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Poker marathon challenge: Recap

[All words in italics are quotes from Tzen1's 13 December post 'Poker Marathon Challenge: 100 Hours in 7 Days', which you can read here.]

As most of you already know, I made it! After all it really felt like a marathon. I've played huge sessions before so I knew I could do it. There are plenty of people who have done it as well so you know it's possible, but along the way you get at certain points at which mentally you really have to push yourself to continue. I was truly happy to cross the finish line!

Time for a recap

"I've decided to have myself a little poker marathon next week. The details are simple: 100 hours of poker in 7 days. It's not totally insane and probably lots of people have done this before. I'm not taking bets against me completing it or anything like that - it's just a little experiment/challenge."

As I mentioned, this was really something I did for myself. There are plenty of people who are also grinding insane amount of hours in December to finish SNE (or more) so I wasn't alone in this grind. I didn't do it to prove that I could do something others can't. I did it to prove to myself I could still do it and to get that same feeling as other grinders have in December.

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Richard "Tzen1" Veenman

Why was I doing this?

"December has always been the month in which I played the most poker, often finishing a milestone or SNE. There was always a special feeling when playing in December and by doing this challenge I hope to get back that feeling since this year I haven't played as much as I would have hoped."

Yup, I definitely had that old grinder mentality back!

"I already planned to take a break from work around Christmas and New Year but it felt like a good idea to take an extra week to play some poker, so why not a poker marathon?"

Playing a lot is fine, a marathon is something different. There is a huge difference between grinding 12 hours a day or 14.5 hours. If you "only" have to grind 12 hours a day you can take small breaks whenever you get tired or play/run bad. When you have to play 14.5 hours there is just no time to waste so you have to push yourself when things go bad. I had two of those moments.

The first one was on Friday when I was up a nice amount during the first 3-4 hours and then suddenly I played 1.5 hours like a zombie. I was timing out on tables and was getting non-stop beats, probably also playing really bad. At one moment I checked the lobby and I was playing 16 tables. Why? I played 10-12 tables most of the time and at the moment I could hardly keep my eyes open. Somehow I had opened more tables? It felt as if I was brain dead for 1.5 hours, during the dinner break I could hardly remember anything about it.

The second time was Saturday afternoon. I could hardly keep my eyes open and was getting non-stop beats again, and whatever I did nothing seemed to work. Somehow I got my energy back later that day, and I stopped grinding at 04:15. It's really strange how your body works sometimes.

"Part of the December Festival promotion on PokerStars are the $700k Milestone hands. It's always fun to playing during these Milestone hands and most of the time this also means softer games. The Milestone hands start the same day as I will be starting my marathon so that's another reason to play a lot of poker."

Having the Milestone hands running was a huge help. If you set yourself a 'big' goal it always helps to break it up into small chunks. My sessions looked like this:

  • Start the session and check how many VPPs I had.
  • Play and when close to a milestone start counting down a little in your head.
  • Right after a milestone check my VPPs and every hour check how I was doing on the tables $ wise in PokerTracker.
  • If things started to get tough, try to play till the next milestone and sometimes after 15-20 minutes you feel fine again and pushing yourself to that next milestone did the trick.

Now the funny part was that I think I counted down to most of the milestones, at least I was almost always aware a milestone could hit any moment. The one time I really wasn't looking, I hit one! I was really surprised and due to all the tables I was playing I couldn't see how much I won. It was on a Full-Ring $3/$6 table but I wasn't sure how long I had been playing on it. I saw $270 and since most tables paid $1k/$2k I was a bit disappointed, but when the hand played out I saw I was awarded $726.80. Not bad!

"Only for players in the Netherlands there is a VPP Challenge in which I would have loved to compete. Unfortunately I had way to much work to finish before my holiday started but during my Marathon I will try to get myself in the top 20 and earn some extra money this way."

I made 42,571,43 VPPs this week which isn't bad ;) Looking at the last update on the this should get me into 10th place (on the leaderboard) but others have been grinding as well so at least my goal of getting into the top 20 has worked out. Looking at the others in the top 20 I doubt I will drop out, unless people don't like Christmas! Not sure how much money that will give me but it was more about the challenge then the money anyway!

