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2015 Poker Goals: April through June update

July 6, 2015

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with my dedication to elite poker play the past three months. My focus level has fallen off tremendously and the fact that I never even posted wrap-ups for April or May is pretty telling. Granted, it’s been a busy few months. Since my March wrap-up I’ve gotten married, been to Vegas for the World Series of Poker, spent a week traveling down the coast to San Francisco, celebrated my wife’s birthday, and moved to Tacoma. And today I finally got my internet up and running. For the first time in months, I have nothing on my plate in the foreseeable future. I can once again turn my attention to crushing at the poker table. This post will focus on how I did the past three months and how I’m doing on my 2015 poker goals.

log 1200 live hours

Over the past three months I played 314 hours of live poker – just over 100 hours a month – putting my YTD total at 764 hours, well on pace to reach my goal but a noticeable dip in play compared to the first three months of the year. I now live about 10 minutes away from the Palace in Lakewood though and seeing as how parenthood is probably in my near future I should be granted the freedom to go on the super grind for the next year or so.

focus on how well I played, how well I controlled tilt, and how well I paid attention to the game flow instead of on how well I ran.
Continue taking notes throughout all my sessions and combing through them later.

And here is where my lack of focus comes in. I literally kept notes for ZERO sessions over the past three months which means I’ve basically been playing on autopilot and spending very little time thinking about my game off the table. My mindset has remained strong during this time, so it’s nice to see the mental muscle is actually building, but it’s important not to get lazy and I will be turning on the laser focus again starting… now.

spend less than 20% of my total hours in 4/8 games

One of my bigger goals for 2015 was to quit spending so much time in a game both my ability and my bankroll have outgrown. The past three months I played 112.5 hours at the 4/8 level with 82 of those hours coming on the clock. That means I played 30.5 hours of 4/8 off duty out of 156 personal, non-tournament hours – or just under 20%. That’s a happy ratio and meets my goal, but it also means I only averaged just over 50 live, off duty cash game hours a month, which is a pretty poor output.

log 100 hours of spread limit

I did get some no limit hours in while I was in Vegas, but not very much. I am now at 30 hours YTD halfway through the year. There’s a chance my output will increase over the second half of 2015 as my bankroll (hopefully) increases and I dabble in the Muckleshoot 3/5 game a bit more. I now have Sundays off permanently and live 20-30 minutes away from Muck, so Super Sundays will be a must for me going forward. I should reach 100 hours just playing the next six Super Sundays.

continue reading about mental game, develop mental game profiles, and improve my c-game

focus my learning – don’t study multiple variants at the same time or games I’m not playing frequently.

This has been another area of my game that has fallen off tremendously the past few months. I did spend some time reading up on and developing my mental game, but it’s nowhere near as developed as I would expect it to be by now. While I haven’t had any notable mental game problems the past few months, I basically just treaded water. I should have a lot more free time for poker study in the future as my wife is switching to week days and it will be easy to schedule a designated time solely for working on my game away from the tables.

treat poker like a job with set hours and not like a hobby.

I did a poor job in this area the past few months as well. Poker felt more like a hobby than something I was putting my heart and soul into. The most telling point: I spent 54 hours in my bread and butter game – the 8/16 at the Palace – or just 18 hours a month. Considering I’ve been averaging over 1.5 big bets per hour in that game my lack of output is pretty inexcusable. Obviously I have been busy with other stuff, but still… Now that I live ten minutes away, there is really no reason I shouldn’t be able to play 90+ hours of 8/16 a month going forward.

watch opponents closely in tournaments and develop exploitative styles for each of them.

take my time in critical pots and really think things through before acting.

set a new career high tournament score.

I played 21 tournaments over the past three months and cashed three times (15%). Two cashes and nine tournaments were at my job with entry fees of $40 or less. Yawn. The other 12 tournaments had an average BI of $266 and I only managed to cash once, which fortunately was a first place finish.

In mid-April I went 0 for 3 at Wildhorse Casino during the Spring Round Up series. I finished 3rd at my table during the Shootout tournament and I remember feeling pretty unlucky about that. I don’t remember getting any momentum in the Omaha 8 or HORSE tournaments. I am planning to play a full slate at the Fall Round Up this year and I have a pretty good feeling about a breakout.

During the 2015 World Series Of Poker, I continued my drought at the Rio by going 0 for 4 in World Series and daily deep stack events, bringing my lifetime showing there to a sad 0 for 9. Whiffing nine tournaments in a row is a pretty standard stretch, but it’s not how I was hoping to start my World Series career. I was extremely disappointed with my showing in WSOP Event #1, the Casino Employee Event. I can’t remember any particular hands but I do remember feeling like I was not super happy with my play and that I didn’t set myself up for success very well.

