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3 Simple Habits That Helped This Poker Pro Win $1 Million

Imagine winning over $1,000,000 by playing poker tournaments with an average buy-in of $110.

While it might seem improbable, the Upswing Lab tournament coach Aaron Barone (who streams multiple times per week on his Twitch channel) just accomplished this feat.

He outlined his story in a recent Twitter thread. This article runs through 3 of the major takeaways from that story.

Let’s dive in.

Habit #1: Put In Volume, Relentlessly

The variance in tournament poker is extreme. If you are a winning player, the amount of tournaments you play will directly impact your earnings.

Here are Aaron’s thoughts on this topic:

Before I moved to multi-table tournaments (MTTs), I played Sit ‘N Go’s (SNGs). And from 2010-2015, I played appropriately 242,000 of them.  Early on, I figured out that how much money I made at the game came down to a simple math problem:

Profit = $/per game x games played

It’s more difficult to accurately determine your win-rate in MTTs, but I’ve continued to follow the SNG mindset — If I want to make more money at this game, I need to put in more volume. We can only control so much in this game, but how often we play is certainly one of them.

Aaron Barone Nit N Go Graph

Aaron Barone’s Sit N Go Graph shows a profit of almost $500,000 from 2010-2016 (this is in addition to the million he won in tournaments)

Habit #2: Don’t Neglect Game Selection

If you want to win money in poker, you simply have to play games where you have an edge. And while the allure of playing the highest stakes possible is certainly real, sometimes it can be better to play lower stakes against worse opponents.

Aaron explains his thoughts here:

My average buy-in (ABI) is $110 and I’m often asked ‘Why don’t you play higher?’ It’s not because I don’t think I could beat the games. But I ask myself, how much do I want to push those edges? How much variance do I want to potentially deal with? Your edges will be the thinnest at the top of your buy-in range, and to be quite honest, there are many incredible end bosses looming in the higher stakes.

I got check-raised out of my shoes by Patrick Leonard the other day and I thought welp, just got owned, gotta spend some more time in the lab. Doesn’t mean I won’t flick in a few of the higher stuff, but I’m a lot more careful when it comes to which games to play.  For me, simply ‘beating’ the game isn’t enough. Have to consider the potential variance/risk of ruin.  

1% in a $1000 = $10
10% in a $109 = $10

If it’s possible to make the same amount of money per game and play lower, I’d much rather play lower. Less risk, same potential reward. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but people seem to get caught up in hunting big scores, glory, and e-high fives from other regs stumbling down the same bumpy road.

Regarding Format: Approximately 75% of my MTTs are PKOs (Progressive Knockouts). I know a lot of people hate this format and believe there’s more variance associated with it, but I’m on the opposite side of the fence. When played optimally, PKOs have less variance than non-PKOs. Earning money in non-PKOs requires you to outlast 70%-80% of the field, which means you’ll have to survive more all-in confrontations. In PKOs, you can turn a profit at any time in the tournament, regardless of how many players are left, simply by KO’ing the right player.

Habit #3: Whether You’re Winning or Losing, Always Work On Your Game

Poker games are always going to be getting tougher. With solvers, training sites, etc, it’s just the reality that we live in.

To stay ahead of the field, good players are constantly working on their strategies.

Here’s what Aaron had to say about this:

There was a time when my parents came to visit me in Vancouver and asked about my plans for the day. When I told them I had to study some poker spots, they were visibly confused. “You’ve been playing poker for so long, don’t you know enough already?”

Sadly, no. I’ll never know “enough.” Optimal gameplay is constantly evolving. Strategies that were once standard quickly become obsolete and eventually scoffed at. You need to continue working on your game because someone else out there certainly is. That doesn’t necessarily mean memorizing seven different postflop bet sizes along with their exact frequencies across a bajillion different board textures.

Along with volume and game selection, your edge is the final ‘controllable.’ Aside from a few ‘Rainman’ types, the best players in the world are very often the hardest workers. If you want that level of success, emulate their level of dedication. People obsess about solver inputs and outputs, yet fail to realize the most important input of all: work ethic. While the poker world is certainly not ‘fair’ and lesser players might bink more than you will, the more effort you put into poker, the more likely you’ll succeed.

So ask questions. Mark hands you’re unsure about. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fuck up, because trust me, you will. We all do. Just give it your best shot and try to get a little bit better each day. That’s the approach I took to get to the $1M mark and will continue to use as I look to make the next million.

Wrapping Up

Sometimes, the best advice is the most simple: Put in volume, play good games, and constantly work on your game. If you do these things, you’ll be well on your way to winning more money in poker tournaments.

That’s it for today! Good luck at the tables.

Be sure to follow Aaron on Twitch to watch him add to that million dollar profit.

Note: This article covered Aaron’s habits. But if you want to learn his strategic secrets so you can add them to your own game, there’s only one place to do it. Join the Upswing Lab to learn from Aaron now!

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