Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My story part 3

For a few years, I'd put 30-40 hours per week with poker pretty much. Obviously there were off weeks but on average I really put a ton into it and it paid off well. The games were great and it was hard to do much wrong by putting more hours in. About a year and a half ago some things changed. It kinda started with the UIEGA closing down some of my favorite sites. The games had changed. I still played really good poker but I didn't change with them. I continued to try to play 4-6 tables and just mash out the hands/hours. I lost for like 3 months straight. I was confused and perplexed. Most people would have chased their losses. The fear of somehow not being able to play poker for a living at the time 'scared' me into dropping down, and then down again, and trying to figure out exactly what was going on. I was running bad, that was for sure, but at this point (-1000 or so bets and somewhere around 150 or 200k over a 4 or 5 month period) I wasn't looking for excuses. It was time to rebuild from the beginning. My bankroll was still in good health, but I really didn't want to have to deposit. I hadn't ever had to dip into my bank account and I was determined not to.

I remember the next part vividly - It was just over a year ago. I was on a plane to Vegas with Schneider for the 2007 wsop. I was miserable poker wise. I was down to 10k online. I recorded a couple sessions the day before to have him watch them. He watched and I started asking the most basic of all questions, like ok so say you flop 2nd or 3rd pair and the big blind check calls, what are your thoughts about betting the turn versus checking and calling a river bet. I had so little confidence. I only had played 2 tables during these sessions so I could 'focus' more and he said he thought I was playing pretty well and that I should try playing 1 or 2 tables for a month or two (instead of 4-6) and cut out the IM/phone/internet distractions as much as possible. It had gotten so bad that it seemed like far to often I was wondering "ok so who raised preflop" and that definitely is bad. We all do it from time to time but the frequency was far too high. I realized he was right.

So that's what I did. I cut down the tables. I cut down the distractions. I started finding the weakest opposition at $8/16 HU lhe (1v1 limit holdem). If I felt like they even had 'half a brain' I wouldn't play them. I would just wait another 10 minutes and some guy on tilt would show up and lose like 200 to me and I'd rinse repeat. It was like taking candy from babies at a rate of something around $100/hour which was a pay cut from what I had been used to before, but still really good money and the destruction was good for the confidence and patience good for the psychy. I did that for a few months and started working the higher games back in, except this time at the 1-2 tables at a time. I then found cake which at the time had a bunch of sports betters and they were just gamblers and I had fixed my bad habits so it all came together nicely. I was quickly back playing $50/100 and $100/200 and finished the year really strong. On December 25th I was having one of my best months ever. I gave back like 75k over the next 3 days and given a few personal things plus going on a cruise jan 2 or something it seemed like a good time to start a break. I didn't start 2008 for poker until like Jan 13th. I'm not really one for big long breaks, but this seemed appropriate.

This year hasn't been all that interesting but it's been really good. It really hasn't been all that swingy. The one thing I'd say about 2008 is quality hours. I've cut back to something like 25 hours per week (and more and more 15-20 hour weeks). Basically i cut out the "ehh I really don't feel like playing but I may as well (and the games aren't that great). That's not to say I don't play when I don't want to, I've definitely had more of those sessions this year than other years. I sat down at my computer at 5pm a couple months ago planning on just playing a few hours. Then a new tourney winner joined and seemed determined to give it all back. After about 5 or 6 hours I knew I was in for the duration. 14 hours later I had won 35k and while I was 'pissed' my sleep schedule was screwed it was obviously worth it. I had a similar session in LA in February. It was a high-stakes locals birthday so all the top local players were out with him and I was left in a 6 handed $400/800 game with $15/30 caliber players. This was a day after playing a tournament until 7am (and getting 2nd!) so my sleep schedule was backwards. I started playing at about 5pm and realized at about 4am I wasn't leaving until I couldn't see straight or the game dynamic changed drastically. After 15 hours I was hurting, but I was crushing and I don't have a strong disdain for money so I plugged along. Around noon a few tougher players joined the game and made it more full (7 or 8 handed) and I couldn't see straight so even though it was still a good game, it was time to quit and book another 35k win. I think I was at the table for 19 hours, by far my longest session ever. There is just something innately satisfying with these sessions to me, perhaps because it truly feels like 'hard work' while the other hard work is at least sort of interesting.

One thing I've been wrestling a lot with this year is what games to play. I've spent quite a bit of time playing no limit as well and while I've had good results and it's pretty consistent, it's just not even close to as fun or motivating to play. I've had tons of success/fun at heads up (1v1) lhe but it's not always easy to find somebody who will play me. If I could play just that I would. Running kinda bad at 6max lhe has lowered the appeal for me with that but I still play it. Live poker that isn't short handed has lost pretty much all appeal. At the series this summer I think I played maybe 10 hours total of live poker other than tournaments. The hourly is better online and it's really turned into a snorefest to me to play 9 handed poker. I still love a good short/hu game but those aren't that easy to come by. The whole playing 5-10 hands per hour bores the shit out of me, really. I guess I'm kind of an action junky that way. I can play if the game is big or if it's a social game, but grinding it out is pure misery. So I've pretty much cut it out.

I think one of the toughest things about heads up lhe is pride and that's one of the main things I've focused on. You have to have supreme control on your emotions and your ego or you're just not going to have all that much success. There's just far too much momentum involved and when the other guy has it, it's so much harder to have an edge. Also, there is constant bullshit happening that if it bothers you, it's easy to just start giving money away. Which is basically what I aim for doing to my opponents. The style I play targets this weakness in players. I play hands in a fashion where I get really lucky sometimes and it frustrates them and they don't know how to adapt and just go off. This is why if I'm not making hands and not
getting lucky' I don't play very long versus people. They are in confident mode because 'I've been spewing to them' and I have to suck up my pride and give them the victory and come back another day when the emotional state is different. I haven't tried to get even in months. Forget it. It's not like I was going to spend that money anyway.

I set a lofty goal and a "I'll be satisfied" goal at the beginning of the year and I've crushed the satisfied goal and if I don't run into some real bad variance I should be able to pull off the lofty one! I'm pretty pumped up but at the same time know that mr variance could come along and crush my soul for a number of months again, so I'm not trying to focus too much on it. I just plan stick to my guns and play more good poker while not getting too caught up in it and forget to work hard.