Monday, October 27, 2008

The Slide

By Pauly
Budapest, Hungary

I ended September on mega-tech-tilt after my precious laptop died in the middle of Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. I had already busted out and sweated the last couple of tables when disaster struck unexpectedly.

It. Just. Stopped.

Although that laptop was a mere 13 months old, I had dragged it all over the world with me. I used it every almost single day and the machine had taken a beating after having to perform numerous tasks for up to 20-22 hours in a single day. The hard drive was a history of my life. Lots of bootleg concerts from my favorite bands. A smattering of porn. Tons of pictures from my travels abroad. And don't forget all of those doc files from various work assignments and personal journal entries that have never been seen by anyone's eyes but my own. In short, my laptop was an extension of my brain, my heart, my soul. It was dead and a little piece of me died with it as my agony howled and haunted me.

Since that moment when my laptop died and I recovered from a minor panic attack, I went on an epic journey through the teaming streets of London in search of a replacement machine to use until I returned back to the States. The replacement wasn't anything special. Just a Toshiba with a British keyboard. Lucky for me the gang at PokerNews split the cost with me in order to make sure I could cover the EPT London.

Something else happened. I went on a heater playing online poker on the new machine. It couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. I was bleeding money in the market. I had just shelled out a few bucks for a new machine and quickly recouped that expense. I had a couple of trips and adventures scheduled for later this year and in 2009. And of course, Phish decided to reunite and tour again which meant I needed to fund those epic misadventures. Just when I thought my income pool was drying up, I embarked on a winning street.

The streak was phenomenal. Inside of three weeks, I posted only a couple of losing sessions. And they were small ones. All of this happened on the new machine. My broken laptop is sort of like a Mini-Cooper. It's small and compact and can easily fit on a folding tray on any airline. I purposely chose a lighter and smaller model because I like to travel light since I'm always on the road. The new machine had a much larger screen display. I could play four tables simultaneously without any problems. I had forgotten what a big screen looked like. I went from driving a Mini-Cooper to driving an SUV.

Although I struggled adjusting to the British keyboard configuration, I welcomed the new sized screen. It made me comfortable at the onset of the winning streak which started in London and spilled over into Amsterdam. Even on my vacation with Change100, I spent my mornings grinding it out at the limit hold'em tables, before I spent the remainder of the day wasting away again in hashbars.

I focused on cash games and played short-handed tables. Tournaments have always been a leak for me. And SNGs are nothing more than fool's gold, catering to my inner action junkie. I needed to go back to basics. ABC poker. No more bullshit. I multi-tabled as much as I could. I tagged numerous bad players and chased down the fish. I was a hunter on a mission. My win rate was juicy. The more hands I played, the more I won. I started to think, "What the fuck was I doing wasting away all these months when I could have been playing poker to support myself?"

I know deep down that I don't want have to rely on poker as a primary source of income, but I also know that I can supplement a percentage of my income if I play smart and maintain strong bankroll management skills. That money can fund the fun things that make life worth living. I was also realistic and knew that there would be a time when the winning would stop. I lived in Seattle and can tell you that the weather is absolutely magnificent in the summer months. And then it starts raining and doesn't stop for 9-10 months.

I prayed to the poker gods and Ganesha that the sunny skies would remain. They must have listened necause the winning ways continued upon my return to NYC. The heater continued. I won monsterpotten after monsterpotten with sets. My big pairs held up. I hit a couple of lucky gutshots along the way. I made several hero calls and sniffed out a few bluffs. However, along the way, I got a little cocky and over-aggressive upon my return to America. Although I continued to win, I had deviated from the playing style and strategy that led me down the winning path. I was setting myself up for a big fall.

I headed up to Rhode Island for a quick trip. I took the train and played on my way to Providence. I won enough money to pay for my ticket. That would be the last big score for the month. Upon my return to NYC, I received a package. My old laptop. Fixed and ready to go.

I sat on my brother's couch and waited for him to get home for work so we could grab dinner. While I waited, I listened to a Dead bootleg and played online poker on my old machine. It felt so tiny and the smaller screen was obvious. I had a bad session. I made good decisions, but I couldn't seem to avoid a couple of bad beats which was the difference between a break even session and a losing one.

I probably should have cut my losses and accepted a losing day. However, my pride got in the way. As Marsellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction said (way before he was sodomized by the Gimp), "That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride!"

I tried to erase the lose and dug myself a deeper hole. A small loss turned into a big one. I fell out of favor with the poker gods and posted the worst session in months. Ganesha, why have thou forsaken me? It might have been one of the worst sessions of the year. Only losers chase, right?

