Friday, January 3, 2020

2019: the year the poker died?

A few years ago a friend of mine from esports told me he was a multiple world champion but “these days I’m just a dirty little content creator”.

Poker content is an area that has undergone explosive growth in recent years. There are more books and articles than ever being written, more training videos and courses, more YouTube vlogs and podcasts, and everyone’s suddenly on all the social media channels. A seemingly almost insatiable demand from recreationals is being met by more and more pros who see sufficient upside to investing some most or even all of their time in this area. The upside comes in the form of passive income, whether it be from sponsors (back in the day, sponsors asked “where are your results?” when deciding who to sponsor: now it’s more of a case of “show us your content and social media”).

Until now I’ve always been in the “some” category when it comes to how much time I’ve spent on activities not directly related to my playing, but 2019 was the year I devoted more of my time and energy ever to extra curricular (or extra tabular) activities. It’s also the first year over half my income comes from the stuff other than playing.

But let’s start with the playing, because I see myself primarily as a player still.


The one word summary: meh. I did ok, but 2019 was the least profitable year for me online in the last five. It’s also been the lowest volume I’ve played in my entire career. My biggest priority in 2020 is to put the work in and reverse both those stats.


The two word summary: also meh. In terms of cashing I’ve continued my customary consistency, notching up 24 live cashes on the Hendon mob, my most ever in a single year (and there were two other significant live cashes that didn't make it onto Hendon: a tournament in the Vic I chopped with Daiva and a satellite to the main event at the WSOP I won a seat in).

The problem is that they’ve mostly been small cashes, and the big result in particular has eluded me. I started the year very strongly final tabling the Dublin Grand Prix high roller and almost final tabling the main event. Four more crossbars at the Aussie Millions were followed in February by another main event cash at Unibet Open Sinaia (where I survived for hours on the bubble with 3 big blinds or less) and my second final table in the Deepstack Open. My third final table came at the Irish Open in a turbo side event, but again I was one of the first people out on the final table. My fourth final table came in a small daily Deepstack event in Vegas, but again I couldn’t make the final six. Nine other cashes made for a decent WSOP campaign, but again it felt like a lot of crossbars, with my deepest run coming in the online event where I finished 39th (does that event count as live?)

I followed Vegas with a min cash in the Party Millions. The 20k I got for that turned out to be my biggest score of the year, and again, does it even count as a live event given that I played day one and two online and bust within a couple of orbits after flying to Rozvadov for day three. Another min cash in the Battle of Malta main event was followed by one in the IPO mini main. I thought I was going to get the big result in my last outing of the year, the Road to PSPC, when I was top three in chips three tables out, but once again I ran out of steam on the second last table and bust in 11th.

All of which adds up to a breakevenish year live (which means a losing year when you factor in expenses) but I’m happy with how I played live throughout the year. Sample size is always too small live in one year, but the fact I kept getting into position is encouraging, as is the fact that after reviewing my livestream appearances with a fine comb I couldn’t find any major errors or stuff to be unhappy about.


I got a lot of satisfaction continuing to represent both Unibet Poker and ShareMyPair as ambassador this year. I am very grateful to both for their continued support through some controversial and contentious moments in 2019.

I’d particularly like to thank all the Unibet employees I interact directly with who made this the most fun year since I signed with Unibet. This year the ambassador team felt like a real team.

Chip Race

In many ways for me personally, 2019 was the year of the Chip Race. At the end of 2018, Lappin and I both felt there was a strong likelihood the podcast had peaked and the only way was down, or at least sideways. How wrong we were. 2019 was the year we were not only nominated for a Global Poker award but we pulled off a major shock to win it (nobody was more shocked than one prominent pro whose characteristically peevish response to things not going his way made our victory all the sweeter). It was the year our audience grew by over 50% from what we thought was a peak, and the year we stopped having to chase whatever guests we could get and started getting to pick and choose whoever we wanted.

The podcast is very much a labour of love for me and in particular Lappin, who really pours his heart and soul into it. We complement each other almost perfectly not just in terms of our personas on the show but also our strengths and weaknesses behind the scenes. Total trust is vital to any working relationship that close where so much has to be unwritten or unsaid and David is one of the few people in poker I totally trust and know always has my back. He also puts into ridiculous hours writing, producing, recording, editing and promoting the show.

David and I, like most poker pros, know when to fold ‘em as well as when to hold ‘em. Not just our poker hands, but everything else from relationships to projects. With The Chip Race at an all time high right now it’s unlikely we will be hanging up our microphones any time soon, but the day will come when we feel we have done as much as we can with it, and it will end on our terms.

Which leads me onto...


The blog is the one constant over the entirety of my poker career as far as content creation goes. It’s hard to keep coming up with new stuff to say or new ways to say it, and there have been times when I thought I’d reached the end with it. Actually I did mentally retire it at the start of 2016 after the Bowie blog, but brought it back when inspiration struck again.

This year I wrote 15 new blogs and managed to maintain and even grow my readership. At the start of 2019 the blog went through 600k readers and near the end through 700k. Two of the blogs I wrote this year are in the top ten ever in terms of number of readers: the Negreanu one (second most read ever) and the dealer controversy in Malta one (eighth), with another falling just outside the top ten, the one announcing the book.

Which leads me onto...

The book

If 2019 was the year of the Chip Race, it was also to a large extent the year of the book. I published my first poker strategy book, “Poker Satellite Strategy”, co-authored with Barry Carter, at the start of March. We have both been very happy both with the sales (there’s always a risk when you go the self publishing route you’ll fall flat on your face without a big publisher behind you) and the reception. A big thank you to everyone who helped us spread the word, especially Clodagh, Daiva, Kat, Donna, Lara, Kasia, George, Chad and Lappin.

Working with Barry is a very pleasant experience. Similar to my relationship with David we complement each other very well, with Barry doing all the legwork that’s not my bag. Two more books are in the works and should appear at some point in 2020.

Other content

During 2019, I wrote a monthly strategy for Bluff Europe (until it’s closure), and contributed a number of strategy pieces to PokerNews and PokerStrategy, made some strategy videos with Gareth James and Barry Carter, published a regular free strategy newsletter, and did some Twitch streams with Kevin Martin, Ian Simpson and Collin Moshman.

I also appeared on a few other podcasts: Jamie Kerstetter and Chad Holloway PokerNews pod, Red Chip (with Barry Carter) and Elliot Roe (not released yet).

(This blog is turning out a lot longer than intended so I’ve decided to split it into two parts. Part two coming in a few days)



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