Friday, March 31, 2006

There are Monsters Under the Bed


I lost some money in Vegas last weekend. It was a loss, but not a painful one. A decent portion of it was at Craps, as as that turned out, it was a universal loss among my brethren at the dice table. I hardly played a hand the entire trip, save maybe 30 minutes at a 3-6 table with Spaceman after I busted from the Aladdin daily tournament when my all-in raise with KQc ran smack into Aces.

I haven't recovered my mojo since.

The last thing I wanted to do was interrupt my trip reports, which I so love writing, to bitch about poker. But after a three day stretch of Abu-Ghraib style torture at the tables, I just can't keep it inside anymore or I'm really going to lose it.

I'm really starting to think I suck at this game. That every tournament win I've ever pulled out was done via sheer luck and that winning tournaments doesn't mean very much anyway. Performance in cash games is the true measure of a player. And my results have turned dismal. I'm just not getting better and meanwhile the games get harder every day and I feel like I'll never ever catch up.

I dropped about $750 playing 3-6 and 5-10 in March. No matter how hard I try, how tight I play, how aggressively I bet when I think I have the best hand, how many great laydowns I make, it just isn't adding up to anything. The swings are steep and harsh and long. I feel stressed out and horrible all the time. I'll win 400 and feel fantastic only to lose it the next day and feel miserable again. I'll flop trips to lose to a rivered gutshot and feel like I'm losing my mind. I always feel like I'm perpetually trying to get unstuck. I'm dealt aces or kings and can already feel my chips moving away from me. I play hands in a vacuum and try to be zen about the whole thing. I understand the mistakes I've made in the past and avoid them fastidiously, but still I bleed. I play more tables to take the sting out but it only makes the sting worse because I'm getting sucked out in double-time and losing twice as much.

A $750 swing and she's going this nuts? It's not this one swing. Believe me, it's not. It's that after all this time grinding away, I'm still maybe a breakeven cash player at best, I think I'm playing right, and I really don't know where to go from here. I thought sound ABC limit poker according to the wisdom of Sklansky and Malmuth and Ed Miller and their Big Red Book was supposed to yield a profit measurable in big blinds per hour. Not for me it doesn't.

So I took a break and tried to make the money back in SNGs. Change of pace and all. I stuck to the $11s on Party and played 55 of them in 3 days. That didn't go much better. I lost again... just slower.

Buyins: $605.00
Winnings: $500.00
Return: -$105.00

1st: 6
2nd: 4
3rd: 5
4th: 8
5th: 8
6th: 7
7th: 9
8th: 4
9th: 2
10th: 3

This next part recounting my more stunning suckouts is really just therapy... do yourself (and me) a favor and skip this section...

66 called by A3 on 732 flop. Another 3 on the river
J9 vs. A6 on AJ9 flop. 6 on river.
AA vs. KQ on JT4 flop. 9 turn, 8 river.
45 flops top two on 452 flop... of course A3 is trapping me
A5 vs. 78 on A74 flop. 7 on river.
77 vs. JTo on A78 flop. River 9.
KQ vs. J7h on KQ69 board, two hearts. He hits a river heart.
Reraise 10 BB all-in with KQ, called by A9. Q9X flop, 9 turn.
All in JJ vs. 78. Flop 477.
KK vs. AJ. Ace on river.
AA vs. 77. I run headlong into his flopped quads.
AJ falls to T2d on the bubble and villain admits he misclicked.
A7 vs. K8 on 7 high flop, he hits runner runner straight.
AQs falls to 28o. I want to put my head through glass.
K9 vs. Q3. I push on a 9 high flop and he rivers his Q.
J8 flops trips on JJT board. Why wouldn't he have tens? Shoulda known before shoving in.
JJ vs. 58 on J high flop. Calls down and hits flush on river.
AK vs. AK vs. AQ... Q on river.

OK. All better now.

I'm just saying. If I can't seem to not only beat but annihilate $11 SNGs and $3-6 cash games on Party Poker after playing for 2+ years, I just have to wonder.

Is it even worth it for me to keep playing?

Especially now when my entire future is in jeopardy?

For 13K hands, my VP$IP is 21.15. Att to Steal Blinds 29.99. Folded BB to steal 49.33. Won $ WSF 36.78. Went to SD 29.54. PF raise 9.97. Won $ at SD 48.55. Aggression factor 2.86

What am I missing?

14 comments:

ScurvyDog said...

Is it even worth it for me to keep playing? Most definitely.

Especially now when my entire future is in jeopardy? Mebbe not.

The hard part is that the money you win in the long run doesn't neceesarily get doled out 2BB/100 at a time. You'll have crazy ass months that you do no wrong and make mad money and then stretches like you mention, where you have a very convincing argument that the frigging deck is stacked against you.

It's also hard to play your best when the future is cloudy, especially financial security type futures. It may seem like your playing your A game but you're usually not. I'm usually not, at least.

The stats you posted look pretty solid but I wonder if a 2.86 AF is a little high. I know it's well within the recommended range but a AF that high is going to naturally encounter more variance than your average bear. There's nothing writ on golden tablets that says you have to push some marginal hands that hard, especially if you're not running well and supremely confident of your play.

