Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I use this word more than probably anybody I know. I think it's a cool word so I try to use it, a habit of mine that makes me sorta sound like an even bigger dork than I actually am. To be fair I'm not actually a very big dork, as I think most people who know me well will attest. I follow sports pretty seriously, I'm a fine conversationalist, am somewhat athletic, and in all honesty don't deal with computers, electronics, maps, instructions, and other dorky things nearly as well as one might expect from someone with a pair of CS Degrees from MIT. Like eviscerate, I also use the word "decimate" pretty frequently. I looked these words up today and found out what I suspected; I really wasn't using them exactly correctly. This doesn't really bother me, further proof that I'm not a very big dork, but for completeness:



On to the point of this post....well, maybe eventually I'll get there. Right now I'm probably going to go off on my second tangent before even getting anywhere near where I wanted to go with this. The point of this blog has become a little unclear to me. At first I thought it'd be cool just to write everything down so that I'd have a written history of my attempt at being a professional. Then it got a little bigger and more people were reading it and it was fun to be telling stories and have people following and rooting for me. From that it was a tool to actually make a few friends. Eventually I realized I might someday be able to make some actual money from writing (several people have suggested I have enough material to write a book, which I think is kind of silly but is an idea I cannot completely dismiss). It was somewhere in this period that I started considering not being completely truthful in my blog, or at least leaving out some parts of the truth. My parents read this thing for one thing. Isn't there stuff I find funny/sad/interesting to which they should not be subjected? Then there's the matter of protecting the innocent by not using their names. Then there's the matter of all those idiots showing up at The Oaks claiming to have read my blog and looking for the mighty professional Jesse. There was the time WTK read my blog aloud to the 40/80 table. In poker one wants to remain anonymous, a goal to which publishing this blog is utter anathema. So what's' the point? To be honest I really don't know anymore, but I'm going to just keep going because it's still fun for me to write.

Now, back to the point at hand, which is the evisceration of me. On the final day that I played poker in the Bay Area I arrived at Bay 101 with a little over $10,000 in one hundred dollar bills at my immediate disposal (technically some of it was at home and some in my box, but you get the point). That day I played 3 hours of 20/40, then promptly moved to Orange County. I played at Commerce for about a week, and yesterday marked my 6th shift as a prop. Not only have I lost all of that money, but also some of the reserves called into service to replace it, totaling just under $11,000 in, get ready for this....71 hours of play. Seventy. One. Nearly all of this loss can be attributed to 3 awful 40/80 days, in which I lost 3900 at Commerce in under 4 hours, 3900 again at Hawaiian Gardens in under 5 hours, and another 1900 at Hawaiian Gardens over about 4.5 hours.

A loss of this magnitude would perhaps be bearable if I had been riding high over the previous few months. But as you all know, that has not been the case. Everything I have done since last June has been a mighty struggle. Just when I was getting back to feeling confident, I lost something like $7000 in November. Then December and January went alright, especially since I was getting paid for propping. And now this, the loss of basically an entire 20/40 bankroll in 71 hours. How did this happen? How long can I harp on "bad luck" being the primary reason for my inability to win in these games? The simply and definitive answer is "I have no idea". Certainly to lose this much in this short a time itself must be a small sample of bad luck. While it is possible that I was playing in games in which I was a very small favorite or even a slight loser, $150/hour is out of bounds. And of course running bad in bigger games is a huge problem. I've stated on here before that that has seemed to be a common theme every time I step above the comfort of the 20/40 game. I have a friend through 2p2 who has basically had the same struggles. This man wins handily in online 3/6 and 5/10 games, which by all accounts should be at least as difficult as live 40/80. Yet every time he attempts to move up to live 20/40 (you read that correctly....20/40) he is soul-crushed and eventually drops back down to 8/16. The same thing has happened to me. There was the 200 hour stretch where I won 200 big bets and broke even. There were the 3 40/80 sessions listed above in which I lost basically 10 racks of chips just a shade over 10 hours. Of course my opposition is tougher in these bigger games, but to think they are that much tougher would be foolish. I'll likely write more below about some reasons I have to believe that it's certainly not all bad luck.

