Monday, October 31, 2005


I’ve had some recent success lately, but rather than give details and risk jinxing it and incurring the wrath of the poker gods, I’ll just reflect on some thoughts I’ve had during the last few months.

Poker can be so very counterintuitive.  We’ve all read and come to understand how the luck factor is what brings the fish back to the table.  Without it, the poker world would be like the chess world – dominated by the grand masters and relegating those recreational part-time players into also-rans with no chance at ever competing on the biggest of stages.

But it’s also that luck factor that confuses, at least on occasion, the very best of poker players.  It is extremely difficult to discern bad play from bad luck.  It takes a willingness to admit to yourself that the negative results you’ve seen have come simply from bad play.  But it takes a whole helluva lot more to realize that you’ve been playing well and have just been on the bad side of variance.

Poker humbles me.  I’m very reluctant to admit to having any skill at the game.  It’s because I know how the game can turn on you, frustrate you, and make you question your own confidence.  It’s almost like I’m constantly looking back over my shoulder, waiting for the light tap of variance to bring my confidence back down a couple of notches.

It’s been said countless times before, but losing at poker has taught me the most about myself and my play.  In the months of May through July, I had an awful time winning.  No matter what I did, I lost.  I changed games, I changed sites, I even changed underwear.  It didn’t help.  But I did succeed at one thing.  I finally accepted it.

The three-month losing streak was just a part of the game.  My main game of short-handed NL ring games probably has the highest variation associated with it than any other form of poker, tournaments notwithstanding.  It’s tough to wrap your mind around how big variance can be, but once you do, you realize that part of the normal fluctuations of poker involves long losing streaks.

You can choose to let it break you and put you on tilt, or you can accept it and move on.  It’s quite a challenge to accept it and feel confident that playing your game will reap its just rewards over time.  It is very hard indeed.  But once you do, you won’t let losing get in your way.  Especially when you’re in the midst of a long winning period you must ACCEPT losing and avoid EXPECTING to win.

Making changes to your game such that it becomes easier for you to accept losing is very important.  Simple things like playing within your bankroll come to mind.  Maintaining detailed records of your play and results can help too.  Whatever it takes to accept and understand why you lose can only help in the long run.

And I know we’re all here for the long haul.    

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