Monday, November 21, 2005

Walking the Walk

I’m slightly premature with a year-end post, seeing how it’s only November and all.  But being slightly premature has never stopped me before.  Witness the miniBloods.

Moving on.  This past year of poker has been a bit tumultuous.

I remember beginning the year on quite a decent rush.  I had a weekend where I won about $1400 in both live and online games and was quite prepared to have a monster year overall.  But there was still a big problem.  I really wasn’t ready.

As I’ve documented before, I took shots at higher levels and failed each time.  My bankroll plummeted and by the summer, while still up for the year, my spirits were diminished.  Meanwhile, local legend G-Rob was killing every game he was in.  The guy was unstoppable and I’ll be honest and confess to being slightly jealous at the success he was having.  I was the guy who got him invited to my donkey home game and he was cleaning up.  (Aside:  Inviting other good players to your home game is –EV for you personally.  Duh.)

I quickly realized how silly it was to compare your results with someone else’s.  It’s one of the credos in the world of weightlifting and working out:  You are battling yourself and your own personal bests each workout.  Just because some one else can bench more than you, it doesn’t matter.  You’re there competing with yourself to better yourself.  It’s just like poker.

Beginning in July or so, I began to concentrate more on my game and made yet another attempt to ignore results and simply play a better, more solid game.  I started with a $200 live bankroll and a $200 online bankroll.  The goal was to simply grow the roll and be patient about moving up in limits.

Fast forward to today.  The results have been good, but what has really struck me is my reactions during losses.  Back to G-Rob for a second.  As he’s posted and as we’ve spoken about, he’s on a downswing.  That happens to every poker player on the planet.  He’s had Aces cracked in the most brutal ways and is reeling just a bit.  So when we’ve spoken, I’ve tried to help out by reiterating the mantra of variance and playing with a clear head.  I’m sure he’ll rebound, as good players do.

Coincidentally, this past weekend gave me a chance to put those same words I spoke to G-Rob to use.  I had Aces cracked hard twice in a row.  The second one, when I lost to a 1-outer when the guy hit quads after we both had our money in the pot, was a watershed moment.  Of course, I let out a “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me.”  But then?  Nothing.  Nothing else.  I kept playing.  In fact, the guy typed “sorry” in the chat window and I simply responded, “np, happens.”

Sure the pot I lost was huge, but I managed to avoid letting that loss effect my play afterwards.  And that is where I’ve made the biggest leap this year in my poker play.  I’ve crossed some sort of line where the beats just don’t get to me like they used to.  It’s taken a while, but with each passing day, I can squash those rising feelings of tilt whenever I sense them.  I’m not 100% successful, but I’m far and away much better than I used to be.

I encourage everyone who hasn’t yet read “Zen and the Art of Poker” to do so whenever they can.  I’ll always need strategy books and the like, but at this point in my poker career, I am more interested in the psychology of poker and how it applies to my own play.  As much as there is to learn about poker, there is even more to learn about yourself.

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