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Joint sessions

So you are a relatively successful poker player. You log on to your favorite site, fire up a session, and three hours later you're up a couple of buy-ins, maybe more. At least that's how it used to be. For some reason, though, recently it's gotten harder for you to win. Maybe Internet gambling legislation has shaken things up, maybe there aren't as many fish around, but winning money just isn't as easy as it used to be. You fall into a routine. Pretty soon, your game gets stale and you realize you aren't progressing. Maybe you're still a winning player, but you're finding it harder to grind out a few productive hours. The solution? Pull an online joint session.

One of the smartest things you can do when trying to become a better player is to establish a network of friends with whom you can debate hands, get different perspectives -- and play alongside. A joint session is simple: You sit at the same computer with a friend and make the decisions together, splitting profits and losses. You make note of the starting balance in the account, and when you're done, the difference between the ending and starting balance is the profit or loss, which is then divided by two. Personally, I just keep a running tab on my computer of who owes whom, and when they want to settle, I write them a check and start the tab over again.

As an aside, for those of you with sizable rolls, I much prefer pulling joint sessions over backing players with smaller bankrolls. It greatly reduces the stress involved with staking another player and helps both parties on several levels. If you're sitting with your friend during the session, you know all the moves that are being made and the beats that are happening. The friend doesn't have to worry about losing your money because you are right there playing, too; and you don't have to worry about whether he is making bad plays or just getting unlucky. Also, both players can learn a lot from each other, even if there is a big difference in skill. You might find yourself explaining why you made a specific play and in the process realize that what you're saying makes no sense. It sounds odd, but it does happen from time to time and you can learn from it. There are other advantages, too.

The biggest advantage, as I said earlier, is the addition of a new perspective to your game. No matter how good you're running, it's always beneficial to hear how a hand could have been played differently. Not only are you improving your own game, but you can also teach your friends what is working well and hopefully pass on some helpful advice. I know quite a few players who have the skill and insight to play at higher stakes but need a jump-start to their rolls, which this strategy provides.

Just as important, pulling a joint session virtually eliminates the possibility of going on tilt. Back in the day, I had the skill to win consistently over time, but as soon as I took a beat, made a bad play, or started running bad, it became a downward spiral. I'd have a lot of trouble recovering and would end up losing many pots in a short amount of time. This can devastate one's roll. Having a friend sitting at the computer with you prevents this from happening. Obviously this doesn't fix the problem of being susceptible to going on tilt, but it allows you to mature as a player and learn to deal with adversity.

Building your friends' bankrolls is obviously beneficial to them, but it can also have residual benefits for you. At some point, for you as a player, things are going to start running bad; and that's when those friends can end up returning the favor, which is exactly what happened in my case. Not to mention the fact that it's just nice to help someone in need.

The obvious disadvantage of pulling a joint session happens when the two of you disagree about a decision. Though this might seem to be a major problem, if you play with good people, it actually doesn't come up that often. When it does become an issue, the person who is in the "driver's seat" is ultimately in charge. Usually this works itself out because, after all, the person in charge is typically the one helping out the other person.

Trust is a very touchy subject, but one that certainly needs to be addressed here. In order to make joint sessions work, you have to trust your friend 100 percent. When dealing with so many sessions and so many dollars it would be very easy to switch around a couple of numbers. Naive as it may seem, I think most people would be content with the money being made, especially if you consider your partner a friend.

Another difficult thing to take into account is the stress that is put on the friend. Your friend might be used to playing lower stakes, $1/$2 for example. If you pull a $10/$20 joint session with him, it creates a lot of stress on him not to lose. I typically don't have trouble increasing the stakes, but I imagine it might be a little overwhelming for some.

Finally, splitting the profit is obviously not ideal, but in my opinion this is outweighed when you take into consideration all the other factors; not the least of which is that you have something other than iTunes to keep you company while you play.

Whether you are consistently winning right now and you want to help out a friend, or whether you need to diversify your own game a bit, consider pulling a joint session. Splitting profits isn't so bad if you're regularly doubling up.

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