Monday, May 21, 2007

Time for a repetoire change

We'll be checking in twice in coming posts on former Boylston Chess Club President Bryan Clark's career as a poker professional. This time it's "Five Years in Las Vegas" which he posted at the 2+2 forums in June of '06. Next time, we'll take a look at his recently posted "Six Years in Las Vegas."
Five Years in Las Vegas

For some time, I have dreaded writing this post. One year ago, I wrote my four year update and ended it by saying I expected my fifth year to be my most productive yet. Instead, factors both poker related and non-poker related put my career in a crisis mode which I can’t say I’ve completely gotten out of yet.

Entering the summer of 2005, I was in a comfortable bankroll situation. I had been playing exclusively online and having steady success as an 8-table full ring game limit player (3-6 and 5-10 with the occasional 15-30). Today, I’m on a shorter bankroll, once again playing live, and have switched to no-limit. I’m obviously not happy about having a shorter bankroll. But, I am happy with my move back to live play and find that playing no-limit has invigorated me.

I don’t like to give out too much personal information which is not directly related to poker. But, during the summer, I was hit with multiple unexpected and large expenses which took a surprisingly large chunk out of my bankroll. I have always been remarkably conservative concerning my bankroll. I always have much more than I actually need to play the limits I’m at. So, the outside expenses were something I could absorb. But, I suddenly found myself with a much smaller cushion than I had previously.

Then, at exactly the wrong time, I had my very first-ever losing month (when playing significant hours) in July. It wasn’t a big loss– just over $500. But, the loss combined with the big expenses I had been hit with and my normal monthly expenses suddenly had me shaking my head at how my financial situation had so suddenly changed. I found myself thinking about rebuilding my bankroll rather than using it to move up as I had been planning.

August was actually my best month of the year and I felt everything was back to normal. But, it wasn’t. In September, I barely turned a profit for the month and didn’t cover my expenses. October was a complete disaster. I had a four digit loss for the month at the tables. (I’m too embarrassed to post the exact amount)

I was in complete shock. In less than half a year, I had gone from being perfectly content with my situation to realizing I was in a crisis.

In that dreadful October, I lost 70% of my sessions and usually lost quite a bit. As it was happening, I was reviewing my play. I was looking back at my hands and seeing where I lost my money. Though I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses, I’m convinced I hit the outer edge of variance for a while. It seemed I was constantly in bad situations or receiving bad beats.

I was satisfied with my play. But, it didn’t matter anymore. The losses at the poker tables and from my outside life had simply crippled my bankroll. I found myself in a position where the only responsible thing to do was to consider getting the dreaded….J…O…B. After paying my rent in November, I began a job search including contacting Clarkmeister who just happened to be hiring an assistant (he, of course, knew better than to hire a poker degenerate). I wrote up a resume, sent it out to some people, and began seriously considering what my future plans were going to be. Was I going to re-enter the workforce and make poker a hobby? Was I going to use a job to provide a quick, safe boost to my bankroll and go back to the poker career afterwards? Or, was I going to find a way to make the poker career work? For now, I intended to keep playing at stakes which allowed me to hold the line while I weighed my options.

The month of November proved to be a key turning point when a couple of unrelated events led me down a different poker road. On 11/5, I went to the MGM Grand to participate in a 2+2 “MagooFest”. About 60 2+2ers showed up to play games like Crazy Fox, Triple Flop Hold ‘em, and other more bizarre games. As had been the case lately, I managed to drop a couple hundred dollars in a 2-4 game. That was par for the course. But, I enjoyed myself a lot. I went back to the MGM Grand six days later to play some no-limit (just 1-2) and had my best day in more than a month. It was the first time I played live since a vacation at Foxwoods in March.

The very next day, 11/12, I went to Ed Miller’s wedding reception. There were some people there most 2+2ers are familiar with including Alan Schoonmaker. At some point, we started discussing our play and I must have mentioned playing at the MGM Grand the day before. Alan made what in retrospect I probably knew but hadn’t given proper consideration. He said “All the new, bad players are playing no-limit”.

Alan’s statement was, of course, plainly obvious to anybody who thought about it. No-limit was taking over the Las Vegas card rooms because a significant majority of new players wanted to play what they were watching on TV. In November of 2002, you couldn’t find a single no-limit game on the Strip except at very high stakes. In November of 2003, the situation was just starting to change but limit poker still dominated every card room. By November of 2004, no-limit games were everywhere and by the time of my conversation with Alan, they had probably surpassed limit games.

I don’t expect this to be news to anybody. But, I realized as this part of the poker world was changing, I wasn’t. This applied to the online games as well. Those of you who play online know that the full ring games simply aren’t the same as they were two years ago. Not only have players been lost to no-limit but they’ve been lost to the six-max limit games as well. The games I was playing both live and online were getting worse and could only expect to continue getting worse.

It was time for me to change. Unfortunately, my bankroll situation didn’t give me lots of options. Playing multi-table short-handed was something I had done occasionally but I didn’t like it much. It was also a fairly high variance game and I didn’t need that. No-limit, however, was a lower variance game and had always interested me. So, like switching from 7-card stud to hold ‘em a few years ago, I decided to switch from limit to no-limit even if I was doing it a bit belatedly.

While my pseudo-job search was on, I simply put in hours at the 1-2 live no-limit games (eventually at Caesars Palace where they have a $500 buy-in) to make sure the monthly bills got paid and to get myself comfortable with no-limit. I was actually surprised how well things worked for me so quickly. It was a bit humbling playing 1-2 no-limit but pride was something I was going to have to sacrifice for a while.

I haven’t played online at all in 2006 with the exception of the 2+2 WSOP freeroll tournament (which I finished 3rd out of 72 players). All I’ve played is live no-limit. I’ve been playing 2-5 when the games are very good, especially on the weekends. When they’re not, I’m simply putting in 1-2 hours.

As of today, I’ve recovered a good portion of my bankroll losses and plan to put in some serious hours over the summer with the intention of a permanent move to 2-5 and, eventually, 5-10.

The past year can’t be described as good for me. But, it did have one very positive impact. I’ve been putting in more hours at the tables than ever before and I’m enjoying it. Poker is as much fun as it’s ever been.

So, I’m hopeful the big year I had anticipated in the past twelve months will unfold in the next year.

originally posted 6/01/06 on 2+2 Forums by Bryan Clark

Related Posts: Bryan's Song - The Bryan Clark Poker Dynasty

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