Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in Review

So it is time once again for my annual end-of-year post, where I look back at the year that was on the poker / blog front, and look ahead to my plans in those arenas for 2011. As I look back on things it's hard to believe that this is now the fifth such post I will be putting up, or in general that I've been doing this whole blogging thang for as long and as consistently as I have. As most of you know, this blog has transformed itself quite a bit over the years. At very first this was really not much more than a bad beat blog, and a place for my inane "online poker is rigged" rants, but quickly I found that the poker blogiverse was pretty well totally devoid of true hand analysis on a regular basis, and this space quickly morphed into my little corner of the internet where I posted actual hands I played -- using my own tactic of screenshots instead of what I generally find to be boring textual hand histories -- and solicited opinions from others on the best way to play the hands. That persisted for a while, but after a couple of years of it, the negativity really got to me and slowly things started to change again. For some time I still wrote regularly about poker, but not so much about specific hands with specific requests for reader feedback. People don't realize or at least don't think about how incredibly much work and effort goes in to my doing posts like those on a regular basis, and the drivelly, weasely bullshit people would say about me, my play, my family, my friends in the comments and in others' blogs I am convinced would eventually make just about anybody tired of the effort. No, I didn't stop blogging entirely like so many (most) of you out there, but slowly but surely the blog became less about soliciting others' opinions largely fueled by negativity and jealousy and greed and hate, and more about just being an outlet for me to write about whatever I am thinking about at the time. And those changes continued, as I spent the better part of late 2008 and early 2009 writing about the financial crisis, the stock market collapse, and what was at the time the thing on everyone's minds. To be honest, as a general statement late 2008 and early 2009 were the most popular this blog has ever been in reviewing my stats, and those days when I was writing about the collapse of Lehman Brothers from the perspective of an insider who had just recently left the company were the most-read and most-resent posts I have ever written here, which still amazes me to this day. After things calmed down later in 2009, I found myself having really enjoyed escaping the bounds I had previously put on myself about focusing mainly on poker here, and so I have spent the better part of the past year, year and a half just writing about whatever I want, be it poker or, in most cases, otherwise.

So yes, I still play poker, though every year for the past three or four it seems I have played less than the year before, and yes I still take screenshots of every meaningful hand I play, and yes I still review them all almost daily to try to find weaknesses and, more importantly, ways to improve my game, plug some holes, and just to think through the decisions I make and am likely to face again in other contexts. My experience with all the negativity here at my blog and just downright poor displays of understanding of the game have left me never really one to get involved in posting hands to poker forums and the like, but I do discuss hands from time to time with a few trusted friends whose poker skills I respect, and as I said I continue to do my own analysis on an ongoing basis of the game and how to make myself better and make better decisions. But I know I haven't written much about poker here over the past couple of years, and for those of you who read here every day hoping for poker analysis like the days of yore, please don't think that I don't hear you. And you're not alone -- literally not a single week goes by that I don't get a few emails, a handful of blog comments, or even chatted to in the chatboxes of some random online mtt I happen to be playing at the time, complaining that I don't ever write about poker anymore, why don't I do any more screenshot posts like I used to, how come I don't summarize my deep tournament runs, etc. To those haters who smile and tell themselves it's because I haven't won any tournaments these past couple of years, I don't mind that people are out there thinking it, but my reasons are those listed above and not any lack of focus on or success in poker tournaments nowadays. I just haven't used the blog as a place to post about my big tournament scores like I once did, and to this day the tinydicks spew their jealous hate in various forums and media whenever I have any success at all to speak of.

