April High Volume Sort of Challenge

As detailed in my previous post, playing lots of tables is not normal for me, but it seems to be having a positive impact on my playing. So for April I'm setting myself a high volume challenge.

First of all, I'm going for 30,000 hands in one month. I usually play around 10,000 but my earn rate is good and it makes sense for me to play more tables. Im on 5 PT BB/100 over my last 40,000 hands (when I got my new PC) and if I can continue to run like that over 30,000 I will do very well. I make quite a bit in rakeback and reload bonuses too so this can only improve that further.

I am also going to set a forum post challenge too. If I have one gripe about myself is that I dont get involved enough on the blonde forum, particularly the hand analysis. So I plan to get my current post count to 500 (from 387) on Blonde and to 50 (from 0) on 2+2. The more involved I am in poker the more I tend to get out of it, which is the reason for the little challenge.

Carpel Tunnel here we come.

Low stakes grindin

Had an amazing and suprising few days this week. Last Friday I donked away a grand in about ten minutes at the cash tables and I punished myself for the next few days by studying my hand histories, to see what I did wrong.

I then decided to get back to playing well before getting back into things, so I decided to play more tables at lower stakes. I never really play more than two at a time so I went for four tables of 1/2. I dont know whether its because I have been missing out on multi-tabling or just a great run, but in about 3 days Ive won 4 grand at 1/2.

Its put me in a quandry, maybe Im actually better off playing lots of tables at low stakes? Right now my thoughts are 'if it ain broke dont fix it' and I'll see how long this run can go on for. I think I'll try and move up to four tables of 2/4 by the end of next week. I cant see myself managing 4 tables of 3/6 or 5/10 just yet, but who knows?

I know most folks play 16 tables at a time and can still do their tax return, but it was always something I struggled with until recently.

Man flu

I've barely left the flat in the last week, on account of a dreaded bout of man flu. Being ill is nowhere near as fun when you are your own boss, when I had a full time job there was always a small element of childish glee whenever I was ill, legitamate or not, knowing I didnt have to work and could watch Trisha all day.

That said, it didn't stop me playing poker and I've had a good couple of weeks playing cash. Surpisingly my best session was a losing session this afternoon, after dropping 3 buy-ins in a small space of time I really had to knuckle down to get most of it back. In the end I reduced my lost to half a buy-in and almost all down to well planned grinding.

The bank holiday is coming up, which is no big whoop for me, I dont get paid for it like 99% of the country so I'm a bit bah humbug about it all.

GUKPT Victoria

The GUKPT Vic was my first circuit event as a sponsored VC Poker player and it was a pretty dissapointing affair. After a cracking first couple of hours it just developed into a very bad day at the office. It wasnt the cards, though they could have been better, it wasnt my play, although it could have been better, it wasnt my luck, although it could have been better etc etc.

It was just one of those days that simply didn't go well, Im sure a better player could have done more in my place, I'm also pretty certain alot of good players would have done a lot worse. I went out at the end of day 1b when I shoved my shortstack into a another shortstack with a ragged ace-five. I had about 10 big blinds, he had about 12:

Him: Thats a big old bet
Me: Not really, its the only bet I have left
Him: Well, no, not really (Pauses for a long time)do you want a call?
Me: Nope
Him: I suppose you have to gamble (pauses for a long time and eventually calls)

I knew full well I had a three outer, either with an ace-jack type hand or a small pocket pair. So I was very suprised when he turned over Jacks. It amazes me, first of all, that some players who can afford a £1000 buy-in event seem to have no comprehension of the 10 big blinds rule for short stacks. I've played big tournaments before where, well into the ante stages, players have expressed disbelief when a player shoves all in with seven big blinds. What the hell do people want short stacks to do? Limp and fold?

The other thing that amazed me was how this wasnt an instant call. I certainly dont think the guy was slowrolling me, but when you have a short stack yourself pocket jacks looks heaven on a hole card. This guy was also in danger of blinding away and my range was so huge that most players would have assumed Jacks crushed me. I think its an insta call by 99% of the people who would play a GUKPT event. Maybe I'm fixating on the wrong thing, I was always going out, just amazed he put me through a song and dance.

Straight after busting I bumped into Mazhar Nawab, who somehow managed to turn my "I've just this minute bust out" to his "I came third in the Broadway Festival". I certainly don't mind hearing it, I've been tipping him for big things ever since I got friendly with him at the Irish Open last year, I just think its funny how, whatever way possible, poker players will stop at nothing to tell you bad beat or brag stories.

I did play against Teddy Sheringham, which was cool. It was very nice to see him take a bad beat badly, not because I wish him any harm but because it proved to me he is a true poker player, not a celebrity trying to find a new home.

Tommorow there is a mini festival at my local casino and the quarterly Naps festival next week which I will be playing in both, but my next stop on the UK tour for VC Poker will likely be at the GBPT in Nottingham next month.

