved to other formats or because way too many of us got interested in the hypers on a professional level. But the situation is what it is right now and we can't ignore the facts. I'm not saying that the hypers are unbeatable. Someone at André's level can probably still beat them with a significant profit. But if you are not at that level, you struggle. I've been talking to a couple of hyper-turbo players, some of my opponents whose opinions I respect. I heard all sorts of stories: from busting their bankroll (which came to a surprise to me cause I considered that specific player to be pretty good) to making a profit while getting a great amount of VPPs (which ultimately translates into money of course, but there's a big difference between making a profit at the tables right away and making it through rakeback).

The bottom line is, in my humble opinion, unless you're a brilliant player at the hypers then you should be getting ready to swim in tough waters. The margins have always been slim (an ROI of 1% which in other formats would be ridiculous is actually good at the hypers), and now they are getting slimmer. You need to accept the fact that there aren't enough games running at all times and keep yourself ahead of the rake, ahead of your opponents and ultimately ahead of variance. Which, in case you have forgotten is BRUTAL in these games. Sadly, those are a lot of obstacles to overcome. And that's why I think there are a lot of good players turning away from these games.

Cash Games

So having to deal with this new era of hypers, I started thinking about alternatives. What if I tried out a different format? MTTs are totally out of the question (if you have been following my blog for a while then you know why), sit n gos I've tried in the past and they're ok but... What if I tried something entirely new? Cash games is a format I've never ever tried before, not even with play money. And yet, that's where I think people really play poker. Not to mention that I would actually learn how to play flops and all... To be honest, it makes me kind of sad that I've been grinding at the poker tables for over a year now but I still don't know how to play flops. I feel like I'm missing the essence of it sometimes.

I started reading a book André gave me. Pretty soon I decided to stop cause it felt like I was reading Chinese. Okay, maybe not that bad cause I actually understood the language (and by that I mean both English and poker slang) but I did not make any sense out of it. The first chapter was about stealing. Why the heck would I wanna know anything about stealing when I don't even know the basics as in what hands to play and what hands not to?

I put the book aside and decided to spend some time reading the courses section of Poker School Online. I must admit, Pokerstars did a great job with that one. It's very well written and I feel like it can really help a new player get started.

My worst poker enemy

And somewhere among all that, thinking about the hypers, the cash games, my future in general, I get so discouraged that I stop before I even get started. Is the best decision to keep trying to make it at the hypers, a path that I've already taken but feel like I've failed? Or is it better to give a shot at the cash games? And if that's the correct way to go, how can anyone get up one day and say "Hey, you know what? I think I'll start making a living playing cash games!"? That sounds absurd to me. It takes years to learn how to play poker well so how can I expect of myself to make money out of it in the next, let's say, months or year? I even considered combining hypers and cash games. My idea was to separate my working time in two: half of it would be to study/play the hypers and the other half of it would be to study cash games not really with the goal to make money out of it, but in order to learn more about the format and make a more educated decision about whether that's the road I wanna take or not. André however discouraged me from doing that saying that in order to succeed in anything I'll have to allocate all my time and efforts to it so it makes no sense dividing my time. I still don't know who's right on this one.

So here I am, at a crossroads. I'm really unsure of what to do next. And I've come to realize that my worst poker enemy is following me both on and off the tables: my worst enemy is me. I feel like I can't take any more losing, even though I know it's inevitable and necessary in order to learn. Also, somewhere in the back of my head I think that if I don't take any action and don't do anything then I can't fail. Like, if I don't pick anything then I can't make a wrong choice. Which is as stupid as it sounds and there's no logic to it, but I'm trying to be honest.

Since the fear of what to do next was preventing me from doing anything, I just let the days go by. In the beginning I was telling myself it was a short break to mentally recover from that downswing. And I truly needed that break, but when I felt like it was time to go back to the tables, I kept postponing it over and over. I went on vacation, did some soul searching or nothing at all. And before I knew it, two whole months had passed.

What next?

I even considered the possibility of getting a normal job. That option has a lot of pros and cons and it would take a separate post to talk just about that. I'm just saying it crossed my mind and I haven't completely ruled it out. As for hypers vs cash, I think I'll stick to the hypers a little longer. Not sure if that's the best thing, but I've put so much effort to it that I feel like it's a shame to go wasted. Plus, I don't think I have the mental energy to start all over from zero again. So I'll put the cash games plan on hold. I can't say for how long - it could be only until I get my face smashed on the virtual felt playing hypers!

In any case, I know I'm not the only person out there struggling with this type of decisions. I'd love to hear your guys' experiences, your ideas, or advice. Maybe it will give me some inspiration, and I could totally use a bit of that at the moment.

I apologize again for the absence of two months, at least now you got an explanation why that happened. Hopefully I'll talk to you soon with a new blog post!


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