april is the cruellest month

it’s been a week since black friday. if you don’t know what that means, you should probably stop reading this blog. i’m no longer in a state of active despair and panic, but i think i’m still half in shock. a week ago i was grinding along on my merry way, and i had never felt better about my poker game, never more confident, never more focused. everything seemed to be coming together. i was doing well live, and since that 2k score a couple weeks ago i was continuing to have consistent results online, building up momentum in the right direction. it felt like 2011 was going to be my year. i had never been more certain that i was on the right path, and never more excited about my future.

and then – just like that – i woke up one day and it was gone. now i find myself surveying the wasteland of my former optimism, wading through the wreckage to see if i can find anything from which to rebuild.

after the initial shock, a lot of the players who have been around for awhile seem to have adopted the attitude of “well, we knew this was going to happen eventually. it didn’t happen the way we wanted, but now we’ll finally get a regulated system in place, let’s suck it up and do other stuff in the meantime while we wait for online poker to come back.” this is a pragmatic and sensible viewpoint. it’s also a viewpoint that is easier to have when (a) you have saved up lots of money to live on; (b) you already have a large bankroll and/or a staking arrangement to play live events; (c) you have already attained some success, respect, and a generally secure footing in the community.

i have none of those things. i was just beginning to lay the foundation for those things. for an established player it might not be a big deal to take a break from playing online for a few months (or even a few years) while the politicians, casino conglomerates, and indian gaming interests hash it out for their share of the future government-regulated online poker market. for someone just starting out, it is the worst disaster possible. i’ve spent over a year nurturing the beginnings of a career in poker, starting from nothing and painstakingly building it brick by brick, doing it completely on my own. no bankroll, no stake, no poker friends, no support system. i was just beginning to figure out the poker world, and now its whole infrastructure has been violently uprooted. and the little piece of it that i’ve been carving out, that i’ve put all my energy into, that i’ve taken all this care to build from scratch, has been toppled right over along with everything else.

my loss is nothing compared to that of a lot of the online grinders who were having really substantial success. i kind of feel like a joke fretting over a few thousand dollars in limbo online and the loss of a budding career, when a lot of people have hundreds of thousands tied up and much more profitable online careers that are now in jeopardy. but in the same way this is probably everything to them, it is also everything to me.

what the fuck shall i do now? try to grind it out on merge and cake and some other half-baked poker sites? it might be a start. i actually started messing around on carbon a couple months ago, and was amazed at how bad the players were compared to the big sites. i got the feeling that was how it was on partypoker back in the poker boom days. but, i got bored with their sparse MTT schedule, and also my HUD doesn’t work properly with their software which makes it a pain to multitable. i’ll probably start playing a little more there given that it’s one of the only remaining sites still allowing US players, but i don’t think that can be a full solution.

say good game, throw in the towel, and find a “real” job? maybe. i’m sure my parents would love that. a week ago it would have been laughable, but i am now faced with the reality that i no longer have any means of online income. live play happens at higher stakes, and i will no longer have the luxury of bankroll management. my plan for now is to try to make it work playing live cash full time, as i am feeling good about my cash game lately. in general it has been more consistent money than playing tournaments, but i don’t know if it is a sustainable long term source of income, and i also don’t know how many live hours i can realistically put in on a weekly basis. right now i enjoy playing live poker – when i feel like playing live poker. i don’t know how much i’d enjoy grinding it out 8 or more hours every day in that environment. plus the games at my local club suck during the day, filled with the nittiest of nit regs and crotchety old retired guys who buy in for $40 and only play a hand when they have aces. i’d probably have to adopt a graveyard shift schedule if i wanted to maximize my profits, and i’m too fucking old to be staying up all night.

the no-bankroll-management part is probably the scariest part though. i’ve been comfortable playing live cash games that are well above what my bankroll should dictate, partly because the players are just so terrible that it’s not extremely high-variance, and partly because i’ve always had my online roll to fall back on. now i guess my whole roll is going to have to be a live roll, and live buy-ins are huge. i have no cushion and no room for error; once i’m busto, i’m busto. so my last resort is to re-enter the white collar workforce, but my plan for now is to do it up live and (hopefully) not go busto.

these fragments i have shored against my ruins; online poker might be gone, but my dream is not. i am going to play live cash until i drop, and play as many live tournaments as my feeble bankroll will allow. i am still as motivated and as confident in my game as ever, and this is the first time i’ve felt like i’m doing what i want to be doing with my life. i can’t bear to give it up.



