Right The Ship (And Make Money For A Change)

You can dig yourself out. No, really.

Right the Ship

Many backing houses come to me with the same problems. “Hey, I have this guy, he’s a solid player, but somehow he’s in $100,000+ of makeup this year.” Obviously with smaller stables the numbers aren’t always this grave, but I get guys with an average buy-in of $17 coming to me with $20,000 in makeup regularly. In addition, a number of players grinding on their own bankroll call me after a large downswing. In all these cases, I almost always find the same problems.

Try to adopt this method as an experiment. I have never seen a guy follow these steps and not benefit. I used the exact same process when I was on a $160,000+ downswing in 2012, my largest to date. These changes led me to a huge upswing including a WCOOP $1,000 Chop and a decently profitable year. This approach works at the highest stakes MTTs. I’d be aghast if it didn’t help you in smaller games.

Even if you’re making good money at poker, you can try these adjustments for yourself to venture out. I know this technique has allowed me to enjoy poker much more and make far more money at it.

Step 1: Quit Playing So Many Tables

Most general MTTer knowledge was derived from American MTTers working in 2006-07. That is when the first training videos were introduced to the market. A majority of the training videos that followed this were in English because it would appeal to the largely North American audience, and the bulk of Europeans could understand what was being said.

Thusly, the 2006 playbook was never lost in translation. Many sayings and “known rules” from this era are shared by 90 percent+ of regulars playing today.

Some might refer to these tenets as “vampire myths.” While there is nothing to really support them they just won’t die.

MTTers drowning in makeup constantly say to me “I’m putting in 60 hours a week and a large volume of MTTs — I don’t know what could be going on.” Do you think chess prodigies go to Central Park and play any meth addict with a chess set sitting around? Just because you’re grinding untold hours doesn’t mean you’re developing or earning anything.

Certainly, you want to make sure you’re not just playing three MTTs a week, because then it’s going to be hard to override the variance inherent in tournament poker. Yet, I’m sure everyone reading this can think of dozens of regulars who have played seemingly every online tournament for years who haven’t improved.

Think of the best high stakes cash game players you know. Do any of them play all day and every day? Phil Galfond has publicly stated one of Phil Ivey’s strongest characteristics is how he can quit a session right when things aren’t going his way. Patrik Antonious has stated that playing any more than four hours a day is wasteful.

To use an MTTer example I remember a number of high stakes players being critical of Sowers success when he started, because he “wasn’t putting volume in.” Yet over the next several years this guy continued to make huge final table after huge final table. Jason Koon also has tremendous success, but admits publicly he’s not a great multitabler. Is it possible he was taking much more from each session than us high-volume regulars were?

Of course, you can’t play only when you feel like it. You need to put in some hours to get over the variance-intensive short stack situations. That doesn’t mean you have to play every decent tournament every day of the week.

How many of you remember the first time you went to a buffet? All the food, looking so good, FOR FREE? (You probably didn’t have to help your parents pay for it I’m guessing). You went around and snagged anything that looked half-edible, and more than a few things that didn’t. Once you got back to the table you pigged out. EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! LOOK AT ALL THIS FOOD!

… and then what happened about ten minutes later? You felt like vomiting. You still had a ton of food left over that was about to be thrown away and wasted. You really didn’t enjoy the food you ate as much as you thought you would.

I see some MTTers do this every single day they play. They hate the game now because they can’t afford to do anything but autopilot. Poker has become boring and unprofitable.

Automatic play spread across as many tournaments as possible was a great idea back when every table had four or five clueless players who cried seeing a standard rejam. There was a lot of money just lying around, waiting to be picked up, as these recreational players raise/folded their money away.

Poker education wasn’t as readily available then. You needed to multitable and make your money. As such, the American regulars who made training videos and managed backing stables professed a mass multitabling strategy. It worked great for a long time, too. Up until 2012, I myself was a 16-table, 8+ hours a day player.

Now that your ordinary table is chock full of regulars you need to take the time to be more manipulative. If you think rejamming correctly and playing the normal starting hands is going to make you six figures still, then you’re sorely naive. The mean salary for grind-it-out professionals has gone way down every single year. I’d put most regulars at making $20,000 to $40,000 now annually, and many spend most of their years stressed in makeup to achieve even that.

Try this on for size: Every time you play poker make a capped number of tables you’re going to play. Take the number you’re thinking of as a moderate session and subtract two from it. If you thought you could handle 12 with ease, make it 10. Then spend a couple hours making sure that you can tile or stack properly across the sites. Remember to allocate space just in case you go over by one table or two. See that all your table management software is working.

Do not register for tournaments ahead of time, because that’s a surefire way to become overloaded. This is much easier now with the advent of late registration.

Register, fill up your screen, and pretend like those are the only tournaments that are going to exist today. Don’t look ahead to the lobby and note all the tournaments you want to play. That may cause you to play recklessly so if you bust, you can play a tournament you like. It’s preferable to play fewer tables in the interim than to up your variance.

Step 2: Play Games That Make You Money

This step sounds fairly obvious doesn’t it? Yet many regulars play at different tables for myriad other reasons than making money. They could like the software more or how fast the cashouts are processed. They might like the rush of playing in a huge field or getting PLBs for a number of turbos.

The real money is in much more boring games that won’t win you any fanfare. For example, I suck at cash games. I literally have never made a cent at Full Tilt or Pokerstars cash. I’d like to think if I ever committed for more than half of an ill-fated day I’d improve, but the numbers are not there to back me up.

However, I’ve made a lot of money at cash games in my life. Ninety-five percent of it came from a site with extremely annoying software which constantly saw me misclick folding flopped sets. Cash outs were a pain in the ass. I couldn’t use my usual crutch in statistics. But the player base was mostly recreational players from a Russian sportsbook. I dealt with the problems for the pleasure of playing with them, until the games dried up, and the Russians got extremely good.

Every time you get frustrated, every time the software buckles on you, every time you’re stressed trying to get Hold’em Manager to work, remember this: Some other regular got to exactly the same point you’re at now, and they gave up. Go take the money they left to you.

Now obviously we’re talking about MTTs here, but we can boost the money we make in tournaments and how much we’re learning from each game.

The turbos littered with regs are probably literally paying you less than $1 an hour, and you’re accepting all the variance in the world to make that. Of course, if you’re a savant in the field, you’ll make much more, but most people aren’t half as good as they think they are at push/fold.

You’ll learn much more and your skill edge will become much more pronounced in regular speed tournaments on less popular sites.

Plus, you can play at the times regulars don’t play. I quit my last job at 18 when I found money grew on online trees between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in Seattle. I know many guys who play the Pac Rim daytime schedule and do really well. Another Canadian I know focuses on Euro sites and starts playing at 4 a.m. He’s making a killing right now.

Of course in a perfect world, you’d love to play the 100r every day and crush it, but most of us are not that player. Learn to hustle and get the paycheck, regardless of what skill you possess. Good luck to all of you.

December 2013