Poker: It takes 6 bullets to cripple a pro, and only 1 to kill me


At the end of April, Monty and I ventured off to Montreal to play the Party Poker North America Millions event. The main event had a guaranteed prize pool of $10 million dollars, with the top 3 places guaranteed at least $1 million each. The buy in for the event was $5,300, which for us, like most recreational poker players, is a significant amount. The main event was a 5 day event, with multiple starting days.

If you were knocked out in Day 1 or 2 you were more than welcome to re-enter and play for another $5,300.  The re-entries were unlimited and are what poker players refer to as ‘bullets. This is where it gets interesting for a rec player like me.

A 10 million prize pool is going to attract the best players and pro’s from North America, South America and Europe. You can expect at least 1,000 players and multiple re-entries. Many of these guys, and I do say guys because it’s 98% guys, know each other as they play the tournament circuit basically every weekend. Many of them are impressive players, they put a lot of work into the game, and they also play a ton of volume. Volume is important in poker if you want to be a winning player, as you can expect to win money maybe 20% of the time, make a final table 3% of the time, and win a tournament 1% of all your tournaments played. So you have to play volume to even out variance, downswings and bad luck.

Again while these guys are good, and they have multiple 6 or 7 figure wins on their belts, and even bigger lifetime earnings, many of them also have financial backers. Someone with likely a lot of money, will ‘back’ a good or up and coming player. The backer will likely pay the buy ins, travel, expenses, and take anywhere from 50-90% of the players winnings. So this is a good deal for the player. It allows them to play more volume risk free, play multiple bullets in big re-entry events like this one, and play more aggressively because they don’t have to fear being knocked out. They don’t have to worry about the money invested, and are playing to win by accumulating a large stack early in the tournament. The backer, likely can absorb the losses easily, and is looking for the big win and the glory of being the one backing the superstar.

This presents a problem for recreational players like Monty and me. We do not play heavy volume, and we don’t have backers. We don’t actually want backers, we like playing for 100% of ourselves, but this limits what tournaments we play, and how many ‘bullets’ we fire in a tournament. For this particular tournament, we both won our $5,300 packages on-line at Party Poker through a qualifier, or ‘satellite’ tournament for only $22 each. We had planned to fire this one and only bullet, as we had no interest in spending another $5,300 if we were knocked out.

This has an impact on how you play your tournament. While we don’t play scared, we had to really think about making light calls or pushing too many bluffs. While I agree these guys are better than me, they’re not that much better than me. Meaning, if I played with those same 10 guys, 10 tournaments in a row, I believe I would cash 20% of the time, make a final table and have a good chance to win one. I study the game, I can push and push back, I know what’s going on, and I have an ideal table image. The stats may be slightly less since they are super pros, but probably pretty close. What helps make these guys constantly winning players besides their obvious skill, is their volume and their ability to fire bullets.

Yes some of these guys fired 6 bullets, I don’t know the exact numbers but I would bet that the average was 2 bullets or more.

So I thought about it and instead of getting pissed and saying ‘there is no way I will ever be able to compete with that, I give up,” I’ve decided to adjust what I do prior going in to these tournaments.

First. We continue to play online satellites, and win qualifiers. When we get to these live events we must have at least 2 bullets ready each, or we don’t play.

Second. If we each have one qualifier won, transfer them both to just one of us.

Thirdly. Have fun or don’t play

Now the poker players reading this are probably going to look up my stats and make fun of me.  I’ve been sick on and off with big stuff for the past 8 years, not able to play much, certainly not volume, and not able to rack up any big wins. Maybe I just suck, but that’s not the point. The point of this is if you are a recreational poker player and dream of taking your shot at the next big event and being the next trophy winner, the dream is still alive. But, know what you’re up against, and where possible, get a couple bullets in your holster.And may you run good.

So what happened at the tournament in Montreal? Monty may have set a record of being knocked out in first level with KK < AA all in pre-flop. I played to the end of day 2 and shipped my 19bb in the small blind with pocket 55. The big blind snap called with AK and turned an A. I needed to win that flip to stay in the middle of it and get in the money early day 3. But I didn’t. So on to the next.

By the way. I absolutely loved playing this tournament. Most of the players I played with, many of which you’ve seen in the news or on TV were enjoyable to play with and respectful to me. Party Poker & Playground Poker Room did an amazing job running this event. It was well organized and player friendly. Shuttles downtown would have been sweet,  but other than that we loved playing and look forward to playing again next year. Next up, Monty is flying over the World Series in Vegas to go build houses in Mexico again, I’m taking the summer to play locally and work on my game. We’re going to head back to Playground in the Fall, and are hoping to win some sattelites to the Party Poker Bahamas event in November.

So good luck to all of you. Pamela


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  1. Reply

    You are a daily inspiration to me ❤️

    • Iain
    • May 19, 2018

    This was a very interesting read. The poker world sounds fascinating.

    • Tom H
    • May 21, 2018

    Nice article Pamela. Run good up nort’ there, eh!

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