Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

It's a little bit disturbing that grinding out a ginormous number of hands at .50/1 NL has somehow gotten me excited about poker again but hey, there you go...

The human mind is an interesting thing. Especially in regards to its ability to complete all sorts of mental gymnastics and hocus pocus to convince you something is true despite all evidence to the contrary. And you believe it, because its your brain, and cause and effect get lost in a jumbled tangle until all you've got is this thing you believe is true, because you told yourself it was true enough times.

Playing poker of late definitely takes me back to the days of yore (or, you know, late 2004) when I was very much afflicted by the poker bug, wide-eyed and eager to come home after work every day and fire up a bunch of micro-limit LHE tables. Exciting, heady times, trying to build up my wee little bankroll, reading any and everything I could get my hands on, reading poker blogs and forums, you name it. Very excited about poker. Very focused. Very much enamored by the idea that I'd happened upon a readily exploitable system that could produce steady, increasing profits.

If you haven't guessed it by now, money is a good motivator for me. I could lie and say its not the chief motivator in my life, but, well, you know... The lure of money plus a competitive nature (and a genuine love of playing cards) made poker pretty much the perfect receptacle to pour all sorts of energy and thought into. I was definitely playing with an eye on net profits but much of the enjoyment came from exploiting the system, learning the steps necessary to slowly and steadily grind down the opposition and, in the long run, beat the hell out of their ass and bankroll. That's what really got me off, in the end, more than the dollar signs.

I worked my way up through the limits, played lots of poker, made money, and all was seemingly well. Eventually I was playing 15/30 and 20/40 full ring LHE on Party (insert obligatory wistful teary eye), booking fairly steady profits but not really crushing the games. I had plenty of cash floating around online due to affiliate cash I was raking in so there was really no finacial pressure on me to improve poker-wise. There also was a ton of fishy dead money up for grabs back in the day that inflated my results and others, taking players who'd probably be marginally profitable/break even these days and turning them into pretty decent winners back in the days of yore.

Long story short, I got fat and lazy, poker-wise. I started taking stupid shots, playing 50/100 and 10/20 NL, largely as a defense mechanism to the games getting tougher and to compensate for my own laziness. I started propping, playing 6 max games because that's where the cool kids were making all the money, jumping into big buy-in MTTs looking for big scores, chasing anything that seemed to offer a potential big payoff. I stopped grinding and trying to improve because, well, that's not much fun, and let my brain convince me that I didn't want to be that guy who was obsessed with poker, that I'd already put in my time and had to have the tools necessary to play profitably.

Since I wasn't enjoying the game as much, there must be a reason (and surely that reason must be un-related to me) so hey, let's find some reasons. Plenty of mouth-breathers are steadily crushing the online games for huge profits when I'm treading water, so there's got to be a reason. Being married with assorted financial obligations is what's holding me back. That's the ticket. Having a life and being a well-rounded, active primate is holding me back from obsessively trying to improve. Yup. Poker is just a hobby for me, so who cares, have fun. Exactly.

So for quite awhile (years, even), I managed to not only trick myself into not connecting the dots, but blinded myself to the dots themselves. What I really enjoyed about poker wasn't so much the desired net result (more mobneys in my bankroll) but the process itself, when you're working hard and grinding out profits. Using my smarts (limited as they may be at times) to consistently profit from the mistakes of others, over and over and over. And it's taken some serious grinding at the .50/1 tables to remind me of all that, of what I really enjoyed, as silly as that sounds.

I'm actually enjoying working my way through Cardrunners videos, to the point that I almost hesitate to play, even at .50/1, as I feel like I learn something each day/week that adds an incremental amount of +EV to my chips. I actually enjoy datamining the hell out of the tables, enjoy being able to sit down with a wealth of stats and information made possible by tricknology and my willingness/ability to incorporate it into my play. I love the fact that poker allows you to both vicariously and directly enjoy idiots acting like idiots, right in front of you, time after time after time, if you have the right tools and skills to recognize it.

I can't say stakes are unimportant, as I'm not sure I could muster the same enthusiasm at the .02/.04 tables, but I've been surprised at my patience so far. I want to get 50,000 hands in at .50/1 and see where I'm at, and I've got about 15,000 more to go. My bankroll was fairly healthy before I began this whole project, plus I had some decent scores the last week in FTOPS satellites (all of which I unregistered from and took the cash), so I could sit $2/4 if you subscribe to the old timey notion that 20 buy-ins are a sufficent roll, but for once in my poker life I'm not feeling the pressure to push the envelope.

Beating up on players at the .50/1 tables isn't exactly something to brag about, and I'm the first to admit that, so it's with more than a little hesitation that I hit the "Publish Post" button on this. The ego cringes a bit to babble endlessly about the joy of getting home and cranking up some .50/1 tables, but that's exactly where I find myself these days, for better or for worse. An odd place, granted, and a pretty strange circular journey, but not the worst place to be all things considered.

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