Saturday, May 8, 2010

Most hands played? (History of online poker thru my eyes, tl;dr)

So I was reading the recent issue of bluff magazine and one of their writers reviewed Dusty Schmidt's (aka Leatherass) book (don't remember the name, something about treating poker as a business). Anyway he says a lot of positive things about it and says one of the reasons that aspiring pros should listen to Dusty is because he's done well and probably played more hands online than anyone. I've played some w/ him and he's basically what most good regs make him out to be.. a bumhunter that multitables well and plays solid most of the time. I have nothing against him and would back him in most online cash games if he ever came asking. I do agree w/ a lot of regs that he touts himself too highly and puts himself on too high of a pedestal.

Anyway I was thinking about the comment that he's played more hands online than anyone, ever. Tbh I think I've played more hands online than anyone in the world. I was playing poker professionally before online poker existed. I signed up when the very 1st online poker site started accepting real money (Planet Poker)...heck I played w/ free money on the beta poker sites before they allowed real money play. In the beginning I started putting in half my time online (other half still in brick and mortar poker rooms) then slowly transitioned to online full time , 1st w/ Planet Poker, then Paradise, followed by Party Poker and now Full Tilt and Pokerstars. This span is over 12 years. I'm not sure if they are many pros left from the Planet/Paradise Poker days..I would say the # is very slim. I would also say that I've probably avg'ed the most hands played and money won on an annual basis among guys that have played since the inception of online poker. Obviously guys have made more money than me in a limited time span but I don't think anyone's that's been around since the Planet Poker days have played more hands or made more money than me. Also since I've been multitabling anywhere from 4-16 tables since the beginning (actually the most tables you could play on the 1st couple of years was 2-4 if I remember correctly) I think I've played more hands online than just about anyone in the world.

What's the significance of this? Actually there is none except that I never thought about it and I guess I could pat myself on the back a little for making it through the years through all the different eras of online poker and making a good living doing so. There was no software like PT or HEM the 1st 5-6 years so there is no concrete evidence that I played more than anyone. Also I didn't start using PT until 3 yrs ago or so so I don't have a lot of the hhs I've played over the years.

Early on (starting around 1998 I believe), just like brick and mortar poker rooms, limit hold'em reigned and there were no tournaments online. I remember playing $5-10 or $10-20 limit hold'em games online for a couple of years, mostly on Paradise Poker since that was the big site at that time. Party Poker came unto the scene a couple of years later and I remember Mike Sexton promoting it like hell. When you thought of Party Poker, you thought of Mike, and vice versa (that's how he became a very wealthy man and from what I know, deservedly so for all that's he's done for poker and for being a classy guy overall).

Well Party started becoming the biggest site, mainly because of their affiliate program and rakeback (wow I wish I was more business savvy back then and started my own affiliate program w/ Linda Johnson who made a fortune doing so). Anyway I took most of my action there because they had the most limit hold'em games and they had them as high as $15/30! (funny I know, esp. when you look at the biggest stakes online today). I also made the choice of becoming mostly an online player because I liked playing many hands/hr and I made more per hr than I ever did in a live game. Plus I got to stay home and spend more time w/ my wife and kid. I remember grinding several tables of $15/30 limit hold'em for a year or so. Then they introduced $30/60 limit and 6max games and I started playing in those. Grinded those games for another year or so before they added $50/100 and $100/200 limit hold'em games. I didn't play those as much because they were pretty tough. I table selected those games but they're weren't many of those games going. I would like to say that I was one of the biggest winners during that time but idk because no one really knew who was winning how much and who were losing.

Well shortly thereafter the sites started introducing tournaments. I think Paradise started it 1st. I remember thinking..suiiiiiiiiiiite.. because I enjoyed playing live tournaments and felt like I could win lots of money if I ran good in one (which I eventually did when I won a $640 buyin Party Mil on a sunday for $250k in '05). Well they introduced nl tournaments 1st and eventually the sites began introducing nl cash games. I was still focused on limit hold'em games since I was doing well in them and had no idea how to play nl (did well in nl tournaments because nobody knew what they were doing but I just happened to know a little more than most just by instinct and natural ability, I guess). Anyway the biggest games they had were $1/2 nl for awhile. Slowly they started adding $2/4nl and 6max games.

I didn't play in them because I was crushing $30/60 limit hold'em and $2/4 nl was still relatively small compared to $30/60 limit. Anyway Party added higher stakes and when $5/10 was added I started looking into it because the money won/lost was relatively similar to the limit games I was grinding at the time. All the games were 100bb max buyin although there were shortstackers (who invented these guys anyway?). So the limit games were getting tougher and my hrly was slowly going down so I started dabbling in the $5/10 nl games on Party. Right off the bat I did well even though I really had no clue what I was doing. I was just going off my reads and instincts and did well. Looking back at it, I played so fundamentally incorrect but so did just about everyone else. The winners were the guys that had good hand reading ability and didn't tilt (like me). Obv. a guy like Bldswtrs (or whatever) absolutely crushed because he figured out how to play fundamentally correct and knew how to 3bet and 4bet light before anyone else.

