I’ve been playing poker for 12 years now, and have faced many a poker struggle. It’s been a slow and sometimes agonizing ride up until about 1 year ago. My journey started out like many others, with Moneymaker winning the Main Event and the introduction of the World Poker Tour. It sparked my imagination… playing a game for millions of dollars, making a living traveling the world playing tourneys, getting to know these cool and colorful characters. But I was a long way from there. It all started for me with home game tourneys.
Home Game Tourneys – Starting out, having fun
My cousin started a twice monthly Friday night home game. It was normally just family members playing, although he’d invite some friends occasionally. We’d play 3-4 NLHE tourneys for $5 buy-ins. None of us were particularly good, but we were all competent and understood basic strategy. We all really enjoyed the game, but it was just something fun for us to do, and we didn’t take it too seriously and developing our skills wasn’t on the agenda.
Local Cardroom Tourneys and Cash Games – Getting serious, realization sinks in
I migrated over to one of our local Indian casinos and the cardroom there. I jumped into cash games, specifically $2/4 limit. At the time $4/8 was the big game and NL wasn’t spread at all. I didn’t have much money to gamble with, so the lower limits was my starting point. I bought a couple books and started reading up on strategy and improving my game. I did it sort of half-assed though, just reading and not really getting all I could from the lessons presented in the books. And it didn’t help that the rake in $2/4 games was so high that it made it very difficult to make money. I realized that making money at poker, while fun, was a difficult prospect at these lower stakes.
I played this way for a few years, until I heard about how profitable online poker was from a WSOP Main Event episode. They were featuring a player who made most of his money in online poker, and that intrigued me. To the outsider that I was, online poker seemed like it could be rife with cheating and conspiring. I figured it was a place to go just to lose your money, so it was something that I never considered doing. But after hearing about some 21 year old making a name for himself and a ton of money in the process, I figured it was something I would try.
Online Poker – Bankroll what?
I jumped onto PokerStars in early 2007. I had heard about Party Poker but I think they had already pulled out of the US by then due to the UIGEA going into effect. I did a little research and it seemed like PokerStars was the next best choice. At the time they were offering $600 bonus money for a $600 deposit, so that’s what I did. I knew that I had to play to release it, but man, it took for every to get even $5 of it. I started by playing $2/4 limit (it’s what I played in the cardroom, so how could it be different?), and man was that a mistake. I blew through $200 in just a couple of hours, and decided to move to SNG’s and tourneys to try my luck there.
Of course… no luck was found. I blew through another $350 bucks in no time it felt like. I had to drop down to $2 or $3 SNG’s, I don’t really remember. I had never heard of bankroll management and just thought I was running super unlucky. I eventually lost the remaining $50 (and I had only earned $15 of my bonus), I felt like crap and was super frustrated with poker.
But, I decided to move to another site, Ultimate Bet.
At the time, maybe around late 2007, I never knew they had those super-user issues (2+2 wasn’t on my poker radar). I just knew it was a site that some pros endorsed so I checked it out. They had the same bonus deal, so in went another $600. This time it lasted me a bit longer, but the software wasn’t as nice as PokerStars to me, so I didn’t really enjoy my time there. I ended up losing all of it after clearing maybe $20 of the bonus, and went back to PokerStars with small deposits. More frustration with poker.
It felt like crap losing my online bankroll twice. I felt like I was just wasting my time playing and I was getting nothing but a little excitement from the game. I started playing less and less online, that is until the next broadcast of the WSOP on ESPN.
Online Poker Training – What? There’s training and coaches and strategy online?
I think it was during the 2009 WSOP broadcast on ESPN that I heard Norman Chad talking about this young kid on screen being an online poker coach. He was only 21 or 22, and I think the player they mentioned was Andrew Lichtenberger. This blew my mind! There’s poker coaching?! Online strategy and training?! TRAINING VIDEOS!!???
I couldn’t believe what I was discovering. I spent a couple hours that night watching free training videos on a site run by a guy named Trikkkur, I think it was called pokertrikz.com. He offered free videos and I got to it and started learning. This just opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities, a world in which I could find ways to train and become a better poker player. Where I could go on 2+2 and discuss strategy with others, learn about bankroll management and bonus whoring, get a poker tracking software and HUD and review my hands, and where I could learn to exploit others like me (the fish).
It was amazing. I was making big strides in my understanding of poker strategy and my bankroll was building. I was playing in the micro cash games on Stars when suddenly strategy befell the poker world…
Then suddenly it was all taken away when Black Friday hit. PokerStars was no longer in the US and there weren’t really any other good options at the time. I didn’t want to risk putting money on other sites, and with a family and a job I couldn’t pickup and leave to Canada, Mexico or Malta. My dreams and hopes were dashed. There were still the brick and mortar card rooms around me, but after the excitement of online poker, live poker just didn’t interest me.
I continued to listen to poker podcasts and playing in my cousin’s home game for the next couple of years. It was during a podcast where I learned about Carbon Poker at some point. I decided to jump on it with a $100 deposit. I ran it up pretty quickly to $300 and decided that this would be my new home (at least until Stars comes back or other big sites).
That was about 2 years ago and things have been going well since.
I started to take studying really seriously, got memberships to training sites like Tournament Poker Edge and Cardrunners, and watched tons of videos and constantly ran through hand histories. I developed study tactics which I keep refining over time, things that have helped me win at the micro stakes.
It’s been a fun ride, and it’s going to get even better
With my creation of this site, I’m looking to take my poker game to the next level. They say that you’ve truly learned something when you can teach it to others. That’s what this site is intended for. My goal is to make you the best player you can be by teaching you the skills that I’ve learned over the past couple of years, and in doing so, I’m making myself a better player in the process.
Over the coming months I’m going to be releasing lots more content. I plan on giving you things that will help you to become the best you can be.
But I can’t do it alone. I need feedback from my readers so I know what they require, otherwise it will be difficult to give you the help/guidance you need to take your game to the next level.
Please let me know what you’re hoping to learn, either in the comments below or by tweeting me at @smartpokerstudy. Follow @smartpokerstudy
Make your next session the best one yet!
‘Frustration’ courtesy of Sybren Stuvel
Freud quote courtesy of BK
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