"For fun. I miss playing lots of poker so I'm definitely doing it for fun as well, if I'm actually winning some money I bet it's even more fun ;)"

I loved it. This was the first week in a long time in which I could really feel like a poker player again. With work nowadays it's just so hard to focus on poker since there is always something in the back of my mind. To play proper volume you need to have a freed up schedule so there is nothing else you are doing besides poker. During this week poker really felt like having fun again, not something I had to squish in between other things. Sure I had my moment at which things weren't funny at all, but that's part of the grind!

Things I wanted to do throughout the week

"Get a minimum of 6 hours sleep a night, but no more than 8 hours."

I'm really an evening person so often I didn't go to bed because I was tired, I went to bed because I had been playing poker for 15 hours. The first two days I woke up pretty normal but later during the week it was really hard to get out of bed. My mind didn't feel rested while my body was obviously doing fine. I did get out of bed before 8am each day (except Sunday) which is a huge thing for a poker player!

"Eating healthy and refrain from overeating. When you put in so many hours it's easy to eat only snacks and overeat yourself during the small breaks between playing poker."

I've drunk only water, about 4-5 liters a day which was great. Drinking coffee or Red Bull only helps you short-term and will make things worse if you are doing a marathon. Breakfast, lunch were all healthy and most dinners were fine, except one evening when my girlfriend decided to make pancakes. I'm a big fan of pancakes and eat them with a lot of sugar.... Bad idea! That evening I couldn't focus, felt really hasty/restless and this obviously doesn't help when playing poker. If you want to play long sessions you have to keep your sugar levels at a constant level if possible. These kind of things are really important and shouldn't be underestimated!

"Keep my back healthy. I don't have a standing desk setup like Roy but if I notice my back suffers too much I will take a break. If my back keeps being an issue I will quit the challenge."

To go from 0 to 15 hours a day playing poker isn't really smart, but I just didn't have the time for a little practice earlier this month. My back was fine but my wrist felt "stressed" at certain points and my right shoulder really stiff. In 2010 I've had much worse issues and I know my body pretty well so I kept things under control.

"Stay focused and limit distractions: Facebook, Twitter and What's app. Banning it however would be a step to far ;)"

That worked out way better than I expected. Often I spent my time on Twitter/Facebook when playing poker but somehow I was completely focused during the first 6 days of my challenge. Sunday I wasn't grinding seriously, just having some fun so I had some time left to spent doing other things on the internet as well. I hardly checked my phone, never picked it up when I was called (sorry) and checked Twitter or Facebook only during short breaks! This is something which is hard to control when you are doing 'routine' work, but obviously it's in your best interest to focus 100% on playing poker. Happy this worked out and I must say that listening to the fantastic CLR Podcast was a huge help in this. Chris Liebing truly does an amazing job in delivering banging techno sets and I listened to over 80 of them during my grind. I play the music on max volume on my headset and as soon as the music stops I'm out of the zone so for me having good music during my grind is really important to get and stay in the zone.

"Play at least 50,000 hands. That's only 500 an hour and should be relatively easy, I except that during the morning not many tables will run and I will use that as a sort of warm-up. During the evening I expect myself to 10-12 table most of the time, I'm not planning to 20-24 table besides during the end of the Milestone promotion."

Including the 'fun games' on Sunday (excl 8-game/MTT hands) I played 82,495 hands. Mission accomplished! I started out playing nine tables and felt really rusty, timing out sometimes. On Saturday night, during the last milestone hands, I was finding it relatively easy to play 16 tables. Playing 24 tables is really hard nowadays since they have reduced the time you have per decision and I play without Table Ninja or any other software which 'helps' you in that. The first six days I played a MTT ration of 10.41 averaging 896.03 hands/hr.

