Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Post I've Wanted To Make For a Long Time

As a famous Hobbit once said, if you’re going to tell a story, you really should start at the beginning…

It was a Friday in June of 2003, and I was scheduled for an outpatient procedure that would leave me somewhat immobile for the entire weekend. (Aside: Yes, that procedure begins with a “V.” Having two kids can do that to you, trust me.) I needed something to do since I wouldn’t be able to be active with the kids nor really do anything except sit around with frozen vegetables in my crotch.

Like thousands of others, I had been watching the World Poker Tour and had seen the ads for Party Poker. I’d been playing the play money tables for a while, but I soon lost interest as the games weren’t being taken seriously by everyone. I made the decision that I’d deposit some real money there and test my luck.

After blowing through my first two $100 deposits, I began to feel a little sheepish. It went pretty quickly and I began to think that I made a really poor decision to even attempt to play online poker. My third $100 deposit dwindled down to the $30 level and I told myself that this would be the last money I’d throw down the drain. Playing at the $2/4 tables was eating me alive.

Then, surprisingly, things turned around. I managed to win back my initial $300 and then some $250 more. I was hooked. How much easier could it get? I just won $250 in one day. I was so impressed with myself, I completely forgot about how close I was to losing $300. Boy was I a fish.

I eventually grew the bankroll and cashed out my first $300 and managed to keep winning. It was so much fun that I grew more and more impatient to just keep winning. My impatience led me to the short-handed tables and for the hell of it, I jumped up to the $5/10 level. And I won there too.

Weeks later I was sitting pretty with nearly a $1000 profit. I’ll always remember the moment when I was playing from my laptop downstairs and Mrs. Blood gave me that “What the hell are you doing look” when I told her what was to be one of my most infamous statements:

“Honey, I think I’m actually pretty good at this.”

What a dolt.

I wasn’t. I was getting some lucky cards. I had no clue about variance in poker and how it would come back to bite me in the ass.

During the Labor Day weekend of 2003, variance showed her evil, ugly head. I started losing to suckouts at a $5/10 table and grew irate. The solution? Move up. To the $15/30 tables? You betcha. I remember winning a $450 pot and thinking to myself I’d easily recoup my losses at this table. Who else among us has had those thoughts? Don’t lie. My guess is nearly every one of us has played above our heads and above our limits in an attempt to recoup “unjust” losses. Unfortunately for me, I soon lost my entire bankroll in one night. All $1000 of it, gone. I had to wake Mrs. Blood from her sleep and utter another infamous statement:

“Easy come, easy go.”

So I quit for a while, but the online poker bug had bitten and infected me with her venomous addiction. The memories of winning nearly $1000 at the $5/10 tables were vivid and I told myself if I could do it once I could do it again. So I kept trying. And trying. Two hundred dollars at a time. Occasionally I’d find success and win a decent amount, but whenever I did, I’d cash out my deposit and unbeknownst to me, cripple my bankroll. This error in judgment kept me from being a winner and condemned me to a slow steady losing streak.

About a year ago, in December of 2003, I was down $1600. I felt so guilty about losing it that I did what I’d promise myself I’d never do: I withdrew money from my company’s Savings and Security program to cover the losses. And then I vowed to quit again. It almost worked.

I relegated myself to play money tournaments which were the closest thing to real poker I could get without risking my personal financial ruin. Predictably, I placed or won in most of the tournaments in which I played and fooled myself into thinking that if they were for real money, I’d begin to chip away at my debt. You can guess what happened next – rebuy!!!!

I dropped another $500 over the course of the next few months and became incredibly disappointed in myself for amassing losses in excess of $2000. How foolhardy. I was smarter than this I told myself, what the hell was wrong with me?

Then it happened. I’ll never forget it. Reading through www.wilwheaton.net, I noticed a text add placed by a poker blogging site: guinnessandpoker.blogspot.com. I clicked on over to Iggy’s site and began to read. I read about how profitable online poker was and how the fish at Party Poker were so eager to donate. That was me. I was the fish happily giving away my hard earned money.

