Saturday, September 29, 2007

Finding your voice

Back in the days of my youth, I was working my way through college and performing stand-up comedy on the weekends. There were always discussions about who was getting their break and who had early success. But there was one constant in most of the success stories; the performer had "found their voice". It was the act of personifying your point of view, without the filter and ancillary thoughts that muck it up. And being able to make it amusing in some fashion. That's why a lot of comics can turn actor, but few actors can take up stand-up comedy.

Like in poker, we experiment with numerous styles and often adapt a style that matches the performer/player we wish to most be like. Emulation. But eventually that sheds like a skin as we become our own persona. That may be occurring for me at this very moment.

I always tried to emulate the Columbo persona. The outward mannerisms of a bumbling stooge, while being keenly observant and able to see the significant in the seeming insignificant. I don't do chip tricks at the table, I don't try to explain or justify what someone might view as a donkey move. I simply let them assume I have no idea what I am doing. It can be amazing effective in a card room.

But is it who I am? As the skin starts to shed, I no longer see that character in that form. I don't exemplify that style anymore. Lately, I have been more willing to go broke, to bubble or to take a chance, than to tight my way towards the end and try to get lucky. I talk more at the table, even going as far to talk through my opponents hands out loud. and I understand the stages and sizes or tournaments and their impact on my play more than ever before.

In the past, on the bubble (literally 1 from the money) I would be unwilling to call an all-in with TT from a tight player. And the guy on my left even said as much. It was obvious he has been at the other table most of tonight. "Not anymore" I told him. And when I raised pre-flop with 66 and another player came over the top, I called. He had KJ and it turns out he did not notice I had bet. Assuming I was the BB, he pushed from the button with 2 face cards. Not a bad play, but against an UtG limper 2 from the money, I don't think we would have done it (and neither did he) if he understood I had put in 40% of my chips already. He flopped a K and I turned the set. And later, 1 from the money, when a shorter stack moved all in, and I KNEW he would have a big ace or a big pair here, I call with TT hoping the see A9, but expecting AJ. He had A9. I knew it was proper to call here, but in the past, it would have been very difficult for me.

So what does all this rambling mean? What am I doing now?

Its not so different. I am still making decisions based on understanding the situation instead of trying to get weak players to be into my solid hands. But now I am not trying to "craft" a persona. I am more true to myself. I am trying to create situations where I understand where I am at in the hand. I wont fold on every missed flop anymore and I wont try to trap every time I hit the flop. I am much more situational and steady. Establishing a solid "baseline" image, understanding what each of my actions project, and the establishing what I can when I need to.

Sometimes I want to play "harder". I have a guy on my left who I know is taking down flops when he misses everything by being very TAG. And I try to get into situations with him where I know I have an edge. But when I can't, I can't and I don't try to force the scenario. Its like in football, take what the defense will give you.

I am also not afraid of betting. I like to play small-ball as much as possible, but when you get afraid to lose chips, sometimes you bet to infrequently. I have been breaking out of the habit lately, understanding the value of betting for value pre-flop and other such mathematical edges.

As I am trying to make the leap to the next level, I make note of some things:
  • I am keenly observant of "situations" and try to read that much more than "players". This comes from online play and from trying to emulate Columbo for so long.
  • Many players play common situations incorrectly, and you can exploit this far more than you can "getting a read" on their hand by staring at them or looking for tells.
  • I don't try every hand to put my opponent on a hand and then exploit what I think he is holding. I need to do this MORE. I figure that there is about 1 time per table that you will need to win a hand by getting a player to fold a good holding when you are way behind. But you should be TRYING to practice this every hand, whether your in the hand or not.
  • I need to continue to improve my post flop and turn play.
  • I still find myself in the middle stages of a large MTT not "keeping up with average". This still bothers me as its hard to accumulate chips at a full table without seeing flops and risking chips. I think I play too tight in these stages and I give up on hands too soon.

I am also continuing to study the mixed games as this improves overall play.

I applaud what biggestron is trying to do with his new virtual goal bankroll and I am contemplating a similar strategy. And I want to get to Vegas a day in early in December if it means I can play in a HORSE tournament down at Binions. (I bubble last trip)

Last night, 18 people came out to the tiki lounge for NLHE and I took down 1st. Sure, I played good early. Very good in fact. But it was the willingness to make a stand and not fold the 66 and TT hands on the bubble, and those hands holding up, that made all the difference between 5th and first.

Don't be afraid to make the correct move because you are unwilling to put your tournament at risk. That is what I learned in the last 3 weeks, and I am practicing what I preach. (Also note this caused me to bubble out the 3 tournaments prior to last night, so its not all roses.)


Anonymous said...

Finding your own voice just in time, as your Columbo voice is apparently a registered trademark of NBC/Universal Studios.

J.T. said...

Thank you excellant comments

Wolverine Fan said...

Excellent post.