Thursday, March 26, 2015

How Your Physical and Mental State Affects Your Results in Poker

Mood, mental state and physical state and poker
A topic that gets discussed a fair bit on poker forums, in books and the like is tilt. I have even written about it a few times myself (here for instance). These conversations typically revolve around recognizing the signs of tilt and creating effective quitting strategies. These discussions can be very useful especially for inexperienced poker players who often suffer the most from poor emotional control at the tables. Indeed, as I have stated before, I believe that the number one bankroll killer for beginner level poker players is without a doubt, tilt.

But what if we dig a little bit deeper and talk about how mood, mental and physical states can affect our play and the likelihood of tilting even before we sit down? In other words how about we look at some of the main root causes of the problem instead of looking for band aid solutions? Tilt is going to happen to us no matter what in this game from time to time but it is certainly within our control to lessen it's impact. Professional athletes have all sorts of pre-game rituals and use mental imagery techniques to get themselves prepared. Why shouldn't poker players? If you take this game seriously (and especially if it is your job) then you should be mentally and physically preparing yourself for the grind before you even sit down to play.  

I want to stress here that I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist and I have a very limited academic background in the subject (a few college level courses). However, I have played poker professionally or semi-professionally for about 9 years now so I have had ample experience in understanding how my own physical and mental states can affect my results. What follows will be based on what I have learned in that time. Let's start with some of the more obvious stuff first.

Poker and Nutrition

You are what you eat, literally. Everybody probably already knows this but it bears repeating here. You are going to feel way better about yourself if you choose the rice/chicken, salad and green tea rather than the big mac, fries and a coke. This is not to mention what all those extra calories are going to do to your waistline! "Bad food" is often loaded with sugar and leads to insulin spikes which can affect your mood rapidly. Healthier choices that have more actual ingredients found in nature will often have the opposite affect and provide you with a much more stable mindset. 

I don't want to sound like some health nut here trying to sell you on the benefits of eating right. You already know all this. Everybody does and it is a personal decision whether you heed that advice or not. However, something that I have found as it relates to poker though is that you should always eat a moderate portion before playing a session. Even if you eat healthy food, if you eat too much you will often get that lethargic and bloated feeling afterwards which is not conducive to making the quick high quality decisions that online poker demands. 

This is indeed a bigger problem though with a lot of high fat/high sugar "North American diet" foods that are popular today. They are extremely calorie dense and if you eat out in restaurants a lot the portion sizes are often enormous as well. It is much harder to OD on the chicken salad than a huge plate of pasta. So at the very least, if you are planning a poker session try to make sure that the meal you have beforehand is of a moderate size and of course preferably healthy. You can always snack on something during your session if you get hungry. Again preferably something healthy like apple slices and almonds. Prepare these ahead of time so that you can just grab them out of the fridge during a washroom break. 

Poker and Exercise

Regular exercise simply helps me feel better both mentally and physically in life and improves my mindset and results at the tables immeasurably. Ask yourself this, have you ever done some strength training or fitness and said to yourself at the end, "well that sure was a waste of time!"? No of course not! You probably felt great once it was over. Those endorphins are pumping, you feel energized and proud of yourself. Sure it might have sucked during the session and you may have felt like quitting. But afterwards you always feel a natural high. And then of course there are the long term health benefits and lowering of stress levels which is what directly relates to reducing the impact of tilt.

The problem for most people though is just getting started. They will procrastinate and put off going to the gym for another day. Soon enough of those "another days" pile up and they have all but quit exercising altogether. I know the feeling. We all lead busy lives and it can be so easy to make excuses and put it off. If this is a problem for you then I suggest prioritizing fitness as the first thing that you do in the morning no matter what. I have really taken to this of late myself because I have been traveling a lot and often don't have the easy access to a gym that I normally do.

So in order to make sure that I stay on a regular exercise schedule I do some light strength training and go for a jog on most days as soon as I wake up. And I literally mean as soon as I wake up. I crawl out of bed and start doing some sets of pushups, tricep dips and body squats for 20-30 minutes. I then put on my running shoes (I don't care what my hair looks like) and I am out the door for a 30 minute run at the beach, in a back alley, where ever. I try to do this 4 times a week at least.

I should mention that I typically wake up at 6am and this is a great time to safely run anywhere even if you are in a completely foreign place. If it is raining heavily then I may just do some jumping jacks, burpees or Tae-Bo type stuff in my hotel/guesthouse room. Anything to get the heart pumping a bit. I think music is a great motivator as well so I always listen to something uplifting and inspiring like Trance. I highly recommend Armin Van Buuren's weekly show "A State of Trance."

I complain vigorously to myself on most mornings both before and during these exercise sessions but I always feel like a million bucks when I am done and throughout the rest of the day. Don't allow yourself to make excuses. There is always time in every day for this crucial element in your life and poker. Start first thing in the morning before you do anything else if procrastination is a problem for you. Eventually it will become a habit and you won't even need to think about it.

Everything that I have written about so far was probably a bit mundane and you have likely heard a lot of it before. However, sometimes we need to be told things again and again for them to really sink in. You should also know that nobody is perfect as regards nutrition and exercise. I regularly screw them both up myself. The important thing is to keep trying to create and maintain better habits and if you fall off the train to pick yourself back up and get on it again.

Good nutrition and regular exercise will pay big dividends to your bottom line at the tables by allowing you to think more clearly and thus make better decisions. It will also greatly improve your overall mindset and lower your stress levels which is a huge key to reducing the impact of tilt. Let's move on.

Poker and Your Mood

Understanding how your mood or mental state can affect your game before a session is something that rarely gets discussed but it is so important. Now once again I am not a trained psychologist here so I don't want to dig too deep into real mental health issues such as clinical depression. I don't really have any personal experience with this kind of major debilitating depression either. If this is something that you suffer with though, then you may want to re-evaluate how it affects your game and maybe even put poker on hold for awhile until you get control of it. 

For most of us though it is the more run of the mill stuff like being in a bad mood due to a stressful day or feeling mildly depressed (the normal kind that most people get from time to time) due to some life event or even just feeling lonely. These states of mind can affect your game more than you might think. We all have bad days and I know that on my bad days I am more likely to have a much shorter tilt leash than normal. Whereas it might normally take 5 or 10 bad beats/coolers in a short period to get me off my A or B game on a bad day I might be feeling tilty after just 3 of them. My overall decision making and the likelihood of making mistakes will also suffer on my bad days.