So what do I do now? First of all, I told my boss that I needed to go home early yesterday and take today off (my natural days off are Thursday and Friday, so this resulted in me having 3+ days to figure out what exactly the fuck I'm going to do). I'll go in on Saturday and talk to the man, and to be honest I don't have a clue what I'm going to say yet. There are many options available to me, which I guess I'll discuss here not because they will interest anyone but because it will likely be helpful for me to write them all down.

1. Quit outright. This is looking like plan A at the moment, but again I gave myself 3 days to think for a reason. The plan is appealing for many reasons, some of them technical and some of a softer squishier nature. First of all, continuing to play 40/80, even with a prop's salary, would be reckless at this point. The bankroll requirement for a winning 40/80 player in a full ring game is roughly speaking $24,000. Now as a prop I'd have an income, so I wouldn't have to worry as much about living expenses and what not, but honestly I don't have any evidence that I am a winner in that game, and it's not usually full ring, and it is hyper-aggressive which ups the standard deviation and bankroll requirements substantially. In short if I keep playing in that 40/80 game I could easily blow another $10,000, at which point I really would have to just give up, not because I'd be out of money, but because I'd have crossed the line Tommy Angelo writes about, where by you don't just need to have enough, you need to have enough to not worry about whether or not you have enough. I've already sold some mutual funds to further finance this endeavor. I won't sell more, so really I need to be careful here if I want any chance of a meaningful recovery.

There are other reasons quitting might be the right thing to do. The way props are managed at my casino is just mind-boggling to me. To make a long story short we are picked up the instant a customer wants a seat and we are never seated in the main game if there are 2 games going. This basically means that we don't play much, and when we do it is for short time periods (yesterday I played 4 times for 30, 15, 15, and 10 minutes), which makes it very difficult to deal with the specific games I'm playing in. There are a couple of 40/80 props whom I can only describe as hyper-aggressive, and I have to play with them virtually 100% of the time I am in a game. To be honest I think they are both spew-monkeys, but one of them apparently makes videos for DeucesCracked so there is a chance that he is just 2-4 levels above me and I cannot understand how awesome it is that he is. Regardless, this guys are putting in raises at every opportunity and some of the other players are as well (this one dude was literally auto-3-betting his small blind if someone opened in the CO or OTB....he did it like 6 times in a row and showed down K5s and T9o) and it's kind of like playing with 3 or 4 WTK's at the same table. Not only am I not prepared for this (I've never played in games anything like it), but the above getting picked up in and out of games every 15 minutes makes it extremely difficult to follow the table dynamics. Has Fu raised 6 hands in a row, or is he on his "good behavior" right now? Well gee I don't know I just posted my blind and he open raised and got a cold-call and the next guy in 3-bet and I have 66 what on Earth should I do well if he's in maniac mode and the other guy knows that I definitely have to call but if he's playing alright or the other guy doesn't know he's going nutso this is probably a fold ah I just don't know they're hard to play against I fold oh look the flop is 655 great. So basically what I'm saying is that these games are nothing like anything I've ever played in before and to top it off I'm getting pulled in and out of them like a fucking yo-yo. To finish it all off I'm barely playing any 20/40 at all, a total of like 8.5 hours in 44 hours on the job. 20/40 is still, sadly, my bread and butter, and if I don't get to play it well what's the point really?

2. Change shifts or drop down. My boss offered to attempt to move me to graveyard. It's hard to believe this could be viewed as an upgrade, but it would address a few major concerns. First of all this 2-10 shift is just awful in terms of ever seeing Danielle. Her preferred bed time is 10:30 or 11pm, which is basically the exact window during which I get home. So she kinda stays up a little too late to see me but we don't really have time to do anything and to top it all off I'm working Saturdays and Sundays also and it just doesn't make much sense. On graveyard I at least got to see her every evening, even if ever visiting family or doing any sort of trip was a complete disaster. This change would also get me away from the hyper-aggro props (I know I know I either need to admit that they are too good for me or be happy to play with them but honestly I'm ready to do neither. I mean a guy who 3-bets the SB with T6 suited simply cannot be good, yet I really don't want to play with him either) and probably allow me to play more hours (or so my boss says). But then I'd be on graveyard again, which would be terrible, and it might not work out that well and still the above playing 40/80 right now is very reckless theory would apply so I'm not really sure changing shifts would work. Moving down to propping only 20/40 is another option, but not one of which I'm very fond. Those guys almost never get to play, and plus there's probably not even a spot available and how would I deal with the stigma of moving down after just 1 week but still having to show up every single day. So this option is possible but not really great.