I remember multitabling $5/10 nl games for the longest time and doing well. That's when we decided to buy our 1st house (which we still own today and rent out). It was so efficient in the mid 00's. Play $5/10nl, win, cash out to Neteller, have Neteller xfer most of my money to my bank account, repeat (left some in Neteller for deposit bonuses across various sites..believe it or not, but there were actual "pros" that made their living breaking even in poker but taking advantage of all the different deposit bonuses available across the various sites back then).

A little before that time Moneymaker won the WSOP main event and wow what a ripple effect his win caused. NL cash games and mtts boomed. There were so many $5/10 and lower games spread across various sites but Party remained in the forefront. They started adding $10/20 nl games and I think that was the biggest stake they had for a long time. I never played that high on a regular basis because I was content on making what I was at that time (which was a lot) and I was providing a great and very stable life for my family and myself. I do regret not playing $10/20nl back then because I probably could've made more money. I guess I was too content ..meh. Party stuck to $10/20nl and $100-200 limit as their biggest games for the longest time. I remember reading that it was because they were afraid their customer base would shrivel if they introduced bigger games because the few elite winners would wipe out a big % of players if they had bigger games.

Anyway, more and more sites opened in this highly profitable but unregulated market inc. FTP and Pokerstars. Party continued to remain at the forefront and had the most # of tables by far, maybe more so than all the other sites combined. I was chugging along making lots of monies on Party but unfortunately not playing as much as I would and should have. Just plain laziness, family obligations, and being able to make money anytime I felt like it contributed to this.

Then boom! the USA unscrupulously passed the UIGEA (which was attached to a safe port bill that was supposed to prevent terrorism along our ports so just about every politician had to vote yes on it even though most had no idea what the UIGEA was about). Well Party didn't want to get in trouble w/ the US since it became a publicly traded co (on the London Stock Exchange) and withdrew from the US. I remember having money on there and not being allowed to sit down on any of their real money tables. I guess they were ok w/ leaving your money on their site (obv. to accrue interest for themselves) but you were forbidden to play on any real money table if you lived in the US. I remember thinking, well this sucks, and I made plans to xfer my money to FTP and Stars which catered to americans. Alas the games would not be as good as before because a lot of losing players got scared and stopped depositing money to online sites because of the UIGEA. The glory days of Party were over.

So I started grinding on the 2 big sites, mainly FTP because of the rakeback and the software. Then Taylor Caby came along and introduced Cardrunners and made the games infinitely tougher. For some reason I didn't subscribe nor improve my game during this time, maybe because I did well every year prior. Along came all these 20 year old's and college kids who thought poker was the easy way to make good money, and for a few it was. But for every Cole South or Tom Dwan, there are so many kids that fail that no one knows about. So now that's what online poker is nowadays...encompassed by a lot of college kids and 20yr old's and a select few making little to a whole lot of money while a guy like me that has gone through the times is a rarity. Oh but will the games get too tough for me, will I get pushed out by all the 20 yr old's? Obviously it's a very definite no because I've shown that I have what it takes to succeed year in year out and for most, they can't say that.

I've continued to grow as a player and have spent time improving lately as much as I can ever remember at any point in my career. Also I've finally decided that I wanted to aim higher and play as high as I can until I can't beat a particular limit. Heck I have no idea how I will fare at $25/50+ but if I was betting, I would bet on myself to succeed. Along the way I'll continue my expert (maybe nitty is a more appropriate word?) management of my bankroll and never risk a chance of going broke because my obligations to my family and our lifestyles will always come first. This will obviously make me wait a little longer on taking shots at the higher games but I'm young and only in my mid 30s....I have all the time in the world. :)

Also I totally flew under the radar in the world of poker even though I was making more money than just about anyone annually (I'm talking from '98-'08). 1 reason was because I didn't put enough volume in a given year to have a year like Leatherass did and win in the high 6 figs and get recognized. I was content on making a certain amount per year ($150-$400k) while having time for my family and whatever else I enjoyed doing (video games and sports mostly). Also I didn't play much higher than $5-10 mainly because I wanted to make sure I provided a stable life for my family and myself (and making low to mid 6 figs annually made me very content as mentioned before) and didn't ever want to take a chance of going broke (I guess I've always been a bankroll nit, but hey having a family will do that to you, or it should anyways).

Also since I was making such good money consistently year in year out I had no need to play in a bunch of live tournaments even though that was the surest and easiest way to fame as a poker player. Yes I played the occasional live tournaments and some of the WSOP events. I think I've played in about 3 or 4 10k WPT events and the last 6 or so WSOP MEs. Because of the limited # of live tournaments I played I didn't have a big recognized score. I have won $70k a couple of times and ft'ed a WSOP nl prelim (alas one of the few that wasn't televised during the boom) but did not do enough to garner any attention.

