Monday, May 22, 2017

The Best Time to Play Poker (A Data Driven Answer)

What is the best time to play poker?
A question that I get asked a lot is what is the best time to play poker. More specifically the right time of the day and the best days of the week.

And this is an important question because in my experience there definitely are certain times when the games are simply better (i.e. more fish). Therefore if you play more during these times, this will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your win-rate.

In this article I am going to tell you what the best times to play poker are as well as the top days of the week and months of the year as well.


1. Play More When Most People Play Poker


First things first in order to determine what the best hours of the day to play are, all you really have to do is look at where the majority of poker players come from.

It is just a simple fact that the more people who are online and playing poker, the better chance that you will have of finding the recreational players.

These are the people who play the game for fun, also called the fish. They don't really care about improving, they lose their money at lightning speed and they bankroll the entire industry.

If you want to know how to spot the fish easier make sure to check out my article on the top 5 signs of bad poker players. 

While people like to debate about which country has the worst poker players the truth is that you have good players and bad players in every part of the world. So your best bet to find more of the bad ones is to simply log on when most people are playing.


So where do most online poker players come from?

Well, since most poker sites are private companies and don't release this kind of data, it can be difficult to know for sure.

However, my website (the one that you are reading right now) receives a large amount of traffic from all over the world from people looking to improve their poker game at the micro stakes.

So by reviewing my Google Analytics data this gives a pretty good indication of where most online poker players come from.

Here is a snapshot of the top 10 countries to visit this website in the past year:

The right time to play poker

With the U.S., Canada and Brazil all in the top 5 this represents a significant chunk of poker players who all come from similar timezones. They also represent about 25% of my overall traffic.

However, the U.K. and European countries actually make up a substantially bigger portion of my overall traffic and the online poker industry as a whole these days.

In fact, if I had included the top 25 or top 50 traffic sources to this website you would see a lot more European timezone countries.

So what is missing from this list? Well that's easy, Asia. There is only one country in the top 10 (Australia) that is in the Asian timezones.

Since I live in Asia myself, I also know for a fact that online poker traffic is the absolute worst during the prime-time hours here. This is why I tend to play super early in the morning or very late at night.


So the key takeaway is this:

If you want to play online poker when there is the most traffic then I would suggest playing when it is late afternoon and evening in Europe. This is the best time to play.

Prime-time hours in the North American timezones are not quite as good but they are decent overall. Avoid prime-time hours in Asia, it's the nut low time to play poker.


2. Play Less on Weekdays, More on the Weekends


My second tip on the best times to play poker is to play more on the weekends. And seriously, it isn't even close.

The absolute worst thing you can do is sit down on a Monday or Tuesday and expect there to be tons of great action going on.

The reason why is simple. People aren't in a gambling mood on these days of the week. They are back at work, they are in "get stuff done" mode. They aren't kicking back, having a few, and trying their hand at a little online poker.

The weekends are a whole different story. I have literally made a career out of ditching my friends on many Friday and Saturday nights in order to chase the maniacs around. Often they will play deep into the night and the games can get very crazy.

I would not be surprised if my win-rate is at least a full point or two higher when playing on a Saturday night compared to a Monday morning.

So the key takeaway here is to try and play the most on the weekends if possible. This is when most people are off from work and playing online poker.

This is also when they are more likely to be in a gambling mood and therefore the action tends to be a lot better in both cash games and tournaments.


3. Play More During the Holidays and Start of the Year


Online poker also has reasonably well defined seasonal trends in regards to how many people are playing. There are good times of the year to play poker and not as good.

The best time of the year to play online poker in my experience is always during the holidays and the first couple months of the year. The data clearly supports this as well.

As PocketFives reports there is a 20% drop in online poker traffic during the summer months compared to the winter months.
What is the Best Time to Play Poker?
And the reasons for this are pretty simple. Most people playing online poker come from North America or Europe. The weather is typically pretty bad during the winter months so people are more likely to log onto a poker site and get their gamble on.

In the summer months though the weather is great in these countries. Being from Canada I know that you look forward to July, August and September in particular all year. The last thing most people want to do during these months is be cooped up indoors all day playing some card game.

The other thing that I have noticed is that the action tends to get a lot better around the holidays as well, particularly Christmas and New Years.

A lot of people have time off from work during these periods. They are also in spend money mode and they are in a festive mood and ready to gamble as well.

The early months of the year are when gyms around the world do some of their best business of the year. And the same is true for online poker.

The reason why is all the New Years resolutioners who have made their plans to start getting into shape or beating online poker.

So if you want to enjoy the highest amount of traffic and game selection in online poker the first few months of the year are also a great time to play more.


Final Thoughts


The best time to play poker is something that people have long debated. The truth though is that it will only have a marginal impact on your chances of success in poker.

Things like having the right strategy and knowing how to control your emotions when the cards turn against you are actually far more important. However, you can certainly give yourself a small advantage by focusing more on playing poker at the right times.

Late afternoon and evening hours in Europe is the best time to play online poker. There is also plenty of good action going on during these hours in the North American timezones.

If you happen to live in Asia like I do, then you should seriously consider changing your playing schedule to fit this. And if you play mid or high stakes, then it is mandatory.

No matter what timezone you are in, weekends are almost always going to be the best time of the week to play. This is when people tend to have more free time and want to unwind by playing a little bit of online poker.

