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jcarver : origins

December 27, 2010 | 3:38 pm | JCarver

2010 was amazing.  The best year of my life, hands down.  It started rough – getting pretty sick, a downswing – but turned out to be an incredible year filled with lots of new meaningful relationships and some sick poker adventures.


As you can see, I proudly made supernova today, and I’m on target to reach the volume goal of 70K hands with about 63000 played thus far.   I am pretty happy to never have to play another hand of 12+ tabling 5-10 again.  I’ll get into all the results of the bets in a later post, but for now, I want to share something I wrote in 2006 that I recently rediscovered.

In 2006, I wrote my til-then life poker story on my home forum, Something Awful.  I was barely 19 when I wrote it, so there’s a loooot of language (and I’m SUPER dramatic) that I wouldn’t use now to describe the same things.  I really enjoyed reading it – it’s been years, and I forgot a lot of the details to the story (also this is why a journal of any kind is so valuable) -  but wasn’t sure if I should repost it as it originally was or with some updated edits.   I figure the original is available (for a price, in the archives) and for a more long-term, permanent place such as this blog, I’d be better off cleaning it up a little bit.  Some of the graphs have vanished, so I may as well replace them too.  Besides some smoothing of stuff out, I didn’t change any of the content.  I have no idea how I remembered some of this stuff so clearly sometimes years later; other spots I still remember today.  I’ll be releasing these over the next few days as they’re all fairly long, standalone segments.

Hope you guys enjoy…

“COLON 2004-2006 : The JCarver Story” originally posted May 12th, 2006

I’ve thought about writing a thread like this for some time now. I was going to wait until I had a blog on the Spicebox to spell it all out in words, but may as well write it out now. My story is something I’ve always wanted to memorialize in writing and I hope it’ll inspire a lot of you guys to travel the same path. I’ve posted portions of this before but never the whole thing.

I don’t know if I’ll maintain this thread with updates on my winnings and losings. It’s a pretty sick ride and although I don’t mind reporting it here, I’ll definitely be keeping the blog updated with stuff like that once Addict finishes the site and we get it skinned. I guess the amount of updates I put in this thread, once I’m done with the “past”, will be totally dependent on the feedback I get. I was going to do this all in one post but it won’t even be close, so I’ll update this periodically over the next week. I promise it’ll be done before the 2005 Year in Review thread.

This story is pretty cool even without pictures and solid numbers, but with these, the story (which is fairly unbelievable) instead becomes believable and fairly incredible. I ran good at times, yes, and certainly had my share of luck. If I didn’t win at certain low points, who knows what might have happened. You don’t win $100,000+ out of $0 without a little luck somewhere.

I hope you guys enjoy the story. I have changed a few names so those mentioned won’t kill themselves when they see me ridiculing them on the internet.

Part I : Welcome to the Jungle

My first exposure to poker came in June of 2004, while I was still in high school (17).  Due to moving, I was forced into deciding between graduating early or moving to a new school for two years.  I opted to graduate at my old school that year, and was on track to graduate later that month.

I came home one day from my karate teaching job to discover my Dad watching a poker game on TV (turns out, it’s the WPT).  I was immediately intrigued, like most of us probably were back then upon first exposure.  It was all so foreign, yet so…exciting.  I watched Howard Lederer take down the tournament with style and composure and was hooked on the spot.  At the end of the episode, pretty awestruck, I knew I had to give this game a try.  I had never gambled before poker and had very little clue where to start.

It was nearing the end of the school year.  Even then, I was still lazy as hell, and didn’t put any more than the minimum effort required into school.  I spent the vast remainder of my free time talking to my friends about poker.  After making the discovery that a lot of my friends had started playing, I got myself invited to a $20 buyin SNG that ran once a week or so and was there a week later.

I’m amazed that I still remember that night. It was my first time playing cards for real money. I was damn nervous. The game was in my friend Cory’s basement, 6 handed or so, filled with loose and extremely bad play. I was only friends with the host of the game and I had never met any of the others before.  The host, Cory, had quite the imposing personality at the table.  He wore WPT-style sunglasses and loved to bully people at the table, calling out what he thought people had, making calls that most people didn’t understand that looked really cool. He was an intimidating presence, let me tell you.  Amazing how exuding self-confidence can be such a powerful weapon against others in poker.  The rest of the table was mostly well-off sporty-jock types with perhaps one or two occasional smart nerd-types that would drop by in the game from time to time. None of these people were much good, I would learn later, but it didn’t matter.  I was just a nervous little goldfish swimming in the tank.