I was ready to get back in the fight the very next day. As that Japanese proverb said, "Fall eight times, get up nine." I fired up the newly fixed laptop and went to work. I played three sessions that day (early, late afternoon, and evening). I should have quit after the first losing session. Again, I didn't play badly and made solid decisions but I missed flops or ran into situations where A-K lost to A-rag when my opponent spiked his rag on the river.

Rags on the river. Fuckin' nimrod retard assmunchers.

I should have stopped playing but went back for some more punishment. I might be addicted to pain. Aren't we all in some sense? It's one of the moments when we feel alive. So alive that it fuckin' hurts. Most of the time you sleepwalk through life, shuffling down the street, stuck in traffic on the freeway, or phoning it in at work.

I couldn't stay away. I chased the loss and found one of my favorite fish, an Eurodonk from Germany. If I could stack him, I would be more than even for the day. I sat down at his table, yet failed in my quest to get him to donate to my stack. Instead, I became the personal bitch to different player in particular who seemed to have me beat every single time. If I had Kings, he held Aces. If I had a flush, he had the bigger one. If I had flopped a set, he flopped a better one.

I posted two losing sessions that disastrous day. I chased my loss from the previous day and the previous sessions. I should have stopped. But guess what? That monster within said, "Shuffle up!"

I played a late night session. I tilted hard. Made a lot of poor decisions and when I logged off... I discovered that I had a worst day than the day before. What is worst that posting your biggest losing day of the year? Posting another one the very next day. Back-to-back misery. Two swollen testicles.

I nearly wiped out the profits from my time in Europe. I cursed my old laptop. It was like switching baseball bats in the middle of a sizzling hitting streak. I should have never played online poker on my old laptop since I had been posting big gains on the British one. That's when I came to my senses. I'm not a superstitious person (aside from the $50 bills thing). So, why start?

I took a break because I started to think the reason I was losing was all because of the specific laptop that I played on. How absurd, right? The laptop had nothing to do with the cards and my decisions. I woke up the next day and decided to avoid all things poker. A complete break. Since I was in New York City, I took advantage of Central Park. I went for a long walk. I took photographs. I wandered through a museum and found inspiration in several pieces of art. The next day, I took another walk through the park and eventually wandered around bookstores. I got lost for several hours reading.

I eventually came upon the poker section and opened up Psychology of Poker by Alan Schoonmaker. I re-read a couple of chapters. I picked up Super System 2 and re-read the chapter that Jen Harman wrote about limit hold'em. I also headed over to the philosophy section and read a few chapters of books focusing on various Eastern religions. I also read a bunch of Alan Watts, specifically a book titled Become What You Are. Upon my return home, I re-read several chapters of Advanced Limit Hold'em Strategy by Barry Tanenbaum.

I wanted a break from poker, and took a day off to appealing to my inner artist. The next day, I discovered that I really wanted to end the losing streak and make sure the bleeding stopped with those consecutive sessions. That's why I instinctively delved into poker books. It is important to re-read books, especially the ones that you found were influential. Remind the mind. Refresh the soul.

I sifted through my hand histories looking for leaks. The obvious one for me was suited Aces (A-9s and below). I overplayed those too much and only won a couple of pots. I had a couple of other trouble hands such as Q-J.

I identified my leaks and found some inner peace. I was ready to play. Guess what? I lost $22. That's still a losing session, but compared to the massive bleeding from the previous sessions, I was happy to book it.

I played at the airport on Sunday before my flight to Budapest. I was excited to visit a new country and even more excited to play online when I was in Europe since that's where my winning streak began. Sadly, I took a small hit and lost $100 or so. Nothing major, but on paper, I posted four losing sessions in a row. I logged off and headed for my gate.

I arrived in Budapest on Monday morning and moved into an apartment that I rented for a week. It's an old historic building that is located one block from the Danube River. I'm sharing it with Danafish (otherwise known as Snoopy's girlfriend). We're both working for PokerNews covering the EPT Hungarian Open... the first ever EPT stop in Budapest. That starts on Tuesday.

My old Hungarian landlady did not speak a lick of English. We had to converse in broken German. As soon as I figured out how to connect to the intertubes, I fired up an online poker site. The anticipation is why I play. The rush and excitement before the cards are dealt intoxiate me. Like a junkie ready to shove a spike of China White into his veins... like an alkie slowly bringing a glass of hooch up to his lips... like degenerate gambler tossing the dice on the felt at the craps tables.

Theres a Phish lyric that always seems appropriate in those moments, "I'm sinking down, what a glorious feeling/To make a big difference, my body is reeling."

I was in a new country. A new city. A new place. I wanted to explore and wander and observe. But that had to wait for a bit because I had a losing streak to demolish. Europe must be good to me because I snapped that losing streak and kicked it to the curb like a flea-infested three-legged dog.

Now that I'm back on track, it's time to wander the streets of Budapest before my work assignment starts tomorrow.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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