Phil Ivey has had a disastrous 2015 by his – or anyone’s for that matter – standard. His continuing almost $4 million spew-fest this year on PokerStars and Full Tilt has become an almost weekly talking-point, and the tag of ‘world’s best player’ is in serious doubt.
A loss of $1,250,000+ since January under his pseudonym ‘Polarizing’ on Full Tilt, coupled with a $2,500,000+ million disaster under ‘RaiseOnce’ on PokerStars may not have made much of a dent in his reputed $100million fortune, but it has raised concerns in the poker world that Ivey is no longer the force he once was – online at least.
So what can he do about it? Here are a few possible solutions to his online woes…
- Game choice
Ivey’s game choice has been questionable to say the least recently. As anyone knows, when things aren’t going well, stick to what you do best!
Taking on the best in the world over a wide variety of games is a fairly dumb thing to do when you’re struggling. PLO at $200/400 against Ben ‘Ben 86’ Tollerene? Really?
That’s just throwing good money after bad when you’re out of sorts. Tollerene is a PLO specialist, playing the game at the highest level while others were still learning the basics of the format.
As HighStakesDB reported: “Having just reloaded, Phil Ivey picks up AAxx and is reluctant to fold as Ben86 fires multiple barrels. Having flopped two pair and turned a full house, Tollerene gratefully takes down this $81k pot.” This was on top of countless smaller pots which went PLO expert Tollerene’s way.
Testing yourself at the highest levels is usually a long-term positive approach, in the short-term (and 1 year is still short-term in poker) it’s always likely to be a –EV play. And at some point you have to just say ‘OK, enough already, I can’t quite hack it at this level over so many variants.’
You have to admire Ivey’s chutzpah for not ducking a challenge, but even a $100m fortune has its limits! H.O.R.S.E. and Omaha Hi_Lo is where he IS making money, so stick to that for the time being Phil.
This, of course, is something Phil is never going to compromise on. He’d probably be embarrassed if he went down the stakes when there was action to be had in the nose-bleeds.
Nevertheless, he wouldn’t be the first great player to realise that getting back to winning ways sometimes requires forgetting about such things and simply playing at a level where you can win, gaining confidence from it and not spewing chunks of your bankroll.
Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom, the bane of many a would-be high-stakes winner, had to drop his level after a humiliating –though, it transpired, prohibited as his opponent enlisted outside help – $4million loss to Brian Hastings back in 2009.
What stakes could Ivey play which would help him? Well, Blom dropped down to $100/200 after his beating at the hands of Townsend and rebuilt his bankroll. Ivey could, in theory, do something similar. He would still have to improve certain other factors in his play to win at the $50/100 stakes for example, but it would be a profitable short-term move.
Similar to choosing his games correctly, Ivey has to know when he is facing a strong, or even stronger, opponent and adapt to this. The opposition at these stakes are incredibly serious about their poker, and study the playing styles, hand histories, stats and leaks of everyone they play.
Can Ivey devote the time and effort into doing this? Being a wonderfully-talented poker player is no longer enough in the modern age. You also have to keep working on your game; studying and creating and learning, in order to fight – because you can be damn sure his opponents are doing exactly that!
If this year’s horrendous losses are simply a natural – though longer than usual – downswing, then Ivey is the best-placed player in the world to ride it out. He is seriously ‘minted’ and can afford to spew $10million or so – as long as he knows he can win it back again online in the future, or from live cash games in Macau, etc.
All the best players suffer from the woes of poker’s ability to take as well as give! Run-bad weeks and even months are part and parcel of the game, but 160,000 hands worth of losing poker this year is too much to put down to pure variance.
- Personal life
Many have suggested that Ivey is too busy living the jet-set lifestyle to put in the hours online to compete at the highest level. By this they mean, of course, the away from the actual table aspect of online play. While his net worth is an acclaimed $100 million, how much has been coming from poker in recent times?
Ivey’s interests must indeed impact on his abilities at the table. Court cases, Macau jaunts, playing golf, sportsbetting – almost every single thing which he spends time on which the other high-rolling online players don’t do, is taking away a bit of his edge – some of his competitiveness.
“Success is built on a platform of routine and stability,” was one recent forum poster’s take on the matter, so if Ivey wants to get back to winning ways online, he has to start taking things far more seriously and cutting back on extraneous distractions.
Other stars are willing to put in the work, even those from the generation before Ivey, so he can’t expect to get by on talent and play alone.
To summarise, Ivey has to realise that there are players out there stronger than himself in certain games. He needs to …
- work harder;
- improve his knowledge and his play against specific people in specific games;
- ride out whatever part of his losses are a natural downswing;
- sort out which personal circumstances are affecting his online play
- consider dropping stakes or certain opponents so he can learn how to win again
Only then, I believe, will Ivey regain his status as the world’s best player, and with it… the millions he has lost in 2015!