Always remember as well that the recreational fun players (who you will profit by far the most against) have jobs to attend to during the week. So the weekends are when they will be logging on to play their favorite hobby.

Lastly, try and play more in the winter months as well. The weather is often less than stellar in the countries where most online poker players come from. Also, the holidays and the new year can get people in the mood to gamble more.

If you want to improve your chances of succeeding in poker even more, then you should also play at the right poker sites where the fish tend to go to.

Let me know in the comments below what you think is the best time to play poker.

If you found this article helpful, do me a favor and give it a "Like" or a "Tweet" below. Thanks!

Best times to play poker

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Best Strategy For a Small Poker Bankroll

The best way to grow a small poker bankroll
Something that people ask me all the time is what to do with a small poker bankroll. They might only have $100, $50 or sometimes as little as $10!

Well first of all, I don't really recommend playing with a critically short bankroll like $10 or $20. However, I do understand that some people either cannot or do not want to deposit more.

Also some people might have gotten their micro sized bankroll by winning a freeroll and just want to see what they can do with it. I did something similar many years ago to start my poker career - I sold play money chips.

So in this article I am going to provide you with the best games and strategies to grow your small poker bankroll.


1. You Must Play Tight


First things first, with a tiny poker bankroll of $10 or $20 you are simply going to be short no matter what game type you choose or what limits you start at.

When I say short what I mean is that the size of your bankroll is inadequate for the games that you are playing in. In plain language this means that your risk of ruin (chances of losing it all) are much higher than if you were to use proper bankroll management.

So therefore, your hands are really tied in many ways no matter what you do.

The best way to make the best of this bad situation though is to play tight. And by tight I mean incredibly tight, like a complete nit!

I would only play extremely strong hands such as:

  • AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 88, 77, 66
  • AK, AQ, AJ
  • KQ, KJ

You get the idea. This will give you the best chance of getting your money in good and growing your bankroll.

If you choose to play all sorts of speculative hands like suited aces and suited connectors, you are essentially gambling with money that you cannot afford to lose.


2. You Must Be Very Selective About What Games You Play


Secondly, you are going to have to be very choosy about which games you decide to play in. I preach about the importance of table selection in today's games all the time on this blog.

Well, if you are on a critically low poker bankroll and don't want to lose it all, then you have no choice but to start heeding this advice.

When I say be selective about which games you play in, I mean that there is ALWAYS at least one fish seated at the table no matter what. If there isn't, then you leave.

What this does is ensure that there is always at least one soft spot at the table who is giving his money away. You will be able to regularly get in pots with them while having big advantage (odds in your favor) especially if you follow the advice above to play extremely tight.

Consistently getting your money in good is exactly what you need when you are on a small poker bankroll. You can't afford to play against good regulars all the time because they simply won't put themselves in positions where you have a huge advantage very often.

This means that the edges are a lot smaller and your variance (swings) will increase dramatically. These are two things that you need to avoid with a limited amount of poker funds.

One of the best ways to play against bad players on a consistent basis is to simply play at the softest poker rooms online.


3. You Should Play Cash Games or Sit And Go's


The next thing that you have to decide is which game type to play in, cash games, sit and go's or tournaments.

While this is largely a personal thing, and there are many pros and cons to each, on a small bankroll I would suggest playing either cash games or sit and go's.

In other words don't even think about playing tournaments!

The reason why cash games and sit and go's are preferable is because they have relatively low variance compared to tournaments.

What I mean by this is that you will "book a win" much more often in them. This is exactly the kind of thing that you need when your poker funds are in short supply.

Furthermore, it is much easier to table select and only play against bad players in cash games or sit and go's. In large tournaments you are at the mercy of whatever table you get randomly seated at.


4. You Should Play at the Very Lowest Stakes


This should almost go without saying but when you are on a short poker bankroll, then it is imperative that you play at the very lowest stakes offered.

Most online poker sites have cash games and sit and go's with buyins as low as $1. If your bankroll is $20, then this gives you a reasonable chance at overcoming basic variance and building up your bankroll.

Even though I would never suggest this normally, if you have limited poker funds I would recommend buying in for the minimum on the cash game tables. This will help protect your fledgling bankroll and give you more chances to succeed.

With limited funds I would also suggest leaving when you double up. When your poker bankroll is at such low levels, you never want to be playing deep stacked if you don't have to.

Most online poker sites have a large number of tables to choose from at the micro stakes. Once you manage to double up your initial buyin, leave the table and go join another one.


5. You Should Slowly Build Your Bankroll


Everybody has to start somewhere in poker. For me that was $60 from selling play money chips. I took that to the very lowest stakes cash games, 1c/2c blinds, and very slowly climbed up the limits.

From this tiny initial amount I have since made over 6 figures playing this game and even turned it into a full time career as I talked about in my last blog post.

So even though a micro sized bankroll is by no means ideal, it is workable if you are ready to start from the bottom and take it very slow.

Most people make the mistake of catching a few winning sessions and then immediately raising the stakes. This is a serious mistake because it was probably just variance that made them win in the first place.

You should stay at the very lowest stakes until you are well bankrolled for the next limit which means at least 30 buyins. So for instance, the next stake for cash games on a lot of poker sites after 1c/2c is 2c/5c.

You should have at least 30 full buyins (a full buyin means 100 big blinds) for this game before you even think about playing it. This means $150 in your bankroll ($5 x 30 = $150).

