Archive Dec 2008: nath

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Goals for 2009

I've fallen off the map a bit this year. Part of the reason is that I wanted to spend more time at home, having settled in somewhere for the first real time as an adult (I love my home life, FYI), but my poker game has noticeably slipped, too, and it needs improvement.

The basics of my plan for 2009 are that I'm going to continue to primarily play heads-up online cash, but I will more frequently travel to tournaments and/or enter online tournament series than I did in 2008 (I only went to the LAPC and WSOP this year, playing a limited schedule at each, and similarly only played online tournaments when I was both places or there was a WCOOP or FTOPS going on). It's simple: tournament poker is my best game, no questions asked. I won't call myself among the best in the world or anything, but tournament poker is a game I can win at the highest level. And while I'd love to get the heads-up thing down pat, make a living at just that, I also have to try to make money at what I'm best at. I'll have to find some backers, for sure, but I've been fortunate enough to have good people believe in me, so it's never been a problem in the past-- and, I hope, I've come through often enough to justify their faith in me. I'll consult with some of my more sensible friends and come up with a plan that gets me on the circuit with the best shot of making some real money, while still giving me enough time off the road. I understand the brutal variance and grueling hours-- which are the exact reasons I don't want to do it full-time-- but I can handle the workload (and I'll find backing for the variance, because I'll still make good money selling action).

In terms of the heads-up game, I know I've got to dedicate more time to study and more time at the tables, and I also know that I have to stay patient (can't force the issue) while staying aggressive (no one ever won on scared money), don't tilt, and play my A game, but I also need to set concrete steps. I've been spinning my wheels the last few months, and I don't think it's going to take a complete overhaul to get unstuck, but it's going to take some definite measures:

Playing at least 20 hours a week.
I doubt this seems particularly noble to anyone who's working a real job, but for me, it would be a major step forward. I live more simply and cheaply than I used to, and I find it more fulfilling. So my goal is simply to build money and set it aside for the future somehow. I have had a very difficult time disciplining my spending when I do have money around, but it's completely necessary. Nobody ever made money by giving it away.

As little as I play now, I still pay the bills and live a life I enjoy. But putting that much more time and effort will reap so many rewards down the road. Peace of mind is easier when you're well-provided for*; also, I have my share of debts to repay.

(* - One can provide well enough for oneself relatively cheaply, which also only reinforces the point that I should be working a little more now to ensure I can take care of myself for a long time. If I don't spend much, I can build my bankroll much more quickly, thereby moving up and increasing my earning capacity in a vicious cycle of positive growth. Wow, I sound like Jack Donaghy.)

getting Hold 'Em Manager.
I already downloaded it, but I haven't installed it. (I'm going to do that right now, before I ever play another session.) I'm going to get to learn it. I'm a bit embarrassed that I've been so sloppy this year that I don't even have a database on my new laptop. That's inexcusable. It's keeping me from properly analyzing my play. It's keeping information from me. Again, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I thought my talent could take me pretty far without a lot of the machinery (I still think I'm more proficient in live tournaments because I like people; my attention to them both gets me more information and makes me less prone to tilt), so I got sloppy with what I maintained. First no HUD. Then no DB. Then no work ethic. Well, it's time to get all that back and do this properly.

Why am I telling you all this? I suppose I needed to hold myself accountable. I didn't have much to write before because I wasn't doing much of anything related to poker. But I'm good enough to be a very successful player again, if I focus enough time and effort on it. I've proven that.

I've been getting by since Vegas and the WSOP. But I haven't been thriving (my biggest single take since was my share of my WCOOP ME cash, which I think was 6k, maybe more). I've been spending time on other things, but that doesn't mean I can't spend time on poker as well. I need to make enough to pay back my debts and be financially free from worry.

(I should emphasize that I'm not panicking yet or anything. I'm enjoying my life day-to-day, and learning how to do lots of things on my own that I might otherwise have to pay someone to do. That alone I find more fulfilling than working hard to make money and then spending the money to pay people to do things you didn't have time to do because you were working. I've had experience living on few resources, and I know some ways to make life more fulfilling that cost less than normal-- but not nearly as many as I like.)

So why I really wrote this post is because it's embarrassing how bad my lack of work ethic has been-- it was a clear F most of the year since the WSOP; I've been pushing it up to D/D- status this last week, and I'm pretty sure that even if I got to a C+ or even a C I would be able to move up levels and save up money.

So instead of beating myself up any more for mismanaging things, I'm outlining tangible steps to make them better.

Back to those steps: HEM seems to be the way to go over PT3 from what research I've done and the people I've talked to. So I've downloaded it, I'm going to try it, learn it, and (unless I am completely incapable of using it, which seems unlikely) buy it. I gotta keep track of my own stats, among other things. (I don't believe in "aiming" for certain stats, but I do recognize my fairly optimal HU ones, and I'm sure I've been deviating from them, since I've been playing sloppily.) Find out exactly which games I'm successful at. How much I'm making, what my hourly is. My optimal number of tables to play at once. Speaking of...