In the $565 Colossus I fired one bullet and received an absolutely brutal table draw. On my direct left, I had notable pro Maurice Hawkins (top 130 in the world according to the GPI Rankings); on my right I had WPT champion Jordan Cristos. In fact, of the eight other players at my table, I knew for certain that I was better than one of them and he wasn’t much of a drooler either. In a tournament with a record-breaking 22,000+ entrants (and a sea of fish) I couldn’t believe how tough my starting table was. Maurice was playing every hand – seriously, I saw him call off over half his stack pre with 92dd once – and I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to be able to open lightly and he was going to make me “prove it” every time I took the lead in a pot. He was playing the Colossus like it was a $10 tournament and I was playing like it was $1500 and I wasn’t about to bluff off my stack trying to outlevel him. Being one of the top players in the world, I was shocked at how unprofessional and rude Maurice Hawkins was. He was a total ass. Possibly the least pleasant person I’ve ever played with and that’s really saying something. I had the pleasure of watching Jordan Cristos check-raise jam the turn, getting Maurice to fold an overpair, and then showing a total airball bluff when Maurice caused a MASSIVE scene after folding his hand face up and throwing his cards at Jordan. “Let’s move on to the next hand, cause this one is no good. So let’s just play the next hand.” All said with such aggressive, negative energy and repeated ad nauseum. It was a pretty cool moment for the whole table when Jordan flipped over the king high and shut his arrogant ass up. After that hand, Maurice decided to focus on someone else and picked on him relentlessly. That player handled it like a champ though and I think the whole table breathed a sigh of relief when Maurice busted… of course, he guaranteed to all of us as he was walking away that he would win the Colossus. The dude is the epitome of how a professional should NOT act at the table. A total disgrace to the game if that’s his constant MO.

Unfortunately, Jordan Cristos was also playing this tournament like $565 is nothing to him. One of his standard plays was to isolate a limper by making a huge raise in late position – something like 10+ bigs, which is a bigger bet than most three bets would be. One time he did this, I flatted him with two black aces and got it in on the KQJ all heart flop, expecting to hit the rail most of the time, but somehow holding against his QTo with a royal draw. Later in the tournament, he made a similar move and I looked down at AQ sitting on about 16 big blinds. Jordan had shown down so many trashy hands – and almost never passed on an opportunity to try to steal – that I didn’t think for a second about folding, but I also realized that I had no fold equity and that I would be playing for my tournament life. I jammed it, he was priced in, and I ended up losing to his Q9, a pretty depressing end to my day, but quite a huge improvement on my one hand exit in the Millionairemaker last year!

I decided to play the $100 weekly HORSE tournament at The Orleans and I took the majority of the money in a four-way ICM chop as the substantial chip leader. Even though I had a hefty chip lead, the blinds were large enough that one hand could change the scope of the tournament and I couldn’t say no to better than second place money without having to play it out. I played good overall and ran really hot at the final table to earn the victory. It was bittersweet. Obviously, when you enter a tournament the ultimate goal is to win it, so I was happy to take it down. On the other hand, it’s a bit frustrating to run red hot in the tournament with the smallest buy in and field size of my trip. Even with the first place victory, I still lost money on my tournament entries in Vegas. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but if there’s a time to run amazing, this is not the tournament I would have picked.

Two days later I played the $240 HORSE event at the Golden Nugget, got an amazing table draw with some of the worst play I’ve ever seen, and had absolutely no luck. I peaked in the first ten minutes of the tournament and I was barely above the starting stack at any point. I missed most of my draws and lost with most of my made hands and could never take advantage of the horrendous play that was rampant at my table. I’ve never wanted a mulligan so bad in my poker career.

I’m reaching a point where I’m getting pretty fed up with tournament poker. Excluding smaller tournaments (< $100), I have cashed 2 of 19 times this year for an ROI of -34%. In the past twelve months, I’ve cashed 3 of 29 times for an ROI of -56%. As someone with so much cash game success, I have to ask myself why I continue to punish myself with tournament variance. Or is it variance? 29 tournaments is an absurdly small sample size so it’s certainly possible. Prior to this past year, I had been a tournament crusher, so I have good reason to think things will turn around eventually. I am fully confident I am capable of a life-changing score. On the other hand, in comparison to cash games, I play tournaments so infrequently that it is much harder to develop my game plan. With cash games, I can study off the table and apply what I’m working on immediately, multiple times a week. With tournaments, I might go weeks in between events and even when I play I might not be able to apply the concepts I’m currently learning in a given tournament. Still, I’m not quite ready to give up just yet. I feel like my time is coming and I’d hate to deny myself the opportunity. I’m planning a full slate for the Fall Round Up in Pendleton and I’m going to start planning for next year’s WSOP immediately. Hopefully I will be in a position where I can sell action for and play up to five events or more. Also, now that I'm residing in Tacoma and my availability is changing, I think I will start playing Muckleshoot's Tuesday deep stack regularly. With that event and some of the weekend tournaments, I should be able play somewhere between 5-7 tournaments a month and hopefully turn my ROI around.

double my current bankroll size

maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate at 8/16

I posted a small loss in April and followed that up with two mediocre winning months in May and June. I had to use my bankroll for all the extra traveling we’ve been doing and various other expenses, so despite making a modest profit the past three months, I actually have less in my bankroll now than I did when April started. I loathe the feeling of running in place and getting complacent, but that’s how these past few months have felt. I’m ready to start grinding and really focus again.

Over 648.5 hours, these are my current YTD win rates:

1.67 big bets per hour at 8/16 (1.81 past three months)
0.77 big bets per hour at 4/8 (0.2 past three months)
0.42 big bets per hour at 10/20 and higher (all in the past three months)

I’m looking forward to doing some serious grinding and bankroll building over the rest of the summer and hopefully I can put together a hot stretch of tournament runs!

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