Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 is Done, Variance and Vacations

My desktop background for the year to remind me of what I was trying to achieve 
So, it's over. A true test of commitment, organization and rigid schedule, for me at least. I do not play the biggest games on Pokerstars and I do not play the most tables of all the players out there so for me, achieving Supernova Elite was an enormous challenge. Christmas Eve was the day I crossed the finish line achieving my millionth VPP much the way I'd hoped. I chose to stop playing my bread and butter (6 max sit and gos) with 10 VPPs left and got a couple of friends to join me in a 1c/2c cash game! We fooled around for a bit and finally when I got the notification telling me I'd just joined the Supernova Elite club, I was able to celebrate with them. A fitting way to end fantastic year.

Some of you may ask if it's worth it, giving up a lot of privileges that poker gives you that not many jobs allow - the chance to have whatever amount of time off you want whenever you want, that unrivalled flexibility that so many crave but it wasn't like I just stared at a screen for 7 days a week this year. I made a concerted effort to balance my life in a way that very few people, let alone poker players, do. Four holidays with friends (Berlin), family (St Anton, Austria) and my girlfriend (Mallorca and Gran Canaria) broke up my 5-day-a-week schedule of sit and gos well. This was a key part of my organization which started mid way through 2012 when I first discussed making a run for SNE with my good friend Eric 'Foreman11' Porlier. We both agreed it was achievable and spent months preparing ourselves the best we could by honing our games and discussing strategy. This preparation stood myself and Eric in good stead for this goal we had set ourselves. Eric, a pensive player who's calculated aggression made him as tough a player as any out there, had been running pretty poorly before 2013 started but, as if almost to prove that every iteration is independent of each other and that bad luck has no memory, his relentless down swing continued and in the end he decided (many weeks and even months after most) that he would try and consolidate earnings rather than risk getting in a truly enormous hole trying to achieve something that in the grand scheme of things, is less important than happiness. I wouldn't have considered myself better than Eric as a player, in fact I think he knew the theory better than me. I think our years could easily have been reversed such is the brutality of the negative variance he had to go through and the fact that I ran above expectation ($17k). Having played just over 90,000 tournaments in my career I've seen and experienced some nasty variance. Of course, the amount you lose and win is a product of equity so those with a higher expected ROI in a game will win more when they run well (all things considered equal) than those who have a lower expected ROI. This applies in the negative version of this too by which the higher expected ROI player will lose less. This is what makes Eric's run even more unbelievable.

But enough about that. At the start of the year I expected to play around 40,000 turbo tournaments and realistically I'd have been disappointed if I hadn't made $50k pre rakeback on top of the rakeback earnings that achieving Supernova Elite made possible. As it turned out I realised that in order to achieve Supernova Elite just playing turbos I'd have to play a truly grinding number of hours and in the end poker is about your hourly rate ($ earned per hour). My first two months of the year were my best months I'd achieved lifetime at that stage so when this point of realisation came in late April (as the turbo volume's continued slowing became ever present), it gave me a little bit of wiggle room to try and learn hyper-turbo sit and gos whilst I was playing them without fearing losing. I'm nowhere near the finished article at hypers now but it has added another string to my bow and without running well early in the year learning them would have been tough and I'd most likely have fallen short of my goal.

Back a couple of steps and after 2 months and 3 weeks of running pretty well came my first vacation to St Anton, Austria, a holiday with the family. I must recommend this resort if you have a pot of gold lying around because it is worth every penny. It may well be pricey but its a lovely resort. We spent a week out there and had some great conditions excluding the first and last days. Here are a couple of snaps I took when the conditions allowed:

Dad, Mum and my brother Angus

This was actually a natural shot despite it's pose-like appearance

This wasn't so natural...
A great holiday.

