BY RUSS SCOTT
APRIL 14, 2009
VEGAS-BOUND POKER PLAYER SEEKS ADVICE ON HOW TO SUCCEED
Like so many before him, Brett D. is moving to Las Vegas to grind out a supplemental income playing poker. Unlike most, he’s seeking advice first.
“I have found that I’m a decent player at hold’em and am growing an interest to take this ability and develop it,” wrote Brett, 24. “I am wondering if you have any advice for truly developing a playing skill to achieve success.”
When asked this, I often use the line attributed to the legendary Johnny Moss, three-time world champ and first member of the Poker Hall of Fame: ”It’s a hard way to make an easy living.” While true, that advice alone doesn’t help an aspiring player very much.
Clearly, Brett has given his plan much thought. He knows success won’t be easy, so he laid out his strategy and sought my reaction.
“My plan is to save money safely for a few months, then start by taking no more than $50 a night to play. I would play low limit until I was able to at least double my initial bankroll — unless I lose it all, which I accept will happen eventually — and hopefully have a sky’s-the-limit attitude,” Brett wrote.
“I’m very anxious to learn more and would like to use poker simply as a supplemental income, not ever to overtake my main job income,” he said.
In my response, I called Brett’s poker goals “refreshingly realistic” compared to new players who boast of jumping right into high-limit games or winning a World Series bracelet within a year. But I also warned that reaching his goals still will require lots of work and patience.
I offered these specific tips:
* Game selection: Low-limit games are tough to beat in many Vegas casinos where local players dominate, grinding away just like you. The tourist-laden large card rooms offer better opportunities for profit. Spend all the time you need to find the best games.
* Study the game: There’s no substitute for knowledge in poker. Read and study several good books about limit hold’em. Strategy columns in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet are good sources, too.
* Practice: The more hands you play, the more you learn about the dynamics of hold’em. Home games are helpful, but you’ll need exposure to a much bigger field of opponents. Play small-limit games online to gain experience fast.
* Playing style: Limit hold’em is tougher than ever because of the overall improved skill level of players. Smart starting-hand selection is critical in fixed-limit games since successful bluffs are difficult. Patience is mandatory.
* Money management: To stay in the game long enough to enhance your skills, you must manage your bankroll well. To play $3-$6 limit hold’em, start with a bankroll of at least $1,000. Keep detailed records so you’ll know when to step up in limits, step down, take time off, or quit.
Coincidentally, Brett’s e-mail came the same week two well-known young players wrote blogs about the negative impact of pursuing poker for a living. Despite success at building up to high-stakes action live and online, both Alec Torelli and Andrew Robl said they’re stepping away from the game, at least for a while.
“Somewhere between 2004 and now, the fun stopped and it became a grind,” wrote Torelli, a 22-year-old phenom who pulled off rare back-to-back wins last October at the Festa Al Lago tournament in Las Vegas.
“I worked hard (to succeed at poker). Unfortunately, it all comes at a cost,” Torelli wrote. “I was losing my grasp of reality and most importantly, I lost touch with people.” For him, the freedom of the poker lifestyle backfired. “It’s ironic, actually…the freedom that we thought we had really limits us.”
Robl, 24, acknowledged what poker has given him — financial security, flexible lifestyle — but “it no longer stimulates me like it used to. Now I rarely find joy and happiness in just playing. I’ve found it hard to achieve balance in my life.”
For our Vegas-bound friend Brett, dealing with what the two pros described is part of what he must learn, too.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2009 RUSS SCOTT
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