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The Luckiest Man in the World?

Posted by James Davis

You may have noticed my conspicuous absence on the forums, if you have been a member here long enough to know that I used to regularly post on the forums!  It's not because of anything you did, so please, don't take it personally :)

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be lucky, recently.  On a whim, I masochistically checked poker table ratings last night to see if my profile was still there. Yup, the final black eye on my poker career is still there for everyone to see.  I had a chuckle, thinking about how it makes me look like the David Stern of poker - someone who had a long and successful career but who ultimately stuck around too long.  As always, I did a sanity check and returned to my old hold 'em manager databases...being off by over $100,000 in all-in EV over the course of a year (much of that at 5/10 and 10/20) has both kept me up at nights and helped me sleep. On one hand, it makes me feel like maybe I didn't just start to suck at poker. It helps me reconcile the (appropriate) comments on my PTR - "This guy is a coach!??! What a [bleeping] joke!" On the other hand, it makes me look at the rest of my finances, and think, "You know, it'd be nice to have that money in my bank account instead of in Sklansky bux on my HEM database."

I remember having the conversation with all my poker friends. "Dude," they'd say, "this has to be one of the unluckiest stretches ever."  I'd agree, and go off feeling like I had patched together some of my pride among those whose opinions mattered to me.  But today I really thought about the history of my luck, and it really helped me put things in perspective.

For public record, my biggest bouts with luck:

Fall, 2003.  My poker account is at $275 (my net worth as well).  Working as the beverages stocker in my college cafeteria, I win a tournament on Party Poker for $3,000 after hitting several %5-%30 shots.  

2003-2004: Party Poker offers the softest LHE games in history, and I make 6 figures, which felt like monopoly money as I graduated college.  My winrate is almost undoubtedly a product of excellent luck as well, but at the very least, I did not have bad luck.  My poker career has begun as I decide not to go into teaching or camping because the money is so hard to pass up.

2005-2008: I never have a downswing more than 300 bbs in limit hold em. I run the hottest of anyone when Party rolls out it's $10/$20 NLHE game and make 80 buyins in the 2nd month it's offered.   I do quite well at $25/$50 and $50/$100 NLHE, and get my brains pounded at $300/600 lmit and $100/$200 NLHE.  I'll never know if it was my skill or luck that was the cause of this, but I know at the very least I ran awfully in some of the softest limit games ever on UB and Interpoker.

2009-2011: My luck really goes into the tank as games get harder, and my mental game goes to hell in the process.  By the end of 2010 my confidence is truly shaken in spite of constantly checking graphs against my luck, and I decide I might do something else for a living.

Investment luck:
I bought 2 properties at the height of the real estate bubble. One I've already sold for a six figure loss, and the other is on the market and looking like a mid-five figure loss (if it sells).  I have been able to navigate choppy waters in the stock market and turn a small profit since 2003, but am mid-six figures down from my peak in 2008.

Life luck:  Had a healthy son in 2010, married someone awesome in 2008.  Perhaps in the biggest bout of luck I've ever had, I landed an absolutely incredible job in early 2011, which is what has taken me away from you all. I got a job as the Director of a camp called The Vanderkamp Center, which is a Christian Summer Camp and retreat center in central New York. I write a blog there about child development theory that you may fancy, if that's you're thing. Even though my relevant camping experience was nearly 5 years behind me, they took a chance on me to help turn around this business. The job has been absolutely amazing, and the only time I don't want to go to work is when I am having a particularly good time with my family.  Most of my life expenses are taken care of, and while I make less than many of the pots I've played in my life, I have something absolutely invaluable:
Peace of Mind

I still have a good amount of money saved up from my poker days, and what's great is: poker is fun again. I still play regularly (and mostly anonymously, which is very nice), and it's actually fun to keep my game sharp. I am winning again, which is nice as well :)   Between work, family, and poker, I find almost no time for anything else on the internet, which is why you don't see me active in the forums. I do apologize for that. I mean to be keeping up and contributing more to this community (and plan to do so in the future), but for right now - life calls.  I'll keep making videos, and will promise that if I ever feel like I've lost a step in poker, I will resign from making vids.

So to sum up all my luck, what can I possibly say? I have made more than most playing poker, but definitely not as much as some. I have a rather unceremonious ending to being a professional poker player.   My poker career did not shake out ideally in the end..but I managed to keep a semblance of a resume together to land my dream job, have a wonderful family, and wonderful prospects for the future.  I'll never get the money back from those all-in EV spots, and I'll never recoup the losses from selling our old house.  Even still - if I would have hit bad streaks at the beginning of my poker career, I'd never have made a dime in this silly game.

I also know that the sum of my life experiences has led me to this exact point at this exact moment in time, and for that, I will throw my name into consideration for the Luckiest Man in the World.

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Don’t Forget About Freedom This Time

Posted by James Davis

I haven't blogged in ages, but the recent events have me here ready to roll.

