When you are playing poker professionally, you soon come to realize that your chips are no longer simple Dollars or Euros; they are the tools of your trade. You learn to use those tools as weapons for your poker war. And let’s face it, poker is essentially war, metaphorically speaking. We have meta game, history and image traits to contend with, not to mention the increased mental demands of a poker professional. So poker bankroll building as your own boss means you can’t afford to turn up at the tables distracted and ill-disciplined, after all you call the shots: playing times, bankroll risks and game selection have all become more important than ever now. It’s all about self-management and having a well laid out poker business plan. What’s yours?
There’s a lot to be said for being consistent in this game. Playing to a regular schedule keeps your mind in the zone and reduces the chance of procrastination. I know many a player who quit the day early because they won 1k and just quip “meh, I wasn’t in the mood anyway”. What these players fail to realize is they are playing for an hourly earn like we discussed in part 2 of our poker bankroll building series. If your average earn is $90 per 1500 hand session, than that’s what your time is worth. The big ups and downs in the game are all part of your winrate anyhow, so quitting early makes no sense if you are playing well.
If you are a player who thinks they are giving all you can give, think again. I would hazard a guess, many players could increase their efficiency by at least 25%. Try this exercise for a week or two: Fill out a daily timesheet. Nothing complicated, just the hours of the whole day logged including sleep. Note honestly if time was wasted at any point and how you played on various hours of sleep. I was surprised of myself that I’d often wasted over 500 minutes a week where I’d been laying bed an extra half hour, chatting with a friend for far too long, or just mindlessly browsing the web. I gave up over 8 hours of my hourly wage to do what I do in my spare time! Not very professional. Managing your time well should be a part of your poker business plan.
Sure we all love being free wheeling poker players who don’t have to answer to a boss, but at the end of the day you will have to face the music. In poker the music comes in the form of nasty downswings and the harsh reality of results. In order to avoid rough stretches its important to consistently hold yourself accountable for your play. Poker Tracker or some other similar tool can help to keep you somewhat accountable with respect to time at the tables. Impartial hand reviews or peer reviewed hands are a great way to hold yourself accountable for your play.
As a pro you only get a limited number of mistakes that can be made at your limit before poker bankroll building becomes almost impossible as your winrate get eaten up. Missed opportunities are one kind of mistake, but it’s mainly leakage mistakes that eat the winrate. Here are a few examples of common overlooked mistakes:
You hold TT and an 18/15 3bets your BTN open. You see he does this from the blinds around 3% of the time. You decide to 4bet figuring he’ll be doing this often enough for you to make him fold with his 65% fold to 4bet. He now shoves… but you call it off anyway as you exclaim “it’s a blinds battle!” He has AA and you roll your eyes and move on… But hang on, we determined this guy is tight all round, so when he puts the money in he’s got it most of the time here. Conclusion – Mistake
Barrelling off vs a good folder
You 3bet almost maniacally from the small blind at 20%. The BTN folds to 3bets 70%. This is a good scenario, you should probably 3bet more here. The problem for most players comes when that big folder calls this 3bet.
Ex: As above, you pulverise the big folder from the SB with Q♦8♦ and he calls. The flop is 9♥5♥2♣ and you mindlessly cbet with no hand, no draw. Unless you have an amazing read here you have no fold equity and are ruining your profitable 3bettting! Conclusion – Mistake.
One of the most common mistakes that many players realise but choose to ignore! They’ll say things such as “I don’t call 3bets OOP, I find it hard”. Really? As a pro you cannot afford to have giant weaknesses. You need to be an expert in 3bet strategies. In this particular spot say you always fold ATs, well just remember, you only have to beat the cost of your open for it to be profitable.
Ex: You open to 3x in the CO with ATs and the aggro BTN 3bets you. If you always fold here because ‘it’s a tough spot’, you are folding away to the tune of 300bb/100 of hands that you don’t defend! It’s not hard to beat that number especially with hand as strong as this, so just remember: any winrate <300bb is making money over folding even if it’s a -200bb loss! So it’s a far better strategy to work on this area rather than ignoring the weakness (that your good opponents will notice).
If you ignore weaknesses, you have basically stopped learning. The best players in this game are the ones that are open minded to change and are willing to listen and learn from others. This game catches you up QUICK if don’t keep working on your game. A common one is not knowing what cbet success really looks like.
Your poker business will never grow if you draw all your money out each week. So you do what any good business does, you put money aside to grow capital. How do we go about this? As always, I like a measured approach:
Ex: PhilMyWrath is a pro from the US. He wins decently at a rate of 6bb/100 at NL100 but knows he’ll need to take some risky shots at higher stakes to further better his game and eventually move up. He also likes to be able to play the occasional big tournament and keep up with the latest software trends. Let’s break this down and figure out how Phil can reinvest smartly whilst still withdrawing a wage.
6bb/100 is $6 for every 100 hands played on average. So 6/100 = 0.06 cents per hand. He plays for 6 cents per hand on average.nApprox’ 35hrs or 15,000 hands per week = $900 per week (15,000 * $0.06 = $900)
Phil’s monthly nut is $2000. So an average weekly earn of $900 leaves him room to manoeuvre. Phil obviously used our Earnings Estimator to determine this before he went pro : )
Even though Phil won’t earn exactly $900 every week because of variance he’ll still pay be paying himself for the 15,000 hands he played at the table to the nearest EV adjusted figure (found in HEM and PT) rather than $. So if he won $1020 outright, but only $850 in adjusted $ won, he takes $850. By only withdrawing according to EV adj rather than dollars won he plays the averages when times are good and bad.
Of that weeks $850 adj’ only a % of it he keeps for himself in order to be able to reinvest. Also by using a % of EV adj for withdrawal/reinvestment he stays at the same rate and never over stretches himself or pays himself too little (as long as he plays the 35hrs needed to get to 15000 hands per week).
So Phil decides he wants to keep 75% and reinvest the rest. It looks like this:
15,000 * $0.045 (75% of 6 cents) = $675 minimum EV per week for Phil.
15,000 * $0.015 (25% of 6 cents) = $225 minimum EV per week for Phil’s Poker business
This is a smart approach. He can continue poker bankroll building while taking measured shots. Also with Phil’s good winrate his variance is lowered., and because Phil reinvests wisely he can weather downswings and botched shot attempts.
Then there’s rakeback of course. So Phil doesn’t become disillusioned with his work he pays himself the 30% rakeback as a quarterly bonus. It’s an incentive that keeps Phil’s bankroll temptations at bay when he’s running hot and keeps his spirits up when he’s running like manure. It can also act as a back up for really sticky spells.
I hope you can see the advantages of having a well laid out poker business plan. You’ll hopefully learned just what it takes to not only become a pro poker player but sustain it too. Just like every bet, call or raise you’ll ever make, decisions need to be measured to ensure ongoing success. There are easier ways to make a living of course, but not many quite so fun : )
Edited by (Paul Ratchford)
P.S. Be sure to check our Exploitive No Limit Holdemby