2008 was a momentous and fulfilling year in my personal life. Janeen and I got engaged. We purchased, moved into and furnished a new apartment. We got married. We went on an amazing honeymoon (I still plan on blogging about this trip, it was unreal). My life took the figurative sharp left turn at Albuquerque (big ups to Bugs Bunny). Things have changed so much this year that the 2007 version of me would probably struggle a bit to recognize the domesticated guy sitting here (in a Snuggie, for the record!) writing this entry.
On the other hand, professionally speaking, my 2008 was the opposite of momentous. In fact, it was a dud. My year got off to a fast start when I final tabled two Atlantic City tournaments, winning one of them. From there it all fell apart.
After the two AC scores, I slowed down a bit. The purchase of our apartment and our move occupied quite a bit of time, so I decided to take a break and make the WSOP the focal point of my professional year. When WSOP season arrived, I dove in headfirst. I stayed in Vegas for the majority of the month of June and played as many tournaments as I could, living and breathing tournament poker for about 40 days straight. The results were atrocious: I cashed in one single event and whiffed on everything else, making the 2008 WSOP a financial wipeout of proportions I had never before experienced. Several other factors exacerbated the situation, turning it from a fiscal disaster into an emotional clusterfuck: I felt isolated and alone during the extended trip. I felt a subtle but palpable sense of guilt/embarrassment because I had, for the first time, taken some money from backers, almost all of whom were personal friends or family. In the end, I was so frustrated by the experience that my drive and desire abandoned me.
I returned home defeated and played almost no poker in July and very little in August; I simply didn’t feel like it. And then, before I knew it, my wedding date–with all the concomitant planning and fussing–was approaching. Then the wedding was here. Then I was on my honeymoon. Then it was December.
In the end, I played about 33% less poker than I did in 2006 or 2007, earning only a fraction of what I made in those years, and at a lower hourly rate. Where did the year go?
I’ve mentioned this about 2,000 times now, but it bears repeating. Playing poker for a living really is nothing like holding a normal job where you draw a salary. Most of us can sleepwalk through an occasional day or two at work and be none the worse for it; the same paycheck still comes every week or two. Lord knows that I used to mail it in for weeks at a time when I worked that kind of job. But I don’t get to mail my days in anymore. Poker players trade in that luxury for the increased freedom we enjoy. You have to want it bad in my world or you can’t make money. If you strip me of my determination to play high-level poker, I’m basically unemployed (or worse, dead money). And for much of 2008, I either was too disinterested or too distracted to play. After the WSOP, I went through phases where I alternatively could not summon the desire or could not find the hours to kick it into gear. It was a lost year. Yes, I still made a decent living in 2008, but it was nevertheless a major disappointment.
Although I’ve heard a few people predict that tournament poker will begin to die, thereby erasing my main source of income, I suspect better days are in store. In December, in fact, the tide has already begun to turn. I’ve been playing and winning steadily–and more importantly–thoroughly enjoying poker. I have reason to believe that I’m back in the saddle. Look out for Sug D in ’09!
Some 2009 Resolutions:
Hit the Tournament Trail: I play very low volume for a professional. Time to change that a bit. I’m going to be busy at the start of 2009. For the first time in my career, I’m hitting a non-Vegas circuit stop outside of the Northeast (okay, I did the Bahamas once). On January 2nd I’ll be making my way to down to Biloxi, Mississippi to try my luck against some good ‘ol boys in the Southern Poker Championships at the Beau Rivage. I’m even breaking with tradition and playing tournaments during the NFL Wildcard Games! I’m planning on getting all Katrina on their asses down there. After Biloxi comes the Borgata Winter Open, and after that I will likely play some stuff in Vegas and/or LA. I’m mindful that balance is required here. Too much time on the road does not agree with me (nor my new wife). I will never become a full-time touring pro, but I intend to make a concerted effort to travel the circuit quite a bit in 2009.
No More Taking Stakes: I’d always been proud of the fact that I only play my own bankroll. I chose to abandon that strategy in 2008 in an effort to make some big scores at the WSOP and it backfired. I don’t like feeling financially beholden to anyone else, and I probably put undue pressure on myself at the 2008 WSOP because of it. I’m done with it. If this means I have to grind it out in smaller tournaments and 2-5 NL cash games, so be it. If you see me in a $10k event in 2009, it probably means I won a satellite.
Rebuild my Online Game: I played very little online poker in 2008 and accomplished next to nothing in this area. I have lost some confidence in my online play and I still cannot effectively play multiple tables. I also have found it impossible to summon the willpower to truly concentrate and put in long online sessions. In an effort to remedy these things, I am going to start from scratch with a two-monitor setup. I’m taking three steps backwards and playing only small stakes cash games and tournaments online until I prove to myself that I can beat them. Only then will I move up (Sundays are exempted from this rule, I’ll still play the big Sunday tourneys once the NFL season ends). At the same time, I’ll be using my dual monitor setup to try and finally teach myself to play my A-game on more than two tables at a time. I’ll probably be the only touring pro playing $2000 live tournaments on the road and $33 sit ‘n gos at home, but that’s the initial plan for 2009.
No Ego: I’ve come to realize that many of the mistakes I make playing poker are ego-driven. For instance, I frequently misplay hands because I put myself in my opponent’s shoes, assuming he/she is playing a hand the way I would play it. I ascribe goals and abilities to these opponents that are not present, which leads to terrible misreads. I need to stop this. Also, I am going to try my best to avoid unnecessary standoffs and pissing matches. There’s a difference between aggressive play (necessary to win) and macho bullshit play (detrimental). I am going to try and be alert but still look at every hand I play with fresh eyes, so to speak.
And away we go…
Happy New Year everyone!