Only a few short hours ago, I reached Supernova Elite on PokerStars for my second (and final) consecutive year. It came on the heels of a rather swingy 11-hour day and while I easily could have split that workload up into two, three, or even four days, I was determined to grind through and not sleep until the one millionth VPP had been earned.
When I finished up SNE in 2014, it felt different. I had this feeling of accomplishment, of pride, of being able to reach a tier that this long time microstakes grinder had only dreamed about. Some might consider the word ‘Elite’ in Supernova Elite to be nominal, but for me it rang true — for a moment, I was one of the Elites.
This time around, I’m considerably less excited. No fist-pumping or gratuitous bat flips for me.
Part of that is because it’s my second year and I’ve “been there, done that.” There’s also the sobering realization that 2015 is the final year I’ll reach Supernova Elite, as the VIP program has been unceremoniously (and unethically) gutted. Not only will the changes cost many players like myself $40,000+ of promised rewards, but signals a greater shifty within the industry that quite possibly jeopardizes the future of online poker itself.
Still, I think I’d be much more ‘rah-rah’ about the milestone if I wasn’t so eager to get this hellacious month over with. For several reasons, December 2015 was the most difficult month of my entire career.
I managed to rebound a bit during the last two days, but it wasn’t enough to pull me into the black. Before December, I could say that I’d never had a losing month (Albeit with a few close calls) but that’s no longer true. Post-Rakeback, I finished down $8,061. But that’s simply a number, and a number can’t begin to describe how soul-crushing it felt at times.
Number of winning days in December: 4
Number of days I lost more than $1,000: 15
At one point, I dropped $16,000 in 29 hours of play
There was an 18-day stretch where I had exactly one winning day.
For that two and a half week period, the word ‘grind’ never seemed more appropriate. It felt like I was in a poker version of Groundhog Day, where each morning I’d wake up and tell myself that today would be different, only to run terribly again and lose thousands more. It’s an odd thought, but here’s a conjecture: The manner in which I lost worsened my experience. Consistently losing four figures, day in and day out, dampened my enthusiasm for the game and worsened my experience for that particular day/hour. If instead all the Pre-Rakeback losses occured over a 2-3 day span and I then broke even the remaining 22 days, December wouldn’t have felt as painful.
Traditionally, November and December are the worst months of the year to grind. Many players, like myself, are behind on their volume goals and end up putting in a ton of hours to reach milestones, bonuses, etc. For some reason, I figured that Spin and Gos wouldn’t be affected as much as SNGs. I figured that most of the top tier Spin regulars weren’t VPP chasing. And perhaps that was true, at one point, but when Stars announced that 2015 was their last chance at Supernova Elite, everything changed.
I’m not exactly sure of my place on the hierarchy of Spin and Go regulars, but I do know that I’m not at the top. After being the best in my previous format, it’s a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, but the fact of the matter is that I have considerably less experience playing heads-up than most of my opponents. My win-rate against the regular pool, while positive, isn’t particularly impressive. Thankfully I’ve been able to post very profitable months because my win-rate against the non regulars is extremely high. But December had a higher concentration of regulars which meant fewer non regulars, and ultimately, a drop in my EV.
Equity has always been something I obsess about. By the end of the month, my numbers were respectable, but that didn’t stop me from sweating after the first week’s abysmal results. It was then I noticed my EV was negative and it made me feel pretty low. I really shouldn’t have; games were much more difficult and that’s reflected in reduced ROIs across the board for 99.9% of players, but still — it bothered me. Plus, a lower EV ROI opens up a player to a greater likelihood of disgusting variance, which is something I certainly experienced as I end the month roughly $30,000 below expectation.
Before I dive in, I’ll start by admitting that this one is squarely fault. I can blame the losses on a string of bad luck and the reduced equity on tougher opponents, but there wouldn’t be any pressure if I had allocated my time better during the previous eleven months of the year. In 2014, I finished up Supernova Elite by mid November and that was the plan again this year. But the best made plans of mice and men often go awry. I took time off in January to recharge my batteries, spent April traveling through Spain, Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands with my mom, and simply didn’t work as much during the other months. Entering December, I needed ~125,000 VPPs and I knew it wouldn’t be easy. It only became harder when I decided to participate in the strike against Amaya.
At many points, I wanted to quit. Not necessarily quit going for SNE, but quit the session or the day. I’ll make up the points, later, I thought. But that thought is exactly what put me in this position. I knew I couldn’t start taking days off. I had to grind, I had to put in 6+ hours and 200+ games per day. As someone who has grown so accustomed to a life with so much freedom, I felt suffocated without the ability to decide when and how much to play.
In short, this month sucked. I’ve never lost more, never ran worse, never felt worse, and never been so happy to be done. But it also offered me a great opportunity to grow as not only a player, but a person. I kept on the tight schedule and continued to put in the hours despite the brutal run. I stayed true to my gym regimen, only taking off one day the entire month (Christmas). I managed to keep the professional downswing out of my personal life, refusing to infect those around me with variance related negativity. I dealt with adversity in many forms and managed to overcome it. While the profit total for this month isn’t something to be proud of, I can be proud of that.