Why haven’t I won the world championship of poker?
To clarify I mean the main event of the World Series of Poker. Let’s be honest it can’t be the world championship of anything when the field is so big and the variance so high.
But anyway…. Why I haven’t I won it?
This probably sounds like a stupid question but 15 or so years ago it was something I thought about seriously.
When I first got into poker and became captivated by it, then started playing it more and more, I wanted to be the best at it…. why wouldn’t you?
This wasn’t as crazy as it seems now. I started playing before online video training, before the mathematical revolution in the game and before it became mainstream. Not only were most people playing badly back then but there just weren’t as many of them. The main event had 4-500 players in it… it felt….winnable!
Part of the problem with poker is the effect it has on the ego. It feeds it and tortures it. Because you play the game through only your eyes you see every hand you have and experience it totally subjectively. This means you know every unlucky spot you have and every great play you make. The more you study the more you become convinced you’re good, special even, and the periodic rewards of the game are super addictive. Every win becomes ‘justice’, every loss becomes a bad break.
Why wouldn’t a young up and coming aspiring pro like me feel like the world series was winnable?
Spoiler alert… it didn’t happen.
I have not won the WSOP main even (correct at time of writing), I have not even cashed in it.
I know what you’re thinking…. ‘what the ???!!!!... it seemed so doable’.
So how did this happen.
I’ve pinned it down to 8 scientifically proven reasons without which I definitely 100% guaranteed would have won it…. probably twice.
I love cash games. I was never that into tournaments especially in the early years.
The thing that attracted me to poker was the ability to do what you want. To play when you wanted and stop when you wanted.
Tournament poker has always been a bit too much like school for me and I didn’t start playing poker for some fella to tell me when to sit down, when to get up and when to eat dinner!
On top of this when I started tournaments weren’t the planet consuming phenomenon they are today so, out side the series, there just wasn’t the need to play them.
During the years when I was playing most I spent at least a couple of summers playing cash games while the series was going on instead of trying to win tournaments because they were just so damned juicy how do you say no?!
Not playing it enough
If you’re going to do well in a massive tournament you need to give yourself a lot of chances to do well.
I’ve played the main event 3 times that is a shocking low number.
This is mostly the cash games thing but also I’m not sure if you know this but 10,000 clams is a lot of money. It used to be a huge amount, now it’s just a massive amount.
Taking 10k out of your bankroll when you’re not specializing in tournaments isn’t a great idea… in ‘non-poker world’ $10,000 on something that can end on the turn of a card is not a good idea full stop!
Not enough gamble in me
This flies in the face of any kind of analysis but it’s probably true that you’re better off having a high variance style if you want to win big tournaments. I don’t mean out and out gambling I mean it’s better to blow out 3 tournaments and accrue a massive stack in the 4th than plod along in all 4 especially if you’re not going to play huge volume.
As someone who was playing a lot of cash and used to grinding profit I’ve probably never had quite enough gamble in me.
I’m easily distracted…..
Every super successful person on the planet focuses like a laser beam on the one thing they want to achieve. Steve Jobs built Apple into a monster but couldn’t have picked his own kids out of a line up.
I’ve never had that focus and never done just one thing. Even when I was playing poker most days and it was my sole source of income I was writing a book, playing golf, partying, doing stuff with girls, thinking about doing stuff with girls and so on.
As a result I probably didn’t hit the heights I could have in poker and given that tournaments were always a smaller percentage of what I was doing they didn’t get enough attention to expect to win big events.
It’s really freaking hard!!!
Winning any poker tournament is hard. It seems easier than it is because of our all consuming ego – we always over estimate our own chances. I always wanted to stand at the sign up desk for a tournament and ask everyone buying in if they thought they had an edge on the field, I’d guess you’d get 90% yeses.
If it had 200 runners and you had a massive edge you’d still have to play it 60 or 70 times to expect to win it… but it doesn’t it has 6000 runners and is guaranteed to have the best players in the world in it.
So it’s really freaking hard!
It got harder!!
Not only was it always a hard thing to do or even get close to but it got harder.
It got harder for me personally because I stopped playing as much poker and the less hard you work at the game the less good you get! But it got harder overall as general awareness of the game raised and knowledge sharing created a much much tougher pool of players.
The main event getting deeper stacked and retaining it’s 2 hour clock means there’s less ‘luck’ in it than any other tournament. These days there are very few rank amateurs on the last 2 or 3 tables and a lot of poker talent… it’s even harder to win.
So I haven’t won it … yet.
I’d estimate I’ll play it 3 or 4 more times before I shuffle off this mortal coil so I guess I have to accept it’s pretty long odds I’ll actually win it now…. I’d say about 12 to 1 ;)