A Poker Business Plan; Dan Cates Sammed Out of $1.9 Million; A Poker Life – Rob Salaburu

business plan


Poker Strategy With Dusty Schmidt: The Poker Business Plan

Building A Path To Poker Success

by Dusty Schmidt www.cardplayer.com     


Having a plan can help every poker player. Whether you play in a casino, cardroom, home game, or online, there are great benefits in knowing exactly what you want to get out of poker and how you’re going to get it. Even if you consider yourself a recreational player, it’s a good idea to have a budget for poker and to ensure you can play as much poker as you want without jeopardizing your personal finances. But if you have illusions of playing for a living or for supplemental income, or if you’re a professional player already, then formulating a poker business plan (PBP) is an essential step toward maximizing your profits while minimizing your risk.

Why do so many businesses fail?

Most small businesses lose money over their first year or two of existence. They suck wind. Many of these businesses ultimately fail without ever turning a profit, while others turn the corner and eventually prosper. What separates the winners from the losers?

Every business has a plan of some sort. Its founders begin with an idea of how they’re going to make money and why it’s going to work. Even if their original priority is just to create something cool, there’s a reason they’re putting effort into doing what they’re doing. They have a plan.

Some of these plans exist only in the head of the proprietor. Others involve back-of-the-envelope calculations. The best business plans usually involve much more rigor, requiring significant effort. The result is a written document that can be shown to potential investors.

Why do some detailed plans fail and some hastily contrived plans succeed? As in poker, variance exists in business. But for a plan to succeed, there are two important considerations:

How well do the assumptions match reality?

Do the conclusions follow logically from the assumptions?

Given the fact that you play poker, you should recognize these two considerations. They are why you win or lose at the tables. If your assumptions don’t match reality, that means you’re misreading your opponents’ ranges. Without good assumptions, logic will get you nowhere. But the converse is also true. Your opponent could show you his cards and that would be useless if you fail to understand poker logic. If he moves all-in and shows you a pair of aces against your straight draw, logic will tell you whether to call or fold.

When a plan succeeds, it’s because it is based upon accurate assumptions and uses logic to anticipate potential forms of negative variance. A good plan is not foolproof, but it does minimize risk.

What Is A Poker Business Plan?

If you want to play for a living, your PBP is a statement of how you will support yourself (and possibly your family) by playing poker. It’s a blueprint for success.

The PBP includes all of your expenses, including taxes. It projects your income, taking into account your projected win rate, volume, and variance. Using these same metrics, it dictates what bankroll you require to play at each limit. It can also present a path for growth, declaring how you intend to improve your game, increase your volume, and move up in stakes. It outlines not just how many days a week you will work, but how many weeks a year.

It’s preparation for good months and bad months. It spells out how you will deal with variance. Can you move down in stakes and still meet your goals or will you dig your heels in at a certain minimum limit? If the latter is your choice, the business plan makes sure that you have the bankroll to minimize your chance of failing.

The poker business plan accounts for withdrawals from your bankroll, and calculates how those affect your risk of ruin and your plans for increasing stakes.

Do I Need a Poker Business Plan?

The majority of professional poker players probably became such without putting together a proper business plan. If that’s true, then why should you bother to have one?

First of all, most of these pros at least had an improper business plan. They did some back-of-the-envelope calculations using their estimated win rate and the volume they expected to put in, and came up with numbers that exceeded their expenses. That’s not much of a plan, but it’s better than nothing.

Secondly, things are much more difficult now than they were five or ten years ago. The games get tougher every year, so it’s more important than ever to plan properly. There is still a lot of money to be made in the game of poker, but it’s no longer a walk in the park. It’s a game for hard workers, and a business plan gives you your best chance for success.

Not only will a proper business plan make you more likely to succeed, it will help you maximize that success. A good one can help you plan for growth and prepare for unexpected expenses. It gives you something to draw inspiration from when variance is cruel, and helps you keep your head when you suffer from an overabundance of luck.

What manner of suffering could an overabundance of luck possibly inflict? Overconfidence and lack of perspective. Sticking to your plan will help you deal with the variance rollercoaster that poker players live on. Think of the plan as your seatbelt.

Finally, while your PBP is primarily for personal use, it can be a useful document to produce when you’re applying for a lease, a loan, or a stake. Few people outside of the poker world really understand how it all works, but if you lay it out for them, there’s a chance that they will. It’s a lot more likely than if you just use words. In business, numbers talk.

If you’re a successful poker player, it’s still a good idea to make a business plan. A PBP will help you maximize your profits. But if you play poker for fun, then a plan can help you minimize your losses and set you on the path to winning or breaking even instead of losing.

So no, you don’t need a poker business plan. But if your goal is to thrive, do yourself a favor and make one. In a game that’s all about maximizing your expectation at every turn, start off by maximizing the expectation of your entire path.

