Tuesday, February 12, 2008

what is success?

In the words of the shoalin monks, "learning something means applying it". In their world, you did not learn kung fu just to learn it. You learned it to use it. Even if that was sparing over actual conflict. Poker is the same in that regard. If you read poker books and don’t play, that is obviously silly. But if you play the same stakes the same way over and over again, you are not really applying your experience, are you?

I have been playing 6max-NLHE cash lately and its killing me. My results are in the tank, and my bankroll is hurting, despite playing decently. What does my suffering teach me, Grasshopper? Suffering is life? Hardly. Many people skate through life avoiding suffering. No, I like to think that I am carving new patterns into my brain to be used in the pattern recognition exercise we call poker.

As human beings and not machines, we need to create the concept of the "finite" for our brains to comprehend something. So we think in terms of our experiences. There is nothing wrong with this until we run into people who exploit this, and then the circle of life starts anew. Are you following any of this? Me neither. But I think it illustrates another point. Things can be as complex or as simple as we wish.

For me, Tournaments are simpler than cash games. Why? Simply because there is a set of constraints around a tournament that do not exist in a cash game. (escalating blinds change the phase of the game, while going broke adds a finale to an otherwise singular transaction.) And its the constraints of a tournament I have learned to exploit. It is VERY rare for me to have to resort to 3 levels of thinking in a tournament, as motivations are harder to disguise. Plus, I have added a series of criteria that I use to evaluate the truth of a players actions. The biggest is "pot size".

Controlling the size of the pot is paramount in tournament play. (its probably important in cash too, but I am still working that out.) When a player is willing to play a big pot, he is committing to a course of action. (This does NOT mean he isn't bluffing!!) And because of stack sizes, blinds/antes, and the finality of going broke, the context of this behavior has larger significance.

In creating a big pot, we are signaling to the other player that we are willing to clash. maybe its because we have a strong hand, maybe a strong draw, maybe we are willing to put our opponent on a hand and believe we can force him out. Whatever the case, we are gearing up for battle. And when the war can be won or lost in a single battle, this is significant. We create pressure, cause for concern, and a fight or flight scenario for our opponent. And because of this, you would be surprised the number of times last night I folded AQ to a raise, but stole with 53o.

And even though I am still forming the theories that will help me be a better cash game player, I will stop worrying that I am destroying my MTT game. Last night, I took second in the Hoy. I played decent heads up, but just could not get any traction. I think the head up lasted a good 30 minutes. I started with a 2-1 chip deficit, and after a long battle, escaped alive when my TP ran into 2pair. But that left me with a 5-1 chip deficit and despite getting a good chunk back, eventually ran into the dreaded AA.

So I am now trying to compartmentalize 3 years of poker into a few months of preperation for the 6max NLHE WSOP event. Step 1 is to stop the bleeding. I continue to stare at the screen in disbelieve at times... As for yesterday's post, I simply walked away until the following day. And had a bad session anyways.

But if there is one thing I have going for me, its persistence. I have stopped acting like a moron (and took the doctors advice to "stop doing that!") I have played the OUU scenario much better. But most of all, my Houdini skills are coming back to me and I am able to escape from TPTK or AQ pre-flop.

Continue to spar...

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