Theory problem update

May 30, 2011 | 11:49 am | Derk

It’s been a few days since I first posted my puzzle. If you missed it, you can find it here. Aside from the comments there, there is also some discussion about it going on over at Poker VT which you can see here (no account needed). People have also talked to me in private about the problem.

In my history of asking this problem, there are some common solutions that people come up with:

Bet $1 because you have less risk of busting.

When I did bonuses like this years ago, betting $1 is exactly the method I used precisely for the reason that I was risk-averse and had a limited bankroll. Such reasoning doesn’t apply to this situation, though, where we don’t care about variance, only EV.

Bet whatever you want because it doesn’t matter.

Some people reason that it doesn’t matter what bet we place, since a $100 bet has the same expectation as a series of 100 $1 bets. This is true, however despite the truth of this statement it’s not a valid reason as a solution to the problem.

Martingale.

Some people come up with the martingaling strategy, doubling bets every time you lose and such. Many people believe this is not only the best strategy, but one in which you can’t lose. This, also, is not right. Plenty of good information on the subject is available here.

A note about martingaling, and here’s a hint about the correct solution: martingaling has no worse EV than betting $1 repeatedly. Would it be possible for me to convince you that martingaling has a higher EV than betting $1 at a time?

The solution will be posted in a couple of days.

Interesting gambling theory question/puzzle

May 27, 2011 | 9:01 pm | Derk

I saw a discussion the other day that reminded me of a problem I came up with and I posed it to a bunch of friends. None of them were able to get the right answer and reasoning, so I figured it would make a good blog post.

I originally thought of this in the old days when online casino bonuses were prevalent. If you’re not familiar with them, you would deposit some amount, get a bonus, and have to meet a wagering requirement to withdraw the bonus. So you’d do something like deposit $100, they’d give you $20 on top of that for free, and you’d need to wager $1000 at blackjack to withdraw. Blackjack pays back around 99.5% if you play perfectly, so you’d end up losing $5, thus profiting $15 after the bonus. This is actually how I started my bankroll many years ago.

So, here’s the problem:

You deposit $400 in an online casino and are given a $100 bonus immediately, so you have $500 to bet with. You can withdraw only after betting a total of $2500. Let’s say you play a game where you flip coins and if you win you get 1.99 times your bet and nothing if you lose. This has a 99.5% return like blackjack, but I’m abstracting it because in blackjack you can run into bad EV spots where you make a bet and then don’t have enough to split or double down. The table limits for this game are minimum bet $1 and maximum bet $100. How much should we bet to maximize EV, and why? Does it even matter? If so, why? If not, why not?

Time and variance are not factors in this problem. We don’t care that making lots of small bets takes more time than making a few large bets and we only care about maximizing EV.

Post answers or discussion in the comments. I’ll reveal the answer in less than a week and may drop some hints if nobody gets it.

Variance in SNGs

May 23, 2011 | 11:29 am | Derk

So, one of the cooler videos I did for Poker VT a while back was on variance.  I don’t think most people truly appreciate how crazy variance can get.  In one of my earliest videos I showed off a program written by RVG (who later went on to create HEM) that was an ROI simulator.  It got the job done for my purposes for the games I was playing, but it had some limitations.  The biggest one of which was that it only supported 7 payout spots.  So the program was fine for looking at variance in 9 man games, but wouldn’t cut it for larger MTSNGs and MTTs.

After I had finished making that video on variance I decided to write my own Monte Carlo simulator.  Since it was just a little project for my own usage I didn’t do anything fancy, make it nice for user input, or create any executables.  It’s sloppy, obfuscated, and has no real documentation either.  You can grab it here if you like.  If you can find RVG’s old ROI simulator program you can use that for games with fewer than 7 payout spots and the results will agree with what my program produces.

For those of you who have seen my variance megapost on Poker VT, a lot of this post is straight from it.

Before giving you the output for various runs of this program I’ll explain what the output means and how to interpret it:

$6.00+0.50 9-man game
Payout distribution: 50.0% 30.0% 20.0%
Finish distribution: 12.7% 12.5% 12.6%
Theoretical ROI = 4.84%
100000 simulations of 1000 games:


90% CI for ROI: -2.88% to 12.65%
90% CI for downswing: 21.82 buy-ins to 72.35 buy-ins
90% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 54.80 buy-ins

The top part of this describes the type of simulation we’re running. A standard $6.50 SNG with normal payouts and finishing in 1st place 12.7% of the time, 2nd place 12.5% of the time, and 3rd place 12.6% of the time. This corresponds to a 4.84% ROI. It also prints out the ROI and how many buy-ins it represents. It then tells the number of games in the sample size and how many simulations were run.

Below that we have confidence intervals (CI) for ROI, the biggest downswing and the lowest drop from the starting point. So, if you know you are a 4.84% ROI player, in a 1000 game sample 90% of the time your actual ROI will be between -2.88% and +12.65%. Remember that confidence intervals are centered over the median, so 5% of the time the actual ROI will be worse than -2.88% and 5% of the time it will be better than +12.65%. If someone said to me “I believe I am a 4.84% ROI player but my results over my last 1000 games are -3% ROI” then I could confidently say to them that there is less than 5% chance that they are actually as good as being a 4.84% ROI player.

Likewise, 90% of the time we can expect to have a downswing in that 1000 game sample between 21.82 and 72.35 buy-ins. 5% of the time it will be worse, 5% of the time it will be better. If you knew you were a 4.84% ROI player and you had a downswing of 80 buyins over a 1000 game sample, for example, you could say you are running exceptionally bad.

The lowest drop represents the largest drop below the starting bankroll. This is, by definition, going to be equal to or less than the downswing value. This is a good way to know a risk of ruin for a particular bankroll size. Remember that because the CI is centered on the median, that means that the risk of ruin over 1000 games with a bankroll of 54.8 buy-ins is 5% (100% – the “middle” 90% – the “top” 5%). You can look at the downswing values this way as well. You could say that 95% of the time we are going to have a downswing of more than 21.82 buyins.

Now, compare this data and interpretation for the 50% CI:

50% CI for ROI: 1.69% to 8.00%
50% CI for downswing: 29.55 buy-ins to 48.89 buy-ins
50% CI for lowest drop: 5.38 buy-ins to 26.82 buy-ins

What does this mean? It means that as our confidence goes down we are able to get closer to the median. For ROI this will start to converge on the true ROI. For downswing and lowest drop it will start to center on the most “common” downswing. From these numbers we can make interpretations such as “75% of the time our downswing will be 29.55 buy-ins or more” and “75% of the time our downswing will be 48.89 buy-ins or less”.

When we finally get down to 0% CI, we’re at the median:

0% CI for ROI: 4.84% to 4.84%
0% CI for downswing: 37.58 buy-ins to 37.58 buy-ins
0% CI for lowest drop: 13.60 buy-ins to 13.60 buy-ins

As expected the ROI converged to the theoretical ROI, and it always will for a large enough number of simulations. We also see the exact medians of downswing and lowest drop. The 13.60 buy-ins would correspond to a risk of ruin of 50% (half the time the drop will be better than the median, half the time the drop will be worse than the median).

OK, so that information gives you an idea of how to consider variance as you’re playing, but what if you’re sitting there saying “I’m a new player and I have played X games and my ROI is Y, how can I use this data?” This is a much more difficult question to answer. Per the comment about ROI claims above if you had an ROI of -10% after 1000 games at the $6.50 level, you could pretty confidently say that your actual ROI is not 4.84% or close to it. If you look at the difference between the high and low ROI, that may help though. For example consider the two outputs:

Theoretical ROI = 4.84%
99% CI for ROI: -7.29% to 16.97%

Theoretical ROI = -0.31%
99% CI for ROI: -12.02% to 11.74%

You’ll notice the difference between the high and low ROI in the first case is 24.26 and in the second case is 23.76. So, with 99% confidence we’re about +/- 12% ROI over 1000 games with these parameters from the theoretical. You could make an educated guess that over 1000 games if your ROI is -10% that your true ROI is probably in the -22% to +2% range with a high degree of accuracy.

With all this data be sure to keep in mind that you don’t play a certain way constantly. You should continuously be getting better. As your game changes, if you want to estimate your ROI try to give more weight to recent games.

Below are some more interesting runs of the program.