So be it. If you can't tell, I still love this blog, even as it seems that a good 90% of the poker bloggers from back in the day when I first got inspired by many of you to start my own blog, have failed to keep things up with their blogs, opting instead for the shorter mediums of twitter or facebook, or giving up posting entirely. And I have no plans of slowing down anytime soon, something I couldn't say two or three years ago when I was really troubled by the ridiculous negativity I ran into here and through my association with the blog on a pretty regular basis. The changes that have taken place here over the past several years have been part of the natural progression for the blog, and without those changes, I would pretty much have stopped posting years ago. But nowadays I am as happy with the blog as I ever was, I enjoy immensely the freedom I have given myself to write about whatever I want to, to focus on things like sports, work, the stock market, movies, tv, whatever it is I am into at the time. I know I still allow this site to be called a "poker blog" in my title, and in my heart that will always be the genesis and the underpinnings of what I do here, but things change, and as I have always maintained, it's my blog and I have to be free to write about whatever I want to write about. So that's what I'm doing, and it's what I will continue to do for the time being. There may be more screenshots and poker posts here during 2011, but I learned a long time ago not to promise anything about my blog, because let's just say I have a very poor track record on actually following through with making those changes.

OK with all that out of the way, let's look back on my 2010, poker-wise. My online poker performance this year has been, in a word, disappointing. Although I had some nice tournament wins of more than 5k early in the year, my lack of playing mtt's with any regularity really had a negative impact on my game this year, and it showed bigtime in my results. Until yesterday's nice score on pokerstars -- the site where I have played the least by far this year -- my entire year's performance there was utterly dismal. I had a few smallish wins on full tilt this year but nothing great to speak of, while also playing far fewer mtts than I have in the past, and once again it showed in my results. On UB I had another very solid year in mtts, but even there most of my success came earlier in the year. I won three tournaments since the summertime on UB, but all smallish tournaments with total prizes of under 4k, as compared to a few nice 6k+ prizes I won there earlier in the year in the bigger tournaments.

In general, this is probably true for everyone but my game is one that is heavily dependent on routine, repeated practice. Unlike most other players I know, I play about 95% based on instinct, and generally fly by the seat of my pants in pretty much every hand of every tournament I play. What I mean by that is, for example, if I get dealt K7o in late-middle position, I don't just click the auto-fold and wait for the next hand. Instead, if 3 guys limp in front of me, I might limp as well or even decide to raise if the blinds are small relative to my stack if I sense weakness or feel like making a play. Similarly, if I see a flop with that K7o and whiff entirely and I check a couple of times and one or two opponents check it back to me, if I get the sense that they are on a weak piece of the flop or also missed it, I might decide at the last minute based on my instincts about the hand to put in a big bet or even a raise if I believe I can take it down. It's just the way I play the game, and it's not something I would want to change as I think it is not only the most enjoyable way for me to challenge myself, but I have done fairly well over time approaching poker tournaments in this way. That said, playing more or less totally by my instincts takes a huge amount of effort in studying and reviewing my decisions and what led up to my making mistakes, and as I've said here many times, the best (and only, really) way to hone this kind of skill is to play regularly. Back four or five years ago when I had by far the most individual mtt scores online of my online poker career, it's no coincidence that I was playing by far the most online mtts I have ever played. As I have played fewer and fewer mtts each year over the years, my number of scores has concurrently dropped -- not only because you need more attempts in order to be able to beat variance to the degree you need to in order to win any mtt, but because my instincts are just not nearly as honed when I play 10 mtts a week as compared to back in the day when I used to run maybe 30 or 40of 'em. It's not close. And I can literally feel the effects of it right while I play -- I will be sitting here thinking, I wonder if I can win this pot, this guy just checked the turn and the river to me after leading out on the Ace-high flop after he raised preflop. Is he scared of that Ace? Does he have a middle pocket pair? And then I'll talk myself into it, I'll bet out big after he checks the river, and then boom there he comes in with a check-raise for all his chips and I know I just got duped. That happens more to me these days then it ever used to four or five years ago, or even one or two years ago, and I know it's because I am simply out of practice. A more by-the-book kind of player -- a style which can do perfectly well in tournaments if applied by someone who understands the level of aggression necessitated by most nlh tournament structures today, in particular on-line tournament structures -- would by definition need less practice and honing of his or her instincts, and I suppose on some level it probably makes sense for me to try to play at least a little bit more that way as I continue to play fewer and fewer mtts, but as I've said many times, for now that is not something I am willing or looking to do. I am fine owning that decision, but there is no doubt that my instincts fared me far, far worse this year than in any other year of my online poker play.

