If you’ve been playing online poker for a while, or reading the various poker forums, you will be familiar with the concept of the “Cash-Out Curse”.
If you aren’t, it’s fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll explain it anyway to pad out the word count.
It goes down like this: you cash out some money from a poker site and then you are cursed, and cannot win a hand, no matter how good you get it in.
Since I started playing poker as a serious way to supplement my income eight months ago (looking to earn around £150 pcm), I have cashed out a whopping 3 times, and each time I have then gone on to do my spuds in astounding fashion.
Clearly the Cash-Out Curse is absolutely real, all the poker sites, ESPECIALLY PokerStars (the one I use most), are rigged to fuck and as soon as it becomes obvious a player is capable of winning, they do something wacky with the algorithms and hand all your equity over to your opponents on a golden plate.
There is literally no other explanation.
Go on any of the forums and you will see that this is not just happening to me, it’s happening to loads of players; obviously only the very, very best ones, but loads of players.
When I was a roulette dealer, I was called a cheat at least 5 times a day, either directly, or indirectly.
There were loads of reasons the punters gave me for them losing:
“Magnets. Definitely magnets.”
“There’s a pedal under the table.”
“You can choose what number you spin.”
“The compartment of my favourite number is smaller.”
“I won yesterday, so now you want it all back.”
I really hate being called a cheat. I have a very thick skin, and there is no insult that anyone can throw at me that I give a tiny shit about, except being called a cheat.
I’d respond very politely to my losing customers (they paid my wages- I wasn’t allowed to call them stupid to their faces), but I knew they were losing because the house has an edge on Roulette; if you play for long enough, you can only lose.
I thought they were stupid for playing without reading the leaflet that gives them that info, and even stupider for playing if they actually believed it was rigged in any respect other than openly paying out below the true odds.
Obviously poker is different, there’s no house edge. If you have a skill edge on your average opponent, you will win on the long term, if you don’t, you won’t.
Is that why I think it’s okay to imply that the poker sites are cheating?
If I’ve had a massive losing streak and they’re not cheating then I must be a terrible player, and I’m not trying to admit that to myself here, so I have to say they are cheating.
I’m such a good player they need to take me down a peg or two.
Double-barrel of “hmm”.
I don’t want to think that the poker sites are cheating, but the fact remains that I have had three prolonged losing streaks immediately after cashing out, I have the dated PokerTracker graph to prove it.
I have been reading a lot of forum posts on the topic, looking for somebody else with graphic evidence, or somebody with some actual knowledge on why this might be happening.
If PokerStars is fixed, I need to know, because I need to stop playing on there and start suing them.
In over three hours of reading a multitude of posts, I found nothing. Almost every single thread degenerated into two factions insulting eachother.
The “look fuckwit it’s obviously happening to me, look at my graph” group and the “lol retard. There’s no such thing” group just getting nastier and nastier as the pages went on.
There was very little of use, so I have decided to work out myself exactly why I have had losing streaks of 45buyins, 60buyins, and this week, 80buyins, directly after cashing out.
I’m well rolled at 250buyins, I thought that was sensible as I almost exclusively play massive field MTTs and at any stake tournament variance is high, but at micro-stakes it can be crazy.
If I thought it was necessary to have a roll that could sustain 100 buyin downswings, why am I crying about it?
Because it makes me feel like shit, even when I logically know it’s a mathematical possibility I could go on a streak that cold.
Cashout Curse Fact One: A downswing can happen anytime
I am currently running about 40 buyins below EV. I know that because of my lovely “all-in adjustment” line.
This is where my HUD dashboard shows me the difference between my cash winnings and my actual all-in equity, and I can’t pretend it’s not a little gratifying to see it when I feel like I’m running hard, it’s the proof I need to just keep on keeping on.
40 buyins below is pretty rough, but it’s not completely ridiculous, certainly within the bounds of possible given the size of the fields that I’m playing. It is simply not possible to go deep in a large field micro-tourney without being all-in several times, and taking a few flips.
