I think banging out +3000 raked hands this weekend was, while profitable, a bit of a mistake. I likes teh poker but I was completely burnt last night, finishing up the last of the Empire reload while watching the WSOP Tournament of Champions (TOC) re-run on television.
I knew the result of the TOC but hadn't actually seen the broadcast until last night. I think Raymer is obviously a really good player, really great guy, etc., but he played pretty piss poor in that event, especially the two hands at the end that took him out. I know it's easy to be a critical railbird but calling an all-in re-raise with 89o just isn't going to get it done. He was within spitting distance of a first place prize of $2 million and busted out by getting involved in two hands he just didn't need to be splashing around in, one with 89s and the other with the 89o mentioned above.
Catching up on assorted blog reading this morning and came across an interesting comment thread at Internet Poker Pro(which is a great blog to check out for high-level discussion of higher stakes PL Omaha hands and strategy). One of the comments on his most recent post mentions a phenomenon I've noticed in my own play, which I'll call I-Know-Better-But syndrome (for lack of a better term).
IKBB syndrome basically consists of analyzing a situation, determining the best course, preparing to make that decision...and suddenly making another decision. The best personal example I can think of is limping in from early position with JQs in a loose, aggressive game. Granted, that can be a profitable play, but I know myself well enough to know that for me it's -EV, because I'm not able to push my good but but not great hands hard enough to make up for all the times the flop completely misses me. Far too often it gets raised and I call an extra bet (or two) only to see the flop completely miss me and muck.
So in early position, in loose, aggressive games, I need to muck JQs. Every single time. And I know this. I really do. And I tell myself this. Except far too often I find my mouse, as if of its own accord, slipping from the fold to call button at the very last second, just as I'm clicking.
Why does this happen? I'm not completely sure. I think we all personally gravitate towards certain types of hands, based on personality and style of play. I have no problem at all mucking a hand like 33 in that same situation. None. IKBB syndrome never raises its ugly head. JQs always gets me, though, as I get more excited about the prospect of its possibilities (straight, flush, straight flush, royal flush, oh my!) than I do about flopping a set with a small pocket pair. But both those hands are just as marginal in that situation and should probably be mucked by most players.
The only cure I know is a general cure-all I've found to help me, which is to just sit on your hands. Literally. This is a holdover from my days of teaching chess, as a common mistake beginning players make is to move way too quickly, immediately reaching out for that knight when they see a great move. (Which is especially painful in chess since if you touch a piece you're committed to move it, except in friendly games.) So I'd make students literally sit on their hands, to prevent any sudden grasping of pieces, until they'd taken the time they should be taking to determine their next move.
If I'm just playing one or two tables, I make myself do the same at the virtual poker tables. I don't leave my hand on the mouse (or on the touchpad of my laptop) and instead sit there with my arms crossed or riffle chips in my mouse hand. Basically anything to occupy my ability to make an insta-decision, just to buy myself that extra second or two of analysis, so I can talk myself down from decisions I know better than to make.
It's embarrassingly simple but it's helped me a lot, especially in NL games. Poker is a game of aggression and frustration and confrontation and we all get swept away at times, pissed at that bastard that keeps coming over the top, pissed that we just got sucked out on for the seventh straight time, pissed at any and everything. Of all the forms of poker, I think NL brings this out the most, for the very obvious reason of the typically larger stakes involved in single, solitary decisions. If you're going to potentially be throwing your whole stack out there, you better be damn sure you're making the best decision you can. Anything you can do to force yourself to take an extra second or two to anaylze the situation is a good thing.
Time to stop hiding from the day job.