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PL/NL Texas Hold'em >> Micro Stakes

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more whining, less poker

Reged: 04/20/06
Posts: 5704
Loc: Crushing
Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT ===
      #9852712 - 04/05/07 11:30 AM

This is my Pooh-Bah post. Itís a little late of course - but when I hit 1,600 posts, I wasnít sure what I wanted to write about. There's almost no point in writing about the pros and cons of checkraising the turn, or triple barrel bluffing with air, or bluffraising the river - just about every question you could possibly want to ask has been answered, somewhere along the line, on these forums. So I decided to wait. As it turns out, the events of the past few days have converged to the point where I now have my topic.

This is a long post, but I urge you to read it all. I donít do cliffnotes.

I realise that for those of you who have read Gigabets famous post, this post deals with much of the same content. Because I acknowledge this, I'll link to it here. I recommend you read it, itís an excellent post. Here's the link:


How this post differs from Gigabet's is that it shows you that what Gigabet talks about truly is a Choice and itís a choice that I have just made. I also hope to show you that many of you who believe that you "already do" what Gigabet says, or that you "don't need to apply it" or that it isn't important, are probably wrong.



"You must play those shots which mean the most, like they mean nothing"
-Sam Snead

Poker is a game that pits logic against emotion. We may think that poker is a battle, a game of wits where the most intelligent and cunning player will win. If we make the right mathematical plays, we will triumph, making more money through less mistakes. But we delude ourselves. Poker is a game where often, making the absolute perfect play can yeild you an immediately negative result, where a player who makes consistently bad plays can triumph.

If you shoot the perfect shot on a basketball court, you receive two (or three!) points. If you play a technically flawless game of pool, you will win the frame. If you are more athletic or more adept than your opponent, you will win a game of tennis, win a running race, win a mathematics competition, a spelling bee - whatever the contest may be, you will win if you are the best.

It is concievable (though highly unlikely) that a player such as Daniel Negreanu will be unlucky enough to never win another pot in his life and go broke. He may make every single correct decision, read every hand perfectly, force all his opponents to put all their money in behind, and lose. For the rest of his life. This is where Poker differs so fundamentally from the games above, and differs from what we have come to expect from our lives - where that ungodly force of "luck" serves to dash our dreams and reduce our technical perfection to nothing.

A while ago, a player you may have heard of named David Sklansky coined the term "Sklansky Bucks" to somehow attribute a value to the money you "should" have won, had you not been dealt an unfavourable turn or river card to give your opponent the better hand at the end of the day. These Sklansky Bucks serve as both a mathematical analysis of how you played the hand, deeming it as "correct" or "incorrect", as well as a consolation that you lost money. A sort of "there there, never mind". Most of us are aware of this terminology. But how many of us really, honestly feel good when we amass these "Bucks", as we should?

The picture at the beginning of this post is from my computer thismorning, moments before I clicked the button on the right. I had an absolutely terrible evening in which I played technically perfect poker and lost a lot of BB. The amount is irrelevant, the hands are irrelevant. All you need to know is I played perfectly, and lost. And lost. And lost. When I finally logged off, I realised that I was supposed to meet my girlfriend, and I was late. I was so dejected and upset at poker that I felt like a massive cloud had descended over my head - and now I had to deal with the fact that I felt like a huge degenerate for letting my girlfriend down. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly the picture of pretty roses and lovely company. We ended up having an argument and I upset her because I was in a filthy mood. As I sat on the couch, I suddenly realised - this was ALL because of poker. None of this would have happened if I had not started playing that evening.

Fortunately my girlfriend is forgiving and understanding and everything was cool. But she said something to me that literally snapped me into the next phase of my poker career.

"Babe, you need to learn how to lose."

Life isn't fair. Some people are born into poverty. Some people get hit by asteroids, some people die before they see one week of life. And sometimes, your aces will lose to 72o all in preflop. That is simply the mathematical certainty of a game largely ruled by chance. And yet, how many of us can truly say that we feel nothing when this happens to us? How many of us have never been on tilt? How many of you could honestly play 4 hours straight, lose 3 buyins, and not care? I would say none, of course, because though we may be playing optimally, we are not THINKING optimally.

I believe that all the strat advice in the world counts for nothing if you cannot learn how to properly run your mind. Countless posts on these boards deal with how to make this play, or that play, but what is the point of that if you are just going to tilt it all away the next day? Im sure you read the cheese thread just as much as I do - every single day there is some post by someone saying "OH GOD WHERE DOES IT END WHY DO I RUN DO BAD AHHHH" or some such complaint. These players, like 95% of uNL, are "disconnected". Still operating on that level where losing is bad, and winning is good.

