Hi everyone, time for my weekly instalment of poker and life bits. I felt a bit slack last week in terms of content, so I thought this week I would try and come up with a more interesting post.
I am currently sat here watching the Australian Open final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovich. Those of you familiar with tennis will know about Murrays past and his seeming inability to push himself to the next level in tennis. For those that may not know, he always seemed to struggle a lot with his own mental toughness and always appeared extremely negative and beating himself up a lot in games and in post game interviews etc. Although I am aware that there were 2 other large factors that may have been keeping him down in the rankings and in his own head, namely Federer and Nadal, it can’t be easy to keep yourself motivated and working hard when 2 of the best players in the history of the game were at their peaks and making everything seem so effortless and easy and beating you time after time.
Now before some you of start thinking I’m comparing the physical side of tennis to poker I am most definitely not, the mental toughness however is relevant in any competitive pursuit. The thing with tennis and other sports in comparison to poker is that the skill edge in poker can take a lot longer to become apparent and to show results. For example if I stepped onto a court with Andy Murray, I would never ever win, even if he was on crutches and wearing an eye patch, as the skill edge is huge and there is not enough randomness (variance) associated with the game. The same goes for something like chess, I would never beat any of the greats, even the old (and slightly mad in some cases, Bobby Fischer) or Gary Kasparov because the game is far too solved and their skill edge would be insurmountable even if I were to play hundreds of matches against them.
Poker however has this wondrous thing called variance which I spoke about a bit in a previous post, which allows total beginners/casual players (I will refrain from using terms like fish or donkeys!) to win in the short term against better players, and would also make it possible for someone like myself to sit down and play one of the worlds best like Phil Ivey, and potentially get lucky a few times and beat him. In either scenario this of course is no reflection of the true skill gap and in the long run the worse player will lose and lose and lose.
When mulittabling online everything get accelerated (I’m currently playing 12 tables at once) as you play more hands and more games and therefore experience the highs and lows (swings) a lot faster and also to a much greater degree in some cases. This is where the mental toughness comes in, as when you are constantly getting beaten by people that you know for a fact you are way better than, it can get extremely disheartening and make yourself start doubting and second guessing decisions that you know are 100% correct in the long run, but seem to go painfully wrong in the short term.
I used to be a lot more like the old Andy Murray, and still do beat myself up a lot, but it is getting better, and really does take training to build up the mental muscle to deal with bad runs of cards/games. I think it was in the second set when Murray started to flag a bit and make some mistakes that the commentators remarked on how much better he is at dealing with the missed shots and opportunities and also at appreciating when he’s been outplayed and that there’s nothing else he could’ve done in that spot. Gone are the angry facial expression and aggressive actions that used to surface and he now seems a lot calmer, which is better for his mental state, and also doesn’t give his opponent an extra edge by letting them see how distressed he is and that he clearly isn’t happy with himself, which then allows them to prey on and use to their advantage. There are of course exceptions, but overall his mental game seems a lot better.
My week has felt pretty horrendous if I’m honest (as I’m writing this I still haven’t checked my results) I felt as if I couldn’t win a hand regardless of how far ahead I got my money in, and I know in the short term this is fine, it happens, to a certain point full time players need this to happen so that weaker players think “o great I won when I played X hand Y way so it must be to correct play” which then in turn keeps them playing badly and also keeps more dead money in the games. It is easy to lose focus of this fact though and I found myself getting increasingly wound up and angry to the point where I was swearing at myself, the screen and if i hadn’t had a self imposed chat ban, probably tapping away insulting people in the chat box!
In earlier times I would have abandoned sessions, part way through the day and spent the rest of the time whining and feeling sorry for myself. But not the new me, instead of tilting and stopping sessions and quitting for the day, I found myself either keeping playing but reducing the number of tables for a while until the rage passed. Or taking a break and doing review work and studying hands and making sure I was playing well, then after a break would start up again and play an afternoon session. This all might seem fairly straight forward and obvious to be honest but for me it definitely signals some what of a change in my mental toughness and dedication to want to push and push and get better and better at this game. The mental toughness is essential and so is a positive self image and outlook, us Brits are known for self deprecating humour it is somewhat of a national pastime to put ones self down in order to make a joke. This is all fine in context but something I have realised recently is that I make, or used to make a lot of thinly veiled whines and comments, hidden behind either making joke out of it or seeming like I didn’t care, when really when looking at bit deeper at it, it was because I wanted some sympathy or for someone to validate me or my ability at the game. I have actually found myself typing then deleting msgs on Skype to other players and in chartrooms this week, because after I’m done typing I realise that the comment serves no purpose other than a thinly veiled whinge and self pity.
The old poker modicum goes “Whine less, play and study more, and everything will be fine” Well I don’t know if it was or is a modicum or if it does go like that, but whatever, as far as I’m concerned it does! And that’s my game plan for the next month, going full hermit mode and getting my shit together so I can achieve what I want to achieve in this game. All the guys I look up to did not get to where they are today by slacking off, cutting sessions and not doing their review and study time outside of the games, so why on earth should I expect it to happen for me without the work on my side.
So Murray has just lost to Djokovich, he obviously was feeling a lot of pain and exhaustion from the Federer match in the last round, but well done to both, it was an incredibly entertaining match, just a shame about the end result for us Brits (insert self deprecating joke here if you must).
So my week has been pretty good actually, I soldiered on through sessions I would have normally abandoned, I played more games and did more review and coaching sessions than usual (I had an extra coaching session midweek when I felt like I was losing my grip slightly!) and overall feel pretty awesome about the week. I got in days with 150+ games which is great, although I still have a lot of ground to make up after missing the first weeks of January.
Big thanks as always to my buddy and coach and sports psychology master Casy151 for going that extra mile and sorting my head out, and to Solidthought and the rest of the guys I’ve spoken to and worked with this week.
Profit/Loss: – $44.80
Next week, more of the same, 150 games/day+ and try and make a dent in my missed weeks.
Cheers for reading everyone, I hope you had a good weekend and have a brilliant upcoming week. See you all next Sunday
Good start and finish, shame about the middle 🙂
Another woefully below EV week, playing well, so it’ll be fine 🙂