Has poker made me a better person? Part 1

Taken from my column on www.thehendonmob.com

Just like any good son, on Mother’s day I stumbled up to my parents’ house for the obligatory kiss on the cheek, handing over of a card and the gift vouchers that were purchased at the last minute. It was one of the rare days of the calendar year where I sat down for Sunday Lunch with my family and I took the seat to the immediate left of my Dad. An odd thought popped into my head, only for a split second, but long enough to freak me out a little.

I thought to myself, “ah good, I’ve got position on Dad”.

It may sound a little sad, but it was purely habitual. Whenever I sit at a poker table my first instinct is to check out whom I get to act after and who has position on me. Quite why position on ones father in a Sunday Lunch is a good thing I can’t say, apart from possibly being able to gauge the quality of the roast potatoes before I took a bite, but it got me thinking about poker in the context of the rest of my life.

Everything that came before it is null and void now with my friends and family, I am and probably will forever be, the poker player in the eyes of my loved ones. My ex colleagues know me as the guy that quit work to gamble and my friends either have visions of me living a life akin to a James Bond novel or begging for change outside a bookies.

I went part time at my old office job to play poker in June of 2006, a few months on and my poker writing work started to really take off and my hours reduced even more. By April of last year I left my job for (hopefully) ever to play poker and write about it for a living. I know from a fiscal sense that its gone great and I haven’t looked back, but as the first year anniversary of that day is looming I am poised to ask myself a question:

Has playing poker made me a better person?

I don’t mean so much in the karma sense, because obviously I have taken money from people (and been a good sport and given plenty of it back). But has my quality of life and those around me changed since I have chosen poker as a vocation? Some of this is unique to myself, other things I am sure you can see in yourself a little:

Pro – I have money

Big disclaimer here, obviously not all poker players have money and it would be irresponsible for me to imply otherwise. But for the first time in my life I have money in the bank, from playing and writing. Not massive amounts by any stretch of the imagination, but the bills get paid, the missus gets treated and I don’t have to worry about getting a round in.

In my old job I always was overdrawn and was transferring credit card balances to whichever one would give me 0% apr that month. Sure it could go tits up at any minute but as long as I manage my bankroll I’ll never have to dip into my savings (first time I had those too) and I’m much more secure than I ever was in a ‘real’ job. My proudest achievement to date in this regard was buying my parents a big f&$% off TV for Christmas and hope that hasn’t set a benchmark for crimbos to come.

Con – Loneliness

I’ll never miss audits, dealing with customers or having to man manage complete thickos on a daily basis, but I do miss the social aspect of my old job. Poker people are the best people in the world and thanks to the good people at VC Poker I’ll be playing in even more festivals this year, but the majority of my time is spent playing online at home when everyone else is at work.

I love what I do and could never go back to the 9-5, but sometimes my girlfriend will get back home from work and I will meet her at the door like an excited dog desperate to be taken for a walk. All my mates work normal hours which means that often I am starved for attention in the daytime and the Jehovahs Witnesses can sometimes be found sneaking out of my window when I go to make them a 3rd cup of tea. Sometimes the biggest hurdle in playing online poker can be learning to enjoy your own company.

Pro – I don’t gamble anymore

Another little disclaimer, obviously poker is gambling, but we all know it’s a game of skill too (unless you are from Snaresbrook Crown Court). I got into poker as just another form of gambling with my mates, we were regulars at the local casino, couldn’t watch Gillette Soccer Saturday without having at least done the sevens sections and would bet on the stupidest things when we were out on the lash. Apart from boxing, which I am a pretty formidable pundit IMHO, I was definitely a losing gambler, though it never really was high stakes.

Poker changed that, once I got a grasp of the game and started winning as a result of making good decisions, other forms of gambling just seemed like, well, gambling. I rarely bet on football (and even when I do it’s never at any sort of stake I play at poker tables and I have never put a single chip down on the house games since, despite spending more time in casinos than I ever have before.

Con - I have ditched a lot of other hobbies

I cannot express how gratifying it is when your job is also your hobby, and despite putting more hours in than ever, poker never gets boring for me. But my interest in other things has certainly declined. Some I am glad to be rid of, I don’t go clubbing anymore but as I’m pushing 30 that’s probably a good thing. I also used to be a season ticket holder, but it was for Sheffield Wednesday so you can surely forgive me that.

I used to be a bit of a gym bunny and ran half marathons, I still go to the gym but it is mainly a damage reduction exercise to stop me getting fatter (more on that later). I still go to the cinema plenty, but I used to be one of those ‘film bores’ that are annoying to be around but I still loved to be. If one thing comes from this article, maybe it’s that it would be nice to get a new hobby to take me away from playing cards.

That’s all for now but there is plenty more where this came from. Hopefully between now and the next time I will have won the GUKPT London and my missus hasn’t left me for playing too much poker, but next time I’ll look at how poker has turned me into, well, a slob.

Barry Carter is sponsored by Victor Chandler Poker
Copyright © Barry Carter Poker