I don’t remember what happened that night. I don’t know if I played well, who played badly, or what time I eventually left (it was late).  The only thing I remember clearly is that I lost $30 and felt terrible. I cursed my coming there, my ever seeing poker on TV, and mostly, my ever thinking poker was beatable – at least by me. By the next morning, though, my self-loathing had turned into an overdramatic resolve to get good.  I went and bought every book there was on poker.  None of the books I read initially had anything to do with no-limit, but it didn’t matter – I started reading anything that had the word “poker” in it.  2+2, SomethingAwful, anything.  I had a voracious appetite for information on the game.

By the end of July, it became clear most of my friends had never even opened a book on poker.  None of them were regulars at forums and few of them had any idea of even the most basic odds.  My very intelligent and equally-dedicated friend Chuck and I started talking about the game regularly and sharing the material we discovered. Without him, I doubt I would have made it as quickly as I did, if I made it at all.  He was a 1-man support group, sounding board, and served as comedic relief more times than I can remember.  He too became a regular in the game with Cory and the rest.

I started winning in the home games.  I won more and more often as the weeks went by.  I got a reputation as good and serious and exploited it by starting to emulate the confidence that Cory had intimidated me with earlier in my poker life. Things started to click in my head.

I went to my friend Ryan’s house for a game one afternoon. This was a game full of very intelligent kids but, as usual, none of them were particularly good. I sat in this cash game (.25-.50 with a .5 ante!) with maybe $25. At my table were a bunch of loose-bad players and one guy who was playing very tight. I was watching the game intently – focused on picking up reads, tendencies, and information – all while talking up a storm to keep the game loose and friendly.

I picked up A T on the button and raised Nitty McNit [2010 edit: I have no idea who this is :( ] who was in the big blind. He minreraised me, and I called. The flop was K 9 4. He bet small, and I put him on AK, QQ, or JJ [2010 edit: lol.]. I called, a plan formulating in my mind. The turn was a 2. He bet small again. I didn’t think he’d bet AK so small here. Again I called. The river peeled a K . Twateroo checked his cards and hesitantly checked. I paused five seconds before I announced “All-In” and dramatically pushed my chips to the center. The guy looked legitimately pained. My heart was racing as time itself seemed to slow down.  He agonized for what felt like an hour but was probably no longer than thirty seconds before saying “You’re a lucky son of a bitch and I hate you.” He flipped his cards over and threw them away. Two jacks. I breathed a sigh of relief as I stacked his chips next to mine.

As my talents grew, I turned to the internet for more action.  Once a week wasn’t enough for me – I wanted to play more.  I was only 17 at the time, and had no legal options to play live and no real means of depositing into any poker room.   In July, I discovered the glory of freerolls – and with no other choice, I started playing them heavily – even basing my sleep schedule around when they ran.

I learned the schedule of all the big freerolls – the $500 on Pacific at 3pm and 1am, the 2am on Empire, a few of the games on Prima. I played a lot. The fields in these games are huge but they’re very soft, and occasionally I did make small scores. I’d blow this money very quickly on games over my “bankroll” (as a $2 freeroll win on a site with nothing lower than .5-.10 tends to go fast). I kept reading books and improving, getting better and better as the weeks went on.

By August, Chuck and I had decided to share any freeroll wins we had online. We’d both play a lot, and when/if one of us actually won cash, both of us would be able to play with the money that was in the account. I liked this agreement because it meant I’d have twice the chance to play for real money. I did once turn to my parents for help getting money online.  They promptly told me no.  Throughout my career, they never would “enable” me by giving any means of depositing – although my Dad has always been supportive of poker, my mother is another story.

In the middle of August I bought a subscription to PokerCharts. It was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, poker-wise. Being able to track all my wins and losses over the years is an incredible asset that few poker players are able to do and I plug their site constantly (http://www.pokercharts.com). All serious players should consider using them to track their play, especially on sites not enabled for Poker Tracker.

