A Long Week of Poker: A serious vacation and an evaluation

ImperatorImperator Red Chipper Posts: 898 ✭✭✭
edited March 2017 in Off Topic Chat
I spent 9 days playing poker everyday, mostly at casinos. During that long week of poker there were two travel days and on those days I only had 1 four hour session. On other days I played from 8 to 12 hours a day, but the sessions were all mostly 4 hours long, though I did extend a few sessions to 5 or 6 hours. The stakes I played at were $1-$2, $2-$5, and two $5-$10 sessions. I played at 3 different casinos and one underground game.

The reason this was a vacation and not simply a long poker outing is that I traveled with my girlfriend. I know many poke players think it is a mistake to bring one's lover to the casino but I have found that I play better when I'm with her. I think this is for two reasons. She relaxes me and I am forced to plan my sessions before hand so that I can take her to dinner, exercise at the gym with her, go to the spa with her, etc. The down side of going to the casino with her is that I spend more money when I'm with her and this comes out of my poker bankroll.

The most important thing I have found through traveling to casinos with my girlfriend is that scheduling my poker sessions is the most important off-table poker decision I make. Whether I win or lose I must schedule my sessions before hand -- including the time of day or night I play, and the length of my sessions. I must keep to that schedule and not let myself get distracted. I should have known this about myself long ago because it is the way I schedule my writing life. Sometimes it takes a long time to relearn the lessons you already know.

If I am not winning after 4 to 6 hours at the table it is no use thinking that I'm going to win later. If I'm not paying enough attention to the players around the table during the first 90 minutes of play then I might as well quit then and there. If after 90 minutes I know no more than I did when I first sat down at the table then I should hang out with my girl at poolside or buy her a new dress or read a book or .... something.

It is really the first hour of play that establishes my workings at the table. If I can see, really see, my fellow players in that first hour -- the bet sizes, the frequencies, the facial expressions, the tone of voice, the hand movements, the fun and the fear -- then win or lose I know I will play decently. I see best when I keep to a schedule.

So what was my schedule?

I would play mostly in the early afternoon from about 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and then I would go upstairs meet my girl and have dinner at a place we planned to go to before hand. Often I would go to bed by 9 or 10 p.m. and wake up about 3 or 4 am. Then I would get to the floor at either a little before or a little after 4 a.m. This matches my writing schedule when I am at home. I wake up no later than 4:30 in the morning and write all morning. Then I go to the gym come home and nap and wake up to write again. The fact that I didn't adhere to this schedule as much as I could when scheduling my poker sessions was a kind of stupidity on my part.

But here is the added value to this schedule. When I arrive at the poker table at 3:30 a.m. what I find is three or four tables of all-nighters. I am fresh in the early morning and in my element at at time when I am used to thinking my best. I have been writing and reading between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. since I was 16 years old. I think best during those hours. For others those are often the worse hours. I am shocked by how much money I've made between 4 am and 6 am... I know this is not a poker strategy but it has certainly added to my bankroll. And who am I to argue with my body rhythms?

As far as my game is concerned I think that the pat nine days has added to my hand-reading and person reading abilities. Simply playing everyday for 9 days and at least 8 hours a day for 7 of the past 9 days has made me a better poker player.

There were many accidents and incidents at the poker table, many stories, shaggy and neat, that have helped me to learn about myself and my skills (or lack of skills) during those 9 days. I had an interesting time on the table and a good time off the table.

I loved playing this much. But I have to admit I got very lucky in my opponents and in their good hands when I had a better hand. During some sessions I was not on my A-game; but during all my early morning sessions I seemed to be spot on in my reads. At least I got them to fold when I wanted them to fold and to call when I wanted them to call. I survived $5-$10 being few big blinds ahead after 4 hours. But the fact is my best games were at the early morning $1-$2 games both in relative and absolute terms.

The fact is that variance was running my way through out the week. In the big pots I got straights, flushes, full-houses, and four of a kind when my opponent had weaker but very good hands. I was able to stack my opponents often and that helped. In other words not only did I have a few good hands, my opponents were unlucky in also having hands that they couldn't let go of. But also I think I was able to get my stack in with some opponents because they thought I was bluffing in these hands. In two sessions I was told by another player that a guy who I stacked and chased off the table had said; "He told me he thought you bluffed a lot."

Only once did variance work against me in a big way. I had a set on the flop and the other guy had two pair. On the flop he went all in with me for more than half of my stack, which was pretty large at the time. The board paired on the river and he ended up with the better full house.

All and all I was very lucky. I paid for the vacation and won a substantial amount more.

