Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007: My Poker Year in Review

With the 2007 coming to a close this week, I find myself reflecting on that year and what it has meant to me, something I imagine a lot of you do as well whether you write it down or not. Following are my thoughts on my overall poker game in 2007, which will be a precursor to a later post this week with my poker goals for 2008. I have not really sat down yet and thought through my poker and blog goals for the coming year, and I expect today's post to be the first important step in me doing just that.

For me, 2007 was a very interesting year from a poker perspective. I started off the year by winning the weekly 30k guaranteed HORSE tournament on full tilt, netting 5 large in cash in one of my largest individual poker scores ever. This was a culmination of a huge amount of reading, studying and practicing my play in a number of games which I had never played seriously until just months earlier. I mean sure I had played a million hands of stud and stud hilo in the casinos of Atlantic City growing up, but games like O8, razz and even limit holdem were not things I had spent anything more than cursory time practicing or playing before 2007. Just like I wrote about with jeciimd winning the BBTwo Aussie Millions ToC a week or two ago, to me there is nothing like being able to see the results of a lot of hard work learning and studying a new game than that kind of public and indisputable evidence of victory.

One unintended (at the time) result of this win, however, was that it really started me down the path that dominated most of my 2007 play that I simply did not focus on nlh tournaments nearly to the degree that I had in 2006 where I had had so much success. Now, to be sure, I played plenty of nlh tournaments in 2007. A lot of 'em. But those primarily focused on two things: satellite tournaments, and blogger tournaments. There are probably a few good reasons for this focus. First was my initial attraction to the HORSE variants that had started to crop up with me around the end of 2006, as I mentioned above. I probably thought more about that weekly HORSE tournament in the first two months of 2007 than I did about nlh or any other poker game, and it showed in what I was playing most nights of the week. I remember staying up late with jeciimd to play in the nightly 12:30am ET satellite into the weekly HORSE tournament on many occasions in the January - February timeframe. These were nights that on previous occasions I would have been playing the 28k, Midnight Madness or some other cash-payout nlh tournament.

But another reason kinda goes back to the reasons that I play poker to begin with, something I have written about here in the blog many times. In stark contrast to just about everyone I know, and I've said this many times before, I do not play poker for money. Yes I love winning money at this game, I'm not going to lie about that, but even that enjoyment really comes less from the actual money and more from the fact that money is simply the way that one keeps score at poker. Period. That's why I've kept up the MATH moneyboard through all of 2007 without focusing on TLB points, cashes, average finish or anything else like that. Poker to me is kept score with money won, and that's it. But anyways, I do not play this game for the money. I play it for the challenge. I play it for the fun. I play it to try to continue to push myself to perform as well as I possibly can and to always improve. Now, while a lot of people might make this claim, I am living proof that it's true. Remember when KOD final tabled that 28k like 5 times in a month, including winning it twice in that timespan as I recall? I would never do that. And not just because I don't have the ability to (I don't btw). But, all through my online poker career, once I've won a tournament or nailed it for a big score, I have tended not to play that tournament much (if at all) anymore after that. It's a challenge that I have bested, and after that I tend to move on to something else rather than try to continue to take money out of it in the future even if it may be +EV for me to do so. I bet I played that Party 40k guaranteed tournament fewer than three times after I took it down for my first large mtt score in the Spring of 2006. I know for sure that I never again played that recockulous pokerstars 55k guaranteed $11 rebuy madness tournament after I won that in September 2006. Even after winning the HORSE guarantee this year I bet I only ever played that weekly HORSE tournament 3 or 4 more times, and within a couple of months I had pretty much stopped thinking about it entirely. It's happened again and again with me, and it is a perfect example of exactly what I'm talking about. I play this game for the challenge, not to make money, and once I've found a big tournament that I can beat, I tend to move on to something else rather than keep trying to beat it again and again.

So as a result of this, once I scored big in many of the biggest nightly and weekly nlh tournaments, I stopped focusing on them nearly so much. When partypoker disappeared to us U.S. residents, the party 40k was gone. I stopped playing on pokerstars so I never tackled those recockulous rebuy tournaments again. As I mentioned, within a few months in to 2007 I even stopped playing the HORSE tournament that I had won on New Year's Day a year ago. In the spring/summer of 2007 when I won 5k in the $109 buyin, 30k guaranteed 6-max nlh nightly tournament on full tilt, I don't think I've played that event more than two or three times either since that big win. I just tend to stay away from tournaments once I hit them for a big score, and that tendency has ended up keeping me away from most of the big nlh tournaments that I spent so much time playing in 2006, especially as there are only so many regular tournaments available on full tilt on a nightly basis at the times I play.