These first two show off the difference in variance between a 1000 game sample and a 5000 game sample with all other parameters equal:

$15.00+1.00 9-man game
Payout distribution: 50.0% 30.0% 20.0%
Finish distribution: 12.5% 12.5% 12.5%
Theoretical ROI = 5.47%
100000 simulations of 1000 games:


99% CI for ROI: -6.60% to 17.79%
99% CI for downswing: 17.06 buy-ins to 99.25 buy-ins
99% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 84.88 buy-ins


95% CI for ROI: -3.81% to 14.83%
95% CI for downswing: 19.88 buy-ins to 79.19 buy-ins
95% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 62.69 buy-ins


90% CI for ROI: -2.29% to 13.32%
90% CI for downswing: 21.62 buy-ins to 70.22 buy-ins
90% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 52.00 buy-ins


75% CI for ROI: 0.07% to 10.95%
75% CI for downswing: 24.94 buy-ins to 57.72 buy-ins
75% CI for lowest drop: 2.00 buy-ins to 37.09 buy-ins


50% CI for ROI: 2.26% to 8.68%
50% CI for downswing: 28.97 buy-ins to 47.75 buy-ins
50% CI for lowest drop: 5.00 buy-ins to 25.16 buy-ins


25% CI for ROI: 3.95% to 6.99%
25% CI for downswing: 32.72 buy-ins to 41.44 buy-ins
25% CI for lowest drop: 8.47 buy-ins to 17.91 buy-ins


0% CI for ROI: 5.47% to 5.47%
0% CI for downswing: 36.69 buy-ins to 36.69 buy-ins
0% CI for lowest drop: 12.62 buy-ins to 12.62 buy-ins

$15.00+1.00 9-man game
Payout distribution: 50.0% 30.0% 20.0%
Finish distribution: 12.5% 12.5% 12.5%
Theoretical ROI = 5.47%
100000 simulations of 5000 games:


99% CI for ROI: 0.04% to 10.92%
99% CI for downswing: 33.12 buy-ins to 150.59 buy-ins
99% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 107.97 buy-ins


95% CI for ROI: 1.32% to 9.64%
95% CI for downswing: 37.56 buy-ins to 120.75 buy-ins
95% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 74.94 buy-ins


90% CI for ROI: 1.98% to 8.96%
90% CI for downswing: 40.34 buy-ins to 107.59 buy-ins
90% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 60.31 buy-ins


75% CI for ROI: 3.02% to 7.92%
75% CI for downswing: 45.44 buy-ins to 90.56 buy-ins
75% CI for lowest drop: 2.19 buy-ins to 41.84 buy-ins


50% CI for ROI: 4.03% to 6.90%
50% CI for downswing: 51.44 buy-ins to 77.16 buy-ins
50% CI for lowest drop: 5.34 buy-ins to 27.50 buy-ins


25% CI for ROI: 4.78% to 6.14%
25% CI for downswing: 56.66 buy-ins to 68.72 buy-ins
25% CI for lowest drop: 9.00 buy-ins to 19.25 buy-ins


0% CI for ROI: 5.45% to 5.45%
0% CI for downswing: 62.25 buy-ins to 62.25 buy-ins
0% CI for lowest drop: 13.47 buy-ins to 13.47 buy-ins

Here are some numbers for 180 man games:

$11.00+1.00 180-man game
Payout distribution: 30.0% 20.0% 11.9% 8.0% 6.5% 5.0% 3.5% 2.6% 1.7% 1.2% 1.2% 1.2% 1.2% 1.2% 1.2% 1.2% 1.2% 1.2%
Finish distribution: 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8% 0.8%
Theoretical ROI = 32.00%
100000 simulations of 1000 games:


99% CI for ROI: -11.33% to 82.36%
99% CI for downswing: 45.65 buy-ins to 240.96 buy-ins
99% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 195.42 buy-ins


95% CI for ROI: -2.04% to 69.59%
95% CI for downswing: 52.64 buy-ins to 192.69 buy-ins
95% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 139.01 buy-ins


90% CI for ROI: 2.89% to 63.14%
90% CI for downswing: 57.05 buy-ins to 171.02 buy-ins
90% CI for lowest drop: 1.49 buy-ins to 113.20 buy-ins


75% CI for ROI: 11.14% to 53.35%
75% CI for downswing: 65.28 buy-ins to 141.29 buy-ins
75% CI for lowest drop: 5.00 buy-ins to 79.49 buy-ins


50% CI for ROI: 19.41% to 44.03%
50% CI for downswing: 75.06 buy-ins to 118.41 buy-ins
50% CI for lowest drop: 10.81 buy-ins to 53.05 buy-ins


25% CI for ROI: 25.73% to 37.33%
25% CI for downswing: 84.01 buy-ins to 104.10 buy-ins
25% CI for lowest drop: 17.79 buy-ins to 37.39 buy-ins


0% CI for ROI: 31.44% to 31.44%
0% CI for downswing: 93.36 buy-ins to 93.36 buy-ins
0% CI for lowest drop: 26.24 buy-ins to 26.24 buy-ins

Lastly, someone asked me about MTTs.  Because field sizes change a lot it’s hard to do this sort of analysis.  But if your average field size was about 1000 people, these would be the sorts of numbers you could expect if you knew you were a decent winner:

$55.00+5.00 1090-man game
Theoretical ROI = 53.29%
250000 simulations of 1000 games:


99% CI for ROI: -24.83% to 159.20%
99% CI for downswing: 66.20 buy-ins to 371.91 buy-ins
99% CI for lowest drop: 0.00 buy-ins to 328.46 buy-ins


95% CI for ROI: -10.02% to 130.44%
95% CI for downswing: 78.10 buy-ins to 302.12 buy-ins
95% CI for lowest drop: 1.00 buy-ins to 242.34 buy-ins


90% CI for ROI: -1.65% to 116.34%
90% CI for downswing: 85.17 buy-ins to 269.61 buy-ins
90% CI for lowest drop: 3.00 buy-ins to 200.65 buy-ins


75% CI for ROI: 12.63% to 95.42%
75% CI for downswing: 98.54 buy-ins to 223.18 buy-ins
75% CI for lowest drop: 8.90 buy-ins to 141.96 buy-ins


50% CI for ROI: 27.74% to 76.28%
50% CI for downswing: 114.68 buy-ins to 185.61 buy-ins
50% CI for lowest drop: 19.71 buy-ins to 95.56 buy-ins


25% CI for ROI: 39.86% to 62.73%
25% CI for downswing: 129.08 buy-ins to 162.34 buy-ins
25% CI for lowest drop: 32.33 buy-ins to 67.66 buy-ins


0% CI for ROI: 51.07% to 51.07%
0% CI for downswing: 144.54 buy-ins to 144.54 buy-ins
0% CI for lowest drop: 47.76 buy-ins to 47.76 buy-ins

Looks like things have changed…

April 19, 2011 | 7:45 am | Derk

With the closure of the two largest sites in the US I’ve taken to playing a lot more live as I live in Las Vegas. I’m still feeling things out and running around to various poker rooms to see what’s going on at each one. Here’s a picture of Binion’s from earlier tonight:

binions

I went in and tried to play a scheduled MTT they had, but it only got 3 entrants so we all just left. I honestly got goosebumps going into the place, though. Ended up going across the street to the Golden Nugget and won a MTT there though! Maybe I’ll throw some info up here about all of that, but in the meantime I wanted to get some news out.

Poker VT has a good 10 or so videos from me. Some review of my own play, some live play at micro, low, and midstakes SNGs, a few purely theory videos, and hand history reviews for the winners of the SNG contest. These should be coming out over the coming weeks and months. The SNG contest is no longer active.

My coaching rates have dropped and I’m being a bit more public about it. In the past I always tried to keep a very small number of students (usually 2 at most) though now that I have to schedule around what games are available and running live I’m willing to take on more students and at a cheaper rate. If you don’t know, I won the FTP SNG high stakes leaderboard before and lately have some pretty decent turbo/super-turbo MTT results as well. For coaching info check this page.

I still intend on continuing with the strategy blog, so check back for that stuff

Strategy blog forthcoming

April 11, 2011 | 1:26 am | Derk

I’ve cleared a lot of old posts and I’m going to be making this a SNG strategy blog in the future.  I’ll be going over a lot of stuff related to SNGs, ICM, and plenty of theory.   A lot of it will probably be the same type of stuff I go over on my “Strategy Grab Bag” series on Poker VT and if I come up with something new and interesting then you’ll probably hear about it first if you’re a member there.

Here’s a recap of some of my prior strategy posts:

And a few other useful posts:

My future strategy posts will be probably a lot more specific and with a lot more detail than the ones I’ve written before.

Lastly, I’m updating my twitter account more, so be sure to follow me there for updates.

dallas trip report and some news

April 6, 2011 | 2:40 am | JCarver

The last few months have been pretty unusual.  Typically, I fill my time with poker, both online cash and live tournaments – but this hasn’t been the case at all in 2011.  Since PCA, I haven’t played much poker or traveled, staying outside the whole poker scene in general.  I needed a break after the super grind of late 2010 and this blog was a neglected victim of that break.  I’m happy I finally finished the origins post and I’m glad it seems to have turned out pretty well as a whole project.

In 2011, I’ve turned my attention towards a few different new projects outside of poker, one of which is taking up a heavy focus on UFC sportsbetting.  I really enjoy it and feel like I have a pretty big edge (an important part of the equation, I hear).  I have finally got the equipment here that I can do videoblogs with fight breakdowns a day or so before events with my picks, which would be great if not for the fact that there’s only one UFC event in the next 6 weeks.  March was a great month for sportsbets -  I broke a bunch of personal records for how much action I had on both single events and single fights and was lucky enough to scoop many of them, going 17-5 and winning 13.5u overall, putting me at 49-19 and +29.2u since I started keeping track at UFC 117 in August.  Not enough to have a significant sample, but a good start.