So it is important to recognize your mental state or mood and address it before you even sit down to play. Just because you are a bit short of temper or mildly depressed does not mean that you need to cancel your session though. It just means that after you recognize the problem you decide to allocate 10 minutes before the start of the session to some meditation or mental imagery. Shutting the door and having a quick "time out" of simple deep breathing exercises can often dramatically improve your mood. 

Sit cross legged, close your eyes and start slowly breathing in deeply until your lungs are completely full. Exhale just as slowly and do this 50 times. If you would like some sort of relaxing background atmosphere while performing this calming exercise here is 2 hours of Thai Buddhist monks chanting. 

This simple meditation technique may seem tedious at first but you will be in a much better state of mind to play poker after doing this. It should not take more than 10 minutes of your time and you really only need to do it on those bad days where you feel a little stressed or depressed. Most professional athletes prep both physically and mentally for hours before the actual game begins. Surely you can find 10 minutes to make sure that you are in a relaxed state of mind before loading up the tables. Ideally, do this before the start of every session!

Poker and Substances

This is going to be a bit of a difficult topic for me to get into because different substances affect people in different ways. However, I can discuss what works (and more importantly what doesn't work) in my experience. Let's start with everybody's favorite, alcohol! I had some nights very early on in my poker career that were either very memorable or very regrettable due to playing while inebriated. I have both won and lost several thousand dollars in one evening while playing under the influence. I am (proud to admit?) that I also won my first poker tournament while hammered even though it was only for about 1k. 

Overall, I may have actually been up a little bit in my playing drunk career. But it was after one final night where I had been dealing with a lengthy downswing and tilted off about 2k at 1/2 and 2/4 that I told myself that this needs to stop. Truthfully, in today's tougher games my results probably would have been much worse at these stakes while playing in this state. I simply do not play anywhere near my best if I have had one too many. I play much more aggressively than normal (although this is not always a bad thing) and tilt harder and want to jump stakes if losing. This is why when I chose to take this game seriously and make it a profession I swore off playing while drinking alcohol completely. 

I do not drink and play period. I do believe that there is some truth to the idea that a light buzz (one or two beers) may make some people feel more loose and possibly even play better. I choose not to go down this path at all though. Alcohol and poker can be a lethal combination for your bankroll and it is really easy to go down that slippery slope of feeling the buzz and having a few too many. I am not here to screw around in this game. I have had absolutely zero tolerance when playing poker for many, many years now. No alcohol at all. This is what works for me. 

I personally do not use any drugs when playing poker or at all for that matter either. I definitely don't want to come across as preachy about this topic or belittling those who do though. Many people for instance use marijuana on a regular basis because it makes them feel more relaxed. I think that if this is something that works for you then more power to you. This is something that only you can know and I don't really have much more to say on the subject. 

The same would go for all of those prescription based medications that are popular these days such as Ritalin for ADD. If you feel that this positively affects your concentration at the tables then I would say that it is probably a good thing then. Just be totally honest with yourself about any of these substances. Are they +EV or -EV for you at the tables? 

The same can be said for energy drinks and caffeine. For me personally I rarely drink either of these while playing poker or in general. I will sometimes have a single cup of coffee in the morning but that is all. I am one of those people who gets negatively affected by too much caffeine or energy drinks in my system. However, maybe you are different and it helps you concentrate and think more clearly. Just be honest with yourself and cut them out if they are harming your game or your sleep in any way. 

When NOT Playing is +EV

Despite taking all of the precautions and steps above there might be some days where it is just better to simply not play poker at all. You always have to remember that the games are there around the clock 365 days a year. Taking one day, or even a few days or a week off is not that big of a deal especially if you do not play this game for a living (most of you reading this do not). It is simply more profitable sometimes to not play at all. Recognizing this is another one of those pre-game prepping skills that I talked about above. 

One of the most critical times when you need to be on the lookout for this is during a prolonged downswing. We are often taught to just battle through it and keep your head up during these dark hours. But truth be told, sometimes the best thing that you can do during these periods is to simply limit your play. The reason why is because even if you feel completely fine in your day to day life, these downswings have a way of eating away at us. They lead to negative feelings even before we sit down to play and fatalist and poor decision making while at the tables. 

Sometimes downswings can simply be so lengthy, even for a winning player, that breaking through it could take weeks or even months of big volume. There are very few players who can get in there each day during these periods and consistently keep their wits about them. They are indeed some of the biggest winners in this game. This is not a skill that can be learned over night though. It takes years and years of practice and a deep understanding of the long run nature of this game. This is why it is often better for newer players at the micros to simply take some time off when things have been going poorly for a long period of time. 

This will allow your mind to get away from the game for a bit and stop the negative thoughts and feelings that can have a devastating impact on your play. If you don't want to get away from the game completely then instead of playing you could choose to conduct a thorough session review or database review. Often I make my biggest breakthroughs during these periods and I come away feeling much better and ready to go the next day. 

Another time when it is sometimes better not to play at all is when you are really tired. We all lead hectic lives and sometimes you are simply exhausted when it comes time to play your session especially if you typically play at night. Sometimes the wiser decision may be to take the night off and perhaps watch a training video or read a poker book instead. Again, the games will always be there tomorrow. This is about not knowingly sitting down to play when you know that you are only capable of playing your B or C game at best. 

But more often than not being tired is simply due to a lack of sleep. A lot of people suffer from insomnia these days. I get it from time to time myself. It is important to know that you will not be capable of playing your best on 4 hours sleep. And no amount of caffeine or energy drinks will fix this either. Once again, the games will always be there tomorrow. Use this opportunity to study the game or even just read something totally unrelated to poker. Reading a good book is the best cure that I have ever found for insomnia.

Lastly, we will all go through some difficult setbacks in life such as the death of a close family member or a divorce. It is definitely advisable that you limit your play during these periods or even stop for awhile altogether. You will be too distracted and emotional during these periods to play your best. Poker is just a game. There are much more important things in life. 

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article proved useful to some of you out there. You really get what you put into this game and it often goes well beyond your actual play at the tables these days. And most of your opponents at the micros these days have an absolutely terrible approach to the mental game (i.e., they just sit down and play whenever they feel like it and sometimes tilt off a few stacks when things go bad). Oh well right?

Not alright.