It is imperative that if you manage to survive and grow your bankroll, that you don't make the same mistake again by playing short at the next limit.


Final Thoughts


Playing on a small poker bankroll is never an ideal situation to be in no matter what stakes or game type you choose. This is why the best thing that you can do is simply deposit a proper amount to begin with.

But I understand that this is not an option for everybody and I myself started in a similar situation.

You can help your chances considerably though by playing very tight, being extremely selective about which games you join, playing cash games or sit and go's and starting at the very lowest stakes.

If you manage to survive the early going then the sky is the limit as to where you can go. Just remember to take it slow and use good bankroll management at all times in the future.

If you want to learn the strategies that I used to grow $60 into a massive poker bankroll and career, make sure to pick up a copy of my free ebook.

Let me know your thoughts on playing with a limited poker bankroll in the comments below.

If you found this article helpful, do me a favor and give it a "Like" or a "Tweet" below. Thanks!

The best strategy for a small poker bankroll

Monday, May 1, 2017

10 Years as a Poker Pro: This is What I Have Learned

10 year poker pro this is what I have learned
On a cold morning in April of 2007 I walked into an office building in Vancouver, Canada and told my boss that I was done. I was tired of being overworked and underpaid.

Even though I was a recent college graduate I was working long hours in a small company for a laughably low salary.

But more importantly I was spending all of my energy in life to help build somebody else's dream. To build their company, their business.

I promised myself never again.

I knew that the only way I was ever going to become successful, free and ultimately happy in life is if I found a way to work for myself.

Fortunately I had been playing online poker for awhile by that point. In fact, in the previous year I had rapidly climbed up the lower limits and built a low 5 figure bankroll.

On most days I would come home after working all day, play poker for a few hours online, and make twice what I made all day at my soul sucking job.

I also had about 6 months living expenses saved up in the bank. So the decision to quit my job and become a full time poker pro was actually a pretty simple one in my mind.

My friends (college educated and open minded) were mostly encouraging but I don't think they really understood it still. Game of luck right?

On the other hand, some members of my conservative Christian family actually told me that I was throwing my life away and that I should "go get help" instead.

Yikes. Talk about harsh!

Even though I knew it was just ignorance, these words lit a fire under me to succeed in this game more than anything else on earth. 

Ten year poker pro lessons I have learned

As I type this in April of 2017 I have just surpassed 10 years in this game, much of it as a full time professional poker player. I am known for having some of the highest winnings in the history of online poker at the lower limits.

In recent years I have also developed a large side business teaching the game as a multiple time author, video producer, coach, blogger and freelance writer for some of the biggest poker sites in the world.

And lastly, it was exactly 5 years ago that I made the arguably even crazier decision to sell everything that I own and hop on a 17 hour one way flight from Vancouver to Bangkok, Thailand.

In this article I am going to discuss 10 of the biggest poker and life lessons that I have learned during the past decade as an online poker pro and citizen of the world.


1. Treat Poker Like a Business


One of the first things I had to learn was that if I was ever going to really make it in this game, then I had to stop screwing around.

This meant that I had to stop playing whenever "I feel like it," playing while drinking, tilted, tired and so on.

In short, I had to learn how to approach this game like a professional would. Which really means to treat this game as if I am running a business.

Because as a professional poker player you are essentially the CEO of a small business. You alone are responsible for all decisions. And you alone are also responsible for all of your profits and all of your losses as well.

So I had to develop a "sink or swim" mentality because I knew that nobody was going to be there to hold my hand when things go horribly wrong at the poker tables for weeks or even months on end.

And my bills won't get paid just because I show up like at a regular job either. I simply had to win. I had to succeed. Losing was not an option.

This is the kind of pressure that comes when you turn this game from a hobby into a job. And you can't truly know what it is like until you take the plunge for yourself.

You can either thrive under this kind of pressure or let it bury you. I knew which path I was going to take.

So I got a consistent playing schedule which basically meant every waking moment of my life for the first several years. And I made time for regular study as well.

As they might say, I was completely "all-in" with poker. My entire life revolved around it for years.

I also made sure that I was always ready to play my A-game every time I sat down. This meant regular exercise as well as eating and sleeping right.

But perhaps most important of all, this is also when I learned how to finally deal with some of my tilt problems. Specifically, I learned how to quit when I knew that it just wasn't my day.

Because after all, as a pro I didn't have the luxury to get all frustrated and throw away a bunch of money like most people do.

I had bills to pay.


2. Don't Get Too High And Don't Get Too Low


Being Canadian I am naturally a huge ice hockey fan and I have played the game for most of my life as well.

In order to win the sport's ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup, you have to endure a two month long mentally and physically exhausting playoff grind.

A common cliche that you often hear players say is:

"Don't get too high when you win and don't get too low when you lose."

I think this is an incredibly important lesson to learn for poker as well. This is because the nature of the game is that you are on a never-ending rollercoaster.

It doesn't matter if your name is Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu, you are going to have losing days, weeks and sometimes even losing months in this crazy game.

But you will also win huge sometimes as well for extended periods. I will never forget when I won my first tournament or hit my first massive heater at the cash game tables for instance.

It is very important that you learn to take it all in stride though. Because neither the huge heaters nor the massive downswings are real.

These are the outliers. They are not normal. You aren't that good and you aren't that bad. This is just variance running it's course.

