Thursday, November 03, 2005

Don't Cry for me Adam Friedman: the Rehab Wrap-Up

We've all faced that situation. Holding the King-high flush facing an all-in. When there's literally one card in the deck that beats your hand. One. Everything in your collective poker experience tells you to call-- every book you've read, every online tournament where this hand doubled you up, every late night B&M cash game session where the drunk guy with food in his beard turned up the Queen after you sucked it up and called. Poor Adam Friedman made the right play, but got the wrong result.

As his brow furrowed and his pale face twisted up in the sort of agony only poker players can understand, Friedman turned away from the table and the omnipresent cameras, berating himself for his play. While many viewers might label him a basket-case or just a colossal pussy for shedding tears over the hand, I wanted to wrap him up in a big hug and tell him that everything would be OK. Maybe I'm being a girl here, but I felt for Adam Friedman. Why? Because as he tried to hold back his emotions, I saw myself in his tear-stained face.

A little over 28 days ago, I faced my own emotional meltdown over my poker play. After a four-month post-WSOP losing streak (where I blew my brains out in limit cash games) I set five goals for myself on this very page. I wish I could tell you I accomplished them all, but then I'd be lying to you.

1. PLAY 100 SNGS. I didn't play 100. More like 65. I went on a streak where I didn't cash 15 in a row. I got burned out. I stopped playing them for a few days and took a swim (more like a bath) in the cash games. Then I went back and started winning again. SNGs are like weed in some ways-- too much of it just makes you dull and sleepy, but just enough and life's just that much more pleasant. And like weed, SNGs will always be a vital element in my poker pharmacy.

Lesson learned: Accept that you're sort of a schizophrenic poker player and do what you need to break the monotony.
Money won or lost?: Won. Added around $200 to the bankroll.

2. STICK TO A WEEKLY TOURNAMENT BUDGET. This one was easy until all those fabulous weekend blogger tournaments started popping up! It was a good month of tournament play for me. Several deep finishes and two cashes, one of them significant.

Lesson learned: This is one area of poker where I feel as if I'm steadily improving, not only in my play, but in my emotional control. Not one meltdown, or even a mini-one.
Money won or lost?: Won.

3. PLAY NON-HOLD'EM GAMES AT THE LOWEST OF LIMITS. Throwing a few bucks onto Poker Stars in order to donk around a little at micro-limit PLO and Omaha 8 was a good choice. I've come away from the month of October with a MUCH better understanding of Omaha, and I didn't have to hurt my bankroll to do so. Though I still have a long way to go at Hi-Lo and I'll continue to give myself an education at these limits, I actually came away a small winner at PLO.

Lesson learned?: I heart PLO.
Money won or lost: Won, but it'll barely buy a Frappucino.

4. PREPARE TO RE-APPROACH LIVE AND ONLINE CASH GAMES. I read some books, replayed a LOT of hands from Poker Tracker and stuck a toe back into the online cash game waters, even if only at $1-2 LHE and $25 or $50 max NLHE. I was a winner in the NL games, but still a loser at limit. This is incredibly frustrating to me. Despite all the strides I feel like I've made in No-Limit this year, my limit hold'em play has only lost me money in the second half of the year.

Looking at my results from this year, I'm noticing that my bankroll was far healthier back in the first half of the year when I played live on a regular basis. Why? For starters, I play bigger games live. Don't we all? While I can hardly bring myself to sit 2-4 or 3-6 online these days unless an uber-fish is spewing chips and making the game worthwhile, I don't give a second thought at sitting 4-8 or 6-12 at Commerce, simply because the play there is so friggin' God-awful. It's like Pavlov's freakin' dogs online for me-- I just know I'm gonna get electrocuted.

Earlier this year, I went broke online for the first time. I had run an initial $50 deposit at Pokerroom up to over $1300 playing 2-4 only to lose $1100 of it trying my luck at 5-10 before I was adequately rolled or mentally prepared to do so. Utterly broken by the experience and doubting my own abilities, I took my last $200 or so and hit the live games at Commerce during the L.A. Poker Classic. Now I don't know if those games were just especially juicy at the time due to the tournament, but I tripled my bankroll that month, and not a lick of it came from online play.

Case in point. Last night, after winning a buyin at $25NL and taking 2nd in a two-table SNG, I noticed that there was a 2-4 table on Full Tilt with no fewer than four calling stations, and one uber-fish, all with healthy stacks. I told myself that this was a good opportunity and bought in for $120. $115 of it was gone within two hours. QQ lost to runner runner flush. 66 turns a set that makes my opponent's flush. KQ makes 2 pair to be beaten by runner runner straight. K9 vs. QT-- another runner runner straight. I'm mad as hell and I can't take it anymore!! Losing those pots would be FINE if I had maybe won a decent pot or two to offset the losses, but that wasn't happening. The five fishies swam away with my bankroll before I could even get a chance to mount a comeback and I fell asleep pissed off.

Looking at Pokertracker (which only has my results from late July onwards-- other database stolen along with laptop), I have lost over $1300 in cash games and made it all back and then some playing Tournaments and SNGs. I've only won 33% of my 2-4 sessions. I miss my old Pokertracker that reminded me that once upon a time, I was a winning limit player. I still have the "good player" moneybag icon autorated next to my screenname. But sadly, maybe those winning days are gone.

Who else has been repeatedly kicked in the junk as of late in the 1-2/2-4/3-6 universe? Are the games getting harder? Has NLHE irreperably fucked your LHE game? Should I just stick to B&M for limit and give up the ghost online?

Lesson learned?: Still pending.
Money won or lost: Lost.

5. POST A HAND OF THE WEEK. Well... I did it once?

In the end, Adam Friedman had nothing to cry about, and walked away from the Main Event in 44th place with over $235K in his pocket. I came away from my self-imposed stint in "poker rehab" short of some goals and not a lot richer, but with enough insight into myself as a player to make up for a few of those dollars lost. I will always be emotional, but now I'm more capable of controlling it. I'm not sweating my day-to-day losses as much, because I know it can turn back around in one session.

And I should get my ass to Commerce soon to get that $115 bucks back.


Captain Freeman said...

Nice post. I love the SnG-to-pot comparison. Maybe we should start calling good single-table tournaments "heady SNuGs".

Okay, that was lame. Sorry.

I've been thinking that the 1/2 2/4 3/6 tables have been a little less fishy than they used to be as well. In August, I went through a bad downswing too, dropping about $1200 in one month and falling from 3/6 games all the way back to 1/2. However, I've since managed to retool my game a little, plug a few leaks, and I'm currently profitable again.

You probably don't need to give it up entirely, but you may have to change a few habits that used to be profitable and aren't anymore. Step back down a level or two and try to approach things as if you're re-learning the game. Maybe bag a couple of bonuses at UB or Empire while you're making changes to cover any mistakes you might make, and in a month or two you'll be right back in the game.

Johnny said...
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