The need to explore an alternative career, one where I don’t have to get up every Monday morning and head over to a fixed address, encouraged me to give poker a serious thought. That and the unprecedented attraction, felt from the moment I was introduced to it by my engineering mates led my ship to drop its anchor at Spartanpoker.com. Soon I could foresee the future of the online poker in India, let’s just say that Indian poker scene is experiencing the moneymaker era in 2015. From entrepreneurs emerging on the scene with a plan to capture the market early on to poker pro’s living comfortably playing this game, the Indian poker market is on the verge of full fledged blowout.
Amid this huge hype, the poker sites are doing all they can to attract more and more patrons to their abode. Probably that’s what gave birth to the Spartan Bankroll challenge, a staking event where 30 challengers are staked 25k and are supposed to play a predetermined set of hands (7500) within a month. If one fails to engage himself/herself in 7500 hands of poker, then he/she stands to lose the challenge, and if they do reach the target then they get to keep the profit if they make any. Spartan Bankroll challenge is an opportunity of serious magnitude for rookies likes me, who have just started to explore their online career. The challenge began on 5th of September and is slated to end on 5th of October, with 32 challengers participating in it (2 wild card entrants).
The biggest challenge for me, personally, was the intense grinding I was expected to perform at stakes that I was not used to (cash games). I officially started my online poker career somewhere in the 2nd week of July 2015 and a month or so later I was in the challenge. I found myself exploring the low stakes such as .5/1, 1/2 and 2/4 when I first joined Spartanpoker.com, now all of a sudden I had to multi-table at much higher stakes than what I was used to. The first two days went extremely well for me, since it was a weekend (the day challenge began) and all my active hours and minutes were spent grinding multiple tables on Spartanpoker.com. At the end of the day one I had clocked in more than thousand hands and had pocketed close to 4k profits. The real challenge began on day two, though I was clocking hands at pretty much the same consistent rate my profits started to see a dip. With that at the end of the day two, I was down to negative earnings. I ended the second day at somewhere around 21k (down by 4k) with a little more than 2k hands under by belt.
From then on, my earnings in the challenge have seen a steady decline day by day and at the end of week 1, I was down to 13k odd with 4k hands clocked in. This could be attributed to the busy week with a lot of travelling, which allowed to me to play only in short sessions and on the go. But majority of the blame goes to my lack of experience at high stakes cash games and over dependence on fundamentals. Like any other amateur, lot of my spare time is spent reading literature about basic Poker Strategy. Basics like which are the best hands to start with, which are the ones to let go off and how to use them with respect to your position. Every poker literature I have read gives utmost importance to the position and opportunities and challenges related to each. Then comes the pre-flop, post-flop, turn and river plays, a lot of time was also spent reading about tight aggressive players, calling stations, tight passive players and all the kinds of different players and their styles. So you can imagine like any other enthusiast, I have read whatever my phone and notebook could fetch me about poker.
This extensive literature review gave me a false sense of ego boost and this boost was further fueled by my good run on day one. I soon realized that reading whatever there is to read about poker doesn’t equip anybody with necessary skills and abilities to be a master of this game.
The strategy dictates that one should only enter the pot with top pairs (like AA, KK and QQ) and very few suited connectors (like AKs, AQs and maybe AJs) when out of position. During the 1st week of Bankroll challenge I encountered players not just limping but also raising with an Ace and any kicker when out of position. One thing I have learnt is that an Ace is treated like a glass of elixir by most of the players on the tables. I have also encountered players re-raising and even shoving with a bottom pair when there are two over cards on the table.
So with the week one coming to an end, I have come to the realization that literature should and will add only 5% or at most 10% to a player’s arsenal of skills and abilities when on a table. What matters is, without a doubt, the number of hours you put in grinding at the tables, observing the players, their behavior, spotting their tells (again a lot of literature is available online about spotting tells in online poker, which is of very less help) and most importantly your table image. Now I did read about all of this a little bit before entering the challenge, but implementing them became a reality only after putting in those hours on the felt. With each hand I learnt something new, I understood the ways of spotting a calling station or a tight aggressive player. I understood how important it is to steal blinds in the long run and many more valuable lessons were incorporated in this one-week. The most important learning of all was, it is not easy to be the best at this game. If you feel that half an hour’s grinding a day and you will be visiting the ATM to withdraw thousands, then poker is not for you. This game requires dedication and discipline like any other profession, I realized it the hard way when I was putting in short sessions whenever I could find time during my hectic week and as a result of that my bankroll saw a steady decline. One should approach this sport like a sport and not like an evening bingo game at the local club.
The challenge itself has engulfed many till now, with number of participants coming down to 21, as of today. There are a few who have been consistent throughout the 1st week and are comfortably placed in the top half of the leaderboard. And then there are us who are struggling to keep our boats afloat and could be found in the bottom half. Though the challenge is still pretty much alive and top brass is still up for grabs, it is certainly not going to be a cakewalk.
The Spartan Bankroll challenge has given me an opportunity to learn and experience so much at such an early stage in my career, now it’s up to me to utilise this opportunity and transition myself from an enthusiast to a contender. Hoping to find a place in the top half of the leaderboard by end of the second week.