Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017: The Good, the Bad, and the Chip Race

Well, it's here again. That time of year when I sit down to review the year just gone and set some goals and make some plans for the year ahead.


Over the course of my poker career, I have seen myself primarily as an online player who also plays live on the side. Don't get me wrong: with more cashes on my Hendon Mob than any other Irish player, with almost $1 million in live cashes and between winning a European Deepstack, and coming within a few flips of winning a bracelet, a UKIPT and an EMOP, it's not like I haven't done ok live. But 90% of my income from poker over the course of my career has come from online.

The arc of my online career is a decent start playing limit cash and sit n gos, which kicked into overdrive a few years in when I switched to online mtts with a particular emphasis on satellites, followed by a few very profitable years, followed by a decline (which reflects the general decline in profitability of online poker: I wouldn't go quite so far as Vanessa Selbst did recently when she suggested it wasn't beatable any more, but it's certainly a lot tougher and less beatable than it was).

Once I realised this general decline was happening, I figured it would end one of two ways. Either I would continue to make less and less every year until it reached a point it wasn't worth doing any more full time, or (I hoped) it would bottom out at some acceptable level. This year I decided to shift my focus away from low variance satellites to higher variance and higher margin mtts with thousands of runners. The results have been encouraging: I managed to reverse the decline in profitability of recent years to record my most profitable year since 2014. Highlights include a fourth place finish in the WCOOP event for 40K, a Powerfest win, the seventh PocketFives Triple Crown of my career, and regaining the top slot in the PocketFives rankings for Ireland for the first time in several years.

I start 2018 at #1 in the Irish rankings and holding my highest ever world ranking. Part of me has always wondered how high I could go if I really devoted myself full time to online, and Mrs Doke petitions me every year to quit live poker, but 2018 won't be the year that finally happens.

Which leads on to.....


2017 was a very lacklustre year for me on the live front. On the consistency front I think I did OK: over the course of my career I've averaged 13 live cashes a year, exactly the number I achieved last year. But with no five figure score I cashed only for a total of $31795, making it my worst year since 2013 (and the third worst of my career). I think this was mostly down to variance over the 40 tournament sample or whatever it was: in particular I ran bad at the death in all my deepest runs which ensured no big score this year. That said, I don't want to be one of those guys who unquestioningly blames variance, so I want to put more work into my live game in 2018.

I also want to shift the focus of this a bit. In the past most of my efforts away from the table directed at improving my live game has focussed mostly on studying the area of live tells and reads, with a little bit directed at maximising my focus, concentration and performance at the table. This year I want to spend more time thinking about the differences between ranges and other aspects of what people do live compared to run online, and running sims to develop exploitative strategies to take advantage.

I will start my live 2018 campaign in earnest later this month with my first ever visit to the Aussie Millions. In February I'll be in London for the first Unibet Open of the year. March will see me trying to finally break my duck in the Irish Open main event. I then will take it as easy as I can on the live front before Vegas. My plans for this year's WSOP are to get there later to make it less of a marathon and go into the main event fresher. The schedule has more stuff at the end than ever before so I won't miss too much (I will miss the Seniors, but I'm not a massive fan of Seniors tournaments anyway), and getting there later will allow me to take advantage more of the softest time of the year online.

Apart from that, I want to be more selective about the live events I play this year. I have ended most recent years thinking I played too much live and not enough online, and 2017 was no exception.

Brand ambassador

In March of 2017 I joined the Unibet team as a brand ambassador alongside with my friends Daiva, David and Ian. I have very much enjoyed working with a great operation that provides I believe the best player experience at live events. With Unibet reentering the Irish market in 2018 I look forward to continuing to champion them.

I also signed with ShareMyPair towards the end of the year, a great app which allows players to share their live hands with other players to get feedback and discussion. If you do use it and want my input on a hand, send me a link to the hand.

I remained active on the social media in 2017, primarily Facebook and Twitter, but also added Instagram about half way through the year. Instastories seems the best way to communicate what I'm up to on a day to day basis, so if you're into that sort of thing, follow me there.


I did more coaching in 2017 than any previous year. It's a bit of a running joke in the poker world that the first sign that a player isn't winning any more is when he starts advertising his coaching services, so I'm glad to be coming off the back of a very good year online :)

In addition to coaching my private students, I joined BRS as a headline coach and have greatly enjoyed working with the best staking stable in the business. I recently agreed to increase my hours to include some one on one coaching.

In the first half of the year I finally got around to producing my first webinar, on advanced satellite strategy. I'd held off for years on spilling the secrets to all but a select group of friends and stakees as spilling seemed like screwing the pooch of my own profitability. But with my own move away from satellites it seemed like time.

