Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Points in Hockey and Soccer

Each year at the Imaginary Company where I work, we're expected to put together a list of Goals and Objectives that serves as a foundation for our career progress. If you've worked the corporate world for a while, you know how these things work (and don't work). However, the concept of working towards a goal has not been lost on me this past year. Believe it or not, it does have value.

Back in January, I accepted a prop bet with the blogger-turned-frolfer known as G-Rob. Even though a wager was made, it was the acceptance of the bet that led me down a well defined path towards a difficult to obtain objective - running a 10k in under 52:30. I had months to train, and train I did. Throughout the training, I honestly had no idea whether I'd succeed or not. But one thing I did know - I created a plan (with some help) and executed it to the best of my ability. Then on race day, when I crossed the finish line ahead of my target, I accomplished the goal.

Of course I shared the news with anyone and everyone who would listen, but the reality of the situation was that I had done something for myself. It was a feeling of accomplishment that I'd not felt in a long time. I'm really unable to put it into appropriate words.

Not soon thereafter, I felt the need to recapture that experience, the moment of self-satisfaction that occurs when you complete something you set out to do.


At the end of this past July, I was on vacation in Florida with the family. Of course, even while on vacation, I always find time to play some online poker. Just like on so many other occasions, while the vacation went extremely well, the online poker play did not. I managed to lose about 16 buy-ins in the $100 PLO games. If you've played PLO, you know that this is not uncommon, but even with that knowledge I grew incredibly frustrated.

I wondered why I was playing, why I was spending so much time with this pursuit. These are questions I'm sure nearly every poker player has asked themselves over the course of their "career."

If I were to answer those questions honestly, what would I do with those answers? Some of the answers may seem ridiculous, lofty even. But they are honest.

I want to be good at the game. Really good.
I want to be a winning player, more so than I am now.
I want to play enough hands each year to determine what my win rate is.
I want to move up in stakes at an appropriate pace.
I want to get better, always get better.

If the above answers could be considered goals, what then would be my execution plan?


To me, there are several types of poker players. There is the type of player, a prodigy even, who simply gets the game by playing it. These are the Durrrrs, the Galfonds, the Iveys of the world who for whatever reason have the brain wiring to learn the intricacies of the game by playing it. Obviously I'm not that type of player, and if you're reading this, neither are you.

Then there is another type of player. An intelligent player that misses some of the higher end key concepts of the game; those concepts just go unnoticed because they're non-obvious to all but the most savvy of minds. However, these players can learn these concepts if they are presented to them. Simply, these players can be taught, they can learn. This is the type of player I think I am. And many of you reading this are most likely in that category too.

Another type of player, the type of player I once was, is one that for whatever reason just expects that they're going to good because they once were. Some of the basics came naturally and these basics worked against a player base made up of recreational players. But the game is always changing, and it may have changed without them noticing it. But because this type of player expects to continue to be good, they don't see it and don't adjust.


I created a plan for myself. A training plan if you will. I moved my PLO game down 2 levels to the $25 buy-in. For a player with an ego (and that's what we all are), that's a difficult thing to do. Imagine that for a minute. Back in June, I played live $5/$5 PLO in Vegas and did really well. But because I was doing so poorly online, I dropped back to levels where my opening raise was 85 cents. You want to talk about a grind?

I told myself that if I could not win 100 buy-ins at the $25 PLO level, then I really had no business playing. None. But if I thought that my game was substandard, what was I going to do to improve it? Just play? That's not an answer unless you're the first player type I mentioned above. Could I learn some new things? I thought that I could.

I signed up at a training site and watched some instructional videos at deucescracked. I read tons of strategy posts in the PLO section at 2+2. And then I tried to apply what I learned.


Setting a running goal for myself was so satisfying that I couldn't help but do it again. What comes after a 10k? Why not at least double that and go for a half-marathon? So that's what I did. I developed another training plan, put it in a spreadsheet and began to execute it.

Every day I've woken up since July 18th, I've known exactly what I'd be doing for my workout, both with weights and with running. The date of my run is October 30th and I've completed over 60% of the training with an 11-mile run planned for Saturday.

It's tough as hell on me. But because I know the feeling of accomplishing something, I continue to work towards that goal. Every day. And it's a grind.


I'm almost half way towards my 100 buy-in goal. In just over 7 weeks of play, I'm up 45 buy-ins in about 23,000 hands. It's a good win rate and if I'm being honest, the urge to simply just move up now has crossed my mind multiple times. But each day, when I log into Full Tilt to play, I know exactly why I'm playing and what my strategy is.

I'm not playing just to pass the time away. I'm not playing just hoping to get lucky. I'm playing because I'm on step 1 of achieving a goal I defined for myself when I answered my own internal questions about why I play.

Does every player need to do this? No, of course not. But if you have expectations for yourself that you want to satisfy, maybe setting a goal would help you achieve them. And like I'm doing with running, it certainly doesn't have to be about poker.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What I've Been Listening To

And loving all of it. But that's just me.