So it looks as though my commitment to mental game work paid off. I wrote a journal entry every day I played last week and felt like my mental game definitely improved. It’s carried over to this week, I find myself making a lot more big folds and reads than I was before. The results also improved tremendously:
I think my week was perfectly capped off on Sunday, where I decided to warm up for todays session (since I didn’t play at all on Saturday) by playing a reg for a half hour to an hour. We played about 20 games 2 tabling and I think I played exceptionally well. My opponent was competent but played pretty damn bad, and I took advantage as much as possible. Looking at my graph afterwards, you would’ve thought I was outplayed. My EV line was down pretty significantly as well as my non-sd winnings, two stats I usually look at it assess how I’m playing. What I realized was that these stats were a distraction for me during my sessions, that day to day or even during a week they just don’t fucking matter. Looking at these stats day-to-day has become an obsession for me and I bet a lot of other players. But in the end, unless I’m looking at them along with other stats and thinking critically, they are worthless.
One last event that convinced me I needed to stop looking at them was a thread on 2p2 about the Sauce vs WCGrider hu challenge. Someone asked if the fact Sauce was winning so much without SD meant that he was clearly better than WCG and/or clearly running bad even though the EV line indicated otherwise. Several great holdem players chimed in and said that with a sample like they had (about 5000), they just don’t even consider non sd winnings since there’s too much variance to put weight on it at all. Sauce even chimed in himself, stating that he used “the exact same strategy on Jungleman and won a lot but his non-sd winnings were actually negative.” With all these amazing players giving little weight to non-sd and EV over what I would consider a meaningful sample, I realize now that looking at these stats daily or even weekly is pointless and probably detrimental to my game.
Today is the start of my last week in Vancouver. It’s been a great trip and I can see myself coming back here in the near future. Hopefully I can end this journey with a bang.
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When Jared Tendler was my mental game coach, he showed me the importance of goals. Before I met him, I didn’t know why I played poker. If you asked me, “why do you play poker?” I may have been capable of stating reasons (“To make money” “To get good at something” “To achieve a high level of mastery”) but I didn’t know really. After working with him for a couple of months, I got very clear about it. There we’re 2 reasons:
1) I enjoy figuring out how to beat the game.
2) I enjoy the competition of going head to head with another intelligent person and attempting to outwit them.
I realized soon after that when I played well, these goals we’re at the forefront of my mind. I would play someone, and feel the joy of thinking deeply about how I can outplay him. I would talk to Danny about strategy, and get downright giddy over the prospect of incorporating this strategy into my game. When I played poorly, I was worried more about how I was actually faring (i.e. was I down or up? Did my opponent just own me?) than the actual process. I would sulk looking at my stats and the unconfident fear that we all know of, “Am I good?” would settle in.
Today marks the beginning of the 4th week of being in Vancouver in all out grind mode. So far, it hasn’t gone particularly well.
The graph below is exclusively hyper-turbo HU sngs, and it’s not pretty. Even though I’m clearly running poorly (I’m 40 buyins under EV), even if I were running at expectation I would barely be beating the rake. That being said, I play almost exclusively regs and in my entire lifetime of poker my showdown winnings have been higher than my non-sd. The EV line may not tell the whole story. Looking at these results, I’m proud of how I have done so far.
Since I’ve been here I’ve been working ridiculously hard on my game, using cardrunners ev and flopzilla and my database to analyze common spots. I think my game strategically has gotten to a great place. However, reflecting on this trip, I think where I’ve been lacking is my mental game. When I play my best, all I’m thinking about is how to outplay my opponent, and the running bad that I’ve gone through on this trip has clouded that. I easily forget about it during sessions and go into sulk mode, where I expect to lose.
So now that I have 2 weeks left in this beautiful city I am refocusing on my mental game. Instead of rating myself after each session on how well I think I played, I’m going to grade myself on my attitude. I think that this will improve my game tremendously and also make the grind even more enjoyable.
Good Luck Everyone!
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So I’ve been in Vancouver since mid-late August and I have to say it’s really great to be back in a full-time online husng grind. I wish I realized how fortunate I was pre 2011 when I could wake up in my apartment in Oakland and grind a few hours of online only a few feet from my bed. Now, I travel far-away from home to put in a real grind, for only a few months at a time, in order to be able to play my favorite form of poker. I would definitely have had a much better attitude while grinding pre black friday if I knew this was the future.
Speaking of attitude, I wanted to touch on the subject for how our outlook changes how we approach poker. Since I’ve gotten to Vancouver, I’ve played almost 1500 husngs and I’m running about 60 buyins under EV. I know I’m playing well, but as most of you know losing can really effect ones attitude. It’s hard not to start getting negative.
However, there’s also a boon of a bad run. Everytime I have a bad run I’m always more motivated to look at my game and improve. I’ve thought about the way I play husngs, especially at the 9-15bb level where most hands are played at hyper sngs, and I think I’ve made some very good strategical improvements to my game. I spent the weekend in Seattle, and I’m downright excited to start seeing how this new strategy works when I grind tomorrow in my apartment in Vancouver.
I would bet a lot of you can relate to this story, most of us when we’re doing poorly will constructively look at our games to see how we can improve. But I think there’s a problem with this approach. When we try to improve our game when things are going poorly, our ability to analyze things objectively can hinder our ability to criticize our games well. We could come to a conclusion about the way our opponents play, and in reality our perception of our opponents is skewed from a really bad run.
Furthermore, as a winning player, we’re going to have more good runs than bad runs. This means we’re going to be constructively looking at our game less than half of the time we’re playing, and probably much less than because those good runs can skew our perception on how good we really are and it will take a lot for us to be critical of ourselves.
What we need to do is make a habit of being constructive when things are going well.
Have a day where we win 20 buyins and feel on top of the world? Let’s review all of the hands where we lost a medium sized pot. Do we feel like we’ve made an improvement and are now playing really well? Let’s look at flopzilla and look at other ways we can do the same thing! Is our roi exceptionally good? Let’s get even better! It’s hard to be motivated to improve our game when things are going well, but the best time to work on our game is when poker is going well and we have a good mindset. When things are going badly, we already have enough shit to deal with.
So here’s my challenge to myself and my challenge to you. Next time we have a great day at poker, one where we want to pop the champagne and celebrate, we’re going to sit down for an extra half hour to and hour and play with flopzilla and cardrunners EV and PokerTracker and look at ways we’re going to improve our game. We’re going to sweat a friend and look at how they play differently than us and how we can incorporate some things they do into our game. We’re going to call a friend and talk about poker. And with this attitude, we’ll all become awesome players :).
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