This is where the title of this post comes into play. Most of us play poker whilst we are "disconnected". We are still goverened by our natural laws - frustration, anger, despair, results oriented thinking. Id call it "tilt", but its not quite the same. If you feel even the slightest disappointment at being sucked out on, you are "disconnected". Remember a couple of paragraphs up when I described poker as a game which pits logic against emotion? For most of us, emotion wins, every time. Thatís just because its human nature - we are emotional beings. Without it we would be unable to function in life at all.

So what you and I need to learn is to "connect". To somehow plug into that place where only logic applies, and emotion is irrelevant. In a way, we should strive to be only semi-human when we play Poker. I have yet to be shown an example of where emotion as applied to a poker game has a positive result. You may say "well if you are feeling relaxed and confident, you might be more prone to make stronger bets where before you may have backed away". But again this is incorrect - a bet should not be made on the basis of whether or not you feel capable of making it, but rather whether you deem it to be correct mathematically. This of course is the most common failing of micro-stakes players - being too intimidated to make big value bets and brave calldowns simply because they are scared by the dollar value of the bet, because they cannot avoid placing this dollar value into real-life situations.

Again, this "connection" applies to results. After I had my terrible night, I said to myself "Im never playing again, I cant have poker dictating my life like this" - but this is such terrible thinking. I am a winning player at NL50, and I do enjoy playing. The problem is not with poker, the problem is with ME. The fact that I let myself get so upset over my flogging is a prime example of "disconnected thinking". I should learn to feel completely inaffected by being sucked out on because I literally put in a brilliant performance. How can it possibly be correct mentally to do everything correctly and yet still feel terrible? Total madness.

Other examples of this type of unhelpful thought process are: over-concentration on bankroll or money won and lost, becoming upset or dejected when running bad or having a losing session, inability to separate results from EV, constant complaining in the cheese thread about how badly you're running, berating and abusing your opponents for their poor play and freakish luck etc etc. It is simply a matter of relevance and irrelevance. All of these things I have listed are totally and absolutely irrelevant to your game, and they must be eliminated before you will be able to beat the level you are currently playing at and move up.

So I have made myself a promise to completely overhaul my mental game, to attempt to become "connected". To forget about my bankroll as money, to forget about beats as "bad", to completely remove the notion of "winning and losing" from my game, and replace it with "+EV and -EV". On this week off, Im going to not play a single hand of poker. Im going to spend some quality time with my girlfriend and satisfy my "disconnected" self with happiness and relaxation. Then when I come back, I'm going to train myself to play tilt free. I'm going to actively pursue what Gigabet's post referred to. I know that initially, I will fail. I expect this to be difficult, but I also know it is essential if I want to be better than a 5bb/100 winner over 120k hands. I think that what I will do is to play a LOT of STT's, to force myself to lose and learn what it means to have an edge and to have that edge not come through.

There are two distinct spheres of being as relates to poker. The logical, and the emotional. I urge you to train yourself, as I am, to completely immerse yourself in logic as it applies to poker, and leave your emotions behind.



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Reged: 12/28/06
Posts: 1636
Loc: Amsterdam
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: ama0330]
      #9852847 - 04/05/07 11:40 AM

Great post ama, its actually scary that I recognize myself in this post, which shouldn't be the case.

But learning is a slow process, and Im way better emotionally than I was 2 months ago, and posts like these always add something.


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A model citizen

Reged: 05/25/06
Posts: 1340
Loc: stackasaurus
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: ama0330]
      #9853060 - 04/05/07 11:57 AM

ur post ama

Nothing's tl;dr for me - I actually look forward to tl;drs
Some rambling thoughts...


Fortunately my girlfriend is forgiving and understanding and everything was cool. But she said something to me that literally snapped me into the next phase of my poker career.

"Babe, you need to learn how to lose."

Um I think this is the best bit.
Running good @ life ama >>> running good @ teh pokah
Looks like you got yourself a mucho understanding gf time to take her out again methinks.

As for the pokah mental state[and some other things] I have this kind of state where my A+ mental game sits where sometimes I know what the right thing is to do yet 'feel' like I want to do something else - just got to listen to the cold analytical part of me[actually sometimes it's a relevant piece of wisdom some 2p2 said].
The feel I want to do somethig else isn't an instinctive feeling more an emotional e.g I want to call he can't have a flush my AA is good after being check-called to the river and c/r on the river despite all the signs he's drawing.

I 'try' to trust my instincts - they're normally quite correct[as are most players with some experience IMHO].
I normally do worse by not trusting them and is a leak for me.


"Babe, you need to learn how to lose."

Tufat mentioned something about this once -in his well or blog. Maybe he'll chime in.

Eh, it wasn't until I went to Uni @ started learning rock climbing I finally learnt this . At first I obv was beaten by even basic cimbs -lacking both the skill and stamina. I got a little pissed off as most were much better even people who started @ the same time as me we're doing harder routes when I couldn't do some even simple bouldering problems. However I perservered, and enjoyed having some routes we would try together every week and eventually after amonth or two we did most - copying and help from more experienced climbers that could see different ways up - I never even contemplated made me eventually crack many of these -thought some still obv remain undone. Our motto became kinda I will win eventually...