In the last half of August I played a ton of poker. I won $90 that month from winning a decent sit and go at my friend’s house and doing well at a couple of smaller cash games. I was pretty thrilled with how things were going, but I still had no money on the internet. September came around and I still had never really gotten anything going on any site. Still, though, I had won $190 over the summer, which was a good amount for any high school kid’s hobby.

[2010 addition] I never mention in the original that me graduating high school early was a huge aid to my poker career.  Almost all of my friends were still in high school, busy 5 days a week.  My college schedule was light, piled on 2 long days a week, leaving all of the rest of my time free – which I spent on poker.  The timing was perfect.  Poker was booming, I had a ton of free time, and I was computer-literate.  It’s the perfect example of the concept from Outliers.

October came around, me still hungry to win money online. I watched some of the big games [which couldn't have been higher than $30-$60 LHE] and wanted nothing more than to play in them and beat those guys out of their money. I couldn’t help but see the money there in terms of physical items – “oh, that guy just stole the blinds, that’s like two DVDs.” and “oh, that guy just sucked out to half of a laptop.” It was pretty mind boggling at the time – but one of those high stake seats is where I wanted to be. Beating big games for money on the internet – lots of it. I envisioned poker as a financial vehicle to freedom. A very cool means to a very wealthy end. All these dreams, hopes, and wishes floated around in my mind constantly, and I repeatedly dismissed them as that, at the time.

Little did I know that sometimes dreams do in fact become reality. October would be the start of something that I never, in my wildest dreams, could ever concieve of actually occuring.

Part II : Winning money ON THE INTERNET !

October 17th, 2004. I logged into my account, “JCarver” on Pacific Poker. [I am pretty sure I got it from Jack Carver in Far Cry, as I was playing that at the time and guess I thought it sounded professional] My usual name that I had used since I was a kid, “Taknapotin” [from an obscure character in an unpopular R.A. Salvatore novel] was too big for the 8-character max on Pacific, so JCarver was born as a replacement.  I signed up for my usual 3pm $500 freeroll. 90 spots would be paying out with 2000 people in the field. Pacific’s freerolls employed a marvelous payout structure with 1st-10th getting a good amount of money and 11th-90th being paid equally, $5.  I played decently enough to place 88th.

I was thrilled, as I usually was when I cashed one of these freerolls, as it was a shot at life, a shot at all the dreams I had been seeking. Pacific, though, only had limit ring games, with no-limit SNGS/MTTs.  SNGs it was for me, and I played several $2.75 sngs that night. Over the rest of October, I would play $.05-$.10 limit and $2.75 sngs with the occasional $5 mtt as my bankroll ballooned. I had earned nearly $70 by the end of October. I mostly stuck with limit by the end of the month, climbing up semi-surely and slowly – but climbing. I read SSHE (Small Stakes Holdem) for the first time in October, doing everything I could to prepare me to pillage the Pacific limit games.

I steadily won money, confidence swelling. By November 15th, I had nearly $300 online, and earned almost $500 from my total poker career.

November 16th was a day like any other – at first. I was playing my usual games, thrilled to just log into an account with $300 in it (Chuck was playing on the account separately, but hadn’t earned more than $50-$75 or so, which I’m not including in these numbers, since I didn’t track his winnings in my pokercharts). I was playing well – $.50-$1 at this point – and had no intention of stopping.

Something caught my eye on the tournament list. “Heads up $20+2″.  I had never really played heads up other than at the end of SnGs.  I enjoyed it, but wasn’t too sure if I should play or not.  The budding degenerate within me won the debate and I registered.

There were 119 entrants. The Pacific HU mtt wasn’t like Pokerstars HU MTTs where they use a shootout format – where each game would play to one winner, bracket style – you could get moved any time on Pacific. Matches were never evenly stacked in chips except for your first one. On the night of the 17th, though, I found myself winning against player after player and building up a nice stack. I was in the money in under an hour (20 paying), and down to the final four in an hour and 5 minutes. Before I knew it, I vanquished my opponent, and headed to the final showdown, bristling with excitement.

