Archive Jan 2008: nath

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Professional, at least for a day-- and an ill-timed analogy

I put in over 4,000 hands on Monday. I rarely do anything like that, but I was feeling the need to work, and I decided to just stay home all day, buckle down, and multitable. Playing mostly 6-max and mixing in HU matches when a good one was available, I came out a small winner. I ran pretty badly (there's a funny stretch in PokerEV where you can see me break even on "Sklansky bucks" for 200 hands and drop something like 5 BI in showdown winngs), but even so, I played my B-C game for the last 1000 hands or so, and I definitely spewed a couple buyins in bad spots. So, running badly or not, I have much work to do.

But I did feel good about the fact that I stuck to it and put in 4000 hands. Not that I plan to do that frequently (and obviously, it's bad to do that if I'm playing my B-C game), but knowing that I'm capable of it when I need to be was a big boost of confidence. (And if I'd quit when my play slipped, I'd have made about 8 BI in 3000 hands, which is a pretty good day, all in all.) It takes a certain amount of mental fortitude, and in the past, I'd certainly questioned whether or not I had it; I feel this represents a big and tangible step in my attempts to become a cash pro.

So I had an idea for a post about the proper mentality to keep while playing poker, and I had an example I wanted to use that involved LaDanian Tomlinson, but after the Chargers lost Sunday while he was on the bench, the public perception of him isn't exactly the one I want to evoke when I talk about staying mentally strong through tough times.

But I'm going to do it anyway. Allow me to cite this Michael Silver article which mentions a speech Tomlinson made in the locker room back when the team was 5-5:

In the players only meeting, which took place five days after the Nov. 18 defeat to the Jaguars, Tomlinson challenged his teammates to become more accountable. The first part of LT's message, according to several players, centered on the widely held views that Turner (as the offensive play-caller) and defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell were hurting the team from a strategic standpoint, especially when compared to popular predecessors Cam Cameron and Wade Phillips. Tomlinson not only acknowledged the complaints, but he also copped to having shared some of the same feelings. That gave him even more credibility when he told his teammates, "It's not about the coaches. Between 1 and 4:15 on Sundays, we're the ones who decide our fate. Don't buy into this 'Norv's not a leader' stuff. If we do that, we're gonna finish 7-9, and we'll be the ones who suffer. This division is there for the taking, and we have to decide right now whether we're going to take it."
(bold emphasis mine)

It's something I've been trying to keep in mind when I get frustrated at a bad run of cards, or start verbally exhibiting my contempt for my opponents (which is horrible and, for various reasons, is strong when I play online; when I play live, it almost never ever happens). And that is: Guess what? I can use a bad run as an excuse for bad play, or I can tilt and blame it on my frustration, but in the end, I'm the one who suffers for it. I'm the one who will continue to have mediocre results and not grow as a player. The money is there for the taking, and I have to decide whether or not I'm going to take it.

That's what being a professional means.

First few days in the books

So far the grinding is going well. I need to put in more hours, but I'm playing well and game-selecting well, and as a result I'm up about 3k in the last week despite not putting in enough hours.

Of course, sometimes it's just being in the right place at the right time. Here is a thinly veiled brag on what happens when you find yourself with a player itching to make moves and give his money away.

I've been doing my best to avoid falling into the "2+2 Standard Line" trap. What I mean is, there is a tendency by people on 2+2, particularly in SSNL and MTT, to take certain "standard" lines to avoid giving away information or avoid being "exploitable". The problem with this is that they rarely adapt to their opponents; they don't size their bets in an efficient manner, they don't realize that a 60/5/0.7 checkraising the flop is not the same as a 32/28/5 doing it. They don't consider how their opponents are playing in the moment, instead relying on statistics and standard lines. This is enough to sustain a marginal or even moderate winrate, but it's a style that's full of holes and leaks. Worst of all, they talk themselves into making unnecessary moves convinced people are trying to be tricky with them. They should be worrying more about fundamentals and playing straightforward, maximizing value, instead of trying to be clever.

In the last extended session I played, I pulled up a couple HU tables and a couple 6-max ones. I decided to focus on the HU tables, and only pay attention to the 6-max enough to play my legitimate hands; I decided not to get tricky and see what happened. Despite this, the regulars at my 6-max table didn't adjust. So when I 3-bet for the first time all session having played something like 18/15, they 4-bet light because they're on the button and I'm in the blinds and my reputation says I must be full of shit, right?

So many of the SSNL regulars I play against are obsessed with being as aggressive and tricky as they can. They're more concerned about "outplaying" other regulars than with just flat-out making money. It's a mindset I've dangerously drifted into before and one I've had to keep up some real effort to avoid.

Well, back to the grind for me. BTW, Houston is working out very well so far. I have a great place and plenty of friends here, and my work environment has been ideal.

a humbling moment

Even after everything I've done, I have a long way to go, and a lot to do before I really "make it". Today's reminder of that:

My brother and brother-in-law both have wikipedia pages, and I don't.

Hopefully, by the end of 2008, this won't be the case. (Out of merit, not pity, guys.)

I have not disappeared

Haven't played poker at all this year. I went to Houston for a few days, then Baton Rouge for the BCS Championship Game (Geaux Tigers!) and now I'm in Lake Charles, visiting family (I have three nieces and a nephew under five, and I get to have all the fun with none of-- well, minimal-- responsibility) and hitting a few medical appointments (my family physician and dentist are both here).

I'll be living in Houston for the rest of the month, and it's gonna be grind grind grind (and occasionally play guitar and go out on dates). Once I get back I'll have more to write, both about my play and some ideas I've been kicking around (I always say that-- and I would do something tonight-- but all my material is on my desktop and my regular laptop, which needs repairs). In a couple of days, poker will be #1 priority again, and you'll hear a lot more from me.

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