Cashout Curse Fact Two: I have an inflated ego after cashing out
Yep. I feel so good when I cash out. I think: “Wow, I’m such a brilliant player, nothing I do is wrong. Every penny of my winnings is due to skill and every penny of my losses is due to the rough side of variance. Bow down to me and lick my poker-god feet.”
This is a very dangerous mindset at the table. Examining a few of my large losing hands played directly after cash out, it was like watching someone else play.
I was making big, bad calls with speculative hands, I was attempting to preflop 3bet bluff opponents with an 85% VPIP and I was paying too much for draws. In the first 1000 hands after my cashout, my VPIP over all formats was nearly 30%… oh! The Shame.
I cashed out and then I started playing badly. I may not be able to fully explain why, but it is absolutely the truth.
Cashout Curse Fact Three: I bought in for bigger tourneys
With my roll back to SP and a little slither of profit deposited into my back account, I bought in for no less than six $27.50 tourneys… I am bankrolled for $5-$10 tourneys… so that’s pretty dumb.
I do allow myself a “treat” occasionally, after binking a tourney, and buyin for one $27.50 PKO directly.
I like them, they’re fun, and although I know that bankroll management is paramount to winning poker, I feel like one 5xbuyin occasionally when I’m so well rolled is not going to kill me.
Six in a row is stupid, pure foolishness, and failure to cash in all but one explains around 20 of my burned buyins. What a donkey I am.
Cashout Curse Fact Four: I played alien formats
For whatever reason, I played fifty $3 spin and gos and eighteen $4 hyper-turbo satties to $82 seats. I am not a natural hyper-turbo player, my normal game is the long-game and there is almost no correlation between hyper-turbo sit and goes and massively multi-table tournaments.
While the buyins were within my financial roll, the format was outside my skill roll.
I think I just wanted a punt, which, let’s be honest, spin and gos mainly are. They seem to be the closest thing to a poker game with an actual house edge.
I have no real idea how to play them, I’m not used to trying to be creative with so few chips, in an MTT, I’d just be jamming 500chips with any hand worth it, even at 10/20 blind level.
After burning off another 25 buyins on this nonsense, I finally worked out that I don’t have the game for them and stopped playing them.
Cashout Curse Fact Five: I played too many satellites
I was registering for sattys all over the place, just the next one starting would do. I didn’t care, I just felt invincible and thought there was no way I could lose.
I’ve been trying to qualify for UKIPT, and set aside £100 from my roll to do so. I was not successful, and so, with the discipline a real poker player should have, I initially gave up.
As soon as I cashed out this time, I played though another 25 buyins trying to qualify again… like a mug. The worst part about this fact is that I genuinely didn’t realise I’d spent that much. It was only as I looked, teary-eyed, at my tournament history on PokerTracker that I noticed.
I have been running a bit hard, but if I’m really honest with myself, my 80 buyin loss is not due to a curse, other than the curse I have borne all my life of being a total fucking idiot.
I absolutely believe that PokerStars (or any other site) is not cheating me out of anything; not because they care about me, but because they don’t give a tiny rat’s arse whether I win or lose my tournament buyin, as long as I pay my reg fee. Just like the casino I worked for, they don’t need to cheat me, they just need me to keep playing, fair and square.
I wish so hard that they were cheats, because then I don’t have to admit to myself that I have a major problem with my overall game, which I obviously do.
I’m having a week or so away from the tables, as a punishment/recuperation period. My ego is severely dented, and that is no mean feat. I’m going to read, write some short stories, watch some movies, and think about what I’ve done.
I’ve learned that the Cash-Out Curse is real, but only in so far as I have cursed myself.
I am a low-stakes player, I am always learning, and I have a very long way to go. I could keep on blaming the fairies, or witches, or some deity, or the cheating poker sites; but if I do, I will never lift the curse.
I’m very sorry, bankroll, please forgive me. I promise that when I come back to you, I’ll treat you with the respect you deserve.