Is The Dream Still Alive?

Poker was introduced to me much in the same way as it was to many other players. My dad taught me how to play 5-card draw when I was 5 or 6, and the two of us would regularly play heads-up for toothpicks. I was pretty interested in the game from the very beginning, at least from what I can remember. I’ve always loved games and the competition that stems from them. I can remember winning boxes of toothpicks from my dad and feeling quite happy with myself, like I had somehow outsmarted my dad (in reality, either he was letting me win or I was just running good). This was, and still is today, the driving force behind my passion for poker. I love the idea of being able to pick up on my opponents’ tendencies, exploit them, and take their money. It sounds a little cruel as I write that, but I think it is just my competitive nature. 

I began to play poker regularly during high school. By this time, most of my friends were also poker players, so it wasn’t hard to get 6-9 handed home-games going a few times a month. We played No Limit Hold’em exclusively and would usually only buy in for $10-20. At the same time, Jack, my brother and I began playing online together. When I say together, I mean so in a literal sense. We would deposit $25 or whatever and play 90-man SNG’s and the occasional MTT as a team. We never had much success, but thinking about each decision in a group setting where we could bounce ideas off each other, and just the experience we gained from being able to play more hands certainly accelerated the learning process. It didn’t take long for the three of us to have a pretty big edge over most of our other friends who would play in our home-games. It was around this time that I first began to envision the dream of becoming a professional poker player.

Going into college in the fall of 2012, I had started playing online poker more seriously. I played on Lock Poker (RIP) and had moderate success playing micro-stakes 6-max and full-ring cash games. Up to this point, I really hadn’t put in any work away from the table (aside from watching poker TV shows, but I don’t know if I’d really count that as studying). During my freshman year, I learned of and began lurking in the micro/medium stakes forums. This was where I first learned of HUDs and the information they made available to players. I bought a version of PokerTracker and began using it while I played. I wasn’t fully conscious of the power of the software and all it could be used for, but I was aware enough to look at the more common stats (VPIP, PFR, 3Bet %, Cbet %, etc.) to discern which players were weak and could easily be exploited. My whole strategy revolved around targeting these players specifically and avoiding getting involved with more skilled players. I was able to use this strategy to work my way up to regularly play 100NL and occasionally take shots at 200NL. I used poker as a sort of part-time job to support my living expenses at school. Unfortunately, sometime in the middle of 2013, Lock Poker became insolvent and essentially stopped processing withdrawals. After having lost my 4-figure bankroll to Lock, I was too paranoid to try another site out of fear that the same thing would happen again. I still had the idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to take a shot at playing live-poker for a living once I turned 21.

So, I had to wait. Jack and I made several trips to out-of-state casinos on Native American Reservations as well as charity poker rooms where you only had to be 18 to play. Jack and I had decent success on these trips, and knew that once we were old enough to play in casinos we’d likely be able to crush the 1-2 and 1-3 games. Once I turned 21 in the summer of 2014, I began playing at my local casino when able. I was working a summer job at the time and still had two more years of school, so it was hard to put in a lot of volume during this time and over the next two years. I started out my live career on a pretty nice heater (although I wasn’t aware of it at the time). I thought that I was some kind of prodigy and would be able to print $40 an hour with virtually no work away from the table. Reality eventually caught up to me as I put in more volume, and I began to realize my game had some major leaks. I began focusing more on improving my game away from the table, mostly via the LLSNL forum on 2p2, reading poker books (poker’s 1%, theory and practice of NHL, mental game of poker) and watching training videos. My game developed quite a bit during this time to the point where I now believe I have what it takes to crush 1-3 and ascend to 2-5 and beyond in the future. 

My dream still is to make it as a professional poker player, and now is the first time I’ll be able to dedicate all of my time and efforts towards achieving my goal. I just graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University last spring with a BA in Economics. So, being fresh out of school with no real baggage, and having parents who have agreed to let me live with them for now, this seems like the perfect time to give full-time poker a real shot. I’ll be documenting my journey here. I’m not an experienced blogger or writer or anything like that, so I’m guessing a lot of what I post in the future will be more strategy-related stuff like interesting hands I play or witness and concepts I come across in studying that I think are important to success in live-poker. I’ve outlined some goals for my first week as a live pro:

•    Play for 35 hours: I want to build up my endurance and also leave time for studying away from the table for the first couple weeks
•    Study 10 hours: most of my studying will consist of finishing Matthew Janda’s Applications, reviewing hand histories, watching training videos, and staying active on 2p2)
•    Meditate 3 times/ week: I’ve read and heard from friends that mediation is a useful tool for increasing focus and relieving stress; I hope to make this part of my daily routine in the near future
•    Run 3 times/ week: I ran cross country and track in high school and have been running semi-regularly since then. I believe regular exercise will relieve stress and help me sleep better at night. It also should help to keep a sort of balance in life between poker and non-poker activities

That’s kind of where I’m at. I plan to update this weekly and would love to hear input for ideas and things you guys want to hear from me. Until next week… peace!