Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Starve the Ego, Feed the Soul

This post is rated M for extreme Monetary violence and P for Poker-related mutilation.

Note: This blog was actually written a couple weeks ago, but I never finished it as I didn't feel like writing for various reasons.  Now that the timeline is in check...

Australia is beautiful.  Poker has been a struggle.

I have had an incredible amount of motivation to play so far since getting here.  In 12 days, I have played 41,207 hands, spanning 99 hours of play...and I've even made it to the beach virtually everyday.  Unfortunately, I got off to pretty much the worst start imaginable.  The first couple days I was dealing with it.  I've been through a modest (ok very modest in poker terms) amount of variance, so I was mentally prepared for some type of downswing.  What hit me was more of an avalanche.

Please don't take this post as a complaint as it is not meant to be.  I made sure to wait until I had a more positive outlook on everything because I didn't want to come off as a little bitch, as I strive to keep up an ambitious facade.  Life in Australia is pretty damn amazing.  The beautiful beaches are a 10 minute walk, the gym is a 10 minute walk the other way with the grocery store on the way, and the girls are gorgeous and at least pretend to be friendly before ignoring my text messages.  If I receive one more text message that says "Who is this?" I'm gonna throw my phone against a wall...again.


In my first 18,000 hands here, I dropped $4300 playing .5/1 PLO.  For comparison's sake, my biggest downswing ever at .5/1 PLO prior to this was about to $2300, and I had played a couple hundred thousand hands before getting here.  I had no idea the Poker Gods read my blog and hated my Worst Case Scenario so much.  Thank you for reading.  Now to admit an even more embarassing truth.  When I hit the very bottom of that downswing I lost 3 huge hands in succession that set me over the edge.  As the first two happened, I started having a hard time breathing, felt like I was gonna throw up, and as the 3rd hand smacked me across the face like the girl I texted "It's Brandon you dumb bitch" the next time she saw me, hyperventilated for the first time in my entire life.  My arms were tingling, my face felt numb, and I closed my laptop shut and strolled into the kitchen to lie on the floor.  Kitchens obviously have the best floors.

I have lost pots way bigger than this, taken beats way worse, but having this bad of a rapid downswing come at this time in my life was something my mind just couldn't handle.  I lay on the floor a few minutes and when I had recovered both physically and emotionally, decided that it was time to check the ego at the door and figure out what the fuck was going wrong.  To be fair, I was running like shit.  But to be honest, I was exacerbating all of my problems.  I went into my room, talked to a couple people about what had just happened (still pretty much just in shock at both the events that caused them and the reactions that ensued), and went to work.  I had to fix my game.

Fixing my game was a twofold process.  For one, I had to get back to eliminating emotion from my play.  This was probably the biggest thing I needed to do as time and time again when I found myself getting shit on by the deck I would just lose my mind for that brief millisecond it takes for you to flick your wrist to the right, pretend the check/fold buttons aren't there, and snap off that call or raise.  And then I'd lose my mind even more.  Nothing pisses me off more in poker than when I make mistakes.  It is a great thing in that it makes me very self-critical and always wanting to improve.  It is a bad thing in that I really don't need anything more than the cards to piss me off.  I also have a tendency to dwell on my mistakes for several minutes after, which when you're playing 8 tables at a time means you have negative emotions going through you for probably 20-30 hands, more if you really can't let it go.  You're less likely to trust your instincts, and you also have the inherent desire to rectify your mistake by doing something else, taking action on something you can't truly take action on.  It can very much be a domino effect if you don't pull your emotions in check at the tables very quickly.

I still haven't completely removed emotion from my game but I have been a ton better about it over the last 20,000 hands.  The goal is to force myself to think about what the person might have and how they will react to various actions and how I will have to react to various actions.  Then we can make a decision.  When that lightning bolt shoots into my brain saying "BUT HE COULD HAVE THIS BLUFF" don't let it shoot my mouse to the call button and click.  But why am I angry?  Why am I acting on emotion?  Because losing to these players hurts my ego.  I can say pretty much without a doubt I am the best player playing .5/1 PLO on the sites I have played on at this point (Party Poker and Lock Poker).  This isn't to say there aren't guys that give me a lot of trouble, because there definitely are.  But losing to them makes me mad, when really I need to just accept it.  Sometimes I will get outplayed, sometimes I will make mistakes.  Fuck the bruised ego.  Starve the ego, feed the soul.