The other thing that has had a significant contribution to my poor performance this year has been luck. I absolutely love when people refer to luck as "variance", kind of like when people refer to "three-betting" and "four-betting" instead of raising and reraising in no-limit games, or when people refer to an individual blog post as a "blog" (like, "Today I wrote a blog about this great movie I saw last night." Gold!), but over this year as a whole, there is no doubt that I've never run as bad over an annual period as I did in 2010. And I've had some bad runs before, but nothing like I dealt with this year in my online poker play. Frankly, I am quite sure that some of this is again attributable to my lack of mtt play as compared to past years, as more repetitions will clearly lead to more opportunity for bad (and good) luck to balance itself out over the year, but in the case of 2010, I ran about as bad across the board as I could ever expect to have happen over a full year period, and my results once again were greatly impacted by this. I am pretty sure that, in percentage terms, I amassed big stacks in the mtts I did play this year with at least as much regularity as I ever have in any other year, but what happened to me innumerable times to lose those big stacks, in many cases without even cashing at all, are the stuff of legends. I have zero interest in boring anyone with bad beat stories, but I do always love to point out that if any of you reading this out there -- and yes, I do mean pretty much anyone reading this, save for maybe one or two of you whom I believe actually have endured similar sort of results in real dollar terms -- ever had to endure the beats, the suckouts and the setup hands, in the big spots in which I have endured them, you would never play poker again.

When you play cash, it is kind of easy in its own way to quantify how bad you have run over a given session. There is this amazing software out there now that among other things will tell you your "All-In Expected Value" and how far you deviated from that. This is awesome because every poker player alive wants nothing more than something quantifiable to point to that will actually prove to others just how poorly they have run, and people will use this however they can in the exact ways they can to make themselves look like they play awesome but just run horribly, but there is no corresponding program available out there today that can provide a similar number for mtt players. When you have a monster stack with 31 players left in a 1500-person mtt that pays $140 to 30th place and $8000 to first place, there is just no way of consistently measuring how much actual dollars it costs you when you run your AA into another top-5 stack who has 88 allin pre and an 8 flops, or when you run KK into AA on an AKx flop (that one has happened to me three times this year, including just this very week on full tilt) and you end up busting out a few hands later and winning your $143.81. Obviously you can't just say "Hey, that bad beat just cost me $7900 cash money, because with my big stack I was obviously going to win the 8k first prize in this tournament instead of 30th prize", but at the same time if you are a strong late-stage tournament player, that kind of a beat probably does on average cost you somewhere around a grand or more of expected tournament value. And when it happens to bust you in 15th place for $240 instead of in 30th place for $140, that beat probably cost me closer to two grand of real, hard dollars on average. And when I make a final table on pokerstars and then lose the biggest pot of the entire tournament thus far with AK to AQ allin pre with 6 players left and win $1400 while first prize goes on to claim 12k, that one probably costs about 5 or 6 grand of cold hard cash in tournament EV. But there's just no way to measure it, and I experienced all of those things more times than I could count this year. I've run as bad as anybody I've ever known for long periods of time -- most of them detailed all too well here on my blog over the years -- but when I say that my luck in 2010 in online poker was as bad as it's ever been, I mean it.

