Editor's Note: In addition to being a poker enthusiast, gambling columnist, and lecturer, John is a National Certified Counselor (NCC). He has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling from West Virginia University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Lock Haven University. You can arrange for interviews, speaking engagements, or ask your question to "the Poker Counselor" at firstname.lastname@example.org
I've been playing online for 3 months. I've made $75 overall thus far (not including the bonus money from a first time deposit). I am wondering if that is considered to be good progress or not. - Emailed by Brady T.
Let me pose a quick quiz to you: which of the following two people had more success at the poker table last Friday night. Playing online, my friend made about a $30 profit. Playing at the same website later that same evening, I made $50 profit. Seems like a no-brainer, right? "Whoever made more money was more successful," is the simplistic thinking. In reality, poker is never that "easy" or that black-and-white. In the above example, my buddy (who made $30) certainly had a more productive, successful night. You see, I am just now teaching him the game. Two weeks ago he literally did not know if a straight was better than a flush. After some extensive poker tutoring and practice from me, I logged him into a micro No-Limit HE table with a whopping $10 buy-in. It was his first playing experience, other than a rowdy home game played with his co-workers for bragging rights. By using the things I taught him about patience, position, and playing a tight-aggressive style he was able to log off in less than 2 hours with just over $40 on the table. I, on the other hand, bought in with $750 at a much higher stakes game. After spending most of the night battling back from an early hole, I wearily and mercifully left the table with about $50 more than I had started with.
I find that way too many poker players get hung up on the dollars and cents, using that as their measurement tool. If that was the case, then my $50 profit would indeed best the newcomer's $30. That is incorrect thinking, though. My buddy made triple his buy-in in less than 2 hours. He learned so much during that time. He built a new level of confidence about the game. He left the online poker table with a newfound energy and zest for the game. On the opposing end, I had endured a poor night of poker. I had dug myself an early hole by making some poorly timed bluffs & not releasing a big pocket pair when the board screamed that I had been bested. Luckily for me I ran into a rush of cards near the end of the session, allowing me to reclaim a profit of $50. I left the table frustrated, tired, and disappointed in my play. Overall I had gotten a good run of hole cards that should've resulted in a much nicer financial windfall.
So, I really can't honestly say if $75 in 3 months is good for you. This is a place for you to do serious and honest self-evaluation. Forget about the money earned for a moment, and inside inspect if you feel good about your overall play. Do you feel that you are improving? Are you getting good reads on your opponents, knowing when they are on a draw verses when they have a made hand? Do you feel that your style is improving, and you are able to adapt to the table to "change gears" and extract chips? Also important, is poker continuing to be a fun, yet challenging endeavor? If you can honestly look-inward, that will assure a more accurate evaluation than your bank records of dollars and cents.
My friends play up to 5 tables simultaneously online. I have trouble juggling just two at a time. I feel most comfortable when I stick with one table, actually. Should I be working toward being able to play many tables at once, or should I just try to move up the financial levels of one table at a time? -Emailed by Brent P.
Your question almost has the same basic roots of a teenager who is dealing with peer pressure! After all, you are saying, "My friends are doing it, so should I?" You even write in the question that you are most comfortable with one. While it is healthy to sometimes push ourselves past our 'comfort zone,' this is also a true danger in playing poker when we are not comfortable with ourselves, our limits, and our ability. You must be confident and focused when you are at the tables. It is absolutely fine to stick with one table, as long as your goal is to play that one table excellently. Multi-table players must often stick to strictly playing their cards in a straight-forward fashion. Because they can not find the time to identify the playing styles of those they are against, they pretty much just play their hole cards for what they are worth. If you play one table, be sure that you are fully tuned into that table. You should be taking notes on your opponents and their weaknesses. Look for spots to use favorable position to make moves to steal pots. Find a way to raise the pot to isolate yourself against weak opposition. These sorts of exercises should allow you improve your poker IQ as you steadily improve your poker bankroll. Once you find a way to cruise on one table, you may be enticed once again to try two or more tables at one time.
Keep those questions coming!! Carlisle14@hotmail.com
Ed note: Challenge yourself by seeing how many tables you can play at a time at Party Poker.