Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Equity of Losing

Well, the Thanksgiving holiday certainly torpedoed my chances at the post-a-day proclamation I made a while back. I suppose you can sue me.

Last night was the game at Gucci Rick's which has managed to survive the reopening of an underground game, at least for the time being. I posted a small loss, but left rather content with my overall play. There were really zero opportunities for me to come out a winner based on the hands I was dealt. Luckily, I didn't fall into the trap of trying to do too much with too little. That "strategy" has cost me big in the past.

Sometimes folding is the optimum play. Even if you have to do it over and over again.

I made no sets, no straights, no flushes, nada. But still, I played my cards as well as I could have. Although it's certainly not very glamorous, using your "skill" at poker to avoid losing more than you should is a very important aspect of any good player's game. The meta-game skill of avoiding frustration is something I very much needed to work on, and last night's game was a step in the right direction.

There was another thing I noticed too. It was brought to my attention by another player actually. This other player may figure out who he is, I know he reads this. During one game this month, this otherwise very solid player showed up with every intention of drinking and having a grand old time. Very rarely did this person drink heavily during a session, perhaps only a beer or two every now and then. However on this night, as this player became more and more affected by the alcohol, his play rapidly and noticeably deteriorated.

He posted a larger loss than I'd seen him post in quite some time. I saw a little bit of me in that evening. Someone who for whatever reason threw caution to the wind and played a very sub-optimal game while drinking it up and having a good time. There's nothing wrong with having a good time while playing. Nothing at all. However, against the current crop of players who are left playing on Monday nights, it's simply not a winning strategy.

Last night, I only had a couple of beers at the table. I made a conscious effort to keep my focus up and my awareness heightened, even while out of the hands. It bordered on work. Mainly because it is. Playing well nowadays requires work. It requires a near-constant mental acuity that apparently I've not brought to the table in quite a while.

Sure, I can go on about the bad beats killing my bottom line this year. But I sure as hell also need to take some responsibility for the bad play that I've been guilty of. The environmental factors that contributed to my bad play can easily be eliminated if I choose to do it. Right now, there's no reason not to choose that option. It's almost like I lost the respect for the effort required to do well at these games. I felt somewhat entitled to a continuation of last year's winning ways.

I took an honest look back at what I thought were the differences between last year and this year. Last year I was enthralled with the game. I was enthusiastic about the strategic options each hand of poker offered. I lost that appreciation this year for the game's challenge.

Well, last night I lost the feeling of entitlement. I welcomed the work required to get back to where I was. I took that first step back up the ladder. Even though the rungs are slippery, I've traversed them before.

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