Sunday, July 11, 2004

Darling Buds of May

YTD: +$26615.34

Some people have commented on how well I am running since starting the blog. One of the reasons I looked to start the blog, beyond blind egotism, was that the pressure to post my results would perhaps make me more focused on how I play. With the exception of a $2k blip yesterday, this has mostly been the case. Of course, the simple day-to-day statistics hide a hell of a lot of variance. The $1k increase in the last two days has been a rollercoaster of a $6k swing. But so far my blog has been all clear blue skies and the sweet smell of success. Which is of course the smell of banknotes :-) Today I wanted to talk about a time where the skies were dark and stormy and the bitter vinegar taste of despair were my companions. Black May.

I had been rushing for most of March and April, fairly much crushing the PLO game on Stars. Going back to the maths thing, I knew from my analysis that I was rushing, and I expected there to be some kind of correction, just not one so severe and unrelenting.

Day after day losing without a glimmer of victory. Every draw missed. Eventually it became clear that I was playing with the desperation and fear of someone needing to win, and my decision making was tilting southwards. To my mind, these emotions go hand-in-hand in a bad run, especially in big bet poker. Fearful of losing again, you start to make poor decisions; desperate to actually create a winning session, you start to gamble more in spite of the nagging fear. The best part of $10k down I decided to have a harsh look at my game. I was playing marginally badly, drawing just the wrong side of the odds. Also, even though I wasn’t get the right price on these hands, 2:1 for a 7:3 draw for example, you would expect to hit them now and again. I had missed them all. On further reflection, the game itself had got tougher. Whereas before there were probably 6 fish to 3 solid players, now the ratios were probably reversed. To make things worse, all the good players were also gamblers and unfortunately, one of the problems of PLO is that good players still end up playing one another, normally with ever decreasing edges.

With all this in mind I decided to switch games to limit holdem. Unfortunately this is where I had a slight brain fart and jumped right into the Stars 30-60 game. This game can often be good, but more often is a rock fest. To make things worse, I didn’t have enough money on Stars to play the game comfortably. I went on a terrible run, getting great cards but losing with them – I was actually -$ on “even a chimp could win with them hands” like AA-QQ. The relentless losing was becoming depressing, especially as I was between jobs and this was my full time wage. Finally I switched to my old home of 10-20 Omaha on Party. I had abandoned limit Omaha before as I felt it brought out the worst in me from a tilt perspective - the games at Party were truly bonkers and the extreme suckouts seemed to frustrate me more than simple holdem ones. This time was no exception and my play rapidly disintegrated.

I was half way through the month, a vitally key month as a full time pro, and I had lost more than $20k.

To say I was at a loss is an understatement. This was by far my worse ever losing run in 8 years. The last time I had lost on this scale, it was only $10k and I was so despondent that I dropped from 30-60 Omaha to 3-6 for a couple of months. There was some light at the end of the tunnel. Aksu had been having excellent results multitabling the 15-30 holdem on Party and this encouraged me to have a final fling there. The rest, as they say, is history :-)

(I clawed back 6k in May and have been rocking and rolling ever since.)

What lessons can be learned from this? I do feel that how you handle the bad times is a critical factor of being a poker player. Anyone can handle winning, but the streets are lined with the sun-bleached bones of poker players who could not handle the downswings. Although my game deteriorated, I also KNEW it was happening so I could do something about it. I kept calm. I tried new games. My analytical nature helped as I could see when I was being unlucky (holdem), when I was being bad (Omaha) and when I was being both! (PLO). Beside the very stupid decision to jump into the 30-60 game, I am quite proud how I handled my month from hell.


Anonymous said...

This is a truly excellent post. It should be mandatory reading for anybody starting to play poker seriously. I see the young kids starting out, sharp as tacks, running good, and always wish there was some way to explain to them the fluctuations inherent in the game.

I was sitting across from a good young player a couple of years ago in a Vegas 5&10 PLHE game. He was solid, and I knew him from some of his top-notch posts on various internet forums. He looked at me and said, "I literally haven't won a hand in three hours. I think that must be close to statistically impossible." I didn't know whether to laugh or weep. Now, instead of trying to explain, I have a url that I can point him to.

>> Finally I switched to my old home of 10-20 Omaha on Party. I had abandoned limit Omaha before as I felt it brought out the worst in me from a tilt perspective - the games at Party were truly bonkers and the extreme suckouts seemed to frustrate me more than simple holdem ones. This time was no exception and my play rapidly disintegrated.

I'm curious about online limit omaha. I was looking at games on Paradise four years ago. I thought that limit omaha high (there was no PLO online then) had the worst players. But watching the games, and the suck-outs, I came to the conclusion that I'd need a $12,000 bankroll to play 10-20 limit omaha. I knew I could beat the games, but didn't want to invest that kind of money in the internet. Does $12,000 sound reasonable, or am I way off base here?

Phat Mack

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is an excellent post. In fact you addressed one of the questions that I planned on asking you. I was curious as to whether posting your results encouraged you to play better and or was a driver behind it. It was a brave and committed move to do so -I don't think I could have done it. Furthermore it illustrates what a driver pride is.

I wonder 'whether expecting a correction' can cause problems. Of course with stock markets it is expected, and there is a an inevitably about strong ones - as with any bubble. But as you undoubetdly know, this isn't the case with independent events like poker hands. Whilst we may know this intellectually, I don't think this stops as feeling that it is going to happen. Perhaps, as we wait for the shock wave, our game goes off a little. This can also happen within tournaments - we expect a guy to pick up a hand, and that can cloud our judgemnt.

But you are absolutely right it is the tough times that count - it is something I try and focus on at times, but it sure isn't easy. I know, for example, that I don't lament the passing of a bet as much when I'm losing as I do when I'm winning.

The month will be an excellent reference point for you in the future, hats for sure.


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