After reading through most of the archives at guinnessandpoker, I asked myself why I wasn’t the one winning. It was simple, I was stupid. At least in the realm of playing poker I was. Perhaps ignorant was a better term. Generally speaking, I like to think of myself as a pretty smart guy. Math is my forte; I scored an 800 on my math SAT test and placed out of two semesters of college math by virtue of a 5 in a high school AP course. I honestly don’t say that to brag, just to give you a frame of reference.

So I bought some books. The first one was Lee Jones’ low-limit hold ‘em book. Then came the bible, Super System. I devoured the information and changed my game accordingly. I also began to blog and read other players’ blogs listed over there to the right. There are some smart guys and gals out there who’ve either been through what I’ve been through or who were smart enough to avoid the mistakes I made in the first place. The internet proved to be a valuable source of poker information with which I could use to improve my game.

And so I began badbloodonpoker.blogspot.com to chronicle my attempts at winning back all the money I lost the first few months I played.

It’s been quite a trip. I still suffered through tilt-induced losses on occasion, each time seemingly as I got closer to even. Whenever I’d get close, I’d get more impatient. I believe I got to within $500 on about 4 separate occasions only to drop back down to a four-figure debt. Over the summer, I got to within $143 before tilting away again.

Finally, I gained more and more discipline and found myself winning pretty steadily at the $25NL games. I had a preference towards no-limit rather than limit poker since I feel it’s more strategic in nature. I was hoping that by the time I got to Vegas, I’d be able to raise a toast to my even-ness, but alas I was $162 short.

As I mentioned in one of my trip reports, playing and losing in Vegas actually gave me some confidence in my game. Losing the monster pots that I lost simply gave me more of a feeling of financial indifference towards poker. Granted, it was not immediate, but I was able to shrug off the losses in Vegas and looked at the hands objectively. I truly feel that financial indifference is one of the keys to being successful. It allows you to overcome the fear of losing money and realize that you will eventually win it back if you continue to play good poker. (Another aside: I’m convinced that pros like Greenstein, Gordon and Phillips who’ve made millions outside of poker are more successful because they are so indifferent to losing, at least in the financial sense.)

When I got back from Vegas, I moved up levels from the $25 tables to the $50 tables and things began to go my way. Then came THE HAND:

I had about $70 at the table and I was dealt pocket nines in middle position. Someone under the gun went all in with a shorter stack of about $22. Those of us that play no-limit online recognize that classic over-bet as a middle pocket pair. I put him on 6’s, 7’s or 8’s and called. He had 6’s and didn’t improve. After I realized I had won, I clicked the cashier button on the Party Poker interface. I saw that I was finally in the black, albeit for only $6. I quit immediately savoring the moment. I shared it with Mrs. Blood and she asked me in her classic deadpan style: “So, are you going to quit now?” She’s pretty funny sometimes.

It did beg the question however of where do I go from here? I’m not exactly sure right now. I will of course keep playing online, most likely at the $50 NL level at which I’m currently having some success. I’ll probably stay there for the foreseeable future and see what to make of it. Hopefully I’ll build the bankroll a bit and be able to finance a trip to the next WPBT tourney wherever that may be.

*******

In closing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank those of you who helped me along the way. Rather than be specific, because I know I’d forget someone, I’ll take the easy way out and thank all the other bloggers (you know who you are!), readers, and commenters who’ve stopped by over the past 9 months and witnessed my evolution as a poker player. I’m not lying when I say I couldn’t and wouldn’t have been able to do it without your support. Most especially, even though she doesn’t read this blog, I need to thank Mrs. Blood for putting up with my latest endeavor. She’s a great balancer in my life, I have a tendency to go overboard in much of the things that I do and she always seems to adjust my course back to level. I’m a lucky guy.

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