Archive Dec 2007: nath

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2007 year in review/what's coming in 2008

So I got hammered yesterday-- mixing in no tournament cashes with a 12-buyin cash downswing. My "big month" that I had anticipated after the 2nd place HU finish and the big Sunday with the few deep runs evaporated; I had something like 27k in tournament cashes, and if I hadn't, I would have gotten stomped badly this month.

Even so, the year ended okay. Making myself focus on cash for a while improved my game in both areas, and even though I kept running into obstacles moving up, I'm confident that with some discipline and care in game selection, I will succeed.

So what does success mean, exactly?

In 2008, I have a few goals both in terms of what I want to have accomplished as a poker player, and how I want to approach the game.

In terms of how I want to approach the game, I think it can be best summarized in these two words:
Be Professional.

That means it's time for me to approach poker like a job, not a hobby. It means approaching poker as though my goal is to make the most money possible (and subsequently hold onto it), not just to have fun while getting by. That entails a few things:

Discipline. Discipline shows up everywhere in the game. It's in keeping a tight rein on your game selection-- not playing in tough games, not playing for reasons of ego. It's in mental state-- having the discipline to keep yourself from tilting and playing badly. Having the mental courage to admit to yourself when you are playing badly, and to quit. When the games are good are you're running bad, you can't let yourself go on tilt just because it will soothe your ego. You have to maintain control, settle back down, and play your best. Good games don't come around often enough that you can afford to behave like a diva when they do.

It means treating your bankroll like it's the tool of your trade. It is what allows you to making a living and to take shots and good games when they arise. It means not being frivolous with it, either in expenditures or by gambling it away.

I spent a lot of time in the first half of 2007 playing in games I shouldn't have, playing out of my roll and skill level, gambling too much, traveling too much. I had lost the focus and drive that made me a winner to begin with. And instead of working on my game and playing at a high level, I was just donking around, assuming it would all work out because I'm just that good.

Of course, as soon as you start assuming you're just that good, you immediately stop doing the things that made you that good. I stopped doing the little things that gave me edges in games. I wasn't fighting for pots enough, and when I was, I wasn't attentive to the situation at all-- I simply would shove it in, because, well, that's what I do, and I'm so crazy, I gotta maintain my rep, right? I was making plays because I felt like it, not because they were the right play. I had stopped playing like a winner-- and instead I was playing like, well, like a whiny prima donna who thought that since he "made it", he could do whatever he wanted and still win.

And in a certain sense, that's true-- even my mediocre play is good enough to beat some games, and to beat tournaments at a marginal ROI. But that isn't enough for me. I'm too talented for that, and it would be a waste and a travesty to coast on that.

That clicked with me only recently: I finally decided that having the capability to do great things wasn't enough anymore. Forget for a second what I might be able to give back or what other people think: I owe it to myself to push myself and see how great I can become. I won't be fulfilled if I don't test myself to the limit, if I don't try to succeed on the biggest stages possible. I don't ever want to wonder what might have been, in poker or in life.

So as you may have guessed, 2007 was not my best year. Despite my tournament successes, I blew money in games and in ways I shouldn't have. It was only well into the year, after a disastrous trip to Turning Stone in August, that I realized my current lifestyle and method of playing and exhibiting game selection (i.e. "traveling all the time", "when i felt like it", and "not at all") were not sustainable. So I tightened ship, settled down, and decided to actually focus on playing well and playing in optimal conditions and getting better. I'm still not where I want to be, but I feel like my game is moving in the right direction, the last two days notwithstanding.

So what's in store for 2008?

I intend to keep grinding online cash. I feel like I'm not meeting my potential, though, and I'm not sure what exactly I'm missing. My head is probably clouded with bad ideas. I have trouble maintaining the discipline needed to play well; I play well for short bursts and stretches but eventually get sloppy and lazy and let bad habits set in. I need to correct this.

I may also play some live tournaments. The feasibility of this is very much in the air, but I have some personal and financial goals for this year that a good run in a tournament could help take care of. I feel like I'm too good to pass up on them, even though I'm trying to stay focused on cash.

It's hard to be more specific about goals than that. I have ideas about where I want to be come the WSOP, and ideas about how I want to get there. But I have to be good enough and run well enough to make them happen, so there's no point in outlying a plan that doesn't have much flexibility.

Anyway, the word for 2008 is Professional. If I prepare myself properly and take care of myself and stay disciplined in bankroll management, game selection, and mental state, the rest will take care of itself.

Merry Christmas to all

...regardless of which particular holiday you celebrate, today is a day for love and joy, a reminder of what really matters in life. I am in Lake Charles visiting family after spending a few days in Houston visiting friends.

Last night I played a session of 2/4 cash because I heard the games were really good. I dropped 4 buyins in about 1k hands. I ran pretty badly but I'm sure I made a ton of mistakes, the first one being sitting in at all when I had resolved not to play any poker over the holidays.

This week I'll have posts up about my 2007 year in review and what I'm planning to do in 2008.

Also I have a couple theory things I'm working on. They need some serious editing before I put them in the public eye, though.

