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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - Leaks

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One of the most challenging aspects of building a bankroll online is honestly recognizing weaknesses in your game. Without being able to analyze properly what you do successfully and what you fail at, you will be stuck on an endless roller coaster of ups and downs, without really making much progress towards lasting success. These holes in your game can be considered leaks, and, just like the holes in a bucket that prevent it from ever being filled with water, the leaks in your game will stop your bankroll from ever being filled to the brim.

Leaks take different forms for different players. In the casino setting, many highly successful and brilliant poker players have lost their entire bankrolls by not being able to resist the lure of table games that are inherently impossible to beat in the long run, most notably craps. The same aggressiveness that makes them great poker players winds up causing them to crave action in settings where the odds are stacked against them. Online, the pitfalls are quite different, but they are there nonetheless.

Let me give you an example from my own play: After losing a buy-in at .50-1 no limit holdem, and then another one at 2-4 stud high/low, I sat down at what appeared to be a very beatable game of 3-6 stud high/low. My initial outlay of $120 became $250 in about an hour, at which point I had to sit out for a few minutes. I had almost made back my losses from earlier in the day, and was feeling very good about it. When I returned to the table, I was slow to recognize that the players had changed, and the table had become much tougher. The hands I had been making dried up and my stack started to shrink.

I know we’ve all found ourselves in this situation before, and the question is always whether to leave the table with most of the profit, or stay and try to get back on a roll. After two more great starting hands that never made anything, I realized that I’d better get out while I still had half of my winnings. While I could have seen this trend for what it was a bit sooner, this really wasn’t much of a leak, from my perspective. However, what happened next definitely was. I went looking for another table to play, and not seeing anything of interest at either the stud high/low or HORSE tables, I got the clever idea to play some triple draw. Now, other than a very low stakes tournament (which I won, by the way), I’ve never played triple draw. So, not only was I playing a game with which I was relatively unfamiliar, but also I was sitting at my normal stake level for a limit game, which is currently 2-4! You can guess what happened next. When the dust had settled, I had given back all the profit I had made in the high-low game and was back to my original two buy-in loss for the day.

I have found that whenever I get one of those “clever” ideas to go play a game that I normally wouldn’t play, I am simply throwing away money that I have spent hours earning at the tables. Please don’t misunderstand me here, I am not suggesting that you never try to expand your poker repertoire to other games. However, if you are going to do that, you should begin by playing at a much smaller buy-in than in games in which you already know you are a winning player. That way, the almost inevitable losses you will encounter will be much less expensive lessons along the way to mastering the new discipline.

Leaks online take other forms as well. Many online players play more than one table at a time, which can be a source of increased income, the theory being that if they can win X number of dollars per hour at one table, they can double that at two tables, triple it at three, etc. The flaw in this thinking is that the more tables you play, the less attention you are putting on any one of the tables, and hence, it is very easy to miss the more subtle elements of play that may be going on. As a result, there is a drop-off in win rate per table with each additional table you play. At some point, that decrease in profit will actually become a loss. It is essential that, when you begin multi-tabling, you keep detailed accounts of your win rates, and how they shift based on the number of tables at a time at which you are sitting.

While Hevad Khan may be able to play 25-30 SNG tourneys at a time, your kidneys might not be able to handle all the energy drinks it would take to keep up that level of action, and your bankroll might not improve, either. As long as you are winning consistently, by all means keep playing as many tables at once as your computer screen can handle. But when you are doing it just to tell your friends you can play 10 tables at once, and your bankroll is suffering, it has become a leak, and you need to cut back.

In addition to multi-tabling, multi-tasking can also cause serious damage to your bankroll. I have found that, for example, if I answer the phone while playing a session online, that the hands I play during the conversation almost always lead to losses. If I am going to talk to someone, I will click on the “sit out next hand” button, and give the person on the phone my full attention. I apply the same rule to answering email, texting, paying bills or online surfing. If I am doing one of those things, I temporarily stop playing poker. Lately, I have even extended that rule to chatting with my fellow players. It is easy to get caught up in an interesting thread of discussion, only to realize that your concentration on the game at hand has completely fallen off the map. I have almost completely stopped chatting, other than typing in an occasional “ty” when someone compliments a play or a hand, so that I can completely focus on the play of the cards.

These are just a few of the many types of leaks that you face in the online setting. What I suggest is that you sit down and be completely honest with yourself about where and when your bucket is leaking money. Is it consistently playing in games you can’t beat? Is it distracting yourself with other activities when you should be concentrating completely on your game? The more you can eliminate these leaks, the faster your bankroll will grow, and the more successful you will become.

By the way, after writing this, I went and played in one of the 180 player turbo tourneys, which have been very profitable for me, the very opposite of a leak. I finished third, and, for those who have been following my bankroll’s progress (remember, I started with just $50).

See you at the tables!

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