July 25, 2016

2016 Update

Towards the end of last year me and my wife were deciding whether to cash out our chips and stick with 2 children or take the gamble and go for three. As well all know gambling is a risky business, non more so than when it results in a lifelong commitment. In the end we rolled the dice and here is what they landed on:

Orlanda Casey Atkin born on the 18th June 2016.
Having had a look through the blog archive I see that I went into some rather graphic detail when I posted about my first and second children being born. This birth seemed very normal, but then I suppose when you're doing something for the third time it does feel more normal. I'm sure having three children as opposed to two will throw up some challenges for me and my wife as they grow up, but needless to say we feel very blessed with our family.

Online poker has been up and down this year, or I should say down and up. Three months in it was looking like job-time for me, things were not going well and I had made approximately £0, which does not a nappy buy. But I sort of re-set myself on the first of April (a fool-proof plan). I vowed to exercise before each session I played, made some study-based goals as I had been getting lazy at studying (this tends to happen when running bad for a while, but it is the most important time to study), and essentially forget the first three months of the year really happened. Fortunately, since then things have been going much better so I have put the McDonald's application form away for the time being.

I haven't dabbled in the live poker arena much this year. I travelled down-under for the Aussie Millions for the third consecutive year. I did manage to secure my first Australian flag on Hendon Mob after this visit, but unfortunately it was only from a min-cash for 20th place in a $2.5k side event.

December 02, 2015

New look, and yes I'm still alive!

It's been rather a long time since I posted on the blog, almost 18 months, and in truth I haven't really been active for about 3 years. I don't have an especially good reason for the absence except that I'm a fairly busy person, and the time I don't spend either playing poker or studying poker I try and spend with my wife and two children. On the other hand, half an hour here or there isn't exactly a huge commitment! Given the amount of hits the blog still gets (I surpassed one million hits earlier in the year, having hit half a milly in July 2012) it would be a shame to just let it die.

So whilst I had a couple of days spare with the PokerStars strike going down at the moment I opted to completely revamp the design of the blog. I must have had the old design for about 5 years, and a lick of fresh paint seems like a nice motivator to post a bit more often.

So my last update was my Aussie Millions report from 2014. I've managed to go on a few other poker trips since then. I went to Vegas last year, in which I got my first two WSOP event cashes, but unfortunately my 208th and 604th place finishes didn't exactly set my world ablaze.

I attended the Aussie Millions for a second consecutive year in January this year having won another satellite on PokerStars. Unfortunately I bust the Main Event pretty quickly, and I think I set a record for least time spent in Australia as I left 3 days after arriving! Yes, this meant I was in the air nearly as long as I was on the ground! This might seem kind of silly to many of you, but I was on my own, had already done a bunch of stuff the year before and wanted to get home to my kids. I'll actually be returning for a 3rd time next January, so hopefully next years exploits warrant a longer trip!

Me on the Melbourne Star, Jan 2015

I've also been on two poker trips this year with my old friend Dan Carter, who I actually met on a final table back in 2005, and another mate of ours JP. We went over to Marbella for a few days for the Estellas Poker Tour event there in June which was very nice.

Dan, JP & Me, Marbella, June 2015

Ultimately though it was our latest trip that proved to be the most successful. With Dan living in the Netherlands at the moment, the Master Classics of Poker festival in Amsterdam caught our eye, and Dan managed to win the 2nd event (€770 8-max) for a nice score. He even got a novelty cheque (helping him transport this home was a fairly comical scene, featuring a random lady on the tram asking to take his picture with the cheque because her son liked poker, lolz!).

Dan is victorious, November 2015

The week looked to be something of a wash out for me except for the small % I had of Dan, but in the final event (€825 NLH) we were going to play I managed to pull a 3rd place out of the bag for my biggest score since my final in the Monte Carlo tournament in which I also came 3rd nearly 2 and a half years ago. It was a somewhat disappointing result as I began the table chip leader but lost all my important showdowns. Most notably with 6 players left someone decided to make an ICM-suicide jam with AJos when I had Jacks. This was for nearly half the chips in play and would have put me in a great spot to win, but alas he got there. However I could easily have finished 6th at this point so laddering up to 3rd wasn't a bad result in the end, and of course I had run well at times earlier in the tournement to make it to the final table.

Online poker has been ticking along for me. Lately I've been reducing my table count to around the 8-9 mark which I'm finding quite enjoyable. I'm also playing a few less turbos these days. It is unquestionable that poker is gradually getting tougher, so it is imperative to stay ahead of the curve. Also PokerStars is doing its best to squeeze out as much money as it can out of the poker economy, with Spin & Go's seemingly its main focus these days. So I'm trying my best to make sure I can still earn money from this game which I've been playing professionally for about 10 years now!

