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Pot Limit Omaha and the Most Difficult Time of My Life (part 1)

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poker-wasteland

A little under three years ago I returned to Phnom Penh after an unsuccessful stint running a poker room in a Cambodian beach town called Sihanoukville.  There was a mass migration of Chinese who had moved into the city that created an uptick in the poker industry but the situation was very new, unstable and volatile.  Our room lasted only six months, which was actually longer than most of the games that had also started in town around this time.  In either case I returned to the capital city without much prospects towards working in another live room and was at a bit of a crossroads in my life.  Managing rooms had basically replaced having to play for a living but now I was faced with having to play again.  But the truth of the matter during this time was that I no longer enjoyed the same level of success in poker as I had previously.  While it was a painful truth, I had to admit to myself that I could no longer beat no limit hold’em which had been my main game up to this point.  So I had a decision to make to either leave the game completely and do something different or to make changes in my game to get better in my current game or to play a different one altogether.  Regarding the first option I had played poker for nearly 15 years at this point and had a near two decade black hole in my resume.  The prospects for starting a new career were not great.  I also concluded that I was just too far behind in hold’em to catch up to any sort of meaningful level.  So I essentially decided to start all over, but within the game of poker, and play an entirely new game in pot limit omaha.  I realized that such an endeavor would take a great amount of time and that I would not be making any money for a while, but I truly do love this game and it was something that I was not ready to leave yet.

I lived and played poker in Las Vegas from 2006 to 2011, a tenure that ended with me going broke.  When I returned to Los Angeles my game was stagnant, a state that would continue for the next few years.  I never moved neither forward nor backward in my game as I admit now that I had not mentally recovered from going broke.  The game was changing rapidly as heads up displays (HUDs) and other software were near ubiquitous by this point and while I did put in significant volume, I did very little to keep up to date on the latest trends of the game.  This continued into my time in Cambodia when I arrived in 2014 as I did play often but spent little time studying.  By this time there were more resources available than ever before with books, online articles and the beginnings of the online academies and training sites we see so much of today.  Fortunately for myself my life would soon change as I would come to jump to the management side of things in poker and playing became less important.  When I did play it was to help start games or keep games alive and my results took a backseat to the health of the poker room that I was managing.  But I was still able to notice a trend in the game that was unmistakable, mainly that it became increasingly difficult to have fun while playing.  As we moved further away from the poker boom and the game was maturing, it was undeniable that a fewer number of people were winning most of the money and that more players were either losing or at best breaking even.  Never was this more apparent than when I was working to keep a room alive in Sihanoukville as most of the managers and I had to play in the game for many hours every day in order to keep it going.  There were days and nights in which the three of us would have to play over ten hours each.  It might have been bearable but the experience and environment of the game was growing more miserable by the day.  And with trends in the live game to constantly raise the rake burden, most of the players were taking quite a beating every day.  For all of the action that the Chinese were providing, the circumstances of the games would create very few winners and those that would emerge and remain successfully in the game when the entire experience was over.  When I returned to Phnom Penh, the last thing that I wanted to do was play hold’em and I did not want to see two cards thrown at me by a dealer for quite some time.

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