The DOJ going after the three major sites is not an outrage.  They've been telling us they were going to do this since 2007.  We just didn't believe they'd be able to do it. We were comfortable with a status quo for so long, ignoring the implications of the UIGEA and keeping the obvious gun in the room under a curtain.

Perhaps now people will see what the UIGEA really meant. It was a personal attack on our freedom as human beings. A political power play to restrict ways that Americans can spend their own hard earned and overtaxed money.  The government gave us the middle finger, and we scattered like cockroaches.

We dealt with the interest free theft of our money in the Neteller situation.  We dealt with a direct attack on our earning power. But that isn't even half of the problem. The problem is that the government looked us in the eye and said,
"You there. The one doing a completely victimless act. The one playing a game with other grownups who know the rules before they play. The one who gambles in a game of skill in a way that is legal in several states. The one who makes a fraction of the money off of gambling that the state does.  YOU CAN NO LONGER DO THIS! WE DEMAND A MONOPOLY ON GAMBLING!"

And what did we do? We had modest outrage, and then we just found ways to subvert the intent of their law.  As poker players, we(myself included) should be ashamed of taking that lying down.  As human beings, we cowered like children before an abusive father holding a belt.  Our fellow Americans scoffed at us since our enterprise wasn't mainstream, and ignored this injustice altogether.  For more examples, see:  how gay people's rights are treated, immigration laws, civil rights laws until they were changed, a woman's right to vote - the right to play poker is relatively small here.
But we have ourselves to blame.  The gun was in the room the whole time - the only thing that has changed is that it has been unveiled.  The issue is that these government run monopolies have been moralizing for our families and passing and enforcing laws that they say are for our betterment when they are BLATANTLY to line their own pockets.  Liquor licenses, gambling licenses, tobacco's not for your good.  As a poker player, hopefully you see that now.

But I BEG you.  When the US regulates poker and FTP, PS, and UB or whomever are on the outside looking in as far as "obtaining a license."  And you are back to making big bucks - sitting on your yacht - milking American fish while you and the government both get rich off of legalized and regulated poker in the US.  I BEG you not to forget the lesson learned here recently.

The government is not there to ensure your freedom.  The government is a profit making enterprise.  They don't care about stopping our earning potential so they can scratch the backs of their lobbyists.  They don't care about freezing the funds of families who might REALLY need the money sometime soon.  When you are rich from poker when it is finally regulated - don't THANK the government for giving you back your freedom.

They are using our tax money to buy something we most certainly do not approve of. It doesn't matter if 51% of people want this. We don't. We are human beings, and our say matters beyond the tyranny of the 51% majority(or in this case, the whims of a lame duck govt. official who would have his own political means reached on a rider to bill). Have Americans ever even voted on this issue? Do average Americans even care if we play?

Poker is not a big deal. It's a niche market.  People playing poker or not isn't the point. The point is that they are shrugging their shoulders at us and saying, "We really don't care what you want. We don't care about tying up your money, stopping your earning power, or you, really."  If that is representative government, I must not know what representative means.  This isn't a precedent, either.  It's common practice. I just hope that I don't hear a single "thank you" to any government official when poker is regulated to make them money.   I don't want people making excuses for government theft and coercion in the future. I don't want any rationalization or moralization of government action.
A business's unstated first priority is self-preservation.  The government is acting to preserve itself and make money. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Running Hot in February!

Posted by James Davis

Hey folks. Well, I know February is not technically over yet, but I am riding high after a nice day today so I figured there was no time like the present to post to the old blog. I will probably lose 20k in the next 2 days, so I will pre-empt that by talking about the month's results to date instead!

It was another nice one for me. I managed about 45k so far this month thanks to a 12k day today. I ran well over all-in EV today to the tune of about 8k, but you'll never hear me complain about having good luck. I made a few nice plays, including a hand that played out this way:

I had TTKK and raised UTG. I had the Ks. CO, BTN, and SB all called and the flop was Ts9s7d. The sb lead into us for the pot. He was a straightforward player, and I was sure he had J8. I called, and the button called quickly. The turn was a 5s. The sb checked immediately, I checked, and the button checked really fast. The river was a 6d. The sb checked again, I contemplated a bluff, but didn't want to sb to be pot controlling a J high flush or something similar. Maybe I should have bluffed here, but I didn't. The button instantly potted it. The sb folded quickly, and now I am thinking...he can't have the A high flush. He would have bet the turn. I have the Ks. Is he really potting a smaller flush than that? If he had a straight, he would just check and hope it was I called. He had KQJ2 and I was good.

In another, I raise button with Kd4d8s9s, and the sb and bb calls in a PLO cap game. I've been experimenting more with PLO and having a pretty good time, btw. So the flop comes 4c, 7s, Td. The turn is the 2s, and the sb checks again. The bb now insta pots, and I call. The bb is a bluffy donk, and the sb is straightforward. I figure if the sb had anything, he would have bet. He folded. The river was the 7c and the bb instantly bets around 1/2 the pot. I didnt think he would do this with a 7(he'd bet more), and i didn't think he'd bother to bet with a T. And if he did, I think he would at least think before betting. I was a little worried he'd bluff a better hand than mine, but I was getting a good enough price that I called, and he had 9845 and I took it down. There are a lot of fun hand reading spots in PLO, and I am really enjoying them.

