Never Mind the Bollocks

Never Mind the Bollocks

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Very often, the most potent threat to a poker player’s poker playing life comes from sources completely unrelated to the game of poker itself.

Obviously, everyone can, and does, experience the inevitable downswing (except Neil Channing and Roland De Wolfe, of course), but a lot of players have the discipline and / or bankroll to play through this and come out the other end “still in the game”.

The greatest threat to a poor player is his inherent lack of ability, while the greatest threat to a good player might be his propensity for playing while under the influence, normally alcohol, and this, accompanied by a big ego, can lead to an early exit from the poker scene for some very promising poker players.

And here’s the rub: Female players seem not to experience this problem quite so much, probably because they have more sense and fewer testicles (generally speaking, to the tune of two) than their male counterparts.

In terms of finances, there’s a lot of advice out there as to how many times the big blind you should have in your bankroll in order to sit in a particular game. I personally think truth is that it very much depends on the individual player’s ability to adequately assess his own skill level (again testicles can hinder this ability) and also to make a reasonable table selection and game-type when sitting down.

After all, you can be the tenth worst player in the world and, providing you are sitting at a table with the world’s nine worst players, you shouldn’t need too big a bankroll to remain profitable long term.

If you are so unlucky that you are in danger of losing, say, 15 full buy-ins in such a game, then the likelihood is you’ll be struck by lightening long before you run out of cash. Obviously, this would be more likely if your opponents are mindlessly aggressive, because then the luck factor would be greatly increased and your skill edge, or their buffoon disadvantage, would be somewhat negated.

There is an element of the Peter Principle here (a term in business, which describes the situation in which a previously glitteringly successful employee is promoted and promoted until he or she is completely out of his or her depth), in that many poker players constantly strive to play at the highest level possible (again, often testicle induced), regardless of whether or not it will actually improve their overall profitability or effective “hourly rate”. This even happens when the player concerned is winning more at his existing play level than he can spend (excluding those with a sportsbetting, drug and / or hooker addiction).

It’s almost as if these players are striving to find the level at which they can lose most effectively so they have a pitiful story to tell, or maybe they feel it’s better to burn up and die, rather than plod along quietly and profitably (my personal choice).

My view is that you can operate with a bankroll of four times the full buy-in per table (if online), PROVIDING you have the discipline to ensure you’re at a table where the skill level of your opponents is generally below your own. That is based on a painfully truthful analysis of your own ability, rather than the one your mum might suggest, or the one you might give when exaggerating your profitability to acquaintances or in the chat-box online.

If you are settled at your level, and beating that level, then, if you start to run bad, you should consider taking a short break to ensure your mind is right. You should also consider moving down a level until you regain the confidence that will have suffered as a result of the bad run.

If you are a tournament player, I’d suggest that you never play a tournament in excess of 5% of your total bankroll at the time of the tournament (unless you have won a seat via a satellite).

Many players make the mistake of playing tournaments that comprise far too great a percentage of their bankrolls, simply for the kudos of competing or the “chance to win a big one”. They fail to grasp that, generally speaking, the higher the buy-in the lesser the “edge” and lousier the “value”.

This can be expanded if you are independently wealthy or are doing something else to generate a bankroll. You may have a decent job outside poker or you may be playing STT or cash in order to supplement the cost of tournament entries.

I think that, online, this is the best way to go. Playing cash can generate a regular nice profit and you can use a portion of that to play the tournaments which are generally regarded by most poker players as the most “fun” to play and certainly offer the most potential glory at the end.

I’m certain that there are far more successful cash players than tournament players and, while a good cash player can easily win a tournament, a good tournament player will find it harder to win regularly at cash. So those that base their poker-playing lives on tournaments alone will probably fair a lot worse than those who generally play cash but also play the odd tournament.

SNG tournaments, when played and multi-tabled properly will also have swings, but a decent SNG player should be able to generate a decent monthly profit easily, particularly if rake-back is taken into consideration.

I speak from experience because I am involved with a bankrolling organisation. We originally allowed the tournament players to play whatever they liked, within 15% of the daily bankroll limit. When a large portion of them began to run badly at the same time, it was like an ex-wife venting her frustrations on your bottom.

We have now realised that, both from the player and the business perspective, it is significantly preferable, in terms of overall profitability, for all tournament players to play SNG’s or cash in order to supplement their tournament play. Obviously, they need to be correctly prepared for this additional activity and, once trained appropriately, they can expect to make regular profits and, at the same time, have the pleasure of playing their favoured tournaments with the chance of the cash and glory of a big success.

By Paul Jackson

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