And the place I got hit the worst of all with the bad luck stick throughout this year was far and away in sitngos. Turbo sitngos worse than regular, and the super turbos by far the worst of all. I've spent a good deal of time reviewing my results on a daily or at least weekly basis, and as I reviewed all of my sng performances week after week in 2010, there wasn't a single week that went by that didn't see me losing out on multiple $500-1k or more payouts in sitngos where I was allin ahead as at least a 60-40 favorite and lost far more than 40% of the time, or saw me racing for a stack that would all but assure me of cashing for a nice payout and lost far more than 50% of the time, etc. To the extent that I could figure it out, I would estimate I probably finished a good 5 grand behind my "all-in tournament expected value" just in super turbos this year if one could ever calculate such a thing. A lot of this is my own fault for playing super turbos in the first place, which by definition minimize the contribution of skill and maximize that of luck to the eventual outcome, which is something I will definitely need to work on in the coming year. The sitngos in general -- which I played more of this year than in years past as I strived to find less time-consuming ways to get my poker fix on -- absolutely crushed me, and they make up a significant portion of my overall losses on the year in online poker.

Further complicating the lack of practice and the general run-bad that I dealt with in 2010, those two things combined to make me as tilty as I have ever been at the tables this year, which without a doubt led to a lot of bad decisions by me as a direct result, which also made my results suffer badly. The worst aspect of this was the disturbing and really incredible amount of trash talking I did in the chatboxes all throughout the year, far more than I have ever done in the past. It was apparent very early on in the year that I was suffering far more than my fair share of stupidity in the cards, and I quickly degenerated into going absolutely apeshit on people in the chatbox, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again as these things kept happening to me and I let it get in my head. I haven't talked this dirty to people in a long time, and here I was all through 2010 doing it repeatedly to goddam monkeys who haven't got a fucking clue in the world how to play tournament poker but who somehow continually would suck out on me at the river, flop the set after calling a preflop reraise with their pocket 3s vs. my pocket Aces for half their stack, instacall me allin with their AK unimproved on the flop and then promptly turn the King to best my pocket Jacks, I could go on and on and on. And I let them have it. I don't talk about this much, but I had my chat banned probably four separate times across the sites I play at during this past year, something that hasn't happened to me in literally years since I really believed online poker was rigged, and I can't even deny that I deserved it and then some. I have spent so much time in my mtt's spewing hateful drivel at people who were literally stealing money out of my pocket, it's hard to even fathom. Even here as I write this, just earlier this week I let loose a couple of verbal assaults on people in the chat that they won't forget for some time. The problem is that I make a lot of good poker plays, I get in ahead a lot and behind not all that often, and the biggest issue of all is that I am just so damn good at fucking people up in the chatbox. You've all seen what I do to the monkeys who leave poo-flinging comments in my own blog. I can tear a stupid person down as good as anyone I've ever met, and as my bad luck mounted and prolonged and mounted and prolonged throughout 2010, I just got worse and worse and worse, and there is not a doubt in the world that the focus on hate-mongering and feeling sorry for myself had a demonstrably negative drag on my game and on my results. There is no way that I can play anything close to optimal poker -- in particular the type of unscripted, rely-on-my-instincts way that I like to play -- when I am devoting so much time and energy into shredding monkeyfucking assloving thieving shitknocking pooflingers in the chat, and just into generally hating them instead of playing good, quality poker. I can't count how many times I ubertilted out of two other mtt's -- even a decent way through the field -- within seconds of taking a recockulous beat from a total asshat deep in another mtt I was playing at the time. If I put the amount of effort and energy into refocusing my tournament game in 2011 and into maintaining my composure and my focus on playing proper poker in the face of bad beats that I did into attacking people who played bad and got fuck-lucky on me in 2010, I'll be in for some very good results. And to those of you who got to watch me unleash a tirade or thirty on people in the chatboxes while you watched me play this year, at least you got treated to a good show. I've definitely never seen anyone do it quite like I do, that is for sure.

