Professional online poker players traditionally begin their careers with one-tabling, low stakes endeavors that serve as an introductory course to the game. However, if you play poker long enough and put enough effort into it, you’ll likely arrive at a crossroads in which you decide that it is more profitable to add tables to your daily/nightly session. This article takes a look at five major distractions that can take away from an online poker pro’s expectation.
Before I list the things to avoid while grinding online poker, it may be helpful to lay out my own professional online poker career. I began multi-tabling full time in mid 2005, following 14 minimum deposits of $50 on PartyPoker. Back in those days, the lowest stakes cash games were $0.50/$1 and the lowest denomination Sit & Gos one could enter was $5+$1. with a maximum of four tables.
Once I got the hang of the game, I played anywhere between 12-16 tables at a time daily on PokerStars — working my way up from the softest games to $55+$5 Turbo Sit & Gos along with $20+$50 buy-in Multi Table Tournaments (MTTs). From 2005-2008, I made a modest full-time living playing online poker, saw well over 1 million hands, then changed career paths when I decided to work full time in the poker industry. From the moment I “turned pro” to the day I decided to do something else, I never had to make another deposit unless it was to take advantage of a sign-up or reload bonus.
I consider myself fortunate to have only lost expectation by not avoiding two or the following five distractions back when I played professionally, but even those two were very costly in terms of maximizing my win rate. Hopefully this list will prove useful to upcoming and current online poker pros who routinely multi-table.
The 5 Worst Distractions for a Serious Multi-Tabling Online Poker Player
1. Watching TV
While the benefits/drawbacks of listening to music and playing poker are somewhat debatable, watching television can be a major setback to a serious online poker player’s bottom line.
There may be room for an exception or two when it comes to having training videos or poker live streams going on while grinding, but other than that watching television is something you’ll definitely want to avoid as an online poker pro.
When I “grinded” for a living, there were many instances in which I would pop in the latest season of Lost, or watch reruns of other television series. At the time, I found it increased my comfort level during the early stages of MTTs, but I shouldn’t have kidded myself, you can either focus on the action at the virtual tables or contemplate what’s going to happen on the next episode of your favorite TV show.
It should also go without saying that playing video games while grinding can likewise be very detrimental to your focus as a serious poker player.
2. Alcoholic Beverages
I experimented with alcohol quite a bit as a teenager, so by the time I became an online poker pro this distraction didn’t really apply to me. However, I have seen quite a few pros lose more expectation than they could ever make up for by boozing it up during an online session.
As a multi-tabling online poker pro, you need to maintain your edge at the digital felts. Alcohol (even a relatively small amount) may temporarily aid in stress management, but the consequences can be extremely severe to your profitability once your judgement is eroded. If you hang around the online poker community long enough, you’ll hear your share of regretful stories which involve some combination of alcohol and poor judgement.
If “drinking” is something you must do when grinding online, try caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea or energy drinks. While downing a six-pack of Red Bull during your daily sessions may result in eventual health consequences, it shouldn’t have the negative impact on your focus that alcohol would.
3. Chasing Losses
I came to age in the online poker world during the Moneymaker Boom and Rounders eras, but luckily I always related my profession to the Joey Knish methodology rather than that of Mike McDermott. John Turturro’s “My kids eat” line in Rounders defined my way of thinking much more than Damon’s “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle” quote did, so I didn’t move up in stakes as a pro unless I was relatively confident I had a significant edge in the increased buy-in games.
Again, I sat on the virtual sidelines and witnessed various pro online players (almost all of whom possessed more talent than I did) fall victim to chasing their losses after a few bad sessions. Every now and then it would work out for them… but most of the time moving up in stakes to make up for short-term losses resulted in going “busto” and being forced to seek backing.
Professional online poker players utilize multi-tabling as a way to further exploit their edge, but that advantage can be quickly diminished or even erased altogether depending on how many tables you’re playing. In short, variance is a cruel reality for even the very best poker players. Don’t throw months (or even years) of successful edge exploitation away by chasing losses. If you’re a winning player who is rolled for the games you currently play, then stick to those or consider moving down in stakes during a bad run.
4. Casino Games
If there is one distraction on this list that I could point to as having ruined the careers of many talented pro online poker players, it would be casino games. In this day and age (with many online poker sites offering a casino counterpart), this is much more of a potential distraction for online pros than it used to be. Still, I bore witness to far too many scenarios in which my online buddies took virtual nose dives in the online pits.
The types of games I’m referring to are those which place all players at a clear disadvantage, and not necessarily formats such as lottery-style Sit & Gos or Daily Fantasy Sports (which can be beaten in the long-term).
Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place for casino games in the current online gaming market. However, if it is your job to repeatedly exploit tiny advantages, then virtual pit games are not where you need to be investing your time or bankroll.
Staying away from The Pits is a major concern for volatile online poker professionals, because they are easily accessible and hold the potential for a big hit. Don’t fool yourself! If you truly want to gamble, then join a PLAY MONEY online poker table and have at it! Online pit games represent a fast-track to loss of poker bankroll.
5. Negative Influences
I’ll admit, this was the distraction that ultimately ended my online poker career. I could avoid the booze, loss-chasing, and pit games just fine, but I couldn’t (or rather, wouldn’t) compartmentalize constant negative influences away from the virtual tables.
Relationships can be a great thing, but if you’re in a relationship that is overly negative then it will very likely have a similar impact on your ipoker career. This could be a friendship, boyfriend/girlfriend, or even family. There is a time and place for dealing with issues that arise from such relationships, but that time and place is not during an online poker session.
I realize that personal relationship situations can be unavoidable, but if you’re a person who is easily discouraged by what someone close to you says or thinks (and if this person has access to you during an online poker session), then you need to stay away from traditional Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs)!
Online cash game and Sit & Go grinders have the luxury of stopping any given session in a relatively short period of time if something goes awry in one’s personal life, but MTT players don’t! Entering into numerous online tournaments in which you know you must survive for many hours in order to hit a decent score will not be profitable if you are often negatively affected by circumstances outside of your profession.
Avoid putting yourself in a situation in which you blame others for your lack of success at the virtual felts. It took me years to come to grips with the fact that it was my responsibility to filter out negative influences while grinding MTTs.
Hopefully this list will prove helpful to those who are currently playing online poker for a living. Making online poker your full time profession is certainly “a hard way to make an easy living.” Treat your business with care, make responsible decisions and focus on improvement to maximize your chances of long-term success.
Best of luck at the online poker tables!