In addition to UFC sportsbetting, my other new project that I’ve been gladly pouring time into is my first venture into e-sports.  I’ve been a longtime fan of Starcraft and have been active in Starcraft 2 since beta, spending many nights in the past year watching GSLs and such enjoying the skills and talents displayed by the top-end players.  In trying to learn to be a better player myself, I found the lack of comprehensive resources somewhat frustrating and realized how awesome it would be to gather not just the best players in the game but also the best instructors in a one-stop top of the line site for Starcraft training, a la Cardrunners or PokerVT.  From this idea, Six Pool Gaming (SPG) was born.  The plans took flight as I was quickly able to put together an amazing team of administrators and players who shared in this vision which is rapidly approaching reality.

Between conception to now, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting a variety of players and leaders in the e-sports industry.  I’m lucky to have a few of these people onboard or in a partnership with Team SPG, dedicating their time and energy to a project that we are working hard on to produce the best possible product for the ultimate benefit and enjoyment of the community and hopefully the entire e-sports scene.  The staff and instructors are intelligent, well-spoken and motivated individuals and I’m honored to work beside them and beyond that to call a few of them friends.  It’s definitely surreal to go from a fanboy on the internet to being in partnership with some of my SC2 heroes, and seeing the SPG patches and hats out and about at MLG came with a pretty strong feeling of pride and accomplishment – it’s pretty atypical in my line of work to be able to find such a neat project that you actually have a passion for and building it has been amazing.

MLG Dallas was my first chance to meet many of the people I’d been working with for months now online.  After being shocked at how few flights flew from New York to Dallas nonstop (and it was like 2k, admittedly last minute but still), I ended up on a mediocre airtran flight and got in early Thursday morning.  That evening, I met up with some of the SPG team for our second photoshoot.  Some of the SPG team members there included Team Dignitas’ Sjow, Select, and Zaccubus, Team Fnatic’s Gretorp and Xeris, and Team Liquid’s Ret.  Here’s a video and some photos from the shoot:

BTS_Dallas

BTS_Dallas

BTS_Dallas

The photoshoot went great, it took awhile but in the end we had something north of 1000 photos taken.  After we finished, everyone was pretty exhausted and called it a night to rest for MLG day 1 on Friday.

This was my first MLG and I wasn’t really sure how it would be.  Once I got to the convention center, the best way I can describe it is like a mix between a poker tournament and E3, with all the organization of neither.  I’m pretty sure nobody knew exactly how the brackets worked, people just played their matches and waited to hear their name get called hopefully at some point not too far in the future.  Also at MLG were Halo and Call of Duty matches which really only influenced the event as far as I was concerned by lowering the average age to high teens instead of the 20something crowd that the Starcraft field most consisted of.  It also felt very strange to be on the business side of a tournament for once and not a player.  Pretty major role reversal for me.

One thing that struck me as odd were how many spectators there were, even on day 1.  It was a pretty impressive turnout all in all.   Another surprise was that in all my years being friends and all with Daniel Negreanu and watching him get approached by fans every so often did not come close to the amount of fan interaction that I witnessed some of the SC pros experience.  It was pretty cool to see the fanbase so passionate and that the pros were almost all down-to-earth people who had no problem engaging with the fans.

I met a ton of awesome people over the days at MLG.  I quickly realized I had to switch from my 7-year long default greeting in poker of “Hey I’m Jason/JCarver,” to “Hey I’m Jason Somerville from Six Pool Gaming,” which felt admittedly uncomfortably professional for a little while.

Our team pro Select ended up getting 3rd, a great finish, and there were several other impressive runs and great games played by our pros.

Here are a few photos from MLG :

MLG_2011Dallas_127

MLG_2011Dallas_115

MLG_2011Dallas_101

MLG_2011Dallas_076

MLG_2011Dallas_039

It was definitely a unique trip and it was a ton of fun.  It felt like I was visiting a cousin’s house or something, like some sort of bizarro poker world – same sort of age range, same sort of fluent specific-to-the-game language, same super competitive game and personalities, and I was a businessman almost nobody knew instead of a player, haha.  I had a great time and wish all my SC2 friends weren’t so far flung across the world since a lot of them are pretty awesome people (another unfortunate similarity with poker).  Anyway, I’ll have the chance to see everyone again soon enough – I’m going to be next on the road again for a few poker tournaments but there is some cool real-life SPG business to be done soon enough :)

P.S.  If you want to follow SPG for updates and stuff :

Six Pool Gaming

http://www.facebook.com/#!/SixPoolGaming

http://twitter.com/sixpoolgaming

and to complete my whoredom, my own twitter is http://twitter.com/#!/JasonSomerville

jcarver : origins, the finale

April 5, 2011 | 10:15 pm | JCarver

Well, it’s obviously been more than a few weeks to finish this.  Sorry for the wait!  I’ve wanted to get this finally revised, updated, and published and just got around to it today.  If you’re just joining me, these origin posts are a slightly updated series of posts I wrote originally for SomethingAwful chronicling my first two years starting out in poker back in 2006 when I was 19.

Hope you guys enjoy…

Parts 1-3
Parts 4 and 5
Parts 6 and 7

Part VIII : In Sickness…

September 2005 through the middle of October was relatively boring and not very memorable. My tournament dry spell continued, losing a total of a few grand there.  I did manage to win nearly $8000 playing 3/6 NLHE during this period though, so it wasn’t all bad. My first WCOOP came and went with no success. Tournaments didn’t really go well for me for a decent amount of my early career [honestly, not until after I wrote this originally in 2006].  Also in September of ‘05 I started my first semester at a second college which distracted me from playing too much poker.

Chuck and I divorced our roll completely in the beginning of September when he moved to Cornell. There was absolutely no ill will towards eachother, but I remember feeling like we had sort of different priorities and he wasn’t really working as much as I was on his game [in the past years, I've stayed friendly with Chuck as he has pursued his academic career - but he never really returned to poker].  Between the split of the bankroll and the lack of winning in the summer my roll was under 10k for the first time since the spring.

When I got back from Turning Stone, I checked out Bodog’s games. The shorthanded games looked soft, but I had no idea how to play shorthanded at the time – and they were mostly $5/$10 games. I didn’t have the roll at that point to play $5/$10 [but I did apparently have some bankroll management, surprise surprise].  I decided to wait on Bodog for the time being.

My pokerhands from the period (and before, as I skipped it last time) are pretty much just large pots I won as ridiculous favorites or got sucked out on in dramatic fashion and don’t really contain much in the way of strategy.

Hand 1
http://www.pokerhand.org/?134207

This hand is pretty standard, looking back, but was probably the beginning of me consciously realizing that one of the biggest ways to make money in NL cash games was to crack big pairs when people couldn’t fold them [being that I never folded them either, I'm pretty sure reciprocality had the last laugh here]. Preflop hand strength just wouldn’t matter if you flopped two pair and took the guy on the busto trolley to frown town when he couldn’t lay it down.

Hand 2
http://www.pokerhand.org/?121865

Coolers are awesome. I remember this hand specifically [still do, but holy hell how bad is that hand played], and I especially recall how bothered I was by losing this hand at the time for some reason.  I remember there was a railbird asking me for five dollars who I was for some reason chatting with even though I surely had no intention of giving money to.  “Her” affections immediately swung to the KK guy after I lost the hand OH HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN INDEED.

The other oh so earthshattering event to happen between 9/1 and 10/30 is that I started writing the “legendary” Spicy System ( http://archives.somethingawful.com/…hreadid=1687006 ) which can now be found on http://spicebox.badbeatscrew.com/ although that only has the REDUX version from months later.  [I moved the link from thespicebox.net to the newer one, but I'm sure if the file is up it is probably only good for laughs at this point]

In the middle of October, I came down with a very bad illness which the doctor only referred to as a “highly contagious bacterial infection” in my throat.  Great. I couldn’t eat, drink, swallow, or breathe, without my throat hurting so bad it was similar to swallowing razor blades.   Cool, right?!  I came down with this on a Monday and with the doctor’s promise that I wouldn’t be contagious with quick antibiotics decided that it was still worth driving 6+ hours (in the pouring rain, even!) to go to Turning Stone for the East Coast Championships on a Wednesday.   I bet my parents wished back then I had that sort of dedication to anything “constructive”.  I went to TS, picking up my one and only live cash there to date (other than the 2k satellite win in the summer), putting me in the LIVE AWESOME INTERNET DATABASE OF HUGE WINNERS ! [I only have one live cash for $451 in a $200 event until Nov of 06.  this link is obviously more a brag than a beat at this point :) ]

While I was at Turning Stone, going through literally shot glasses of Tylenol, 20+ lozenges per 3 hours of tournament play, and only eating hot dogs, my throat slowly got better. The antibiotic I was on was extremely powerful and did a good job, maybe even too good of a job, and I was better within a few weeks.