Don't get too high when the money is falling out of the sky and don't get too low when you can't win a hand to save your life.


3. Always Be Evolving


The game of poker (both online and live) is always changing. When I first started playing 10+ years ago a 3Bet literally meant AA or KK only. Crazy right?

After that came the 3Bet light era. Then came the 4Bet light era.

You were called a "donkey" 10 years ago if you called too much. These days most good players know that calling down wide is actually the correct play versus many highly aggressive regs.

What I learned in 10 years as a professional poker player

You have to constantly evolve in this game and stay on top of the way that it is currently being played in order to succeed.


Here is an example:

Many, many years ago I started experimenting with 8x and 10x preflop raise amounts with my premium hands at the lower limits online.

I noticed that the traditional advice to make it 3x was getting way too many callers. So I went against the advice of everybody at the time and started doing it my way instead.

Nobody seemed to have any clue what I was doing for years. And this strategy helped me create some of the highest winrates ever recorded in these games.

But then very slowly people started figuring it out. Then I also wrote a book which details exactly how and when to do these over-raises.

Suffice it to say, before too long every NL2 and NL5 reg was using my strategy and it therefore became ineffective.

So now I basically never do these over-raises anymore and I also made edits in the book several years ago as well. The times have changed and different preflop raising strategies are now more effective at the micros.

This is a perfect example of why you need to always be evolving.

The great thing about poker though is that there is always a counter to every strategy. If you are constantly on top of the latest trends, or better yet inventing them, then the money will always keep flowing in.

This is why I have been such a big proponent of studying the game in Pokertracker over the years. This is where I am constantly researching my opponents and finding the best strategies to beat them.


4. Information is Key


I was that guy who refused to use a HUD (heads up display) for the longest time. In fact, I played the first 4 million hands of my poker career without using one!

If you play at the micros where there are thousands and thousands of different players and you multi-table at all, it is simply -EV to not have data on them available.

The benefits of using a HUD at the lower stakes online are too numerous to name here. You are simply using the data that you already have to help you make better decisions in real time and therefore increase your win-rate.

You won't have to try and mentally keep track of hundreds or thousands of different players spread across multiple tables and sites anymore.

This is not even to mention the ability to study my own game (and that of my opponents as well). And also to run filters and check the profitability of any play.

This is exactly what I mean when I talk about "studying poker." This is how I have come up with many of the strategies that I have used over the years to crush my opposition at the micros.

If you need help setting up your HUD, the most popular article in the history of my website covers this topic in massive detail. You can even download my custom HUD for free and use it yourself.

You can find it all here.

Bottom line: If you take online poker seriously, information is your friend. Use a HUD.


5. Time Management is Essential


When you first start to truly work for yourself it is an incredible feeling. The world is yours. The freedom seems endless!

But this can be a dangerous thing as well.

When there is suddenly no boss hanging over you telling you what to do, it can become very easy to get lazy, procrastinate and put off getting work done.

If you ever plan to set up your own business (poker or otherwise), then you need to develop a work ethic that comes from within. You need to learn how to act like a professional even when there is nobody there to tell you to.

How to be a professional poker player

Most poker players who I know play every single day. You heard that right: they don't take days off.

After all the games run 24/7, 365. You don't need to stop for some artificial "weekend" like in a regular job. In fact often the best poker games to play in are on the weekends!

I don't exactly play every minute of every day like I used to. Between this website, other projects and traveling my time is much more limited.

But in my first several years cutting my teeth as a pro in this game, I basically did very little else besides play poker. And the biggest key to my work ethic was time management.

The internet is the largest marketplace in human history with opportunities to succeed everywhere online (poker is just one way). Yet most people spend their time watching cat videos on Youtube or arguing about politics on Facebook!

I learned very early on that I had to manage my time better if I was going to succeed in poker.

Things like social media, forums, reddit, youtube and so on are simply not helping me achieve my goals online. Therefore, I place a very low priority on them. I will spend 5 or 10 minutes at the very end of the day on them if I have time.

It is very important that if you are chasing any kind of a dream that you learn how to prioritize your time. Focus on taking massive action on the things that actually move the needle towards achieving your goals.


6. No Such Thing as a "Standard Play"


Show me somebody who makes the "standard play" all the time and I will show you a breakeven poker player or a small winner at best.

Elite winners, the people who truly crush the games, don't blindly follow the advice to make X, Y or Z play because...everybody else does it.

Trying to copy the strategy that every other mediocre poker player out there uses is the surest way to get the exact same results as them.

On the contrary, every big winner that I know challenges the conventional wisdom at every opportunity. They are always considering if there is a better way to play each hand.

This doesn't mean that they don't ultimately decide that the conventional wisdom was in fact the right play all along. A lot of the time it actually is!

But they test the validity of each play first in order to know for sure almost like a scientist would.

I have done this for years with in depth database reviews and split testing in Pokertracker. I put every assertion to the test. The raw data over a large sample never lies.

A perfect example of this many years ago that I will never forget was from a well known mid-stakes cash game player on Stars who went by the name "Kelisitaan."

He challenged the common wisdom of the time that your opening raise had to be around 3x (just like I did at the lower stakes).

He played an incredibly LAG style and decided that a mini-raise open (from any position) would actually suit his play style better. I remember him being ridiculed for it and called a fish non-stop.