If you take this game seriously and you want to get ahead then you need to start understanding that your mental and physical state are just as important as how well you play AK in 3Bet pots. In fact arguably much more important. People always think that the biggest winners have this secret technical knowledge or mathematical formula that allows them to win so much. No. What they actually have is an ability to be on their A or at least B game literally all of the time when most others coast along on their B or C game and dip into D, E or F when things don't go well.

At the micros you can often succeed by simply not making the same tilt inspired mistakes that the vast majority of your opponents make on a regular basis. This starts before you sit down at the table and fits into an overall positive approach to life. From the very basics of eating the right foods and getting regular exercise to recognizing your mental state before sitting down and perhaps meditating for a little while in order to focus your thoughts and release all negative energy.

And sometimes it involves simply having the wherewithal to recognize when you are too tired, inebriated or in too poor of a mental space to play. Simply keeping yourself from playing the game during these times alone can have a big positive impact on your winrate.

In today's tougher online poker environment you need to approach this game like a professional more than ever if you want to get great results. Most people focus almost all of their energy on getting technically better at the game when at least half the battle simply revolves around being mentally stronger than your opponents on a consistent basis. By focusing some real attention on this aspect of your game for awhile you might be surprised at how much it can affect your results at the tables.

Let me know your thoughts below on how you think your mood, mental and physical states affect your play at the tables.

If you found this article helpful then please do me a favor and share it with your friends by hitting the "Like" or "Tweet" button below!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Inspirational Poker Players - Who is Your Hero?

inspirational poker players
I think it is important to have someone who you look up to in poker especially when you are just starting out. These are people who inspire you to achieve the success that they have and maybe even go beyond. These people have the power to show you what is possible even if you currently have little to no results at all. They also typically display the attitude and work ethic which is necessary for long term success in this game.

My Biggest Inspiration

Nearly all of my play over the years has been online and so naturally my heroes in the early days were almost always online poker players. The overwhelming majority of my play has also been in cash games so naturally they tended to be cash game players as well. The player who inspired me the most was definitely Dusty Schmidt who is better known online as "Leatherass." He was sort of the original mid/high stakes mega grinder on Pokerstars back in the day.

I would read all of his blog posts religiously, drool over his million dollar a year graphs and study and re-study every training video that he ever put out, literally. I actually originally chose to be an instructor at DragTheBar, even though I received offers from much bigger training sites, in large part because he was a lead coach there at the time. Even though it has became cool to bash Dusty in recent years on popular forums like 2+2 because he is a "bumhunter" and a "nit" (have I mentioned how idiotic these people are before?) his impact on almost an entire generation of young online poker players is undeniable. And also, even though I never went on to have anywhere close to the success that he did (although my priorities did change with regards to this game a fair bit) his impact on me was huge.

Present Day Heros

I think there are still many players out there these days who are blazing a path like this for a new generation of online poker players. Doug Polk, better known online as "WCGRider," for instance is now regarded as the best heads up high stakes poker player in the world. I remember the famous prop bets and playing against him at NL25 in what seems like just a few years ago. Randy "Nanonoko" Lew is another great example of what dedication and a great attitude can do for you in this game. He has been a top talent for years in mid/high stakes cash games on Pokerstars and is a long time and very popular member of Team Pro Online.

There are other guys who are much less well known but whose blogs I love reading as well such as Tim Stone. It's become cool to hate on him a bit as well because he uses seating scripts and sometimes types a few words differently than the rest of us. However, this is a guy who has dominated mid stakes cash games on Pokerstars for years and lives a ridiculous life traveling all over the world. Another blog that I love to read is "The Rant" by talented Supernova Elite SNG grinder Aaron Barone. Even though he is an SNG player I still learn a lot from his posts such as his outstanding work ethic and ability to overcome adversity. He is also a good friend of mine in real life so it helps me keep up to date on his current travels as well.

There are many more stories of great poker players these days who can inspire you. I always chuckle a bit when somebody emails me saying that I have inspired them at the micros through my results and blogging over the years. I am flattered by it really because in relation to the people mentioned above I have accomplished very little in this game. However, I am glad that I have had the power to provide guidance to even a couple of you out there. I know that some of the people listed above had a big impact on my poker career. If I can do that for someone else as well, then that is awesome.

Everybody Needs a Poker Hero

I guess the point of this short piece is to say that you should stay inspired by what is possible in this game even during your darkest hours. The reality is that only one person can be the best heads up cash game player in the world. But Doug Polk has shown that with the right amount of dedication and focus that it is possible to go all the way from the micros to the very top of the game. If you play online MTTs then maybe that player for you is Chris Moorman with an all-time best of well over 10 million dollars in cashes.

If you play live cash games then maybe Tom "Durrrr" Dwan inspires you with his amazing bluffs and sixth sense for the game. Or maybe a hardened veteran who blazed paths for all of us like Barry Greenstein or Doyle Brunson is somebody who you look up to. Heck, if you play live poker tournaments then maybe Phil Hellmuth is your man!

Never stop dreaming in this game. Very few of us will ever achieve the results of these people however their power to inspire and show us "what is possible" can have a huge impact on our success. Study what makes them tick more than the actual technical details of how they play the game. Their character, work ethic and ability to see the forest through the trees, to use a tired old cliche, is often what truly makes them great.

All the best at the tables, unless you are at mine :)

If you found this article helpful then please do me a favor and share it with your friends by hitting the "Like" or "Tweet" button below!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hand Reading at the Micros

hand reading in micro stakes poker
Hand reading is a term that has been around in poker for a long time. It basically means exactly what it sounds like, reading somebody's hand. But the usage of this term has decreased in popularity in recent years at least in online poker parlance. The reason why is that the phrase "hand reading" sort of comes from the old school live poker way of thinking about the game where somebody actually calls out their opponent's hand. We have all seen examples of this by the TV poker pros especially. Although nevermind how much editing is actually done behind the scenes so that we only see the times when they look like a genius!

Ranges, Not Hands

However the reason why hand reading (at least understood in this sense) is a bit silly in the modern online game is that we don't think in terms of an actual hand very often anymore. We think instead in terms of ranges. So for instance when I am facing a bet on the river I might break down my opponent's range as such: he has the flush 30% of the time, a pair/two pair/set type hand that beats me 30% of the time, a pair hand that I beat 20% of the time and a bluff the final 20%. In this way you can see that I never list any actual hands. I am more interested in the frequency with which my opponent has different types of hands. I am analyzing my opponent's range. Whichever specific hands are included within this range are not important.