Following this trip came the aforementioned period of realisation that I couldn't just be a turbo and reg speed Supernova Elite, or at least be able to choose games where I felt my edge was greatest. So I entered a period of transition where I was playing and learning and subsequently my win rate decreased substantially. Familiarizing myself with new regs' habits who had honed their skills for many months more than I had in this format was tough but whilst I was learning these games I continued to play and run well in the turbo and reg speed formats. At this time I felt like poker was exciting because I was learning something new. However, I was behind pace and I knew that I wouldn't always feel this enthusiastic towards the game as this. Thankfully I had a holiday booked to Mallorca with Emma, my girlfriend, which broke up the grind quite well. The weather was fantastic and being in a country where poker is regulated meant I had a totally poker free week to concentrate on perfecting my wonderful tan...............of course I came back paler than when I arrived, it is so great being ginger! I have a couple more photos to share from the trip:

View from the balcony

Dinner time with Emma

Following Mallorca there were many hours of intense volume put in as admittedly I began to panic for the first time about maybe not achieving SNE. To motivate me further I would always look to something in the distance that would give me the opportunity to let off some steam and relax. The thing that shone out above all like a beacon occurred when Pokerstars announced they were going to host a VIP Club Live event in Berlin in August. I'd been to one in London in 2012 and really enjoyed it and that combined with the chance to visit one of Europe's most historical, cultural and exciting cities made it more or less a no brainer. I managed to persuade my housemate (a banker working in London) to take some time off work and after a few days Peter 'Solidthought' Rees joined us. My housemate left us the day before the party as, understandably, he didn't feel he'd have as much fun as us at a poker event so Pete and I saw some sites and enjoyed what Pokerstars had to offer, which included a free bar and whisky tasting amongst other things.
Here's what Berlin looked like through our eyes:

Great view of the River from the Berlin Tower

Whisky tasting at the VIP Party.
Holocaust Memorial
Berlin Wall

I flew home early the next day after the party with around 400,000 VPPs still to achieve. I gave myself the target of being at 775-800k by the time Emma and I flew for our second trip together to Gran Canaria which was booked for the 20th October for 1 week in the sun while the UK resided in cold wet weather (this is essential, I feel, to the success of your holiday-your home country cannot have weather equal to or better than your holiday whilst you are away). So, against all ginger traditions I spent a week bathing in the sun and enjoying some spectacular views:

This is the point that my last blog post started. I had 205k VPPs to do in just over 2 months. I knew this was easily achievable and having written a thesis at university I know all about leaving myself a lot to do in a very short time. This previous experience discouraged me from doing the same again so whilst I was slightly behind pace I hadn't left myself an excessive amount which would have resulted in stress levels rising. In fact, I set myself the goal of getting it done before Christmas which in the end I managed on Christmas Eve. I had my biggest downswing of the year in this stretch of time when I lost $17k in the space of 5 days which I was half expecting having run well for the rest of the year. It was a bit alarming to lose so much so quickly with an average buy in of $65 (whilst choosing games I felt I had a good edge in) but I wasn't flustered and I finished the year strongly before hitting the milestone at lunch time Christmas Eve.
The fabled shiny black stars-the end product

This gave me enough time to update my Facebook, Twitter and Tiltbook to notify my friends and followers of the news before taking the train up to my parents' house in Yorkshire to enjoy Christmas in the countryside.

It has been awesome just enjoying the company of my family and friends since then. I've enjoyed the festive period but a lot of what has allowed me to do so is achieving what I set out to achieve. I'm not a hugely results orientated person, I made sure that my mindset was set to 'make VPPs and the money will follow' rather than being results based this year but the way things turned out were fantastic. I will not post numbers because I do not think it's appropriate to do that publicly (those of you with sharkscope accounts can do the maths for yourself - just take $17k off my sharkscope and you have my EV!) but I have hit a few global leaderboards for several sit and go formats.
I'm aware there are a few blocked players who would be ahead of me in some leaderboards, but I'm proud :D

I wish you all a Happy New Year and good luck in 2014

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