Friday, January 4, 2013

Gazing into the navel of 2012

On a night out in town before Xmas that was essentially the Firm's Office party, my friend and business partner David suddenly asked me what I had achieved in poker in 2012 that I hadn't before. As I struggled to come up with one, he supplied the answer...staking.

The fact that my strongest poker memories for 2012 as the year draws to a close are all railing friends or stakees on final tables (Jason's WSOP and EPT, Smidge's UKIPT and EMOP, David's EMOP and Daragh and Jaymo on countless online final tables) pretty much makes the point that while it hasn't been a bad year for me in poker, it has been a pretty non-descript and lowkey one, devoid of major final tables live or Major binks online. So while this review won't have the highpoints of last year's, let's look back at my year to see what conclusions I can draw and lessons I can learn.

There's no nice way to put this: 2012 was by far the worst year live of my poker career to date. That's not to say I lost money doing it. I have basically broken even, but only because I sold significant action for my WSOP campaign, I was sponsored or bought into a couple of events and I swapped well (in particular with that wily old dog Mick Mccloskey who once again this year crushed the Irish live scene). Taking the more straightforward approach of comparing the total of my live buyins this year with the total of live cashes reveals the truth that for the first time since I started, I was a losing player live last year.

It's a good thing this downswing came 5 years into my career rather than at the very start when I was less familiar with the concept of variance. In all I played less than 100 live tourneys this year. That's about 3 nights online, and I've had much longer downswings online in my time. While I have continued to cash almost as often as I have through my career and even won a live tournament this year, you can't choose which events to run well in and in a sense I have run well in the "wrong" tourneys. There's no denying I've run badly at the crucial point in the big games: for example, when my aces were all in against queens preflop in the WSOP main event, it was essentially for over $50k in equity, so had they held it could very well have made my year live.

That said, I can't just notch it all down to variance and absolve myself from responsibility. While I feel I have played as well as I can in patches during the year (and I certainly gave all the big events my utmost) there have been times in small turbo side events where I have essentially been on autopilot while amusing myself on my Iphone. Jason suggested to me recently that I might benefit from his more selective approach to live tournaments and while I have always prided myself on my ability to play my best in side events, I may have reached a point in my career where it's counter productive to be taking to the field too often, so to speak.

Over the course of my career, I've gone back and forth on the issue of how different live and online poker are. In the beginning I saw them as two separate disciplines requiring different skillsets. Then as I reached a point in my career where essentially I was an online player who also played a bit live, and I was having considerable success in online
 mtts, I started to wonder if I might be exagerrating these differences, and if the fact that I seemed to be a better online player might indicate that I should just play my "online game" live. I have now reached a point where I feel I may have taken this too far, and I'm no longer adjusting adequately to live players when I play live. I don't think online players can just show up at live events, play their normal game, and expect to succeed. You have to work at the particular skills that live poker demands, or rather I do. So one of my new year's resolutions is to put more work into my live game. Before I knew how to play the game technically, I got a long way purely from reading people well. As I improved technically, I depended less on those skills and more on "Well, I have hand A in position B and the effective stack is C big blinds so the most profitable play long term is D" thinking. This is basically what good online players do as it gets the money in the long run and prevents you from being exploitable. However, the problem with doing that live is that (ubnlike online) there is no real long run in any meaningful sense of the word, and the fact that you can see and be seen by your opponents live adds a considerable dimension to live play. A good observant player who reads and manipulates opponents well can gain a much bigger edge from these live skills than knowing the profitable push fold hands. I think I read people well naturally: I just have to allow myself the opportunity to do so. I've also started watching more poker to practise my reading skills. I'm confident this more balanced approach to live will pay dividends in 2013, hopefully starting in the next few weeks with WPT Dublin, UKIPT Edinburgh and EPT Deauville.

For the fourth year in a row, the vast majority of my income came from online mtts, and for the fourth year in a row I believe I am one of the most profitable Irish players in online mtts. However, my profit this year is down almost 20% on the last two years, despite the fact I increased my volume, so like a lot of Irish people I basically worked more last year for less. However, I'm not going to complain about it as it is still a very healthy livelihood and I'm lucky to be able to earn it doing something I love. Most mtters would agree that last year was a tougher year for us all. I also feel I've run badly on Sundays. I had no major Sunday binks this year and essentially this is the difference between this year and 2010 and 2011. The fact I can have a very profitable year without any major scores is heartening at least.