When I got back from Turning Stone, memories of my August trip resurfaced and I went back and checked out Bodog one more time. I threw a few thousand there on a whim and within 15 days of playing there, ran my balance up to over $10000 thanks to cash games. I didn’t play shorthanded, really – I stuck with the full games.  Eventually, though, as the full games broke into shorter games, I started staying.  I began to gain experience playing 2-4 handed, something I never got at Pacific or Party, and found myself enjoying the ability to be a little more creative and put more pressure on opponents.  I won nearly $10,000 in the last 15 days of October (compared to a the $4.5k from the 45 days before that) and had started pulling out of my summer stagnation. I began to settle into Bodog as the new home of most of my play.

Some graphs from the period (9/1-10/30):
Total Earnings
ETD thru 103005

Earnings By Location
earnings by location 090105-103005

Total Earnings to Date – August 04 – Oct 05

total earn 090105-103005

I had not, in fact, forgotten about my $100k goal by the end of the year.   At this point, quite honestly, I thought it was pretty unattainable, especially with the volume I’d been playing.  I thought there was a better chance of me reaching my goal by my birthday in April, which honestly probably was still fairly unreasonable.  But with Bodog quickly working out so well for me, maybe there would be a shot for the last 2 months…

Part IX : …and In More Sickness…

I continued playing primarily Bodog cash games in November.   I moved up to playing $5-$10 NL games as much as I could – even during my breaks at school, and eventually, in class. I earned all my profit for this segment of my career on Bodog. The first half of November was pretty good – I was winning money, enjoying life, and happy all around.

I went shopping with a friend of mine and his younger brother in early-mid November.  This is the first day I remember feeling gastrointestinal problems. I’m going to glaze over most of the details here. If you’re a close friend of mine, you probably know already, or had the opportunity to know, all the details.  If you’re not a close friend of mine, trust me, you don’t want to know anyway.   As November moved on, I rapidly developed moderate gastrointestinal issues, rendering me unable to eat normally, sleep, or do anything really but deal with awful digestive system problems.

After I first got sick and realized that it wasn’t simple food poisoning, I go back to see the general doctor. This doctor told me that my symptoms that had developed were simply a reaction to the strong antibiotics from my infection in October.   I took anti-antibiotics for a week or so which did me no good.  My condition worsened. Thanksgiving passed with me eating a bagel up in my bed – that’s just all I could digest without massive pain.  With all the scheduling issues because of the holiday, I was forced to wait a decent while to see the specialist doctor.  Not a fun time.

I finally end up seeing the second doctor, a coldhearted bastard with no sense of sympathy or passion about him (but an effective gastroenterologist).  He saw me for maybe ten minutes before telling me I’d have to get a colonoscopy.  Awesome. I began to prep for the colonoscopy that weekend (the worst part of the whole procedure, by far.   Imagine having to drink shots of the most foul saline solution ever on a stomach that can’t digest anything. I spent two days miserable) and eventually, the day of the colonoscopy came – the Monday after in early December.

I am leaving out most of the gory details, but I don’t want to understate just how sick I was in November and December.  It’s not like I was at death’s door or anything – maybe just the front lawn, if I was trying to be really dramatic.  Even so, I felt extremely awful, and really, truly appreciate everyone who showed me support during the time I was sick. It’s funny how your priorities change when you feel unsure when or if you’ll be able to live a normal life again. The smallest gestures of kindness, compassion, and concern were amplified a hundredfold in my eyes while I was sick.   It still means a lot to me, looking back.

Poker was the last thing on my mind. I played, very rarely (I couldn’t sit – or sleep – for more than an hour without having to go to the bathroom), but I played poker more than I went to school, that’s for sure. I had very understanding teachers who somehow helped me still get a ridiculously good grade for the semester (one of the teachers even had UC – talk about understanding).

The day of the colonoscopy I was feverish, hallucinating, unable to stand on my own two feet for more than 10 seconds, famished (I was 130 pounds at the time of the procedure, down from 155, in under a month of sickness), and extremely worried that something would go wrong.  Fast forward a few hours and I was positively diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Ulcers had developed in my colon that were causing fairly major bleeding and irregular digestion. There’s no known cause for UC, unless it’s hereditary (mine isn’t).  I was prescribed Prednizone, 8 of them (40mg), a day. It’s some sort of anti-inflammatory steroid that I stopped taking as soon as the active symptoms stopped.  Eventually, by mid-December, I had mostly recovered.  The doctor added a second drug, Asacol, which is basically time-delayed aspirin, meant to preserve remission. They’re 500mg pills and I take 12 of them a day. I still do – and will for a long time, or so says the new doctor (who is a gambler!). [I end up getting sick again a year after this, but really not since then.  I'm only on a few pills a day now of a different drug and feel fine 99% of the year, thankfully.]

Having not played much poker, there’s not a ton to say about this period. I lost a nice $4,000 in two hours 3-tabling on Bodog before I got sick, one of my most ego-crushing defeats ever – and my biggest loss to date. After I got better, or at least during recovery, I had a session where I won $3,171.50 at $5-$10 on Bodog, one of my biggest non-tournament wins ever. That win was helpful in repairing my somewhat rusty confidence/ego.   I played very few tournaments during this period as I there was just no way I’d be capable of a lengthy, scheduled game at that point.  I did make my first small deposits into Fortune in the middle of December – and even though I ended up losing that money quickly, the games were amazing and I was definitely interested in playing there more often.

By December 17th I was pretty much recovered.  In my sick haze, I had been so overdramatically sure that I’d be sick the rest of my life, nevermind for Christmas, that being healthy felt like an amazing miracle.  I had been resigned to my fate that I wouldn’t make $100,000 by the end of the year. I didn’t even care. I had survived a pretty awful bout of sickness and felt a renewed sense of direction and purpose in the time after.  I was happy to just be able to live a normal life and to be able to choose exactly how I wanted to spend my days, a perspective that poker synergizes with very nicely.

Some graphs from the period of 11/1/05 through 12/17/05:


Earnings by Date. I don’t play for awhile at the height of my sickness.
EBD 110105-121705


Earnings by Location. Bodog is the only place I show a profit at during this period.
EBL 1105-1205


Total Earnings for this period.
TE 110105-121705


Career Earnings. My bankroll is probably around $20,000-$25,000 by the end of the period.
ETD thru 121705
Hmmm, you say? Why would JCarver end this segment on such a strange date as 12/17? Why not just go to the new year? THERE SURELY MUST BE A REASON!

A reason exists indeed!

Part X : …and in HEALTH! (finally!)

Being sick sucks. Being really sick really sucks. Thrilled to be done with school, healthy enough to consistently gamble, and slightly pissed I wasn’t closer to $100,000, I started gambling with a fury. Once I found out that I wasn’t going to die from the colitis, my mind began focusing a lot more on poker.

December 18th was my first big tournament that I’d played in awhile. I believe it was a $600 buyin $300k guarantee on Interpoker. I finished 7th for a $7,841 profit, my biggest win to date, and I was happy with the finish as I was shortstacked for a long time. Soon after, on the 22nd, I won a tournament on Bodog for a smooth $4500.

As this was all happening, I finally redeposited into Fortune. Fortune had lots of bad players, or so I had heard, but I had never really explored the site on my own.  Scotsman kept pushing me to deposit, teasing me with tales of crazy europeans, and eventually my deposit stuck – I finally started winning. I never looked back, and Fortune became a goldmine for me. I began the biggest heater I’d ever been on and started simultaneously crushing the games at Bodog and Fortune. By Christmas of 2005, in little over a week, I won $14,600.  I was thrilled.   I was healthy, winning, and felt like I was back in a big way, loving every second of it. My career earnings exploded to over $50,000 with 6 days left in the year.

Even though I was winning tons and feeling great, I was still pretty sure it was extremely unlikely that I’d win 50k by the end of the year. I was just happy I had been winning any money at all, and honestly being healthy was all that really mattered at the time.   At that point, I didn’t think I’d get close to my 100k mark by the end of the year and planned to fill early 2006 with as much poker as I could to try to reach my goal.  Lady Luckbox, though, had other plans in mind.  I started pillaging the $5-$10 games on Fortune, Party, and Bodog – in unison. I was playing awesome poker and getting lucky when I needed to on top of that. In the final 6 days of December 2005, I won slightly under $25,000 without any tournament play whatsoever.

By the end of the year, I didn’t hit $100k. I was pretty fucking close, though. My career earnings totaled $75,000 by the close of 2005. I moved up to $10-$20 NL on Party and Fortune. I ran good there too, and so my heater continued. I was going to post pokerhands from before the new year, but mostly its “JCarver flops a set vs an overpair, clicks ‘call all in’, and what a shocker, wins $5k.” I was determined to win $100k as close to 1/1/06 as possible, even after technically missing the goal by the New Year.

The night of New Year’s Day, I was playing some €10-€20 game on Fortune, heads-up.

I pick up A 9, 3-handed. I have €2500 and the villain has just slightly less than that. He raises to €60, and I call.

The flop comes A Q 2. He bets €120 and I call.

The turn is a 6. No help. He again bets €400. I see no reason to fold and call.

The river is a 7. No obvious help other than the backdoor flush draw just hit. He pushes all-in for €1,825.46. I think..and think… and think. I went through my whole history with the guy, his prior betting patterns, everything, in my mind.  I took a deep breath, went with my read, and called.

