Back to Poker

May 18, 2008

So I’ve started to play poker online again. I know you’ve got about a hundred reactions to that sentence (please comment them :-D).

I love poker. I love poker, because I love games, and I love puzzles. I enjoy reading about game-theory, and whether or not perfect play in checkers means a draw (as opposed to white or black having an inherent advantage). While I’m not very good at it, chess strategy is fascinating.

Yeah, I’m a dork. You knew it already, but perhaps not in its full magnitude. All that is to say that I own seven (7) poker strategy books.

Those books served me well, though. Not only did I learn a lot about general game-theory and gambling, I actually made money. Just ask Brian how much I played Junior year (a lot). Thanks to a few big wins at some key tournaments, I managed to win a few hundred dollars (perhaps even over a thousand). That was done over many months and many hours.

I think the biggest thing poker has taught me has to do with discipline. If you’ve seen Rounders, you’ve heard poker described as a grind. Well, it is. And, I still haven’t learned it like I should. Here’s why I know:

I got the bug to play online again about two weeks ago, so I asked Emily if it would be alright to put $25 online again. I did very well at first, and the next night I had $80. But, as you probably would have guessed, I entered a $20 tournament and didn’t place, I went on a bad streak, and sooner or later I had about 90 cents in my account. Pretty rough.

Just like in personal finance (and really most other things in life) you need to guard yourself against the big loss or the worst case scenario whenever you can. So, now I’m down to the lowest limits on the site (.02/.04 => 1 and 2 cent blinds). This is a grind, but I’m determined to build back up. I know I can do it, and I just need to resist moving up the stakes until I’ve got enough in my account to do so.

Yeah, poker has taught me a lot about patience and waiting for something, about working hard and for a long time to achieve a goal slowly. I don’t envy the professionals.


Here’s one thing I found that I thought was pretty neat. Chris Ferguson, one of my favorite poker players (because he’s a math geek, too), turned $0 to $10,000. He started out by playing a bunch of freerolls online, until he actually won and could actually buy-in on a normal table. He spent several months building his bankroll slowly (see graphic below), but he finally got to $10,000 after about nine months. It was just an experiment of his, and he donated it all to the Save the Children Foundation. Pretty cool.


One Response to “Back to Poker”

  1. Jessie Says:

    I’m excited to hear about how this goes! It’s def a grind. In my mind there are only 2 possible ways to play poker. Either you’re going to follow your gut, take risks, feel the rush, laugh a lot, and basically GAMBLE…. or you’re going to play systematically, focusing on the statistics and patterns of play, waiting for the big moment rather than creating the big moment. I hope you can do the latter and see some sweet results. 🙂

    Also, tournaments are not going to help you build your bankroll Jon. lol. Online tournaments have too low of a buy-in to keep out the bad players. So you’re going to have tons of people playing in a tournament, about 70% of which are GAMBLING and one of them will always get lucky. The only reason you see players like Ivey win the WSOP tourney is that they’re playing for major $$$ with other grinders.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. I’m so glad you’re playing! I bet it’s fun. If I had the virtue of patience, I’d play too… but we all know I live through emotions. lol.

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