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Play Tournaments for Profit

JustfourfunJustfourfun Posts: 200Subscriber
edited February 2018 in Tournament Discussion
My goal with this post is to pump up the Tournament discussions on CLP.

Posting hands in the NLHE forum and the tournament threads has been beneficial to my play. Cash game play is certainly a big part of CLP but Tournament play is also frequently discussed and an important element of CLP. When I visit the forums I start out in the Tournament forum but will oftentimes quickly move to NLHE Strat since there is more going on there. I have a goal of proving that a player can play tournaments for profit. We all know about variance and the millions of hours one must play to wring out Variance - whatever.. I just do not have that much time to play.

About my status as a player. I do not rely on income from poker which is likely a huge benefit to my poker game. However, the money I earn playing poker is important to me and I definitely enjoy certain finer things in life I can afford from my poker winnings. Am I a professional player or recreational player?? Hmmmm, maybe trending toward professional. My businesses are important to me and I would not abandon them for poker. But, if by hiring another employee I could free up some additional time to devote to poker then yes that seems to make sense. Last year I played 420 total hours with 150 of cash game hours and 270 of tourneys. In 2018 my goal is to play 650 hours total with 500 tourney hours and 150 cash.

Playing cash games definitely improves my tournament play and its fun. Some days I am itching to play and will get knocked out of a tourney and then play cash. I am learning PLO and think its a fun game. I also think playing PLO will help my tournament game. Like learning French helps a person to have a deeper understanding of English.

I am a cash game player turned tournament player so I use a different matrix to evaluate perfromance than a typical tournament player. I understand ROI but don’t use it. I evaluate my play based on earnings per hour. I understand that winnings and losses from a $10K buy-in tournament should factor differently than a $200 buy-in tourney. Whatever, I just don’t care. I play a tight range of buy-in amounts of $200 - $3,500 with the Main Event being the only outlier at $10,000.

I have been told that the House’s take from tournaments far exceeds the comparable rake from a cash game. I don’t know and would like to find out more about that topic. One thing I am quite certain of and have found no opinion to the contrary - is that cash game players are on average more skillful that tourney players. In my estimation the average tourney player in the tournaments I play, their skill level on a scale of 1 - 10 is about a 3. In cash games that number goes up to about an 8.

I do not agree that playing in a tournament is like buying a lottery ticket. Ego is such a big factor in poker and I truly believe that some cash game pros have a difficult time dealing with a common tourney scenario where the novice fish tournament player sits on the big stack and takes on the role of table captain to the chagrin of the accomplished cash game pro. Check your ego at the door and grind that short stack.

I had an awesome 2017 with an hourly rate of $1,304. In 2018 I am at $186/hr. down from a high of $336/hr. I use excel to track my results which I would recommend. Attached are my tournament results. I really want to exceed my 2017 hourly rate which I know is gonna be tough but not impossible.

Come join me


  • 8BitJoe8BitJoe Posts: 13Subscriber
    What stakes do you usually play cash?

    I am intrigued by the notion that, on average, tourney players are much worse but the rake is higher.

    I play up to $5/10 in Vegas regularly and would certainly not put my average competition @ an 8, even if we went exclusively 5/10. People are still not using blockers or constructing ranges or thinking about opponent ranges anywhere near well enough. Also bet sizing...

    They're just not that good.
  • neverlearn2neverlearn2 Posts: 2,862Subscriber
    Would you ever consider chopping in smaller tournies? Also how much u tip for small wins or any wins of that ?
  • JustfourfunJustfourfun Posts: 200Subscriber
    Cash 2/5 and 5/10. I started playing a little 1/2 Plo. How would you rate a typical 5/10 player versus a $500 buy in tourney player?
  • JustfourfunJustfourfun Posts: 200Subscriber
    Would you ever consider chopping in smaller tournies? Also how much u tip for small wins or any wins of that ?
    I am not always asked to chop in smaller tourneys. When I am asked what I will say is, “let’s play it out. You never know when you might be involved in a big tournament and are forced to play short handed for a lot of money. We don’t get many chances to play 5,4,3 handed or heads up and this tourney will help us prepare for success when big money is on the line. Tipping? Not sure that this is right but it seems like the house is taking a big cut from the entry fees so if i win $20,000 i tip maybe $200 or $300. Maybe $100 if I win $4000, i cant remember but I think about $500 when I won $282,000. I have asked other tourney players what they tip around me and I think I’m about average.