How Do I Make A Poker Business Plan?

The simple version requires the following information:

Hourly Win Rate (WR): Your hourly expectation at the tables. Total cash won divided by total hours played.

Hours of Volume (H): How much you plan to play.

Monthly Expenses (E): How much money you need to make before taxes. Start with your expenses, then add the taxes you’ll have to pay. That’s your total monthly nut.

If WR * H > E is a true statement, then you’ve got a chance. Once you take variance into account, you’d prefer your winnings to double your expenses, because there is no certainty in one month’s results. If you’re going pro, you’d do well to have some living expenses set aside so you’re not constantly pulling money out of your bankroll.

If you are or want to be a professional player, you should have a more detailed plan. That’s the subject of Part II.

With over $5 million in cash game winnings in his 9-year career, Dusty “leatherass” Schmidt is the consummate grinder. He posted the world’s highest $5/$10 win rates in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, Dusty became one of the first SuperNova Elites and later became a member of PokerStars Team Online. He is currently the player ambassador for America’s Cardroom. He is the author of Treat Your Poker Like A Business and Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth, available at cardoza.com. Schmidt’s newest book, Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, can be found at pokerinpractice.com. His many poker exploits have made him the subject of a feature article in Sports Illustrated.



dan cates

Dan Cates On Getting ‘Scammed’ Out Of $1.9 Million

Poker Pro Also Talks About Full Tilt Money, Durrrr Challenge


by Brian Pempus  www.cardplayer.com     

Dan Cates is one of online poker’s greatest players. He is up more than $8 million between Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars over his short career. This year, he has won six figures already.

Cates was on a historic upswing prior to Black Friday in April 2011, when online poker — on the major offshore sites — shut down in the United States.

Even though the Maryland native has solidified himself as one of the most fearless pros of all-time, he said he doesn’t want to be around poker forever. He finds the high-stakes life pretty stressful. He said he doesn’t like how it feels like gambling day in and day out.

However, for now, Cates is still in the thick of things, and also waiting for his seven-figures of missing Full Tilt Poker money to hit his bank account. That was scheduled to happen this winter. That money will be nice for him, but he is also bitter about a fellow high-stakes pro not making good on a debt. Card Player had the chance to catch up with Cates to talk about that and a variety of other topics, including the stagnant “Durrrr Challenge.”

That contest, where Cates is up $1.5 million after 20,000 hands, is more than three years old now and has no end in sight. Tom Dwan and Cates were supposed to play 50,000 hands together, with the winner receiving a massive bonus.

Brian Pempus: I read in an interview on iGaming.org where you were talking about some of the money that people owe you. Can you talk about how much you owed and by whom?

Dan Cates: Well, the situation is different now. Basically, David Lerner scammed me for $1.9 million. He scammed a bunch of other players also. That’s about the end of that. That’s the only real situation of that sort with someone. The Durrrr Challenge is kind of unfortunate, but I’m not being scammed. Viffer is scamming me [on a side bet with the Durrrr Challenge], but he’s an idiot and I don’t know what his problem is.

BP: How did David Lerner manage to scam you out of that much money?

DC: Well, we were playing $3-$6 and cross-booked one hundred times. I have no idea what the f..k I was thinking in this situation. So that happened…first session we played, he won like $460,000. He told me to ship it, and I shipped it, which was retarded. I should have been a little bit more assertive. The next session I won $1.1 million. He doesn’t ship it back, which really irritated me. Later I saw him playing Harrington at some massive stakes, and I call him and say, “Why are you playing Harrington at super high stakes? It seems not very nice.” He said, “Someone is forcing me to play, blah, blah, blah.” He then ships me about $250,000 back, which is convenient of course. But he never ended up shipping the rest back. And then I kept playing him, and he basically never paid me. I was up around $1.9 million total.

BP: Why did you keep playing him after he scammed you in the first place?

DC: Because you could still win money. I guess he never intended on paying. I don’t know exactly what his deal was. It was stupid at the time. I don’t know why I trusted him.

BP: Who is David Lerner?

DC: He’s a live player of some sort. He has been around for much longer than me apparently. He apparently he has scammed a variety of people – Cole South and Phil Galfond. He was involved with playing in the New York live scene, but I have no idea if he does these days.

BP: In the high-stakes world, do you kind of have to take those chances in order to find action?

DC: That may be true. The way I handled it was poor. I should have been more cautious. Basically, it would have been a dreamy spot if it was legit. If you are going to get in those good spots you have to make sure they are legitimate.

BP: Why does one cross-book like this?

DC: It’s really hard to put money online. It’s not like you whip out your debit card and bam you have hundreds of thousands online, especially after UIGEA.