He flipped 8 5 over and I won a €4800 pot, the biggest of my life at the time (pokerhand is here).  Winning this pot felt like the culmination of so many things, that finally everything came together in one huge, high stakes moment – trusting my instincts, using the available math, the reads I had gathered, and focusing it all into making the right decision.  I began to trust my instincts more and more, working on sharpening my skills and trying to become a LAG force at the tables.

I was dominating the cash games everywhere I played, and getting lucky when I got my money in behind. My favorite example from the period :

$10-$20 game on Party. BB is extremely lag and aggressive.

Button ($2417)
Hero ($2796)
BB ($4480.55)

I limp the SB with Q Q behind the button’s fold. I expect the villain to raise, as he always does. He does raise to $66 here and I just call. [lol.  lol.]

Flop: ($132) 6, 9, 3 (2 players)

I check. The BB bets $126, and I think a second before I raise to $326. He quickly reraises to $800. I think for a long time and determine his range here is a lot greater than a set – very likely air, A9, JJ, etc. I’m beating a ton here vs this guy, I think. I push all in for $2404, and he instantly calls the $1930.  [this is unmodified.  lol.]

Turn: ($5592) 8 (2 players)

River: ($5592) Q (2 players)

Final Pot: $5592

I did actually give an uncharacteristic little fistpump when the Q hit, as I wasn’t too sure I was ahead after his instacall. He flips KK and I take down a pretty huge pot. I can defend plays like this as +EV (villain here is ridiculously over-aggro and tilting at the time), but I got lucky in spots like this consistently in January and December.

In January, I keep on playing nonstop, making the most of my first real high stakes heater.   School was out since late December and thus my focus was totally on poker. I take some of the money I’ve earned and upgrade my gamble factory, adding new monitors and a big TV for the wall [I cannot find this picture :( ].

My family planned a cruise to the Caribbean for mid-January.  I was excited about maybe getting a chance to play live poker in the casino on the ship, but it ends up not having poker tables.  I didn’t let that stop me – all I wanted to do was play.  I end up spending a large percentage of my time on the cruise ship on my laptop paying $.35/minute for me to play poker on the internet.  Cool.  Somewhere in the waters off Mexico, on January 20th, 2006, I break $100,000 in earnings, thanks to this hand pushing me from $99,000 to $100,000.

By the end of January, I’ve earned over $120,000 from my initial $5. My bankroll is just slightly under $100,000 at this point as I haven’t spent much of it on anything but school, insurance, and the plasma + surround setup. I was just 20 days shy of making my goal.  I felt incredible, invincible, and so excited about what the future could bring.

All told, I won over $80,000 in that 45 day period from 12/17 to 1/31. I put in nearly 550 table hours during that time. And yes, I know, I was on a pretty awesome heater.  Party, Interpoker, Bodog and Fortune were the major contributors of money earned during this period.  I even won money at Pokerstars, a sure sign of the rapture.   While on the cruise in January, I wrote what would become the very first Spicebox file, my Heads-up Report vs Bubbles at [long gone :( ] and launch the original Spicebox with Addict, my own free-for-SomethingAwful poker training site.

Once I hit $100k, feeling like I could do anything [heaters are pretty good for that] my next goal was to hit $250k by the end of this year. Fairly easy considering the proportional difficulty of the $10k and $100k goals, right???

Some graphs from the period of 12/17/05 – 1/31/06:


Life Earnings til January 31
ETD thru 13106


Period Earnings

TE 121705-013106

Part XI :  Coolers and Heaters

In February, I finally slowed down the amount of play I had been putting in.  I diversified my interests a little, focusing on school and spending time with my friends more than I had in prior months.   I also started training in martial arts more seriously than I had been, even occasionally working out at the gym.  I pretty much broke even for February – it was a dull, boring, unmemorable month pokerwise.

Except for one night.

I start playing a guy at $10-$20 NL on fortune. We joust back and forth for a bit before he says “come to ₤10-₤20.” The guy seemed like a donkey, so away I went, playing higher than I ever had before.

The guy had a very interesting strategy for a heads up game. He raised every hand, preflop, without exception [I don't know if I meant this to be notable or not, but funny to read anyway]. He’d also call any reraise under a quarter of his stack.

The game was playing VERY big.  I quickly got stuck $6,000.  I gritted my teeth, determined to beat this guy, when the following hand came up.

I worked my stack back up to ₤3000. He has me covered.

I pick up J J. He raises, like he always does, to ₤60. I make it ₤200, and he calls.

Flop is 7 6 4. He checks, I bet ₤300, and he calls. His range here is huge. A-5, 7-K, a flush draw, a four, anything.

Turn is a T. He checks, I perhaps stupidly bet ₤600 here, and he pushes. I compound this stupidity by putting in the remaining ~₤2000.

The river is a 5 and he tables 7-7.  I had just lost a pot worth $10,700. The first $10k pot I had ever lost.  I remember thinking about how much money that was.  As far as the hand itself goes, I don’t know what I was doing in that hand.   I just wanted to beat this guy so bad I talked myself into ignoring logic and decided to go with the hand even though I was likely beaten.

Fortune had an insanely dumb $10k loss-nanny, so after that hand I was forcibly done with Fortune for the night. Being stuck a smooth $10k and not realizing that I was probably tilted and maybe trying to get unstuck was a bad idea, I headed over to party and fired up two NL2000 tables.

In typical JCarver fashion, I ran AWESOME. I had two stacks of $4000 very quickly. I repeatedly flopped top set vs overpairs and ended up busting people left and right.  In about an hour of play, I had $12,000 at two tables. I had rebought once or twice on each, but still, it was amazing. This hand showcases my night best :

I have $10,000 and the villain has $2,500.

Villain minraises to $40, and I call with A 4.

The flop is 2 3 5.  He bets $40 and I “debate” before making it $140. He calls.

The turn is a 5. He checks, I bet $250, and he calls.

The river is a 9. The action speaks for itself:

BET Lovedayr, $800
ALL-IN JCarver1 [ $9562.50 ]

Lovedayr: dude go fuc k yourself
FOLD Lovedayr
JCarver1 does not show cards.
JCarver1 wins $11221.50
Lovedayr has left the table.

All told that night I won $16,000 on party, making me actually up $6,000 or so for the 6 hour session.  Not a bad way to recover.

The next morning, I wake up to see an email from James, manager of Fortune poker:

quote:

Hi Jason,

Hope that you are well. I know that you suffered at the tables on the weekend
and I really feel bad cause you are my player so I have a special connection
with you versus others in the network.
You are a very solid player and it can sometimes happen even to the best.
But do not let that shake your confidence in case it might have which is a
natural reaction.
Play as you were playing, if there is some lesson that you picked up, remember
it but I think your game play is solid.

Let me know if you need anything.

“PLZ DONT KILL YOURSELF SONNY, SCOTSMAN FEEDS HIS CHILDREN WITH YOUR RAKE!” It was our first correspondance (only a welcoming letter was before this), so its not like I had any contact from him consistently.  Ahhh, James.  What an amazingly nice guy back in the day :)

The only other exciting poker thing that happened in February was that I won a Bodog tournament for a few thousand dollars. Nothing too dramatic. I lost a few thousand overall for the month, reasonable considering I didn’t play that many hours.

March was a rough month, but not in poker.  The short story is my girlfriend and I broke up and then she immediately hooked up with my best friend. Awesome, right?  Poker was pretty much the last thing on my mind for a few weeks while I immersed myself in drama.

To make myself feel better [read: engaging the spite machine], I decided to go buy a new car. Previously, I was driving my sweet sweet 2000 Sable LUXURY SEDAN, and decided the time had come to upgrade. I planned on only spending a total of $20,000 on the car but ended up blowing about double that on a [fairly obnoxious] 2005 350z convertible. Yes, it’s a manual, and yes, I learned how to drive stick on this car.

car2

I lost $1000 or so in March over even less hours than what I put in in February. However, the most awesome achievement of my life occured when I met Unamuno in Turning Stone. I still haven’t bathed since.


Feb and March ‘06

ETD 020106-040106

Barely playing poker is cool and all, just so long you’re not hemorrhaging money when you do put in the few hours you play.

That was not the case in April.

In the first fifteen days of April, I lost $22,000, playing NL2k and 1k sporadically. I barely put any time in at the tables, but when I did, hoo boy, the money spewed out. Including the prior two months, I lost $30,000 or so at poker, $20,000 for the down payment for the car, and some tens of thousands on taxes. That’s a pretty nasty downswing for what was a ~$95,000 bankroll at its peak.

My confidence crashed. Between my two broken relationships, losing every time I touched a poker table, and the sheer amount of money that I had lost (I’m pretty much immune to “OH GOD -$XX,XXX!” but for some reason everything piled together amplified it so that it may as well have been a million that I lost), I was mentally very beaten down. My mother was thrilled. “THIS IS WHY YOU CANT DEPEND ON POKER, DONT YOU SEE! YOU NEED A SOLID JOB AND TO GO TO COLLEGE (which I do, if you haven’t read every update [ha gotem])”

This whole downswing thing hurt because not only was I not thinking rationally from the other drama, but because I had started thinking that I could really depend on poker for an income for the rest of my life. Those dreams were [temporarily] shattered in March-April.   I really didn’t know what I was going to do.

