Spinning up from a million
Every once in a while you hear about somebody who's going to start with $X in an online poker account and spin it up to $Y, where Y is some orders of magnitude larger than X. There may have been some successful ones, but I'm not aware of any of the really big ones that were.
So with that uplifting precedent, I'm going to do one of my own. Very specifically, I'm going to try to spin one million up to 100 million.
Yes, play money.
Why? Well, there are a few reasons...
First, because (wait for this...) it's fun. It turns out that I like to play poker and I get far fewer chances than I'd like to play. Furthermore, I'm going to do it playing Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO), which I think is more fun than No-Limit Hold'em.
Second, I've been watching the high-stakes play money games on PokerStars, and guess what - there's serious poker being played there. That's right; c-betting, check-raising, and indeed, folding. Now, that's not to say that the play is as disciplined as a real money $2-$4 PLO game. But many players are clearly trying to play good poker. So I get to apply poker skills, psychology and all the things that make the game fun in the first place.
Third, I want to remind all of us that poker can be a ton of fun even when there's not a single real dollar at stake. We all play games where no money is involved (hang on a second - it's my turn in my Words With Friends match with Sofia). But games are a great mental challenge, there's an awesome social aspect, and it's delightful trying to outwit your friends (right now, Sofia is substantially outwitting me).
And finally, I think I may be onto something about teaching poker. That is, these play money games might be the perfect vehicle for teaching new people poker. Why's that? Because at the higher stakes games, you can win by playing what I like to call "honest poker". That is, you put as few chips as possible in the pot when you have a poor hand, some chips in the pot when you have a good hand, and a lot of chips in the pot when you have a great hand. I know this sounds simplistic, but it's a very good way to start playing poker. In particular, many newbie poker players overestimate the value of bluffing - they think they can bulldog their way through every third pot. Well, if you play 100K/200K Play Money No Limit Hold'em on PokerStars, you will be quickly cured of an excessive bluffing problem.
Many poker players forget that the way to win lots of money (or chips) in poker is to have a very big hand when your opponent has a slightly smaller hand and is willing to pay off your very big hand. Of course, if your opponent can't find the 'Fold' button when you have a very big hand, that's just as good. Conversely, bluffing only wins you dead money in the pot because if you get called, well, you lose.
So, I got the account genies to go into my PokerStars account and reset my play money balance to one million chips (it was many multiples of that). As of January 1st, I've started spinning that up playing honest poker, and I'm not stopping to until I have 100 million. I've already chipped myself up to 1.17m; I'll be sure to update you as I go.
See you on the virtual felt, playing for virtual money. I'll be playing under the name "LeeJ@Play".
Lee Jones the Head of Poker Communications at PokerStars; he first joined the company in 2003. He has been involved in the professional poker world since the mid 1980's.