I have been thinking about what to write for a pooh-bah post for sometime. I don’t think many of you know who I am, outside of this forum. I will start by saying I do not have a lot of new content as far as strategy goes. This is very TLDR, and it’s probably full of grammar mistakes, or something… but I tried to make it easy to read.
I’ve been around the forum for a long time now, and started playing poker before the UIEGA. I’ve played many different games in my goal to become great at poker, and it never really took off for me. I make consistent money now, but I don’t play the super high stakes games, and I don’t really think I am the best poster when it comes to strategy.
However, I haven’t had a formal job for many months now, and have no intentions of getting one anytime soon. So, I still feel obligated to give something back, or better yet, pay it forward.
Looking back on the years I have spent on this game, and the numerous ups and downs in a poker career that has been less than stellar up to this point makes me wonder what kept me going. One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life was being a mediocre poker player. When you are marginally above break even, you still take the same swings that everyone else does, but you also don’t really make any serious money doing it. You get to a point where you should realize you aren’t very good, but your ego won’t let you. So you end up being gratified and tortured by your results.
One month you win 10K and you think “finally this game makes sense”, then midway through the next month you get hit by negative variance in the cards and your play. Of course, at the time you won’t admit that your play has everything to do with your results. And one night, you tilt off 40 buyins because you can’t accept losing. Your ego just won’t let you.
Yeah, that’s right 40 buyins over one 20hr session. I mean, no breaks, no food, not missing a single hand. It’s not the first time either… or the last. You read numerous posts that if you lose that much in one session, you should quit, or you are horrible at poker if you take those kinds of downswings, but you can’t quit. You think you have a borderline gambling problem, but you still made some money. And you are doing something that society generally feels as being pretty stupid, so you better ****ing succeed.
You think… if I just didn’t tilt… I would have $XXXXXX.XX. I would be playing $10-20 or 25-50 by now. But you aren’t… you are busto. You know you aren’t stupid. You have an engineering degree, so why are these idiot dropouts making all this money and you aren’t? How can they be better at a game like this? Well, I got news for you, they are better.
If you are tilting, or otherwise not playing your A game, that is all part of who you are as a poker player. It took me a long time to learn this. Every time you sit down at the table, you are demonstrating who you are as a poker player(even sometimes when you are away from the table). If you play amazingly well, then once a month you go on tilt and you take your entire roll and put it in a high stakes game, you have a major leak and that means you aren’t an amazing player, despite playing amazing for most of the month.
Most players don’t have leaks this severe, but I hope you get my point. You can’t pick and choose how good you are based only on when you are playing well. You need to look at all your play and all your skills.
Even if you are only playing when you are feeling good; you are missing out on money and good games, and you aren’t giving yourself a chance to improve your B and C game. And trust me, if you need to play one day and aren’t feeling tip-top, you will really wish you spent some time working on those aspects of your game.
I went through all of this… then I hired a mental coach and actually started winning constantly and figured out my tilt game. I am still working on it all, but it is coming along.
Now I focus on other things. I am working on taking my ego out of the game. I also decided that I don’t care about the stakes I play, or the money I make, as long as I have enough to live on. I stopped compulsively checking my cashier, and don’t even know if I am up or down for the month. This act alone takes money out of the game, and you can focus on what really matters.
So when thinking about what to write, I wanted to offer the community something that I have that most others don’t seem to have. Then I realized that that is a pretty arrogant thing to even think about, considering how much I have struggled to get to where I am.
Instead, I took the selfish way out and decided to write something that I want to write about. Or more accurately, what I would tell myself back when I was starting out. So this is a note to the old me, hopefully by sharing it someone else may learn from my mistakes:
You are not as good as you think you are.
But that is okay. In fact, it is amazingly powerful if you can truly understand just how much you suck. It’s even more powerful if you can understand why you suck.
This is the first step in learning to improve and improving is what this game is all about. I know things have always come easy for you in school and all the way through university. You never applied yourself for more than a few weeks and you did fine. People always told you how smart you are, and how they wish they could learn as quickly as you.
This is the first time in your life that you are facing something that you really have to work at to succeed intellectually. And don’t kid yourself… YES! You need to work! ALL THE TIME! Trust me, it’s sooo much easier that way.
I know you are reading this, and you think it is for someone else. But it’s not…. believe it or not, I am talking to you. I am you! I was where you are right now years ago. Sure, you have had some success at this game, but what if you could do more? I know you’ve thought about it…but do you really know how to get there? Do you even know the things you need to improve? Do you really know why you lose? Do you know your biggest leaks? Do you have a plan to fix them? Is it working? Do you tilt? Do you know why?
I know something even bigger about you. You hate making mistakes. It makes me smile knowing this, I wish you could understand why… You hate making them so much, that you justify losses to yourself by saying you ran bad. How many times have you seen people complain about running bad? How many threads have you read about bad beat stories, EV graphs, doomswitch complaints, and chat window beratings? Now think about how many times you’ve seen someone say, “I have these mistakes, how do I fix them?”
Poker is weird that way… If we were playing basketball and couldn’t make a free-throw we would probably ask someone better than us to help us with our technique. We would probably get a lot of weird looks if we just complained about our unlucky free-throw or how bad we run at basketball.
You know this game rewards skill over the long run. But when you are losing, you complain, you grind and you try to win it back in one shot when you KNOW you aren’t playing your best… Essentially, you try to get lucky. You don’t realize that losing is the BEST thing for your game!
If this game was easy, and you won all the time from the start, how much effort would you put into improving? If you make a big call, suckout, or sniff out a bluff and got lucky you probably won’t think twice about it. It would be like school, and you would just coast through. But if you lose and lose and lose, you can start asking questions.
Failure doesn’t exist if you keep trying and keep improving. Failure happens when you keep doing the same damn thing, and keep getting the same stupid result until you can take no more and you give up. Mistakes are necessary and are the best opportunities for growth. Seek them out and be proud!! Because when you find one, you can fix it and that means more money and confidence.
You have a long way to go and a lot to learn. But remember, every thing you learn compounds on itself in this game. You don’t learn to win overnight, you pick up little things here and there, and eventually, you have built a game that wins and continues to grow.
Your Best Bud,
I ****ing love this game. I realize I am far from an amazing player, but it doesn’t matter. This game challenges a person on so many levels and I can’t think about how much I have grown and learned from this game outside of poker. Taking my ego out and realizing that I suck at poker has been one of the best things that ever happened for my game. When you know you suck, you can work and improve. If you are ‘just running bad’, there isn’t a ****ing thing you can do.
Now this next part is going to sound weird to a lot of good players. I don’t lose confidence when I am running bad. Seriously. The cards I am dealt have nothing to do with how I interpret my skill, and that is what confidence means to me. If I do lose confidence, it’s because I am not analyzing my game enough. Try it. The next time you feel like crap from a session, go over every hand and WRITE DOWN all spots you got unlucky and all the mistakes you made. Find out exactly why you lost, and don’t make any excuses. It might sound odd, but if you force yourself to do it, you will feel better.
It is a privileged to play this game everyday, and I am very grateful that it is my job. I know this post isn’t likely to help anyone a huge amount, but I also know that it might help someone a little and little improvements reap big rewards in this game.