One very bright spot for me in 2010 was my live poker play, which was one of my big poker goals for 2010 back at the beginning of the year. I played around 15 live poker tournaments during the year, and I outright won five of them which is an unbelievable performance by any standards. Given, most of these were small sng-type of events as opposed to gargantuan 1000-person fields -- the three large tournaments I played this year (the WSOP, and a big tournament series at Foxwoods and one at Borgata), I failed to cash in unfortunately -- but my live tournament play was literally as good as I could ever imagine it getting, considering that just a few years ago I thought I would never, ever be able to cash let alone actually run deep in any casino poker tournament. I killed at the tournament tables out in Las Vegas this past summer, even despite dropping $1500 in lasting only around 7 hours in the WSOP on my first morning in the desert, including winning a tournament at Aria for over 4 grand in my only time ever to step foot in what is I think an awesome new poker room in the city. I took down the daily tournament at Foxwoods on three separate occasions throughout the year for an average score of around 2k each time, and I also won the daily Caesar's tournament in Atlantic City not too long ago for around a grand over just maybe four hours of play. I final tabled and cashed another 2 or 3 times out of those 15 attempts at live poker tournaments, making this year almost unbeatable in terms of my overall level of performance in live play. And in two of my three "big" live events I played, I was ousted by incredible suckouts that were almost impossible to believe, or who knows how far I could have run in those as well. I also won more money playing live cash poker in 2010 than ever before as well, including logging multiple awesome sessions at both Bellagio and the MGM while out in Vegas, in addition to several winning sessions at Foxwoods, and at Borgata and Caesar's in AC. My overall live poker winnings for the year well exceeded five figures and did a fair amount to defray my online poker losses for the year, as well as to keep in check my belief that my actual poker skills are still as good as ever when I put my mind to it. It's not lost on me either that I have almost no inclination whatsoever to tilt in live poker play, and that obviously has contributed greatly to me making consistently good decisions and playing my best poker when I am playing it live as compared to the countless tiltoffs I produced in various mtt's at pokerstars, full tilt or UB over the past season.

To be perfectly honest -- and this is a hard thing for someone like me to say -- it's been a long time since I looked at my yearly performance in poker and knew that I had some serious leaks to fill. No, I can't do anything about the bad luck I experienced in 2010, but I can most certainly make dramatic improvements in the way I deal with that bad luck and the bad play of those around me. I can focus on maintaining my head in the game and in focusing my energies on recovering my lost stack rather than on (admittedly entertainingly) ripping down the person who unfairly ass-lucked into my chips, especially when I know doing so detracts directly and significantly from my ability to play my best poker. I know that by trying to play with a little bit more regularity, I can get back to honing my instincts to the level they will need to be at in order for me to return to winning ways online in 2011. Although I really don't focus on it specifically hardly ever on the blog anymore, I did have a number of nice tournament scores during the past year, and I expect those to occur with a greater frequency and, hopefully, a greater magnitude heading into 2011.

One of the best things about a new year is that it provides this natural breaking point, a pre-designated opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start anew, even if you like me are not the type to normally think of things in terms of "turning over a new leaf" or "totally changing my approach to the game starting today". I view my nice hit on pokerstars this week -- a tournament in which I got fucked hard a couple of times by monkeydicks but kept my cool and played awesome poker from start to finish -- as the first step in making these changes in 2011 to improve not just my mindset but my poker results. Many people would probably be leery looking ahead to 2011 after performing poorly in poker in 2010, but that's not my style at all. To be honest, while of course I wish I had played better poker and gotten better results this year, I relish the challenge of proving to myself that I can be a better player next year. I've done it before, and I'll do it again. The new year cannot start soon enough as far as I'm concerned on the poker front.

I'll make some more posts over the next week or so about other things from 2010 as a whole, and hopefully a first-time set of broader predictions for 2011, both blog- and poker-related and otherwise.

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Blogger Josie said...

Happy New Year. I also get excited about the idea of starting afresh. Starting a new year with a clean slate and the hope/anticipation of success. My problem is I track wins/losses for Jan and Feb and then don't keep up with it.

Maybe this year I will.

3:51 AM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...


4:42 AM  
Blogger OES said...

Butros Butros Ghali!

8:10 PM  

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