Monday, March 30, 2009

Revisiting an Old Mistress (Poker) Part 1

Upon arriving at the Grand Casino Coushatta I promptly withdrew $300 which was my set amount of withdrawal for the casino weekend. I wasn't going to lose anymore than that. Immediately $220 was going to the poker tourney.


Upon entering the poker room a flood of memories hit me. I used to be a poker player and a damn good one.

The Early Years
Poker started getting really big in early 2003. The World Poker Tour came on tv and everyone was watching it. Everyone wanted to play Texas Hold 'em. Including my friends. I never really liked the idea of gambling, but it seemed that if I could work hard early I could get the head start and begin winning money. I remember the first book I read was How to Win at Poker from the Clear Lake Library. In hindsight it wasn't a very good book and I never returned it (I still have it to this day). I tried to implement some of the principles, but really to no avail. Throughout the spring my wins were modest. Anytime you adjust a strategy in poker you are going to win less until you learn the strategy and pick up steam. My next book was by Phil Helmuth. The book went into the lessons of conservative hands to play. The best lesson I got from the Helmuth book was categorizing players into types. If you can understand the attitude of a particular player you can guess how he will respond in certain situations and get his money. I started playing Helmuth's hands which had the highest odds of winning, and meant that I had less room for error. It worked well. I begin to be "in the money" more than half of the time and starting picking up money here and there.

Late Spring I started playing outside my group of friends and would play with anyone that I knew through at least 3 degrees of separation. Most of these people were even worse at playing poker. I would win very often at this point and decided that this was my new job while I was in college. Early summer I read the book that would make not just a good player, but a great player "Hold 'Em Poker" by David Sklansky. Sklansky went into how to win even if you didn't have the cards. So I didn't just need good hands anymore. If I learned to play players and play position I could win without even having the best hand. This was exciting. This more aggressive strategy took me about 3 months to really get a handle on and thus I had moderate success. Sticking with it though really improved my game.

Sklansky got me doing something else too. I started keeping a poker chart of my winnings. I sadly don't have the original, just the one I kept at the very end of my career:
You may not be able to read it, but it had the following: Buy in, Hours, Earnings, Total Earnings, Hourly Rate, Average Hourly, % of Buy In Won, and Average % of Buy In One. Over the course of my "career" I averaged $10 an hour and won between 4000-6000.

I went back to A&M in August of 2003 with a mindset of playing poker on and around campus. I lived in one of the freshman dorms named Dunn Hall:
Harold Dunn Hall @ A&M Pictures, Images and Photos

My roomate occasionally played poker with a few of his friends who came up to Aggieland as well. They also lived in Dunn Hall. I organized and we played our first tournament in early September. As we would play people would walk by and ask if they could play next week. The tournament started growing and growing. After awhile there were at least 40 players every week. I kept track of all the money and entrusted certain players to deal at each table. This ensured that no one could shark the deal. I soon became in charge of the largest on campus tournament at Texas A&M. People started seeing me on campus and coming up to talk to me about the game. In the poker circle I was one of the most respected players. This gave me alot of ins to alot of games around town. The largest tourney we had was a 40 man tournament with buy backs. We ended up having 6-10 buy backs. I remember winning that tournament and calling Matt because I had just pocketed around $500 in about 3 hours.

My roomate was considered the best player out of his group of friends. It was weird because he never seemed that good and showed alot of poor habits, but apparently he won ALOT. He had invited me to play with some guys at an apartment off campus. I went to the apartment and started what would be a six man tournament. Slowly guys starting going out until it was my roomate and me left. We took turns dealing. I remember making a huge read and folding a very good hand to him. I can't recall what the hand was, but the people watching were shocked that I made the play. I finally ended up winning on my deal when I hit trips to his two pair. Now it normally would have been insignificant except for the fact that I was approached by his friends a month later. Apparently, my roomate had been down decking himself for several years and gotten so drunk one night that they were able to catch him. He was never allowed to play poker with the community again and missed out on a lot of action. I was excited though. To think that I beat someone in a heads up match that was cheating every other hand. Man things were starting to click and I knew that soon I was going to be making a whole lot more money.

To be continued...

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