Monday, April 2, 2007

Meltdowns

I'm seriously annoyed with myself- yet again.

Tonight I made it pretty far- busted out in 186th place out of about 2,000 players- and I had a good-sized chip stack at one point (within the top 10%).

Then I made two crucial mistakes.

First, I began to play too loosely. I figured I had chips to spare, so I could go after chips. It's worked before. However, my second mistake screwed up this strategy.

I played too timidly. I called when I should have raised. Folded when I should have raised. Consequently, I essentially was bullied around by smaller chip stacks.

To make it worse, I played tight enough so that if I did lead the betting, the other players tended to fold right away. Unfortunately, I didn't take the opportunity to bluff at too many pots.

It's about knowing my worth. I have to know my worth and be willing to ask- no, demand- that I be respected accordingly.

If I don't learn to appreciate my own worth, I'm just going to continue losing.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This Sucks

I'm seriously pissed with myself.

I'm stuck in a rut, still doing the same things that have plagued me since I began playing poker (and for my entire life, really).

I continue to play too tightly- so tightly that I get very little action on my big hands. I'm not bluffing enough, and when I do bluff, I tend to go on for too long instead of mucking my hand.

Although I did have a couple of good bluffs earlier tonight, so I guess that's something.

And I'm increasingly understanding the importance of position- bluffing in late position, for example, is a good thing. Or when there are very few people in the hand (which is virtually impossible to know from early position).

However. I'm still BUSTING OUT, so that makes me very unhappy.

I keep thinking of something that I learned as a kid. See, I had one of those "cool" moms whom all the other kids in the neighborhood liked (because she talked to us like adults, not kids). Yet there was one thing she used to do that always embarrassed/angered me: put us (the family) down.

When I was about nine I finally confronted her about it. She apologized and explained herself by saying people liked you better if you put yourself down.

Even at the age of nine I knew that was messed up.

Despite that, I learned the lesson well. I don't put myself down to other people- not openly. I do downplay my own abilities and what I offer. That doesn't serve me well in life or poker.

I need to stop playing so timidly. I can beat these other players! I am capable of understanding the game and other players. I have patience (I spent five years in hell getting a PhD).

So why am I holding myself back against a bunch of nameless poker players on the internet?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cautious Aggression

I can't take credit for the term "cautious aggression;" I read it in Daniel Negreanu's book, "Hold'em Wisdom for All Players."

It's what I'm trying to learn.

I'm pissed with myself something fierce tonight because I busted out early in two tournaments earlier this evening. In the first tournament, I went from being within the top 20 (out of about 1500 players) to busing out within the first 40 minutes. In the second tournament, I busted out in under 10 minutes.

What pisses me off is that I went all-in when I knew I didn't have the nuts (in the second tournament). I had a flush and straight draw. I knew, looking at the board, that it was possible the other two players still in the hand had already made their straights. I bet anyway and didn't get either a straight or the flush I needed.

Stupid, dumb, idiotic playing!

(In the first tournament, my full house lost to four of a kind. Talk about a bad beat.)

See, I'm trying to be more aggressive. I'm pretty sure that, on at least a couple of occasions earlier this week, I allowed myself to be reraised out of pots. At those times I lost enough chips to render myself ineffective without going all-in because other players had much larger stacks.

I'm also encountering the problem of not getting good hands paid off because other players would fold as soon as I started betting.

So, I'm trying to learn balance, and I'm pissed with myself that I'm not learning it faster.

I'm also trying to learn how to stand up to megalomaniac, bullying players (you know, the ones who go all-in with a K-5 off-suit).

In real life, I'd also say I need to learn how to take a stand and hold my ground.

This sucks.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cracked Kings

Ouch. Ooomph. [Insert sound of excruciating pain of your choice.]

Tonight's loss hurt.

I placed 89th (out of about 1800 competitors), which is a high showing for me. Not my best (that would be 31st), but very good.

For most of the tournament, I managed to stay well above the chip stack, so that's also good.

Even though this wasn't the highest finish I've had, I think I played my best tonight. I was aggressive (although still not aggressive enough), which kept my chip stack healthy. Most players respected my raises, and when they didn't, they paid for it.

I mucked draws that didn't improve before risking a lot of chips.

I went out on a pair of kings. What cracked my kings? A queen-high straight.

Yep, that's right.

No overcards on the flop or turn. Given my opponent's betting pattern, I didn't think s/he had Aces.

I didn't stop to investigate the community cards well enough to see that a straight was possible. Instead, I went all-in and busted out.

Earlier in the evening I didn't get nearly as many chips as I should have because I missed that I had made a Jack-high flush. I wouldn't have bet a lot on it, but I'd have bet something (rather than just checking).

