Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gilligan's Island Theory of Ending Losing Streaks

"Losing is a disease, like gonorrhea or syphilis." - Sports psychiatrist from The Natural
Hello. My name is Pauly, and I'm a losing poker player. I try to make up my losses at the tables by betting on women's curling and short-selling the Malaysian stock market. My only solace is that the Winter Olympics are just around the corner, which means I get to clean up in prop bets against causal gamblers. I'll take action on any Olympic sport except figure skating. So fuckin' rigged, just like online poker.

I'm down 50% of my bankroll since Halloween. I took a hit in January. I didn't lose as much as I did the previous two months, but I also didn't play for nearly two weeks when I was working at the Borgata otherwise I would have lost more. In fact, the Borgata was the only place I won in over a month. I never had four losing months in a row. And I'm not going to start now. Whenever things get too freaky, you hunker down and go back to the basics.

ABC poker. No fancy play. By the book. What would Pablo do?

I reeled in the aggression. At the Borgata, a player named Action Bob mentioned how he rarely tries to read players at the tables. "It's all about the math."

Action Bob also plays a lot online in a void where there are no physical tells. He bases all those tough decisions strictly on math. If the numbers are in his favor he raises or calls. If it's not so favorable, he folds and waits for a better opportunity to get his money into the pot.

I tried to adhere to Action Bob's philosophy. It seemed so simple. I needed to eliminate my mind out of the decisions and act like a bot. Sometimes the ego takes hold and although the math dictates a fold, I call anyway because I "know that fucker is bluffing." That's the over-confident side of my personality where I think I can fly and read people's minds and sometimes dodge bullets.

Most of the time, I'm wrong and I bleed away a little more of my stack. I'm a mere mortal and my testicles are scarred with dozens of black and blue marks from when it was viciously attacked by an onslaught of suckouts and badbeats. Those are battle wounds that will never heal. Bankrolls will fluctuate. But my balls will never be the same.

The last few days ago I turned on my Action Bob bot and tried to clean up at the tables. I didn't win, but I didn't lose that much. I stopped the bleeding. Right now I just need to keep playing solid poker and have faith that the principles of mathematics will prevail. As longs as I get my money in the pot when I have the best hand statistically, I will win over the long run.

It's hard to keep reminding myself that everytime I cash out with less chips than I started with. Last year I had a conversation with F Train during one of our games at the Blue Parrot. He told me that he tracked all of his online hands and he had not gotten A-A in a ring game in over 2200 hands. You're supposed to get aces one in 220 or so. By his estimation, he should have has A-A no less than ten times.

"You're due," I said trying to reassure him.

I'm due. I'm just waiting. Time to go back to guerilla poker. Hit and Run sessions. Sit down at a ring table, scoop a pot and bail. I've been trying to log long sessions and that's been killing me. How many times do you decide to leave and say, "Ah, one more orbit and then you take a big hit?" That happens to me all the time.

At the end of a two week writing binge, I printed up 130,000 words worth of text. It's one thing to read a manuscript on Word. It's a whole other thing to physically read a copy. I held the physical manifestation of two weeks of work in my hands. It's a sense of accomplishment. Although it wasn't perfect or far from being complete, it was the first time I saw my project as a whole. Just when I had doubts of whether I could pull it off, seeing hundreds of pages that I wrote was enough to inspire me to keep on moving forward with my goals and to complete the project.

That's tough to do with poker. I can look back on the first four weeks of 2006 but I can't physically see the results. And when you lose you feel hopeless about the money lost. Vanished from you pocket or from your bankroll. I used to think that the world was divided into good players and bad players. It's not. There are winning players and losing players.

I'm a losing player... over the past three months. Since the Summer of 2003, I've been a winning player.

Whenever I'm in a tough bind, I turn to television to solve my problems. This time I'll use Gilligan's Island to help pull me out of my losing streak.

Seven strangers stranded on a deserted island. Hilarity ensues. As much as they try to get off the island, they can't. The secluded island resembles the my current state of poker play. I'm trapped and can't get away from my losing mentality.

I realize that at some point, my poker play has taken on the personalities of everyone from the cast of Gilligan's Island.

