Monday, March 07, 2005

The February Doldrums

"Ninety percent of success is showing up." - Woody Allen
I intended on writing up a long, introspective entry on my February losing streak but of course, my mind wandered and I ended up with some rambling post on how I showed my Poker Tracker stats to a 96 year-old astrologer in Chinatown. She told me was that I overplaying AQo.

"No shit, Mrs. Wong."

So I scrapped that post and decided to re-write it. Despite a huge dent in my bankroll since last September, I was shocked to learn that I finished up for the entire fiscal year of 2004. I even turned a slight profit in January 2005. Yes, I posted consecutive winning months for the first time since the end of the summer. I ended an awful three month losing streak in December, although one of the those months I posted a $30 loss so that's like breaking even. However during my two month winning streak, I have nothing to brag about. I won a 160 person multi-table tournament. Aside from that, the highlights are few and far between.

Some days you are the Harlem Globetrotters. Some days you are the Washington Nationals. The Globetrotters toyed and fucked with the Nationals for decades and made them look like inbred retards from Twistatittie, Tennessee. I played like the Nationals for the last few weeks because everytime I sat down at the tables, I had Meadowlark Lemon and Curley Neal sitting across from me. I lost my entire January reload bonus on Empire. I got my ass kicked on Check and Raise. Although I posted a modest win on Poker Stars, the majority of the ugliness occurred on Party Poker. Thank God that February is only 28 days long. I was never more excited to see March.

Should I be freaking out about a 30% loss in my bankroll? I mean Otis dropped a grand on a single hand... pocket aces the other day on the $1000 NL tables... so what's 30%? When I looked at my day to day progress over February, only one really bad day where I lost a significant amount of money stood out. I only posted a few winning days with $30 and $40 loses here and there. That all adds up. Alas, I never answered my question.

Should I be freaking out about a 30% loss in my bankroll? No. Steve McQueen would never have freaked out. Then again, he never played on Party Poker at 3:30 in the morning against a bunch of gambloors from Albuquerque. Regardless, I have to suck it up and keep on moving forward.

Fortunately for me, I have been a participant of two grueling occupations. I slung stocks and bonds on Wall Street and I've spent many starving nights as a writer. Both mentally prepared me for utter insanity. It has taken a few years, but I have finally seen the benefits of sticking to basic principles like "write every day," for example. I know that if I play smart poker over the next few years, the time will come when all my experiences and knowledge will gel and sitting at the poker table become as natural to me as writing feels.

From my dark, dismal days on Wall Street, I was reminded of a basic fundamental question that I used to ask every potential new client, "Why do you invest?"

There are two answers: long term and the quick buck. I'd them that if they wanted a quick buck... then hit the craps tables in Atlantic City or head down to the Village and chug a few cocks for $200 a pop. If they wanted a winner in the long term, then I was their guy. Of course that's what I had to say.

Sorry that I went off on a tangent there. The point of the Wall Street rant was that I had to ask myself, "Why do I play poker? And furthermore, why am I investing time and money in myself?" The answers are the same: long term or the quick buck.

If I was in for the quick buck, then yes, I should be freaking out about my losing streak. However, I am in for the long haul so I need to relax, be aware of what happened, and stick to the fundamentals. The writer in me knows that if I work on my craft everyday, then it will get better. The broker in me knows that the long term outlook is far more important than what the market did on a day to day basis.

Like Woody Allen said, "Ninety percent of success is showing up." You cannot be afraid to lose money or play badly. You must conquer that fear and you have to go play. It's brutal torture to fire up Party Poker when you have zero confidence and are positive that every high pocket pair is going to get sucked out on. That's the conflict you find yourself embroiled in when you are posting losing session after losing session, like how the fish destroyed -EV's will to play poker for a few days. That's going to happen... to everyone.

Every professional poker player knows that they are one bad hand away from humility. It's how you confront those bad streaks that makes you an excellent player. And in the greater scheme of things... it's how you handle adversity that defines your character. The players that can gather up enough courage to hit the tables in the middle of a shit storm are the one who are going to survive. Anyone can ride a winning streak. It takes balls and heart to ride out a losing one.

I am not going to blow off this losing streak. And I'm not going to let it spook me either. I have to fgiure out what went wrong and plug the leaks in my game. So, besides the obvious... playing hands out of position and calling too frequently when I should be raising or folding... what else went wrong? I failed to cash in 15 out of my last 20 $30 SNGs on Party Poker. Right there, that's a good percentage of my losses. I took a $150 hit at the Blue Parrot during the NYC bloggers event, plus an unimpressive $100 loss on Check and Raise trying to clear my bonus.

Sure bad beats and suck outs are going to happen. That's part of poker. That's why you have to post as many winning days as possible in order to survive those one or two brutal days when one hand can wipe out an entire week of solid play.

Although I did not undertake a huge marathon like the Poker Nerd, I played a decent amount of SNGs. After a conversation with Felicia in December, I realized that I played too tentative when it got close to the bubble and that's why I had too many 4th and 5th place finishes in my SNGs. I began a wave of aggression and found myself finishing in 8th and 9th place. Should I be concerned with that? Or were those instances where I would have probably bubbled out in fifth place for playing too passive instead of trying to double up early?

Aside from a few mental errors, in my defense I had some really good hands cracked. I got all my money in the pot with the best hand and several of my opponents outdrew me.

Corrections? I do not have to overhaul my game, just tweak it a little. I need to make better decisions especially on the turn. Hey, one or two lay downs or calls on fourth street a month can be the difference in preventing a losing streak. I also have to be a lot more conservative with AQo, just like Mrs. Wong advised.

Take a look at the picture I took last week.

Click to enlarge

It was a cold, but sunny day in the city as I made my way to Briana's apartment when I came upon this pile waiting to be recycled. I noticed a mirror grouped in with the trash. I walked over, amazed at the vibrant reflection. Luckily, I had my camera with me and snapped the photo. It came out a lot better than I imagined.

Anyway, after studying the photo, I came to a few conclusions. I reminded myself of that old adage that "one man's trash is another man's art." I also realized that even in our trash, there is a lot of ourselves. I'm sure there are plenty things we'd like to throw out or recycle. Sometimes we get to ditch those bad habits. But getting rid of them is not as important as understanding why those habits are harmful to you. I took a long look at myself... in that garbage pile.

The philosopher in me muttered... find yourself in your mistakes.

That leads me to my mission in March:
1. Identify my most common mistakes and flaws.
2. Understand why they are harming my play.
3. Correct these flaws and minimize future mistakes.
Time to go end a losing streak.

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