Poker is Not a Black or White Game

Another bad habit from this live poker old school way of thinking is seeing the game in a black or white sense. I can't tell you how many times in the past a student has told me that he is folding because his gut tells him that his opponent always has the flush here. I try to gently remind them that their opponent rarely ever has anything 100% of the time. While it is true that they might have the flush X% of the time, they will also have a variety of other holdings in various frequencies as well.

It should be noted that there may actually be real cases at the micros where according to some relevant HUD data your opponent absolutely has a specific hand or type of hand 100% of the time. I will discuss this in a bit. But black or white thinking about an opponent's holdings which is based off nothing more than a hunch is simply the wrong way to view the game the large majority of the time. Almost everyone has a range in every spot even if it is 90% skewed to one particular type of holding.

Old School Versus New School

It may seem that I am bashing live poker so far in this article. I can assure you that this is not my intention. However, heavily edited TV poker shows and Hollywood depictions of the game have (for better or worse) often presented a distorted image of poker in the mind of many casual players. In fact much of the general public still thinks about poker as a game of luck and machismo played in dark smokey rooms by mafia kingpins with guns on the table. The reality of course could not be anything further from this. Modern day poker is a mathematical/logical skill based game often dominated by young college educated professionals seated behind laptops.

The popular depictions of poker in our culture though have created a way of thinking about the game that is often short sighted and devoid of any logical or mathematical thought. This is fine by me most of the time because it is this romantic allure of the game which still draws the casuals in. The big call, the table talk, the bravado, the "poker face," the millions on the line! And the TV pros (most of whom in actuality aren't anywhere near the top of the game skillwise) have done a great job in perpetuating this image and drawing in the recreational players.

But it often instills the exact opposite view of the game to what I try to teach on this blog, in my books and videos which is a systematic, sober, long run approach to beating low stakes cash games. Indeed, for many people just starting out in this game they cannot begin to have success until they start deprogramming themselves of many of these myths and archaic ways of thinking about the game.

The Micros (as Usual) are "Different"

Now with all of this said, the ironic thing is that once you have played enough hands at the micros you can actually call out your opponent's specific hand in some spots and expect to be right a large amount of the time. Those of you who have seen my DragTheBar videos for instance will know that I regularly do this. Sometimes I am wrong (and I don't edit it out) but more often than not I am right.

I am able to do this because many micro stakes players have absolutely zero balance in their game. For instance when the 18 tabling 11/9 nit at NL5 raises my double barrel I can just look at the board and pick from the possible sets that he can have. This is because he literally has one of those hands every single time given his actions in the hand. I don't even need to look at the HUD data. Indeed, one of the main reasons why poker gets a lot tougher at higher limits is because people don't play like this anymore. They do in fact have non-nut made hands, semi-bluffs and even air in a spot like this. Therefore, it is impossible to call out their hand.

Truthfully though this is still not a good habit to get into even at the lowest stakes and I should stop doing it. You should always try to hand read in terms of ranges even at these limits. In most cases, especially on the earlier streets, your opponents will actually have many different types of holdings. And even if they are one of those absolutely no balance nits it is still a good idea to train yourself to think about the game correctly for when you face more quality opposition at higher limits.

Use Your HUD Efficiently

Your HUD can help a lot in this respect. By looking at the actual numbers you are forced to think in a more mathematical modern way about the game rather than the black and white "feel" approach which I have tried to warn against in this article. So for instance if I am trying to assess my opponent's calling range on the flop I will look specifically at his Float Flop CBet%. I am of course assuming a proper sample size here. For many nits at the lowest stakes their Float Flop CBet may be as little as 10% because they play a fit or fold game. Therefore, if they call me on the flop I will assign them a very narrow range of overpairs, top pairs (good kicker) and big draws.

However, with a more sticky reg or a recreational player who might float the flop 30% or 40% of the time I will assign them a much wider range of overpairs, top pairs, middle pairs, bottom pairs, big draws, weak draws and even total air on occasion. I will therefore be more likely to bet again against this type of player on the turn unimproved. If they were to raise me on the turn then I will once again refer to the appropriate HUD stat (Raise Turn CBet% in this case). I will again put them on a range of hands based off of the data and make my decision from there.

Perfection is Not Required

I want to also mention that I am not looking for perfection when analyzing an opponent's range with HUD stats like this. Often I don't even take the time to assign specific percentages to the various types of hands within their range. I just want a general idea of the types of hands that I am facing and the rough frequencies with which I think they will show up with them.

So for instance, here is what I might say to myself when facing a double barrel with middle pair versus a nitty opponent who CBets the turn only 30% of the time. "I think my opponent's range here consists mostly of top pair and overpair hands. While he may be barreling a draw or continuing to bet on a scare card from time to time, given the player type and the HUD stats, I think I am behind here much more often than not." And the obvious conclusion, "Therefore, I fold."

Some people take it to the other extreme these days though and go completely overboard with the math in a situation like this by counting card combinations and trying to get exact range frequencies. Don't do this either. The most obvious reason why? You don't have time to be doing this stuff while multi-tabling micro stakes cash games! The practical (not perfect) approach that I just laid out above is much more conducive to success in the real world. Being off by a few digits is not going to affect your bottom line by any large degree in the long run. Being the world's greatest "poker theorist" but never having the time to actually play the game is what is really going to hurt your bottom line.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article has shed a little bit of light on the idea of hand reading especially as it applies to the micros. I really think that the term should simply be retired and we would do better to call it "analyzing your opponent's range."

While it can be tempting to use the old school approach of calling out hands against many of the un-creative players at the micros these days it is better to train yourself to start thinking about the game in terms of ranges. And the easiest way to do this is to make good use of your HUD stats. By constantly referring to actual percentages this will help you to start seeing the game more in terms of frequencies and ranges rather than specific hands. You can go check out my mega article on HUD setup for all of the exact stats that I suggest having on your screen.

Also, you should avoid going overboard in the other direction by overanalyzing every situation and using complex mathematical theories against very simple opponents. This stuff is often ineffective and impractical in the real world of multi-tabling low stakes online cash games. If you hang around in poker forums too much and get caught up in every new "theory" that comes out it can become very easy to overwhelm yourself with a lot of nonsense that doesn't actually make a difference to your bottom line.

The biggest winners are at the tables putting in big volume day in and day out. They know not to oversimplify the game but also not to overanalyze it either. They use simple but effective common sense, logical approaches bolstered by effective HUD use to dominate today's games. They analyze ranges to make their decisions, not hands. But they do so in a way which seeks efficiency and not perfection.

I hope that 87% of you found this article to be helpful in some way. If so, please do me a favor and share it with your friends by hitting the "Like" or "Tweet" button below.

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.

Friday, February 27, 2015

9 Quick Fixes That Will Improve Your Bottom Line at the Micros Right Now

the top 9 ways to improve your winrate at the micros right away
Many people struggle at the micros these days. And the hardest thing, especially for a newer player, is to be able to pinpoint exactly where the problems are. I hate having to give a generic answer about how to approach these stakes when somebody emails me about their troubles at them. However, truth be told this is often the best that I can do. Without any real knowledge about their game there is no way that I can pinpoint exactly where the problems are either. In fact I know from coaching a lot of people at these stakes in the past that it can often take several sessions of rigorous database review and sweats to really zero in on the main issues.

However, I think that there are several "quick fixes" that apply almost universally at the micros, especially at the lowest stakes. So much so that if a struggling NL2, NL5 or NL10 player was to make these changes right now, it would likely improve their bottom line in a significant way. They probably won't all apply to you. And they aren't going to address any major underlying issues that may exist in your game such as tilt or fundamental errors. There is no quick fix solution for these. However, hopefully a few of the suggestions below can help yield a noticeable improvement in your results in these games.

Let's get started.

1) Make Big Bets With Big Hands Against Bad Players. When you have a big hand (top pair or better) and you are up against a recreational player you need to be betting at least 75% of the pot on every single street. If they have a better hand, believe me, they will let you know. I will get to that in a sec. Don't make half pot bets or slowplay versus these players with a big hand anymore. This is damaging your winrate more than you know. 

2)  Make Big Folds With Big Hands Versus Passive Players. When you have a big hand (top pair or even a big overpair) you need to be finding the fold button when a passive player raises you on the turn or the river. What is a passive player? Most players at the micros, especially at the lower end, are passive. They will typically have a low aggression factor of 1 or 2. The will have a low raise flop Cbet and raise turn CBet (often it will be a single digit). And the passive stats will usually show up in all other areas of their game as well such as 3Bet, 4Bet, attempt to steal and so on.

Most regs and recreational players at these stakes will simply be incapable of raising you on the turn or the river without a monster. And I am assuming here by the way that you raised preflop and then double or triple barreled them. When a reg raises you for instance after you raised preflop, bet the flop and the turn you should view this as extreme strength almost all of the time at the micros. And yes this includes when they only mini-raise you. Many people get fooled by this. It's ok to flat with your top pair/overpair on the flop if you get raised. Sometimes they will get bold and raise on this street with a draw, decent made hand or even air. On the big money streets though (turn and river) where a raise commits a significant portion of their stack, it is literally always the nuts. Take a deep breath, hit the fold button and move on. 

3) Stop Limping. There is literally no scenario where it makes any sense at all to limp. Imagine for instance that you have 87s on the button and three people have limped in front of you. Should you just join the limp party like everybody else and hope to hit a cheap flop? Negative. Raise them up and take control of the situation! Now you have given yourself more ways to win the pot (CBet as well as making a hand). And also, if you actually do manage to hit something good you are much more likely to get paid off now. This is because when you force somebody to put something in the middle before seeing the flop they are much more likely to give action if they catch a piece themselves. Nobody is going to pay you off in a limped pot unless you happen to cooler the crap out of them.

4) Stop Calling So Many 3Bets. At the lower end of the micros (NL2 and NL5 in particular) you would do just fine if you only called 3Bets with something like 88+ and AQ/AK. In fact in my first book, which is aimed directly at these stakes, this is the exact range that I suggest. Why? Because calling 3Bets with hands like 55, ATs or 98s, especially when out of position, is often only going to lead to more problems down the road. This is especially the case for a lot of newer poker players who do not possess a very strong postflop skillset yet. Often they will make a decent 2nd best hand and end up calling down without realizing that they actually only beat a bluff.

Just do yourself a favor and fold these hands most of the time to a 3Bet at these stakes for now. Often the players at these limits aren't 3Betting you nearly as wide as you might think they are and you don't need to create any kind of image anyways. Always keep things as simple as possible at NL2 and NL5 in particular and avoid putting yourself in unnecessary marginal spots. You have much more important things to focus your attention on such as finding and slaying the fish. 

5) Use a HUD and Use it Correctly. A question that I get asked a lot is this: "Can I win without using a HUD at the micros?" The answer is clearly yes. I have actually played a significant amount of my online hands without using one, although this was many years ago. Back then you could easily get away with it because everybody was terrible and ABC poker was all that you needed to know in order to win big. In today's games you can still win at the micros without using a HUD but it might be like playing a round of golf with only one club against a bad golfer like me. If you have any kind of skills on the golf course you would probably still beat me even with that one club. However, most golfers carry around 9 or 10 of them at a time for a reason. Even if they only use one or two clubs with any degree of regularity it is just nice to have all of those other options.

The same thing applies to using a HUD in online poker. Even if you only have the most basic stats on your display having this extra information available can only be a good thing. Why would you not want that? The Coke and Pepsi of online poker HUDs are Pokertracker and Hold'em Manager. I personally use Pokertracker but both companies make good programs. Both have free 30 day trials so there is really no reason at all to not at least test drive one. Unlike many other poker products a HUD is pretty much guaranteed to pay for itself over time. If you are at all serious about online poker then do yourself a favor and get one. You can go check out my article on custom HUD setup for additional help getting started and understanding what all of the stats mean.

6) Don't Look at Your Results During a Session. This is a quick fix that is almost guaranteed to make you start playing better right now. The reason why is that when most people start losing their level of play begins to deteriorate and they often don't even notice it happening until they are on full blown tilt and making numerous costly mistakes. If you don't actually know whether you are winning or losing though then this is much less likely to happen. You may currently be in the habit of spamming the cashier button every 5 minutes. Don't worry I used to do the same thing. It is not easy to break this habit at first. But what you need to remember is that poker is all about the long run.