3. Keep playing. For all the reasons above this is a pretty bad idea, but the two strong reasons not to give up yet are that if I do I probably can never prop again (who in their right mind would hire someone who quit after a week after quitting after 2 months) and the whole paycheck thing. The take home pay from this job is on par or probably even above what I could make as a software developer. It's a lot of money, and if I could have just gotten through the first few weeks at break even or (gasp) a slight winner everything would have been fine and I wouldn't be questioning any of this.

The next question is what I would do if I quit the prop job, and the answer is obviously one of two things: find a job or go back to playing on my own. Right now playing on my own would definitely be plan A, with the caveat that I would take 1 or 2 steps back in an effort to eventually move 3 steps forward. Pete and I have talked several times about the merging of long and short term poker goals, and his current situation affords him the luxury of focusing almost exclusively on the long term (getting better, playing in tough games) at the expense of the short term (actually winning money). My plan would be to wake up every day, work out, then watch a DeucesCracked video and put in several hundred hands online. In the early afternoon I would head to Commerce and play 4-6 hours of 20/40 (and never any higher) and in effect turn poker into a 10-12 hour a day job with my focus on improvement and study rather than pounding out hours in the 20/40 game trying to completely replace my software developer salary (which is a silly and arbitrary goal that I set for myself at the beginning of this endeavor. No where does it say that I have to make more money doing this than I could otherwise make. Sure that'd be nice but if this lifestyle makes me happy and affords me with other opportunities how much is that worth?).

So it basically comes down again to short and long term goals. Continuing to prop is very risky; I could end up "busto" (by my standards) within a few weeks and be looking for a real job. But giving up the prop job is risky, too, as doing so would basically be giving up any future income to be made through that avenue. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do.

And now I thank you for your patience and will post some poker-related content. First of all there are some hands on 2p2:

I do not fold. Then I fold.
The High of King

The High of Queen
Crazy Eights
not being exploited
More Exploitation with the 1010

Looking back at these hands the basic theme really is that I run terribly and I should keep that in mind and try to post some hands that are interesting where I actually win. But now the story of my $4K+ losing day from this Monday, as best I can remember from the note on my phone.

There is a raise and a 3-bet. The table mega fish calls all 3 bets cold and I look down at the mighty 54cc. I pretty much have to call (I'm in the big blind, mind you), as there's a limper in the pot as well and sure enough we see a 5 way capped flop of:


It gets capped again, once again 5 ways. If nobody has a flush draw my equity here is something like 30%. If somebody does I'm still basically breaking even and have 20% equity in what is already a $1600 pot. To make a long story short I see the river for a single bet because the turn is a 3rd spade and the table fish drags the whole thing with K8.

The table fish limps again and I raise with K8dd OTB. The big blind calls and I eventually lose to his J8 on an 872r board. He runner runnered a flush for those interested in his methods.

The table fish raises the HJ the table lag 3-bets the CO and I cap QQ OTB. The blinds and a limper fold, leaving the pot at 14.5 small bets. The flop is:

As Xc Yc and the table fish just donks right now. I have the Qc so I call (which I suppose is debatable but come on seriously I have a pair of Queens and am getting 15.5 : 1), turn a flush draw and river nothing. The fish shows me A5cc for good measure.

I open TT UTG (this one is good), and another fish cold calls UTG+1. UTG+2 3-bets, the table fish calls them all cold in the small blind like the champ that she is (my God this woman was awful it did not prevent her from leaving with 6.5 racks on her button forcing me to take the blind a hand early and end up losing 4 bets with KTo) and I cap it because I mean there are 2 people in here who I'm crushing and one guy who's maybe a little head of me but whatever I have tens.


The preflop cold-caller (not the 3-bettor mind you....the cold caller) raise/caps me. The fish calls both bets both times.

9, putting up spades.

