A Poker Story from the “Old Days”
I don’t even remember what year it was, but I think it was early in 2001. I was living at Budget Suites, which is where I first lived when I moved to Las Vegas.
Back then, just five years ago, online poker wasn’t much of an option for making money, so I would usually play anywhere from $80-$160 limit hold’em to $300-$600 or $400-$800 mixed games depending on my bankroll at the time. I habitually played with an inadequate bankroll which was part impatience/part a lack of fear/part I had a good reputation and could borrow money if necessary.
Anyway, after a about a year playing very little poker but spending money frivolously, I started 2001 without a bankroll. One night I went out for drinks with my good buddies from Toronto, Sam and Tyson.
We ended up talking about “being a grinder” and that I couldn’t do it anymore. After playing high limits, the highest regular games in Vegas at the time, they felt like I could never go back to being a grinder at smaller limits and win.
I disagreed with them. I tried to tell them that if I put my mind to it and my back is against the wall that I could grind it out and play hard. They were actually rooting for me to do that, but nonetheless, made me a bet that I couldn’t do the following: play 140 hours of $30-$60 limit hold’em and earn at least a big bet an hour over that period. Also, I could not play any higher than $30-$60 at any point.
I took them up on the offer and borrowed $2300 from Huck Seed. I owed him $7700 from a goofy night of playing heads up after a night of drinking. We played $200-$400 one night with the understanding that neither of us would have to pay anytime soon. It was a fun night, and I learned a ton about playing Stud 8 or better heads up. He was way, way, way, better than me at the time, but after playing with him, and John Hennigan in 1999, I learned so much about playing the game short handed that it was an invaluable experience.
So anyway, it’s Monday morning and I’m at the Bellagio at 11:45am and sit right down to play $30-$60. Obviously if I lost the $2300 it would make it tough to win my bet since I’d have to find someone to borrow money from.
Day one went well. I put in a 10 hour session and won about $1300 if I remember correctly. The first five days went well as I only had one loss of $300. More importantly, I was on schedule with hours played and ahead of schedule as far as money earned was concerned.
As far as being social goes, I even had time to go out with the guys one night after a session. After going out, I was back at the tables to get in some more hours. I probably played about four more hours and quit at maybe 6:00am.
The next day I slept in a little bit, but was still able to get into a game by about 3:00pm. I played for only six hours that night, being a little tired from the previous night.
After about 10 days of play I was getting tired, but the games seemed so easy that I knew I would win the bet. I was averaging closer to $100 an hour despite losing three sessions out of ten.
After 14 days I put in my 140 hours and won a little over $22,000. I paid Huck back his $2300 (the other $7700 wasn’t due for quite some time) and went out with the guys for a little celebration time.
The bet was actually a lot of fun for me. I really enjoyed it and it felt great to prove to myself that I could do it. I credit making that bet with getting be back on track and more focused on playing more regularly.
In 2001 I played a full year of tournaments and by the end of the year I was back on my feet. I took on a partner to play in the big mixed games and Bellagio and went on a tear.
I started out playing $300-$600 and won four sessions in a row. The game quickly became $400-$800, then $600-$1200, and finally, $800-$1600. After putting together a decent bankroll of my own I parted ways with my partner and played in the games on my own. I continued to win, nothing crazy, but I was holding my own.
Along the way, in 2004 I had a good start to the year, both in tournaments and in cash games. By that point, the big game got bigger. It was usually $1000-$2000 to start, and would often get kicked up to $1500-$3000 later in the night.
By the WSOP, the game got kicked up again, mostly being $2000-$4000. Occasionally, with the right crew, the big game would be $4000-$8000. That’s as big as it ever got on a regular basis. I didn’t play in the game initially.
I first played $4000-$8000 in Tunica, MI. that January. At that point I had a partner putting up half the money, and in my first session I won $487,000, the biggest cash game win I’d ever had to date.
I remember being super excited about the win and looked forward to playing again. The next day I went back to playing in the game, and was promptly stuck over $300,000. That kind of stung. These were swings that I just wasn’t used to at the time, and with the $100,000 cap games in there, the swings were fast and furious.
I ended up losing $423,000 that next day and realized that the game was just a little out of my comfort zone. I felt like a favorite, but didn’t have near enough of a bankroll to play in that game full time. Instead, I thought it better to just take some shots from time to time when the game looked good.
The last part of 2004 helped me boost my bankroll to a point where I was comfortable playing $4000-$8000. Winning about $3 million in tournaments helped a lot.
In 2005-present, I haven’t played much poker at all in the cash games. More so recently. The games don’t go as often since a lot of people that would normally play live are playing online. That’s just not something I’m all that comfortable doing, besides, I am not sure if I’m a winning player online against tough competitors. I have lots of trouble focusing online and reading players. I think I play “ok” but it just doesn’t seem real to me?
Lately I’ve been home, writing by book, columns, etc. and really miss playing poker. I’d like to go down to the Bellagio right now and play, frankly, but there is no game going. Hasn’t been one all week. Who knows, maybe I’ll just go to LA tomorrow and see what’s going on there. I’m thinking that maybe I need to make another one of those bets again.
I’m getting pretty sick of all things related to poker, that don’t involve actually playing poker. This blog, the columns, the book writing, the internet forums, it’s all getting really old, really fast.
In fact, yesterday I was seriously contemplating making some pretty big life changes. As in, dumping the blog, my columns, etc. Not for any other reason than I want to play poker again. Not no limit hold’em, but poker. Stud 8 or better, Omaha 8 or better, Triple Draw, pot limit Omaha, limit hold’em, all the games. It’s just way more fun for me and I haven’t played in ages.
Besides, the average person has absolutely no clue how much money poker players make in “endorsements.” No poker player makes very much money from endorsements outside of online poker sites. It’s not brazillions of dollars. In fact, the money made by even the most marketable players pales in comparision to what the better online pros make playing $25-$50 NL games online.