As promised, this blog is my final review of my WSOP 2012/Vegas campaign. When I started this blog over 4 years, it was designed as a Dear Diary not intended to be of interest to or even read by anyone else. As such, this entry is a return to my roots, as it's quite possible it's of zero interest to anyone other than myself. So feel free to skip this one, or bail on it at any point: I won't hold it against you. If the fiscal report section doesn't have your interestometer flagging to zero, wait until you get to the bit where I start talking about HUDs. Oh yeah.
I played a total of ten bracelet events, cashing in just one. Total buyins was $21500, and my only cash was for $2703, so on paper I made a loss of almost $19000. However, because I sold a chunk of my action for these events, my personal loss was approximately $9000.
Besides bracelet events, I played seven other tournaments: three Rio daily deepstacks ($235 buyin), one Venetian ($600), two Rio supersats ($550 each) and a Caesars megastack turbo ($130). Of these, I final tabled a Rio deepstack (for $4747), the Caesars turbo (for $713) and I also cashed in the Venetian (for $1412). So total buyins to non bracelet events was $2545, and cashes totalled $6872, for a profit of $4327.
My personal loss on tournaments (excluding expenses and robbery of my wallet) was therefore in the region $4700. Additionally, I lost another $3k on percentages bought of other players, and almost $8k on players I stake (these however are staking deals with makeup so it's not an actualised loss).
Not sure whether this should be included but I played 4 short online sessions in Vegas and won approximately $2500 net.
In the bracelet events, I feel for the most part I played at or near the top of the game, and made very few mistakes. Because this was the first year I'd sold a significant chunk of action, I felt an obligation to go into the events fresh and well rested, so I tended not to play much on my other days. In retrospect, this was probably a mistake. Every other year I've gone, I've pretty much played a tournament every day (some days two or three), and if anything this has helped me. I find it easier to stay focussed "in the zone" when I play every day. As a runner, I found rest days problematic. I took them because other runners and books told me I had to, but it was only when I hooked up with a coach with an even more psychotic attitude to work and rest who had me running every day (his view of rest days was when you only did one four hour run, as opposed to two or three) that I achieved real success as a runner. It's kind of similar with poker: other players keep telling me I need to play less hours and take more days off, and I've tended to believe them, until now. Jason commented on how twitchy I was on my down time in Vegas, and that's probably an indicator that I should have been working harder. You would think that staying with two lads half my age I might have been the one with the least energy, but I was pretty much the first to rise every day, slept less than them, and walked all over Vegas trying to burn off excess energy. Everyone's need for rest and downtime is personal, and I'm clearly at the end of that spectrum. Given that I only made one day 2, that means I was involved in WSOP events 11 of the 30 days I was in Vegas. And I only played 7 other tournaments (two of them on days after I'd busted a bracelet event), and 4 online sessions (one on the day I busted the main) so it would appear I took at least 11 rest days where I didn't play at all. That's an unreal level of sloth by my standards: I've gone entire years when I took less days off.
4 cashes (and two final tables) in 17 tournaments is a pretty satisfactory return even if I chose the wrong tourneys in which to run well. However, I do note that not for the first year I made a profit on non bracelet events to partially offset my losses in the official WSOP events. It's clear my edge in these is bigger (and variance is lower) so next year I'll be keen to try to include more in my schedule.
Given how badly I ran in bracelet events, I don't think it would have turned out differently though had I gone for a different approach. I could possibly have squeaked another min cash or two in the side events where I built early stacks but I don't think it would have been optimal to try to do so given how top heavy the payout structures are.
