Monday, December 29, 2008
I don't think it is much of a stretch to say that this blog, and most blogs, tend to have repeating themes. Losing begets losing and winning begets winning are two of my favorite. The HoP #1 Rule of Poker ("When you are behind, fold") is another. Unfortunately, though, it seems a new couple of themes have developed, with one explaining why all the other themes exist. We'll start with recurring theme #1:
Know when to play.
It's the most basic of decisions. To play or not to play? I do not hesitate to state that my love of poker borders on the unhealthy. Borders is a key word there. In fact, the term "unhealthy" is definitely not the emphasis, since even if I were to cross that border, the unhealthiness is not as harsh as it may first seem. My love for the game is tempered by my fiscal responsibility. I never play over my head and I never risk money that would matter to wifey Kim or me. But mentally, I tend to obsess on the game, and therein is the unhealthiness. Where obsession goes, impulsiveness tends to follow, and this is the lesson I am relearning: Know when to play.
I know the answers of when not to play. I just don't follow them. For instance, don't play when you are intoxicated. I break this one online often enough to significantly hurt my results. I also play online when there are too many distractions, when I'm in a crummy mood, or when I'm rushed.
But this rule really reared its ugly head during my recent trip to Atlantic City. Plain and simple, I should not play when I am distracted. In AC, I played like crap and got my ass repeatedly handed to me as a result, at least in the early goings (later on, I was card dead which contributed to my losses). I was probably pushing the action a bit too early because I was conscious of my limited time playing. I was then pushing the action to win back losses. Finally, I stopped the cycle by cutting myself off early in the evening on my last night in AC.
I am fortunate enough to travel to AC several times a year without my wife. During those times, when I'm hanging with my poker degenerate buddies, I can let my poker freak flag fly and play for hours on end. AC is not that trip, even if super-degenerate and co-pilot Dave Roose thinks it is. Whereas he can mentally shut out the fact that his wife is hanging around, I cannot. I need to make future AC trips with Wifey Kim about Wifey Kim and family ONLY. I need to table poker during these sessions, well, table NLHE poker, because I just don't get into my comfort zone. If all goes well, next year I will exclusively play 2/4 Drunken Limit Hold'em when playing poker (aside from tournament play). The goal will be to get as drunk as possible while playing the lowest limit poker available. If my buddies are around, we'll throw in enough side bets to keep it interesting.
Which brings us to theme #2:
Poker is about constantly relearning the things you already learned.
It's a shame, but it isn't as simple as messing up and then learning your lesson. Poker is about constantly relearning the same lessons until hopefully, at some point, you (or, actually, I) stop making the same stupid, self-destructive mistakes. It's probably the toughest lesson to learn because inherently, accepting the reality means that you know you will make the same mistakes again in the future. But, really, isn't that just what we do?
You don't write about poker for years without realizing that the lessons to be learned, while varied, are finite. Don't overplay hands. Don't bluff the wrong opponents. Don't play when you are distracted. The list goes on and on, but more importantly, over time it repeats itself. It's like plugging a dam that constantly springs new leaks. Or, worse, it's like plugging a dam with all of your fingers and toes, and just when you reach to plug a new leak, the old you were blocking is unblocked and the old leak re-emerges.
This isn't a fatalist view, at least not entirely. It's just a view about how the game is not one of linear knowledge. You don't learn something and then move on to the next level or topic, never to look back. You learn something, learn something new, learn the old thing again, learn a bunch of new things, and then relearn the first thing again, even though you didn't know you had forgotten it.
Well, enough with the themes. If all goes well, I'll work on my AC trip report this week, complete with poker losses, table game wins, and even a slot machine or two.
Until next time, make mine poker!
posted by Jordan @ 11:13 AM,
- At 2:56 PM, Lucypher said...
I agree and have also posted about the importance of playing only when one can muster one's A game.
- At 3:37 PM, Memphis MOJO said...
Looking forward to the report.
- At 4:50 AM, . said...
This is merely a quick incomplete comment, but I think poker results might be more correlated with general mental well-being than knowledge of poker.
I've found it's often the case a bad day is made worse when one fits in a session of poker. Furthermore, that tends to be an absolute condition, I'd say.
- At 8:39 AM, custom poker tables said...
Agreed. You should definitely learn when to play. Timing is vital in everything.