The other lesson I learned in this time is to not play poker when you’re already emotionally unstable. I was playing my B or C game, probably, AND when I lost, I wasn’t ready to deal with the natural swings of the game.  Bad mix.

I had no plans to play poker on my birthday. I had had enough of poker and made other plans far from a computer.  That morning, I woke up to the pleasant sound of my phone ringing.  It was a friend from karate wishing me a happy birthday. “Hah,” my drama-soaked depressed mind thought afterwards, “at least one person likes you. Lucky you.” My best friend was the next person to call me, and as the day went on, I heard from a surprising amount of people. It sounds silly to point to this as a reason for getting back on the horse, but all the birthday wishes were something of a shock to my system which ended up helping me feel like I was ready to start climbing up out of the hole that I had dug. That stubbornness to accept losses won out again and, like so many times before it, I was mentally pushing myself to play again – and hopefully, this time, win.


April 1-15
TE 040106-041506


Part XII : The Future

At my low point, I had no more than $20,000 or so online, and had even moved down to NL600. Once school started winding down, though, I started really focusing on poker again. After my birthday, things just started to click. When I was playing good and running good, money started pouring from the sky.

I started destroying the 5-10 NL game, mostly on Fortune. I won tens of thousands of dollars from that game alone in May and June. As my bankroll steadily climbed from the $20k low point to $30k, $40k, $60k, I resumed taking shots at NL2000. My experiences in the downswing made me stronger, and I started killing the higher games. Fortune Poker becomes my, well, bitch/ATM, and I earn what is scientifically referred to as a “fuckton” of money between the end of April and July.

I start taking shots at NL5000 by early July. Within a week or so, I’m playing the game pretty regularly and doing well.

The villain from the $10k JJ/777 hand sits down in my $5K game one night. He’s actually a good player, and not the donkey I believed back in February. He’s definitely a maniac, though.

I pick up 8 8. The game is four handed and is very aggressive. The villain makes it $200 and I call.

The flop is 6 8 Q. The villain c-bets for $350. I fake debate for a moment before making it $850 straight.  Villain waits just a moment before pushing all-in for $3,500 more or so. I instacall.

The turn is a 2 and the river is a 2. He tables Q-J and I take down a pot worth $10,070.  Ah, sweet vengeance.  That was my first $10,000 hand that I won (I actually had lost another 10k pot at nl2k right around the first one, so I was 0-2 for $10k pots til this hand).

Over a 10-week period (4/15-7/01), I won almost $100,000. I didn’t have any big tournament wins, didn’t hit a lucky jackpot – I earned every dollar, ‘grinding’ it out at short handed NLHE cash games.

It’s amazing how far I’ve come since the days of playing $.05-$.10 on pacific.  At this point, [June-July of 06] I’ve been lucky enough to turn that $5 into $200,000+ in earnings.   I shrug off five figure downswings like they’re nothing now.  What’d I earn today? $26,000. What’d I earn two weeks ago? I lost $35,000.  Shrug. That’s poker.   I love the game, though, just like I always have. Every day is something different and poker has opened doors to me that no job ever could offer a 19 year old. I plan on traveling for the European Poker Tour this fall, buying my own house, and who knows what else beyond that.

I plan on keeping my future trials and successes recorded on my blog at http://jcarver.thespicebox.net [I think I moved here about a year or two after that now-gone blog].  Writing this thread was a ridiculously awesome trip down memory lane for me. It would have been impossible (and far less believable) without pokercharts and pokerhand.org.  While I’m thanking people/groups, without PITR, I wouldn’t be where I am, either. You guys supported me when I was losing and pushed me to be better and work harder when I was winning.  I like to think the Spicebox is my small way of giving back to such a great community.

I hope you guys enjoyed my story and took something from it, even if it’s only that I could be a writer for :twentyfour: . Will I make $250,000 this year? Will my online success translate into live cashes? Will I buy a golden rocket ship that says “THE ADJUTOR EXPRESS” [havent heard that name in forever!] on the side that only runs 30 seconds at a time before petering out?   You’ll have to stay tuned to the blog to find out.

[it was pretty fun to reread this.  Eventually, after a lot of swings, I did end up making my goal for life-to-date earnings by the end of 2006.  It's crazy to think this was written almost 5 years ago, and crazier to think the subject is the 2 years before that. I tried not to change a lot but man I shook my head at so much that my 19-year old writing voice thought was acceptable and just couldn't leave some things if it was going to be enshrined forever in this blog.  Sorry again it took so long to get done, thanks for reading!]

jcarver : origins, continued II

January 5, 2011 | 12:12 am | JCarver

parts 1-3 can be found here
parts 4 and 5 can be found here

Well I’m not really shocked that I didn’t stick to my once a day promise.  Sorry about that!  There should be about 2 more updates to post, give or take, which’ll come over the next week or so.  This update is the first one where I didn’t have graphs anymore and had to re-add them, which is going to hold true for all future posts so it’ll be a little slower going.  The feedback I’ve gotten has all been real positive so I’ll try to get them out asap.

Part VI : The Big Climb

After my switch to No-Limit cash games I pretty much stopped playing anything else.  I played primarily $1-$2 NL on Pacific during this time, with shots as high as $3-$6 on Party between April 15th and June 1st. I did a good amount of winning, taking down nearly $8400 in cash games for that 45 day period.

NL ring 041605-060105

No Limit Ring games – 4/16/05 – 6/1/05

During this time, I had a forgettable short love affair with Pot Limit Holdem.  In addition to winning $8400 at NL cash games, I won an additional $4300 at PL cash games, making my total for big-bet games over that 45 day period slightly over $12,000. My best session for the period happened in a $2-$4 PL game on Party where I played for 2 hours and 30 minutes and won a little over $2400 in profit.

total earn 041605-060105
Total Earnings – 4/16 – 6/1/05

ETD thru 060105
Total Earnings til 6/1/05

Part VII : The House Always Wins…

By the start of June 2005, I had earned over $20,000 and played over 2,000 hours of poker. I had started primarily playing $3/$6 NL on Party (the highest Pacific had was $1-$2) and was looking to expand my game further.  I started playing on Bodog, Eurobet (a Party skin, but I had rakeback there), SunPoker (crypto skin), and started to take stabs at $5/$10.

The biggest change for you readers during this time period is that I started in June recording some of my big hands – both wins and losses – at http://www.pokerhand.org. Very few of these have any actual true strategic content, but I’ll include a few from now on in these posts.

I am scooping the whole summer of ‘05 into one big segment because, quite frankly, it was three months of break-even frustration. I played $10-$20 NL once [this has to be the biggest game online at the time], because Moquel wanted to watch me (and I wanted to be a big shot!), and won $3000 when my AK sucked out on A9 on a 9-6-2-K-4. I left right after that hand and didn’t go back for the remainder of 2005.

The pattern in the summer for me was : run good, then run twice as bad – recover back to even, then suffer the same loss as before, putting me back in the hole. This happened time and time again over the summer. My MTT game started to suffer as I attempted to gain a big stack early rather than “bust out to bad beats later on” through gambling in what were, retrospectively, badly -EV spots. I got frustrated. My parents and other adults constantly pounded me with helpful advice such as “QUIT WHILE YOU’RE AHEAD!” and “YOU GOT LUCKY, BUT YOU KNOW, KID, THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS!”

CGP 060105-090105
Cash game winnings, Summer 05 (6/1-9/1)

total earn 060105-090105
Summer “Earnings”

Over the summer I also expanded my play away from Pacific more and more. I played pretty much every major site on the internet, in fact, so many that the pie graph can’t accurately display all the colors. The most played location is at the bottom of the list on the key to the right, and then listed in ascending order from there by most played:

timeplayed summer05

The best part of my summer was my two trips to Turning Stone. The first time I went and played a few MTTs and $2-$5 NL. I won a few hundred at cash games and didn’t cash in any tournaments.  I loved playing live, though.  I went on that trip with Chuck and it was a pretty awesome time overall.  I went back for the Empire State Championships in August.  After that summer, I would try to take every opportunity to play live that I could.

Little did I know that as well as an inspiration to play live I’d pick up another gem from my time at Turning Stone. I went downstairs one night to the poker room, late – maybe 2am. It was surprisingly packed, and there were a lot of games going. I went over to the game I wanted to play (the $5-$5) and started watching the action. Nothing exciting was happening, so I decided to go play a satellite to something. I busted quick, but I met this guy up there who was pretty bad. Young kid, maybe 23.  He informs me that he is staying in the same room as his “superstar friend” named Peter, but who is legally changing his name to Ace (truly a perfect tribute to one’s cardplaying skills).  I hold back an incredulous laugh, not helped by my realization that I only knew one famous Ace before then:

ace

Before I bust, this other guy comes upstairs (Ace and my tablemate’s mutual friend) to tell my tablemate here that Ace got challenged to a $1000 heads up match [WHOA]. After I bust out, I go downstairs with the mutual friend to investigate, and Ace is at the $5-$5 game I was watching before.  Ace was a young, slick kid, cocksure, slightly arrogant, and definitely very stubborn.

