A Rather Pleasant Side Effect

Okay, so I’m still avoiding playing poker.  That’s not going to help me in my endeavour really, is it?!  Or maybe I should be looking at this in a different light.  I know there are so many things that I do when I play that are far from optimal.  I also know that I struggle to keep myself in check, which is why I want to develop my list of golden rules.

I should be playing when I am able to concentrate, when my mind and body are relaxed and I have the time to play.  Just at the moment it’s actually pretty hard to find a time that each of those things are true, so maybe I should be looking at my behaviour not as avoidance, but as obeying the rules that I have in my head.

Having said that I did just finish an hour long session.  I had noticed that PokerStars have a reload bonus going at the moment, actually ending tonight.  I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with PokerStars, but it was the quickest to start playing at and had a few alright looking tables as soon as I logged in.  I made my deposit for the bonus and sat down at a low fixed limit 6 seater table.  There was a player that I had played about 400 hands against and previously marked as a target, sat opposite me, and the rest were players I’d not seen before.

I had prepared myself before sitting down to feel in the best state of mind that I could muster and I was looking forward to a session of getting inside the heads of my opponents.  Within a few minutes I was already distracting myself with other things but I managed to keep that in check, mainly by turning off my second monitor and the pesky browser window that was open in it.

The table was loose and fairly passive, it wasn’t perfect but it was pretty good.  Back in the day I would have almost certainly destroyed it.  With a table like that the rules are pretty simple, play solid poker with just enough deception to keep them interested when you’ve got a hand.  Playing a hand that stands out like re-raising with low suited connectors when you can isolate a player, can definitely keep fish like these on the hook, letting you sit back and stay tight, getting paid off when you’ve got the goods.

So I start making a few dollars playing solid, tight poker, nothing much because I didn’t have the cards that often.  I tried to pay attention to keeping hold of my chips, knowing that the only way I could ruin this table was by playing too loose or getting unlucky.  I played a few hands that were nice and a aggressive, with one ‘triple barrel’ (betting the flop, the turn and the river) where I still had nothing on the river with AK in my hand and two callers.  I came so close to checking thinking that they would call if they’d got anything but re-evaluated because there were possible draws that had failed to hit.  I figured I had the odds to bet out and maybe push them off a low pair with a missed flush or straight draw.  I’ll never know what they had because they both folded.  I was starting to feel confident because I was happy with my decisions, regardless of the individual results of the hands.

That was all good until I played a hand badly.  By the showdown my two pair were beaten by trips, but I should never have even seen the turn which provided my second pair.  Even though I didn’t have that much information on my opponent, there was enough information for me to have thrown the hand away before it cost me most of my profit.

From then on I was battling against my own negative thought patterns.  I wanted to just get up and leave the table and I was scared of going below my starting stack, leaving myself ‘stuck’.  I decided to stick with it and get back into the positive frame of mind that I had entered the session with.  And then it got worse.

I self sabotage.  There it is, I said it.  I don’t know why I do it, but I am convinced that something is going on in my subconscious that makes me fall into this pattern where when it all starts going wrong (or at least feeling that way), I screw things up.  I decided to raise out of position with a highly mediocre hand when it was almost certain that I’d get at least one or two callers.  By raising I was immediately below my starting stack and I didn’t have much more time available.  Once I’d done that and hit middle pair on the flop I figured I should bet out. I did and got 1 player to fold.  The other took a little longer to call than I thought he would if he had a pair, so when the turn paired the board I thought I could bet again.  Sure enough the odds became too bad for him to call whatever draw he had and he folded.

At that point I decided to call it a night and clicked the ‘Sit out next big blind’ option.  I was feeling fairly negative and lucky to be walking away with a very small profit rather than a loss.

But what I’ve got to keep remembering is that at that moment I should be playing to make improvements in my game, not to make money.  That’s just a pleasant side effect.

I learned some more about how my mind is functioning at the table, I found a new target and I got a rather small financial reward in with the bargain.  I’ve got to look at that positively, despite not winning as much as I should have done.

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