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It’s Official: This is the Worst Run of My Poker Career

November 26, 2019

It’s Tuesday the 26th and my next several days will be spent preparing for and hosting a rather large Thanksgiving gathering at our house. I am currently down about $2500 for the month of November and it looks like I may or may not get a maximum of two more sessions in this month. I say may not because I’ve been taking extra days off and I think I’ve ragequit something like 4-5 times this month. Granted, the ragequit isn’t as severe when it comes 8+ hours deep into a session, as I’m basically just cutting off my last hour or two instead of powering through, but I had at least three sessions that didn’t even hit the five hour mark. For what it’s worth, I probably don’t ragequit 4-5 times in a typical year, so this development has been rather… disturbing. I thought I was past that point, but apparently this never-ending downswing/breakeven stretch has put my mental game strength to the ultimate test (and it’s failing). All in all, it’s not very good to ragequit because theoretically it costs money in the long run, but since my ragequits are all a product of a tremendous amount of accumulated tilt boiling over, I’m sure it’s better for me not to be at the tables. When I know my game is off and I can’t get it back immediately, I just quit playing.

But this is my fucking job. I have to play. I mean… it’s not like I’m generating any income – I really haven’t done much of that since July – so maybe not playing right now is better for our bottom line. I’m honestly not sure at this point. I think I’m mostly playing my normal solid game but I’ve definitely seen clear slippage into C-Game. The clarity that I usually play poker with has pretty much evaporated because I rarely connect with a flop and when I do have a hand, I feel like I’m going to get beat almost every time. The wins just seem so few and far between and momentum (i.e. stringing together some decent pots) is unheard of. For every step I take forward, I take four or five back. The vast majority of this month has pretty much been raise preflop, check-call the flop with whiffed overcards in a multi-way pot, and fold on the turn. I just feel so transparent because I never have anything after the flop and the rare times I do and can actually bet, it seems obvious that I actually have something. And it’s not like I can mix it up because if I start barrelling off with my whiffs in multi-way pots, I’m just burning chips and there’s usually too many players in the pot to check some of my good hands and it’s not like I can afford to miss any bets right now. Also, while there’s still a chance I can turn November into a winning month over my last two sessions, there’s also a somewhat similar chance that I could post my worst month of all-time instead… I’m definitely drawing live on that if I play red chip games this weekend and run bad enough.

Some that read this might think I’m over-exaggerating things – especially seasoned pros with huge bankrolls – because I haven’t had a losing month since April. However, my last three months have all been far below average and November is currently threatening to wipe out my last two months of “income” entirely. If I didn’t play for the rest of this month, I will have profited $2100 over the last four months combined, or roughly $500 a month. I’d say what our monthly expenses have been during that span, but I’m pretty sure my wife would feel like that’s an overshare, but uhhh… it’s not good… so yeah, when you play for a living, you don’t have to actually be losing to feel like you are getting CRUSHED. I’ve been roughly breakeven over the past four months but my bankroll has taken an absolute beating. I wouldn’t say I’m in the Danger Zone yet, but I’ve definitely started wondering what I would do if I had to get a job. That’s a scary thought – aside from playing poker, my interests don’t align very well with making good money. And honestly, one of the last things I’d want to do is start working in the industry again… but where else can you get an entry level job at age 37 and make $30+ an hour? Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. I’m still a ways off from having to pull the trigger on a day job again, but it’s not like I can’t see it from here.

Really though, I’m feeling this run bad in a very specific way: I can’t win at Palace to save my life. This is a place where I’ve won enough money to pay off a decent house. I’ve won more money at Palace than I have at the Rio, where I have three scores between $32k and $45k. This place is my home. Old Reliable. When I have a bad trip somewhere, I can always count on rebuilding when I get back to Lakewood. But not this year. Not really. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that would be ecstatic making $12 an hour playing poker – especially people that play at Palace – but it has been a rather shocking experience for me. To illustrate, I first started playing regularly at Palace in 2015, almost entirely 8/16, and I made $15.50/hour there that year. Then in 2016, still playing mostly 8/16, my hourly jumped to $27.50. 15/30 and PLO first started getting spread in 2017 and my hourly at Palace that year was just over $33 and then in 2018 when most of my hours were in red chip games, my hourly skyrocketed to $47/hr… so yeah… $12/hr is startling. I’m making less than I was when I was getting my feet wet at the 8/16 level. Unreal.

