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jcarver : origins, continued

December 28, 2010 | 2:33 pm | JCarver

parts 1-3 can be found here

Part IV : Rising Action

Early January Pacific introduced no-limit and pot-limit cash games. I had never played NL/PL cash games before online [I still remember their "Ring in the New Year with our No-Limit cash games banner/promo]. I sat at a $.50-$1 NL table one night with very little understanding of the game (with 100 BB, as opposed to the shortstack home games / mtts).  Upon informing my friend Chuck of my plans, he remarked to me (in his usual hilariously sour tone) “Fantastic, now you can blow your money ten times as fast, clown.”

I blew at least three buyins over the next few days of NL heads up cash game play. I liked it, but I distinctly remember having no clue how much to bet in so many spots. I felt that there was money to be made but I just had no idea how to do it. I recommitted to playing Limit Holdem.

My bankroll kept growing. I planned on moving up to $10-$20 when my bankroll hit $4000, and got there a few times in January. I suffered my worst losing night (not in BB, in dollars) thus far by losing $600 at $10-$20 in two hours in mid January. For the most part, though, in January I did a pretty good job smashing Limit Hold’em, taking down $1130.20 over 160 hours of play.

Additionally in January, I had several big tournament cashes, the biggest being my first outright win in a $33.  The tournament had 188 runners, making first place good for my first four-figure score of $1692.  I also managed to get 2nd in a $5.50 with a seven-hundred strong field for $513.20.

January was reasonably quiet otherwise. I kept reading books, made my first withdrawal on Pacific (and promptly put a small amount of that money into Party), but was a month of relatively strong growth. Some graphs from the period :

Career Earnings Til 1-31-05

Career Earnings Til 1-31-05, by date

Amount of Time played by Location

January Earnings

Earlier I said that I had graduated high school early and that I felt this was key to me doing so well. 17 year old kids tend to have a lot of time on their hands and not a lot of bills to pay. Once I graduated high school, I found that college had a lot less “busy work” and I had a lot more available time to work on my game. Like most kids that age, I had really no bills (car insurance, that was about it) and so was able to dedicate 99% of my bankroll back into poker.

By the end of January, I had earned $5448.51 over my career which had amounted to 858 table hours. My lifetime hourly rate is very low as I tracked most of the freerolls I played along with all the microlimit games.  I was only a few thousand dollars away from reaching my goals in April with months to spare.

Everything didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had hoped it would in January, but compared to February, January would feel like paradise.

Part V : Falling Action

Let me preface February with my graph from $5-$10 limit.

Wow! Must have been a great month, right!


February was my first recorded month where I actually LOST money. Over the month I lost a total of $-155.76. I lost money in my very few hours of NL cash games, my tournaments, my sit and gos, and most stakes of limit poker. In fact, only $5-$10 brought me any positive income for the month. I spent all month fighting to get something going, and by the middle of the month, I felt like I had recovered nicely.

February Earnings til 2-21-05

Every one of those huge downspikes, for the most part, is from $10-$20 Limit Holdem. I was getting pretty frustrated, and in fact, February was the first month I really started to dislike limit for more than just a moment. It seemed so frustrating, so restrictive. I read Middle-Limit Hold’em by Bob Ciaffone (I think) but it did me little good. Everything seemed to make sense in theory but just totally fell apart in practice at the tables.

Once I had recovered, and things had started going well again, I was happy. I [thought I] knew by then the huge variance in poker but limit just…frustrated me, greatly, at times – as I’m sure it does to everyone. For some reason, even now, I prefer losing thousands and thousands of dollars to one-hand coolers than hours and hours of prolonged lesser bad beats [now I don't have any feelings at all so not a problem].

But anyway, my recovery in February was short lived. On the afternoon of the 21st, I once again started a new $10-$20 session. Things immediately started going badly. Before I knew it, I had lost $2,000 and was very unhappy. I spent over ten hours in that game (far, far longer than I should have, but I felt I was playing well at the time – even though I now doubt I was) before leaving down $1562.50.  Another nail in the limit poker escape canoe that I would eventually ride off on [what a sentence this is].

I don’t really have a lot more to say about February. I wasn’t as disillusioned as I was when I had lost in December. I knew this was going to happen sometimes and that it didn’t mean I was a horrible player. By now, though, I had started to dislike limit poker itself and would be looking to start expanding my cash game beyond just Limit Holdem in the coming weeks.

Some graphs from February :

February Earnings

February Limit Holdem Earnings

February MTT “Earnings”

February $ Win by Location

Total Career Earnings Til February vs Total Hours Played

I was no closer to my April goal by the end of February than I was at the end of January. I was hoping for a solid March and had already started planning on how I was going to go from $5k and change to $10k in a month and a half.  The answer fell into my lap.  Pacific Poker was advertising a $1,000,000 guaranteed tournament for the middle of March.  I told everyone in my very limited poker world, “that’s going to be the game that gets me to $10,000.”  I don’t think anyone believed me [not that I blame them].  Little did even I know that I was going to prove them all wrong come March 26th.

Part V – The Start of Something

February was fairly rough but I still felt like I was on track to meet my goal to reach $10,000 by April 15th.

The beginning of March was pretty good to me. I was winning at limit again, mostly playing $10-$20. I of course in my [still] unending quest to play games I am not ready for blew over $1300 taking shots at $15-$30. However, I also started putting a good amount of time into No-Limit cash games, winning over $1500 at $1-$2 NL. I barely played any tournaments and cashed in none of the few I played.