The fish donks. I call without much though (I have top set....if she turns over a jack high straight in a pot of this size I could still call 2 bets cold with my outs to fill up) and the limper tanks for like a minute before calling. I decide he has two pair or a lower set and while stealing some of my outs is in fact drawing completely dead. Awesome. River:


And she checks. I'm not even kidding, she checks, which as far as I'm concerned means she cannot possibly have a straight. But wait, you say! Couldn't a player this bad be scared of the flush, even though her two opponents when absolutely batshit before there was even a flush draw on board? I mean, I capped it preflop, and raise/3-bet the flop. I don't have a fucking flush, and if I did somehow some way hold AK of spades that I just went absolutely bonkers insane with well that's gone now since the king of spades is on the board. And the guy who raise/capped the flop when the board was rainbow and then tanked for a full minute before calling the turn closing the action at like 10:1? He can't have a flush. It's simply not possible; you don't put in that much action with a hand that can make a flush and if you did have the one hand that had two pair on the flop and now has a flush you would not tank call the turn but rather insta-call or maybe even insta-raise. But isn't this woman bad enough to to not know that and just be afraid of the flush? Well ok you're right it's possible. So I bet and the guy on my left RAISES! I figure he just figures the same thing I just figured, that she doesn't have a straight and his two pair are good. The woman calls two cold after what feels like a minute and I toss in 8 more chips, assuming I'm actually good a fair bit of the time when both of them have some garbage ass two pair. But no, I'm in third place. The woman rolls JACK EIGHT OF SPADES. Not only was she bad enough to be afraid of the flush, she was bad enough not to realize she'd made one! And the other guy, who cold-called preflop? KK obviously.

The rest of the hands are a blur, but they involve the aforementioned winning DeucesCracked player 3-betting me with the K9o, calling a check/raise on a flop of A52, and runner runnering two pair to defeat my AJ, and the other hyper-aggro guy that I'm comfortable calling a spew monkey 3-betting the small blind with T6 of hearts and getting a 875-4-5 board for me to pay him off all the way with my A4 (against this guy honestly I was calling down UI...the pair was like candy). The first guy, like I said, could just be 2-4 levels above me. Maybe he thought K9 was good UI (which means he's giving me way too much credit for bluffing in that spot and trying to play a super unexploitable game) or maybe he was gonna bluff me. I really dunno. For now I rest, and hope against hope for an epiphany about what it is I'm supposed to be doing with my life.


ExMember said...

I've always considered propping as an excellent way to take all the fun and nearly all the profitability out of poker.

I am not sure what the pay is, but I know the house's take per player-hour. On that basis I am pretty confident they couldn't pay me enough to work as a prop.

So my recommendation, of course, is to give up dreams of paychecks and employer health insurance and go back to playing for yourself.

I think with control over your schedule, limits, and game-selection you can make more money playing. If your goals are to improve your game, and hence your long-term profitability, you can do that too.

Andrew said...

Ever consider moving over to NLHE? Seems like it would be a lot easier to defenestrate (also fun word!) the fish by actually being able to take their entire stack (or huge chunks of it) and price them out from their terrible draws.

In my limited (very) low stakes casino experience, many players just play fit or fold and are passive. Seems like playing at those stakes consistently would let you grind out a pretty low variance profit following strategies that worked online years ago.

The blindman said...

You have my sympathies, but I'm not sure what else I can offer that's particularly useful.

$10k is only 125BB at 40/80, and is the sort of swing you should probably expect from time to time. The problem is when the down swing is not offset by a similar upswing at another time.

I have had a fair few down swings in the region of 100BB playing 6max online (3/6-6/12), and at least one one 150BB swing in the space of a few hours.

The advantage online is that the swings don't last as long in absolute terms, so the mood swings and self doubt that go with them tend not to be as damaging.

It sounds to me that propping is not doing you any favours, forcing you to play under really adverse conditions or not at all. I'd suggest kicking the prop job for now, dropping back to the stakes and conditions where you are most comfortable and grinding back up there.

timilon said...

As suggested before, move to NL! You'll find more ways to exploit weaker players, see more flops cheaper, bluff better, etc. At least give it a try, maybe 2-5 level for starters.

timilon said...

