Wednesday, February 01, 2006

10 Notes to Myself About Poker

1) Poker Ain't Going Nowhere: Stop being a stupid monkey and mindlessly chasing losses. It doesn't matter if you're still playing well and not tilting or otherwise playing sub-optimally. You aren't having fun. There's no point in sitting there, clicking buttons, not having fun.

Remember all those times you play a ton of hands, end up down for the day, and sit there, grinding over it in your head, thinking "Not only did I lose money, but I didn't get around to doing (insert household chore), didn't spend time with (insert name of loved one or friend or pet rat), didn't read (insert name of book), didn't watch (insert name of movie), didn't exercise, didn't write, didn't do anything productive, whatsoever"? Well, hoss, guess what? No one made you sit there, grinding out hands. Just get your ass up and go do something.

2) Shorter and Sweeter: Stop ignoring the really obvious trend, as far as the majority of your winning sessions being less than 2 hours, and the majority of your losing sessions being more than two hours in length. Play shorter sessions, get up, take a break, do something constructive, then come back for another short session. Repeat. This works for you, and why you let yourself still get sucked into long, fruitless sessions, bashing of your head against the poker tables, I do not know.

3) Know When to Fold 'Em: Just because you're playing short doesn't mean you have to look everyone up, or that they're making moves on you. Play fast and hard and, when played back at, be inclined to respect it. Pay more attention to pot size, as far as whether you decide to look someone up. Pick your spots.

4) Don't Use the Presence of Lemurs as an Excuse to Cold Call: Break the nasty habit you're developing of cold-calling pre-flop when you still have lemurs left to act behind you, who you know will call. If you're going to play your hand, raise. I don't care if it's a hand like KQs, that you'll likely need help from the flop with, and that you don't mind multi-way action with. Raise or fold. I don't care if the lemur will call three-bets cold anyway with 49o, and will hang in there to river two pair to take down your top pair. Raise or fold.

5) Stop Playing Like a Pussy When Losing: Remember when you were winning early in the month, playing very aggressively, busting out turn bluff-raises, check-raising with middle pair on the flop, three-betting/capping it pre-flop with any hand you decided to play, and occasionally donking a river bluff on a scary board? Remember the epic downswing (and I know you do), and how quickly you regressed to tighter play once it started, turtling up, playing very predictably with much less aggression? Think those two things are related?

(Psst, the answer is yes.)

6) Don't Chase Losses by Moving Up in Limits: Yeah, that worked out well last month, sitting 30/60 short for a few sessions, especially the one where you turned the nut straight against AA, who couldn't comprehend that his slowplayed aces were no goot (and then rivered a third ace for more pain) and took down the largest pot of your limit life, nearly $1,800. But we both know that you shouldn't have sat down at 30/60, especially in the midst of a downswing.

To be slightly fair, it's not the worst thing in the world for you, as it sobers you up pretty quickly and gets you back to playing tilt-less poker, but it's eventually going to bite you in the ass, and you don't need or want that, especially when you're in a sub-optimal state.

7) Stop Being Stupid and Tilting Off Remnants of Buy-Ins: Yeah, I know, it's frustrating as hell, to get kicked in the teeth by yet another two-outer, and to see your $500 buy-in eroded to $70, capping off yet another brutal session. And it's even more frustrating when you then get dealt JhJd, raise, get two lemur callers, the flop comes Ac 10c 5h, you bet, get called, and then raised by the second lemur.

But you know what? Your hand is no goot, so there's no point getting tilty and shoving your remaining $40 in there. That's $40. Paltry in comparison to what you've lost, granted, but that's 2BBs, which is basically a solid hour of expected profit/work from a good player playing optimally in a $10/20 game. It may seem like a piddling sum but it isn't. Save it. Either re-buy or, even better, just log off and fight again another day.

8) Step Down in Limits When Truly Running Bad: Stop letting your ego have its way. We both know you can beat the 10/20 short games. And, honestly, should be beating them. But we also both understand variance, especially in short games.

There's no shame in dropping down to lower limits when the losses pile up to the uncomfortable point. Stop making excuses and rationalizations. If the idea of sitting down and losing a buy-in is unduly painful to consider, step down. Regroup, rebuild, step up. If the pain of potential losses enters into your thinking at any point, you've passed the point of no return and aren't playing optimally.

9) Poker is at Best 50% Skill, 50% Luck: Mystify it to death, but you're still always at the mercy of the random nature of dealt cards, to some extent. When you used to play many, many games of cribbage with your dad as a kid, did you entangle larger self-worth and happiness issues with whether you won or lost? Umm, no, not at all. Because, you know, it was cribbage, and sometimes you get cards and sometimes you don't.

The only thing different about poker is that money is involved, so the results get magnified in proportion. That's a natural effect, but not conducive towards happiness or better results in the future. The sooner you get over that hump, attaching inordinate significance to money, the better. And that applies to many things other than poker, as well.

10) You're not as Good at this Game as You Think You Are; You're Better at This Game than You Think You Are: Come to grips with that Zen-like statement, as it likely will never cease to be true.


Nick Christy said...

Great Post, think anyone can look at these notes and apply them.

WillWonka said...

Yikes!!!! Have you been watching me play? Guilty.. 1,2,5,6 and 7.

Knowing what do and how to do it and when to quit and all that stuff is soo easy in theory.. why does it have to hard in practice...

It's like my evil twin (KillWonka) takes over after so many suckouts.

Very Nice post... hopefully, I can take it heart and apply it appropriately.

fairnbalncd said...

"We both know you can beat the 10/20 short games."

Wish I had said that on my blog...

Ignatious said...

excellent post, sir.

shorter and sweeter being crucial for me.

Zhaneel said...

For someone who is new to poker (and tried Google) what is a lemur?

And great set of notes!

RikkiDee said...

Zhaneel said...

lol @ rikkidee

I knew the animal. I just didn't suspect our host was playing with marsupials over the internet.

C.L. Russo said...

I think you mean "lemmings." As in lemmings following each other over the cliff.

ScurvyDog said...


I think AlCantHang was the first blogger to use "lemur" as a replacement for "donkey", when referring to a bad poker player.

Everyone and their uncle's hooker's second cousin was using "donkey" every third word, when talking about bad players, so there was a movement to conjure up a replacement animal, with lemurs and emus and other animals thrown out there.

For some reason, I liked lemur, and stick with it.

Zhaneel said...

Thanks much Scurvydog!!! I saw a couple of other references to lemurs in other poker blogs but my tries to find a def of it on poker slang pages was coming up empty.

Joe said...

Thanks for the insight.
I needed some reflection.

Michael said...

Best post I've read in a long time and so right on target.

Garthmeister J. said...

I am also a big fan of "lemur", both in describing others and myself. I am also fond of using it as a verb, as "I managed to lemur to the rail in record time."

Hehehehe. Lemur.

cc said...

Brilliant, although #6 is painful to read as it reminds me of my own -$1600 $30/60 session (or you're describing me).

I think most players (or most of us) look at big swings and don't sweat the small leaks as you've described. The small leaks have to be a significant chunk of most solid players' problem or improvement gap, I would guess.

Otit said...

This is the best post I've read in a long time. You nailed it right on the head with "poker ain't going nowehere" and about paying attention to how profitable you are in short games. I've stopped trying to get in "just a couple of hands" while the kids are in the tub or instead of doing some household chore. I thought that playing short sessions was counterproductive, and then I started tracking my session length and found out my most profitable sessions are under an hour and a half, so now I keep it short. Great post, right on the money!