I looked at my opponent’s stack and rolled my eyes [sure you did]. It was nearly three times mine. I clenched my fists, determined not to lay down and give this away. I was going to make him fight for every chip on the table. I fought my way back all the way to a slight chip favorite in under three minutes, before slipping slightly behind again.

I picked up Q T in the small blind. I raised and he called. The flop came Q T 8. He checked. I put out a pot-sized bet. He debated for a few seconds, and then shoved all in. I beat him into the pot, already dancing and imagining the $800 first prize in my account. My opponent flipped over J9 for the nuts. I didn’t suck out.

I wasn’t really devastated. Even then I knew that spots like that are just coolers that you can’t get away from. I won $454 for my second place finish, and resolved to get better at heads up play so I one day could get away from spots like that (I haven’t got there yet!) but more, so I could keep destroying those games which seemed VERY profitable. The next night I played it again and got 3rd for $202. I played it 11 nights to come and cashed in 9 of them. By the end of November I had earned $1400 from poker and was thrilled at what I had accomplished.

November Earnings

Total Earnings through November

I told Chuck at the end of November that by the end of 2004, I’d earn $2500 and by my birthday, April of 2005, I’d earn $10,000. His words were “Good luck, clown.” – which from him, is very supportive. I know I came off confident to him then, but secretly, I was doubtful. I wasn’t sure if I actually could do all that or not but I was going to do my damnedest to try. Little did I know then of the hard trials before me as I would approach December.

Part III: December to Remember

Fresh off my victories in the heads up games, I found myself with $1200 with probably more ego than skill. $1200 was a big enough roll for $3-$6 LHE, in my opinion (since I could only one-table on Pacific) so I played there, skipping $2-$4, for the most part. I won a little money then, building up my roll to $1500, and started to take stabs at $5-$10.

Soon things started to take a turn for the worse. I felt like I could take on the world coming off my November wins, and I damn well tried. I had read SSHE several times by then but didn’t really comprehend the concept of long-term variance, which I would soon start to learn as my December “lesson”.  I became upset at myself for losing, which I soon started to do.  Stupidly enough, I stuck with games no lower than $2-$4 and as high as $5-$10, even though I should have been stepping down as I was losing money.

In the first twenty days of December, I lost $1,100, bottoming my roll out at $300.  My confidence bubble was burst, my dreams were shattered.  I “realized” that my hopes of poker success on the internet were just pipe dreams all along.  It felt like I couldn’t ever win a hand or make a draw – nevermind win a session – something I had no experience with handling at the time. The dream of turning nothing into something looked like only that – a dream that would end soon enough.

Life Earn til December 21

But it didn’t.

Christmas Eve morning, 2004. I wasn’t exhausted and was looking to play something even though it was early in the morning and I felt like I sucked. I decided to play a 10+1 MTT at 1AM on Pacific. A few hours later, I was at the final table, playing tight, aggressive, winning poker. Soon enough, it was down to the final two. My opponent had quite a chip lead, and one suckout later, I was out, but I earned $523.60 for my efforts that morning. Winning ANYTHING though was enough to make me very happy and my previously tattered self-faith was cautiously restored.

A day later, after doing the usual Xmas thing and feeling good about my win the day before – and back to having almost $1000 online at that point – I decided to enter a pot-limit MTT at noon. Again, I found myself at the final table in two hours. I got second place in this game, too, for another $513. This would also be the start of a fairly long-term love of pot-limit, as I had never played PL before then.  A few days after that, I got 4th in another MTT for another $450.

My bankroll had been resurrected (finally). I won nearly $2,100 in the last ten days of December and had met my goal to make $2,500 by the end of the year from poker.

December Earnings

2004 Earnings

Over a period of 3 months I had won over $3,025 from poker, the vast majority of it one-tabling Pacific Poker online. I played a total of 620 table hours of poker in 2004, and earned $2,747 online and $275 from home games. I went into January having learned a lot about poker from my past three months of dedicated play and I felt very prepared for the months to come. I knew it would be tough to earn $7,500 in 4 months, but I felt like it could be done. When one of my good friends told me I was crazy for setting the bar that high, I responded with two words : “We’ll see.”

I set out after my next goal – winning $10,000 by my birthday on April 15th.

Parts 4+ to come tomorrow…

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