First Thoughts

beach poker

I look back at 2015 as something of a success as I managed to tick off a number of boxes on my ‘to do’ list. over the course of the year I was able to perform stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe, spend two months travelling in Australia and learn the fundamentals of improvisation. I also completely destroyed my own record for consuming ridiculous volumes of tea, which I think should be rewarded with a national honour of some description but nobody else seems to be particularly bothered. Among the many experiences I was fortunate to have I also made a very simple and very significant decision which will be my primary motivator for the months ahead; I want to become location independent.

Location independence simply means that I don’t want to be tied to one place, whether it be at work, at home or, in my current situation, both. It’s a switching of priorities to ensure that I can earn my living from a location that I choose rather than work choosing it for me. I want to see more of the world and I want to start yesterday. If I’m going to succeed then I need to be able to cut my reliance on income from my current office job and switch to something more offbeat that I can do primarily from my laptop. After shortlisting a few possibilities, the notion of income though poker crept its way up the list to the point where, in September, I made the decision to pay particular attention to it.

I’ve been playing poker on-and-off for about 11 years now. I started with a few online freerolls at the height of the post-Moneymaker poker boom, read Super System, learned the basics and developed enough to get slightly ahead of the microstakes S&G curve. I even started a local poker club along with two friends of mine who have always been exceptional card players and we developed something of a reputation for being one of the best pub poker schools in the area, though anybody familiar with pub poker will know that’s like making a bacon sandwich in the final of Masterchef and winning first prize because your opponents either made anthrax soup, couldn’t find their way to the studio or were so incompetent that they impaled themselves on a whisk and died. After a sabbatical I started playing again in around 2009 and spent some time absolutely crushing the S&Gs on UltimateBet. After an argument about rakeback I moved most of my bankroll to Pokerstars and went on a losing streak long enough for me to lose heart, give up and cash out the lot for about $1600. Not huge amounts but not a bad return for an initial investment of $40.

The problem was that the game was changing rapidly around me and I wasn’t adapting to suit. S&Gs were being smashed by people who had taken the time to get ICM nailed down while I was still playing a very standard game of tight early and aggressive late. It works enough to get past the fish but better players will still have the lion’s share of equity. I also hadn’t recognised that the player pool on Pokerstars, while undoubtedly fishy at the micros, is – or appears to be – significantly better overall than their counterparts on other sites. With hindsight I think a lot of my UltimateBet profit can simply be attributed to woeful opposition. And Americans. I think every winning online player took a hit to their ROI when we lost American players.

Fast forward to last year, the occasional session here and there just for the fun of it and a graph that was slowly dropping further and further away from the breakeven line. I’d spent time working on ICM and doing some sporadic study on my overall play and I still couldn’t beat the nine seat $3.50 S&Gs, which was hugely frustrating. On the other hand, and I’m undoubtedly on the right side of variance given the format and the sample size of around 400 games, I gave the $2.50 180 seat S&G quite a kicking and I started getting my appetite for the game back.

In September I actually made the decision to try and earn a living – as far as possible – from playing poker. I’ve always loved the game and what better thing is there than being your own boss and enjoying yourself at the same time? I’ve finally got round to getting one-to-one coaching with the excellent Ben Smith and he’s already transformed much of my game. My goal from here is to learn and improve as quickly as I can and be confident about every decision that I make, regardless of the level I’m playing at. Poker has become much more difficult in recent years and I don’t think that trend is likely to change soon, or at least not until we get the Americans back, but as with all walks of life the best route to success in your field is to be an expert in your field. These days that means plenty of structured study time as well as sessions on the felt.

I’m still spending a lot of time on the $3.50 S&Gs because even though I’m confident I’ve got the game beaten, I’m not going to put them down until my results back me up. From a long term perspective my intention is to play MTTs primarily as they’re usually softer fields and I much prefer that format of the game. More specifically, I’ve recently turned my eye towards satellite tournaments. There appears to be a lot of excellent value in these games, particularly at low stakes, mostly because they seem to be brimming with players who are either just downright bad or have no idea about the need to adjust when playing to outlast a percentage of runners rather than just taking it down outright. In short, I’m chasing the easiest money. I’ve also been reading quite a bit of what satellite specialists¬† Willie Elliot and the remarkable Dara O’Kearney have to say, which is very helpful.

Weak satellite tournaments have also given me the opportunity to achieve one of my goals for 2016 in the first weeks of the year – I’ll post the rest later – as I’ve qualified for a package at the Unibet UK Open in April. It’s ‘only’ a ¬£220 buy in so hardly qualification for the WSOP Main Event but it’s a decent start to the year nevertheless, particularly for somebody whose usual grind is $3.50 S&Gs.¬† In fact, the opening weeks of 2016 have been pretty spectacular relative to my normal stakes so perhaps my goal of being location flexible may not be as distant as it initially appears. More of that at a later date though.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, admittedly rather self-indulgent, first post which is intended as a synopsis of who I am, how I got here and the journey that I want to take. I’ll be using this as a benchmark at the end of the year to measure my own progress but I otherwise want to provide content that is accessible, informative and entertaining. I’d love to keep it as interactive as possible too so please add comments, suggestions and vouchers for free curry as you see fit.