Dirk Knemeyer

Graduation and variance

As my friends and followers know, poker has become my primary leisure activity over the past few years. And what I’m finding is that the more I play, and the better I get, the higher of stakes I’m playing for. Consider this basic evolution:

2003 – 3-6 and 5-10 limit games
2005 – $100 max buy-in no limit games
2006 (Spring) – $200 max buy-in spread limit games
2006 (August) – $500 max buy-in spread limit games

That’s a pretty steep curve – at least for me, who has taken a conservative approach to my poker playing.

I did well at the limit games while experiencing high variance of success and failure. By the time I moved into the $100 max buy-in no limit games I was a pretty good cash player and largely rolled the game: I was often winning upwards of 10x my buy-in, a sure sign that I was playing below my ability. Moving up to the $200 max level was an interesting experience: I felt pretty strongly that I was better than much of the competition, but my results were eventually mixed. I was way up during the early months but had a (pretty recent) bad patch that brought me down around even for the level. So far my single experience at the $500 max game was again that I am good enough for the game, and I about tripled my buy-in for the session (being staked by my friend Tim).

So while I now see the $500 game as my comfortable level of play I am definitely not done with the $200 level: regardless of how I view myself at the table, if I can’t consistently beat it I can’t confidently move up higher. For context, while these levels are considered insignificant for professional gamblers they are pretty exhilerating for an amateur like me: big pots with multiple raisers often exceed $1000 for a single hand. Its a little humbling to remember that, just three years ago, I couldn’t imagine ever playing a game where I could lose $100 on a single bet. Now I’m pumping in multiple $200 raises on a single hand. I never would have imagined it.

The good news-bad news is that the $500 spread is the biggest game I can play at my local, conveniently located casinos. Good news in that there is a cap on how much I can be risking. Even though I’ve shown excellent bankroll management and avoided addictive gambling behaviour, I’m all for external constraints as an additional safeguard. The bad news is that I don’t really have anywhere else to go with my game, when and if I conquer the $200 and $500 games, being that I have neither the ambition nor the interest to be a professional poker player.

So that’s where I’m at with my poker. If you are interested in this check out my recent series on poker, business and design at Core77. Expect more poker updates to come in the weeks ahead.

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