Jamie Burland: My journey on the poker road

In his final column Jamie Burland looks back to the first time he played poker and reflects on the long journey he’s travelled

Tenacious D frontman Jack Black is oft-referred to on their self-titled debut album as ‘Jables’. My initials are also JB so that’s the first part of the screen name sorted, I thought, now I need a number – all good screen names have a number. 

The year is 2004 and I am agonising for the first time over a new online poker alias. Even then I was savvy enough not to use the number ‘84’, the year of my birth. No, that would date the screen name and I would age with it. I went for a timeless and non-descript ‘20’ to tie the name together – musing to myself that I may grow old, but on a PC in my attic Jables20 would be forever youthful.

I wish I had been as diligent and thoughtful with my university studies at that time but I didn’t get my priorities right. A career in poker can result in some quite large gaps in a CV so smarter young people than me would have made sure they at least had a fall-back option in the form of qualifications or a trade before following the path of the card sharp.

Dodgy teachers 

When I look back at my blog posts from that time it’s quite funny to read myself worrying about ‘getting addicted to virtual poker’ and having no money but ‘always seem to have cash available for things like drink, poker & fags’. Seems about right. The year 2004 has been hailed as the glory days of online poker but I never really took any shots, and would always cash out if my roll got above $200. My thinking was always too short-term – cashing out would pay for a night out – whereas a more disciplined attempt at bankroll building would have been way smarter.

In order to improve as a player I ignored poker forums like TwoPlusTwo, or lesser known UK forums in which young button clickers Moorman, Flushy and Pab were regular posters. Instead, I watched Phil Hellmuth and Howard Lederer training videos which helped me develop what would now be called a Weak-Tight style but back then was considered as Conservative-Wise.

Giving is good 

I’ve never been overly extravagant on the few occasions when I’ve had money but one thing I would pull my younger self up about would be to be more structured when it comes to lending money. At times being a poker pro can feel like a struggle just staying in the game, so with that in mind it’s in everyone’s interest to have a trusted circle of mates. I have been lucky enough to have good, trustworthy people around me and as everyone’s successes come at different times, you are constantly in each other’s pockets. 

Lend generously and without vig to friends would be my advice, as these are the people who will lend back to you – but don’t lend too much. It can be easy after a couple of winning months to overestimate what your regular income actually is and I’ve made the mistake on a number of occasions of having decent scores, and lending out chunks of the money only to really need it again weeks later. This is a good way of never being able to push on so lend with caution.

A new chapter 

My perception of my own game has shifted from thinking I knew almost everything in the early years, to feeling absolutely clueless compared to my peers on a regular basis these days. Whether it be in the form of getting coaching from a better player, chatting to people you respect regularly about hands or watching videos, I’d tell younger Jamie to always put himself in positions to be continually learning. I was talking about game selection with my poker buddy Kevin Williams this week and he brought up the valid point that it’s worth putting in a few tough MTTs into your weekly schedule so that you gradually build up experience in harder games and improve as a player. If you only ever play the softest games then it makes sense that your development as a poker player will be limited. 

I’m enjoying a transitional period in my career and my path over the next year is uncertain. This is my last entry for PokerPlayer and, having parted ways with Black Belt Poker, after being sponsored by them for the best part of four years, I feel excited about what could be coming next. 

I welcome all of you to continue following my progress via the microblogs I post regularly on Twitter under the handle @jamieburland. Thanks to PokerPlayer for giving me the opportunity to write for a magazine I have been a fan of since Issue 1 and thanks to all of you who took the time to read my ramblings. See you a little further on down the trail…

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