So I started to look at what I was doing wrong.  Why was this downswing so dramatic and seemingly out of control.  I noticed a few glaring changes in my play.  My W$SD% (Won Money at Showdown %) was too low, meaning I often had the worst hand when two or more hands made it past river betting.  Additionally, my Aggression Rating was too high, meaning I was raising it up in spots where I should just be flatting, playing too many big pots in high variance situations.  And lastly, my turn C-bet was too high, meaning I'd get called on a flop they're unlikely to give up on, I don't really have anything and betting is the only way I can win, so I say fuck it and bet it anyway. This of course works on occassion as you charge draws too much and push them out of the pot, but it has to be done a bit less haphazardly than I am doing it.

Long story short, I decided it was time to revitalize my game and stop blaming it on the cards.  I've gone from playing 26/17/5 to 24/16/4 which really means over my last 20,000 hands its been more like 22/14/3.  These are really nitty stats and its definitely not the style of play I prefer but I realized that I was just getting called all the time.  My bluffs weren't working and I wasn't making enough strong hands...so I tightened it up.  The beautiful thing about it?  Nobody notices.  They think I'm the same clown playing the same game as he was two weeks ago.  Ever since that reassessment I have started to win money again pretty steadily.  It still hasn't been all berries and crunch but my confidence is back and I'm turning it around.


And then I stopped writing.  The intention was to post a few graphs there to demonstrate what was going on, and then pretty much wrap it up.  Since I have already written quite a bit I'm just going to stick with that approach and post the graphs from when I wrote this.  I'll post another blog shortly hereafter with another update...as the ride since then has been wild as well.  For those unfamiliar with these sorts of graphs, the red line represents All-in EV, which is your expected return any time you get it all-in with more cards to come, and the green line represents actual winnings, which is how much you actually got back.  All-in EV should theoretically show luck neutrality (although it really only shows part of the picture).

And one fun hand...I raised for value and just felt like he was bluffing when he snapped it back, he was smad.

***** Hand History for Game 11414718290 ***** (Party)
$100.00 USD PL Omaha - Friday, February 10, 05:49:35 ET 2012
Table Table  204112 (No DP) (Real Money)
Seat 2 is the button
Seat 5: DNTRAZEMEBRO ( $167.71 USD )
Seat 3: MonkyntheMiddle ( $194.38 USD )
Seat 1: Sam_98 ( $215.46 USD )
Seat 6: Tahtopelaaja ( $105.71 USD )
Seat 2: lustig111 ( $22.50 USD )
Seat 4: ofleja ( $110.31 USD )
MonkyntheMiddle posts small blind [$0.50 USD].
ofleja posts big blind [$1.00 USD].
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to DNTRAZEMEBRO [  Ks Jc Ac 4s ]
DNTRAZEMEBRO raises [$3.00 USD]
Tahtopelaaja folds
Sam_98 folds
lustig111 folds
MonkyntheMiddle calls [$2.50 USD]
ofleja folds
** Dealing Flop ** [ 2s, 6s, Th ]
MonkyntheMiddle checks
MonkyntheMiddle calls [$6.00 USD]
** Dealing Turn ** [ Qh ]
MonkyntheMiddle checks
** Dealing River ** [ 7s ]
MonkyntheMiddle bets [$14.00 USD]
DNTRAZEMEBRO raises [$48.00 USD]
MonkyntheMiddle raises [$148.05 USD]
DNTRAZEMEBRO calls [$110.71 USD]
MonkyntheMiddle shows [4d, 9h As Ah ]
DNTRAZEMEBRO shows [Ks, Jc Ac 4s ]
MonkyntheMiddle wins $3.34 USD from main pot
DNTRAZEMEBRO wins $333.42 USD from main pot

And the chat that ensued (normally not a chatter but I was happy):

MonkyntheMiddle: lol
DNTRAZEMEBRO: soulllllll reeeeaddddd
MonkyntheMiddle: nah youre just a monkey
DNTRAZEMEBRO: says the monkey

And one of my favorite songs by an awesome group called The Glitch Mob:

It is incredibly important to have confidence in poker, but your ego can be your greatest weakness in addition to being your biggest strength.  Rather than saying "how can these terrible players beat me," say, "what can I do better to beat them."  Control what you can and the rest will follow.