May 01, 2014

Aussie Millions & general update...

Right off the bat in 2014 I had some rather odd fortune. I played a feeder satellite into a satellite that looked like it was going to get cancelled (so I played get the Tournament $ if I won. I won. Sweet! Except, it didn't get cancelled. So in I go to a $700 Aussie Millions Satellite with 1 seat. I won that too. Sweet! But now I have to go to Australia at the beginning of February.

Now that sounds pretty awesome, but it was a bitter-sweet feeling for me as I'd be leaving my 2 young children behind for the first time, with my wife having to cope with the little monkeys. My compromise was to only go for a few days. I actually only ended up being there for 6 days, which is a bloody long way to travel for such a short time!

Actually, though, I didn't find the journey too painful. When you have two kids you never really get the time to just sit down and do nothing. So I was actually pretty happy getting to sit, chill, do some reading and watch a film or two that weren't made by Disney for a change!

I was regged up for 1C the day after I got there but fired away at 1B on the day I arrived instead, which was a bold move but I slept really well on the flights and felt like it would be fine.

I actually took what I consider to be the worst beat of my poker career.  Maybe not equity wise as it was still early on in the tournament. However, this was the biggest buy-in tournament I'd ever played, I just traveled 24 hours solely to play it and just a few hours after landing I get this beauty:

Tim Slater (a British reg) of all people opens from early position in Level 5. 778 rainbow flop. Oi oi! Tim bets, I peel, BTN peels. Turn is a Jack. Tim checks, I check, BTN bets, Tim folds, I raise. He tank calls. River is a J. I put him all in for 1/2 ish pot. He calls with J9os. FML. That crippled me, but I managed to spin back up and finish Day One with about a 2/3rds average stack. Unfortunately a couple of hours in to Day Two I got it in with a combo draw vs 2 pair and didn't get there.

So the Main Event didn't go according to plan, and unfortunately nor did the $1k Super-KO, the $2.5k 6-max, or either bullet I fired at the $1k re-entry. It made sense to take a shot in a few tournaments while I had the opportunity in soft fields given that I had traveled all the way to Australia, but after not having the best 4 months online prior to this the bankroll depletion wasn't particularly well timed.

The few weeks after Oz didn't go particularly well either, which equated to about a 6 month spell of suckiness, by far the worst run in my poker career. Fortunately April was kind to me and things finally started to pick up, so hopefully I have turned a corner and I won't have to go job hunting just yet.

Here's a few pics of Australia. I enjoyed the few days I was there, although being on my own was a bit of a bummer. Melbourne is a really lovely city though, I enjoyed the touristy bits that I managed to do and it was pretty sick going for a morning jog alongside the river.

Sick view from my room!

Chocolate & Headphones in exchange for rake!

My jogging route

November 28, 2013

1 millllllion VPPs & My biggest ever downswing

Last week I passed the one million mark of VPPs earned since I began playing on PokerStars. Although there is no tangible reward, aside from my lobby and VPP count sporting the 1 million Hall of Fame badge (booooommmm), it's kind of a cool milestone to reach.

The good sports at PokerStars support provided me with a lifetime audit so I could work out a yearly breakdown of VPPs:

Reaching this milestone would have felt rather underwhelming had I not recently managed to dig myself out of my largest ever downswing (or at least after my high stakes cash game days pre-2008). It has been quite the most extreme ride on the variance rollercoaster over the last 2 months.

It all started after I binked a $109 turbo on the 4th of October. I have been doing particularly crap in $109 turbos all year, and this was my first outright win since January. Consequently I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I even made a couple of frivolous purchases; something I rarely do just because I happen to have experienced some positive variance. Little did I know I was about to be brutally punished for this. I went on an absolute death run in everything.

Those of you that have followed my blog (when I used to update much more regularly!) will know that I am generally somewhat of a variance nit. I was always pretty proud that my Sharkscope graph never shows me going on more than a $10k downswing. Still, I've taken a few swings that felt kind of rough before. Actually in October 2012 I grinded through a $7k downswing and wrote a small article about mental fortitude and such (see here). In late 2011, I asked Father Christmas for my sick graph back after a long break-even stretch, featuring a 200 buy-in downswing in $60 18-mans (see here). I've never experienced anything quite like this, though.

Perhaps I have been particularly fortuitous in my poker career to have avoided such a death run until now. I can't deny I have had the odd particularly lucky bink (Winning the Sunday Supersonic was ridiculous, so was my 3rd place in the Monte Carlo although it was kind of due but that's a difficult claim to make when it comes to live poker tournaments), but when you go on a death run, any previous fortune is quickly forgotten.

