Thursday, April 14, 2011

Getting Your Game Ready For U.S. Legalization


NASCAR racing is the gold standard in America for fan attendance, with races drawing upwards of 150,000 spectators.

How popular is online poker? On a given Wednesday afternoon, the number of players logged on to PokerStars exceeds 300,000. Even as the economy has fallen, interest in online poker has risen. And it’s accomplished despite online poker remaining in a legal netherworld in the United States. That’s like Lebron James averaging a triple-double for the season while playing with a broken leg.

Online poker is bigger than it’s ever been, yet it’s present audience is probably smaller than it will ever be.

Should online poker become legal in the United States — and the indications lately are that it will — it could have a seismic affect on the game. How much the total audience would grow is anyone’s guess, but it would surely inject the game with new blood. The biggest step forward occurred when PokerStars formed an alliance with Las Vegas hotelier Steve Wynn to advocate for legalization. Wynn has the ear of Senator Harry Reid, who has championed poker legislation in the past. Now the offshore businesses are aligned with the on-shores, providing some much-needed momentum to the movement.

As is the case in most things, you need only follow the money to see the way things are trending. Someone with Wynn’s clout wouldn’t invest himself in such a partnership were he not certain that poker legalization was imminent. He’d not put his interest, time and personal equity behind this endeavor were he not abundantly sure of its eventual success.

Should online poker be sanctioned, it could be a full-scale land rush. This might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — and this is coming from a guy who in an earlier column said that online poker may never be harder than it is now. While I said it was a great time to get in if you wanted to supplement your income or perhaps replace your so-so income by doing something you actually care about, I actively discouraged people from throwing themselves into poker if they had dreams of becoming wildly rich. For a variety of reasons I felt the poker economy was struggling.

As a result, I was focused on making as much as I could, as fast as I could. If my business had an expiration date on it, I wasn’t going to invest much in the future.

But if your business is suddenly granted a huge contract — which is essentially what legalization would do — and that contract indicates you’ll have a job for the rest of your working days with huge performance incentives, you’d be advised to shift your emphasis to research and development. You should be laying the groundwork for the future, as opposed to just making money now.

I’ve become much more optimistic because of this pending legalization. I could not have given this advice in good conscience six months ago, but today I can say that if you have an inkling toward making serious money at poker, now is the time to make your move.

How can you prepare yourself for what appear to be boom days ahead?

If you’re considering poker as a career or serious income stream, my advice is this: Quite simply, you need to play, then play some more. There are probably 12-18 months until the online game is fully legislated in the U.S. You need to take advantage.

I know that sounds simplistic, but it’s true. Many of us study poker theory and immerse ourselves in instruction sites and forums, preparing ourselves for the day we eventually commit to the game. Well, my friends, that time has come. You need to get out of your head and onto the virtual felt. You need to regiment yourself, and get yourself on a steady diet of tables. You need to make your game instinctive.

Again, that sounds obvious. But why do you think baseball players spend hours taking batting practice and 30 minutes watching video? Why do you think Kobe Bryant takes a thousand jumpers every day, as opposed to having a coach diagram his jumper on a chalkboard? Why do you think Tiger Woods hits 500 balls on the range rather than watch his swing on tape for five hours?

It’s about repetitions, and poker is no different.

Much of my ability to win at poker is related to raw experience. I’ve played nearly 10 million hands. I know that when someone check-calls the flop and check-raises the turn that it is a really powerful, underutilized play that weak players will use to try to trap you for two bets before they sneak in a check-raise.

You rarely ever see a check-call on the flop and a check-raise on the turn as a bluff. The only way I know that is because I’ve played so many hands.

If you’re someone who’s working a day job but wants to become a poker player someday, I would suggest apportioning your money into three categories: 1) Education. Choose the game at which you feel you can best succeed, find a coach who’s done well at that game, and then actively watch his videos and read his books. 2) Present bankroll to get repetitions at small-stakes games. Get comfortable with the software and the ebb and flow of the games. 3) Future bankroll. I advocate having enough money for 100 buy-ins before you move up in stakes, though that number is for full-time players. Adjust accordingly if you plan to be a serious part-time player.

My advice is a little difference if you’re already taking the game seriously, in which case less might be more.

If you’re presently an online pro or part-time pro, you need to focus on improving your game now more than ever. Scrub your game free of bad habits. If you’re playing 12-16 tables, now might be a really good time to drop down and really scrutinize the way you play. Take notes actively as you play and write down the situations and opponents that are giving you a hard time. When you sit down to play the next day, devote an hour to reviewing those notes, looking for common denominators among your problem areas. Either figure out how to correct those issues, or ask for help.

Right now I’m concerning myself with improvement, and am less focused on income for 2011. I’m willing to drop down to 6-8 tables if that means I evolve as a player. My simple goal is that on Jan. 1, 2012, I’ll look back on today and laugh at how little I knew about the game.

My advice is to make your goal the same.

source: Getting Your Game Ready For U.S. Legalization - Dusty 'leatherass' Schmidt Blog -

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