StB said...

I feel ya. I have been going through a rough stretch on some games as well. SnGs have been brutal. I have taken a break from them but will resume shortly. Tourney wins have boosted my bottom line but that has fallen off a bit too.

Looks like you are getting it in with the best hand and just having the cards go against you. Especially with some of the hands you are up against.

As stupid as it sounds, I would say move away from where you are running bad. For example, I get clobbered in ring game at Full Tilt but do well in the tournies. I do well in ring at Paradise but just ok at Party.

You may want to just try tournaments only for a while.

Just some thoughts from someone who has been there, or actually, still is.

BrainMc said...

Change, I just started reading your blog last week and I have finally caught up with all your postings. I have had a great time reading about your poker and other exploits. I felt bad when you were robbed and loved the rush you were on at the end of the year. Your talent for story telling makes your postings a daily must read for me. Although I'm sure you were more shocked, but when I got to the part where you lost your job, I was floored. I was very glad that you had a great support group and the opportunity for some fun diversions. I consider you to have a great talent for poker and providing us with entertaining reads. Maybe this is just the freakout that Charlie told you to expect. It is very natural to question your abilities in poker when other factors in your life are not very clear. It can consume you when you start thinking about what can I do to make it better. I hope you continue to play, write, and do whatever it takes to make your life what you want of it. I look forward to "seeing" you at future blogger events that I will begin to enter.

peacecorn said...

"I'm really starting to think I suck at this game. That every tournament win I've ever pulled out was done via sheer luck and that winning tournaments doesn't mean very much anyway. Performance in cash games is the true measure of a player. And my results have turned dismal. I'm just not getting better and meanwhile the games get harder every day and I feel like I'll never ever catch up."

Exactly what I'm feeling right now. Exactly. If you find your answer, let me know.

CJ said...

You're lucky I'm not still in L.A. or I'd have to slap you around!!! (In the nicest you wish I were a stripper kind of way, of course...)

SNAP OUT OF IT!

You're a poker player and you know it. However, it is possible you are playing a game that doesn't suit your style. I'm not sure that's the case, but it's possible. Perhaps tourneys are a better investment for you than cash ring games. Maybe not... that's for you to decide.

However, no matter what you choose, you have to figure out if the pressure of having no job (and thus, using poker as a means of income) is affecting your play. There are additional pressures there that only enhance variance when things are going poorly.

I don't want to hear anymore "I'm bad at this." Got it?

HCR said...

You aren't alone Change...seriously. You can make all the right moves and go nowhere which is what I am doing at this moment as well.

Just remember you are a great person and charma will catch up eventually. One can only hope....

iamhoff said...

Change, you are a good poker player, and you should definitely keep playing. The j-o-b monster under the bed certainly could be a factor in your mental state, but it does look like you're getting in with typically the best hands, a coinflip at the worst. StB said something I've noticed...if you're getting nuked in one or two specific areas (limit cash, MTTs, etc.) find something different for a while. Play some Omaha or Stud. Try some NLHE heads up or something. Try different pokah sites, find a video of a Hellmuth meltdown and watch for inspiration. Just change the scenery around and it will probably come around. When I hit a rough patch on NLHE MTTs, nothing snaps me out of the funk by hitting some PLO ring games. Give it a whirl and see what happens.

Mr Subliminal said...

Perhaps a change of game. Maybe low limit NL cash games or low buy-in MTT's.

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Change, I've had the opportunity to play several blogger events with you, playing at the same table with you for some time on a few occasions. I've also watched your performance in a number of MTTs from the rail along with a number of other bloggers I've recognized from the blogger tourneys. You are definitely in the top section of poker players that I run into online, without a doubt. I have this in my notes for you, that you really know how to play, when to use aggression and how best to accomplish winning a pot or getting someone to fold, etc.

So I know my comment is a bit different from the other comments above, but my advice to you is: Play the MTTs. I've seen you do it, and while your odds of actually winning an MTT are of course low because there are so many people involved, I would suggest that your game is more suited to MTT play than to straight up cash play. I bet if you concentrate on MTTs again for a while, you will find better results, at least good enough to get you back your mojo. And when you get your poker playing mojo back, you are hard to beat at this game.

the mic said...

Before you can answer the many questions you pose, you need to answer the question: “Why are you playing?” Otis and scurvydog have excellent posts on this same question.

There are a few things you should realize. You should not make judgements about your game from playing $11 SNGs on Party. The truth about SNGs are that you make money by playing at table with bad players. The trouble with SNG’s is that you need to know which players are good and which are bad. The successful SNG players play higher and keep notes on their opponents so they have a better idea of who they are up against. If you had a table full of good players no one would have an advantage except the house.
Maybe your run was just bad luck. Maybe you need to make adjustments to beat the $11 SNG’s. Either way, lets say your luck turns or you make the adjustments and you annihilate the $11 SNG’s. Can you make any judgements from this? Not really. Is that why you are playing? To beat $11 SNG’s.

