This last December I did something I try to never ever do. I withdrew money from my poker bankroll to buy “stuff.” Some of it was spent on Christmas presents, some of it went towards a ski trip, some of it just kind of disappeared because I can’t for the life of me remember what I did with it. Regardless, I spent nearly 3/4 of my poker bankroll which I’d built up to almost 600 big bets. Normally I withdraw only specific amounts when my bankroll rises above a specific level. I guess we all have our moments of stupidity.
So after my Christmas spending spree, I took a look at my poker bankroll and decided that I was still in pretty good shape. There was no need for me to do the intelligent thing and either drop down a limit or freshen up my bankroll a bit. I mean hey, I teach people how to play the game of poker all the time; I’m a winning player god’s sake! The normal rules shouldn’t, and probably don’t apply to me. “I’ll be just fine with a little less than 150 big bets,” I thought to myself.
So I logged into Party Poker and hit the most miserable string of cold cards and bad luck I’ve ever encountered. At one point I was afraid those 150 big bets might get blinded away. The good hands I did make lost to better hands. My king high flush lost to an ace high flush in a huge pot, then my straight lost to a higher straight, and then my two pair lost to a higher two pair. It went on like this until those 150 big bets dwindled down to less than 50.
Later, I was talking to an associate about my horrible string of bad luck to which he responded, “Oh that’s just the cash out curse. Go play at a different poker room for awhile, and it will go away.” And for about a second and a half I considered that what he said might be true, and then that second had disappeared and common sense returned.
I went over my Poker Tracker history and noticed that although I did receive a horrible run of lousy cards, I also tried to push small edges where I shouldn’t have. As my bankroll shrunk I began trying harder and harder to make up my losses. I was limping in with questionable hands reasoning that all the “passive players” made them playable. I was going too far heads-up against un-bluffable calling stations when I knew I was beaten. In other words, the cash out curse didn’t get me, it was poor play and simple, normal variance. I hit a major downswing, which in turn caused me to play scared, which in turn affected my judgment, which in turn leads to an ever worsening downward spiral which destroyed my poker bankroll.
A surprisingly large amount of players thinks that after you make a withdrawal, online poker rooms not being happy with the amount of money they’ve already made off you get nervous that you may withdraw the rest of your balance. People reason that the poker rooms then flag your account after which you start taking repeated bad beats until all of your poker money is gone. They call this the cash out curse.
The tale of the cash out curse is just that, a myth. Online poker rooms don’t need to steal your money. They make enough money as it is simply by providing a fair poker game, play here. The last thing an online poker room wants is rumors floating around the net that they may be cheating their players. And if they did steal your money, thanks to programs like Poker Tracker we’d find out. If something was amiss in a particular room then people would start noticing unusual patterns in their hand histories outside of normal variance. As far as I know, this hasn’t happened at any of the major poker rooms to date.
Can I honestly say that online poker rooms never cheat their players? Of course not. But if you’re playing at one of the major poker sites, then the chance that you’ll be cheated is so minuscule as to not even be worthy of consideration. They make millions of dollars in rake providing a fair game. Why would they jeopardize that in order to shave a few extra bucks off their players? Enough bad players lose all their money as it is without poker sites having to resort to cheating. Poker rooms don’t have a problem with winning players as they contribute to the rake just the same as everyone else does. Whether you’re a winning or losing player, poker rooms love you just the same.
So the next time you cash out more than you should from your poker bankroll and then hit a string of cold cards, don’t blame the poker room blame yourself. Remember that your poker bankroll is there to act as a cushion to keep you from playing scared and to ride out the normal variance that occurs. If you chop it way down in size, then you won’t play your optimal game believe me. Unless you’re Johnny Chan, you need that cushion of cash there as much for confidence as for fending off those negative fluctuations. If you do cash out too much, then either drop down in limits or pump your bankroll back up to where it should be.