The Next 500 Hours of Poker.

In the last 2 years I’ve become a decent poker player.  I’m not great, but I’m better than most of the people I meet and I’m learning quickly. I’ve taken down tournaments and won thousands. Not millions.

I’ve had my share of bad plays, bad losses.

There’s nothing like winning.

Yes, I’ve even paid taxes on that shit.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Dunning-Kruger Is Real

When I started, I was an easy target that had good luck. I thought I was a lot better than I was.  Somehow, I thought I was “naturally good,” at poker, and that I knew when to read people and when to fold.

The truth is, I was flopping sets

with way more pairs than I should have. So that kept me thinking that I was good.  I was also winding up with garbage whenever others had a hand, and then I did what poker players call “running good,” in key spots.

I wasn’t good.  I’m still not yet good. 

100 Hours of Practice Helps A Lot.

I would guess that I have about 200 hours of serious study and another 100 hours of practice at Poker at this point in my life.  Not a ton, but also not nothing. 

And that makes a huge difference.  Most of the casino players have zero.  That 100 hours took me from terrible to bad.

I still have a long way to go and I get that.

Game Selection Helps A Lot

So the biggest trick is game selection.   I don’t play games that I can’t win.  Wildhorse was running poker games with about 50 players, 30 of them terrible.  Final Table Portland has similarly good odds.  But Crazy Moose has a spread limit cash game with a $7.00 per hand rake.

Track Everything

Pre-Covid I was tracking everything.  Numbers don’t lie.  Hands have highly variable results; sometimes a villian will hit their 2-outer in a key spot.  Make notes.  So you can get better.

I do a premortem and a postmortem for almost every game. 

Over the long haul, your trends will tell you where things are at.

Luck Matters. Skill matters more.

In key spots I’ve been lucky a few times.  One game I made a roaring comeback from the dead, a statistically improbable thing where I probably had 1 big blind left and about $20 worth of equity in the tournament.  I wound up winning $2400 that night after a series of triple ups.

That was fun. But it was lucky.  I played too conservatively and played too many hands without conviction, so I put myself in a bad spot, trying to limp into a “min-cash” situation.

But there were other times where I was a seeming lock for first place and I finished third or even out of the money (OOM).

That was less fun.   But the gist is this: those two things more or less balance each other.  Getting lucky in key spots has made a definite difference, but the trend is more or less in balance.

What’s Next?

I’m at least 1,000 hours of practice and study away from being a solid player.   I know where I need to go to learn this stuff, and I more or less know where I’m strongest (preflop ranges in various positions) and weakest (bet sizes postflop).

I don’t see myself studying more than about 100 hours a quarter, on a good quarter, so building up enough “game” is going to be a long project.  Will take 2.5 years.  But getting better is so much fun that I’m loving every moment of it.

Getting better is rewarding AF.

Questions as I go:

  1. Is there any way to streamline this and have more efficiency in my time?  Not shortcuts, but efficiency?
  2. What’s the ultimate goal?  (Self-liquidating hobby, for now).
  3. What is the max amount of time I’ll spend at poker?  (Probably 3 tourneys a month+nightly stuff)
  4. What will trump poker (work, family, fitness).
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Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is writing this blog. He's a startup veteran, having built a company called Simplifilm. This blog is about things that he's starting to - but may not actually - think yet. It publishes irregularly.
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