The Online Poker Experiment

I’ve been on sort of a gambling kick lately. I feel a strong urge to play the stock markets and open up an e-trade account. I feel like registering 20 “clever” domain names and then just parking them. I felt like and already put ads on my website and RSS feed. And finally, for some unexplainable reason, I decided to throw $50 into a legitimate poker site to see what I could turn that into.

Initially I didn’t even realize it was still legal to play poker online for real money. Sites like Full Tilt Poker and seemed to only allow play money and give you endless amounts of free chips. But after a little researching, it seemed like there are real money counterparts to the play sites – and they are just harder to find because it’s illegal to advertise.

Oddly enough, I felt very safe and legitimate when signing up and putting 50 dollars into my Pokerstars account. It seems that they have to go through so many more checks and balances of verification than almost any other vendor that deals with money and online transactions. I made a debit card account credit, and with my 50 dollars at the ready, I jumped in.

I began by playing very low stakes limit hold ’em. I grinded out an hour or so of very conservative play with 5 and 10 cent blinds. The average pot size was well under a dollar but this was a perfect means for me to adjust to the fast pace and learn the basics of how the online poker world differs from real life. The hands and betting take place so fast that you really have to be on the ball and know exactly what your hand is. After an hour or so, I was up 10 dollars.

This limit table fizzled out and I was proud of going up 10 bucks. Even so, 10 dollars for an hour of grinding out conservative play was kind of boring. I went for the 25 and 50 cent limit hold ’em next. In this table it was amazing to see the difference in play quality. The 5 and 10 cent games were obviously noobs cutting their teeth to online poker and it was easy for me to keep a positive bankroll moving. But even this small jump to the next level brought a significant difficulty jump. I was forced to play a bit more “loose” because I noticed a few consistent betters could take down every pot. My quick adaptation of playing somewhat loose kept me in the black, and I had turned my 50 dollars into 67 dollars by the next 30-45 minutes.

After feeling confident and getting the hang of it, I made a pretty big mistake that cost me alot of money. I ended up making a Ace-5 straight, and I had decided to bet that hand no matter how high the pot went. Well, it was a 4 player pot and everybody kept raising each other. As the hand concluded, I did oust two others, but there was a player that landed a 3-7 straight. For some reason, I had the feeling that having an Ace in my straight made it unbeatable (as it would have been in a flush, for example). But, when your Ace is the low card; a higher straight will beat yours. So, the pot went to the player with the 3-7 straight. A couple small pot losses after this big one, and I could tell I was going down hill fast. My 60 plus dollars was now 37 and I had to force myself to quit.

I take away a very large positive here even though I ended up down 13 bucks on the night. And that is the fact that I was in the black for nearly 2 hours of solid play. And, the only reason I went into the red was because of my own mistake and not fully grasping the value of my hand compared to potential hands on the table. This tells me that if I don’t make stupid mistakes, I can most likely keep it in the black.

With last night in the books, I’ll see what happens as we move forward. Hopefully and in all likelihood I can grind my 37 dollars back up to the 50 range pretty quickly. But, who knows – I may lose the rest of my bankroll tonight. 🙂 And if that happens, we’ll call the experiment over with.

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