Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

View From The Tables - Playing Poker Recreationally

Another 'View From The Tables' article as promised yesterday. This one is from Oliver from Germany. The article covers some important areas for many players who only play poker a few times a week, and want to maximize their profits and improve their games. I really enjoyed this article which puts a fresh perspective on some of the constraints faced every day in a bid to balance life and poker. I made only a very small number of edits, which is a credit to Oliver - since English is his second language. If you would like to contribute an article then let me know!


Is it possible to build a decent bankroll, if work, family, friends, sports and hobbies are heavily reducing your time available to play poker? In other words, can you earn enough as a recreational player to finance a great annual vacation or more? Good news for you, it is possible. Less good news, you have to consider certain things.

Sample Size And Variance – see playing poker as one long session   As a recreational player, you get only a small sample size. Perhaps you only have 2-3 days per week to play SnG's? So you just play once or twice per week, a total of 5-7 hours? Let us further suppose that you are not a multitabler. This could mean you play may be less than ten games weekly. Experienced players can tell a thing or two about how often the variance can strike without mercy. 10, 20 or 30 games without getting into the money is well within the bounds of possibility. That would mean that you play one, two or more weeks without any cashes. Even if you get into the money from time to time, it still may result in a loss. Thus the worst case could be not only two weeks but only two months or more without any profit. This is a not to be underestimated psychologically burden that hits everyone at some point, whether recreational or professional player. For part-time players it is extremely important not to judge their success on short-term results. Regulars, who play 100 or more games a day can see short-term variance even out within a short period of time. The frustration of a suckout-session in the morning can be converted into a satisfying victory already in the evening. If things go bad, non-regs sometimes need weeks or more to balance the variance. If you just concentrate on individual results, then it is easy to lose focus on a big source of profits - the mistakes of your opponents. The probability is high that your frustration leads to poor play by yourself, too. You want to change course to win under any circumstances and commit errors or at worst, you tilt. Our mind recognizes only the many days that have elapsed since your last win, not that you played just a few SnGs within that longer period. Protect yourself from this devastating psychological mechanism by realizing, daily or weekly results are not crucial, but only the sample size. My personal tip: Set yourself a target for the year. Plan a realistic number of SnGs that you can play during the upcoming twelve month. At the end of this year you close the file with a profit. Only that is what counts. No matter whether there maybe should be two or three months were things really went bad. Depending on the amount of profit you want to make, you have to adjust the sample size according these articles: - Sample Size And Confidence Intervals, Shows you how many games you really need to play to see the variance even out! - ROI and Hourly Rates In SNGs, This article gives examples of expected long-term returns, shows that variance can work both ways.

Multitabling – obtain more time to play An essential part of successful poker, no matter which game or limit you play, is a sufficiently large sample size. Only then the variance is overcome and skills can dominate over short-term luck. As a recreational player your sample size naturally is much lower. Logically, you did not just have as much time available as a professional. However, you can multiply the given time to play poker without having to sacrifice time from other commitments. How does it work? You become a multitabler. Now you can play more tables at the same time. You increase your sample size without adding any real time to your poker schedule. It is important not going too far to soon with multitabling. What does it mean? While successful multitabling increases the total profit, it also reduces the profit per table, because you have less time to study your opponents carefully and to reconsider your decisions calmly. The danger now is that with too many tables, coupled with resulting bad decisions from that and a negative variance, your game suffers, both technically and financially. In other words, the more tables the better is a definitely the wrong way here, especially for part-time players. Succesful multitabling has to be practised constantly, especially if we talk about a large amount of tables. And you do not have that time for practising. My personal tip: Learn to handle six tables and master them as you would only play one table. Mastering means, you have to play technically correct and make the right decisions. If you are able to play even more tables, fine. But with just six tables simultaneously you have increased your sample size by six times. That is huge for a recreational player. Please focus on standard SnG (9-man). Turbos and multis are more variance-heavy. You have to play many more games to compensate for this variance - time you do not have.

Training – stay up-to-date Players who play a large amount of games, normally should see early (speaking in terms of weeks), whether their game has some vulnerabilities. If despite of the high sample size the results are not as expected, then the probability is high that your game (still) has technical weaknesses – commonly known as ’leaks’. Acknowledging leaks exist in your game is an important first step towards working on eliminating them. As a casual player, it is easy (and, ironically, sometimes even correctly) to attribute the losses to the small sample size. You could mistakenly think, you just fight against variance and your game is good. In order not to succumb to this fallacy you should be keep up with the times. Poker is sometimes a very fast business. What today seems standard and solid play, tomorrow could be fishy and expensive! Now the busy amateur anyway has little time to play and now he should cut those spare time additionally for training? Even if you agree, what kind of training is then the one with the most sense? Books, online sites like or hand discussions in forums? Although all of these things are important and right and the study of the leading SnG literature should be provided, there is one optimal form of training for players with less time. My personal tip: Concentrate on a weekly live training (about 1 hour). This means that you are looking over the shoulder of an experienced and successful SNG player and he tells you his thoughts on each hand. For this there are various possibilities on the internet and/or some poker schools. Even among the free offerings, there are excellent educational content. You just have to use them.

Much success and always the best hand at the showdown. Yours, Oliver

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