It is basically impossible for you to ever play a meaningful sample size of hands in a single session. In fact I think the world record may still belong to Chicago Joey and his legendary prop bet from a few years back to play 50k hands in 24 hours at NL25 with a positive winrate. But even 50k hands is still not really a rock solid sample. As I always say, I believe that 100k hands is the minimum amount that you must have before you can say anything with absolute certainty about your winrate in a particular game. So those 500 or even 5000 hands that you will play in your next session are actually pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Try resisting the urge to look at your cashier for just one session and see how it works out for you.

7) Always Play With Fish! Set a new rule for yourself starting from today. Anytime you are at a poker table there must be somebody there who is playing 40% or more of their hands or else you leave. No ifs, ands or buts. If you have just joined the table and there is nobody who you have previously tagged as a recreational player but there are a few unknowns then that is fine, take a seat. However, it only takes about 20 hands at the most to know the basic player type of every single person at the table (VPIP/PFR/AF). Therefore if after 2 orbits in full ring (3 in 6max) you do not spot anyone with a VPIP that is 40% or above, it's time to leave. Same thing applies after you do find the mark. If they leave the table, so do you. It just cannot be overstated how huge this is for your winrate in today's games. If you really want to crush then you will go the extra mile and always do this.

If you play Zoom this can be quite a bit more difficult of course and this is a huge part of the reason why I do not really suggest playing Zoom unless you are a prolific rakeback grinder. It is very difficult to assess the quality of the pool unless you have extensive data and tags on a lot of the people playing. With that said, there are still fish everywhere at least at NL2 and NL5 these days so it should not be too big of a problem at these stakes. However, you still need to make sure that 40%+ VPIPs are regularly showing up at your tables. If they are not, then it's time to leave. But better yet do yourself a favor and just play the regular tables if crushing is really a priority for you. For much more on finding the rec players go check out my ultimate guide to table selection.

8) Stop Open Raising From the SB so Much. Most people these days know that it is a good idea to steal the blinds a lot against the passive nits who populate the micros in large numbers. And I totally agree if you are on the button or the cutoff. But a lot of people take this too far and raise nearly any two when it is folded to them in the SB as well. After all there is only one person to beat here right? Even better! Correct, but there is a fundamental difference between these two situations. When we are on the button or the cutoff we are in position. When we are in the SB we are not.

If the BB happens to be a totally clueless mass tabling nit then go ahead and steal his blinds all day long. But if he looks even remotely competent chances are you are going to be spewing money by raising with a really wide range here. This is because even most mediocre regs at the micros these days know that many people raise too much in this spot and therefore they should increase their 3Betting range. I personally 3Bet the crap out of people who do this a lot especially when I see that they don't fight back very often (which is most of them). Don't raise any two when it is folded to you in the SB. Any decent reg at the micros these days will make you pay for it.

9) 3Bet Light Against the Right Opponents. There are plenty of regs at the lower end of the micros who will fold everything but the nuts when they get 3Bet. Frequently 3Bet these players with hands that you would normally just call with and even a few that you would normally fold. These players are easy to spot because they will have a Fold to 3Bet of 70%, 80% or even higher. Be sure to only 3Bet them light when they open somewhere close to the button. Do not 3Bet their early position open with weak holdings because they will often have an extremely strong range in these spots.

I hope that this list of "quick fixes" will be useful to you at the micro stakes cash tables. The one thing that all of these suggestions have in common is that they are fairly easy to apply immediately. And believe me, from years and years of experience at the micros, and especially the lowest stakes, (NL2 and NL5) I know that they all still work exceedingly well. Commit to taking action on a few of these in your very next session and I promise you that better results will follow. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

If you found this article helpful then please do me a favor and hit the "Like" or "Tweet" button below.
Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Poker and Traveling the World - Taking Your Game on the Road

traveling the world and poker
Boracay, The Philippines
One of the best things about playing online poker professionally (or just working online in general) is that you are location independent. Your office is anywhere in the world that has an internet connection which is basically anywhere on earth in 2015. This is definitely one of the biggest things that drew me to online poker initially. That is, the idea of working for myself and having the freedom to live life on my own terms. It has been nearly 8 years now since I left my last "real job" and I have no intentions of ever going back to something like that again.

So I finally took full advantage of this freedom only just a few years ago when I booked a one way ticket to Bangkok. I have written about what it is like to live in Thailand as an online poker player a few times before on this blog and they have become some of my most popular and commented on posts ever. In fact these days it seems that not a week goes by where I do not receive an email from somebody who is about to make the move here and wants some advice on how to settle in. I have personally seen explosive growth in the number of poker players (and online professionals in general) living in this region in just the short amount of time that I have been here. This is especially the case in Chiang Mai, where I spend most of my time, which is often dubbed the "digital nomad capital of the world."

However, something that rarely gets talked about (at least in the poker community) is the idea of traveling as opposed to simply just moving somewhere. A lot of the poker players who have taken the leap and moved to a place like Thailand (or a ton of other places around the globe such as Mexico, Malta, Argentina etc.) tend to stay in the same place for most of the year with maybe the odd visit back to their home country. Often they live in a big poker house with 4 other poker players and kind of stick to themselves. There are some obvious advantages to this. Having a stable internet connection being among the top of them. It also helps to keep the costs down when you stay in one place and share the rent.

But there is a whole world out there and if you have the ability and the willingness to go see it then I think you should do so especially when you are young. This is something that I only began to do just last year when I spent some time in the Philippines. I actually released Modern Small Stakes while I was staying in Manila. It was a fascinating experience overall and I will definitely be back to that country in the future. Filipino people and their culture is far different than what I am used to in Thailand even though it is only a short flight away. 

This kind of lifestyle (relocating or traveling abroad) is something that is becoming more and more of a possibility for many people all of the time. Internet use continues to grow rapidly all over the globe and more people than ever are running home based online businesses or working remotely for a large company (upwards of 1 in 5 Americans at least part-time according to Forbes). I actually think that this type of work/life arrangement is absolutely the future for a whole host of different reasons but that is for another article.

I can tell from the response to previous articles of mine that this is something that many of you are interested in as well. And of course playing online poker professionally (or live as well) is one way to make this happen. I am no expert on traveling the world yet but I have lived abroad for a few years now and wandered around a bit as well. I hope to provide some tips in this article on relocating and travel especially as it relates to online poker players.