Tbh I did not care to become famous, even during the boom. My goal in poker was always to provide a great and stable life for my family and myself, which I have so far. It does bother me slightly that much less successful poker players get so much attention and even more so, secure endorsement deals where they make some kind of passive income or get freerolled into big tournaments while I've won more money and have succeeded on a consistent basis for the past 12 years but have yet to get any kind of offer or affiliation w/ a poker site. Can I live w/o it, sure but obviously would be nice to get some kind of deal w/ a site, especially if you measure success in poker the past decade or so and that there are probably less than 30 people, if that, that have made more money than me (although I realize the reason players get signed nowadays is because of exposure for the sites, not necessarily because how successful you are..meh). Also I've shown that I'm consistent and will win every year inc. all future years, which can't be said for a lot of pros, inc. well known ones. I do what it takes to adapt, learn, and stay one step ahead of the curve always, not to mention I have the intangibles to be successful always.

I will end this post on that note...I noticed I kinda strayed away from the original topic at the end, and ended up hyping myself a


  1. you should get cardplayer to do a profile on you. i think their readers would def be interested and it might lead to site sponsorship.

    also if you want link of my blog its:

    I've got dflys blog link and I always find yours after I read his because you seem to update on the regular.



  2. Can I pleeeeease be your mbolt1?

  3. Very interesting like always. That is really a cool blog you have.

  4. Added your blog themightyjim. Regarding Cardplayer I'm not the type to go look for recognition but if they come asking I'll reply.

    I incorrectly wrote that I won the Party Mil in '95 when it was actually in '05.

    Couple more tidbits..when mtts were introduced, they were buggy as hell. I remember the mtts would crash when too many people played in'em...something like 500+ entrants. The servers couldn't handle it. The sites just did a chip count and gave you your money back based on that. Paradise's table layout had coffee tables next to your seats and you could order virtual food and drinks (pretty silly now that I think about it). Doyle Brunson was the face of an earlier site but that site got hacked eg superuser ala UB and it shut down pretty quickly. Obviously Doyle is so big that no scandal could tarnish his name and reputation (fwiw he was innocent of any wrongdoing...the site's owners were only guilty of not securing their site well enough). Daniel Negreanu and TJ Cloutier were signed by Poker but that site went nowhere fast and disappeared...Daniel tried to get his own site going..Full Contact Poker but that failed as well and he finally settled down w/ Stars. I'm sure there are other tidbits but can't think of'em right now.

  5. Good stuff, I like hearing about the history

  6. Very cool blog, what do you think about the future of online poker? How succesful can someone be who is just getting serious about poker in todays game?

  7. Tbh idk what the future holds for online poker. We'll probably get a better picture the next few months after the UIGEA goes into full effect next month. I'm hoping the US decides to legalize and regulate it but who knows. I have a back up plan though...I live in it...Vegas.

    Like any profession, one can still be successful in poker even starting today. It depends on the individual really. There will be guys starting out in the future that will do well. I can point out Jungleman, a 20 yr old now that started less than 2 years ago when the games were getting tough and he's one of the biggest winners at nl (esp. hu) today.

  8. Very interesting post. I only started playing poker in 2008. I didn't realize online poker went back that far.

  9. John, Really enjoy reading the blog keep up the good work. Can you tell me how you table select? Do you use a table scan program or do you just know who is a reg at that limit and whos not?

  10. Interesting Read. I'm just an amatuer but a big fan of the top pros. Do you have any stories or experience of playing the top online pros/live along the way when no one knew who they were. I'm particular interested in sbrugby, durrr, patrik antonious, spirit rock, green plastic etc. who people consider some of the best in the past and present. I'm pretty sure u must of crossed path with them at some point because u been a pro for years now.

  11. I don't use any program to table select. I basically use my notes of players on the tables. I color code them based on how good/bad they are and go off that.

    As for crossing paths w/ said players I can't recall tbh. Spirit Rock mainly played on UB while I never played there. Antonius probably jumped into high stakes right off the bat. As for the others I'm sure I probably did play them as they ascended through stakes. I do have notes on some of those young guys though so I guess I must've played vs them at some pt. My notes on Krantz were that he was aggro and spewed and was a how wrong I was at times. I was right on on a couple of them like Good2CU I pegged as good.

  12. Btw, someone pted out to me that Paradise was not the 1st to start mtts, but they were the 1st to start recollection is a little fuzzy since it was a long time ago.

  13. gr8 rakeback deals

  14. Great Story. I have been playing live poker for more than 15 years, on average making as much as I make in my "real" job. It has been very interesting watching the progression of the game as the online scene expands. It is good to see that an average guy can make an above average life in the game without having to be on TV. I have the luxury of turning off poker when things turn sour, I admire that you can continue on through losing months as you have.

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