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Switching From Online To Brick & Mortar Poker

Adjust To Much Higher Costs Part II

by Alan Schoonmaker |  Published: May 30, 2012


Alan SchoonmakerMy first column on this subject appeared several months ago. I deliberately interrupted the series because some adjustments can’t be made without the four skills discussed in the intervening articles: acquiring, retaining, and retrieving information and seeing the patterns between different types of information.

You also need patience, a subject which Matt Lessinger brilliantly discussed in two articles you can read at

B&M games – especially the smallest, most popular ones – are so expensive that you can’t win without a much bigger edge than you had online. If you don’t develop these skills, you will choose the wrong games, play too many hands, or play them incorrectly. So you can easily lose, and you will certainly win less than your other skills would produce online.

Part One made six recommendations:

1. Play in bigger games to reduce the impact of higher costs.
2. Select cardrooms with the lowest rake.
3. Request rake reductions in shorthanded games.
4. Become a smart “B&M Bonus Whore.”
5. Factor higher costs into your strategic decisions.
6. Play fewer hands, and play them more aggressively.

Let’s discuss six additional adjustments.

7. Evaluate Yourself And Your Opponents More Accurately.

Your results depend – not on how well you play – but on how you compare to your competition. Unfortunately, most people overestimate themselves and underestimate their opponents.

These mistakes become more expensive in high-cost games. To cover the higher costs, you must be much better than your opponents. If you move up to reduce the impact of higher costs, make sure that your opponents aren’t almost as good as or even better than you are.

Bigger games have tougher players, and – even though the costs become relatively smaller – they’re still large enough to wipe out your profits unless you’re significantly better than your opponents. A small edge just won’t be enough.

If you don’t make accurate assessments, you’ll pay for it. This problem is aggravated by losing the help you once got from software. You must push aside your natural desires to overestimate yourself and underestimate your opponents. If you don’t, you’ll pay for your arrogance.

8. Choose Better Games And Seats.

Because you did not need such a large edge, choosing bad online games was a smaller mistake, and it was harder to change seats. Now these critically important choices must be improved.

In B&M games, especially when you first sit down, you must make more important decisions without the information you once got from software. You must develop the four skills mentioned earlier to improve your information. And, of course, you’ll need patience to walk away from bad games.

Use these skills continuously. Don’t choose a game and seat and sit there all night. Constantly assess the way the game is changing. Who left? Who replaced them? Has anyone changed seats? How will these changes affect you? And constantly ask yourself, “Should I change games, change seats, or just go home?”

9. Constantly Look For Ways To Reduce Costs.

Reducing costs resembles choosing good games and seats. Don’t make a decision and then forget about it. Keep looking, and you can save a few dollars here and there which can add up to a lot of money every year.

For example, you probably don’t think much about tipping. You do it because dealers get low wages and depend upon tips. But you may overtip. Some dealers say they make more money in small games than in larger ones. The larger games have more stingy pros. Since you’re winning less money, why should you be more generous?

It’s particularly unnecessary to tip after cashing in many tournaments because part of the juice is for tips. When registering, determine how the juice is divided. Many tournaments also let you buy extra chips, and that money often goes to the dealers. If you have already tipped, and then cash and tip again, you’re clearly giving too much. Of course, you should take care of the dealers, but don’t overdo it.

10. Accept That You Can’t Completely Overcome The Higher Costs.

That’s a truly depressing statement. No matter how much you cut costs, they will still be much higher than you paid online. But every little improvement will make your situation a bit less grim.

11. Accept That You Can’t Win As Much As You Once Did.

This statement is even more depressing, but it’s unquestionably true. Even though the competition is weaker, you can’t win as much as you once did because you’ll play far fewer hands and pay much higher costs. You’ll just have to learn to live with that grim reality. It’s Black Friday’s most painful effect.

12. Seriously Consider Moving Abroad or Changing Professions.

If you were an online pro, carefully investigate these options. You may dislike both of them, but don’t dismiss them without careful analysis. You may find that either one is better than you think.

Living in a foreign country can be a great experience. People do it for many reasons, especially economic ones, but broadening your education can also be a huge benefit. A few years spent abroad can help you to become a better person.

You’ll have a huge advantage over most emigrants: You won’t need a job and the training and credentials needed to get one. You can just keep doing what you do so well. Moving abroad and continuing to play at your favorite websites may be your best option.

Changing your profession is also worth considering. Many formerly successful B&M pros are now broke or wish they had chosen a different career. They are tired of playing and sick of the emotional and financial roller coaster, but can’t make an acceptable income any other way. They don’t have the experience and credentials to get good jobs. And they can’t afford to go back to school. Because Black Friday destroyed your career as an online pro, you may benefit by considering options you would have ignored.

Career changes are a fact of modern life. Because our economy and technology change so rapidly, many professions have shrunk or disappeared. Members of these professions have had to retrain for new ones and take large pay cuts. They didn’t like it any more than you do, but they did what they had to do.

If you’re smart and disciplined enough to play professionally, you can probably get a well-paying job, especially if you’re young. It can take some time, perhaps even years, to get the necessary training and experience, but you may end up better off than you were before. Twenty or thirty years from now you may look back and say to yourself, “Black Friday saved my butt.”

Final Remarks

Smart business people always consider costs, especially when they increase. If you want to be a successful professional, you must do what all good business people do, understand and adjust to your costs. If you don’t, you’re in danger of going broke. ♠

Do you often wonder, “Why are my results so disappointing?” Ask Dr. Al, He’s David Sklansky’s co-author for DUCY? and the sole author of five poker psychology books.