So, who am I?

I started playing poker in 2003.  I was three years out of university, living in a house that I had just purchased, and having plenty of disposable cash available.  PokerStars was the first online poker site I tried, based on the recommendations of some friends.  According to my records (which I kept in detail right from the start) my first deposit was late at night on Halloween, for $50.

Some of the details are a little hazy now, but I know that I spent a lot of time chasing deposit bonuses.  I branched out rapidly, trying out different poker sites and earning the maximum bonuses at every one of them; I figured that if I was going to play poker anyway, I might as well get as much free money out of it as I could.  My records show transactions and playing history for seven different online poker sites, and while I remember having favorites, I also remember playing all of them for significant amounts of time.

I took my game pretty seriously; I bought and read several books, with Lee Jones' Winning Low-Limit Hold 'em having the biggest influence on my early playing style.  I spent a surprising amount of time studying bankroll management, and made sure to carefully follow the advice of having 300 big bets in my bankroll before playing fixed-limit cash games.  Even with this rule in place, I also worked my way up gradually; I would make large deposits to take advantage of some of the great bonuses that were available from various poker sites, but didn't play the cash games that my large bankroll would allow until I had proven to myself that I could consistently beat the lower limit games.  I'd have to do some digging now to confirm it, but I think I made myself play a minimum number of table-hours at each limit and waited to achieve a target big-bet-per-hour rate of profit before I allowed myself to move on to higher stakes.

I played fixed-limit Texas Hold'em cash games almost exclusively.  I tried out a few Sit & Go games, and played as many freerolls as I could get into, but quickly learned that I didn't have the right mindset (or maybe the right training) to play no-limit Hold'em.  I even went out of my way to play the rarer "Halley's Hold'em" freerolls, which were fixed-limit tournaments.  (They've been renamed to "Hawking's Hold'em" now, which I noted with interest when I came back.  It’s cool; Edmond Halley was awesome, but Stephen Hawking has pretty thoroughly eclipsed him.)  I also tried some Omaha and 7-Card Stud but went gained no traction with either of them.

Tracking all my data was helpful; I learned that I was a winning player at cash games, but a net loser on SNGs and tournaments.  As I worked my way up in stakes, my winning rate at cash games dropped, and by the end of my time playing poker, I was actually a net loser at cash games as well; all of my net gains had been from bonuses paid by the various poker rooms.  Not that this was a bad thing; when I stopped playing in 2007, I pulled out over $1600 net (over and above my initial seed deposits).

And why did I stop playing?  Well, it was a combination of things.  First of all, I started a new relationship in summer 2005, which cut into my poker time somewhat (as such things tend to do).  The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 passed the US House of Representatives in May 2006, and while this didn’t directly affect me as a Canadian, it did reduce the number of players at the online poker rooms I played in.  It also indirectly led to NETeller, the service that I used for moving money between poker rooms and my bank account, unusable after April 9, 2007.

I pulled most of my money out in mid-2006, but then tried methods other than NETeller to play a bit more in November 2006, and again in April 2007.  I called it quits on April 7, 2007, and even though I wasn't using NETeller anymore by that time, I suspect that the timing wasn't coincidental.

That was the end of my online poker career, but I still loved the game.  I wanted to play it as long as (a) I knew it was completely legal, and (b) I knew I could get my winnings out again after playing.  I decided that it would be ok for me to play when I was travelling out of town, and on vacation.  This actually came up less often than you might expect; I did some business travel, but rarely tacked any vacation time onto my trips.  I did go and play some live poker in New Orleans in October 2009, and again in Las Vegas in June 2010.  Both times I set myself a limit for how much I could bring to the table, and lost every penny before I left.  I later said of my New Orleans experience, "I would say that I lost my shirt, but I've never owned a shirt that was so expensive."

So what made me start up with online poker again?  It started with Christmas, 2012.  My sister (who was also the organizing force behind my trip to Las Vegas in 2010) gave me Michael Craig's excellent book, The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time.  I had barely finished reading the introduction when the old desire to play had sunk its hooks into me, and I started researching the current legal situation for online poker in Canada.  I learned that it was governed by provincial and not federal law, and with a little digging, it became clear that Alberta had not laid down any clear laws around individuals playing online poker.  It was also clear that the Alberta government was aware of online poker and had taken action against practices that it did consider to be illegal.  Armed with this information, I concluded that Alberta was allowing her citizens to play poker online, at least by not explicitly outlawing the practice, and I decided to go ahead and start playing again--keeping one finger on the pulse of the provincial legislators to avoid any future problems, of course.

So there I was, on New Year's Eve: kind of bored, enthusiastic to play some poker, and looking at my old friend,  (Please don't ask why I was bored on New Year's Eve!)  I downloaded the client and decided to try out the VISA deposit option.  I found that the minimum deposit was CAD$11, and I knew that my wife (the same woman I had started dating back in 2005) wouldn't complain about such a small investment into a hobby I knew I enjoyed--especially since my salary has more than doubled since I first started playing in 2003, and I'm living in the same house I had just bought back then.  I took the plunge, and here I am.

How has it been going so far?  Well, that will have to wait for another post.