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:
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.