But once these games were tracked people started to realize that he was actually one of the biggest winners of all-time in them. Clearly his "fishy" strategy was working out pretty well!

Just like in my case, they all started copying his strategy eventually and now the mini-raise open is the new "standard play" in most mid and high stakes cash games.


7. Change Everything


This might sound crazy but one of the best things that I ever did for my poker career was to change everything and move halfway around the world.

The reason why is that nothing forces you to act like a professional faster than being completely on your own in a totally foreign environment.

When success is your only option, you are much more likely to stop making excuses and simply go make it happen. After all it is very, very simple: win or go home.

And when you get used to living in paradise, the latter doesn't seem like such a great idea.

Poker Pros in Thailand
Me recently in Koh Samui, Thailand


Another thing is that there are thousands of other poker and non-poker online professionals out here in a place like Southeast Asia who are in the exact same position.

This makes it much easier to make friends with other highly driven and successful people. When you surround yourself with the right people, this tends to have a positive impact on your results as well.

In fact last year I actually interviewed two friends of mine who I met here in Thailand. Both are highly successful online poker pros. You can find those interviews here and here.

Lastly, playing poker professionally (or even doing business online) removes the need to be in one physical location. All you really need is a laptop and an internet connection.

So assuming you come from a Western country, this means that you can set up shop in any number of countries around the world that have a much lower cost of living and often better weather as well.

When you suddenly only need a fraction of the income to live the exact same quality of life, this makes it a lot easier to make it as a poker player or build your business online.

Example: Renting an apartment in London, England versus Saigon, Vietnam (source)

Making it as as poker pro online poker


8. Invest in Yourself: Travel


There really is so much more to it than just physically changing your surroundings and living cheaper though.

While it might sound cliche to say, one of the best things that I ever did in my life was to leave my tiny little bubble in Vancouver and go see the world.

And yes, the only regret I have is that I did not do it earlier!

Travel is essential in my opinion. It opens up your mind. It is exhilarating. It is scary. It forces you to grow as a person. And it gives you a much broader and deeper perspective on this world that we live in.

If you can fund it through poker or some other online business, awesome. But had I known the benefits of travel at an earlier age, I would have gladly gone into debt to finance it.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page"

       -- St. Augustine

Poker pro travel the world
Working from the highest point in Seoul, South Korea

Professional poker and travel
Boracay, The Philippines aka absolute paradise

Lessons learned in ten years as a poker pro
The ancient ruins of Sukhothai, Thailand


At the end of your life experiences such as travel are what you are truly going to remember. In fact it has been proven again and again that people who spend money on experiences instead of things are a lot happier overall.

I don't travel non-stop like some people do. I need somewhere to call home sometimes. This is why I usually spend at least 6 months a year in Thailand where I have a long term condo, gym membership, plenty of friends etc.

But I also make sure to take off and explore some new destinations for at least a few months every year as well. It is always awesome and I never regret it.

Already got plans for Australia and New Zealand later this year!

Check out my massive article on poker and travel to find out how I utilize the power of technology, Airbnb and cheap airlines in order to see the world and keep my costs down.


9. Don't Be a Hero: Get the Easy Money


One of the very biggest reasons why I have been able to make it 10 years as a poker pro is this:

I only play in good games.

As a professional poker player my goal at the tables is very clear and unambiguous: make money and pay the bills.

The easiest way to do this (by far) is to consistently play against bad poker players.

These are the players who make huge fundamental mistakes and ultimately give away their money in the long run. They are where the "easy money" is at in this game.

So for this reason I am a huge advocate of game selection.

For starters, I only play at soft poker sites. But furthermore, I also make sure that there is always at least one fish (VPIP = 40%+) in any game that I choose to play in. And once they manage to bust, I am out of there.

Many people choose to ignore this critical skill in today's games and battle it out in tough lineups instead. There is simply no strategy on earth that can allow you to "crush" these games. Your opponents just aren't making enough mistakes for this to ever happen.

To be fair, some people don't want to put in the effort of having money on a bunch of different sites, constantly scouting and moving to different tables, chasing fish around and so on.

They just want to sit down and play. I get that and I totally understand it as well.

As a professional though, I know that I have to be better than that. This approach simply does not cut it if you want to win big in today's games.

Game selection is simply part of the job.


10. Poker's End Boss: Variance


The biggest obstacle that I had to overcome in order to make it as a poker pro was variance. This essentially refers to the endless ups and downs that happen all of the time as long as you choose to play this game.

Getting past basic variance (i.e. getting your "true" results) in poker typically requires months of play or hundreds of thousands of hands.

I have even seen a few cases where somebody ran significantly below or above EV over a million hand sample. Who knows how far the rabbit hole can really go!

Here's the thing:

Playing insane amounts of poker for over a decade now has taught me that completely unbelievably shit will happen in this game and it can continue for days, weeks or even months on end.

Being a professional poker player
In fact, there have been many times in my poker career where I literally just had to suspend all logic and simply trust in the fact that I apparently used to be a winning poker player.

Sometimes I would actually just pin my graphs on the wall or use them as my desktop wallpaper just to remind myself of a previous reality when I used to win at poker.

This game simply won't even seem real at times and you have to be willing to keep getting up again and again and making the same good decisions even when the results continue to be terrible.

Downswings in today's games at the lower limits of 50k, 100k or even 200k hands are not only possible but they are also now completely normal as well.

