Well, I didn't do anything dramatically different at the end of the month, but things went right on a few different fronts and a very discouraging month has ended up not bad at all. Please excuse me while I ramble on about how it started and how I turned it around.

My bankroll aim was to grind up to $50 on the $0.25 S&G, then move up to the $1 version. If all went well I would then be adding further profits and at the same time earning my 20vpp to stay active for the PSO league in Feb. No specific bankroll target, but with steady progress and with luck a small prize from the PSO to add to it, I could hope to finsih the month with $70 to $80 to my name. Riches indeed!

All looked good as I made a fast start, but just when I thought I had the $0.25 games beat, my S&G form hit a real dip and it was all I could do to grind along at, or even just below, breakeven for a week or two. The $50 bankroll was so close yet remained frustratingly just out of reach.

Just like December, I tried to play one PSO event daily, hoping to improve from December's $5 payout up into the $15 range this time. This part of my plan, at least, was going well enough, and I was in or around the 200-300 range in the leaderboard most of the way, cashing in better than 1 in 4 tourneys, but suffering more early bustouts than was healthy.

The last week of the month was very kind to me though, and it was the WBCOOP that sparked my change of fortune. I decided to give this freeroll series for bloggers a go as the rewards looked more than decent, even if they turned out to be in non-transferable ticket form. I didn't have time to enter more than one of the qualifiers (the games other than NLHE I just ignored as being completely outside my experience). But I had a great deep run in the one I played. Picked up a couple of good hands early and was nicely stacked all the way. I survived a total of 6 big showdowns on my way to an eventual 13th place and a $33 ticket prize. That sounds as if I was very lucky and yes I was, but I also chose the right times, and I am proud that 5 of those 6 had me as good to overwhelming favourite and the other was a coinflip.

As that effort had taken the little matter of 6 hours and had started at midnight, I spent most of the next day sleeping it off! Later though, I played another PSO tourney and made my second final table of the month and a best-yet 3rd place finish. Typically, I had edged through the bubble with only a micro stack, but then doubled through a couple of times and proceeded to clean up thereafter.

Finally my game was paying dividends. Picking up the pace on the S&G side of things, I tightened up my early play and results improved. So many seemingly easy chips to be had in the early part of these, its all too tempting to start playing too loose chasing them. As I said in my last blog, when you are running bad, the comfort of building a big early stack is hard to resist. But survival to the bubble is all that matters. Chips won early are not worth nearly as much as the chips you risk losing.  I know this yet it is so easy to become distracted by some fool who has doubled through on a first hand all-in and seems desperate to give those chips away. I use coloured notes to separate the fish from the profitable players and multitable grinders, and it is really noticeable that the best players are very rarely seen anywhere near the chip lead until the closing stages of each S&G. So another lesson learned.

Now though, with my bankroll finally climbing again, all that remained for January was to earn my 20vpp and have a final dash at the PSO league table. I chose shortstack $0.05/$0.10 No Limit ring games to earn some quick vpp, not wanting to put my S&G game under further pressure. I was amazed how many maniacs I found in the ring games, which was great for generating rake, if a little unnerving.

I played a very tight basic game with a shortstack handchart and strategy guide at my elbow, and the rake needed soon mounted up. I was breaking even all the way until the final session, where a rank donk won a big pot off me with a 4 out draw on the river. At least he stayed to give me a chance to win it back. In fact at this point the table thinned rapidly and suddenly it was down to the two of us. I would normally avoid heads-up play like this, but I felt confident I could outplay him and with decent cards win my money back with interest. All was going well and I eventually hit AA, he raised, I reraised and we ended up all in. A $9 pot and a nice big profit on the session beckoned, especially when he showed A7. But the board came up KQJT for a split pot. I carried on for a few more hands but I was fuming at the injustice and my heart was no longer in it. I left the table a few dollars down but my vpp objective achieved.

My final task in January was to decide whether to play one more PSO game or not. I was below midway in the $15 prize range and the risk of falling back to $5 was competing with the hope of rising up to $30. I checked scoring examples and probable thresholds and worked out I had to survive to the 80 minute mark (1/3 of the field left) to be quite sure of avoiding dropping out of the top 300. Meanwhile, finish in the money and I would squeak up into the top 200. I decided to give it a go and play even tighter than usual until I was safe, then open up and go for the cash.

In the event I doubled through with minimal risk early on when my KK hit a K high flop. The BB most considerately called my preflop raise, then bet the flop and turn before calling my all-in on the river. Turned out he had K7. I then went card dead, and stalled and folded past my safety point at 80 minutes, all the way to the 200/400 blinds where I finally took a stand in the BB and doubled through. I didn't think I had enough chips to reach the money but couldnt find a spot to play. I have scraped through the bubble on a chip and a prayer enough times before, and this turned out to be another one of those. I finally picked up KQ in the BB, with chips to play 2 more hands, 4 players to go to the bubble. Tough decision. A raise and a call ahead of me were closely followed by the Hand-for-Hand announcement and I knew I had to fold and just hold my breath. The bubble burst before the next hand and I was through.

I still had an anxious wait to see if my score would hold up in the $30 range, but I am happy to say it did. As I write, the money is already in my account (thanks PSO), and I can look back on a decent month overall and start planning my strategy for February.