Grinding Local Tourneys - The Not-So-Pretty Side of Poker

I've spent about five years playing poker for a living, almost exclusively. Admittedly, I was never a crusher of epic proportions, but I held my own and my living expenses were not too high so I was doing OK. However, after about three years of online grinding, I got tired of sitting in front of the computer screen and wanted to try something different.

poker grinding


Moving to the live grind

I live in a relatively small capital city with just about half a million people, so as you can imagine, the selection for a live tournament grinder is fairly limited. However, when I made my move, there were two casinos offering poker action almost every day of the week. These tourneys would usually attract anywhere between 20 and 60 people.

It may seem like it wasn't worth it, but the rake was fairly small and the live players at the casino were, for the most part, horrible players. The tournaments staged were crushable for huge ROIs so based on what I saw at that point, I decided to give it a go.

My reasoning was that I'd go out and mingle with people while still doing what I loved and maintaining a healthy income. It certainly sounded way better than spending every day in your room, away from everybody and everything. Like most plans, this one sounded way better on paper.


Sometimes poker grinds you

What I failed to consider from the very onset was the fact that I was, by nature, an introvert. I never particularly craved to be surrounded by people or noise; it was more a case of me not really knowing what I wanted.

On the financial side of things, everything was pretty much as I anticipated. In fact, from the very start I went on a heater winning quite a few tourneys, which basically ensured that my roll, which was healthy to begin with, would be more than enough to cover any possible downswings.

The social aspect of the game did not go as well. First of all, most people are poor losers. It is not really that much different online, but online you don't have to deal with their outbursts. Live is a completely different story.

What I came to realize after a while was that at almost every final table, I was surrounded by the same people and most of them didn't really want me there. You could say that I shouldn't care; after all I was, by all definitions, a professional. But I did care, especially since the whole point of switching to live was to try and feel better.

Another thing that really ticked me off was all the aggressive characters. Considering that the buy-in for these tournaments was quite low and that we all basically knew each other, the amount of trash talk and threats from some of these guys was just unbelievable.


The reality of it all

Probably you won’t have to deal with most of this in big casinos around the world. But I was where I was and I wanted to give it a shot.  After about six months, I had a lot of cash on me (for my standards at least) but I was feeling more miserable than ever.

I played a bit longer, but eventually just gave up on the whole idea. It wasn't really worth my while. There were some great guys out there, most of whom I still talk to from time to time and see when I play a live event, once in a blue moon.

The whole point of this story is not to discourage anyone from trying a live grind. Everyone will have a different experience depending on so many factors. But don't let all the fleshiness you may see on TV or on social media fool you.

After all, it is called a grind for a reason.


Ivan PotockiIvan Potocki is a veteran Titan Poker player who was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and spent part of his childhood under war conditions. He studied English language and literature and discovered Texas Hold’em while in college. After working different jobs he turned to poker full time and this serves as his main source of income. You can follow him on Twitter: @ivanpotocki


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