I promised myself, that for this vacation, that half of my winnings above my current bank-roll (minus expenses) would go to an immigrant rights charity, and I am happy that I made enough not to feel embarrassed about my donation.


  • Mr. DontMr. Dont Red Chipper Posts: 370 ✭✭✭
    Great post, thanks for sharing. I also trying to play shorter, but better session. True that longer I play, tend to worse my results are.
  • Daniel LDaniel L Red Chipper Posts: 33 ✭✭
    Imperator wrote: »
    I promised myself, that for this vacation, that half of my winnings above my current bank-roll (minus expenses) would go to an immigrant rights charity, and I am happy that I made enough not to feel embarrassed about my donation.

    Great stuff. Poker problems < real problems. Your trip sounds amazing BTW, I'd love to do something similar!
  • ImperatorImperator Red Chipper Posts: 898 ✭✭✭
    Day Dreaming My Opponents "Strategy": Deducing a Tool-Box from Typical Actions
    .... or adventures in Mind Reading.

    (Strategy in quotes because most people only have a scrap-heap of broken tools that amounts to an unconscious strategy. )

    Something different that came to me during my nine days of poker:

    For a long time I have been trying to hand read ... studying the frequencies of my opponents -- limping , raising, 3-betting, C-betting, folding, calling -- all of those things @SplitSuit helped me to learn through his books and videos. But in in those 3:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. session in my nine day poker vacation I found myself doing something else that felt a little bit like "mind" reading for the first time. I started to reconstruct my opponent's tool boxes in my own mind. I don't know from whence this came. I don't know if what I saw in my mind's eye was accurate. But suddenly I thought I could do it; I could really see the tools that they believed were the essentials of their workings at the table.

    I am reminded of what many sociologists and cultural anthropologists take for granted. Everyone has developed a philosophy; everyone has interiorized an ideology. Our philosophy, our ideology, is not necessarily articulated but it is instantiated in how we act. We can deduce from our actions our tool-box for living in the world.

    I'm quoting myself a lot but that is because I'm trying to put some of my own lessons together with my thinking at the table.

    In a previous thread I wrote:
    Just like in everyday life everybody has a philosophy, even if it is unexamined, in poker everybody has a strategy, even if it is confused. Our unexamined philosophies and confused strategies are usually derived from our social surroundings and all the media of communication that are part of our society. This fact is why @Christian Soto 's burn the books "philosophy" has some resonance. But the problem isn't the books, the problem is that the unexamined life isn't worth living... and an unconscious strategy isn't worth playing. An examined life isn't always worth living either but it is a first step. But a conscious individual strategy is always worth playing because that is the only way we can improve. One part in developing our own individual philosophies and strong strategies is to turn what was in the past confused and unseen into a thought process that is visible and intentional in our own minds. And the only way to do this is in conflict and cooperation with others in whatever media of communication that is possible.

    I am reminded of what the Marxist philosopher Georg Lukacs said in History and Class Consciousness:
    (H)owever simple an enumeration of 'facts' may be, however lacking in commentary, it already implies an 'interpretation'. Already at this stage the facts have been comprehended by a theory, a method; they have been wrenched from their living context and fixed into a theory.

    What I found myself doing is seeing very clearly that my opponents had developed an unconscious strategy from their collection of tools in their box. The guy that limps in middle position with any A-rag and then re-raises any raise that comes after him to 9x to take down all of the limps and limp-callers and the original raiser. The check-re-raiser with any strong hand. The guy who limps or limp-calls with anything and then always leads when he hits the flop. You can see them taking their tools out of their tool box right in front of your eyes. You can see when they are scared to use some tools, and when they are confident because they think they are in the right spot. And you can see when these are the only tools they have so they have to use them ... or get out of the hand construction business.

    These guys (and they are all guys) don't even know they have a strategy but this jumble of tools is their strategy and once you see that they become very predictable.

    The strange thing that I realized is that once you can come to an approximate estimation of your opponent's unconscious, forsaken and confused, strategy, deducing it from his unhandy pile of tools, you find that this kind of strategy is more predictable than a thinking player's conscious strategy.

    So in every hand I was not-playing I sat there daydreaming, quite literally fantasizing, about my opponents unconscious strategy. For me this was a step beyond hand-reading. It gave me confidence and made the hands I didn't play fun.

    Of course, everything is an estimate and I was probably often wrong in my "mind reading" abilities. But it was fun.

  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper, Table Captain Posts: 4,062 ✭✭✭✭✭
  • kageykagey Red Chipper, KINGOFTAGS Posts: 2,241 ✭✭✭✭✭
    "tool box"... interesting metaphor
    sounds like a productive trip
    kudos on ending the trip in the green!

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