Epitomised life-time graph on PokerStars

Whenever I encounter someone who questions my job, or the ability to support my kids via gambling (a fairly common occurrence when speaking to those who know little about poker), I tend to throw them the statistic that I hadn't had a losing month in 4 years. I suppose I was technically stretching the truth, as I did actually have a losing month in February 2012. However I only played 500 games that month because my daughter was born then. Other than that though, it was true.

Monthly Profit Chart (does not factor in rakeback)

Well October changed all that. I sat down at my computer and just started losing. For the first few sessions it was a bit annoying (as anything other than winning tends to be!) but it was standard and to be expected. But then it kept happening. Repeatedly. Not just losing but on a complete free fall where I couldn't win anything. The more it went on, the more I struggled to believe it was possible to run quite so bad. We've all talked about the mythical "doom-switch", well I was starting to become a believer in its existence. Had someone at PokerStars read my petulant comments aimed at the  PokerStars SNG rep on 2+2 and pushed the button on me??

It's a common theme amongst recreational players to say that sites are "rigged". You see it all the time. The "Poker is rigged, collected threads edition" on 2+2 has 60,000+ posts and 2.5 million+ views. Obviously this is a completely ridiculous notion, and it's difficult to show anything but complete contempt for people that say anything like this. However, I got a glimpse into the mind of someone that does think like this last month. What I mean by that is, I am extremely well educated in variance, I have been a professional poker player for ~6 years, I've played more than 80,000 SNGs/tournaments. I've seen it all. Yet I ran so bad in October that I was seriously beginning to wonder whether there was some kind of virus on my computer or something! If a fish was to run anywhere near as bad as me over a short space of time (which is more likely assuming they are playing much worse than me...well, probably!), I can see where this unreasonable train of thought might arise.

$25k for the games I was playing was pretty ridiculous, with an average buy-in around the $35 mark. I wasn't doing anything too much different than I had for the previous couple of years. I guess the only thing which did change was I really went for it on each Sunday. Under the guise of working harder to try and grind through the downswing, I think I was looking for the easy way out. Just a quick-fix Sunday bink to get out of it.

Unfortunately Sundays went disastrously, and were pretty soul destroying. I kept getting to 2 or 3 tables out in huge fields where there were big prizes on the final tables, but I diddn't quite get there.

Sunday November 3rd seemed to be no exception. Except this time I was blanking everything. I had just a handful of tables left, and it wasn't looking good. My cashier balance was $25k down on what it had been just a month earlier, and I was psychologically preparing myself for a drop in stakes, and heading to Grindsville Central for the rest of the year.

Epitomised 2013 PokerStars graph
After a month of running like death, I finally had a turnaround in fortune, and managed to run really well in the $109 Cubed Turbo (not a tournament I recall playing before. I played it as a squared, but still, I wouldn't recommend flicking this one in, the field is ridic) which was one of the few tables I had left. Something strange was happening, I was winning showdowns, left right and centre. Even a couple where I got it in kind of bad! I could easily have finished 7th for $4k when I jammed A9 into tens, but I caught a miracle A on the river, which inevitably led to me finishing 3rd for $13k.

Although it only dug me out of half of my downswing, that bink was pretty damn good for morale, and was definitely a huge turning point for me. I had got to the point where I didn't feel like I could win anymore, and I certainly missed that feeling. That bink made me feel like I might actually win again. Although I'm sure that feeling doesn't help you actually win, coincidentally this time around I actually did start winning again. I'm not sure 'momentum' is really a thing in poker, but I seemed to have it, and November has ended up being really kind to me, and I dug my way out of my worst downswing ever.

Normally two months of breaking even would feel prettttty shitty. On this occasion though, I'll definitely take it. It actually feels like a pretty good achievement grinding out of such a hole. I definitely feel like I have learnt a lot from the experience. I think in the future I will be even more battle hardened against variance. I also learnt the perils of shot taking, something I tended to avoid most of the time, so I think I'll go back to being a more careful in this regard.

My online results this year haven't been all that spectacular, obviously this 2 month blip hasn't exactly helped, so I'm hoping I can end the year on a high note in December.

Win Coaching
Just quickly, on another note, I will be donating a couple of hours of my time along with a bunch of other UK Pros to raise money for the charity Crisis. It's £21.84 to enter the draw (which is the cost to give a place to a homeless person in a Crisis centre over Christmas) to win a couple of hours coaching with one of us. If you are interested, check out thread here: http://blondepoker.com/forum/index.php?topic=62691.0