Insecure Borders...aka Local Boy Makes Bad...aka Who would fardels bear?
By nature I am an optimist. I am one of those guys who approaches situations with an ordained sense that there is a solution available, and who goes to bed confident tomorrow will be better than today, regardless of how good or bad today was. It is that simple truth that saw me through the voluntarily experienced hell that was a good chunk of my training. It is also what allows me to use the illusions that tomorrow I will be a better decision maker on the tennis court, at the dinner table, and of course, at the felt.
My play lately is fatiguing the mettle of this normally tireless sense of self-trust.
I have been tempering – yes, perhaps rationalizing away – this unfortunate fact with the idea that my “game” is a relatively new construction, and may simply be going through growing pains as I try to stretch it to a more aggressive style. As it is, I have only been trying to play thoughtful, patient, aggressive poker since May or so. At the end of July I ran red hot for two weeks, culminating in finishing 11th in the FT 20k. So perhaps I was due to cool off, and with this short a period to analyze my play, it would be hard to make drastic conclusions about the nature of my game.
Nonetheless, I am not playing the same game I was 4 weeks ago. It isn’t just the fact that I am losing a bunch of 50/50s. No, I am making choices that I hate. Choices I would not have made 4 weeks ago. I seem to have lost the fine touch at the table that lets you come to a definitive conclusion about your opponent’s holdings. Right or wrong, I rely upon those reads heavily, since I am not a huge fan of math. When the intuitive side of the game abandons someone who doesn’t live or die by the numbers, they are in very serious trouble. And that’s where we find our hero today.
Now it isn’t that I think I was playing great before. Specifically, I think I was playing very solid, middle-of-the-plate TAG/LAG poker, and enjoying a good run of cards, and winning my races in consecutive fashion. This well within reach equation was all that was required. You do not have to be able to a whole lot more to tear through the low level MTTs, with the notable exception of the occasional resteal, which I agree with Hoy on, is an advanced play and was a part of every deep run I enjoyed.
So what’s up? I think I’ve lost my nerve on some level. I am moving from TAG to TW and that is depressing. I am aware that I occasionally tend to talk down my ability at the felt. That isn’t false modesty, or a fear I will jinx myself. It has been part of my strategy to challenge myself to constantly improve. I teach residents all the time, “you’re never as good as they say, and rarely as bad as they say, and if you can internalize that, you might learn things as you go along.” I am developing my poker game the same way. I have already had a few successes that surprise the shit out of me. But even when I was running red hot (for me), I knew that I was not doing anything spectacular. I was simply playing soundly and benefiting from the odds holding up.
I am not playing soundly lately. Truthfully, I took several back-to-back low probability pummellings, which I was rolled for but not prepared for psychologically. I think this element of the game was difficult for me to appreciate from a distance. When I first started online and played horribly, I was fundamentally resigned to losing because I believed, rightly, that I was no good and deserved to lose. It was the universe validating the utility of math. However, since about June I had begun to think of myself as someone who knew just enough to be tricky, try things he’d read or seen, and with a decent run of cards could be dangerous. In late July I got the cards, got the breaks and paid attention and had the most fun with poker I’ve had to date. It was day after day of WTF?!? And slyly, in that period, I began to believe I was capable of running through and over the competition when needed. Thus I branched out my MTT game into cash and have tried repeatedly to find a groove. I was break even minus the first the couple of buy-ins up until 10 days ago when I found the dark side of the Matrix.
I will be honest (if not, what is the point of this thing?). I can afford to lose a bunch of buy-ins at 100NL. The money won’t keep me up at night. Yet I did lose four buy-ins in quick succession and it bothered me mightily. It did, in fact, keep me up at night. Why? It goes to the heart of why I even play. I am fundamentally addicted to competing. I can live with getting beaten by superior play; one of my vanities is that I think I am a pretty good sportsman, and learned from my Dad how to take my lumps like a man. I can even take (admittedly with much greater difficulty) luck determining that my 80/20 is no good. What tends to tilt me is when I defeat myself. Getting my stack in with the worst of it straight up and by odds makes me sick to my stomach. And it tilts me heavily. For days.
And now that tilt seems to have broken my game. I dropped buy-ins on consecutive days when a made turn flush was killed by two pair that found a boat on the river, a made straight I turn pushed was done in by another boat located on the rivah, and a boat of my own that was done in by an over-full that also appeared at the river. If any of you ever misplace your watercraft, contact me – I am developing a gift for conjuring boats for other people. Yes, I was a huge favourite most of those times heading into the last card, but in retrospect, in each hand I made glaring errors related to how I bet the turn or my lack of discipline in making crying calls when I knew I would end up crying. I let my opponent draw out on me too cheaply, and when he beat me, I paid him off. And I have been steaming on some level ever since.
What’s the point? Not that I lost some bucks, or a few hands, or woe is me, online poker is rigged. Rather, those “yeah but I was ahead…” beats have stung me much worse than their sizable but survivable hit to my roll. Since then, I have been chasing draws, pushing with marginal holdings, overplaying top pairs, etc. And getting spanked hard both at cash and in the MTTs. I am clearly now playing worse poker, plain and simple. Frustrating.
But this is where it ends. I had been dancing around that reality, and that’s why today I put it down. Everytime I have used this blog to remind me about what I want to play like it has worked. So here’s hoping the MWGB has more tricks up her sleeve. My short term plan is to tighten up, play fewer tables (yeah, yeah…I was three tabling the Mookie – IDIOT! I broke even for the effort by winning a token at least), and stick to my relative strength, MTTs, until I can feel the grass through my boots again.
I wish I could play like I was four weeks ago. Let’s see.
P.S. I played with a guy on FT who actually knew my blog. Deathhawk, I believe. Cool playing with ya. That was a first. I’ll repeat my standard greeting to the few lurkers who stop by here: Hola. You don’t have to be a blogger to comment. You should own property in a location I might like to visit – ie. the dude from Iceland, or that Kiwi who dropped in a while ago. But all are welcome to tell me I use too many words. That never fails to make me smile.