The Skipper

The Skipper has been around the block several times. He's a war veteran. He's been stabbed in a bar in Calcutta. He's banged tranny hookers in Bangkok. He's fought hand-to-hand combat with pirates in the Caribbean and even fought of the advances of sexually confused sailors. He knows how to play poker but sometimes he gets too bossy and becomes the table captain. No one likes playing against the table captain and you never get action. The Skipper also has a big ego. It's hard for him to accept that he still makes mistakes and often blames it on his underlings. His unwillingness to accept responsibilities for his actions is what got everyone stranded on the island in the first place and is why I'm still losing at poker. Plus the Skipper is secretly in love with Gilligan. After all he's his "Little Buddy."


Gilligan was the Skipper's dumb-ass boy toy. Gilligan's inept abilities as a first mate was often questioned by television scholars and many believe that's why the castaways were shipwrecked. But we all know that's not the real reason why the got stranded in the first place. The Skipper hired him and should sholder the blame for surrounding himself with an incompetent crew. Gilligan's faults specialize in his inability to follow through on a specific game plan. He ends up goofing off and fucking stuff up. I play like Gilligan all the time. I start out down the right path and the next thing, I'm caught in quicksand or being molested by a menagerie of horny apes.

The Millionaire

Thurston Howell III likes action. He'll make retarded calls because he has the bankroll to sustain short term and long term losses. I find myself playing too much like Thurston. My bankroll is not unlimited. I better start paying more respect to how I handle it otherwise I'll end up MC Hammer broke.

The Millionaire's Wife

Lovey Howell was a selfish tart. She was a black hole of wealth and was so drugged up on uppers that she had no idea that her husband was cornholing the Movie Star behind her back. That unawareness and inability to pay attention to the little details is why she's a horrible poker player. I'm playing blind most of the time like a ditzy wife of a millionaire who walks around a deserted island in pearl necklaces and a parasol.

Ginger the Movie Star

Ginger was the most overrated character in sitcom history. Don't play like a ditzy Hollyweird star. Be careful or you might become a former Star Trek actor who lost his house playing Badugi with Cuban drug dealers. Ginger was more concerned about how she was perceived that she forgot that over the long run, people judge you based on your competence, and not the image that you are trying to project. On a whole, most people look like total idiots at a poker table. Ditch the iPods and shades. People like that help pay professional poker player's car payments and house mortgages. Don't be a Ginger.

The Professor

The Professor read every poker book ever written. He even penned one of his own. The Professor is a math and science guy. He believes in playing by the book. I need to let the Professor make more of my decisions. But part of me just doesn't trust him. If he's so friggin' smart and can make a radio out of a coconut, how come he couldn't patch a hole in the boat and never got to show his "Oh!" face to Ginger or Mary Anne or Mrs. Howell for that matter?

Mary Anne

She seems innocent but she's not. Everyone knows that farmer's daughters are some of the best sexual partners on the planet. That's why there are so many jokes about them. Anyway, Mary Anne pulls off the sexy and innocent look. She appears to be harmless yet alluring at the same time. She's a cagey player. You never believe her when she raises and still doesn't believe when she check-raises you on the turn and river. Plus she made the best coconut and cream pies. The island had tons of coconuts, but where the hell did they get all the whipped cream?

Cousin Oliver

I know what you're thinking, "Pauly, Cousin Oliver was in the Brady Bunch, not on Gilligan's Island." You may be correct but Oliver plays an important role in breaking my losing streak. Do you remember that one episode when the Brady kids thought Oliver was a jinx? It was all cleared up after they got into a big food fight and Oliver got a pie thrown in his face. So all I gotta do to break my streak is to go Hollyweird and find the actor who played Oliver and smash him in the face with a pie. I got a "Map of the Stars" and a coconut cream pie. My quest begins.

What have I learned from this losing experience? Accept responsibility for my losing streak. It's not because online poker is rigged or because I am playing against inferior opponents. Err on the side of math and avoid going with my gut because over the long run, mathematics has proven to be more profitable than "impulsive feelings." I have to respect my bankroll and manage it more efficiently. I have to pay more attention at the tables and be more deceptive in my play. Lastly, I have to stick to a gameplan and not call any audibles at the line of scrimmage.

Sounds easy. Shit talking always is. Time to see if I can blow my entire bankroll or double up before I head back to Las Vegas for the 2006 WSOP. I have a few months and it's time I started acting like a winning poker player.

Recent Poker Playing Music...
1. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman
2. Matisyahu
3. Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane
4. Johnny Cash
5. Wilco

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