Friday, March 26, 2010

Q & A

I've been getting some questions and so I decided to write a Q&A to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about me or poker in general.

Q: I'm starting out, what should I read, how do I go about it, I want to be you in a couple of years! (ok, the last part was sorta made up, but that's the impression I've been getting)

A: This is such a broad question that there are so many answers to it. As in any line of work, it takes hard work and diligence to be successful at poker. I'd recommend signing up for an instructional site, eg Bluefirepoker, Leggopoker, DeucesCracked, and Cardrunners 1st. I'd probably rank'em in that order in terms of quality, although each site has its pros and cons. There are other sites out there as well that cater to different needs. I would browse online poker forums and read as much as possible..there is no excuse not to, especially when it's free to the public. I'd find other people w/ similar ambitions, especially in poker and have discussions. I would read certain books, but you have to be careful because there are some books that have bad information. I'd recommend just about every book that's published by 2+2. Most books do not teach you the fundamentals of online poker though. They're more catered to poker in general, especially live full ring poker.

If you really have the cash, you can purchase ebooks written by high profile online players, eg CTS's "Let there be range", Balugawhale's "Eazy Game", and a few others out there. They are pretty expensive though..ranging from $600 to $1800. I've read most of them and would say they have good content but I'm not sure if they're worth the price...def. not for beginners though. Also there are coaches available that may expedite the learning curve. They range anywhere from $25/hr to $1800/hr (don't ask me why and how anyone can charge that much per hour). You gotta do your homework before considering getting a coach. Some of them can not beat today's games and are coaching based on their reputation and results from years ago.

Q: Do you coach?

A: I have before, and charged a very moderate price relative to the market but right now am not coaching. I'm focusing on getting better and making as much money in poker this year. I can not make as much money coaching as I can playing poker so I am holding off coaching...for now.

Q: I play primarily mtts but want to transition to cash games...can you give me some advice? (or vice versa)

A: Similar answer to 1st question at top. Just study as much as possible and have an open mind. Be humble and try to be aware of what areas you need to improve on. With that said, it is much tougher to get good at cash games than mtts. One can learn how to be a winner in mtts in 1 month, whereas cash games may take many months. Cash games provide more stability and the best players in the world excel at cash games as well at mtts, while the best mtt players only excel at mtts. We cash game players salivate when we see mtt players, including good ones, jump into our cash games.

Mtts usually require you to know how to play 10-30bb stacks whereas cash games require you to know how to play 50-1000bb stacks which require a lot more skill. Also mtts emphasize survival, while cash games emphasize making +ev plays and correct decisions consistently. Again, the latter takes more knowledge and skill to execute well. I would not suggest avoiding mtts altogether though and there are some that make a decent living just playing mtts only, but there are a lot more cash game players that make a decent to great living.

Q: How do you handle taking a bad beat, the losing sessions, and the long break even stretches?

This is a tough question to answer because I think it depends on each individual. I happen to have a very even-keeled temper that helps me with avoiding tilt. Everybody has a different breaking point when it comes to tilt or just losing control of emotions. It's up to each individual to realize when that is and how to improve it. I think it's nearly impossible to get rid of tilt altogether. Even I'm guilty of it from time to time, although not nearly as most.

As I mentioned before, I went through a tough 300k hands break even stretch in the latter part of '08. I used that experience to take a step back and see what I may have been doing wrong, and I did see and fix leaks that I had. This has been said before, but I'll say it again... when one is running good, poker is easy and he (for sake of saving time, I will just mention he/him/his when appropriate even though women play poker as well and they have my utmost respect in all things) thinks he is good at it, but it's when one is running bad that determines whether he can make it in poker over the long run. It tests the spirit and heart of anyone when one is constantly taking beats and running bad. When you run bad, don't bemoan the poker gods, instead use it as an opportunity to improve yourself in all aspects of poker and just your overall makeup as a person.

Also, it is always good to take some time off when you're getting so frustrated w/ poker that it affects your play. Use that time to clear your head, improve your game, and come back stronger. I actually felt somewhat of a burnout at the end of '08 and played my fewest hrs I have ever played in a year in '09. I also stepped down to smaller stakes than I normally played and worked on my game for pretty much the whole year. I admit I did have many bouts of laziness during the year as well, but that's a topic for another issue. As you can see, if you've been following my blog, I've been crushing every game I've been playing this year, starting at 2/4 and now at 5/10 (and hopefully bigger games down the line). I can discuss this issue, the topic of tilt and mental stability for hrs on end, but I'm just gonna finish by saying that it is such an essential element of success in poker that most of today's games regulars' results are separated by just strong they are look at me.

Q: Can anyone succeed in poker?

I'm going to be brutally honest here and answer it based on my experiences over the past 12 years. The answer is no. There are certain traits that one needs to succeed in poker and tbh, not everyone has the traits. These can include again emotional control, intelligence, discipline, self awareness, analytical ability, humbleness, and good memory. I'm sure there are a few other traits that I'm missing but I think I covered most of the key ones. I don't mention mathematical ability because it doesn't take complicated math to succeed in poker, just a basic understanding of it. Now I don't know if you need to be born w/ all these traits, or can learn and improve them over time. I'm thinking some are just inherently bestowed upon at birth, while some can be learned and improved upon.