BP: Now, you mentioned the Durrrr Challenge and it is being held up. Do you think Tom is avoiding you or just really busy or what?

DC: Clearly it is not his absolute priority. I think he actually means to make amends on it for a variety of reasons.

BP: I interviewed Dan Bilzerian recently and he said Tom was broke. Is that true? Do you think he just has no money to play you?

DC: I’m honestly not totally sure. I couldn’t really say Tom is broke. Someone that knows Tom very well, much better than Dan I assume…I couldn’t say he’s broke exactly. I assume he has some kind of assets somewhere. I was also told he has assets. I have no idea what his situation is. I am not in the position to say how much money he has. I am not his accountant.

BP: So, you’ve filed a petition with Garden City Group to get your money back, right?

DC: Yes I did, and they gave me the exact amount, which is pretty cool. I’m looking forward to that. There is no reasonable dispute. They got it perfectly right. So far, no issues. We’ll see how it turns out. I’m pretty thrilled though. I have to figure out what I am going to do with it. I could put it online, but there aren’t a lot of good $500-$1,000 games running. These days the softest spot is Isildur1. He’s the only person who plays high and doesn’t know exactly what he is doing and will actually post for the most part. There’s a reason why all the high-stakes players are playing him at no-limit.

BP: What do you make of Gus Hansen losing money at an incredible clip?

DC: I don’t think he is a favorite against anyone he is playing against. I think he’s a dog in almost every game he is playing in. Not everyone, but pretty close. That’s not to say that I think he is a bad player, but he is not picking his spots very well.

BP: Do you think he will ever straight up quit online poker?

DC: There’s a possibility he will improve. He’s a smart guy.

BP: Going back to your Full Tilt Poker money. You were on a big upswing prior to Black Friday. Were you able to get some of your money off before the site shutdown?

DC: Yeah, I got quite a bit off, but not nearly the amount that was on it. I got seven figures off and I had more than seven figures stuck on it.

BP: Are we talking multiple seven figures?

DC: Well, you know, seven figures. It could be multiple or not multiple. I didn’t have eight figures, though I wish I did. It’s hard to have eight figures from poker, let me tell you that.

BP: Do you have any hatred for the former Full Tilt guys, like Lederer and Ferguson?

DC: I haven’t really hated them too much, ironically. (Laughs). What you said reminds me of when I play. I get so mad at the other guy, but I haven’t hated them that much, even though they have cost me way more…but no not really, especially when I get my money back. It would be nice if they gave me some interest, but that’s not going to happen. That would be the day.



rob saluburu

A Poker Life: Rob Salaburu

Outspoken Pro Settling Into Career After Main Event Run


by Julio Rodriguez www.cardplayer.com     


Robert Salaburu is considered a relative newcomer to the world of live tournament poker, but he has made a big impression in very short amount of time thanks to his televised run in the 2012 World Series of Poker main event.

The 28-year-old poker pro wasn’t afraid to rattle some cages en route to his eighth-place finish, where he earned just shy of $1 million.

The Texas native isn’t letting any of it go to his head, however. When asked to confirm some facts from his Wikipedia page, Salaburu said the fact that he had a such a page in the first place was ridiculous. Brash and outspoken, it’s no surprise that the guy “people love to hate” became one of the more memorable faces of televised poker in recent memory.

Poker Beginnings

Rob Salaburu was born May 9, 1985 in San Benito, Texas. After stints in Brownsville and Corpus Christi, Salaburu settled in San Antonio. By all accounts, he was born and raised a Texan.

“When you travel and meet strangers and ask them about their background, most will tell you they are American. But if you meet someone from Texas, they will always tell you they are a Texan. There’s a lot of pride associated with living in Texas. The people are nice and willing to help out. They are humble and not in your face.”

Salaburu discovered poker while still in high school. For his friends, it was just a way to pass the time, but for him, it was a newfound passion.

“I got hooked,” he admitted. “We’d play all sorts of games like ‘baseball’ and ‘follow the bitch.’ After I learned how to play hold’em, I got started playing online and just took it from there.”

Poker came naturally to Salaburu, who was always hyper-competitive as a child. “I hated losing more than I loved winning. I was always the most aggressive player on the field. Even as a young kid playing soccer, they would catch me out of position because I’d be the guy who never got off the ball. I wanted to be a part of every play, and that kind of attitude definitely came with me to poker.”

A Love-Hate Relationship With Money

Salaburu and his older brother were raised by their mother, who struggled as a single parent, yet never allowed it to affect her youngest son. After he was born, Salaburu’s mom went back to school and became a teacher, which allowed him to get a solid education.

“We didn’t have a lot of money, but it never felt like that was an issue,” Salaburu told ESPN. “We ate every night. I just didn’t feel it. Now, I lose the kind of money in a month she made in a year. She knew how to make a dollar stretch.”

