My existential poker dilemna.

Last night I went to my favorite cardroom and ran smack into a horseshoe.  After sitting down, I played three big hands.  In the first two I simply had a better hand and decided to push a football bettor who was on tilt really hard and he just consistently called my all ins.  In the first hand I had Aces and they held.  In the second hand I had a set and he had a flush draw, and he made his flush and I boated on the river.  In the third he actually caught a good hand (KK) and I called his raise with A9 on a 953 board.  Thinking he was still on tilt, I pushed, he called, and his two pair was invalidated when I hit my ace on the turn and I suddenly had a better two pair.  (that was my bad call)

I’ve been here 30 minutes and now I have $750 in front of me, $550 of it all profit since I bought in for $200.  I suddenly had to have the existentialist poker discussion with myself. 

  • Why am I here? 
  • Why do I play poker? 
  • Do I leave and bank the money?
  • Should I switch tables and pocket the profit on the way to the second table?
  • Am I playing well or am I just going to donk it off if I stay?
  • Am I a favorite in this game?

I am here because I want to learn to play poker better.  If I was just doing this to make money, I’d do something else.  My former poker colleague Bradley once chided me for not playing in looser games where I could make more money, instead struggling on poker websites which allowed me to do PokerTracker analysis because my interest was playing, practicing, and learning.  I had a moment of schadenfreud when Bradley quit grinding because he burned out.  "Grinding" is playing poker purely for money and some living expenses, but I took the lesson to heart.  Grinding is not fun.  If I get up now and bank the money, I’ve only had 30 minutes of practice, and so I’m not investing in my learning.  If that becomes how I handle this situation, then I’m quickly going to become focused on my luck, not on my skill.

So the answer to the first two are that I’m here to play and practice, and improve.  So I should stay.  The money’s nice of course.  Do I leave and bank?  No.  I should have switched tables and pocketed the profit, but I chose not to do that and I think that was a mistake.  I thought I was playing pretty well, but it had only been half an hour and I had been pretty lucky.  Over the next few hours I ran into two situations where I was provided with odds to draw to the nuts (nut flushes with no sets or two pairs out there) and sufficient pot odds to shove $100 or so in the pot, and in both cases my draws missed.  By the end of the day I realized I was too tired to play effectively and had given back about $250 of my stack, and that I was no longer a favorite in the game, so I left.

I just surpassed the $2k in live profits for the year mark, and am making about $21 per hour of play.  By the end of the year that number will probably drop into the high teens, but still, how many people can say the hobby they thoroughly enjoy pays them $21 per hour to indulge in it?

I’ll post totals in January, but I’ve decided for the moment to stay at $1/$2 no limit for practice and stick with microstakes online where I’ve never been able to figure out what’s wrong with my play.  (I suspect it’s a lack of patience or focus)  I have plenty to learn, but I still find myself learning at these stakes, and frankly, it’s a lot easier to learn when you’re not beating yourself up because you lose $200 every time you step into a card room.  As a result of not moving up, I’m going to trim my bankroll to an appropriate amount for these stakes and shove it into Fidelity in an index fund.