Archive Jan 2009: Possibly too level-headed

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Making a living off tournament poker (HSMTT thread)

Is it still possible to make a living playing online MTT's?

A couple of days ago, Gobbo posted this thread in HSMTT. So far, it's gotten a couple of hundred very mixed replies; it's basically impossible to come up with a consensus opinion.

I haven't posted in it because I've been meaning to write a blog entry on the subject for a while now. I've written a few things about the variance in here already, but things have changed a little bit since then and there's a few variables that complicate the situation. I find the way my mind works best is to make a big list of all the things I think are true and go through them one at a time, so without further ado:

1)ROI's have dramatically dropped in the last three years. This isn't all because the games have gotten tougher, although they have - people also play a lot more tables. Hourly rates might've gone up for the top % of people willing to put in tons of volume, but it's hard to 16 table everything and keep your ROI intact, so chances are most of the HSMTT crew just logs more variance for approximately the same profits.

2)"High stakes" have become higher. There used to be only a handful of $100+ MTT's on any given night. Now, a dedicated MTT pro playing 25 tourneys a day can spend 2-3K in buyins on a Thursday-Saturday, 5K+ on a Monday-Wednesday (with the different 1K MTT's) and well over that on a Sunday. Some of the increase is from the different 1K entry fee tourneys, which are their own problem; because they are 5x a regular buyin, they are their own variance category and it's entirely possible to drop 50K a year just on them while being +EV in them.

3)Live tourneys eat money like crazy, and, because everyone is backed for them, they eat online money, too. A few dozen online grinders a year win a million dollars (-50% for the backers, who, incidentally, often lose money too); the rest break even or lose their online EV. If live tourneys were free to travel to, this wouldn't be such a big deal, but they aren't. It's hard to beat a 25%+ vig when you only have about 50 $1500+ tries a year (and that's if you're at the WSOP or travel the circuit full time).

4)Fields in the biggest MTT's have gotten larger. That's great for poker, but it does increase variance, too. I originally built my roll off MTT's that paid mid-four to mid-five figures for first with 100-500 entries. There are still plenty of those around, but they're not the cachet events they used to be; people want to play the big ones, which now have twice that amount. Even if your ROI goes way up as a result of extra dead money, it's harder to win a Sunday Mil with 8K entries than the one I won with 4600.

5)Structures have changed in a way that increases variance, as well. Party used to have no antes! Don't get me wrong - this was *not* a good thing - but more money in the pot to fight over rewards pushing light, which rewards calling light, etc. An (my guess) unintended side effect in the triumph of 'good' tourney structures, which create spots for some postflop play a few hours in, is that pushbotting is now more correct, driving the variance up. In addition, 2+2 now loves 'unexploitable' play like shoving 33 in MP for 30 BB's, creating far more huge, unavoidable coinflips late in the game.

All this has combined to make it harder to make a living [u]playing the major sites' major offerings[/u]. It is still entirely possible/easy to make a nice amount of cash playing on Cake, Bodog and (ugh, I guess) Cereus every night, mix in some minors on FTP to go with the $100, 200 entry 5K for first tourneys you play on the other sites, spend 6 hours a night doing this and collect money - those games are still incredibly soft and that won't change. (I don't bother with them because I've felt like my skills have stagnated and I'm enjoying playing cash right now, but w/e.) But MTT's are still gigantic luck fests; your yearly ROI is a function of how well you ran in a handful of late game situations, or, to put it another way, your entire profit for a year is probably your 1-5 top scores that you inevitably got to by sucking out at some point. When the field in those MTT's that have the largest first place prize is tougher, the pushbotting starts earlier and lasts longer, and you're playing 15 other tourneys, too, you're going to have much longer dry stretches and they're going to be much harder to overcome.

tldr: the name of the game is now game selection.

Are they Cereus?

In all honesty, I have (had) no intention of continuing to spend X amount of time every day documenting more Cereus scandal(s) fallout and/or security holes. For one thing, it makes us all look bad to even admit they still exist. For another, I should be busy doing stuff like "playing poker" and/or "playing more poker" (for which I at least get paid Sklansky dollars) and should not have to spend yet another hour of my life bitching about a network that's busy not paying attention.

Thus, when it turned out that a self-proclaimed "disconnect at the wrong time" gave Phil Hellmuth a pot that should have been shipped to the other guy, I ignored it in the interests of my sanity. Sure, that was pretty much the worst possible bug for any poker site to have short of giving my deposit to someone else, and sure, in the process of fixing it, they apparently accidentally repeated the error 36 times (yes, really), but unless they are the dumbest cheaters in history (nope, that was AJ Green) or Hellmuth has some ridonkulous disconnect switch in his client software left over from the Russ H. era (obviously a longshot, but at this point I can't even rule out the Polish Mafia), that did seem to be a bug rather than a deliberate cheating attempt. Never mind that Phil Hellmuth and an $8000 pot were involved on a site where the distribution of $8 pots to $8000 pots is rather high; new management = benefit of the doubt, right?

Bugs are one thing, though; on a site that has the history Cereus does, the most important issue has to be to prevent all further cheating attempts. That's why I'm mildly (but not overly) surprised that, according to this 2+2 thread, you can enter your old AP account and UB account into the same tournaments. Paging JJProdigy!

Because I wanted to put it behind me/stop caring/knew it wouldn't work, I never formally boycotted UB or AP and never called for one. Although I never had any money in my AP account, I did have a few thousand at UB and played the weekly 200K with it, though I wasn't about to redeposit anything. At this point, unless it turns out I have no good way to cash out, my remaining $778 are going elsewhere. If I can't do that, I'll donk it off in the next three and a half tournaments I see with an overlay (because even if I have to save them money, I'm not actually paying them rake) and never play there again regardless. I don't really care if nobody pays attention; I'm just not going to waste my time with these guys. It's obvious they're not taking security cereusly even after they got taken for eight figures, and it's just as obvious that nobody in their right mind should voluntarily have a single dollar at Cereus.

Too busy playing to update :)

Okay, not really, but kinda. Since NYE, I've only had one day without at least 90 minutes' worth of cash games. Baby steps, right?

Things are going well, but my laptop is still broken so I'm not really massively multitabling or playing the stakes I'm used to. Look for me at .5/1 to 2/4 on a couple of small sites where not having notes isn't a change for me.

I'm also going to have at least one leakfinder video on CR this month. Apparently a bunch of you guys want them to do more MTT vids ;) I'll see what I can do.


Unfortunately, I'm not Bond when it comes to writing huge posts. While I have wanted to, and still may, write a book or two (or twenty), I can't really write five or six pages about my life on a daily basis, if only because my life is boring and doesn't involve nearly as much clubbing/drinking/vomiting. If I had to write five pages about what I did in the last 24 hours, it would involve 30 minutes of going outside to mail a package preceded by, and followed by, 23 and a half hours of something having to do with the Internet (I don't know what I dreamed about, but let's face it, I'm a huge nerd so it probably had something to do with slaying cyberdemons or something.) But I did make a resolution to play more hands and this is a poker blog, so one thing I will start doing like I once did - that is, when I have the hands and have a laptop to play on instead of this constantly overheating monstrosity - is to post the interesting ones daily.

Incidentally, for those of you with a late-gen Dell (meaning, everybody that plays poker), my advice is not to play videogames on it even if the laptop can do it. I managed to blow my card playing Thief 2, a 10 year old game, because the amount of heat put off by this sucker when it has to actually, like, render something is enough to kill it. Who knew?

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