Playing online poker under the name ‘Treadinwater,’ Salaburu found relatively quick success. He banked more than $375,000 playing multitable tournaments online between 2009 and Black Friday, but didn’t always hang on to it.

“When I first started, I had a complete disregard for money, which is definitely an asset as a player. However, it can also get you into trouble. Now, I think I’ve found a decent balance. I can go through money, but I’m also pretty confident in my ability to create it pretty quickly. If you want to live a true gambling lifestyle, you really can’t give a f—k. Once you start caring about the money, you won’t be able to pull the trigger when it really counts.”

When asked why he referred to himself as a gambler rather a poker player, Salaburu explained that gambling isn’t always just about giving in to the luck of the draw.

“I’m a poker player first and foremost, but I don’t hide from the fact that I’m also a gambler,” he said. “I gambled as a kid. Not really for money, but with friends for bragging rights. If I make this shot, you’ll have to do this and if you hit that shot, I’ll have to do this. Being a gambler is all about confidence and believing in yourself.”

Salaburu has extended this philosophy to his poker game and says confidence often allows him to pass up situations determined by the flip of a coin.

“I’ve found that a lot of the younger online players have trouble with the patience part of the game, because they don’t realize that there is a time you can take your foot off the gas. They see A-K and get it in on a flip because that’s the standard play online. But you don’t have to take that spot in a live game. You can grind and wait for a better opportunity. Yeah, you may have an edge when you get it in, but you can’t control the outcome of a flip. I don’t mind giving up some equity in exchange for being able to better control my own destiny.”

The 2012 WSOP Main Event

Salaburu went into the 2012 World Series of Poker without much live tournament success. He had a few smaller four-figure scores in 2010 and 2011, but hadn’t cashed in a live tournament in nearly a year. The $10,000 WSOP main event changed everything, however, when Salaburu navigated his way through the 6,598-player field to make the final table and become a member of the November Nine.

Along the way, Salaburu’s mouth got the best of him a few times and he became a polarizing figure to ESPN audiences. Some loved the brash youngster who seemingly had no filter, while others felt that he was going to far. Salaburu, however, doesn’t mind his TV portrayal.

“The producer for ESPN pulled me aside and told me I was ‘making’ his show that season,” he recalled. “Poker is boring, but at least I was some kind of spark plug that brought some interest to the game. Obviously there were times I was portrayed as a jackass, but that’s fair because I am a jackass. People on the forums love to talk shit about me, but at least they are talking about me. At least they know my name. I don’t know who they are.”

Salaburu entered the final table seventh in chips, but was still confident that if things went his way, he’d be there at the end with a shot at the title. Instead, a cooler saw him lose most of his chips to Jacob Balsiger. Then, Jesse Sylvia’s Q-5 suited came from behind to best his pocket sevens and send him to the rail in eighth place, worth $971,252.

“I went in there gunning for first, but knowing full well that I could easily bust in ninth. I was fortunate enough to make it that far and be a part of something huge. At the end of the day, I made almost $1 million in a poker tournament and they can’t take that away. Maybe I’ll lose it all and wind up on a street corner, but I’ll still have a story. I’ll still have a Wikipedia page,” he said with a laugh.

“To dwell on it isn’t healthy,” he added. “The past is the past.”

Moving Forward

Salaburu’s time in the spotlight made him a bit of a poker celebrity, but he isn’t buying it.

“Whenever I’m in casinos, I’ll get the random poker fans who come up and want to take a picture,” he said. “But I find that to be really awkward. Poker fame is stupid. I mean, really, who cares? It’s funny when some of these guys get on TV and think they are some kind of celebrity. I’m not Brad Pitt or anything. Outside of Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu and a couple other players, there are no real poker celebrities. Those guys will get recognized at the grocery store, but I’m just a guy who happened to make a final table one year.”

Though he loves playing poker for a living, Salaburu isn’t about to start pretending that he has an important job. Instead, he prefers to fully acknowledge the fact that he plays a game for a living.

“Someone asked me if I felt worthless playing poker. I don’t, but does playing poker mean that I’m lazy? Probably. Poker is all I know at this point. It’s a means to an end, but I don’t want to be playing for a living when I’m 40 either.”

Salaburu only plays one or two tournaments a month, preferring to play private cash games instead. He spends most of his downtime with his girlfriend Terra Marie and is looking into investing in a couple of side businesses with his older brother. The time away from the table hasn’t really hurt his results, either. In the year since his big score, he’s cashed nine times and even went deep in the 2013 WSOP main event, finishing in 355th place for $32,242.

“Planning for the long term never occurred to me before,” he admitted. “With me, the long term was about planning where we were going to drink the next night. But now I’m a little bit more mature, a little bit more conscious of my future. We’ll see what happens.” ?


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