Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Constant Poker Dilemma

This post is going to be a bit personal. And quite long. My apologies in advance.

So yesterday, I briefly had a post up about how I was going on hiatus. I doubt that many of you saw it because it was only up for 2 hours before I changed my mind. Here's the story behind that:

As I've mentioned before, I'm playing on a limited bankroll right now. I'm not embarrassed to say how much: $70. That's it. Granted, it was as high as $140 recently, but I plowed through that on token SNGs and a downswing at micro cash games and $10 SNGs. I was all the way down to about $13 when I took down a $10 SNG, and I'm working my way back up. My bankroll would be somewhere around $400-$450 right now if I didn't cash out my prior winnings. I haven't deposited in several months now; I'm constantly working my bankroll up and then cashing out money when I need it.

Yesterday, I encountered a financial crisis that I thought would require every last dime that I had, including my bankroll. You see, I am not a rich man. All things considered, some would argue that I shouldn't even be playing online poker. My money is better served paying off enormous debts that I have or freeing up some cash to do things with my girlfriend or friends. I rationalize my online poker playing with the fact that I haven't had to deposit in a long time, and I'm showing more fiscal responsibility than I have in the past.

About a year ago, I was risking money that would have been used for credit cards and other bills. If I lost, I somehow had to find a way to recoup that money. Sometimes that meant selling personal property, like old CDs or DVDs, sometimes that meant taking out a loan against my $401k, sometimes that meant borrowing money that a friend left for me to watch while he was locked up. Honestly speaking, there were bigger financial problems at hand than just irresponsibly using my money for playing poker, but it would be a lie to deny that it, at least, compounded the problem.

I've learned from my mistakes; as much as it kills me, I'm stuck playing $5 SNGs and the occasional blogger game\MTT, and if I go busto, I make sure my bills are taken care of before I deposit again. I could be sitting on a decent bankroll and increasing my stakes, but the money I won was better served in my bank account than on FTP.

Yesterday, when I realized I was in a desperate need for money, I was prepared to withdraw my money from FTP even though I knew it meant I probably wouldn't be able to play for at least a month, maybe more. I'm in a tight spot financially, and I couldn't rationalize using money for poker when there were more important things at hand. I was able to do some budget adjusting and take care of the immediate problem, allowing me to keep my funds online.

The question that I'm asking myself today is: what should my focus be in regards to online poker? Say, for example, I'm able to run my bankroll up to $500. What is a small amount to many of you is a significant amount to me. $500 represents a credit card that could be paid off, a couple of car payments to be made. Do I cash part of that out and start back over, or do I keep it online and work on progressing my game at higher stakes? If the answer is the former, then what is the cutoff? Should I even have that $60 in there to begin with?

Despite my current financial situation, I do intend to continue playing poker and trying to build my bankroll. The financial crisis that occurred yesterday was resolved and shouldn't be a recurring thing. In addition, it's not like I'm losing and redepositing constantly; I haven't deposited in a couple months now, and I haven't gone busto in a long time. I'm not continually playing with new funds, I've basically been playing with a $50 deposit since March. If I cash out my $70 bankroll now, it won't accomplish much, and honestly, I do think it's better spent playing poker, where I A) have an opportunity to turn it into something more useful and B) I can use it doing something that I truly love.

But I wonder if anyone else will buy that justification? As supportive as my girlfriend has been, I know that she thinks I play too much, despite my best efforts to limit my poker playing to times that she is off doing something else. My friends know about my poker playing obsession and have questioned before whether I am playing irresponsibly.

Another factor in my decision about continuing to play is that I've started to get to know some really cool bloggers. I haven't really conversed with that many bloggers outside of their own blog. I've chatted with Alan a couple of times, and he really is as genuinely nice as he appears in his blog. I've kept up with a couple neighbors to the north - Fuel & Schaubs. One day I'll make the drive up there and donk it up in person. I've had some other regular commentors too - TripJax, Jordan, & Mookie, and they all seem like great guys. Playing poker gives me a reason to continue this blog, and therefore, continue to meet other cool poker bloggers, both via the intertubes and perhaps one day in person.

Finally, I still have that dream of playing in a WSOP event. Not just playing, but competing. To do that, I need to keep playing and keep whatever poker skills I have fresh. It's amazing the dropoff I have when I don't play poker for a while. I need to be able to stay sharp and keep adapting to different poker styles. I can't do that if I'm not playing.

This is a problem that I ask myself from time to time, and I'm posting it here for two reasons. One, writing it out helps organize my thoughts better, and two, if there's anyone who's had a similar situation, I'm open to comments. I know this turned out to be a pretty long winded post, so if you've made it this far, I appreciate it. A lot of this is just stream-of-consciousness, just piecing together thoughts I've had and talking things out, so to speak.

A lot of this is also just frustration; frustration from having to stick with micro games, frustration from being on a downswing right now, frustration from seeing my skills as a poker player level off, and frustration from being financially handcuffed. When I'm in a situation where I'm living paycheck to paycheck, a situation where a big financial problem could severely cripple me, a situation where I'm looking at several years passing before I'm anywhere near being free from debt, it's tough to rationalize using any money on poker. It's easier to rationalize with such a small bankroll right now, but I just wonder if I'm missing the point by using that as a consideration at all.

