Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Trying to play well

It was humbling last night as I had to relearn a basic poker lesson. Poker is focus. Not just on the interesting hands, but all the hands. I lost focus at the PS .25/.50 table and turned an up session to a down session. Hand count contributing to the downfall? THREE. That’s right 3. All played wrong. And there was no excuse. I know how to play this game. I study the books, I practice hands, and I even replaced the comic books over the toilet with Phil’s book (insert joke here).

Here is my question of the day. Why do players who are trying to get better play multiple tables? Is it the money? Then get a job. Is it the boredom? It better not be. Poker is all about long stretches of staring and waiting in anticipation (like that scene from Rocky Horror Picture Show… “say it!”) for that moment of accelerated heart rate where you will finally clash with someone. And after that clash, win or lose, YOU MUST STILL FOCUS. There is burning time and burning calories. If you are trying to get better solely by the act of playing hands, you are burning TIME.

You know, I had the pleasure of playing with Annie Duke once at a charity tournament. She was very nice and chatted with people while she played. She was on auto pilot this particular night. But often she would stop conversation and look over towards the other end of the table and verify the action. Even when she was going to fold. She always knew two things (at least). Who was in the hand, and the total amount of money in the pot. Interesting? Maybe. Surprising? No.

Sure, I made some good plays. I trapped with trips. I stole a couple of hands with bets. But poker is as much strategy as it is tactics. Use one and not the other, and your going to be a break even player. If you think you’re a decent player because you dominate your home game, probably because you play more than the other guys who show up on Friday, then take a look at yourself. When you play with strangers or travel down to the casino for a night of fun, do you break even? If this is the case, then you could be improving your game. Tactics is knowing what to play in various situations and how to play it. Strategy is understanding it in the context of the entire session.

Here are my words of the day, “Get Better or stop playing”. There are already plenty of ok players out there… Why was I playing in a ring game when I am a much better SnG player? That's why.

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