Happy holidays.

donkaments, life, psychology

I final tabled my second consecutive UBOC event on Wednesday night (I didn't play Monday or Tuesday's events), taking 8th in the PLO8. Obviously 8th is a frustrating result-- especially since I won a big pot when the FT started to take the chip lead with 9 left. The next four pots I played where money went in post flop, I got 0, 1/4, 0, and 0 from. I may have overplayed some hands, but I'm pretty sure in a split-pot game that counts as running bad. (Speaking of running bad, I had dodged some bullets and stealthily skulked around with a short stack in the FTP 55k last night, to get into the money, and then the servers crashed. The way I was playing I felt sure I would win it. Oh well.)

I've been considering returning to the live circuit in 2008. I feel like I'm playing well, when I trust my instincts and the reads I make. I almost owe it to myself to try for another big score, and this fits well when the plan I've laid out for my life in the next couple of years.

(Speaking of all that, part of the reason I don't write more is that I tend to stick with poker themes here. I have other stuff going on in my life, and other important decisions to make. Do you, the reader, want to hear about those? I can write more about my life beyond poker if that interests you.)

Here's something that may help your game:

One thing I noticed (because I found it happening to me lately) and remembered recently was something I was told in a sports psychology class in college. In big games, in high-pressure situations, we tend to feel nervous or anxious. Our body is producing a higher level of energy than normal, and we're not sure what to do with it. So we call it nervousness and try to calm it down. But this is incorrect. The energy is not nervous-- it is our body's response to what our mind knows is an important situation. Our mind has told our body to produce extra energy to prepare for this important event, to play it at our highest level.

What you misidentify as nervousness is your body entering a heightened state of awareness for the upcoming challenge. You don't need to calm down-- you just need to harness and focus that energy. Remember, don't be nervous, be excited.

Pretty good advice in any area of life. Don't be nervous, be excited. The difference is a matter of your own perception and control.

Quick Sunday update

Had one of the simultaneously most successful and frustrating Sundays I've had in a while.

to summarize:

-16th in the Stars Sunday Warmup.
-25th in the Stars Sunday Million.
-6th in the UltimateBet UBOC event (a $200 NLH, like their usual Sunday)

Overall I made almost 17k but the three first prizes combined for something like 330k. And yes, I do believe I could have won all three of those.

More later. I'm exhausted now. Playing for 12 hours without a break, running the high-wire act that is tournament poker, will do that.

November wrapup

November was not my best month in poker. Buoyed by my success at 1/2 and my desire to take it slow and play overrolled, I found myself, either consciously or not, slacking. Since I was sitting overrolled, and I had been winning, I made a fatal mental mistake: Assuming that just showing up would get me the money. It did not.

I wasn't bringing my A game, and my winrate was slipping noticeably. Once I realized this, I also realized something about myself: I need to move up aggressively, because I have to keep challenging myself to stay engaged. If I play a game overrolled, I become less concerned with winning or losing, and I stop trying, assuming that if auto-pilot I'll make money. Realizing this was important and caused me to change my approach; I now intend to move up aggressively whenever possible.

I did take a couple shots at 2/4 HU and ran pretty badly at them. One of them was against the notorious mu_empire (well, notorious if you read BBV); an insanely aggressive player (who was playing like a total spewtard when I played him). Nothing like getting someone to stick in 200BB PF with K2s and T8s and JTo and losing.

The second guy I played was a super-passive player who just hit a hand every time. He won over 80% of our showdowns, and it didn't matter if he had top set or bottom pair, check/call, check/call, check/call was his line. He only raised when he had the stone nuts. And I almost never made hands worth value betting, and when I did, he either folded or called with a better hand.

So I went back to 1/2 for a while. I started finding HU draining to play consistently, so I mixed in some 6-max as well.

I feel like the HU experience made me a much better 6-max player, and I noticed immediately. With the added information of other players and position to consider, my hand reading skills were much more effective at being accurate, and, more importantly, I was taking the aggression to a new level. I had just started by the time the end of the month came on, and it was going fairly well.

Tournaments killed me in November, too. A 21st in the Stars 2nd chance and a 10th (final table bubble!) in the $11 rebuy weren't going to get it done. I only played a few tournaments, but tournaments can really cut into a cash bankroll. So I've been resolved to play them less, or find a good backing deal for me.

Anyway, I feel like I've been playing really well these last couple of weeks, like an element of fear that was in my play has gone. I've been much more aggressive than I was being, and the results are bearing it out.

Yesterday I took second place in the Stars $215 heads-up tournament. The loss was disappointing because I got in with 77 vs. 99 in a spot where I thought my push would fold out a lot of hands, but he had a bigger one. Well, it was still a cash for $7600, which is a nice payday all things considered.

I've also been on a bit of a hot streak at 2/4 6-max the last couple of days... it's amazing what a little game selection and dedication to your craft will do for you.

Anyway, November was a disappointment, but December is already off to a hot start. I'd like to keep it up, and the way I'm playing now, I expect good things to continue.

nath Bio/myhome

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