Friday, April 14, 2006

Aww, Poker, I's Just Joshin'...

I feel like I've been a little heavy on the doom and gloom of late, in regards to poker. Well, not really doom or gloom, but the general tone has been trending towards the cautious and/or wary end of the spectrum, as sort of a preamble to something or other. Sort of like when you're stuck in a limping, lumbering, soon-to-be-imploded relationship and it's nearing Christmas, and the idealistic part of you wants to put on a brave face and buy her something nice but the realist insists that you buy her a shitty unscented candle, wrap it in newspaper, and pitch it to her, saying "Ho ho ho," and just rip the band-aid off yourself and be done with it.

Part of me has been tempted to just quit poker cold turkey. Not much of me, but there is a portion of my monkey brain that's not convinced that playing poker is +EV for me in the long run, even if I make money doing so. There are a ton of things I want to do in this world and sitting in front of a computer for hours on end isn't one of them.

I enjoy playing poker, though. A lot. And it's something I'm pretty good at. It'd be pretty dumb to quit doing something I enjoy, that I'm good at. So yeah. That's dumb. Let's not do that.

But I'm still undecided as to what form that playing of poker will take. And, by extension, what form this blog will take in future months.

One thing I always took a little pride in was taking the time here to put down thoughts on assorted poker strategry, as I was always frustrated that other people didn't do the same. And it wasn't all golden, by any stretch of the imagination, but most of it was reasonably solid. People seemed to appreciate it. So it felt good to do that, to feel like I was giving something back, and for the simple validation that came from posting it and getting favorable responses.

One strange thing about poker is that I think many of us exist in a weird limbo land of indecision, unsure if we're simple luckboxes who have been dodging the odds or if we're veritable superstars who are just running poorly. There's just no short-term measure of success or validation. So we end up glomming on to anything we can find, grasping at validation wherever we can find it. Validation through results, through friendships made via poker, through what we post on these gay Internet blog diaries, through whatever we can wrap our monkey paws around.

And the sad truth is that for most of us, it's never going to be there. It's always going to be slightly out of reach. We're never going to be as successful as we dream of being.

The long run definitely exists, but it's a hell of a long run. I guess that's the one thing I've learned in the last four or five months, more than anything. I didn't really understand just how poorly you can run at times, and just how thin any edge you hold is. Didn't grasp to what extent we're at the mercy of random chance, especially at fairly crucial points in ones poker development. Didn't understand that simply being good at poker isn't enough to propel oneself ever-upward.

Improving at poker is definitely an incremental journey, and you will definitely see positive results in the long run if you focus on making the correct decision, each time you're faced with a decision. No arguing that. If you make consistently make +EV decisions, your results will be +EV. Dead true. Carve it in stone.

But if you persist on that journey you'll eventually come to an abyss of sorts, that few poker types like to discuss. Suddenly you're brought up short and realize that you're woefully under-equipped, and that the only way you're going to traverse it is to take a flying leap, and put much trust in your leaping ability. Because you're not quite as in control of the situation as you were lead to believe.

Peronally speaking, my abyss was to finally realize the sheer randomness of what I was engaging in. That sounds over-simplified and dumb but there you go. I wasn't prepared to get my teeth kicked in and lose thousands of dollars on a weekly basis, playing my best, while watching someone cap preflop with 36o and keep jamming until the river, when they hit their straight. I wasn't ready to see some monkey with a VPIP of 89% show a $22,000 profit over 18,000 hands in a month, playing 10/20 short. I wasn't ready to see that I had no idea what it meant to truly run badly at stakes capable of inflicting pain, when "good" play netted me a huge loss while others played any two cards and made many grandusands.

Should I have seen that coming? Of course. It was there to see before, but easy for me to ignore, until the dollars involved became meaningful and painful.

But guess what? I digress. Ha.

Here's the point. I'm going to keep playing poker, and blogging about poker, and telling people they should play poker. But the only grand advice I have is to watch your corn hole out there at the poker tables, and prepare for the worst. Because it's not as easy as it seems and it's not as simple as playing good poker. And at certain points you just have to jump and hope you land on the other side.


Mark said...

Up and downs, ups and downs. Fortunately, there are more ups than downs in the long run for winning players.

tk said...

God, you are just such a whiny pussy of a man.

I don't know how you look yourself in the mirror every day.

Poker is not for you.