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4 Responses to april is the cruellest month

  1. Steve says:

    Great post. My bankroll has taken a big hit and I am sitting on the sideline trying to find a smaller game to play. The 2-20 spread just eats my bankroll fast. I would rather play a 1-2 or 2-5 game. There is a game 2 1/2 hours away from me but then the drive time and gas to get there. I am like you not giving up but it has become hard to keep this going. Hang in there and good luck.

  2. Sharks Jersey says:

    This post totally echoes my feelings about the matter on a few levels. First, this government action is just ridiculous. The government has decided that they need to do something about online poker without thinking about how many of us are losing our careers. We gave up so much just to grind and grind and hone our skills, and attempt to push our careers further. Why is Poker degenerative, but online stock and currency trading is allowed? Couldn’t those people, and don’t some of them, gamble their house away with little information or logic behind their decisions. They play their games with even less information proportional to the size of the decision they make. We degenerates on the other hand think about things like expected value of our decision, and variance of our decision, what has occurred previously(because unlike securities trading, past performance does indicate future performance to some degree)to mention only a few things. Apparently 0nly blind investing is allowed. Before I continue, I must address an argument that is likely to appear, Taxes. Many out there are under the impression that poker players like me and the many other thousands that play as their livelihood do not pay taxes. WRONG! We do file taxes if we want to have any semblance of a normal life, such as being able to have a bank account with money in it without being questioned as how you got it. I think that section of rant needs to be ended before I go completely off as it is only a minor point.
    The second point of yours I resonate with is your point about parents not being supportive of a decision to play cards professionally. Since I have finished school, my parents have all but disowned me and my “degenerative” lifestyle. Sure they still visit and say hi, but until I go utilize even one of my degrees, paid for by poker mind you, they will refuse to acknowledge that I have made it and am a “productive member of society.” It is very difficult to continue to tell ones parents that you are going in to this life as well as continuing to stay committed to viewing it as a career as 99% of those around you continue to be skeptical. This does make it important to have some outlet such as this blog for us to keep sane and motivated.
    Just as you mentioned, many of us now face this decision, transfer to live poker, or do something else. There are a privileged few with the option to move to a supportive country, but that involves leaving behind everything essentially. This decision is a tough one, as live games are going to get a lot tougher. More and more career players will be in these games having the higher staking requirements that you had mentioned, and it will become tougher and tougher to obtain what we all want, High EV and more broadly ROI, with low Variance and negative Skewness measures. In a nutshell, the live games will now contain a less optimal ratio of solid players to weak ones, and as you said, in higher stakes than many people have the bankroll for, it could be devastating. Luckily I started long enough ago that I have a bankroll that can support live play at the levels I prefer playing at, but I still do not know if I am going to do it or not. I have not yet made a commitment to spend all of my weekends and evenings in a cardroom to continue playing, but that may be my only choice. Maybe I will have to give in and get a “real” job finally. <>

    Groupie, keep motivated and take down those tables. Thank you for keeping your blog, it really helps to see others dealing with the same struggles. I just hope the other readers feel the same way.

    See you at the Table,
    >>Sharks Jersey

  3. Conan776 says:

    I sympathize with this a lot. Admittedly, I have a good day job (which I guess is back to being my, LOL, “career”), and luckily I kept my foot in the door at grad school (which I guess is back to being my prime, LOL, “hobby”), but this other avenue for success has been closed off to me as well. I’m also not really rolled for 200NL which is the smallest stake live game around, though I suppose if I was chintzy about paying off my credit cards for a few months I could work that out.

    Still, Mohegan Sun is 2+ hours away, and my local underground game makes last year’s WSOP final table look like, well, like the daytime old nits you get out in Cali. Being an ex-online LAGtard among live-pro LAGtards is way too high variance for me.

    I never thought of myself as a gambler, and have mild scorn for the people always ahead of me in line buying lottery tickets. But I guess in some way the poker dream (for a while my location on 2+2 became floating naked in an inflatable raft) kept me going — or, just maybe, kept me stuck in a rut that I could at least stay willfully blind to — and now I have to find something new. I can’t live a life of quiet desperation! We want to be free to do what we want to do!

    I’m just thinking out loud, trying to sketch out the similar requiem for a dream post I’ll have to make myself on my own blog soon. But, yeah, I feel your pain.

  4. Jesse Walker says:

    Hope the live play goes well. I’m thinking about doing the same. Less hourly, more swings. Sounds like a whole heapin’ spoonful of good times.

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