Across the table from Ace sat a huge man.  The two players are impossible to miss as their dramatic blowup is currently the focus of the entire room.  The two are engaged in a yelling contest that I’ll never forget.   Let’s call the huge antagonist something clever, like Fatty McGee. I’m standing in the line of fire behind Ace during this whole exchange. Fatty never lets Ace finish a point without interrupting [sounds like he'd fit in with my family].  I’m summarizing the whole thing, as there was a lot of plain boring swearing at eachother. Yes, hands were being played during this whole rated-R dramabomb at the table.

Fatty McGee: Fucking kids these days, fucking think they know everything.

Ace: I don’t think I know everything…

Fatty McGee: …just more than me, right, moron? Fucking loser kid thinks he can bully the whole god damn table!

Ace: I didn’t say that.

Fatty McGee: I hate fucking punk kids like you.

Ace: What, just because I won your money and you can’t win a pot?

Fatty McGee: Fucking kid! I’ve won pots so fucking big! SO FUCKING BIG! (wildly gestures) You want to play me for $1k?!

Ace: Sure!

Fatty McGee, growling, somewhat rising from his seat: YOU FUCKING KID! YOU THINK YOU GOT BALLS? YOU WANT TO PLAY ME FOR TEN FUCKING GRAND YOU LITTLE SHIT? ILL FUCKING CRUSH YOUR FUCKING BALLS (he now dramatically slowly gestures like he’s crushing grapes with his hand, I swear to god) LIKE THEY WERE NOTHING! [it wasn't Mike Matusow]

Ace: But…but…I don’t have 10k to play you.

Fatty McGee over there starts to grin in triumph. I am honestly fucking LOVING this. The drama, the drama! Just when I think it can’t get any better, deus ex machina, some random kid who has been silent this whole time, says firmly, but quietly to our villain (loud enough for all to hear):

“I’ll give him $10,000 to play you.”

Fatty McGee shuts up and never says a word to Ace the rest of the session.  A little while later, we started talking to Ace and the $10k kid [I have a feeling this guy is a current well-known name in online poker].  Both were very nice guys – even Ace did seem (surprisingly) knowledgeable, much more so than his idiot buddy who I met in the satellite room.  We talked for 15 minutes or so, discussing lots of poker-related things. He eventually told me about this secret place he had been crushing – “Bodog” .  He said that the games there were enormously juicy, especially the shorthanded ones, and he had won a TON of money there.  I hadn’t played on Bodog before talking to Ace and made a note to check this place out.

While I was in TS, I decided to play in a $20 rebuy multitable satellite to the $2,000 main event. I had never played in a tournament with that big of a buyin and had no intentions of buying in if I didn’t successfully satellite. Somehow, my magic luckbox powers held up, and I was one of the 5 seat winners to the main event [this turns out to be the only live satellite I've ever won, and one of max 3 I've ever played].

The main event of the tournament itself was pretty awesome. I love playing live tournaments – it provides a thrill that for some reason most cash games don’t give me [apparently later on I felt the way the rectify this was to play cash games I wasn't remotely rolled for]. In the smaller events, I had felt comfortable, talking up a storm and owning each successive table until some unfortunate circumstance came about putting an abortive bullet into my dreams of glory. I went into the $2,000 event determined not to let my game plan differ from prior events.

Unfortunately, my plan didn’t work. At all.

I sit down, one of the first in the room at the bright and early 9am start time [Turning Stone start times are the worst]. First guy to sit with me at my table is Pete “thebeat” Giordano, a talkative mid-50s guy who is friendly but very good, made a WPT final table and is a very well known internet player.

279276503_14c0956a1a_m

Pete “thebeat” Giordano, an online MTT legend

OK, whatever. I can handle one pro with me, I thought.  Next guy who sits is wearing an “Ultimate Poker Challenge” bracelet [lol on like 4 levels] which probably qualifies him as being decent (even though I don’t usually automatically equate MTT success to  “decent at poker” [probably the wisest thing I've ever thought]).  A few unknowns sit (who I find out later are regulars in the NL2K game on stars) and then an older guy sits who has decent results. His name is Al Krux [!].  He’s sitting two to my left. Great, I remember thinking. At least I’ll have a good story to tell when it’s all over. [this is an amazing paragraph]

There’s one idiot fucker sitting directly across the table from me, obviously a qualifier or rich fish. The guy to my right isn’t too wonderful either. I play conservatively for a few hours, watching Pete Giordano bust Al Krux on a Q-4-Q board with AQ vs Krux’ JJ (Krux was surprisingly passive, limping UTG and such quite frequently). Pete built up a nice stack and was very intimidating (he yelled “PAIR THE BOARD!” every time a flop, turn, or river was dealt that he was in) and bullied the table quite effectively. I lost a nice pot vs him at some point with 6-4 on what must have been a 7-5-9-J-8, or something, because I remember rivering the “not best” straight versus his “best” straight.

I get my chips in versus the one idiot across the table preflop [somehow] with my AK vs his J7 and he sucks out to a 7 on the river to bust me just a few hours in.   I, in classic JCarver style, immediately begin the long drive home, but felt pretty thrilled overall with how awesome the trip was and was really motivated to play some more poker.

All in all, I won my seat to the $2000 main event, got to play with superstars Al Krux, Pete Giordano, and some other mildly famous people, made a lot of new friends, and for the first time, felt like a member of a tangible poker community.  I was way outclassed in the tournament [I doubt it], but even though I busted early, I was intrigued and hooked by live play.  I left TS in August totally psyched to play poker, inspired by the stories I had heard from my new friends about check-raising Doyle at the WSOP and bluffing guys for $20,000 pots on Ultimate Bet.

Perhaps Bodog would be the site where I would dig myself out of my downswing and back into profit land? Could this August trip to Turning Stone be the turnaround on my summertime journey towards the abyss of Frowntown?  WOULD I EVER WIN A POT OF POKER AGAIN?

Wow shut up please JCarver

December 29, 2010 | 7:52 am | Derk

Help JCarver is writing all these posts and taking over the website!!!

No really they’re worth reading, so be sure to go check them out.

I’ve got some interesting stuff in the pipeline, one is a review of probably the first poker book I’ve read in almost 2 years, and it’s not me making fun of T. J. Cloutier. The other thing is I’m working on an interesting theoretical study related to some MTT data analysis. If you have a lot of MTT hand histories I’d like to hear from you so I can use them in my study. All results will be anonymous, although if you participate I’ll tell you who you are. If you have 500 or more MTT hand histories let me know.  The only poker games I can use in my study are NLHE  MTTs, and so that means no SNGs, MTSNGs or cash games.

Also the first SNG contest in months over at PokerVT has wrapped up.  For better or worse there were 27 participants, and it paid out $400 to 6 people, with $145 to the top prize winner, MxKlptz.  To compete all you need to do is play in 8 $3.40 SNGs with me over a month’s time on PokerStars at 5 PM Eastern on any Sunday.  Considering that only people who have played 8 games have won prizes and that 15 of the 27 people in December played 8 games, that’s almost 100% ROI in EV on top of whatever you make while playing the games!  For more info about the contest check here.  And if you’re signing up to PokerVT don’t forget to use discount code NotAProblem to get a better-than-usual discount.

jcarver : origins, continued

December 28, 2010 | 2:33 pm | JCarver

parts 1-3 can be found here

Part IV : Rising Action

Early January Pacific introduced no-limit and pot-limit cash games. I had never played NL/PL cash games before online [I still remember their "Ring in the New Year with our No-Limit cash games banner/promo]. I sat at a $.50-$1 NL table one night with very little understanding of the game (with 100 BB, as opposed to the shortstack home games / mtts).  Upon informing my friend Chuck of my plans, he remarked to me (in his usual hilariously sour tone) “Fantastic, now you can blow your money ten times as fast, clown.”

I blew at least three buyins over the next few days of NL heads up cash game play. I liked it, but I distinctly remember having no clue how much to bet in so many spots. I felt that there was money to be made but I just had no idea how to do it. I recommitted to playing Limit Holdem.

My bankroll kept growing. I planned on moving up to $10-$20 when my bankroll hit $4000, and got there a few times in January. I suffered my worst losing night (not in BB, in dollars) thus far by losing $600 at $10-$20 in two hours in mid January. For the most part, though, in January I did a pretty good job smashing Limit Hold’em, taking down $1130.20 over 160 hours of play.

Additionally in January, I had several big tournament cashes, the biggest being my first outright win in a $33.  The tournament had 188 runners, making first place good for my first four-figure score of $1692.  I also managed to get 2nd in a $5.50 with a seven-hundred strong field for $513.20.