    Thanked by 1neverlearn2
  • JustfourfunJustfourfun Posts: 200Subscriber
    8BitJoe wrote: »
    What stakes do you usually play cash?

    I am intrigued by the notion that, on average, tourney players are much worse but the rake is higher.

    I play up to $5/10 in Vegas regularly and would certainly not put my average competition @ an 8, even if we went exclusively 5/10. People are still not using blockers or constructing ranges or thinking about opponent ranges anywhere near well enough. Also bet sizing...

    They're just not that good.
    Joe the above response from me; 2/5; 5/10; 1/2 PLO and “how do you rate the player” was to you. I wasn’t very clear. I’m interested in your relative rating.
  • MXRiderMXRider Posts: 53Subscriber
    While I love playing tournaments, the amount of time required to see results and get through variance, makes it pretty difficult for recreational players to play for profit. For me, I play an occassional trny but it's generally $100 or less buyin, and the rake is pretty large making it that much more difficult.
  • naxetaminaxetami Posts: 26Subscriber
    I feel as if im in similar situation. Poker is fun on the side but will never replace my business. While playing I certainly feel more like a “pro” than a rec player because i approach it with the same level of deliberation and desire to be profitable.

    I try to keep my personal/business/poker rolls separate, and generally use my cash game winnings to cover tournament entries. But i certainly wouldnt be playing bracelet/wpt type events if i had to rely on poker income. What kills me is the variance, and i justify $1500+ buyins by recognizing its for fun with no significant expectation for a ROI (that would just be soul crushing).

    When playing against recognizable, seasoned tourney pros, i definitely dont feel the advantage i seem to have at cash games. They seem more willing to push close edges and risk their stacks than i do at cash. But against the average tourney player (rec OR pro), i certainly feel as if I have the edge.

    All that said, my expectations of my performance are increasing and i hope to start improving my results at the bigger buy in games. Its pretty sobering to look back at my first few wsop tourneys and realize how awful i played, and how much ive learned since then.

    Thanks for starting the thread.
  • Bart HansonBart Hanson Posts: 6,109Administrator, LeadPro
    Thanks for starting this thread Jim. I discussed it on a recent podcast.

    Can you attribute your success in tournaments to anything in particular? I have been a successful cash player for over 10 years and I have never really had a lot of success.. I'm trying to figure out if I am approaching NL tournaments in the wrong way, somehow or if I have just had a lot of negative variance at the end of events, like at last years $10,000 LAPC. I easily could have been in the top 3 in chips with 15 people left last year if I hadn't lost a 92/8 and a 70/30 at the end of day 5. But I get to those spots so infrequently its tough for me to quantify if my lack of results is just bad luck as I dont play much volume. --Bart
  • JustfourfunJustfourfun Posts: 200Subscriber
    edited March 2018
    I definitely attribute my success to hand reading skills developed on CLP. Bart, I will diagram the hands from your call in shows and really analyze and think about your logic breaking down the hands. Participating in the forums is another way I have developed hand reading. I takes time to describe in writing in a post on the forums a hand history. The more I do this the faster I can do it. This skill is really helpful in live tournament play when I am reconstructing a hand history in my mind facing a tough decision.

    I approach tournaments differently than cash games. When playing in a cash game I focus on making positive EV decisions. If i am felted in a cash game while making a long term positive EV decision I will merely reload and move on to the next hand. I approach tournaments more conservatively. I want to avoid losing chips and I will wait for good spots that seem to come my way with patience. And the bigger my stack is relative to the field and the BB the more cautious I will play, longer levels will also encourage patience. If I am short stacked at 20 - 40 BB then I am forced to play poker as best that i can and cautious conservative play is no longer an option.