When 5bb/100 or 10bb/100 is often what is considered the absolute best win-rate possible in many small stakes games these days, this is just the simple math.

There have been countless poker players, even potentially great ones, who have cracked under the mighty pressure of variance. I would be lying if I said that I haven't been close to throwing in the towel completely several times over the years myself.

Overcoming variance (downswings specifically) is without a doubt the hardest psychological hurdle to get past in this game. Variance is truly poker's end boss.

Poker pro for ten years

In no other job that I know of can you show up each day, work hard, do all the right things, and go home with a negative paycheck for sometimes weeks or even months on end.

Sorry to tell you but even after 10 years in this game, I definitely don't have all the answers. I haven't figured it all out.

But I do think that massive amounts of experience playing this game has allowed me to find a bit more perspective in the constant ups and downs.

I am less likely to lose my mind over a few bad beats like some newer players will for instance. Also, I feel like I am much better now at recognizing the signs of tilt and simply quitting before any real damage can be done.

You overcome variance in this game by continuing to make the right decisions again and again and again over a very long period of time.

This is how winning is done. There is no magical way around it.


Final Thoughts


It is difficult to sum up 10 years in this crazy game in a short article. I really could have written another entire book about it.

Poker has taught me so much about life and about people. It has taught me how to grow up and be a man, persevere no matter what and learn how to take criticism in stride.

I never planned to go down this path and I could still easily be somewhere completely different in 10 years from now. But ultimately the decision to pursue this game professionally was a very good one for me overall.

Most importantly it has allowed me to work for myself and create both time and location freedom, two things which I think are more important than anything else on earth.

With all of that said, I do want to make it very clear that this article was only about my personal experience in this game.

Poker is a lot tougher these days than when I first started. And even under the best of conditions most people do not win in this game over the short term, let alone for 10 years.

After all, if being a professional poker player were so easy, everybody would be doing it. The truth is that it is one of the most stressful and demanding jobs that you possibly do at times.

But I am not here to crush anyone's dreams either. If you have a deep passion for this game, and you are ready to put in the work, then there is no reason why you can't achieve your version of success with it.

Whatever your goals are in poker, I wish you the best. And if you made it this far I just want to say thanks for reading my story.

And above all, thank you so much for all of the incredible support and encouragement from my longtime readers on here. I could have never achieved this milestone without you.

Lastly, if you are new here, make sure to pick up a copy of my free poker ebook Massive Profit at the Micros to learn more about my poker story over the last 10 years and the strategies that I use to crush the micros.

*Let me know in the comments below what your journey in poker has been like so far.

**This post took a very long time to write. If you found it helpful or inspiring in any way, please consider giving it a "Like" or a "Tweet" below. Thanks!

10 years as a poker and what I have learned

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How to Make $800 More Per Month Playing Micro Stakes Poker

make $800 more per month playing micro stakes poker
A few years ago when I used to grind the micro stakes like crazy playing 24 tables at a time and 200k hands a month, it was all about the quantity over the quality.

Your winrates are never going to be great when you play this many tables and put in this many hands. But since I was mostly playing NL25, NL50 and a bit of NL100 on Stars with Supernova, I was making some pretty decent money each month with rakeback alone.

The problem was that my table winnings weren't that impressive. I was only managing about 3bb/100.

And while I knew that I could only do so well playing this much volume (there is an undeniable ceiling on your winrate when 24 tabling), I still felt I could do a lot better.

After all, I have always prided myself on not only beating the games but crushing them for the highest winrates possible.

One day I made a very simple discovery though. And it allowed me to make $800 more from online poker every single month.


The Spew Test


Here's how I went about it.

First things first I opened up Pokertracker and I filtered for every pot that I played in the past month of any significant value.

This is very easy to do in Pokertracker. Just go to "View Stats" and "Statistics":

micro stakes poker winner

After that on the left side of the screen set the dates, stakes and your screen name:

winning micro stakes poker

Lastly, in order to filter for pots of a certain size (I would typically choose 30 big blinds or more), you just click on the More Filters... button.

micro stakes poker winning

Choose "Hand Details" as you see above and then select "Pot Size and Stack Depth - Hand Total" in order to filter for final pot sizes of any amount you wish.

Now since I was putting in enormous amounts of volume at the poker tables, when I ran a filter like this I would get back hundreds and hundreds of hands.

But I have always been a big proponent of putting in the hours away from the tables over the years. That is, making time for studying poker.

So therefore,  I would just set aside an entire afternoon or weekend to go over them all. The easiest way to do that is to select all hands, stick them in the replayer and analyze them one by one.


Here are some of the the things I would be looking for:

  • Playing too loose preflop
  • Bad 3Bets (poor hand selection, wrong opponent and/or situation)
  • Bad 4Bets (same as above)
  • Tilt induced postflop plays (stupid bluffs etc.)
  • Bad postflop call downs (no way I was going to be good)

And so on and so forth.

Basically I was looking for any signs of spewy play on my part. That is, hands where I could clearly see a mistake was made on my part that would never happen if I was playing my best.

And moreover, I would keep a running tally of all of the money that I wasted because of this which I called my "spew test".

When you actually take the time to sit down and honestly access just how much money you are giving away at the poker tables through poor decision making, it might finally make you start to make a change.

It definitely did in my case. And as you can probably already guess, the #1 culprit of all of these mistakes by far, was tilt.