I’m actually posting paltry (for me) win rates in all three of my main games (8/16, 15/30, and PLO) at Palace this year. As it stands now, November is my third month this year that I’ve lost over $3k just at Palace. In all, I’ve posted six losing months there in 2019. Since the beginning of June, I’ve lost $441 playing poker at Palace – good for a -$1.09/hr “win rate” – and since the beginning of August, I’m down almost $6700 – good for a much more savage -$22.08/hr. That’s four months straight of walking into my home court and losing violently. That’s the longest stretch of losing poker I’ve ever had at Palace and the last four months is by far my biggest and longest downswing I’ve ever had playing there.

I don’t really have an explanation for it. I think it’s just variance – variance like I’ve never experienced before – and some wear and tear on my overall play caused by these extreme conditions. I don’t think it’s unnatural to see some slippage in the quality of my play the longer this brutal stretch goes on. But man… people sure do love giving me their advice. People that don’t even play poker. My mom thinks everyone at Palace knows how I play… like they haven’t been playing with me for 4+ years and getting pummelled regularly… and now everyone has suddenly figured me out in 2019. Or maybe I’m giving away all my secrets on my blog… like people haven’t had access to good poker content for years and still play the same terrible poker they’ve always played. I’m not naive enough to think that no one has ever benefited from reading my posts and then used that information against me, but the number of people that read my blog and play against me regularly is pretty small and we all have so much history together that constantly adjusting is just part of our regular game flow. Most of the people I play with don’t even know this blog exists.

A friend of mine told me he thinks I’m paying off too much. I mean, damn, do you know how hard it is to fold really good hands when you never connect with the board? I finally get a hand that can win a showdown most of the time and I’m going to fold it? Here’s what happens when you start to overthink it: early in my 8/16 session last night, I raise it up with the A2dd, The Queen calls and is all in before the flop, the button calls, and some random dude that looks like he’s probably a fucking punter 3-bets it from the big blind and we call. Then I flop the nut flush on a Q53 board and the big blind and I cap it while the button clears out. The turn pairs the 5 and he just check-calls on this street, but when a third 5 comes on the river and he leads out, I’m just in disbelief. I have no history with this guy so I should just call it off – especially since he looks like a dingus – and curse my bad luck when he shows me a full house, but instead, I flashed my hand to the guy that told me I’m paying off too much and said “how is this my life now?” and basically let the whole table know that I had flush and then tossed it in the muck, only for the big blind to turn over KJ high… just a busted flush draw. And immediately, I was embarrassed and emotionally jarred. Then, in the next orbit, I saw this dude win a pot with J5o from middle position and cold call a raise on the turn with 32o (another hand he limped in with) on a 742K board only to get rocked for three big bets on the river when he made two pair against K7. If I saw those two hands first, I never would have folded that flush against him. Never. And I still shouldn’t have. The point is, limit Hold’em is a pay off game. You don’t win money by folding good hands in heads up pots just because you think you might be beat. That’s how you lose really big pots folding the best hand. I’ve done it many times in my career. I did it last night. And every time I do it, it’s a solid reminder that paying off “too much” is infinitely better than folding the best hand in big pots on any sort of regular basis. You have to be really, really sure to make those kinds of folds and unless you have tons of history, you will never be that sure.

Note: I didn’t fold that flush because of the above advice. I folded it because I thought he could have zero bluffs and I’m an idiot. The fact that guy happened to be sitting next to me is just… perfect?