I was surprised first at how much work and time was involved, and second by how much demand there was for it. I thought I'd run the webinar once or twice, but ended up running it five times. I didn't want to go on repeating myself every Thursday so I decided to make a two hour video of the material available (still available for $75: email me at dokepokercoaching@gmail.com for details). I hope to produce another webinar or two in 2018 and recently ran a poll on Twitter to see what people wanted next. The result was a dead heat between "practical satellite hand history reviews" and "General ICM theory".

This year I started a free strategy newsletter for recreational and aspiring players who can't afford my exorbitant coaching rate. This is available (for free) too from dokepokercoaching@gmail.com


I am reasonably satisfied with the amount of study and work on my own game I put in away from the tables in 2017. I'd like in particular to thank my study buddy Daiva for making this more pleasurable than it would otherwise be, and for forcing my mind into areas it might not have wandered alone.

Plan for 2018 is more of the same, plus rather than studying in binges and bursts I want to put in at least 15 minutes every day this year, and at least one hour most days, in addition to longer study sessions.

Health and fitness

I was very lucky in 2017 with my health, with no major illnesses or injuries to report, and very few minor ones. I don't think I caught even one cold all year. Maybe lucky isn't the right word: I do put a lot of work and effort into stuff like diet and exercise to help tilt the odds in my favour. In the run up to Vegas last year I was running over 60 miles a week including one 30 mile long run every Wednesday. I got to Vegas feeling in top physical and mental shape, and hope to do the same this year.

The second half of the year was more of a struggle to keep up my fitness and diet regimen. In particular, when I'm away for live poker, it's hard to get out for a run every day, hard not to drink too much socially, and hard to stay out of late night chicken establishments. I got back from my last live trip feeling positively run down. Good home cooking and exercise over the holidays has me in better shape, but there's still a way to go before I'll be back to running 30 miles every Wednesday.


This year I was unusually productive on the blog front. In recent years I've dropped down to 10 or 12 a year, but in 2017 I wrote 32 blogs. Part of it was for once I wasn't stuck for stuff to write about, and part of it was wanting to keep engaging with my readers. There's no doubt that the heyday of poker blogs has gone, as evidenced by the fact that a few years ago over a dozen Irish players blogged regularly, and now (as far as I know) only three: myself, Lappin, and recent entrant Keith Cummins. The arc of my blog is that when I started it, only a handful of people were reading (unknown to me as I didn't even publicise it). That gradually climbed into the hundreds, then the thousands, and at the peak of the popularity of blogs a few years ago I was typically hitting 3000 readers per blog. This year, my least read blogs hit 1000, the average was roughly 1800, and five of my blogs (Tragedy In Rozvadov, Bunny Boilers, A Tale Of Two Dokes, Life In The Old Doke Yet and my most read of the year, The Poker Wife)  hit the kind of numbers I used to get back in the heyday. When contrasted with other poker blogs, most of which have fallen by the wayside, I think I'm doing pretty well, which is encouraging me to keep writing.

I also contributed a number of articles to Bluff Europe, and wrote some exclusive content for my strategy newsletter. For years I've been kicking around the idea of writing a poker book without actually doing it, and to be honest 2018 is unlikely to be the year I do as I'm too busy on other fronts. But at some point.

The Chip Race

As great as it has been to arrest the decline of my profitability online, for me the personal highlight of 2017 was the return of the Chip Race. I was worried when we came back that it might all end in tears, and even more worried three episodes in when we were still struggling with our new recording setup and equipment, sub par sound quality, and dwindling listening numbers, wondering what we could do to arrest the decline (35% over the first three episodes). From there we found our feet and our voice and over the rest of the year increased our audience 300%. If you had told me three episodes in that by the end of the year we would have done that and interviewed Jake Cody, KevMath, Kassouf, Kara Scott, Kenny Hallaert, Patrick Leonard, John Hesp, Jennifer Tilly, Barny Boatman, Chris Moorman, Phil Laak, Tom Hall, Andrew Neeme, Jared Tendler, and Charlie Carrel, and that we'd be featuring on the front page of PokerNews, I would definitely have thought you were at the blue cheese. If you had added that we'd be interviewing Phil Hellmuth as our first guest for 2018.....

A massive thank you to my cohost Lappin who deserves most of the credit for his vision and tireless work on the show, strategy contributor Daiva and since I'm in a generous mood I'll even thank Iany for the news, all our wonderful guests (most especially Jennifer Tilly who kicked us up a notch and gave up her lunch break on a very busy media day in London), and to Unibet. They say that a great government can't do much to help the economy, but a bad one can sure as Hell screw it up, and I kind of feel that the same can be said for podcasts and sponsors. Apart from bankrolling the whole operation and helping us book some of the guests and source the technical resources needed, Unibet have helped by just keeping out of our way and not turning it into a bland corporate propaganda piece.

So that about wraps up my review for this year. Final shoutouts to everyone who helped, and helped keep my spirits up throughout the year. Too numerous to mention, but I trust you all know who you are.


Best of luck for 2018 and keep us entertained along the way.


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