1 more thing...
There's no shame in calling. You've beem raising too often, too thin (imho)! Play some small-ball.

TomB said...

Obviously, you are a competent limit-hold’em player.

1. Even though limit hold’em is largely math and analysis (well suited to your background) rather than art, how well do you read other players? I’ve often thought that after attaining a reasonable level of technical competence in limit, ability in non-verbal communication, especially detecting weakness in another player could easily be the difference between winning and losing. Granted, if someone doesn’t realize they hold a flush, it might be hard to read that particular tea leaf. Still, I believe that non-verbal communications skills can be learned and they aren’t simply “something you are born with.”

2. Is you bankroll just too small to play 40/80 limit, even with otherwise favorable table conditions (much less without them)?

3. How about getting with a coach?

Lexx said...

You run bad.

All of the above advice has merit at a general level but since you have invested so much in LHE, moving over to NLHE is not as easy as it sounds. The posters above fail to mention how easy it is in NHLE to be bet/shoved off TPGK type hands on a draw heavy board. That is a world of frustration all of its own.

I think the best advice was from MitchL in the exploited thread. But those advocating a check on the turn in that hand to get to the river for the same cost have a good idea too. The constant theme for all of us is assigning ranges to the villain. For that purpose, you need to get to some showdowns obviously. The underlines the great advantage of LHE. In that hand you were going to get good information for just one more bet. I know that paying for information is a vexed subject, but fwiw if you are playing against a villain that is skilled and you want/need to equal/beat him, then your choice is to go the long road and experience the frustration of taking stabs in the dark or look for spots where you likely have good showdown value and can pay off cheaply for information if you are beat.

Play the stakes that your bankroll can handle. You can't beat the math on that one.

timilon said...

Transition to NL would be easy for Jesse; might take weeks/months to feel comfortable, but he'd do it more quickly and effectively than most. As for TPGK, it works both ways; you can be pusher or pushee. NL won't be any more frustrating than what J's already faced in L, maybe less so. Besides, I think Jesse's ready to run good again!!

Lexx said...

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesse is a very switched on guy. That is why I read his blog. What is evident in his blog recently is frustration. My point was that changing games, per se, is not a panacea for the frustration of running bad. Yes NL is a good way of raping the fish but it is also a wild ride when running bad against even fairly soft opponents. Same as LHE. Getting the stack in on the flop when you are a 4:1 favourite and still getting sucked out on when you are multiple BI down already is just as soul pwning as putting in 3 extra bets in the call the C/R on the turn + call river scenario is for a limit player who is used to making every single bet count.

Of all the online pros, no one is more honest about running bad than Brian Townsend. Down $4mill in recent weeks but still grinding. Check out his blog at CardRunners and note his discussion of pain. Jesse might need to find an answer that won't take weeks/months to realise but I await news of the next steps in his journey with interest and wish him well.

Anonymous said...

From my experience online the 300 BB bankroll requirement seems pretty small, especially in aggressive games. I had a 400BB downswing at 0.5/1 over about 20K hands. Fortunately, I had won ~600 BB at 0.5/1 when this happened, and I had 1000 BB bankroll online before I started playing at this limit, so I never felt like I would be wiped out and finally played through. Ran at 3BB/100 for January.

I think you need to move down. I'm guess you need 500-600BB bankroll for those super aggressive games.

Henry said...

Put Danielle first, work graveyards or the same time she usually does. With that said, it sounds like you aren't mentally ready for 40/80 propping so maybe you should see if there is opportunity for you as a 20/40 prop.

If those opportunities (the time or stakes) aren't available for you, then play on your own at 20/40. When you rebuild a good roll, I suggest trying to get a partial stake to play 40/80 so maybe financially you're playing at 30/60 or something.

mike l. said...

at 14k youre way under rolled for the job. that 40 game is juicy but plays big. i like working with you, even if i am a spew monkey (i wont deny it, i am), but i do think nl or online would be more to your liking. i might try and switch to graveyard myself, the lack of hours we're playing lately is getting old. either way, i wish you the best.

jesse8888 said...

LOL thanks for reading Mike and thanks for taking the criticism so well. By now I'm sure you've heard the news, so I wish you all the best in your quest to bust your fellow props.