After more than a decade as a professional poker player, I think I finally understand the need for balance. This is my first blog post since the Myspace days when I used to write pretty regularly. I enjoyed it and Myspace made it easy. However, Myspace made more changes than Bruce Jenner and my blogging days came to an end.
So, here I am starting up again, and instead of starting with something light and easy, I’m firing away, right into the subject of Balance. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps because the WSOP starts in 3 weeks and I’m finally trying to figure out how I want to approach it and what my plan is for this year. Last year I played nearly every day, something like 23 events plus cash games on days off. It was ugly. I had one cash in 23 events. One. Plus significant cash game losses nearly every day. Did I mention how ugly it was?
I’m a pro. I know the swings, I know how the WSOP works. Every real poker player goes in there thinking they are going to crush it, but the fact is that most of them will lose. The best pros are somewhere around 15% to cash in any one event. This means you are just a small favorite, nearly a coin-flip, to cash one time in any 5 events. Playing 10 events in a row and not cashing even once will happen to 1 out of 5 top pros. About 1 in 25 top pros will play 20 events in a row and never cash. And these numbers assume you are playing your best game every day. How hard do you think it is to play your best game on your 19th tournament in a row without cashing? Even when you do cash, it’s often a min-cash, you just barely get your money back. You have to go really deep in at least one event to have a good series, and that’s tough, particularly if you mostly play the big field events. There are big payoffs in those, but they come about very infrequently, and the losses pile up while you’re waiting.
So, back to the need for balance. You can’t go to the WSOP and plan to play every day unless your mindset is 100% in there. It’s easy to have a good mindset when you’re winning, it’s even easy to have a good mindset when you’re losing a little or struggling a little. That’s what pros are supposed to do, they’re supposed to shrug off the losses and move #OnToTheNextOne. But for the one pro in 25 who plays 20 events in a row and doesn’t cash, it becomes tougher and tougher to do.
This year I’m going to do things a little differently. This year I’m not going to have a schedule. I’m certainly going to try to play the huge field events, the Colossus, the Millionaire Maker, the Monster Stack, etc., but I won’t be playing unless I really feel at my best, and I’m going to take numerous days off. I have other things I want to do and they don’t involve poker.
I’ll be hiking, working on new course content for The Poker Academy, and working on writing the sequel to the first novel I wrote, the one that will hopefully be published in June. (It’s called “Drawing Dead” and it’s a crime thriller with a WSOP slant.) I’ll fly home a couple of times, visit my cabin in Eastern Washington, go skydiving, relax. Maybe I’ll even take an unscheduled trip somewhere, spur of the moment. In 2007, I left the WSOP one day in the middle of it and flew to Europe for 5 days, completely without notice or thought or plan. That was a good year. That was a year with balance, though it was accidental at the time. Looking back, I understand finally how important that was, and this year I’ll be looking to recreate that.