Play no more than two tables at a time unless conditions are excellent.
I always sit in on multiple games so I can have a free spot just in case a really good game crops up, but invariably I find myself in something like 2 good games, 1 tough game, and 1 okay-but-not-great game that I should probably pass on given the circumstance. With four heads-up tables at once, I'm stretching my attention span to the point where I'm not noticing my opponents' play well enough to adjust mine to theirs. In heads-up play, this is vital-- it's the entire objective; the reason you play a man one-on-one is because you think you can get inside his head, you can find his weaknesses and use them to your advantage. But you have to know your opponent! So I have to pay maximum attention to heads-up matches-- they are often swift and demanding. (For the opposite end, it's why people can multitable SnGs or MTTs easily-- there is enough basic winning strategy vs. any set of opponents that even if you aren't paying close attention, you have a basic play that is usually correct.)

I might be able to get away with three, but even then, only if conditions were ideal; i.e. the games were particularly good. At three, I suspect any distraction would cause me to miss information, but I'm not sure. At four, I often feel rushed. I sit at more tables than I can handle just in case a particularly good game arrives, but I haven't had the discipline to quit the mediocre or bad ones, so I overload myself. I've simply got to quit those games.

I had a fairly nice run at HU at the end of last year, and the reasons it hasn't continued aren't because I suddenly suck; it's because I've gotten out of the winning habits. I'm going through the same thing I did after my first big wave of tournament success (although, I hope, more humbly): Instead of sticking to good play, I became erratic and egotistical, assuming that I won because I was so good, and thus stopped doing the things that made me good. "What-evah! I do what I want!" I remember acting in ways and saying things that were shockingly arrogant and egotistical, and weren't even a reflection of the real me, just a petulant youngster who let success get to his head.

Okay, enough personal confessions. Back to the concrete goals:

Actually post strategy and discuss strategy with other players.
I have one of the best groups of friends in the poker world, and they're also bright and talented players. I need their counsel, their advice. When I had my most success, I was constantly in touch with them, refining our games, working with them. (Collectively, we succeed more than we do individually.) I've not kept up with many of them, and I feel badly about it, but I need to swallow my pride and re-establish touch. I value their friendship, not just their poker advice, but it seems clear that I need it, as on my own I haven't kept to winning ways.

They're good checks on my thought processes. They will also keep me questioning my own assumptions about the game-- constantly adjusting to changing conditions. Adaptation. Survival. That's all the name of the game is.

Blogging here once a week at the minimum, ideally more.
It's nonsense that I don't blog more. Even if I don't have much to say, I could write, "Hi, I didn't play this week because I was busy drinking with friends and family while they were on vacation" or whatever. Anything at all. And I usually come up with better material than that, if I actually try.

I should blog several times a week, but since I don't even blog once a week now, I'm setting that as a goal. No more than seven days without a post, no matter what. (If I'm burned out after, say, the WSOP, and I'm taking a vacation, I'll post "Hi, I'm on vacation. It's great. Next week I may still be.")

In 2008, I took some time to reflect and attempt to give myself the day-to-day life that I really love. In 2009, I'm going to continue building on that life-- but it needs to be sustained, and doing that starts through poker. Simply put, that's what I can make the most money at, right now. So I've got to do just that.

I needed this post. I've been neglecting some things I'm embarrassed to admit, and the only way we ever get better starts through an honest examination of our faults. There's a major difference between "realizing" you're screwing up, and actually admitting, somewhere, on paper or in person or on the Internet equivalent of either, that you're screwing up.

I am screwing up. I admit to this now because I can still turn it back around. I've given myself some specific things to do. They aren't major changes; they aren't overwhelming. They will absolutely improve my poker game, my ability to make money, and in that sense, my life. And they may even become habit and allow me to work on even more positive changes and correct more poker (and life) leaks. I have no idea how capable I'll be of exceeding those goals, but that's the point: We'll find out, won't we?

See you in 2009.

odds and ends

I'm still on the heads-up tip. I've been slowly picking up my hours, but it's not enough. My life is somewhat busy these days and I'm often doing other things. It's a major goal of mine now to put in enough time to get back in the proper poker mentality.

When I don't play enough, I'm rusty and don't make the best decisions; in addition, I pressure myself to win too much. I do notice a difference when I'm back on a regular schedule; I make better decisions and don't sweat the occasional loss. At this point, I feel like the mental game, keeping a consistent A-game, is the only thing holding me back. Of course, that surfaces in a lot of ways-- not tilting, not making weak or frightened decisions, not sticking through a tough match for reasons of ego-- but as far as the basics go, I feel pretty comfortable hand reading and board reading and making opponent-specific moves. There's always a part of me that recognizes the right play; the key is listening to it, and not to the distractions or the ego or the other reasons I might want to do something else. (I've lost more money at poker making giant moves that my own chain of logic had convinced me were genius, and I would look like a genius if they worked, when in fact nothing about the hand except my desire to win the pot suggested they would.)

I've been thinking about playing a live series soon. It's been a while, and I'd have to check the upcoming calendar. Probably it would be in early 2009; that should give me enough time to contact some of my usual backers and investors and see how much money I could raise for such a venture. I've been out of the loop in that regard lately; it would be good for me to reconnect with the friends I've made and the community of support I have in the poker world.

Oh, the Cardplayer piece is up. It's about a hand I played at the WSOP this summer, which I believe I wrote about on here when it happened. You'll enjoy it if you haven't heard about it already, though. (And as you can see by the included photo, I'm much classier and more important-looking than I was when I started out.)

Well, back to the holiday season and putting in some more heads-up hours. Anyone have anything they want to see me write about?

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