    But, with a big stack of 100+BB and with 60 minute levels I am in my comfort zone and I do not like to get involved in hands unless I am clearly in a good spot. So for instance in a hand where UTG has 100+ BB and opens pre-flop for the third consecutive hand to 2.2x BB, folds to me on the button with 100+ BB and i have AJo? I might just fold. It’s not that great of a spot for me and better spots are likely around the corner.

    I rarely limp, i rarely raise less than 3x the BB.

    I like to convince myself that my opponents have a post-flop edge over me so to compensate I better start off with a stronger hand. I don’t have to over call with AJo in position.

    Folded to me in CO and I have Kh8h? I am coming in for a raise. My image is generally super tight, K8 suited is likely best of the four hands (actually not entirely sure if that hand is likely best versus three random) with only the button potentially having position. I like an opening in late position with K8 suited much better than an over call with AJ off. K8 has fold equity and is in control of the hand.

    I will set mine but only when I think I have a likelihood to do so for a small investment with a big return of 20 times my small investment. I don’t attempt hero calls with little pairs post flop. Too risky.

    I see so much slow play in tournaments that I think is bad play. Fancy play syndrome seems rampant amongst generally weak tournament players. If I flop quad 9s on a Th 9h 9s board I will bet that flop hard as the turn may be too late to get called. Plus, an over pair might put me on a draw otf but not on the turn.

    I think a lot of tournament players make bad calls of flop bets hoping to hit the turn. It seems to me that a lot of tournament players will inaccurately overplay their draws looking to double up while being overly ready to re-buy. Floating post flop with second or third pair also seems to be a common tournament player error. I like to bet big otf, 80 percent of the pot since I will get called by worse often.

    Since no one wants to grind the short stack in tournaments bluffing seems much more common in tournaments than in cash games. So... I bluff less in tourneys and bet my made hands harder.

    In most tournaments I will go long stretches of inactivity where I give away 33% of my stack to antes and blinds.

    I am comfortable grinding the short stack and take pride doing so for hours at a time.

    I recently saw a big name tournament pro call two all-in shoves otf. Set moves all in otf, second player with nut flush draw moves all in and then world class top 20 all time tournament winning pro shoves all-in with Q high flush draw, drawing dead???? WTF??? He just doesn’t care. Probably already had someone else in line at the cage paying for his rebuy with other peoples money.

    I keep a constant tally of everyone’s stack at my table and play more hands with the shorter stacks. When players stack falls to 50% or less of starting stack or 20BB or less - these are the players I want to play with. Their ranges will open up dramatically.
    Thanked by 1neverlearn2
  • JustfourfunJustfourfun Posts: 200Subscriber
    So far in 2018 my goal of playing tournaments for profit has been successful. Statistics are good and I will detail below. As someone who played cash games for profit for about four years - mainly 2/5 with a $500 cap buy in - my criteria has always been hourly win rate. For 2018 my tournament hourly win rate is $121/hr. I have won $16,229 in just over 134 hours of tournament play.

    Various stats and my thoughts...

    - I have played in 15 tournaments so far this year. Total buy-ins of $13,940. Total cashes $30,169. I do think that being fresh and well rested in the tournaments I play is a big advantage for me. But, I would like to increase the number of tournaments I play in and try to get to 450 hours of tournament play for this year and 50ish tournaments

    - Average buy in is under $1000. I plan to play three WSOP events: a $1,500; 2,500; and the $10,000 main event this year. All NLHE. I like the $600 to $3,000 buy in range. But the ME is just a special deal and is not to be missed.

    - most of my winnings came this year from a 4th/282 $600 buyin at the Venetian: $22,516. Seems typical that you might have 5 cashes but the biggest cash exceeds all the rest combined

    - Cashed 5 out of 15 tournaments. This seems insignificant. It’s really important to finish top 3. Cashing is overrated. Who really cares?

