Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Sitting in empty area at gate. One year prior to writing this chapter, I had been crushing low-stakes cash games for years, cashing often in poker room tournaments, and I was off to a good start in WSOP Circuit events.
This probably sounds good to the average home-gamer, local poker room player, and most online poker players (excluding professionals), but my competitive nature catapulted my poker desires from small to high in a very short period of time, and despite those profitable performances, I had many more DNCs (Did Not Cash) than cashes. This is normal, but you need to be PROFITABLE!
As I’m writing this in a notebook (while seated), a college-aged Mexican girl is standing next to me with one bag on each shoulder, furry boots (75 degrees outside), and swinging back and forth to a tune that doesn’t exist—she’s not wearing headphones.
I usually wouldn’t care much about personal space invasions (when necessary due to a crowd), but I’m purposely sitting at a gate where a plane just boarded in order to avoid people. Ah … she just walked away. Maybe she sensed I was writing about her.
Getting back to poker, after failing so many times, and after just one good cash for the year, I decided to go back to studying. Three, four, and five years ago, I was obsessed with watching poker videos. At that time, I applied what I learned to cash games, which paid off.
This time (beginning a few weeks prior), I watched hundreds of hours of WSOP Main Event tournaments, but I didn’t watch them straight through. I used rewind, pause, fast-forward, etc. to look for recurring patterns. This is in regards to physical tendencies and betting patterns.
Given the time put into this effort, the importance of my findings, and the relatively decent popularity of my books, I can’t reveal any specific details, but since you’re a reader and you took a chance on me, I will reveal two interesting stats.
After evaluating more than 100 hours of play, I learned that 46% of river bluffs were successful. That might sound high, but without going into detail, keep in mind that river bluffs are often very large. Otherwise, they wouldn’t work. This doesn’t mean you should call large river bets because you think your opponent is bluffing.
If you’re wrong, it could cost you a large portion of your stack or your whole stack. Unless you’re certain it’s a bluff, wait for a better spot. Over the long haul, this approach will pay off.
An even more interesting find was that based on the same hands analyzed, the person betting on the river had a made hand (not a bluff) 71% of the time. That might not sound very high either, but that’s more than two-thirds of the time. I don’t know how you will use this information. For me, it means to chill out with the hero calls.
Three, four, and five years ago, I played tight and focused on defense, picking only the right spots to move into aggressive mode. Over the past two years, I have been much more focused on aggression. Contrary to popular belief, ultra-aggressive poker play DOES NOT lead to sustainable profits on the felt. It leads to excess volatility, tilt, and a lack of money management due to chasing when things go sour.
I’m sure I’ll receive a lot of “hate mail” based on my theory, but why do you think Daniel Negreanu said that the constant 3-bet and 4-bet guys from 2010 and 2011 are no longer around? Why do you think Phil Hellmuth told Tom Dwan that he wouldn’t be around in five years? Why do you think Negreanu and Hellmuth are still in the game?
Why do you think Erik Seidel (tight but savvy) has a net worth of $41.9 million (at the time of this writing)? This is a guy that limps into pots all day long (he wants to know the information prior to investing).
You can dispute this all you want, but if you crunch the numbers, you will find that while aggressive players steal the spotlight for a little while, defense wins championships—just like in anything else. This doesn’t mean passive. The best approach is to use defense to set up your offense.
I guess this is my long version of telling you that I looked forward to playing the next day based on my new (yet old) and improved approach to the game. I strongly believed that after my studies, I now had a better grasp of the game than ever before. Unfortunately, I lost my once-strong radar, but I knew it would eventually return. It tends to travel with confidence.
My runs three, four, and five years ago included two 12-session winning streaks and one nine-session winning streak, but as mentioned earlier, those were small-stakes cash games. I basically ran over scared money and found the players easy to read. I loved those players, though. You will find a lot of good people at the lower-stakes games. We all had a friendship that I will never forget, and that’s worth more than money.
This time around, I would be playing some of the best players in the world, but I’d never be intimidated because I knew that poker players are human and will sometimes let emotions get the best of them when competing. I also found it likely that I had done more homework than most players who would be in the field, professional or not.
Most importantly, you’re really playing against yourself. How often do you see someone blow up? The people who cash in tournaments are often the ones who benefit from those blow ups. They’re also people who have put themselves in positions to succeed by remaining poised and staying in the game. If I could remain poised and apply what I had learned, I felt I would do well.
I hadn’t run good in Florida in the past, but a big part of that was me not playing well. That weekend, I would play the WSOP Main Event at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. The following weekend, I would play several smaller circuit events at WSOP Harrah’s Cherokee. And the weekend after that, I would play in the WSOP Main Event at Harrah’s Cherokee.
As you might have guessed, my wife wasn’t pleased, but I was trying to squeeze all of this in prior to my son’s basketball season. As much as I love poker, I love my son A WHOLE LOT MORE, and it’s more important to me to be a good dad. Like most dads, I have my faults, but I’m trying my best. If you’re a father, you understand: Heart > Wallet.