Nevertheless, I'm heartened that my play is improving overall.

I still need to work on reading the board more closely and betting even more aggressively.

Another thing I just realized is that I kept my ego out of it- I didn't stay in a pot to avoid being "pushed around" or anything like that.

I guess the pain isn't so bad after all.

Yeah, right.

Who the hell gets busted with a pair of kings?!?!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Tiger is Emerging...

Tonight wasn't a bad night, poker-wise. I bet aggressively, and it paid off. Unfortunately, I also played a couple of hands that I shouldn't have, which got me knocked out. However, I managed to outlast about 1300 competitors, so I was pretty happy.

More importantly, people respected my raises, which allowed me to carry out some successful bluffs. I established an aggressive table image.

Even more importantly (or at least equally importantly), I was pretty good at "reading" players based on their betting patterns. Since I'm playing online, I don't have any physical tells to rely on, but I'm developing a good sense of recognizing when a player is likely bluffing versus really having me beat.

The tiger within me is finally coming out to play, and that's doing me nothing but good...

Friday, March 9, 2007

Lost Again, But There's a Silver Lining

Well, tonight I placed 180th out of a field of over 1800 players, so I'm pretty happy with myself.

Rather than just stew today, I re-read portions of Phil Hellmuth's "Play Like the Pros" as well as Doyle's chapter on tournament play and No-Limit Hold'em (NLH) play in "Super System 2."

It helped me go far. I ended up establishing quite a table image; no one called my raises for much of the game. This was good in that it enabled me to pick up a number of pots but bad in that I didn't get paid off like I could have if people had bet and/or called me more.

Oh well.

I'm still pleased with myself. I remembered something Phil Hellmuth wrote, which was that in order to become a champion NLH player, you had to be able to lay down a promising hand if you thought it could be beat.

That saved me a number of times.

Yet I didn't fully follow another piece of Phil's writing, which was that megalomaniac players tend to do better in tournaments than tight players because of all the blinds and antes that they steal.

I allowed too many of my blinds to be stolen and to be bet out of pots if my hand wasn't very strong- despite being a chip leader at my table at one point. I truly believe that many of these players had stronger hands than mine, but sometimes I'm sure they didn't.

And when I did raise someone I thought was bluffing, I usually won- except for the one loss that crippled me.

I'm happy with my play tonight because I was able to recognize betting patterns, raise effectively, and push the table around when I wanted to.

I just need to do more of it.

There are worse problems to have.

This is something I've noticed about myself time and again; I have the abilities to succeed at what I want to accomplish as long as I'm willing to work at it and use my talents effectively.

I just need to courage to actually do it.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Ego has no place in poker

To start off this post, I have to 'fess up to something.

I'm nothing like you probably think I am.

I have a PhD in clinical psychology- from a very highly regarded program. And then I did my postgraduate training at another highly regarded institution. So I tend to see things through a psychological lens that can be both illuminating and troubling.

I have self-esteem issues.

This is easier for me to admit than you might think, because my (literally) thousands of hours of clinical training doing psychotherapy has shown me that most people have self-esteem issues.

There are those people who lack confidence and therefore "play small" (i.e., not taking risks, not performing up to their potential).

There are those people who strut around like they own everything. Deep down inside (perhaps so deep that even the person doesn't know), they don't think much more of themselves than the people who intentionally play small. They're expending all of their energy into trying to convince everyone (and themselves) that they actually are worth something.

My mother used to criticize herself, and our family, because she thought people would like us better if she did. Even as a kid, I could see that it didn't work.

I thought I'd worked through those issues.

I haven't.

I see it in my poker game.

I don't bet as aggressively as I should. I got a pair of aces cracked tonight because I didn't bet aggressively enough on the flop, which allowed the other player to keep calling me until he drew a straight.

I let players who try to hassle me and call me a "bluffer" bother me and affect my play. (I mean, really, why the hell should I care what they say? It does interfere with my play, though.)

Then I recklessly go all-in when, if I stopped to look carefully enough, I'd see that I certainly don't have the nuts.

On one hand, I truly believe that I have the intellectual ability, psychological savvy, and desire to succeed at poker. Yet my own insecurities are holding me back.

On the first hand tonight, I went all-in with a pair of kings after having my pot-sized bet called by two players. I won to take a substantial lead.

Then I essentially gave my chips back by not betting aggressively on the next hands- getting involved but not betting enough to truly intimidate other players.

Why, you ask?

Because I was too scared to bully that table. I played small. Then I slide in the other direction by playing recklessly. My intellect checks right out.

But one thing I'm not is a quitter. I just need to keep my ego in check.
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