Tilt Was Costing me Over $800 Per Month!


When I added up all of the mistakes that I was making in these pots I found that I was losing over $800 a month (or 10k a year) mostly due to tilt.

Since I was only making 2k or 3k per month with rakeback added in grinding the micros, this was a very significant loss! This would be like subtracting 25%-50% or even more from your current salary.

You would probably be choked. You would tell the boss a thing or two! Perhaps even quit. But in my case as a professional poker player I was actually the one doing it to myself.

So I had to make a change.

As I have discussed many times on this blog and elsewhere before, tilt is your #1 enemy at the poker tables. It is basically you voluntarily giving your money away to other people because you feel frustrated.

This is sheer insanity in any other venture in life but for some reason so many of us poker players simply shrug this off or try to sweep it under the rug.

I actually know first hand from having coached over 100 students in the past that tilt is far and away the #1 problem that holds people back in poker.


Winning Poker is About Knowing When to Quit


The problem is that as long as you are human and you play this game, you are going to tilt.

There is simply no way around it. This is a highly swingy game where sometimes you can make the right decision and still lose again and again for days, weeks or even months in some crazy cases.

I don't care how much of an unemotional robot you are, at some point this is going to start getting to you and ultimately affect your play.

This is why learning how to quit is so important. And this is arguably the biggest breakthrough that I ever made in my poker game.

I often suggest using a stop loss. This was in fact how I primarily turned this trend around and started recouping much of that $800+ in losses every month.

I set a stop loss which means that if I lose a certain amount of buyins then I must quit playing poker for the rest of that day no matter what.

But really it is just about recognizing the signs of tilt and being able to get up and walk away from the poker tables before it starts affecting the quality of your decision making in a major way.


How to Quit Playing Poker Even When You Are Losing BIG


Now most people who win at poker though have a huge ego (this is actually a good thing in this game). So quitting when you are losing is the last thing that you want to do.

I used to play marathon sessions while on tilt chasing my losses all the time. I simply could not accept losing my money to a bunch of donks that hit lucky cards on me.

I didn't need to win, I just needed to get even with them!

But a few mental shifts in the way that I think about this game (in addition to the stop loss) allowed me to stop this destructive behaviour, accept losses and not spend hours playing my C or D-game just to "get even" with a bunch of dumb fish.


There are two things that you always need to remember about poker:

  • It is all just one big long session
  • The games will always be there tomorrow

The thing about poker is that every time you post the blinds this is really just a continuation of the previous session which was in turn a continuation of the one before that.

This is why we wait for the blinds to come around to us each time before playing (or at least you should). Because we are just continuing from where we left off last time.

When you learn to see the game in this way, then you will understand that your entire poker career is really just one big long session.

These individual wins and losses that our minds create, these "sessions" or "daily results" don't actually exist in reality.

They call poker a "grind" for a reason. Because it is a never-ending series of ups and downs. The only thing that really matters is where you stand after a year, a decade or after a lifetime of playing this game.

So when you learn to start thinking about the game correctly like this, then you can stop losing your mind about individual wins or losses on a given day, because you know that they ultimately mean nothing.

The other important thing to remember is that the games are always running (both online or live) 365 and 24/7. They never stop.

This means that you aren't missing out on anything by quitting. Roughly the same ratio of good players and bad players will be sitting there next time, even if some of the faces are different.

Therefore, not only is there no reason to "chase your losses" in any individual session but there is also no reason to "get even" with any particular person either.

Don't make poker personal. If you consistently apply the right strategy and play with bad players, you will win in the end.

That is the bottom line. Everything else is just details.


Final Thoughts


How do you make $800 more per month playing micro stakes poker?

Well in my case it was actually quite simple. Stop voluntarily giving my money away so much by making bad calls, terrible bluffs and so on!

And the main reason why I was doing all this was because of tilt. More specifically, irrational emotionally charged decision making because I was upset with my current results.

But once I learned to start setting and adhering to a stop loss and also seeing the game more in it's true nature as one long term journey, it became easier for me to just walk away on the bad days.

This allowed me to stop making so many stupid tilt induced plays and ultimately become a much bigger winner at the poker tables.

Winning more in poker is not always about getting better technically or increasing your skill. Instead most people could improve their results much faster by focusing on how much they are giving away when the cards go bad for them.

And the great thing about doing a "Spew Test" like I suggest above is that it forces you to look at a real number that probably means something to you in your day to day life, like $800.

This is like buying a brand new iPhone for some random stranger every month. Tilt can be an expensive habit!

This might be enough for you to finally put your foot down and say enough to tilting off so much of your poker winnings. I know it was in my case.

Let me know in the comments below how much tilt and spewy plays affect your poker results. What are you doing to try and stop it from happening?

Win more at micro stakes poker

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The #1 Reason People Fail at Poker (And How to Avoid It)

The biggest reason why some people fail to win at poker

After 10 years in poker now, both playing the game professionally and writing several books about it, I have seen A LOT. I have seen so many people come and go. So many monumental changes in the industry and so on.

But I still occasionally see some of the same names and faces at the poker tables. Some of the same players who I have been battling against in some cases for a decade now. Some of them have even moved up to the highest levels of the game.

What is it that makes these people different? So many other people end up failing to even win at poker at all. Yet there always seems to be a handful of players that you see consistently crushing the cash games and making final tables.

Well there is exactly ONE reason why in my opinion.


