2011 was my first full year playing poker. In January, my goal was to turn a profit on the year. With four weeks left, my goal is certainly within reach; yet I can't help but feel disappointed in my results:
Clearly, $5 an hour is not going to pay the bills or allow me to escape the world of billable hours. I'd hardly even consider it "supplementing my day job." Less than $900 total profit thus far on the year is laughable -- hell, you could win that amount during an hour heater at the blackjack table. I'm barely beating the rake . . . But, I suppose it beats losing.
I'd like to think my results are largely a product of variance. I actually feel pretty good about the progress in my game. Looking back, most of my big losses came in hands where I got my money in good and suffered from a bad turn or river card. My biggest losses of the year seemed to come on days I actually felt I was playing my best. Perhaps the easy explanation is that 165 hours is no basis on which to meaningfully evaluate play.
I also think it has taken some time to adjust to the $1/2 NL brick and mortar game. One lesson learned this year -- the knowledge gained from reading Harrington On Cash Games or Gordon's Little Blue Book doesn't always translate well in practice. Just the same, moves that seemed to work well at a $25 NL table on Stars or Tilt often prove costly when attempted at live $1/2. Perhaps players adjust their games so quickly that "book strategy" becomes dated almost instantly. But, to a larger degree, I just don't think you can play a skillfull game against a table of level 1 thinkers, calling stations and otherwise bad players.
One particular hand comes to mind. It took place during a Friday evening at Charles Town - the "Chuck" for the uninitiated. Charles Town attracks a lot of players from the DC metro area. While there are some decent players at the table, the Chuck is generally known for its crazy play and resulting high variance. Prior to this hand, I had been at the table for over an hour, but had barely gotten involved in the action. Anyone paying attention would target me as a tight player. I'm in the Cut-off and have 9 5 off. I'm bored; anxious to play, and have already paid $12 in rake (the Chuck currently charges $6 half hour time rather than pot rake). Two limpers and the action gets to me. I raise to $12 (anything less than $12 gets 7 or 8 callers at the Chuck). The blinds fold and the two limpers come along. Flop comes 2, 7, 4 rainbow. It checks around to me and I follow up with a $23 bet. One fold and one caller. Interesting. Turn brings another duece. Villian again checks to me. Not ready to give up on this pot ($75), I fire out $45. Villian thinks for a brief minute and calls. River is a T. Villian checks for a third time. No draws have come in. Hard to imagine he would have limped pre-flop and check called three streets with an overpair like JJ's. Still convinced Villian has nothing or can be moved off a mediocre hand, I fire the third street - $65 -- about 1/3 the pot, dressed up as a value bet. In my mind, I've adequately represented an over pair or, perhaps even a set of 7's or 4's which boated-up on the turn. I raised preflop and fired flop, 4th and 5th street, and it would take a fairly strong hand to call my river bet . . .
. . . or, as it turns out, a guy holding a 7 . . . That's right. Pair of 7's takes down a $300 pot. A soul read if ever there was one. Guy scooped up the pot and proudly proclaimed, "flopped top pair . . . had to call." He was serious. I was furious. Now, my play for the pot may be debatable. But the lesson learned was this: books and strategy may serve as a nice foundation for the game; but on any given day, you have to be able to adjust your play to the table. Some nights tricky lines may work well. But, many days, fit or fold, ABC poker, is the path to profit. You can play your cards "face up" -- it don't matter, because half the table ain't even looking.
One more month left to the year. Going to try and get another 25 hours or so in during the weekends, starting tomorrow with a trip back to Dover Downs. Then, come January 1st, I'll reevaluate and set a new objective. I doubt I'll be shooting to tackle the $2/5 NL game in 2012; but a goal of $15 / hr seems about right.