March 26th was the 1M guarantee on Pacific. I was pretty psyched.  It was the biggest game I had ever played [I believe it was a $400]. I was hoping things ran well, as I had a problem in a 75k guarantee on Pacific that I didn’t share with you guys in February that made me question the software’s strength.

The 75k [a major guarantee at the time] was totally ruined by a bug in Pacific’s software that was exploited by certain players. In short, out of the three tables that were left, some players were able to effectively max timebank, then skip their own action, making hands take forever.   With several people exploiting this, two tables were playing about 2 hands per hour and mine was quickly 5 handed (can’t balance tables until the hands finish at the other tables) with our table’s massive chip leader playing normally. Pacific’s support did nothing about it during or after even with the huge uproar that I know several of us gave them. I was in the top five going into 3 tables and busted 22nd as I couldn’t outlast two near-frozen tables while playing a normal shorthanded game. If you guys want to hear more details I still have all the emails saved that I sent them and the responses I got back [I don't know if this is true], but it’s definitely one of the big reasons I eventually left Pacific.

Still, though, I was assured the bug was fixed (even though it obviously wasn’t, as I saw in later tournaments) and would not be an issue in the 1M. I won my seat on March 24th and was ready to play on the 26th.

I was planning on going away the weekend of the tournament even before I heard of the 1M.  I rebuilt my weekend around the tournament that Sunday.  I relaxed the day before in Florida, reading tournament books and other things (like losing thousands at $15-$30 [not literally...I don't think]) preparing for the big day.

Chuck called me while I was in Florida. He told me that he wanted to play the 1M too, and I told him no way – I had got my seat already. We settled on him sort of “coaching” me through the game as I needed it, even though I was in Florida. He’d end up being on the phone with me for the entire duration of the game [nobody knew what ghosting was 6 years ago].

The game ran with 1600 people.  There was almost $400,000 in overlay, and a lot of people weren’t there that actually did enter. I steadily built a stack hour after hour, even though I was card dead. I never got anything better than two pair throughout the entire course of the game and rarely got any big hands [amazing that I still remember going through the hand history and realizing this]. The ones I did get I made count, though.

After many hours, we were down to 14 people.  I was in 5th place. I pick up 8 5 in the big blind. UTG limps as does one other person. I check. Flop is 8 5 2. I check, UTG bets, and it gets back to me. I shove. He instantly calls with AA.

Turn is a jack.

River is a duece.

I was devastated. Obviously, this is just a bad beat, but first place paid nearly $210,000, while 14th paid only $7,500 (which I shared with Chuck in our bankroll). It hurt pretty bad for several weeks, but in the end, I was happy with my play.

The rest of the month went relatively smoothly. By the end of the month, I won $6,789 (counting half the 1M score as profit) and $2232 from NL cash games in March alone. I broke my $10,000 goal slightly after the big tournament (even counting it for half). Here’s a random screenshot where I doubled up in a coinflip that a goon took during the 1M :

I was thrilled.  I reached my goal and had started learning the ways of no-limit cash games. I felt like I was so…free, compared to limit poker.   I started getting a better ability to feel the pulse of the games, a better grip on players, and started realizing that my chip stack in no-limit could be used as a weapon. Things started to click in my no-limit game while my frustrations just compounded further and further in limit. I considered my goal having been met (as I wasn’t sure if the goal I set was to hit $10k by 4/15 or 4/1), but I had won enough in mid-March to put me well over that $10k level (and I’ve never been below it since then).

The first 15 days of April were extremely rough on me. I won $2000, then lost $4000, all by April 14th. Stuck $2,000 thus far for the month, but still with a healthy $10k+ bankroll, my birthday came at midnight of the 15th. I had made my $10k dream into a reality.

Early that morning I decided to play $30-$60. I hadn’t been winning at $ 30-$60 when I took stabs earlier but that didn’t stop me that morning. I played 5 hours, til 6 am, and lost $2043.40 in a hugely upsetting fest of suckouts and bad play. It was that very day, on my birthday, that I finally boiled over. I swore off limit holdem for good. I had had enough with the beats, the suckouts, the lack of control, and the losing (for some reason I believed NL to be less filled with those things [lol.  I do pretty much never come back to limit poker until very recently]). I would stick to $1-$2 NL (the highest Pacific had, at the time). Turning 18 would also mean access to Neteller [an e-wallet to help move money around...sad I have to explain that] and the rest of the internet poker scene.

That’s what I remember my 18th birthday for, for some reason. The $30-$60 $2k hit that I took. I have no clue what else I did that day.  What can I say?  It’s not in PokerCharts.  Seriously, though, without PC to remind me this story wouldn’t be nearly as detailed.  That night helped show me how bad things could get, at times, but I would soon see just how good it could get. I pledged on my birthday to earn $75,000 before the year was out, which was ridiculously ambitious on my part (like $2500 and $10k goals weren’t ambitious at all!).

And so on one day the limit player within me was dead. I’ve never returned to limit HE other than in short bursts for “fun”. On the same day the new me was born – the NLHE cash specialist with more dreams than knowledge. But hell, that’s what I started this journey with, and it worked out ok so far, right?

Career Earnings til Mid-April (this doesn’t include my -2k at the end, that’s the next half)

Earnings 3/1/05-4/14/05

Part V – Birthdays, Resurrections, and Rebirths

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