At the same time, one of my big goals for 2007 was to try to play in as many larger buyin tournaments as I could, and this has been something I made a major focus during the past year. As a result, those nlh tournaments I did play in during the year were largely focused on satellites to the bigger events and were not themselves cash-payout events. I played that nightly $14 buyin token frenzy tournament on full tilt probably more than 150 times during the year overall. I played a ton of those Bracelet Races in the spring to win a WSOP buyin (I won two in the end). I tried to satellite into all the larger buyin events that I could, which means a lot of FTOPS satellites which run four times per year, several Monday 1k satellites, nightly satellites into the 50-50 tournament and to the 30k earlier in the year as well, and various other events that I tried to play my way in to during the past twelve months. And I had a lot of success in the satellites I played overall, I would say. I got to play in almost every single FTOPS tournament I wanted to, I won two WSOP buyins, I played the Monday 1k three times and I've played in the 50-50 more times than I could count, mostly all satellited into in the nightly sats between 6:45 and 7:45pm ET. I recall posting earlier this year that I saw I had an overall nlh tournament win rate of more than 15%, which is a testament to (1) the number of satellites I played this year, as opposed to cash-payout tournaments, and (2) my success rate in those satellites. Of course nobody can win every time or even really very close to every time, but I spent the better part of 2007 honing my multi-seat satellite skills and really getting myself into a position to play the bigger buyin tournaments more or less whenever I wanted to, which to me is a great thing and one of my direct goals for the year. That said, it definitely kept me away from playing a lot of the cash tournaments that I spent much of 2006 practicing and succeeding in, and it also left me with fewer opportunities to play and win big cash payouts for the year, which I know is reflected in my overall profitability for the year and which is something I intend to focus on better during the coming year. And yet the funny thing is, I feel like I had a great year in tournaments overall, despite not having much to show for it in cash won during the year. As I look back, I won 5k in that HORSE tournament in January, and I won another 5k in April or May in that 30k 6-max tournament. I won nearly 4 grand in the August FTOPS spread over four separate cashes and a run to the top 100 in the Main Event before a sick river suckout ended that run prematurely. I won two separate 2k WSOP prize packages through the Bracelet Races. I won $1000 seats to the Monday 1k three separate times. I won something like $1500 during the first BBT. And there was more here and there as well. So I had what a lot of people would likely consider to be a lot of cash won, but I doubt it compares to 2006 as far as total profitability because there is simply no way I was playing cash-payout tournaments nearly as often as I did in the previous year. This I imagine is something I will want to consider with my goals for 2008 which I will post about later this week.

Ironically in some ways, my biggest area of focus among nlh tournaments during this year was without a doubt the blogger tournaments. Although these are often the tournaments that make me maddest and tiltiest, if you think about it this focus fits in quite well with everything I've said above. I most definitely do not play poker for the money, but rather for the social aspects, the challenge, and just to constantly push myself to perform as well as I possibly can. I fucking love playing with the bloggers, it is the thing that I enjoy the most and that acually ends up meaning the most to me when I look back on things. It may seem funny to some that these largely $10 buyin tournaments mean so much to me, but like I said it really fits in I think quite well with my goals for playing this game to begin with, and why I started blogging in the first place. I may bitch and moan quite a bit about some of your plays, but deep down I love the bloggers and I love playing poker with you guys far more than anything else I do. And on this front I am really, really pleased about my performance during 2007. I will end up 2007 in I think 4th place on the Mondays at the Hoy money list. In the Mookie, despite my complete ineptitude when it comes to winning the thing, I understand I am in the top 15 in total winnings during the year (something I still cannot believe). In the Riverchasers, I won three tournaments this year outright, and finished second at least three more times (yes, including the 12-year-old beating, I won't forget that one anytime soon), and surely in the top one or two spots in total money won during 2007. I figure I must be in front of the pack in net profit in the Donkament as well after I won my third title in that event this past Friday evening. Even in the Big Game, which only ran probably ten times all year, I recorded one win and two second-place finishes, which has to have me in the top few spots on the total money won list for that event as well in 2007. Overall, though I haven't looked to compare my profit numbers to anyone else, and I won't because that kind of direct comparison is totally unimportant to me (I assume Bayne and maybe jeciimd (probably not) at least are up there as well), but what is very important to me is that my numbers on an absolute basis in the blonkaments this year have been great. Sure I've had my share of suckouts, setups and donkouts from these things, but in the end I don't know how much more consistently well I could have played in the blonkaments overall during the year, especially knowing what minefields most of these things tend to be. And since this is the thing I have focused on the most by far in 2007, that is a great thing.