The thing I have been most proud about this year is my diligence in playing. I've played nearly 100k hands in 2 months, which is just a ton for me. The motivation of the kid being on the way has helped a lot, I think, as I have wasted far less time doing nothing during the day. I'll play about 2k hands every day from 10-2 or so, and that still leaves me plenty of time for my house-husbandly duties. It's amazing what a little motivation can do for your game, as I've been studying more, talking to people about poker more, and just focusing more in general. I honestly think this blog has helped a lot, since I don't want to come back here with my hat in my hand explaining away a losing month while secretly knowing it was due to me playing bad. I encourage you guys to have someone to hold you accountable to playing a lot, or not tilting, or whatever. It has certainly helped me a lot, and I've been at this 6 years now.

Til next time!


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James Davis: 2010 Looking Good

Posted by James Davis

Hey folks, I'll start by saying that the best thing I could have done was be up front and honest with my thoughts about my game from last year. I think I had been having trouble facing the fact that I simply wasn't playing well, and coming out and saying it made all the difference in the world.

January was a solid month. I lost 13k the first week, wound up winning 70k over the next 2 weeks, before dropping 27 in the last week of the month. This leaves me with a solid, if unspectacular month of 30k in winnings for about 55k hands. I am exceptionally happy about my lack of tilt for the month. I can easily say that the 2 weeks in the middle of the month were about as hot as I've run, but that didn't compare to the last week where I ran as bad as humanly possible. My all-in EV was -$575 dollars over that period, while my losses were 27k.

I was happy with my selective shot taking...taking shots at games above where I have typically been playing(shooting at 10 20 PLO, some 25 50). I quit when games got bad no matter what my session situation was. For people who take a lot of shots, you know that the biggest test by far is when you are running bad while taking a shot and the game gets bad. It's easy to lose your mind and try to recover your losses. I managed to avoid this, and am very proud.

So while my month was looking great for a while, I simply can't be disappointed with a 30k win.

My wife is doing great during her pregnancy with our first child. Still pretty surreal. It was pretty nice to book a little win this month just to sock away some cash in the checking acct in preparation for the baby, since a very large portion of my net worth is locked up in my stock portfolio/real estate concerns. I could always cash out from there if I needed to, but the psychological effects of having to do that wouldn't be great, not to mention the practical penalty of having to pay capital gains tax.

Thanks to everyone who gave me positive feedback on the last blog. Looking forward to blogging at least once per month about how the year is going. Please post stuff in the forum, and if you ever post a hand you'd like me to look at, send me a PM, and I will take a look eventually :)

Til then.


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James Davis: A bad year(An Awesome Blog Post)

Posted by James Davis

This is going to be an awesome blog post. I, like Milwaukee2, have never blogged before, so here I go.

First things first. I had a bad year last year. Real bad. The worst of my last 5 years. In fact, it was so bad that it is a bit embarrassing. But hey, I made some money, have some savings, and am not busto yet.

My first year as a pro was amazing. I won more money than I could have imagined. Party Poker made 10 20 NL the next year, and I made 4x than I made the year before. The year after that I increased my winnings another 30%. Then the UIGEA happened. My winnings were cut in half the following year.

This was pretty damn discouraging, but I was still cruising well enough. Then last year happened. I played more hands than I ever had in a year. I had my worst year ever.

I figured it would be best to just be up front about it. My tableratings for my well known name(hellopuppy) simply aren't very good. I have made more than it says, but the idea remains: my results last year sucked. As a grown up, all I can do is try to figure out why.

I spent December really reflecting on things, and I came to a few realizations.

1) I was playing way too many tables. I was playing up to 12 at a time, and it was just too much.

2) I wasn't table selecting.

3) I was spreading limits too much, which leads to the worst one...

4) I was tilting! For the first time ever, tilt became a regular occurrence. I don't mean raging moron tilt, but the subtle, self-loathing kind where you are pushing variance all over the place.

5) I wasn't studying.

6) I pitied myself for having bad luck. All-in EV is sort of a joke in a lot of respects, but I ran 40 buyins below all-in EV. I would stare at HEM every day, being pissed, and hating life. My life is awesome, what the hell was I doing?

7) I let the pressures of real life get to me. For my first 4 years as a pro, I had few expenses. After buying my house and having a much larger monthly nut, the seriousness of making money was really weighing on me. I started to press even further when I found out that my wife is pregnant with our first child. It was really an adjustment to worry about real life...I honestly hadn't in 4 years. I am adjusted now, and ready to kick ass.

The good news is, I consider my self reflection successful. I finished December off in a great frame of mind, and I have approached this year with a much better attitude. I had very tough luck in week 1 of 2010, but never tilted. I studied every day. This week has been great, and I am up solidly for the year already.

I believe I can really teach poker. I believe I can really play poker. Thanks for coming to DTB, and I hope that I can prove both to you in 2010.

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