Another friend of mine just messaged me and asked if dropping down in stakes is affecting me (i.e. playing more 8/16). Let’s examine. I’m having a terrible November in 8/16. No doubt about that. I’m down over $3300 and I’ve lost 7 of 9 sessions, for an average loss of $372 and my hourly during this span is -$56/hr. That’s some serious spewage. However, prior to this month, I had been crushing 8/16 at Palace in 2019, to the tune of $34/hr (over 2 Big Bets per hour). Granted, that’s not a huge sample size – it’s basically 1.25 months of full time poker – but I have a long history of annihilating the 8/16 game at Palace, so a 60 hour sample of getting destroyed isn’t going to make me think I suddenly forgot how to play at these limits. It would be a lot more alarming if all my other recent history wasn’t so in line with my career win rates. Also, I’ve had some downswings like this in my 8/16 career, once or twice, so it’s not like it’s totally unprecedented. So no, I don’t think I’m adjusting poorly to playing more lower stakes. I mean… my 4/8 win rate is $43/hour this year. Sample sizes that small are essentially worthless.

Basically, what I’m saying is… I definitely appreciate some of the concern I’m getting and I know anyone reaching out typically means well… but this is something I have to deal with myself. Unless you do this for a living, it’s really hard to grasp how much variance can affect your results. Sometimes it can be really extreme and I feel like I’m just going through a prolonged stretch of extremely bad variance. It doesn’t have to necessarily be anything technical in my game that is causing this and while I think I’ve made some mistakes (as any poker player does) during this period, I don’t think playing poorly is at the root of the problem here. I have a very small group of people that I look to for advice when it comes to poker and all of them are experienced players and most of them have a winning track record. They get it. It’s hard for me to respectfully take the advice of people that don’t get it. You think a professional baseball player that’s in a slump wants to hear hitting tips from some dude that plays on a company softball team? I imagine most people would be taken aback if I walked into their job and told them what I thought they could be doing more efficiently. I realize writing this blog makes my business public and probably makes people want to help, but I don’t need help… I just need to work through it and hope it turns around sooner rather than later. I have a long history of doing extremely well at this game and while I’ll admit I’m a bit concerned about my bankroll size and ability to play for a living long term, I’m not worried that my game has suddenly fallen off a cliff because I’ve had a rough few months.

I know this post has been pretty bleak, so let me share some good information. Outside of the Palace, my cash game win rate is $65.50/hour and I’ve been running at almost 2 Big Bets per hour on the road. I’ve made over $100/hour playing cash games in L.A. and Vegas this year. Is that because those people don’t know me? I doubt it. It’s not like I know them. Is it because the players in SoCal and Vegas are substantially worse than the Palace regulars? Hell no. You want to know what it is? Variance. Shining on me when I happen to be travelling. I can guarantee you that I’m not playing any better when I’m in a 40/80 game at The Bike than when I’m playing 8/16 at the Palace. I play my normal game, adjust to the game flow and the player profiles, and exploit accordingly. I’m trying to win the maximum no matter what stakes I’m playing. I don’t take a 45 minute warm up in a 4/8 game any less seriously than I did when I played 50/100 Mix earlier this year.

Even over the past four months, while my game has seemingly fallen apart at Palace, I’ve managed to post a $54/hr win rate in cash games anywhere else. Those numbers kept me afloat from August through October and speaks to the idea that my game is just fine and that variance is by far the most likely culprit for how things are going at Palace.

So what’s the answer? Start playing on the road more often? Stop playing most of my hours at Palace?

I guess a change of scenery would be nice, but it’s not really the answer. There is no answer. Just keep grinding and things will turn.

When I get really down about how things are going, I think it’s super important to remember it’s all about the long run.

Here’s what this four month stretch looks like in graph form:

And here’s what the long run looks like at Palace over nearly 5000 hours:

It’s been a rough year… but something tells me it will turn out just fine. I just need it to happen before I run out of money!

2 comments

  1. Sick blog. At 41, always wondered what playing midstakes lhe for a living would be like! And it sounds tough.


    • It has been pretty cushy up until this year. This is a case study in why it’s important to be massively overrolled for whatever stakes you play.



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