My real money poker experiment came to a sudden end last night. I had played a couple hours of cash games each of the last few evenings with pitiful results. At the end of each night I would import the hand histories into Poker Tracker and review my play. Solid. Yet not winning. I guess the frustration got to me the last two evenings. I moved up from a $0.05/$0.10 game to a $0.10/$0.25 game and continued to watch my bankroll dwindle despite solid play. At the very end of the night I played a $0.50/$1 game in an effort to recoop my losses and... all gone.
After the emotional response wore off and my analytical mind reengaged I realized the loss of money only confirmed what I already knew: Real money adds little enjoyment to low stakes online poker. It has a calming effect on the game- less maniacs when real money is involved- but this also dampens the profit and the enjoyment.
Here's what I experienced:
- It is possible to win big. Back in October I won a 20-table no limit hold 'em tournament. Outlasted 179 other players to win $388 on an $8 investment.
- Poker sites will mail you a check. Banks will accept that check. Real money appears in your bank account.
- It is much more common to win small. And lose small. And get bored with the tight play that is required to win at cash games.
- The only players having fun, after all, are the losers. Because they're in on more of the action. The winning players fold, fold, fold, to get that 10% ROI.
So, after playing online poker for real money for half a year, I've reached these conclusions:
- Poker is too simple of a game to gain much of an edge. After a few thousand hands online, everyone is good.
- The hourly wage possible with a small edge, small investment, and disciplined bankroll management is not compelling. Consider what it takes just to make minimum wage, $6.55 per hour. One hour to win a single table tourny. An ROI of 15% (good) = $44 invested per hour. Buying in at 4% = $1,092 bankroll. With an ROI of 8% your bankroll must be $2,047 to make minimum wage. Too much for too little!
I like the game though. Poker is a fun and intellectually rewarding contest. So, in order to get some enjoyment out of it, I will make these adjustments:
- I play chess for fun without involving money. I can do the same with poker. All of the major sites offer play money tables and tournaments for a variety of poker games.
- I can still track my progress using Excel and Poker Tracker. I've written a program that converts play money hand histories into real money histories, allowing import into Poker Tracker.
- I have written the beginnings of a Windows poker client- simulation software, if you will. I should pursue this project for the amusement it may provide. (Can I write a poker bot that's a stronger player than I? Isn't this how all sci-fi movies begin? The humans loose control over the robots.) Also, I should pursue the project as a chance to sharpen my professional programming skills.
Now it's time to beat up on some nitwits at the play money tables...