Was it really only two and half years ago? It seems like an eternity since I splashed around in a pool of my own hubris. It was as comfortable as the good Vegas beds and as dangerous as putting your money on Big Brown. Poker felt like such a sure thing. Everything made sense. The hours spent were profitable. The handle on the game was like the baseball bat owned since childhood. I remember thinking, "Damn, I could do nothing but this if I really wanted to." Blind arrogance is such a fun place to live. Every decision seems perfect, whether inside the game or out.
I don't live there anymore, for better or worse. Over the past 30 months, I've been forced to confront that I was never as good as I thought. And, even if I was, it doesn't matter. It took me too long to realize that the game changed and I didn't change with it. Like the guy who is still trying to figure out why he can't sell his warehouse full of cassette tapes, I'm forced to sit here and figure out if I can re-tool myself to catch up with two years of online poker's evolution.
Why do I think of it today? Well, a lot of reasons, I guess. But what really forced me to admit it out loud was a guy I made fun of in 2006. His screen name was one of my favorites ever: w00t4d0nks.
Back then, I was still a regular at Party's $10/$20 NL game. I'd done pretty well for myself there for quite a while and, in an act of pure cockiness, called out w00t4d0nks in public. Here in the South we call that "showing your ass." In the post Shortbuy City, I rambled on for an age about one particular guy who bought into my regular game for 25% of the max buy-in. I made assumptions on top of assumptions about the guy's MO and essentially called him a gambling dumbass. I based a lot of what I wrote on fairly limited data and a lot of arrogance. I wrote, in part:
I guess it just surprises me that with all the good poker information out there, some people are still treating poker like a gamble instead of an ATM. What's more, I'm starting to see more and more of these guys in the middle no-limit area. It's both fascinating and disturbing to watch. It's like watching Sammy Farha flip a coin for $25K. Watching gamblers can be fun. Playing poker against them can be more fun.
I'll be honest. The passing years, the end of Party, and my gradual decline into poker loathing had made me completely forget about w00t4d0nks. Over the years, I've noticed a lot more people at all levels of the game playing short-stacks. There are now scads of web sites and training grounds for the short-stack strategy. There are legions of players out there who do nothing but multi-table with short-stacks all day long. They are winning players against... well, against people like me who failed to adjust.
So, imagine my surprise when I ran into w00t4d0nks again--not at the tables, not at a bar, but in a comment on this very poker blog. When I saw the name in the comments, I immediately remembered the guy (who for some reason is etched into my brain in one particular seat at the Party Poker tables).
Here is w00t4d0nks note in its entirety:
Hey Otis. I just got a big chuckle out of one of your old blog entries and thought I'd write you a thanks. At the time of w00ts appearance on the Party 10/20 tables I was pretty well known under a different screen name as one of the big winning super regulars. I developed the short stack strategy after listening to people complain about the guys doing it(who were terrible poker players btw). I figured I'd give it a shot since I always experiment with out of the box strats.
The strategy was ridiculously successful and actually made me more $/hour than full buyin. It was at least $500/hour and I think was at about $1k/hour on nights and weekends towards the end but then party closed(i've still got the PTDB somewhere I think). There were so many regular ABC multi tablers in those days that it was incredibly simple. What noone realized was that I was using Pokertracker with a HUD and customized my push ranges to each player. I was picking up $100 with no showdown like it raining benjamins.
Anyways, I always joke with my friends about being the godfather of shortstacking and not getting credit for it so I thought this blog was a riot =)
After seeing the comment, I read it twice and tried to decide how I felt. After a few minutes, I knew exactly. It was if I just read, "Hey, Otis. Remember that hot girl you were dating in college? Yeah, really hot, huh? Well, here's the thing. The whole time you were dating, I was pouring it to her behind your back. We ended up getting married. She still talks about how you couldn't get her off."
Yeah, a little more than humbling.
Looking at it much later, I can still say short-stacking is not the most exciting version of poker, nor one that sounds like much fun to play. That admitted, poker is not really about having fun, is it? It's not about mainlining adrenaline and getting your rocks off on the stress. It's about making money. There are some people out there like w00t4d0nks who apparently made it work for them. Woot, if you're still reading, let us know how you're doing now. It might be instructive.
In the meantime, I'm wallowing in a different pool now. A dip in Olympic-sized Self Loathing isn't nearly as much fun, but it's a lot more real than blind ignorance. Time, I've found, is as much a magnifying glass as it is a mirror. Looking back, indeed, I can see a reflection of a very big donkey.