One area I need to sharpen up on in 2013 is game selection. 2012 was the first year when I didn't more or less uniformly crush on every site I played on: this year the profit came almost entirely from Stars, the French sites, Ipoker and Irish Eyes (Cake). I either won or lost small on the other sites. The point is I need to be more clinical in identifying which structures, sites and field compositions I have the biggest edge in, and stick to those. Historically much of my profit has come from satellites and low runner rebuys on less glamourous networks. These are less glamourous and don't tend to show up on PocketFives or OPR but this game is about making the money, not the top of some artificial ranking system. So in 2013 I intend to concentrate more on these. It's already started paying dividends as I binked two EPT Deauville satellites.

I started 2012 as something of a staking neophyte and ended it as the person in Ireland most heavily involved in staking. It has been a learning curve and while it has been successful overall for me, it's not the "free money" a lot of people seem to suspect. First, as Jono warned me at the start, you have to allow for "breakage" (for every few staked players that make you money there will be at least one who loses). Second, the time commitment is a lot more than I initially expected, both for administration and coaching. I'm pretty sure that if I took the amount of money I made in 2012 from staking, and divided by the number of hours I put into it, I'd get a much lower number than my online hourly rate (or my coaching rate). That's not the point though. If I wanted to make the most money possible in any given year from poker, I'd just stay in, and do nothing other than grind online. That might seem like a recipe for short term success, but sounds like a recipe for burnout. I think the big reason why I've managed to maintain my enthusiasm and love for poker going for 5 years to the point that I start every day looking forward to my job is I have continually found ways to keep it interesting for myself, whether it's writing this blog, talking to other players, posting on forums, chasing virtual badges, travelling or more recently staking. If I can help other similar minded people to achieve their potential and make a career as happy as the one I've made for myself in poker, that's a big plus in my book too.

My staking involvement is likely to expand further in 2013 in conjunction with my partners in The Firm. I don't want to pre-empt anything (there are a few major developments in the pipeline) so I'll leave it at that for now.

I'm delighted to be continuing my role with Irish Eyes. It's been a trying year for Irish Eyes due to events entirely outside our control. With the demise of what was Entraction, the obvious alternative was simply to move to a new network. I for one am glad Irish Eyes decided instead to go for an offering which allows Irish Eyes customers to play on several different networks. I genuinely think this is the future for all non-Stars sites. Recreational players have the chance to try different rooms and more games, and players like myself who already play on all the different sites have the hassle and cost of moving money around greatly reduced. As an experiment, I recently moved €100 around the sites on my old accounts. It took 7 weeks and when it got back to my Neteller account it was just under €85 (after having been hit by ubiquitous forex charges at every port of call). I did the same thing last week on Irish Eyes (moved the money around, moved it between the different sites, then back off to Neteller): it took a few days and the full €100 arrived back.

When David asked what I had achieved in poker in 2012 that I hadn't before, I could have answered "Won a couple of awards!" While I do subscribe to the view that the only awards that really matter in poker are the Benjamins, it was nice to be recognised for this blog at the Irish Poker Awards. It's even nicer when people take the trouble to tell me in person at tournaments or whereever how much they enjoy this blog. 5 years and almost 400 entries on, it's getting harder to think of new stuff to say, or new ways to say it, so in 2013 I may be slightly more selective. Rather than just thinking "It's Monday, better put up a new blog" it's probably better if I wait until I have something I think is worth blogging about. I think my blogs in 2012 were similar to my live tourney performances: at times as good as they could possibly be (given that it's me doing them), but at other times phoned in.

Thanks to everyone who has read this far and shown interest in my blog and continuing poker career in 2012. May we all have a 2013 to look back on with pride.


Good read as usual, keep it up Doke.

Don't be too selective Dara!

Athbhliain faoi Mhaise,


Interesting read Dara. Best of luck for 2013.

Best of luck for 2013.

You only get out what you put in, and no one can say that you don't put it in.

Dara, the beauty of your blog is the randomness of the subjects discussed within it and making the language simple and easy for the "ordinary" guy to understand.
I hope you keep submitting them often, but I guess as Im not putting the time into writing them, thats easy for me to say.
Best of luck at the tables in 2013.


BOL in 2013 Dara

Perhaps play some more "fun" live tourneys in the new year and get back to enjoying it as well as making the all important profit

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments

Dont try to fix what isn't broken Doke.God bless.


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