[censored] sweaty hand holds real outdoor rock FTW

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Carpal \'Tunnel

Reged: 05/13/06
Posts: 2606
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: munkey]
      #9853485 - 04/05/07 12:27 PM

Very good post.

I think my problem is somewhat different than those of others. To me, it's less about the money, and more about pride. All my life, I've striven to be the best in whatever passion I've had, be it sports, video games, whatever. In everything I've ever pursued, results have been correlated with skill and effort.

In poker, I've put down a lot of effort, and I think I have a lot of skill to back it up. Unfortunately, my results haven't always been great, and this is almost a knock at my pride. Whenever a fish takes a pot off me, I start saying to myself "this guy is so bad he doesn't deserve to win a pot off anyone ever!"

So I wait impatiently for the best hand to stack a fish, and sometimes I do stack him, but when he sucks out on me, I get angry... "I can't play better than this, this isn't fair, I'm better than him, why did he just beat me?"

If the fish stays around, I can generally stay calm by just looking at the fish as my money, rooting for him to win pots off others, knowing that he's next to dead money to me if he stays at the table. But then he loses all the money to someone else, leaves the table, and I'm sitting there quite angry that a fish got the best of me.

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Reged: 12/14/05
Posts: 129
Loc: Ottawa, Ontario
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: Supwithbates]
      #9853744 - 04/05/07 12:43 PM

Good read, thanks.

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Reged: 05/06/06
Posts: 1937
Loc: Kingston, ON
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: FloppyJ]
      #9854694 - 04/05/07 01:42 PM

That was really really refreshing.

One question I've been trying to figure out for a while. For us to become great poker players, we have to approach the game with a passion. We have to read and think about poker with ferocity to improve faster than our competition. If we're completely emotionally detached from the game, our play doesn't improve.

My question is, how do we 'turn off' our emotion while playing and then turn it back on away from the tables in order to improve?

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old hand

Reged: 07/03/06
Posts: 706
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: ama0330]
      #9855007 - 04/05/07 02:04 PM

Excellent post.

I've been trying to avoid tilt for a while, but haven't thought about completely changing how I think about winning and losing. I totally forgot about that post from Giga.

I think I'll try to think of all plays in terms of Skalansky bucks now.

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old school

Reged: 06/11/05
Posts: 12050
Loc: one decision
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: ama0330]
      #9855149 - 04/05/07 02:14 PM

pretty nice post, sir.

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Reged: 02/15/07
Posts: 1415
Loc: NJ
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: Xanta]
      #9855304 - 04/05/07 02:24 PM


One question I've been trying to figure out for a while. For us to become great poker players, we have to approach the game with a passion. We have to read and think about poker with ferocity to improve faster than our competition. If we're completely emotionally detached from the game, our play doesn't improve.

My question is, how do we 'turn off' our emotion while playing and then turn it back on away from the tables in order to improve?

Very interesting. You got me thinking for about 10 minutes.

I'm going to make a comparison to guitar study, even though playing guitar and playing poker are two completely different activities.

Before I found this game, I had a passion to be the best guitar player in the world. I would study licks from all of the greats, chord progressions, everything I could get my hands on. I'd practice 8 hours a day, so that when I had a gig, I would be ready. When I'd get to the gig, though, this passion turned into a confidence, or more specifically a satisfaction in the moment that would be me playing in front of people. During this moment, everything I did was natural, and there was little apprehension on my part. If I'd ever freeze up, it was either because my concentration was off, or I'd revert back into 'practice' mode where I was focused on analyzing my play.

Poker is very much the same as playing guitar (for me), in that we need to put a lot of time in away from the tables in order to be ready for our 'gig's,', or sessions. We're here because we desperately we want to learn how to win. When we sit down, we already know what we HAVE to do - adapt to the situation and make the most +ev move. However, sometimes we get lost in the moment and neglect to consider that the thought processes we need to play are completely free of the ones we analyze in practice mode. I'm not saying that everyone should free their minds and let go while playing - I'm saying that YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW TO PLAY, AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO, BASED ON WHAT YOU HAVE STUDIED AND LEARNED. Take in the information that is available to you, and process it.

One of the biggest leaks I have is getting caught up in decisions I have already made during a session. I put more emphasis on the analysis of the decision rather than actually playing. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest setbacks for the driven, thinking player. We study to become great players, but very often we forget that there are times when we're not supposed to be studying.

What does this have to do with emotion? Everything! We're emotionally invested in beating this game, but when at the tables we have to remember to play the game we studied so hard to build.

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Reged: 02/15/07
Posts: 1415
Loc: NJ
Re: Pooh Bah Post === CONNECT === [Re: C4LL4W4Y]
      #9855310 - 04/05/07 02:24 PM

and ama... great post

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