01/05/2008

You Haven't Made it Yet

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Continuing the theme of limit hold’em for one more week, you already know by now that I rate this game as tough to beat in an online environment as any other game out there in my opinion. But it is a fact that because of the terrible variance in short handed limit hold’em games that many players who think that they are beating the game may not be.

Because the variance is so high then anyone who has only around 10,000 hands of results to go on has only barely scratched the surface. The variance in limit hold’em has also increased since the days when I first started playing it online simply because the games have become more tight aggressive and the bigger limit games now require a much bigger bankroll than they used to in order to reduce the chances of going broke.

When I first started online back in 2002 then a bankroll of 250 to 300 big bets was sufficient but this is blatantly not the case anymore. I have said a few times that limit hold’em is my favourite game, but if I stop and think about this for a minute then I don’t believe this to be the truth and I may be kidding myself here.

Many top professionals in the higher stakes games have 1000 big bet bankrolls which is indicative of just how brutal the variance is when your edge is reduced by playing better players at those levels. But I never started off at that level and in fact, my first game online as I recall was a very meagre $3-$6 game. In fact it wasn’t until I became acquainted with the CEO at RakeTheRake.com in 2004 that I first became aware of the concept of rakeback and the professionalism of that site helped me enormously to stay in the game at times when I was struggling.

Winning at any mid level limit holdem game in 2008 takes considerable skill. But limit hold’em is a game that can fool bad players into believing that they are good and also vice versa. I know players who have had violently contrasting results over 100k hands of play. I am also aware of winning professionals who have also only broke even over 100k hands and above. Can you imagine just how long it would take the average online player to play that many hands of poker?

I don’t know what the average number of tables is that an average online player plays (I am sure that there must be stats out there somewhere on this) but if it is less than four then it would take weeks for a player to generate that many hands of play. The games online have become super tight even at the lowest limits and the bigger games really sort out the men from the boys in a way that NLHE can never do.

Plus, there is a whole new wave of limit hold’em theory that has emerged over the past year or so that makes many of the older books on the subject of little use except as primers. I have spent six years on this game yet I have had to re-educate myself over the past year because of the players getting better and the analysis becoming more sophisticated. To be honest, I have really started to lose my patience with the game, I just cannot get my head around losing 400 big bets at say $30-$60 and know that it is entirely normal. I don’t much care for dipping $24,000 on a regular basis thank you very much.

A normal swing in 2008 is more than what my entire roll was back in 2002. If I were to play online in 2008 with the same size bankroll that I had in 2002 (250BB) then I would have a risk of ruin somewhere in the region of about 25%.

But there has been a big debate for many years about which game is the toughest in poker. People talk about NLHE, PLO etc and everyone puts forward very convincing arguments for each. Well to that I say this, PLO is certainly tougher than NLHE but in my opinion, so is limit hold’em.

I have actually turned several people down (some off this forum) who have come to me over the past few months and asked for coaching in limit hold’em. Why have I done this? Well let me put something to you, if a novice player came to me and asked me to teach them poker and then to get them to play high stakes NLHE online within two years, this would be a mammoth task. But yet I know exactly how I would go about trying to tackle this feat and even though the chances of success would be slim, there would be some chance at least.

But if that same player asked me to do the same with limit hold’em despite the fact that this is my number one game when it comes to earnings and knowledge then I simply would not know where to start. You can turn a novice player into a pretty decent player in a very short space of time, maybe in a few months in a game like NLHE yet this could not happen at limit. For me then this is the key difference and is why I only coach players who are at an advanced level because getting them there is just too time consuming in limit. As usual I will be available through the forum to answer any questions.

About the Author