In other news, my workplace has decided to block most access to Blogger. I can view blogs, but I can't access my own or leave comments. Talk about yesterday's post title as some forshadowing!


At July 19, 2007 at 7:20 AM, Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Great post.

You know what's funny? I started my blog for it to be something for me. Almost like a modern day diary. Well, that's what it is for most people. Of course, we're too cool to admit it ourselves. Diary!? bleh. Anyways, what I mean is you can write what you want and when you want it. I know sometimes it becomes more like a message board and you feel like it needs to be a content that people wants to read or something but in the end, it's your thoughts that should go down on paper... or screen.

I'm not going to give you an advice or anything because I don't know you well enough and I think this is one of those things you have to figure out on your own. Having said that, I believe in supporting the blogger community and I've enjoyed talking to you over IM and stuff too so I'll give you a few things to think about.

A) Why do you play poker? Is it to increase your bankroll? In other words, is it like a second job? Or do you just love it? Do you love playing, enjoying, improving, etc. If you love it, then leave your money in there (I know, I know, I said no advice but here it is). Why? Everyone spends money on their hobbies. But people think poker is bad because you could lose money on a coin flip. True... but how different is that from some other clown buying stamps? Or old cars to fix up? Art pieces? Baseball cards? In other words, hobbies cost money but people spend that money because it brings some sense of inner peace. If poker is that for you, then keeping some money there for that purpose is fine. Hell, you're not even spending money. The way I see it, once you deposit money online, pretend that that money is already spent. Spent on your hobby. If you have to take it out, then do so but if it grows in there, it's like money you never had. That's the funny thing about poker right? If I make $400, everyone is like oh man, that's so awesome. If I lose $300 of that, everyone says you're addicted. They just don't get it. They're not looking at the big picture but rather, they're just looking at the snapshot and judging you. So, you can't listen to others. YOU have to know why you play.

B) Having said all that I said in A), the next question is, do you play too much? And how much is too much? To put it in perspective, I think I play a little too much. How much do I play? Probably 3-4hrs a night every night. Maybe a little more on the weekends. It's not the 3 hrs that I think is too much. It's the every night part. But it doesn't get in the way of my life or my true love which is my wife (well, maybe she might beg to differ). I told you before that my wife is not in the least bit interested in poker. But that also means she doesn't care how much I have in my account. In other words, poker world is a world that is mine and mine alone. I also generally don't start playing until after 9 when we're done doing dinner together and she gets ready for bed. If she's out of town, then that's different. But if she's in town, I generally start playing sometime between 9 and 10... which is why I'm always up till like 1am. If your gf thinks you play too much, maybe you do. But maybe you don't. It's all about perception so just make sure to ask her that your poker playing is not interfering with your relationship. Remember, card games will always be there. The special someone may not.

And I'll add one more thing. This blogging thing is addicting. I've gotten into poker so much more because of the blog and the cool people in the community. Getting to know and talk to people like you, Schaubs, Fuel, Don, LJ, Astin, Hoy, etc has been very fun for me. VERY fun. I think I posted before about how I felt so lonely in the poker world until I discovered this blog. And after I did, poker became even more fun for me. But, even if you stop playing poker or cut down significantly and stop blogging, stop by our blogs and comment, send us some IMs, etc. We'll always be around. But also know who your real life friends are. Cuz they are important.

Geez... this got long. Hey, what did you expect from a guy like me? If you need someone to talk, I'll be more than happy to chat it up with you.

And btw, you got 3 more yrs till 2010. Plenty of time to improve and be competitive in the WSOP!

At July 19, 2007 at 10:01 AM, Blogger Seattlejohn said...

Those that don't understand or love poker will never really understand why we play. Our girlfriends, parents, wife, etc. all think that we are gambling with money we could do something else productive with.

You should do what makes you happy, and if that is playing poker, then keep doing it. Keep your bankroll online, and run it up. When it gets to a point that you can take some out do so, but don't take it all out. If you are a true poker junky like myself, you will never be happy with the decision to stop playing no matter what anyone else says. You will only resent that person later. Good luck and see you at the tables in Seattle somewhere. SJ

At July 19, 2007 at 12:51 PM, Blogger SirFWALGMan said...

If you do not grow a bankroll you never will be able to make "big money" that could change your life possibly.. the only real reason to stop growing the roll is if you get slaughtered or can not play higher stakes because of fear or lack of skill.

Now since you need some of the money for bills why don't you take like 200 of every 500 you make and cash it out.. so your roll still grows but more like

500, 300, 800, 600, 1100, 900..

That way your seeing some use from the money and moving up levels where you can make more money possibly or take shots at bigger games or play satellites and not have them be a big chunk of your roll..

Fifty is hard to grind up from.. so whatever you decide I would leave like 300 to work from each time.. so that you have some room for error..

At May 6, 2013 at 8:41 AM, Blogger Oliver Drend said...

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