I do however, do not discourage anyone from trying to succeed in poker. I get asked many times if he can succeed in poker and I always answer I don't know, because, well I don't know. I'd have to spend a lot of time and get to know the person well and maybe watch the person play and discuss poker w/ him often enough to get an opinion on whether I think he will succeed or not. I always say don't quit your day job until you have played enough hands and can base future results based on those # of hands. I don't have an exact # for the hands played, but it's a lot. For an avg. working person, I'd suggest 1-2 years of consistent success in poker on the side before even considering leaving the job for poker fulltime. Even that may be too small of a time frame.

Q: Do you have a set routine?

A: No. I play when I feel like it and more importantly, when I have the time. Having a family requires time and I emphasize being a good husband and father so I do spend some time doing so. One of the reasons why so many people want to play poker is that he can be his own boss and just play and go as he wants. At this point in my life, I don't think I can handle being on some kind of schedule...actually, at any point in my life, I couldn't handle it! With that said, I am trying to get some kind of routine going this year. I want to maximize (productivity wise) my days and not have any hrs where I feel like I'm just wasting time. For the most part, I think I've maximized my hrs this year, whereas last year I wasted half the year doing nothing productive.

Q: Where do see yourself and poker in 1 yr, 5yrs, 10yrs?

A: For me, I'll probably be playing poker. Essentially I feel like I'm retired now and can do whatever I want at anytime. Again that's one of the perks of being a pro. So if I'm retired now, I'll be retired the rest of the way. I just play poker because it's the easiest way for me to make money, and I make lots of it. It could be interpreted as a job, and technically it is, but being able to play whenever I want makes it feel like it isn't. I will look into getting a business or 2 as well. I almost bought one a couple of years ago, but elected to go with the bigger house (I'm obviously not that business savvy).

As for poker, who knows really. There is the impending UIGEA. They're supposed to implement the crappy rules starting sometime in July I think. There's talk about legalizing online poker. I'm not too involved in the political aspects of online poker so I'm not that aware of what can and will happen, but I don't think anyone really has a definite answer as well. I live in Vegas, so if need be I can always start playing at the casinos full time.

I'm going to show a thread that is very useful and informative to aspiring poker players as well. It was a well (Q&A) done by Phil Galfond, who is a highly successful high stakes player that primarily plays online. It's arguably the best thread on 2+2, and one of the more useful ones for poker players wanting to succeed.

I'd recommend going through the entire thread if you're serious about poker. He's more articulate than me and talks about what it takes to succeed in poker.

Also since he gave my blog props in his blog, I want to mention DoubleFly's blog. He is a winning full ring online player and his blog is very informative on some of the nuances of what it takes to succeed in poker. His blog is more entertaining than mine as well.

Also if anyone has any other questions they're interested in me answering, feel free to ask in the comments box or email me. I'm the type that tries to help anyone out as much as possible (but no monetary requests obviously, and that includes my friends!) as long as it doesn't take too much of my time. Finally, here is a picture I saw recently in a poker explanation needed...


  1. hey have you been asked about what stats you find the most important? beyond the vpip and pfr, what stats help you figure out when to cr turn with nothing, etc...

  2. What were your biggest epiphanies while you were first learning?

  3. I just tend to rely on the preflop stats. Usually there isn't enough of a sample size to figure out if a turn chkraise is legit or not. If I'm facing aggression postflop, I just look at their agg level and go from there. I'm not very adept at breaking down hud stats to determine my best course of action so I just use them to sway me in one direction if a decision is close. I think you can beat today's games w/o a hud though, but prob. best to use one if you can since everybody else is using it. I only started using it last year.

    As for epiphanies, didn't really have any early on in my career. I just put my mind into it and studied the game as much as possible because I knew poker was beatable. The one epiphany I did have was January of last year. I posted in BBV a graph of a session and my nonsd was sloping downwards at a 45 degree angle. I had lost 9k in that session and I didn't really understand how relevant sd and non sd was. People posted how my nonsd sucks and how nitty I was. That really opened my eyes and realized there was a lot more for me to learn about nl.

    I came mostly from a limit background, but managed to do well at nl for a couple of years because most players were bad. I didn't even understand some of the concepts of nl. I realized I really needed to learn this game to maximize my earning power. One of the most important concepts was just knowing that you can win pots w/o having a hand as long as you repped it credibly and use the power of leverage. Once I figured that out and began applying it correctly, my game took off.

  4. thank you for your answer john, i really appreciate it... as a 2+2er myself, i've read about the red line/blue line and agreed with the camp that you really don't have to pay attention to that as long as you're winning. however, i'm beginning to think otherwise and now feel i should try to get a positive sloping red line too... hence my earlier question about turn cr's... do training sites teach you what situations are good for getting people to fold?

  5. Actually you can win w/ a downward sloping nonsd line, but most of the biggest winners have solid nonsd lines. Obviously what matters is the dark green line which is actual money won. There are different ways to go about this regarding red/blue lines.

    Regarding getting cr'ed on turn, that's so dependent on each situation. Training sites do give you examples of when you get checkraised and try to explain what may be happening and how to react to them. I would like to give you a simple answer on how to deal w/ turn cr's but unfortunately there is none. It seems simple on the outside, but you as well as I know that it is actually pretty complex w/ a lot of variables. I tend to check out hhs posted in forums and read the ensuing discussions to get a better feel for how to play certain hands in situations, and that includes getting raised at some point postflop, so I'd recommend that.