Turning Knowledge Into Results: Execution


The #1 reason why most people fail to win at poker in my opinion is not due to a lack of knowledge. In fact, sometimes these days players even at the lowest limits know far too much theory!

The real reason why they cannot produce actual results at the poker tables is because they fail to consistently apply this knowledge in all situations.

They fail to make the correct play when it really matters. And this boils down to one thing:

Execution
ex·e·cu·tion
noun



1. The carrying out or putting into effect of a plan, order, or course of action.


You see poker is an easy game to comment on and give your opinion. Anybody can do it. Everybody seems to be a genius away from the felt.

But there is one crucial difference between all of the armchair experts out there and the very few who actually produce real world results in this game that change bank accounts and lives.

That is, they consistently apply their poker knowledge in the heat of the moment. And they don’t just do it “sorta sometimes if they feel like it” or as long as they are running good.

No, elite players execute and apply their knowledge at the poker tables all of the time, even when things are going horribly, horribly wrong for them.

In fact, as I have discussed before, the real test of a poker player is how they react when they run really, really bad for a long time. This is the exact spot where you can still gain a massive edge even in today's tougher games.

Anybody can play good when all the cards are falling the right way for them. It doesn't take any real skill to play like a pro when you are coolering everyone and avoiding the bad beats.

But most people react very poorly when they hit a bad run of cards, when they can't make hands and the bad beats start to happen again and again and again. They start getting frustrated, make bad calls and sometimes even go on full blown tilt where they are literally just giving their money away.

The very best players though see this moment as a prime opportunity to get ahead of everybody else. They see this as the time when they get to separate themselves from the masses of breakeven and losing poker players by simply reacting better to adversity than they do.


How Do You Execute Your Poker Knowledge All the Time?


So how do the top players actually maintain this mental toughness, control their emotions and make the right play no matter what? Well first and foremost it begins with good preparation.

You have to know what the right play is in order to make it!

So elite players know the value of studying the game properly. And what this really means is studying the right material and then applying it at the poker tables.

They also prepare better for sessions both mentally and physically. So for instance they will never play when:

  • Tired
  • Stressed
  • Depressed
  • Drunk


Also, many of the poker pros who I know take care of themselves better than most people. This means that they choose to eat right and exercise regularly as well.

Not exactly mind blowing stuff though right?

Everybody knows that if you eat right and exercise then you will feel better, sleep better and think better. This will have a direct positive impact on your ability to play your best poker at all times.

But so few actually do it.


The Will to Succeed: Discipline 


And this leads me to my 2nd and even more important reason why the best poker players are able to execute and apply their knowledge in the moment better than others. Discipline.

In a recent Youtube video Doug Polk listed discipline as the #1 trait of the very best poker players. And I agree completely.

If you don't know who this guy is by the way, he is often regarded as one of the top heads up no limit players in the world. He is also one of those players who I was referring to before that I have seen for over a decade now at the tables and played against many times.

So let me just be totally blunt here.

If you suffer from a lack of discipline (that is, doing something that you know is the right thing even when you don't want to do it), then poker is probably not the game for you.

This game doesn’t care about your feelings. It doesn’t care if you have had too many bad beats lately. It doesn’t care if you are feeling frustrated, stressed out or even cursed.

It only rewards those who have the will to push through it and keep making the right play regardless of how they feel.

It also only rewards those who know when to quit if they are on tilt, make the effort to practice good table selection and put in the time studying the game away from the tables.

And all of this boils down to one thing, discipline.


Experience is the Great Equalizer


There is one other thing though that can take you a long way in this game and that is experience. I say it all the time on this blog and elsewhere, there is one common thing that almost all great players share:

They always seems to be at the tables playing poker!

The best poker players that I know have all played millions and millions of hands of poker or logged incredible amounts of hours live.

All of this experience forces you to see the same situations over and over again. For instance, in a small stakes game when you double barrel the turn with your overpair and a tight/passive player raises you, this is almost always going to be the nuts.

Usually even the most stubborn person in the world is eventually going to get the message to start folding here more often.

I know because this is exactly what happened to me. I learned this game almost 100% through trial and error. I had to lose all my money over and over again in spots like this before I finally learned to start folding more often.

Now it is important to point out that playing a maniacal amount of poker hands like I have won’t guarantee that you will become a great poker player. It is a necessary condition of success though in my opinion.

I don’t know any top players who don’t have massive amounts of experience playing this game.


Final Thoughts


The #1 reason why most people fail to win at poker actually has nothing to do with their knowledge of the game. In fact many people know too much these days especially at the lower stakes.

A very simple strategy like the one that I recommend is actually far more effective in most cases.

What most people lack instead is the ability to consistently apply and execute this knowledge in the heat of the moment when it actually matters.

The very best poker players out there, the ones who crush the games, often take care of their mind and bodies better so that they always approach each session ready to play to the very best of their abilities.

They also tend to have incredible work ethic putting in enormous numbers of hands and hours logged at the poker tables.

But the biggest reason why they are able to achieve top results is because they are more disciplined than others. And when you really break it down, discipline is just a bigger will to win than the next guy.

You are either going to make the right plays consistently or you are not. It's totally up to you each and every time you sit down to play poker. Your results in this game will be the direct byproduct of the choice you make here.

Let me know in the comments below what you think holds most people back in poker.

The reason why people do not win at poker