As mentioned above, the one thing I'd change about my campaign this year if I was doing it all over again is I'd play more. Not only do I think I find it easier to play better when I get into a groove, but also increased volume gives more of a chance for variance to work itself out. The people I admire most in poker and indeed all walks of life are the people who work the hardest to get good and stay good at what they're good at. One of the most inspiring characters I met in Vegas this year was a cash game grinder, Robbie Dore. Robbie didn't play a single tournament there, but instead grinded long winning cash sessions and was one of the few Irish players to leave with more dollars than he arrived with. From talking to him, it was obvious he was a man with a clear vision and plan who stuck to it and didn't allow himself to be distracted from it. Someone who had identified his niche and was sticking to it. I tend to spread myself a bit thin at the best of times trying to be a jack of all trades and can end up being more of a dilettante than a genuine generalist, so one of my New Year's resolutions (for me in poker, the year ends the day I bust the WSOP main event, and starts the following day) is to focus more singlemindedly on what I'm good at. This applies not just to the playing, but to all the other ancillary stuff. I'm tired of hearing friends tell me I waste too much time listening to enemies and false friends (and in poker, there are maybe more false friends than genuine ones, smiling to your face as they ask for a favour while they sneer at you behind your back) and I'm sure they're tired of telling me so perhaps it's time I took heed and devoted less of my time and energy to people and things which will only cause me grief in the long run. I need to stop going to every live event on the Irish calendar just because it's there. I need to stop agreeing to every request for assistance that comes my way. Or as my friend and business partner David Lappin would put it, I need to grow a pair and stop being a soft touch.
No more Mr. Nice Guy
I need to be more willing to tell people I think they're talking absolute rubbish when I think they are. One thing in particular that annoys me about the culture that surrounds Irish poker is what is often referred to as "banter". In almost no other country or area would it be acceptable to walk up to someone on the street that you don't even know and heap abuse on them in the name of "banter". A lot of what passes for banter is actually good old fashioned reconstructed bullying and attempted mental intimidation, with an added twist of victim blame that means that if the target doesn't just lie back and take it, they're accused of lacking humour and "not being able to take a bit of banter". In other areas of life, people don't stand for it when people who claim to be your friends choose to put the most negative spin imaginable on an achievement or a favour done in a manner designed specifically to humiliate you in public. But it's sadly endemic in Irish poker culture. There's a big difference in my book between a witty well intentioned jibe and much of what passes for banter in Irish poker circles which is neither well intentioned nor particularly witty. So another New Year's resolution is to be more selective in the people I give the time of day to: to restrict myself to people who treat others with respect and dignity. There are enough of those people around that nobody need ever feel lonely outside their company. On a related issue, I resolve to waste less time on the great timewaster of our age: the social networks. These are great for a flick through when you're stuck on a train or you've nothing better to be doing (but not when you have).
On a technical level, I need to put a lot of working into constructing correct 3,4, 5 and 6 betting ranges different types of opponents. I won't bore you further with the details, except to say I've been largely winging it to date, but now recognize the need to sit down and meticulously and mathematically analyse the construction of these ranges.
My online career has been largely based on what I would call "value hunting" but others have called bum hunting: restricting myself to the softest fields available at the bigger buyins. This is a good strategy to make money, but not a good one to stay ahead of the curve. One big positive I always take from Vegas every year is the experience of being forced to play with so many of the best players around and test myself against them sharpens me up and teaches me a few new tricks that always stand me in good stead when I get back home and online. I've therefore decided that rather than rely on Vegas as a once a year crash course on the latest elite metagame developments, I need to be testing myself more regularly online. Since I came home I've played Super Tuesday on Stars (where I was chipleader with 15 left) and final tabled a number of high roller events.
The live HUD
I also need to consider carefully what more I can take from my online game into the live arena. Online and live are different, but skills from one beyond the obvious ones can be translated to the other. The most remarkable things about me as an online player are my consistency, the fact that I've consistently maintained a much higher ROI across all sites than other top players, and the fact that I basically don't do big downswings. In the past I've attributed this mainly to game selection and discipline (and the fact that I don't mass multitable), but some of the people who have seen me at work have identified another factor: how well I interpret and use HUD data. It seems I do this better than almost everyone else they know, going well beyond the "high VPIP means he's loose, low means he's tight" level to deduce an exploitative opponent specific strategy across a wide range of stats across all the streets. At my best live when I click into the zone and I'm fully focussed I maintain a sort of live HUD, collating in my brain all the typical HUD stats in running based on observation to work out how to exploit my opponents and know how I'm going to play specific hands and situations against them even before they arise. I was a lot better at this in my early days as a player when I knew nobody at the table and therefore didn't have the distraction of having to interact with them on a social level. I was even able to recall all the major hands I'd observed an opponent play in the past. I need to try to get back to that level of attention to detail when I play live.