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Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

by Russ Fox

The end of one year and the start of a new year is always a time for reflecting back at the year that was and looking forward to the year that begins. Everyone should do this periodically; this is especially true for poker players.

 I did not have a particularly profitable year playing poker. Indeed, adding up my wins and losses from my log, I found I won a grand total of $4. I won’t bore you with the hourly rate; suffice to say, it’s not pretty. So why didn’t I reach my goals (and what I thought I should win)?

 In checking my results across games, I found I won all my money in cash games, and broke exactly dead even in tournaments. I can exclude winning in cash games and losing the profits in tournaments (or vice versa).

 There were a number of outside changes in my life in 2012. I relocated from Orange County, California to Las Vegas. The games in Las Vegas have a far different feel than the games in Los Angeles. Perhaps it took me some time to adjust to the games?

 This might be the case. I was a significant winner in November and December, after being a slow but steady loser most of the rest of the year. However, the sample size is not large enough to draw this conclusion. Indeed, that’s the point that I see in reviewing my log.

 I played the fewest hours of poker in over fourteen years. I definitely had a host of work-related issues in 2012 (I brought in a partner for my business, and I wrote a book on taxes). I did not have the time to play regularly, nor did I have the time to study my game and my play.

 That, I believe, is why my results were poor in 2012. No matter how good you are at an activity, you do need to regularly practice and review. There were months when I didn’t play a single hand; that had to have a major impact on my play.

 Looking towards 2013 I have a few new goals. First, I want to get in regular sessions. I know I’m not going to be able to do this in March and April, but I should be able to play regularly in the other months. For me, practice helps improve my level of play.

 Second, I want to improve my deep stack no-limit hold’em tournament game. That’s one thing I miss from the days where I could regularly play online: The ability to practice games that otherwise couldn’t be played. Three local casinos (Aria, Binion’s, and Venetian) regularly run deep-stack tournaments; I’m making it a goal to play in one at least twice a month.

 Finally, I need to get back into learning and reviewing my play. I’ve started to again note hand details in my log. These aren’t necessarily hands I played; rather, they’re interesting hands featuring tough decisions. I also hope to restart some poker discussions with a group of my friends that live here in Las Vegas.

 Even though my profit was a measly $4 in 2012, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have my health, family, and friends; that’s far more important than results at the poker table. And making money—even $4—is far better than recording a losing year. At least 80% of the poker playing public would have preferred my result to theirs.

 Russell Fox is the co-author of “Mastering No-Limit Hold’em,” “Why You Lose at Poker,” and “Winning Strategies for No-Limit Hold’em.” He’s a federally licensed tax preparer specializing in gambling, with a blog at E-mail Russ at

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