One other thing that I cannot fail to mention as I review my year in mtt's has got to be the World Series of Poker. I've written a lot about this during the past few weeks already, but to not mention my cash in the WSOP this year in reviewing my 2007 of poker overall would be the silliest thing I could think of. In a lot of ways, that cash and my overall performance in that $1500 buyin shorthanded nlh tournament in June was the defining moment of my year in poker, if not of my poker career in general. I tend to subscribe to the Phil Hellmuth way of thinking about it -- in the end, the WSOP is what it's really all about. I still get the chills when I even think about me actually cashing in that thing, and what an important and significant goal that was for me to accomplish. Now, for 2008, instead of just hoping to show up in Vegas sometime during the summer, I can instead legitimately have another WSOP cash as a goal/expectation of mine, and that my friends feels as good as poker can feel for me. I don't think anything more needs to be said about that right now, but I can't not mention the WSOP cash when I think back on the year that was in respect of my poker play.

The other great thing about 2007 for me was that I spent several months barely playing any cash-payout tournaments at all and focusing instead almost exclusively on cash games. This was the first time I had ever made a concerted effort to play cash nlh poker, and I can say now with close to 20,000 hands under my belt that I am comfortable playing nlh at any stakes up to and including $2-$5, and that I believe I can be profitable in more or less any game at any of those levels. To be honest, the cash games kind of wore out their welcome with me as well after maybe three months of play, but my overall results on poker tracker were decently positive, albeit showing some areas where I clearly still need improvement. But I have the tightness and the aggressiveness to win at these games -- 6max proved to be my real bread and butter due to how much movemaking goes on both by myself and by the other players at the table -- and my overall pokertracker results are just short of 2 BB profit per hour overall. Over time I did notice my profitability falling rather than rising, and the variance is just so high in cash games compared to any tournament games, which is a big reason I more or less stopped playing these things after a few months, but I "stopped" playing cash with my stats positive at basically all levels of nlh (and limit, for that matter) up to and including 2-4, and more than that, my game overall improved dramatically during that time period. When I started I would say I pretty much sucked, but once I got to know the nuances of the game and even found the ideal game for the way that I play, I realy hit my stride.

Lastly, I also spent the last two months or so of 2007 playing almost exclusively sitngos for the first time since I started playing online poker three years ago, again opting to play a lot of these things instead of the cash mtt's that I had played so much in previous years. And in this area I have really excelled. Once again I have found that the turbo games suit me best, and the ones at above the smallest buyin levels, due to the aggression inherent in my opponents' plays as well as required in my own which plays very well into my strengths as a tournament player.
The amazing thing is that, three years ago when my college buddy first got me into playing online poker in the first place, he was all about the sngs, and that was all I played, consistently losing money for the first several months I attacked the virtual felt. And yet here, three years and about 10 million online poker hands later, I was immediately able to succeed in these sngs, even at much higher buyin levels than I ever would have played at when I first started. And even still, I think my sng game has improved dramatically over the two months I've been focusing on them. I have developed a much better feel nowadays for the turbo nature of these things, and the kinds of hands it pays to raise with preflop and to face preflop raises with. When to push on the flop, and when to fold. It's been a very profitable endeavor for me in the last couple of months, but more than that, it's been a tremendous learning experience just like the other poker I have focused on during the year overall.

So in sum, I view 2007 as a great year for me in poker. Although I surely did not win as much money as I would have liked from good old-fashioned mtts, I managed to record several scores of 1k or more on the year, including a huge $2500 win in my first ever WSOP cash in the second WSOP tournament I have ever played in. I further honed my HORSE game play, including the big 5k win in the weekly HORSE tournament in addition to a number of smaller wins in various non-holdem tournaments during the year. I performed exceedingly well overall in the blonkaments, which in the end are the thing I spent the majority of my focus on during 2007, something I'm sure will continue into 2008. I learned to play cash nlh well for the first time in my life, taking several grand out of the game in the process between full tilt and pokerstars, and I also played sitngos profitably for the first time despite losing in those sngs in my first run a few years back. I won a good deal at the things that mattered most to me in 2007, and I think my biggest challenge in 2008 will be to minimize my losses and to do what I can to increase my wins in mtts in general as well as in the other areas I choose to focus on in the coming year. Hopefully you all out there have similar outlooks on your 2007 poker play, and especially similar optimism and excitement as we head into 2008. I can't wait to see you all on the virtual felt. And to take your money.

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Blogger Irongirl01 said... is the link for the classic March 24th thru april 9th is the Spring Classic at foxwoods. The above is the link for the schedule. Snake did the $600 shootout and made it to the finals. March 24th, 26th 28th and 29th look the best to me.

Lets do it!!


Happy New year Hoy- I think Im Irongirl01 on Yahoo msn.. Don, Bayne, Chad all have me

2:23 AM  
Blogger Iak said...

Nice recap of a very nice year at the tables. Reminds of how important consistency is. It is going to be at the top of my '08 goals to enjoy the hobby but work on it harder too.

3:24 AM  

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