The quality of posts in this forum has been incredibly bad recenty. So, inspired by this I thought I'd examine the stages a poster goes through, and examine the ways we can all get better.
Step 1: The Newb The newb has just stumbled onto this site. Thye know poker basics like simple preflop hand selection and basic pot odds. The rest of poker is still a mystery, however. Generally they enter into the forum asking a pretty simple question like "UTG with 6BBs and AKo, raise, push, or just fold it," or, "I'm in the CO with 15BBs and an MP player raises, should I just call so I can get away if an A flops." The newb comes in 3 distinct brands. There is the passive newb, the angry newb, and the interested newb. The passive newb posts a hand to be told what to do. He (or in much rarer cases she) posts a situation so that the better posters on the forum can tell him what to do in the given situation. The angry newb posts so that he can crow about how his decision is right and berate those who disagree with him (even though it is clear to most that the angry newb is clearly a worse player than the ones he berates). Then there is the interested newb who is much rarer than the other 2. The interested newb posts the same type of threads, but becomes involved in debate in an attempt to understand the advice he receives. Unlike the angry newb he doesnt assume he is right, and unlike the passive newb he is seeking to understand how to make decisions, not how to play only the hand he posted. In order to progress further, both the angry newb and the passive newb must first transform themselves into the interested newb.
Step 2: The Confuzlleds Generally speaking this stage occurs when a newb sticks with it. They begin reading and posting and get bombarded with concepts they are not prepared to deal with. Thus they end up making posts like "KK and 8 BBs, should I stop n go," or "Restealing with QQ." The confuzzled understand basic strategy but get confused and puzzled by anything but the most simple of situations. You often see phrases like, "if you want to gamble then call" or, "if you want to play for first call, if you want to make the money then folding is ok." Most confuzzled players games consist of trying to apply rules they read about to situations they are confronted with, often without rhyme or reason. The majority of players stall here because again they do not make the effort to understand the thinking and reasoning that dictates these rules, (for example open pushing with roughly 10BBs), instead they just try to use them, and often incorrectly. Players games have improved from when they were newbs, but generally they remain break even players at best. However, a small number of confuzzleds strive to understand the "rules" (they understand that "rules" should be in quotes) and the leads them to progress.
Step 3: Leapers If a poster progresses this far they are on their way. They have made the first leap, that is, they have found math. They have grasped that the "rules" are just a shorthand way to deal with frequent situations, and that they stem from the math. Specifically they begin assigning hand ranges, and figuring out how their hand fares against those ranges. This stage usually finds posters responding to many many posts (usually authoratatively and usually correctly) because while they are helping answer the question the poster is asking they are also helping themselves become more comfortable assigning ranges and doing complicated EV calculations. If a poster makes it to this point they are more than likely a winning player which makes it oh so tempting to stall and not continue on to.....
Step 4: Poker Players If you make it here, the math has become 2nd nature (even the most complicated of it). You main focus is no longer individual decisions but rather lines (the series of decisions you make in a hand looked at collectively). Often when responding to basic questions these posters leave out explicit calculations because it has become so second nature that they can intuit the correct action without having to do the math out (this can occasionally make them a little hard to distinguish from the cunfuzzled). By focusing on how to play the hand as a whole these posters learn how to make better postflop decisions and often it leads to them leaving the forum in favor of cash games as for the first time they may be equipped for it. A poster who reaches this level is clearly a very good tournament player (although might still be a very middle of the road cash game player) and its easy for them to think they have nothing left to learn.
Step 5: Meta The elite. They are focused on playing poker instead of just an individual hand, or decision. They think about how to play their hand in relation to all the other hands they play. Often they have no time for the simple decisions, which sucks for the rest of the forum. Still, more than anything else this category stands as a reminder to us all that there is a level to which we can improve. No matter how good we are there's always a way to get better.
So, my advice to everybody is stop being lazy, quit being comfortable with where you are and start trying to improve your game. There are always ways to get better, and persuing those avenues is interesting and rewarding. Its a shame that so many posters here have their games stuck in neutral because its brought the forum to a grinding halt.
A poster who reaches this level is clearly a very good tournament player (although might still be a very middle of the road cash game player) and its easy for them to think they have nothing left to learn.
People who are sufficiently good frequently move on to more interesting pastures, since most of the questions are quite mechanical.
There is also the issue that this forum is not necessarily the greatest place to discuss the "playing poker" aspect at the top of the tree, simply because it becomes so incredibly read dependent, and people can't really offer anything other than "That read seems implausible." This cropped up quite a bit in the Gigabet 5 Diamond hand, for example.
EDIT: It occurs to me that some of the discussions in, say, MHNL are a counterexample to this last bit, but many of those stem from people playing against opposition that many of them know/have experience with.
The main culprit is time, with boredom and a maxing out of my ability being the other culprits.
I have moved to a lot of cash games as my deep stack play has really sucked and I wanted that to become more second nature, as well as bring some fun back into the game.
Often with shallow stacked online MTT's the creativity gets hampered by the stack sizes, and I was no good, and had no experience with playing with a deep stack for an exteneded period of time. (running a business and having a wife hampers my ability to sit in for a "deep stack" tourney, so cash is quicker way to get some time in with deep stacks)
You're right, in that many posters can only answer so many "do I push here?" type posts before they stop answering.
It can look like a "clique" of who answers what posts, but often the good posters will respond to any post that has an "interesting question". That being, what is interesting and challanging to the respondant.
I think another reason the "older members" stop posting hands, is that a lot of the time you can sit back, see your mistake, and move on without having to consult the forum.
I know I have stopped posting a lot due to the fact I wasn't nearly as far along in poker as I thought I was, and that my advice was good if basic, but suspect at the upper levels (much like my game)
Thank god there are still posters like ExitOnly,schwza, Adanthar, and Lloyd (first 4 that come to mind) who respond to a ton of posts still and manage to find interesting and tough hands.
I am stuck in neutral, but I think my clutch is burned out.....
a lot of bad advice being given out by many people i'm sure. by myself included. but what i think is important, is that you are challenged to understand why your advice is not sound advice and to actually begin to look at things from another angle/perspective.
I think MLG has a very valid point, and I'm sure he realizes that everyone grows at different levels and at diffent speeds, much of it by your own experience, some by others experiences, some by reading literature and then still some by just hearing a different point of view.
I can honestly say, I have a long way to go to be where i want to be, but it has been very helpful to understand how other players view particular lines (whether the worse possible approach or the best possible approach). It gives me an insight into why certain plays are made by some of the donkeys and why certain plays are made by the "pros".
Well, just wanted to let you guys know that I appreciate this forum for helping me improve my game and am looking forward to a long and prosperous run at the tables.
very good post woodguy. i agree with pretty much all of your points 100%.
another thing is, it becomes so frustrating to log on and see the top 3 (or however many) threads having been answered authoritatively with bad advice, and you just sort of want to throw your hands up. i just have to constantly remind myself that "that guy" was once me. but i can see how many of the "old hands" feel like they've paid their dues and are just burnt out on it all.
Great post Mike. Most of the good players don't realize that they can continue to develop on a daily basis and become complacent with being good enough to win some money playing poker. Things that you will find in all of the "elite" players are a strongly developed sense of competition which helps them desire to learn more and more so they can be the best, feel for the table that is like second nature to them, so they can be talking to people or listening to music and still be able to pick up on everything that is going on around them, and last, and possibly most importantly, enough of an ego to have absolute confidence in every play they make, but not so much ego that they think they are right no matter what and can't admit to making mistakes.
Trying to learn something new about the game every time you play is a great skill to have in this game.