Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Meta Skill

I recently had a conversation with my manager who just recently came aboard our team at work. One of the things I told him was how I could never be a manager, mainly because of my inability to see people as resources and manipulate them according to what's best for the team. I also told him that over the course of my seventeen year career (all at the same company), I've been ranked at the bottom of the spectrum, the top of the spectrum, and many places in between. The only thing that's been consistent during that duration was me and my job performance. So why the disparity? Because the person doing the ranking has changed.

This year's poker results (in case you haven't been reading) haven't quite been what I'd anticipated. So the question is, has my poker playing ability changed all that much to warrant such a disparity?

If I'm being honest with myself, then I guess I'd really have to say no. In fact, I believe I'm playing better this year than I have in any other. If I didn't believe that, then frankly I should just give up right now. Sure I still make my share of mistakes, but overall, I think my decision making has been better overall this year than it was last year. I think I know more about the game, have more experience with better players, and am seeing things better at the table than I have in the past.

But to look solely upon myself in a constantly changing poker environment would only be part of the story. One must look elsewhere to find out where the differences in results lie.

For one thing, the local player base is on average much better than it was a year to 18 months ago. If I could rewind time a bit and take a look at who played the games way back when, then I'd find that many of the games donators are no longer showing up. G-Rob + Spring Hotel = profit vacuum.

I recently played a game at another location. It wasn't The Depot, it wasn't the Gaelic Game. It was a game filled with opponents that I felt were a good two steps below your average G-Vegas card slinger. That night, thanks to some cards, and a couple of good plays, I won as Eddie would say, half a g-bar. And that was without ever being put to a decision for any significant number of chips.

(Side note: In fact, I had the luxury of getting two different people all in when they were drawing dead. That's zero outs. Can't suck out on me there.)

(Side, side note: Upon telling Random101 about opponents having zero outs, he responded by saying that at some point, the board will pair with an identical card, fouling the deck and making the hand dead. I had trouble disagreeing with that potential scenario given my run of luck.)

I think a lot of times, the desire to play with better players overrides the true goal of playing serious poker - making money. I'll admit that on the night that The Depot had a 5/10NL game going, part of me wanted to take a shot. But why? It's not good table selection to play with better players at higher stakes, especially given a proven track record of winning at the 1/2NL game. The only reason to play at that game would be ego-driven, not monetarily driven. I chose not to play, but for a time regretted not taking the chance.

Online, it's the same thing. I've used some table selection techniques and player tracking methods, that while not revolutionary to any online veteran, have proven to give me a better shot at winning money. I avoid people I know to be good players and knowingly choose to play against those I feel I have an edge.

I'll always have trouble grasping exactly how much variance there is in poker. And when the skill level between players gets smaller and smaller, it's that same variance that's going to become the overriding factor in determining who wins that day. So if I can help it, I'm going to continue to try to put my money in favorable situations. At least until I can be more comfortable with a bankroll that has been more stagnant than I want it to be.

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