The View From The Bottom

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” – Lao Tzu

We’ve all been there before: Starting out with something new. That could refer to a new relationship, going to a new school, exploring new territories (like during the good old days of the Wild West), or starting a new hobby (like the good old sport of the Wild West): Poker.

While there are many pages out there dealing with poker, only very few present the beginner’s point of view. A view at how poker looks like from the lowest of all levels: The rock bottom. This is, more or less, where I am right now.

A few weeks ago, when I started working for my new employer, a fairly large online betting company, I had to check their poker site for inconsistencies. Going through all the pages, I started to read some of the articles about poker in general, strategies, bad beat stories, tilting and so on. After a couple of reads it dawned on me that this card game is rather a battle of intelligences than a game purely relying on Lady Luck. I began to get more interested. Another hand full of articles later, I decided that I wanted to give it a go.

Starting out from scratch, there were a couple of challenges to it, even though I’ve always been fairly good at strategic card games (during different card games with my brothers, sisters and mother, they’d usually say in a disgusted voice: “Look. He’s counting the cards again. Stop doing that, it’s not fair.”).
Just to mention the most basic thing: I had to learn the card ranks.

I had a slight idea about how poker works, but I’ve never played it according to Hold’em, Omaha, or 7-Stud rules. Being overwhelmed by the wide variety of games available, I made my pick and chose to stick to Hold’em ring games and spice it up with some tournaments, mainly single table tourneys.
But before I could start donking away, I had to make up my mind on how I want to approach this new journey. I know, a single step is only one in many during a journey, but if I hit a puddle of mud with that first step, it could be a long, unpleasant, squishy way.

Basically all articles I’ve read about long term strategies point towards full-time professional poker. I wasn’t sure whether I want to go down that road. I mean, how can I know that I want to go pro without having tried it for an extended period of time? And after all, I am enjoying my full-time job. No need to quit my new job and go tilt off my first paycheck.

My conclusion was this: I would start out slow to be able to change directions quickly. Heck, the fun of a journey is, after all, never being sure if you’ll end up where you intended to go.
But at least for the first few yards I wanted to have a plan to stay clear of the biggest mud pits out there. The plan is neither perfect nor absolute, that’s all that’s been for sure so far. It consists of these rules:

  • Play about 1-2 hours of poker per day. Rather less than more to avoid burn-out.
  • Stick to lowest limits available for now. I’m gonna dish out cash in the beginning, so dish out little bits.
  • Deposit about $50 a month (from my pay check). This is very important: Losing $50 a month won’t hurt me a bit.
  • Stick to Hold’em. Omaha, 7-Stud and all their buddies can wait.

With this in mind, I started playing poker two weeks ago. I’ve made bad moves, terrible calls and even worse raises, but it’s been a big bucket full of fun so far. My first deposits of 2x $50 are still alive (on Party and Ladbrokes respectively – I’m not allowed to have an account on the site of the company that I work for), although a chunk of the chips have run through my fishy fins. I’ve donked out a couple of all-ins that would make each and every poker mentor turn grey instantly, but most importantly, I’m improving.

This is the space where you will hear about my worst moves, the hands I think I’ve played well, and Steve’s comments on those. So, if you’re starting out like I am, a seasoned pro, a casual player, or simply have forgotten how it was like when you were the donkey, stick around and have a look, a laugh, and – who knows – you might even learn something new.

Last but not least, I want to thank Steve for giving me a few square meters of his blog (not to mention his audience) to share my experiences with you. And if you’re also new to poker and just starting out, give me a shout and we can exchange some donkey strategies on how to outdraw the rockets with one out.

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