"Hopefully maintain a small win-rate pre-rakeback although I don't expect this to be big due to me being out of shape. Winning money post rake-back is obviously the minimum:-)"

So what's small? I already wrote in another blog that a 0.5BB/100 winrate is considered good in multi-tabling limit these days. My start was awesome and unexpected! I had some issues playing 9+ tables but other than that things went really smooth, winning 0.85BB/100. Tuesday I had another great start but then things got real and I lost a shitload, -1.97BB/100! On Wednesday things didn't went very well either, but at least not so bad, but on Thursday I really got the feeling that I had improved a lot over the week. I learned again how my opponents were playing and instead of being outplayed by some of the better regulars I was able to control the damage vs them and to even own some of them, always a great feeling. Things went fine on Friday again until I hit my first tough moment in which I played like a zombie for 1.5 hours and lost shitloads again, I felt so disappointed since I had just grinded myself in the green again that morning. However, after dinner I managed to make a great comeback finishing the day with an awesome 0.95bb/100, which was my best day of the week. On Saturday I was able to keep myself in the green as well meaning that after all I did win. Anything counts right? 0.08BB/100 :-)


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The poker marathon challenge graph


BB Marathon

What preparations did I make for the week?

"Make sure there is plenty of food in the house so I won't need to do any groceries during the week."

So happy I have a sweet girlfriend who provided me with everything I needed. Big kiss to you, Nienke!

"Minimize distractions. I've cleared out my calendar and have almost nothing scheduled for the whole week. Aside from one dentist appointment I can wholly focus on the challenge. Not going out during the weekend will probably be the hardest part :)"

Normally I get a text message from the dentist a day before my appointment. On Thursday I didn't pick up my phone and obviously didn't listen to my voice mail so when I got to the dentist I heard my appointment was rescheduled to the 24th. Argh! I should have called to see if something was up. Luckily they could squish me into the planning, and I didn't even had to wait so at least I didn't waste any extra time. On Saturday, a new housing project went on sale in my neighborhood that I'm really interested in, but I couldn't skip 2 hours of my grind to go. That would have really complicated things. I asked my girlfriend to go with my mom and it seems like a real viable option. I'm going to make up for it this week!

"Have my poker setup ready, something which I have already prepared so it seems like I'm ready to go."

I restarted my PC after each day and things went pretty smooth apart from one time when my internet seemed to have dropped out. I probably lost a little but other than that nothing happened luckily! Having to fix your PC during a marathon is not something you have time for to do.

"Ensure that I start off on the right foot. Sleep well the night before and be fully rested."

I had the 'Open Poker Dag 2013' on Saturday and was pretty wasted when I got to bed around 04am I woke up feeling really bad in my hotel room on Sunday, staying in bed till around 2pm, having no painkillers to battle the hangover. So the plan was to go to bed early on Sunday, which somehow never really works out on Sundays and this time was no different. I was in bed at 10pm but couldn't sleep and counted down the hours on my alarm clock. I think I maybe slept 2-3 hours in the end so next time I need to start my preparation on Saturday, not Sunday.

What else?

So it's a wrap! Obviously winning 0.08BB/100 looks like it's been a waste of time but I can tell you for sure it wasn't. Besides that fact that in Limit Hold'em you won't have a huge win-rate, the rakeback and bonuses make up for most of the profit normally. I don't want to go into details too much, but I got enough money to book a trip to South-Africa next year for three weeks with Nienke, which was the plan already anyway. I would also say that since my last serious session was in the summer, with a little practice (which I have had now) I would normally do a lot better. I really felt like I was learning stuff all over again, which was part of the plan but obviously $ wise it isn't the smartest idea to do that during the marathon. Playing 15 hours a day will hurt anybodies win-rate. I would recommend to better spread your sessions if you seriously want to earn some money.

I'm not going to make even more excuses, it's up to you if you think it's good or bad. I'm satisfied with the results and I'm really happy I did it. I'm planning to play a couple of hours this week and want to finish a new blog around Christmas with my lifetime statistics in any form or shape I can think off. I'm not going to do totals of $ earned but I will search for the biggest pot I've won/lost, longest session, best month etc etc. If you have any questions feel free to drop a comment. My last blog will be just before the end of the year about my plans for 2014!

Thanks for all the support! It's really amazing how inspiring this works and from the responses I might have inspired some of you to do something like this in 2014!

Richard "Tzen1" Veenman is a member of Team PokerStars Online.

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