Living a life like this is really not as hard as many people think it is. And those of you reading this who have already taken the leap and moved halfway around the world should know this better than anyone. But there is still this myth out there that you have to be rich to do something like this, especially to travel a lot. This really just isn't the case at all if you go about it correctly.

online poker and relocating abroad
My studio apartment in downtown Manila, The Philippines
Change Your Idea of What it Means to Travel

The first thing that you need to do is think about traveling in a different way. When I talk about traveling the world I am not talking about package tourism vacations like most people go on where you stay in a 5 star resort for a week and sip martinis on the beach. I am also not talking about riding the chicken bus and slumming it in hostels with the backpackers either.

It's not that there is anything wrong with either of these. I have gone on vacations to some ridiculous beaches in recent years such as Boracay and Phuket although typically staying in 3 starish accommodations. I have also had an amazing time backpacking through countries like Laos with 23 year old free spirits from Ohio. But both of these types of travel are rare for me because they tend to restrict you from getting much work done and they are also a fairly superficial experience in my opinion. When I talk about travel what I really mean is a longer stay type of trip where you live a more structured life and also get a much deeper understanding of the local people and culture. However, I don't stick around long enough to be considered an expat either. 

So this is why I prefer to stay in the country that I am traveling to for at least 1 month and 3 at the most. I will typically rent an apartment or a condo outside of the main tourist areas which allows me to get much better prices on everything and see more of the actual day to day life there. Some people might say that this is not even traveling at all, that I am more or less just placing myself in a foreign culture for a bit. This may be true. But semantics aside I believe that this is the best way to truly experience a foreign country. I don't think that you can really begin to understand a vastly different culture in a week especially while spending most of your time cooped up in a resort or a hostel with a bunch of other foreigners. It is also the best way to maintain  a reasonably normal life/work balance while traveling. 

There are some huge cost saving advantages to this way of traveling as well. Firstly, when you rent an apartment by the month you are going to save a fortune. If you hang out in hotels or even hostels paying the daily rate all the time, it is going to get expensive real quick. I am not really a fan of using the internet to book longer stay places like this. I want to see it in person myself first. This is why when I go to a new country or city I will book a hotel or guesthouse in advance on the internet for a couple of days and then hit the pavement looking at as many longer term places as I can during that time.

poker and traveling
My most recent one bedroom apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sometimes a significant hurdle can be finding a place where they allow month to month rentals. When I am on the road like this I typically have no wish to sign any sort of lease. If you want the baller pad it is going to be difficult to find one without a lease. This is why when traveling I often end up staying in a studio apartment of some sort. Sometimes this is even just a hotel room. A lot of them actually do have a monthly rate if you just ask. When I am back in Thailand where I spend most of the year I will get a nicer one bedroom apartment or even a house because I am willing to sign the lease (although 6 months max).


Internet is obviously a huge issue for all poker players or anyone who works online. However I do think that some poker players may put off traveling because they feel that they need the fastest most stable connection on earth to do their job. Unless you are playing high stakes HU hypers or something this probably isn't really the case. Most people reading this blog play micro stakes cash games where the money involved in a single pot is rarely large and you often get a healthy disconnect timebank as well. The amount of EV that you are actually giving up even on a dodgy wifi connection is pretty insignificant in most cases.

However when looking for a longer stay place an already installed broadband connection (ADSL or cable) is still extremely high on my list. I will also ask to connect to the internet while I am there so that I can quickly run a Speedtest on the connection through my laptop. If I don't have my laptop on me then I will at least test the wifi using the Speedtest app on my phone (AndroidApple). 

Sometimes however it can be hard to find a place with a solid internet connection already set up. Furthermore, setting up your own line with a local ISP might not work because they will often want you to sign a long term contract. I am of course not sticking around long term. There are always other options such as tethering a strong connection from your phone or using an aircard but many times I have simply just relied on the wifi connection. They are not always as bad as you might think and here are a few tips to help with that.

Firstly, most apartment or condo buildings will have a wifi router on each floor. Make sure that the place that you are looking at is as close to this device as possible. If they do not have an available apartment close to the router then do not stay there. Secondly, avoid massive condo or apartment buildings that have hundreds of units if you have to rely on the wifi. This many people will dilute and weaken the signal no matter what. And lastly, once again check the connection on your phone prior to moving in. Focus on the stability of the line especially, low ping. 

online poker players moving overseas
A typical market stall in Chiang Mai, Thailand selling Pad Thai for $1
Live Like a Local

Since you won't be living in a tourist resort you won't be getting charged 4 times the price for everything. Go out to eat at the local restaurants, go to the local markets and pick up fresh meat and produce for a ridiculously low price. Try to speak the local language with them a bit, they will love you for even trying. Basically just try to live (mostly) like they do. You will of course still stick out like a sore thumb. It is absolutely impossible to avoid this. But who cares, this is all part of the experience. 

I should mention that I am not talking about living in the middle of nowhere in some remote fishing village or something here. That could get a little sketchy. I typically stick to major cities where some English is going to be spoken and there will be some foreigners living there as well. You should do some research on the city before your go there so that you have a rough idea of the various districts, where the tourists traps are, where the expats live etc. 

I personally think that Google Maps (Android, Apple) is one of the greatest inventions ever. I place pins all over the city on my phone before I ever even get there. I make sure to grab a sim card and buy some data as soon as I arrive. Often you can get this right away at the airport. Knowing exactly where you are and where you want to go at all times will make your life so much easier.

One of my favorite things to do is to rent a motorbike and just take off to explore the surrounding area. Knowing that I can't get lost even if nobody speaks any English at all is a huge help. It will also save you time and money when a taxi driver inevitably quotes you some ridiculous price or tries to give you the tour of the city in order to keep the meter running longer.


The biggest expense with traveling is always the airfare. There are many ways to "hack" the system by collecting points on credit cards and using frequent flyer programs. I try to do a little bit of this but I am no expert on the subject. There are definitely some ways to save on airfares beyond this though. First off, I always fly economy. I am not some rich high stakes baller. I have to travel with the regular folk, that's just the way it is. 

But really, it's mostly just the obvious stuff. Try to avoid flying on a weekend. The cheaper flights are almost always during the week. Try to avoid flying during a peak tourist season or a big holiday. Airlines know that demand will be high and they will often jack up the price. Booking well in advance is another big one. You should always book any flight at least 6 weeks prior to the departure date as the price will often be half of what it is if you book at the last minute. The best promotions are always available to those who book early as well.