Regarding the limit games, it is hard to say from the limited info but if you are following the Big Red Book make sure the games you are playing are the loose games that the Big Red Book are describing. But there is much more to it. Are you playing against everyone the same way? Are you taking into account what players you are playing against? Table selection and position are important. It’s limit and all the small things add up. If you want to be successful at limit you either have to find good tables for your game or you have to do the little things well. Do you want to become a good cash game limit player?

Finally, Are you multitabling? When you multitable you sacrifice profit on every table you play in order to increase your hourly rate. If you are working on your game you should not be multitabling.

The most important thing is to know why you are playing. What you want to put your time into.

Anyway, hope some of this is helpful. You have to know your whole future is not in jeopardy. The fact that your writing brings out so many responses should help you realize that there is obviously some talent there. If it wasn’t , I wouldn’t be writing this.

Good Luck

Pokerwolf said...

What am I missing?

Here's a rundown of what you just posted with a few clues:

But after a three day stretch of Abu-Ghraib style torture at the tables, I just can't keep it inside anymore or I'm really going to lose it.

I'm really starting to think I suck at this game.

I'm just not getting better and meanwhile the games get harder every day and I feel like I'll never ever catch up.

I feel stressed out and horrible all the time.

I play more tables to take the sting out but it only makes the sting worse because I'm getting sucked out in double-time and losing twice as much.

I always feel like I'm perpetually trying to get unstuck.

Is it even worth it for me to keep playing?

Especially now when my entire future is in jeopardy?


Take a break from playing for a bit, Change. There are obviously a bunch of other factors in your life that are affecting your mindset and your emotions.

You're at the point now where you're expecting to lose. You can't win if you feel that way before you start playing.

You don't suck. You're not a horrible player.

But, you are mentally and emotionally unfit to play right now. Perhaps you're starting to see your bets as rent/gas/food/etc. money. Perhaps you're too emotionally invested in the outcome of each hand and/or each session. I don't know those answers. If you don't know those answers, sit down and try to sort it all out. Write about it in your blog. Get it out there.

If you don't have a copy of Zen and the Art of Poker, nab a copy and read it. Don't devour it looking for answers. Read it and take the time to mull everything over. It's not a book to rush through.

Breathe, Change. Take a step back. Write about it. Talk about it. Question yourself about it.

Most importantly, don't try to play through it.

You have your questions. Now, go find your answers.

KajaPoker said...

Change change100, change what you do. I ran into a dry spell like you and read Joanne's great series about how she rebuilt her poker game. I didn't take the drastic measures she did, but I followed some of her advice and made the necessary changes.

There are two things I noticed in your post that kind of seemed odd to me:

1) 55 SNG's in 3 days is WAY too many. If an average SNG takes an hour you didn't have much time for anything else. Unless you were trying to get even by playing several at the same time. What's the rush? Take your time - you're an excelent player and you can have a much higher win percentage.

2) Find other places to play. Full Tilt, Party and especially Stars lately are filled with maniacs who tend to hit anything they play. The online poker universe is way broader than that and scared fish are everywhere. You might have to ditch your PokerTracker in favor of some crappy iPoker or Prima site, but I think you need a change of scenery.

That being said - I really enjoy your blog and the way you tell a story. Take a note from the good ole' doctor and spread some good karma and maybe good things will start to happen again.

Don't give up!

bayne_s said...

Change, Company I worked for went under last year and dry spell hit me at poker table at the same time. Hindsight tells me I was a little unlucky and I let job stress affect my game.

I have also had trend of building up bankroll at MTT and throwing it away at Omaha. There is nothing like a good final table MTT to snap you out of a funk.

Enjoy readng your blog, wish I had your story telling talent.

Tony said...

"For 13K hands, my VP$IP is 21.15. Att to Steal Blinds 29.99. Folded BB to steal 49.33. Won $ WSF 36.78. Went to SD 29.54. PF raise 9.97. Won $ at SD 48.55. Aggression factor 2.86"

It's really lousy to play fundamentally sound poker, yet still lose. It's the last vestige of luck remaining in a game that could be, no, should be dominated by skill.

My ideas on the above stats are that you may need to tighten up just a hair. I'm currently in with a VP$IP of between 17-18. Everything else looks okay, except maybe that your WtSD may be a little low, and you may be leaving some money on the table by folding some winners. However, looking at the graph, I can see why.

I think a little hiatus never hurt anyone. Read some of my blog posts from October-December of last year. I HAD to take time off, because my bankroll couldn't sustain the crazy variance I was experiencing. Scurvy's right. It's hard when your future is cloudy, then throwing variance at you when you by all means SHOULD be winning--if that can't throw you off your A game, nothing will.

CJ's right too--no more of that "I'm really starting to think I suck at this game." Negative thought breeds negative results. Take time off--altogether. No tourneys, no ring, nothing. Take a week, or two, or three--take whatever it takes to clear your head, and start again by playing sound poker.

You're obviously a talented person, both on the felt, and away from it (the writing in the blog shows this exceptionally well). Take a deep breath, think happy thoughts, and take a break. Then come back a stronger person.

All the best.