After a few weeks of diligent study, mostly of Collin Moshman’s Sit ‘N Go Strategy, I took on my first nine-to-five of online poker just the other day. After a hearty breakfast of coffee and milk-less Cheerios, I sat down at a coffee shop with my laptop and logged on to PokerStars, the biggest online poker site in the world. I started with a modest bankroll and played two to three one-table Sit & Go’s simultaneously, starting a new tournament whenever I finished one. Save for a short lunch break (a peach and a cigarette), I played continuously all day, somewhere between twenty and thirty tournaments altogether.

In terms of results, after the A.M. session I was up about 250%. Come the end of the day, however, I was modestly above breaking even. Some would perceive this as something of a failure; I, however, take away several positives. As far as first days go, this first day had more than its fair share of adversity, which I’ll get into, and considering I didn’t go into the red at the end of it all, I’d say I made out all right.

The biggest obstacle was fatigue. The mounting exhaustion as the day went on was probably largely to blame for my decreased earning in the afternoon. Over-consumption of coffee, along with an acute under-consumption of food and water, left me in awful shape by early afternoon. In terms of poker, a few pretty big holes in my strategy became evident as well. First, blind-stealing aggression on the bubble can be exploited by strong, big-stacked players who limp from early positions with premium hands, only to trap the unsuspecting blind-stealer (a.k.a. me). Second, the importance of good heads-up play cannot be understated. Finishing in first place yields about 70% more winnings than second, so even a small increase in the ratio of first to second place finishes means an enormous increase in profit.

The overarching moral that emerges is that a marginal decrease in decision-making ability is devastating and needs to be prevented at all costs. These seemingly minute strategy points as well as fatigue’s seemingly slight and often unnoticed effects compromise decision-making ever so slightly–and after all, you can make 19 out of 20 decisions right in online poker, and making that 20th decision wrong often costs you the enormous majority of your profit. Which means getting a good night’s sleep, substituting water for coffee and carbs for nicotine. It also probably means not sitting still and staring at a computer screen for eight straight hours, but I suppose there’s no getting around that…