Ultimately the best way to save on flight costs though is to simply not fly at all. Or if you must fly then at least try to keep it local and use budget airlines like Ryanair in Europe, JetBlue in America or AirAsia in Asia. And by keeping it local I mean going to another country in the region and avoiding trans-oceanic flights as much as possible. As you can imagine for instance it costs me literally nothing at all to fly on a budget carrier from Bangkok to Phnom Penh or Kuala Lumpur especially when I book well in advance and take advantage of promotions. However, if I want to fly to London or New York it is going to cost me a lot more money no matter how I go about it. 

poker and traveling the world
Visas, Medical Coverage, Ability to Play Online Poker

Most of you who are reading this are from a Western country. Passport holders in these nations consistently enjoy the highest travel freedoms in the world. This means that you can go to most countries either visa free or by getting a visa on arrival. This will typically get you 1-3 months depending on the country. Often you can extend your stay if you want by heading to a local immigration office inside the country and paying some sort of fee. Be aware that there are some countries where you might have to apply for a visa ahead of time though such as China or Vietnam. Just do a bit of basic research on the internet before you go and you will be fine. 

Regarding health care often it is very cheap for minor stuff in non-western countries but it is still a good idea to get some sort of worldwide coverage for if anything major happens. Coverage plans can be found very easily with a simple Google search and they are often inexpensive. Make sure to read the fine print though because many of them will not cover stuff like motorbike accidents. These companies are well aware that people love to come to a place like Southeast Asia, rent a cheap little scooter not having any previous experience driving them and mess themselves up. 

Lastly, if playing poker on the internet is your primary source of income then you should obviously be aware of any laws or restrictions before you go to any country. As most people know for instance your options for playing online poker in America are currently very limited. In some countries such as France, Denmark or Italy you may have trouble getting on Pokerstars because they have private networks for their own citizens. On the flip side if playing live poker interests you then the US is a great destination for that. Just make sure to do your research on this before you go. The travel forum on 2+2 is often a great source of information for this sort of thing. 

Slow Travel in Low Cost Destinations

I certainly did not invent this type of slow travel approach. It is very popular among online professionals these days and Tim Ferriss even mentioned it in his legendary book "The 4 Hour Work Week" many years ago when he talked about the idea of taking "mini-retirements" throughout your life. As he points out, the idea of waiting until you are old and perhaps have medical problems to "retire" and start enjoying your life is simply a ridiculous concept. You should go live your life while you are young. Placing yourself in a completely foreign culture for awhile will challenge you and make you grow as a person in ways that were previously unknown to you. And it doesn't cost anywhere near as much as many people think.

This is because most of the places that are high on my list to go to are of course countries where the cost of living is low. As much as I would love to go live in Australia for a couple of months for example this isn't likely to happen. Why would I go there when the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Dominican Republic, Mexico, Columbia etc. are all places that also have great weather and beaches and I can live in them for a fraction of the cost? I will certainly travel to places like Europe and Australia at some point for the experience but not for a long stay given the current economic conditions. 

Countries in Southeast Asia and Central and South America are the best places to go these days for living either long term or short term. They typically have great weather all year round and a low cost of living. Here is the current monthly cost for a one bedroom apartment in a bunch of major cities in these regions. All data comes from, a great website for comparing the cost of living in various places all over the world. It should be mentioned that a studio apartment will often be considerably cheaper but numbeo does not provide any data on these.

Medellin, Columbia: $216
Bangkok, Thailand: $530
Phnom Penh, Cambodia: $470
Guayaquil, Ecuador: $283
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: $495
San Jose, Costa Rica: $557
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico: $470
Chiang Mai, Thailand: $332
Buenos Aires, Argentina: $577
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: $436
Manila, The Philippines: $443
Bali, Indonesia: $275

And for comparison...

New York City, USA: $2736
London, England: $2393
Sydney, Australia: $1747
Vancouver, Canada: $1463
Berlin, Germany: $726
Stockholm, Sweden: $1129
Paris, France: $1265

Obviously there are much cheaper cities in Western countries to live in than these but the same can be said for any of the Asian and Central/South American countries listed above as well. For instance, it will only set you back $664 a month for a one bedroom apartment in Winnipeg, Canada and at $169 a month you can almost live for free in Sakon Nakhon, Thailand. However neither of these places are highly sought after destinations to live in (please don't send me hate mail if you are from Winnipeg or Sakon Nakhon!).

The point is that if you want to live abroad and even move around a lot as I discuss in this article it is actually much cheaper than most people think. In fact even with airfare and visa fees added in (which are often non-existent on short term stays) if you live the modest lifestyle away from the tourist areas like I suggest in this article, then you would likely still cut your expenses considerably in comparison to living in any major Western city.

This is a huge part of the reason why an increasing number of people who make a living online are deciding to leave. It simply does not make financial sense for me to live in my own city of Vancouver for instance compared to many of the low cost destinations listed above. The 30 degree year round weather in a place like Thailand is a nice bonus as well!

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article proved useful to some of you who are considering some sort of travel or relocation abroad. As I have said before, the hardest part really is just getting on the plane. Most people have a ton of questions about everything in the world before they leave (I did too). However, once they arrive they find out how easy it actually is to get themselves set up. It is only scary the first time you do it. More than likely you will be kicking yourself that you didn't take off for an adventure like this sooner. 

And as mentioned, the actual cost, which is the biggest barrier in many people's mind, is actually pretty trivial in a lot of these countries if you learn how to keep your costs down. I had a comment on my Thailand mega article a little while ago which I think sums it up pretty well:

online poker and traveling the world

If this guy can make it playing NL5 for 3 years then I think clearly anything is possible. And there are many more stories like this as well. Don't get me wrong though, it is definitely much preferable in my opinion if you play higher stakes than this and I would highly recommend having some decent savings (at least 6 months living expenses) set aside as well.

However, people like Turlock prove that if you can crush the lowest stakes of online poker then you do have some options. I honestly wish that I had thought of it myself a few years earlier when I used to click buttons all day long at NL2 and NL5 for some ridiculous winrates.

I do want to follow my own advice in this article though and expand my horizons a little bit more this year with some semi-frequent travel. So at the risk of turning this into another travel blog I may include some updates on that in the future. I wish you all the best in whatever your goals are in poker and in life. Hopefully this article helped provide some insight into a slightly different approach to life which is becoming more and more popular these days.

Let me know your thoughts on traveling/relocation and poker in the comments below! And if there are any questions that you want to fire my way about this, go right ahead. 

If you found this article helpful please do me a favor and click the "Like" or "Tweet" button below. Thanks!
Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.