    - my results are not great for where I have been late in tournaments. I have been final table chip leader twice and finished 4th and 5th. I seem to be sputtering late in tournaments and can’t wait to close one out

    - My tournament winnings continue to far outpace my cash game winnings. Playing less and less cash all the time. But, I still do really enjoy cash games; 2/5; 5/10 NLHE. I think cash games are fun but for me not so profitable. Tournament play is where I plan to win real money. And for fun I’ve also been playing a bit of 1/2 PLO. Playing cash games and working to be the best cash game player I can be helps my tournament play.

    - WSOP events I plan to play: #1 - Tuesday June 5th $1,500 NLHE - Event #13; #2 Thursday June 21st $2,500 NLHE - Event #43 (I took second in this event last year); and the Main Event

    - If so far in 2018 I pay $13,940 in tournament buy ins and win $30,169 I believe my ROI is 116%. I am not really familiar with the term ROI as it relates to poker but I have heard that term mentioned by tournament poker players. I am very familiar with ROI as a commercial real estate investment professional. I doubt there is any difference between the ROI analysis but I am not sure. If this is how to compute poker tourney ROI then my poker tournament ROI last year was absurdly high. If so, then poker tourney ROI seems like not a thing to be discussed. Can anyone help me out with Poker ROI?

    - I have been busy so far this year doing due diligence on an office building I am buying. ROI is analyzed and recalibrated throughout the process. I plan to close on Thursday and so after Thursday I will have more time to devote to playing hold em. My ROI on a commercial real estate investment cannot come close to my poker tournament ROI but... much less variance in commercial real estate. Ha!

    - I took a look a tasty stakes and have thought about selling pieces to some larger buy in tournaments. I have seen 1.0 - 1.4 price quotes. How high do these numbers go? Do any players charge 2.5?

    - I continue to listen and analyze the CLP podcasts and especially the call in shows. If I can’t make it to play in a tournament then I can stay sharp and ready by listening to and analyzing CLP material

    - I like posting on the forums and I really think it helps my game alot. I will read someone’s post of a hand and then comment on it. I will give my response my best effort. I will sometimes think about the post and my response over a couple of days while I pay attention to the other member’s responses. I don’t alway think highly of my input on the forums despite the fact that my posts are my best effort. In fact, I later think some of my comments are a bit embarrassing. But, I learn so much more when I post something that later does not seem to be the best response and I have a chance to review some other CLPer’s better hand analysis. I learn more from the mistakes that I make than from the times I am right. For the times that my analysis is good... You truly master an art when you know a topic well enough to explain it well to someone else.

    - I bought a condo at the Veer tower next to the Aria casino and moved my residence to Vegas. I can work from anywhere. Having my own place in Vegas is really nice and helps my hold em play as well.
  • maphacksmaphacks Posts: 2,009Subscriber
    Having goals is nice. Having monetary goals sucks though. Especially when you are a live mtt player. Ever seen a mtt online graph? I doubt it , otherwise you would probably agree that 1.3k hourly is impossible in the longrun for your average buyin. By no means am I an expert and I don't know your skill but having too high goals will only leave you disappointed in the best case and with complete lack of confidence in the worst case.

    Some might argue those words can only come from an envious unsuccesful cash player but I truely believe 95%+ mtt players are completely delusional and most will end up broke. That's part of the reason why the smarter ones are all getting staked.
    Not an issue for you though since you seem to have a regular income. Good luck and keep your job.
    Thanked by 1beauregard
  • JustfourfunJustfourfun Posts: 200Subscriber
    As an entrepreneur I have not had a J O B in over 20 years. I like to think of tournament hold em as one of three businesses that I own. Hold em is fun and potentially wildly lucarative. Playing hold em stress free helps a ton. I can get down on hold em and sometimes I don’t feel like playing when I’m in a downswing. I would not be comfortable with hold em as my only income source.
  • Bart HansonBart Hanson Posts: 6,109Administrator, LeadPro
    See you at the meetup today, Jim.

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