This weekend I’ve been spending at home with my mom. She doesn’t have a lot of energy and in the evening when she falls asleep, I head over to the largest local poker room in St. Louis and play $1/$2 No Limit Texas Hold’em. I’ve done well there, mostly due to the poor quality of play and the fact that my game is in pretty good form, earning about $60-$70 / hour. Nothing I can live on, but certainly useful feedback. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- I’m a decent player, but I still have a long way to go. This makes me feel good, as I need to know there is room to improve or I get bored. The two players I admired most at my table last night were a guy I constantly referred to as "Seat 1", even after he told me his name, and "South Dakota, who sat on my right. Seat 1 was smashed, and even smashed, played a tight aggressive game all evening. Though he was drunk and slurring, (I personally witnessed the alcohol intake while cold sober myself) he played a tight game (like mine) with good hand-reading skills (better than mine) and a level of aggression I aspire to. (way better than mine) Dakota played a sober, tight aggressive game with great profiling. While avoiding these two players I ran over most of the table, eliminating two full player stacks by myself. If he can play that well drunk, imagine what he’s like sober? I aspire to the sober version of this talent.
- Given that I’m not the best poker player in the world, my results are often determined by the quality of players at my table. Over the last year I have started to recognize that about my tables.
- When I call, I’m an idiot. There really is no reason to ever call in No Limit unless you’re strategically limping (something most people do without being strategic), trapping, or taking the last few dollars of an all-in from your opponent. And calling raises? No way. I make raises, I don’t call them. I used this rule all night and it served me extremely well.
- I play poker because I love the thrill of competition. I secretly love to best someone else at the poker table, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, though I understand that some people find it offensive. (See this description of me, I’m labeled as the "predatory businessman")
- I play poker for the intellectual exercise We all need to use our brains like a muscle, or it deteriorates. Some people read. My stepfather Darryl obsessively does every form of Sudoku he can find. (I love him for this). I play poker, in all it’s forms and variations. Probability, concentration, emotional control, keen observation, and empathy are all intellectual and emotional traits required at the table, and how cool is it that one game lets you use all of that?
- I don’t play poker for the money. Seriously.
This last point is my main point for today. If you are familiar with my results, you know that if I just set aside the money I would have played poker with in previous years, I would do better (even without interest). It’s slightly cheaper than an expensive golf habit. In previous years I have been chided by my poker colleagues that because I chose to play poker on sites that only worked with my analytics learning tool, I was missing out on making a lot of money. (See this post, I’m the "losing poker player" referenced in the bullets.) My response was, "I don’t play poker for the money". Years later, of course, I would be vindicated by this same person who burned out.
I’m not immune to losing though, so I’m happy to be over a grand in the black this year so far. But I’m becoming intrigued by a new game, so I’m taking Chris’ advice that learning new games helps hone your poker skills. I’m going to try my hand at Pot Limit Omaha Hi. Of course the benefit of the Internet poker boom is that you can learn PL Omaha for literal nickel dime stakes. The concept that I can use this as my training ground and not have to play for live casino stakes is wonderful.