Tournaments can seriously damage your wealth by Paul Jackson
Thursday, 1 April 2010
As a recreational pursuit, tournament poker is a great option. For the professional player; however, only a deluded mug would see tournament play as a primary source income, using their own money at least.
Tournament poker has a massive attraction for poker players and it traps its victims with the enormous promise of fame and glory, not to mention the fun that you can have for a relatively small outlay with the additional potential of a large payout at the end.
Tournaments have a psychological hold over their victims, very similar to that of nicotine to smokers.
Tournament players live for that one big score that they know they are good enough to get, and even when they do not get close, they see others making it. Often they perceive tournament winners as inferior poker players to themselves, so that re-enforces their delusion.
When they do get a decent win, they forget the multitude of small losses they endured and are often not in profit overall. Being flush with money for a short time feeds their self-belief and keeps the dream alive.
There is a huge difference, which most people tend not to appreciate, between “tournament winnings” and “profit from tournaments” (especially where live play is concerned and the inherent expenses that go with it).
I have been playing poker live and online for 25 years and I probably know more live and online players than most people, but I do not know one single winning professional player who considers playing MTT’s as a primary income source a sensible option.
Even the top American pro players openly admit that they make their “real money” from playing cash and that tournaments are mainly for PR and exposure.
Probably the best tournament players in the UK at the moment are the members of the “Hit Squad”, along with JP Kelly, Sam Trickett, and Neil Channing, and what do these great players all have in common? They all make a lot more bottom line profit from cash games than they do from playing tournaments.
The edge in being a very good tournament player is so small, most of the time, as to not be worthy of consideration in the overall determination of your likelihood of winning any tournament.
As one of the top online money winners Dusty Schmidt so incisively wrote, playing tournaments is like participating in a lottery.
Bad players nowadays probably have 1 ticket each (it used to be 1 ticket between each 20 of them until the internet taught them how to most effectively reduce their disadvantage), average players have 2 tickets each, good players have 3 or maybe 4 tickets each and the great players have maybe 5 to 7 tickets each (Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu probably have about 9 or 10 each).
I am very involved with an online player sponsorship operation called Bankrollsupply where we provide the entire bankroll for online players and provide educational tools and mentors to enhance the games of those to whom we provide a bankroll.
My current main effort is to try to get the multitude of delusional players who see tournaments as a potential pot of gold, to properly appreciate that attitude is a fast route to a job that involves placing gherkins on hamburgers.
I do accept that tournaments are great fun, and obviously you can get a nice win once in a while, but as a long-term professional activity, it provides a very bad business model for sponsorship, or indeed for a stand-alone poker player, who is effectively sponsoring himself into tournaments. The principal is the same in both cases.
Ideally players should play a poker variation that makes them regular money and then, sometimes, if they fancy a crack at a tournament, do so, as it cannot really adversely affect overall profitability if they lose (as is significantly the most likely outcome in every tournament played).
I have spent the last six months or so trying to change the mindset of the many tournament players we have in an endeavour to make them more profitable poker players.
It’s a very difficult task to accomplish: you are asking someone to choose to stop doing something they enjoy and get pleasure from.
The most common and least successful way people try to stop smoking is to carry on wanting to have a fag while denying themselves the “pleasure”. The most effective way to stop smoking, however, is to convince yourself that the reasons for not smoking are so valid that you don’t want to have a fag in the first place, even though you still have to go through the nicotine cold turkey.
Smokers that smoke 40 or more a day know they are addicted and know it’s bad for them but don’t care because they also know that they do not have the discipline to stop.
The most psychologically deluded smokers, however, are those that don’t smoke for a week and then have a fag as a “bonus” at the weekend. These are most addicted, as they see a fag as a “treat” rather than something bad that they cannot stop themselves from doing, and these probably have the least chance of ever properly giving up smoking.
At Bankrollsupply we have players who want to play tournaments, get in a hole and, when they have a win get to keep only a fraction of that win, as the majority of it covers previous losses.
We now insist that all players (other than a small tournament group) specialize, as their primary play, in some kind of cash play or STT play.
It’s quite difficult to be a successful full stack player as the standard online in 6-max cash games are probably beyond the comprehension of most live tournament players and they would be eaten alive, although short stack cash play is a viable option.
STT’s are a good option as I believe a good STT mentor can turn any human being with an IQ in double figures into at least a non-losing STT player, and then the rake back available can be significant in terms of earning, providing you make the effort to put enough volume in.
The biggest barrier to my endeavours in this is that nearly every tournament player thinks they are already good enough to play cash or STT’s but have absolutely no idea of optimal play.
It is a hard task to persuade someone to make an effort to learn something that they truly believe they already know.
A good cash player will soon spot a donkey tournament player making tournament type moves in a cash game, and have a little chuckle to himself while waiting to “pick the money off the floor”, which is about as difficult a task it will be to get them to “stack off” drawing slim or dead.
It is the same in STT play – tournament players often play them as they do tournaments, with no understanding of optimal strategy and no appreciation of stack size, bubble abuse or table dynamics. They get it all-in in level one on a coin flip, lose, claim to have been “unlucky” and, on numerous occasions, knock themselves out. Occasionally they’re in front when the chips go in, but had no need to even play the hand that killed them.
So to sum up, if you want some fun and are happy to pay for your entertainment with a small chance of a nice return, then fill your boots with tournament entries. I, myself, love playing tournaments, although I do not play many nowadays. I recognise them for what they are, in terms of a potential regular revenue stream.
If you want to make regular income from playing poker, and if you are not prepared to do something drastic to get yourself noticed and sponsored (having some breasts grafted onto your head might work if you have no other obvious marketing attraction), learn a poker discipline than you can reasonably expect to make you money most times you sit down to play.