Maximize This (or, Persuadeo, The $5 Grinder)

My “Maximizing” challenge is up in one month. It has been a disaster. Instead of finding myself in a desired place of fiscal strength after six months of poker, I am back where I started nearly two years ago, and looking at some tough choices. I had placed something of a marker on last’s night session, needing to put rent in the bank with my check still out and not wanting my balance to dip below a certain mental water level. Deep within, I felt my poker career and life were coming to this day and this post, so I am mentally prepared for my decision to change my lifestyle and poker workload, here at the beginning of the year.

I like to refer to Variance, that very beautiful word, the title of my screenplay, the theoretical source of all profit, a concept we casually misapply to poker, as the Goddess. It’s a little silly, I know, but I like it and will not abandon it; and, as Gargamel has correctly noted, it’s how we run – her gift – that is the greatest variable in our results, that is to say, not skill.  We will win over the long term as quality players – that’s Her Achilles’ heel, enhanced but enchained by her vicious and youthful feminine bloom – but the short term is the problem. My problem, because She has had it in for me since I audaciously announced the challenge.

No one likes bad beat stories, but consider these salient facts about Maximizing:

I have not won a single all-in preflop hand at 5/10 since I announced it. Not one. (I remember well the last winner, an odd spot with my AK vs. a surprise A6hh in April, in one of the few limp raises I’ve ever done at that level.) Imagine what that will do for your win rate.

Item two. Last night I again was destroyed in a $3800 4 bet pot by a dominated hand. I have now lost my last five (it may be six but I’ve lost the notes) 4 bet pots at this stake to these monsters: A10, 74, 107, and 95 and now KQ joins the list. That’s a total swing of just under $25,000 in spots I should be printing money, or if merely running badly, breaking even.

Lastly, from July until November, I lost more with sets than won. I broke this string with Gargamel at the table by getting paid twice at a decent 5/5 game at the Village. That night gave me hope.  (After all, it was G. himself who once declared that flopping sets was “better than sex.”)

However, there is no hope for this challenge. The writing is on the wall for my post Vegas trip, Maximizing life plan. There is no corner bar with my name in blue neon coming. The move to LA or Philadelphia is going to be accomplished gingerly, not with a splash and another comfy pad with a view. And there will certainly be no more five ten- I can play it, but I simply can’t seem to shake Her and Her wishes.

At least for now.  Here’s the breakdown, for the stats curious:

From September of ‘14, when I transferred my tracking to the new app, until the end of June ‘15, I was making an average of $74.43 per hour across the board, with my best game being 3/5, at $95.43 per hour.  My 5/10 win rate stood at $104.91.

The same figures for the Maximizing Challenge: -$1.92 overall, 3/5 shrunken to $3.07, and my 5/10 a mind numbing -$16.98. A true, immediate downswing.  More of clifffaller.  A faceplant through the floor and into the Styx.

Bankroll threads are always stupid because the people who ask about them never need a bankroll.  They just think they are going to fade swings by segregating money with an imaginary Mason-Dixon line, not understanding that one side bleeds into the other until the issue is resolved. Here’s what most players have: Cash Flow, or Income.  That is what determines the games they play in, and that is just and right.

Now, when I was crushing the tables and making five figures each month, I had Cash Flow, and I could play in any game I wanted.  However, now, I have essentially nothing coming, and am paying myself from savings.  I have real bankroll issues because there is nothing else on the other side of the line.  A real grinder does not have some job he’s escaping from.  I’m not a journalist on a lark.  I’m not an accountant escaping for a few years.  I’m not a coder writing a book. This is fucking it.  If anything, I’m aiming for a career that is even more risky.

So I’m going back to the $5 dollar games as my bread and butter, a level I am very good at. Hurray, as they say on Archer. I have only put in 109 3/5 hours, spread over a wide variety of locales, since June. (Since I knew this might be coming, I’ve been sneaking in more concentrations of 3/5, reacquainting myself with the player pool, which is the key to consistent exploitative winning. Since November, my win rate has been a more normal $64.44.)

All that said, it’s not the complete downer it sounds like. I have real purpose in life – to complete several writing projects which I am more hopeful about than at any point in my life – but I also have major leaks I can fix to get me through the storm.

First, I have to bring it back the results under control by playing better.  I have to get back to that spring mindset of being great and winning as a necessity.  Runbad is always accompanied by playbad, and my recent $1700 punt to an opponent I wouldn’t take seriously in a Yahtzee game was an embarrassment and a wish to be sedated after months of frustration.  This sort of thing, I think, is close to behind me.  I have to want it, and during the good times, I was always staring at my bank balances, anxious to grow them.  I was husbanding my career, milking the cows, counting the carrots. These days I barely look at my accounts.  No more of that. (I just took a peak and am ready to throw up.)

Second, I have to, at last, adapt to my true station in life. The sad fact is, I eat out for almost all my meals, despite knowing how to cook. I race through my winnings with several thousand dollars in food each month. I buy three hundred sunglasses and lose them. I travel at will and let the cards save me. I am a profligate, ridiculous spender, and the downswing has caught me with my wallet open and my pants down. This is no way for a low stakes grinder to live.

But aside from all this, poker is about work, and while I was living the grind, I was killing it. Over the Maximizing challenge, I’ve only put in 378 hours of poker, a shocking work rate of about 75 hours of work per month, right when I was supposed to up my game. During the prior string, I was working at least 85 hours per month, which I thought was too little.

In addition to running bad and playing less and sometimes worse, why did I grow so indifferent to my results?  Why am I adjusting now, and not in November?  With time, the answer has finally become clear.  In spring, I had an important woman in my life, one who had real expectations and dreams.  I worried over this and had planned for the future.  I had to succeed. So I when I ultimately, at an important moment before a lifetime of commitment, had a profound emotional reaction and could not continue the relationship, a reaction as inexplicable to me as to her, the edifice tottered.  I came back from Vegas cool and confident, and despite the chilly artic front the Goddess blew down upon me, with this woman gone… I did not have to care.

It’s time to care again. No more artificial challenges, but no laments or tears or bitterness, either.  There is real Variance in poker, headed by a mysterious deity or not, but She is conquerable. It’s time to get back to work, not for a woman this time but to support my own personal legacy, one red chip at a time.


  1. Best of luck man! For what it’s worth, I think its’ admirable that you set such a challenge, despite not reaching your goal.

    Here’s to hoping your 2016 smashes your 2015.

  2. The downswings, the losses on the table and off…. Man I know the pain of it all. Good luck bro, I know you could bounce back that’s for sure.

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

He knows that I know that he knows I know.

A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

Limp First In

A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.