Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Poker can be like a bad rash.  If you leave it unattended, it can creep into unwanted places and before you know it, drastic measures are required to keep it in check.  For me, poker is a slow, growing, consuming pastime that with an ever-increasing frequency needs to be battled back just to be held at bay.

I’ve been kind of grumpy lately and the people who know me best have noticed.  The mood swings aren’t even tied to poker results anymore.  I locked myself into a mindset where if I’m not on pace to do X or Y this year in poker, I put needless pressure on myself to get back on that pace.  If there’s one thing I’m very good at, it’s putting needless pressure on myself.

Self-assessment can be difficult.  Let me rephrase that.  Accurate self-assessment can be difficult.  I have a view of myself that may or may not be completely wrong.  Or it could be spot on.  I have no idea.  Poker skill is one of those things that is difficult for me to assess by myself.  Unfortunately, whenever other people mention what they think of my skill set, I dismiss it rather quickly.  So sometimes I think I’m good and other times I think I’m horrible.

I don’t even trust my results.  When I’m winning, it’s only because the other players are playing even more horribly, at least in my head.  It doesn’t take much to shake my confidence.  Take last week for example.  In the matter of seven days, I dropped 50% of my online bankroll.  There were pots where I got my money in good and then lost, but there were also pots where I didn’t.  I dropped down levels and the results continued in the negative direction.

Luckily, my live play has prospered.  But, frankly, so what?  My live play is against the same group of about 25 G-Vegas players at various venues.  If you can claim to be a winner against the same set of 25 guys and gals, what measure of true poker talent is that?  Not much.  Online, there are tens of thousands of opponents.  Is success there a better indicator of skill?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

One thing I do know is that there are times that I love playing the game.  But in a quest to find that sweet spot where I’m both winning and enjoying myself, I’ve been all over the map.  It’s time to just set up shop in a familiar place and hold tight for a while.

In the final analysis, what really drives me is the desire to get better.  That is unequivocally the bottom line.  Getting better.  Learning.  Becoming a better player.

So I’m going to do some things differently, but still do some of the things the same.  I’ve said it countless times as have others, but I really need to just focus on the game at hand.  Focusing means one table at a time for me.  Focusing means not playing too tired, nor too drunk.  Focusing means looking back over hand histories with a renewed interest and being willing to assess myself as honestly as possible.

The online game is simply too tantalizing.  It’s far too easy to just sit down and play when you shouldn’t.  I’m guilty of sitting down with flush bankrolls and playing just because I’m bored.  I sure wouldn’t go to a live game if I wasn’t up to the task.  The barrier to entry is so tiny online that it tends to diminish my focus on near instant basis.  It is, after all, just a video game.  Of course, it’s not really, especially when you have thousands of dollars at stake.  But it’s in the guise of a video game and that inviting face breaks down my discipline to the point where I am helpless to resist her siren song.

In the near future, I’ll be limiting my online play.  I’m restricting myself to 100 hands at a single table; after which, I’ll not play until I comb over the hand histories to see how I’ve played.  I’ll acquire data, I’ll learn, I’ll adjust, and finally, I hope to get better.  Check that.  I will get better.

Fear not, however.  I didn’t go busto and I’m still very much in the black for the year.  I’m just disappointed with how I’ve let the game take up too high a percentage of my waking thought and disappointed with letting my focus slip when I played online.  One thing I’m also very good at is being stubborn.  And I’m far too stubborn to admit defeat.

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