Thursday, 26 July 2012

Beating The Inner Bad Beat

It dawned on me in the middle of today's grind that haven't written a blog in a while. I've put together a bunch of lazy vlogs, but I haven't had the patience to sit and write lately. My motivation stemmed from taking a step back today and realizing during the last few days, I had been breaking the Cardinal Sin of Poker. Bad Beat spewing. Maybe it's my paranoid mind, but I'm pretty sure all of my friends have deleted me on BBM, unfriended me on Facebook, unfollowed me on Twitter. Total disconnect. (@JayKon17 #shamelessplug) I mean, I'd delete me with the negativity I've been vomiting. A downswing is something I can usually take with a grain of salt - it happens. Cards will fall however they decide to fall, and sometimes there's a run of unlucky rivers that make us shake our head. We reaffirm that if we stay consistent, we will win in the long run. It's the model of any profitable poker player. Of course, it's extremely easy to say this after seven final tables this weekend for $3.2k. Alas, that is not the place I decided to write this bad beat vlog from. I decided, with a heap of free time this week, I would put in a full week of solid professional grinding. Test out my mental endurance, break in my new-found bankroll, and see if I could handle the schedules of my fellow poker playing comrades. I've woke up at 9 am and grinded all the way til sunfall, playing every juicy tournament I could get my hands on. Monday, disaster. Tuesday, disaster. Wednesday, same thing. Train wreck smashing into a catastrophe inside of a clusterf*#k. Picture the worst you could possibly imagine running, perhaps the worst you've ever ran over your career. It gets worse. Much worse. Luck knows know boundaries, takes no prisoners, and has no memory. I've only just begun to figure this out.

Happy July! This can't be a bad beat vlog...
Sometimes there will be long stretches of run-bad that make you shake your head in despair, questioning why you even play poker. You may insist the software is rigged. You might wonder what you did to deserve cooler after cooler. You might lose your cool, and throw your wireless mouse against your desk. You might also feel like an idiot picking it up in seven pieces, hoping it still works. I have the urge to bring up every single two-outer, three-outer, etc. I've encountered the last few days - but what good would that do? (*cough* KK < JJ for starting stacks, all in pre in the $55 was a good one... sorry.) Anyone who has ever played poker knows the 5% seems to get there all too often. Statistical variance can be difficult for any poker player to deal with, but I feel there's more to combating the "Bad Beat Bug" than simply playing through it. It isn't a matter of 'explaining losses' because whether I'm a profitable player is in question - it's not. It's about searching endlessly for a 

Different Outcome = Different Game?
...not so Happy July!
I have friends who have played poker, day in and day out for 4-5 years. They've made thousands of dollars, gone thru 100 buy-in downswings - they've seen it all.  However, what keeps them together as a consummate professional is the end result. The consistent finishes. The positive figures not at the end of a day, a week, or even a month. It is entirely possible for a winning player to go days, weeks, even (God forbid...) months without seeing positive figures. As you can see, there is a definite contrast from the first 200 tournaments I played this month, and the latter 200. I've done about four or five hours of reviewing each of the last 200 tournaments, and I slowly began to realize a horrifying trend. As I lost more and more, my general style became more and more passive-bad. Before, I was comfortable 3 and 4-bet shoving hands like 88, AQo, KQs, etc, and now I was too stunned to realize how much value I was missing in folding them. This review was my first step on turning my month back around. I found myself fishing desperately hoping to hit a flops, putting myself in terribad situations in which my play was not optimal, and blaming a 'suck-out' to excuse my terrible play the entire tournament. This created even more stress, and I even began folding in spots I usually know better. I was shell-shocked of seeing any community cards. All these small holes in my game would have gone unnoticed without a couple hours of review. Review is so so so so so so so so important to progress as a good player. Be weary of sub-optimal plays you may be making in the midst of a downswing. While it is entirely possible you are just 'running bad', there's no such thing as playing the 'perfect tournament'. Always look to improve your game, whether you are winning or losing.

Brand new mouse? Brand new game!
You Suck Out Too
What bugs me most as a semi-professional poker player is hearing the line, "I never get there!" indicating that the card you are looking for literally NEVER hits. I can't even count on 17 octopuses' (octopi?) tentacles how many times I've needed a two-outer and miraculously got there. Am I proud of it? Obviously not. Do I remember it? Obviously not. Does it happen? Heck, yes. In the poker player's mind, we remember the crushing blows, the ridiculous 2-outers to send us packing. We relieve our minds of the times we needed a miracle to survive. When we are bad beat, the brain instantly sends negative chemicals to our body, sending the body into stress. It's all chemistry, bro. When your KK meets AJ preflop, and you see an Ace in the window, or having your AA cracked by AK on a final table bubble, or running KQ into AQ to finish 11th in the Big $11 for $490... *sigh* They happen. They just happen. The fish wouldn't come out and pay you off 9 times out of 10 if they didn't. The fact that in poker, a professional and a rookie can sit down, play poker for hours, and have an unfavourable end result for the pro is why the average person dismisses poker as "purely luck". This is also why we know poker can be extremely profitable for those of us that study the game extensively. But I digress, if you aren't brand new to poker, you've definitely needed a miracle four-flush or runner-runner to stay alive in the past, and you have (probably) hit it somewhere close to the expected amount of times. This logic also applies to your opponent's draws. You aren't perfect, and you can't expect to fold KK in hopes your opponent only shoves with AA.

Give It A Rest!
The absolute worst thing about poker, is it can be unrelenting no matter the situation. When your $5000 bankroll is suddenly down to $4100, one may find this as a source of panic. When poker players panic, they begin to lose control and bad things happen. The difference between that $4100 bankroll becoming $5000 and $2000 is all about how they react to losing.
Too many times I've gone to search for a micro-stakes player I know is on a downswing, and find them in a $320 tournament. Being a non-confrontational guy, I generally ask what they're doing playing a $300+ tourney and the answer is always the same:

"I'm taking a shot, bro!"

In saying this, I'm completely guilty of doing this in the past (and present, but I'm a lot more controlled than I used to be) The worst thing to tell a player going through a downswing is to tell them to take a break altogether. It's difficult, believe me. I know. Accomplishing any type of work outside of poker during a downswing can be difficult without the underlying stress of a downswing coming to surface. I found myself at tennis last night, trying to escape the stress of another losing session. I played poorly, played with a bitter attitude, and it wasn't a fun experience for anybody. The correct way to handle a downswing is to focus on something you can't lose at. Build yourself some confidence back, and you'll find yourself crushing again. My turning point was this morning. I went for a run, did a nice muscular endurance exercise, ate some healthy food, and the returned to the game with a fresh state of mind. I didn't have a great day today, but it was my first positive day this week. I am extremely happy with being able to say that. 

Give yourself a chance to reset, and you'll see great results in due time. You may even have to move down limits (and not up) and work your way back to the top of the poker world. After all, a little bad luck can't keep us down. :-)

PS - GREAT Bankroll Management Article Here: