Smoking for Profit (my first poker article)

Revised pages3Dear reader,

Below is the first article I submitted to a poker magazine for publication. That was in 1999. June Field at Poker Digest paid me $100 for it. I still have that check in a frame somewhere. I wonder if it’s still good.

 

Smoking for Profit (1999)

I make money smoking. Four hundred bucks a month. Take a rash of rationalization, add a therapeutic theory, and anything is possible. At $20-40 limit hold ’em the blinds total $30 per round. In a nine-handed game, that comes to $3.33 per hand. This simple math suggests any missed hand costs a player $3.33 in dues paid per hand via the blinds. Not so. Later positions are worth more. So let’s assign some reasonable, arbitrary values to each position, make them add up to $30, and see what happens. Remember “weighted sums” from math class? Cost per hand in a $20-40 game:

First seat (small blind) $1.00
Second seat (big blind) $1.50
Third seat $2.00
Fourth $2.50
Fifth $3.00
Sixth $3.50
Seventh $4.50
Eighth $5.50
Ninth (button) $6.50
Total $30.00

In California we smoke outside. It’s a good law. Our food is less ashy and our dealers less ashen. When I go out for a quick one, it’s just that — quick. I miss one hand, sometimes two. I glance at the fifth position hand, muck it, and head for the door. (If that hand is playable, I wait another round to smoke). If I run into any bad-beat storytellers outside, I’ve got an honest out: “Gotta go! It’s my blind!” Which it is, just as I plop back down, having skipped one or two hands under-the-gun.

The table above reduces the conceptual cost of this practice from $3.33 per smoke to $2.00, or from $6.66 to $4.50 if I miss two hands. Yikes! And that’s not even counting the cost of the cigarette. But I just knew this was still not right. I’ve often wondered if it would be profitable to not even look at my hands in front of the blinds, thereby eliminating all temptation to get involved with anything but premium starters. And that is exactly what happens when I go outside. So what gives? How can it cost money to miss hands my trusty instincts say to ignore anyway?

Answer: The weighted sums were not heavy enough. One day it hit me like a gut shot. Why couldn’t the early positions be assigned negative values? Suddenly I had the best possible excuse to remain a smoker. Money. Here’s a new table. Special consideration is given to the blinds. Despite its awkward position, the big blind has an extra playing value in its free-flop potential. As to the small blind, well, I rarely succumb to the seductive Siren’s song, “Two more chips. Only two more chips.” Still, being half in gives the small blind a straightforward discount value when I do pick up a hand. Given my posture on position, (it’s only everything), this is my best-estimate assessment of the cost-per-hand at $20-40.

First seat (small blind) $1.50
Second seat (big blind) $5.00
Third seat **-$2.00**
Fourth **-$1.00**
Fifth $0.50
Sixth $2.00
Seventh $4.50
Eighth $7.50
Ninth (button) $12.00
Total $30.00

I smoke about once every three rounds. They laugh at me outside. Pacing, puffing, extinguishing. Ha! If only they knew I was making three bucks per butt. Seven or eight cigs per day, five days per week, it comes to over $400 per month. Even if you don’t smoke, you most likely pee. Now you can make theoretical money in the bathroom. What a relief.

There are two factors even hazier than the speculations so far. Missing hands costs money since key pots affect style. While I’m outside a player might anchor down, his ship having come in to safe harbor. Another player might go sailing. I need to know these things. Balancing this is the benefit of walking away from the table and collecting my selfs. The math would be too wishy-washy, so I wish to call these a wash.

I play $40-80 sometimes, and even dive into an 80-160 game now and then. Just think, if I played $80-160 everyday, quadrupling everything. $400 x 4 = $1600. I could just about live off the money I make from smoking. Then I could save up the daily-grinded poker money to start my new dream business: Shade-tree tester.

 

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