Saturday, January 7, 2006

Last year's goals, this year's goals, and good ol' Atlantic City!

Last things first: I'll be in Atlantic City Jan 20-22 with some friends gambooling it up (at Borgata, as usual) during the 2006 WPT Borgata Winter Open. While unlikely, it is possible I'll even be back up in AC the following weekend as well to hang during the main event.

While I will probably not be entering any of the $500 events (backers, anyone?), I may take a shot at one or two of the smaller-buy daily events or satellites depending on how things are going in the cash games. I'm really bummed that I can't stay for the $500 limit hold'em event on Monday the 23rd. Yes, I'm a masochist. I heart limit hold'em. Word has it AlCan'tHang, Helixx, Dr. Pauly, The Blogfather, and a few others might be at Borgata around the same time. East coast folks, no excuse not to come join the party!! Hit me with a comment or find me on the #WPBT IRC channel for details.

2005 Observations...
I'm not much for ceremony or year-end reflection purely for the sake thereof, but it did occur to me this evening that it might be a good time to go check my post from last January about the "state of my game" and see what it looked like a year on. Without going into it too deeply, I documented the initial steps I'd taken in 2004 to start the transition from a 100% casual micro-limit player with a $50 bankroll to serious small stakes amateur. I then had this to say about the year ahead:

"It is the next steps, moving from .50/1 to the small stakes games (2/4, 3/6, 4/8) that takes many more hours and more subtle learning. And I'm in the middle of that longer process right now. I'm not sure if I ever will (or will ever want to) make the third leap up into the medium stakes games (6/12, 10/20, 15/30). Time will tell..."

Well, in one sense I've made it through one part of the course I mapped out, and in another I've gone even further into the waters of 10/20 and above. I honestly never would've expected this to happen, and at least one of the things that helped make it happen was pure longshot luck (the jackpot). Whereas 2004 was a year of firsts, 2005 was a year of applying what I knew and refining my game while plowing through the small stakes games.

Significant parts of that second year process were not necessarily fun or immediately rewarding, but extremely worthwhile nonetheless. Learning to take the pain of my first large downswing, to play four or even five tables at once, to respect variance and plan for it, and to relentlessly value bet regardless of the short term results -- those were not easy things to do, and I'm still learning in each area. Learning to play live with confidence and full enjoyment was another thing I really picked up in 2005, thanks in large part to the WPBT events, and a certain 72 hour bender in AC with Pinky, Helixx, and SirAlCanHang. Hell, that trip was probably the hilight of the year in terms of sheer entertainment.

I won't recap anything else because recaps are boring, other than to say I am truly satisfied about one thing from my poker play in 2005: I demonstrated that I can beat the 2/4 game without breaking a sweat. That was what I set out to do and I did it in convincing fashion -- over 65,000 hands at that level and a very respectable 1.5BB/100 winrate. Anything that came on top of that was just icing on the cake. Whatever happens at the higher limits, I always want to have this competency to hang my hat on, plus a basic ability to play 1/2 NL games and both beat them and enjoy them. I figure I'll always be able to get something meaningful out of poker as long as I've always got those two tools in my arsenal.

Of course, I went well beyond 2/4 hold'em. I hit limits as high as 15/30 and games as far and wide as razz, crazy pineapple, and stud/8, and the HORSE combo for the first time (Full Tilt, you guys rule for hosting the HORSE Tourneys!!). And I won't be at all surprised to look back in 12 months and be able to say the same sort of things yet again. For those who approach poker as an adventure rather than a profession, there are truly an almost unlimited number of new opportunities, and of course with a little luck and persistence, the chance to try even higher stakes games.

But its those higher stakes games that concern me somewhat. Like Icarus flying higher and higher, I see so many poker players rise through the small stakes ranks only to blow it all when they reach a level they can't beat. Read the 2+2 forums if you want some evidence of this -- plenty is available. Hang out at PokerStars or FullTiltPoker and just wait a few minutes... someone is almost always coming by the tables in observer chat asking for a loan of $50 after going bust. I'm sure a few in the blogger community know of players who have run into this trap.

While it might not seem like much, I believe one of the greatest challenges I (like many other recreational players/bloggers) will face in the year ahead is the consequences of my success. Thus far, I've largely maintained discipline. I've been playing games where even a fantastic session man mean only $75 or so in profit -- the equivalent of a nice pair of jeans or a night of partying hard at the bars. But what happens when I find myself in games where suddenly we're talking about the equivalent of a nice television or a few car payments are at stake.

Not that I'm not bankrolled for these games (I am), or skilled enough to beat them (have you *SEEN* the level of play in Party's 5/10 and 10/20 games?!?!?!) -- its more a question of holding to the same rules and principles that got me here, while really buckling down and doing the little things right (recordkeeping, table selection, tax preparation, datamining). In a longwinded way, I guess I'm saying that in some senses the stakes are higher and that means a lot more than just the denomination of the chips in play.

For those that have been through this stretch, I'm really interested in your advice and thoughts (ahem DoubleAs, HDouble, Iggy, FTrain...). With that in mind, I leave you with the following excellent New Year's resolution from the 2+2 Internet Magazine:

My goal is to make money. It is not
... to impress my opponents.
... to survive the hand.
... to make sure my opponents don't bluff.
... to decrease my variance.

My goal is to make money. It is not
... to find out "where I'm at" during the hand.
... to accumulate a big stack or cover the table.
... to play in higher stakes games.
... to finish the session ahead.

My goal is to make money. It is not
... to deceive my opponents.
... to improve my PokerTracker statistics.
... to say at showdown that I started with a better hand.
... to create a table image I like.

My goal is to make money. It is not
... to cause my opponents to make mistakes.
... to win pots.
... to increase the chance of getting paid off
... to improve my ITM percentage.

My goal is to make money. It is not
... to end my downswing.
... to punish players who irritate me.
... to generate less rake than I receive from bonuses.
... to educate my opponents.

**Of course, I'd add another goal: to straddle bet and suckout as if it the results were never in question; or in other words, have fun every now and then by deviating from the grind and just soaking up the social side of the game. All focus and no GAMBOOOOL make -EV a dull boy, ya know. **

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