January was reasonably quiet otherwise. I kept reading books, made my first withdrawal on Pacific (and promptly put a small amount of that money into Party), but was a month of relatively strong growth. Some graphs from the period :


Career Earnings Til 1-31-05


Career Earnings Til 1-31-05, by date


Amount of Time played by Location


January Earnings

Earlier I said that I had graduated high school early and that I felt this was key to me doing so well. 17 year old kids tend to have a lot of time on their hands and not a lot of bills to pay. Once I graduated high school, I found that college had a lot less “busy work” and I had a lot more available time to work on my game. Like most kids that age, I had really no bills (car insurance, that was about it) and so was able to dedicate 99% of my bankroll back into poker.

By the end of January, I had earned $5448.51 over my career which had amounted to 858 table hours. My lifetime hourly rate is very low as I tracked most of the freerolls I played along with all the microlimit games.  I was only a few thousand dollars away from reaching my goals in April with months to spare.

Everything didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had hoped it would in January, but compared to February, January would feel like paradise.

Part V : Falling Action

Let me preface February with my graph from $5-$10 limit.

Wow! Must have been a great month, right!

Wrong.

February was my first recorded month where I actually LOST money. Over the month I lost a total of $-155.76. I lost money in my very few hours of NL cash games, my tournaments, my sit and gos, and most stakes of limit poker. In fact, only $5-$10 brought me any positive income for the month. I spent all month fighting to get something going, and by the middle of the month, I felt like I had recovered nicely.


February Earnings til 2-21-05

Every one of those huge downspikes, for the most part, is from $10-$20 Limit Holdem. I was getting pretty frustrated, and in fact, February was the first month I really started to dislike limit for more than just a moment. It seemed so frustrating, so restrictive. I read Middle-Limit Hold’em by Bob Ciaffone (I think) but it did me little good. Everything seemed to make sense in theory but just totally fell apart in practice at the tables.

Once I had recovered, and things had started going well again, I was happy. I [thought I] knew by then the huge variance in poker but limit just…frustrated me, greatly, at times – as I’m sure it does to everyone. For some reason, even now, I prefer losing thousands and thousands of dollars to one-hand coolers than hours and hours of prolonged lesser bad beats [now I don't have any feelings at all so not a problem].

But anyway, my recovery in February was short lived. On the afternoon of the 21st, I once again started a new $10-$20 session. Things immediately started going badly. Before I knew it, I had lost $2,000 and was very unhappy. I spent over ten hours in that game (far, far longer than I should have, but I felt I was playing well at the time – even though I now doubt I was) before leaving down $1562.50.  Another nail in the limit poker escape canoe that I would eventually ride off on [what a sentence this is].

I don’t really have a lot more to say about February. I wasn’t as disillusioned as I was when I had lost in December. I knew this was going to happen sometimes and that it didn’t mean I was a horrible player. By now, though, I had started to dislike limit poker itself and would be looking to start expanding my cash game beyond just Limit Holdem in the coming weeks.

Some graphs from February :


February Earnings


February Limit Holdem Earnings


February MTT “Earnings”


February $ Win by Location


Total Career Earnings Til February vs Total Hours Played

I was no closer to my April goal by the end of February than I was at the end of January. I was hoping for a solid March and had already started planning on how I was going to go from $5k and change to $10k in a month and a half.  The answer fell into my lap.  Pacific Poker was advertising a $1,000,000 guaranteed tournament for the middle of March.  I told everyone in my very limited poker world, “that’s going to be the game that gets me to $10,000.”  I don’t think anyone believed me [not that I blame them].  Little did even I know that I was going to prove them all wrong come March 26th.

Part V – The Start of Something

February was fairly rough but I still felt like I was on track to meet my goal to reach $10,000 by April 15th.

The beginning of March was pretty good to me. I was winning at limit again, mostly playing $10-$20. I of course in my [still] unending quest to play games I am not ready for blew over $1300 taking shots at $15-$30. However, I also started putting a good amount of time into No-Limit cash games, winning over $1500 at $1-$2 NL. I barely played any tournaments and cashed in none of the few I played.

March 26th was the 1M guarantee on Pacific. I was pretty psyched.  It was the biggest game I had ever played [I believe it was a $400]. I was hoping things ran well, as I had a problem in a 75k guarantee on Pacific that I didn’t share with you guys in February that made me question the software’s strength.

The 75k [a major guarantee at the time] was totally ruined by a bug in Pacific’s software that was exploited by certain players. In short, out of the three tables that were left, some players were able to effectively max timebank, then skip their own action, making hands take forever.   With several people exploiting this, two tables were playing about 2 hands per hour and mine was quickly 5 handed (can’t balance tables until the hands finish at the other tables) with our table’s massive chip leader playing normally. Pacific’s support did nothing about it during or after even with the huge uproar that I know several of us gave them. I was in the top five going into 3 tables and busted 22nd as I couldn’t outlast two near-frozen tables while playing a normal shorthanded game. If you guys want to hear more details I still have all the emails saved that I sent them and the responses I got back [I don't know if this is true], but it’s definitely one of the big reasons I eventually left Pacific.

Still, though, I was assured the bug was fixed (even though it obviously wasn’t, as I saw in later tournaments) and would not be an issue in the 1M. I won my seat on March 24th and was ready to play on the 26th.

I was planning on going away the weekend of the tournament even before I heard of the 1M.  I rebuilt my weekend around the tournament that Sunday.  I relaxed the day before in Florida, reading tournament books and other things (like losing thousands at $15-$30 [not literally...I don't think]) preparing for the big day.

Chuck called me while I was in Florida. He told me that he wanted to play the 1M too, and I told him no way – I had got my seat already. We settled on him sort of “coaching” me through the game as I needed it, even though I was in Florida. He’d end up being on the phone with me for the entire duration of the game [nobody knew what ghosting was 6 years ago].

The game ran with 1600 people.  There was almost $400,000 in overlay, and a lot of people weren’t there that actually did enter. I steadily built a stack hour after hour, even though I was card dead. I never got anything better than two pair throughout the entire course of the game and rarely got any big hands [amazing that I still remember going through the hand history and realizing this]. The ones I did get I made count, though.

After many hours, we were down to 14 people.  I was in 5th place. I pick up 8 5 in the big blind. UTG limps as does one other person. I check. Flop is 8 5 2. I check, UTG bets, and it gets back to me. I shove. He instantly calls with AA.

Turn is a jack.

River is a duece.

I was devastated. Obviously, this is just a bad beat, but first place paid nearly $210,000, while 14th paid only $7,500 (which I shared with Chuck in our bankroll). It hurt pretty bad for several weeks, but in the end, I was happy with my play.

The rest of the month went relatively smoothly. By the end of the month, I won $6,789 (counting half the 1M score as profit) and $2232 from NL cash games in March alone. I broke my $10,000 goal slightly after the big tournament (even counting it for half). Here’s a random screenshot where I doubled up in a coinflip that a goon took during the 1M :

I was thrilled.  I reached my goal and had started learning the ways of no-limit cash games. I felt like I was so…free, compared to limit poker.   I started getting a better ability to feel the pulse of the games, a better grip on players, and started realizing that my chip stack in no-limit could be used as a weapon. Things started to click in my no-limit game while my frustrations just compounded further and further in limit. I considered my goal having been met (as I wasn’t sure if the goal I set was to hit $10k by 4/15 or 4/1), but I had won enough in mid-March to put me well over that $10k level (and I’ve never been below it since then).

The first 15 days of April were extremely rough on me. I won $2000, then lost $4000, all by April 14th. Stuck $2,000 thus far for the month, but still with a healthy $10k+ bankroll, my birthday came at midnight of the 15th. I had made my $10k dream into a reality.

Early that morning I decided to play $30-$60. I hadn’t been winning at $ 30-$60 when I took stabs earlier but that didn’t stop me that morning. I played 5 hours, til 6 am, and lost $2043.40 in a hugely upsetting fest of suckouts and bad play. It was that very day, on my birthday, that I finally boiled over. I swore off limit holdem for good. I had had enough with the beats, the suckouts, the lack of control, and the losing (for some reason I believed NL to be less filled with those things [lol.  I do pretty much never come back to limit poker until very recently]). I would stick to $1-$2 NL (the highest Pacific had, at the time). Turning 18 would also mean access to Neteller [an e-wallet to help move money around...sad I have to explain that] and the rest of the internet poker scene.

That’s what I remember my 18th birthday for, for some reason. The $30-$60 $2k hit that I took. I have no clue what else I did that day.  What can I say?  It’s not in PokerCharts.  Seriously, though, without PC to remind me this story wouldn’t be nearly as detailed.  That night helped show me how bad things could get, at times, but I would soon see just how good it could get. I pledged on my birthday to earn $75,000 before the year was out, which was ridiculously ambitious on my part (like $2500 and $10k goals weren’t ambitious at all!).

And so on one day the limit player within me was dead. I’ve never returned to limit HE other than in short bursts for “fun”. On the same day the new me was born – the NLHE cash specialist with more dreams than knowledge. But hell, that’s what I started this journey with, and it worked out ok so far, right?

Career Earnings til Mid-April (this doesn’t include my -2k at the end, that’s the next half)

Earnings 3/1/05-4/14/05

Part V – Birthdays, Resurrections, and Rebirths