Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Play what you're good at

It's the simplest advice really, but at least in my case, some of the hardest for me to follow as a poker player. For not following it earlier, I've paid dearly and often.

When I first started playing, I didn't know any other players outside of the rotating cast of Hollywood douchebags I routinely faced and easily defeated in homegames. As I got more serious about it, my journey toward becoming a better player was an even more solitary pursuit. I read poker books and played online and went to Commerce on my own. And sometime last summer my eyes started wandering out my office window even more frequently than they had before and some spark within me was reignited and I decided to pick up a pen after putting it down for six years. Six years I put it down while I learned how to be a movie producer. And while occasionally I ached to write, I largely ignored that part of myself.

Poker was the thing that made me write again. All that time I was reading 2+2 in my office and sitting in staff meetings pretending to give a shit while calculating percentages on last night's bustout hand in tiny print on the front cover of that week's Project Status Report I was searching for answers, not just to the million poker questions burning in the forefront of my brain stem, but to a larger question entirely.

So I opened up Blogger and I started to write. I didn't care what any of it meant for the first time. I wrote about what I was passionate about-- poker. I found people just like me, going through the exact same shit with their games. Best of all, a bunch of those people lived right here in Los Angeles and they invited me to play with them. That's where I got really lucky. Because the best way to improve your own game is to learn from players who are better than you are. Murderer's Row had two tables full of them.

I recently had a long conversation about the state of my poker game with someone I met on one of those fateful Friday nights in HDouble's apartment. It wasn't our first talk on the subject. I'd sought advice about my game after my March slide, and asked him for some answers now that he'd seen me play quite a bit. He told me what I already knew, but needed confirmed-- that I'm a good tournament player and live NL cash player but I'm not a good limit player yet. He told me to stick to the online NLHE MTTs and play the live $200 NL at Commerce. It was great advice.

So what did I do with it? I turned around and played online limit hold'em again. I rationalized to myself that I needed to do it right now because it was supposed to be steadier money and chasing a couple of bonuses would be good for my bankroll. And then once I had my bankroll rebuilt, I could go back to what I was good at.

Guess what. It totally backfired. I donked off a lotta money at LHE. What good is allegedly "steadier money" if limit is not your best game? I didn't play badly but I wasn't playing my best either. You can totally have a 19% VPIP and a 2.5 aggression factor and still do that. I couldn't possibly play my best, no matter how shrewd I thought my reads were or how fishy my opponents. Because right now, to me, chips were no longer chips. Chips were money.

If that's not a cue to stop playing cash games, I don't know what is.

Back when Annie Duke played poker for a living, she went through a sick losing streak leading up to the birth of her youngest child. She was tired, emotional, in a bad headspace and had no business playing in the $1000-2000 game but pushed herself to do so and play through whatever personal crisis she was going through. And she crippled her own bankroll, eventually taking three months off from the game entirely.

I'm not taking three months off the game because I'm far too much of a degenerate to do that, but I am not going to play cash games at any limits resembling seriousness until I have a regular income again. It's time to take the advice I should have taken the first time and play what I'm good at. And what I'm good at just saved my ass and saved my bankroll with those two big cashes. So I'm going to keep at the MTTs, Stars 180s, and occasional $20SNG to try and generate a poker income.

Income...right. That would bring us to the matter of my career, or what's left of it.

I know what I have to do to find another gig. I could make half a dozen phone calls in the next twenty minutes and set up meetings for myself with a sick collection of studio VPs, agents, and independent producers that I could meet with and schmooze and follow the Yellow Brick Road down Wilshire Blvd and end up with another D-job six weeks from now. I have a stacked deck of cards I could play in my situation and likely scoop a huge pot. But I've been out of the development world for three months and for the life of me, I cannot pull the trigger and make myself go back. I'd rather light myself on fire than go back into D-girl mode. I am so much happier being away from those people and that lifestyle. And after three months of just denying it to myself, I arrived at the conclusion I probably knew all along on some level since the moment the Big Man's Hatchet Boy took me out to the shed.

I'm not going back to development.

So I'm going to play what I'm good at.

Charlie told me something about Hollywood years ago that I remembered again as Pauly and I were driving down PCH in the rain a couple of weeks ago.

"If you really want to make it in this town, write your way in."

It's a gamble. But what in my life isn't?


Garthmeister J. said...

I hope your muse slaps you upside the head with inspiration... and I hope to find you in the same 180 SnG as me soon enough.

Heavy Critters said...

Based on what you put down on this blog, I'd say you're going to be just fine.

Good luck!

Unknown said...

Much like Waffle, keep playing those tournies and stay away from the cash games (EVEN IF THEY LOOK JUICY!).

LO8 games look retardedly easy right up to the 15/30 game on almost every site. The problem is variance and ignorance.

People don't know how to fold (for the most part) and you're left with card-catching rather then being able to out play your opponent (like I know you can in tourneys).

Good luck K.

Poker Jones said...

"If you really want to make it in this town, write your way in."


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

I'm excited to see whatever scraps of your non-blog writing you intend to let us lowly readers in on, Change. I don't know much about Hollywood but you seem to know how it all works, and with good writing talents, my money's allin on you to bust your way back into that scene and do it on your own terms.

Also, I think I commented about this a few months ago in your blog, but I have always thought you were a good tournament player, better than cash games that I have railed you in and read about here. I remember commenting here a while back about how you have the right level of aggression and yet smart play and understanding of the intricacies of the game for the MTT world. Since then you've won a WWdN, that incredible 8th place finish in the 17k guaranteed, and probably a few other MTTs triumphs that I'm forgetting, so I think that's definitely good advice.

For what it's worth, I'm the same way. Probably 95% of my lifetime online poker winnings have come from MTTs, while in cash games I have got to be down overall (though more positive lately). I agree that, especially online, the cash game play is generally so erratic and fishfilled that it makes it very hard to consistently win in no limit games.

iamhoff said...

May your muse rail you at the table, may the flop hit you squarely in the face, and may you forever be holding the junk, I mean nuts. I've loved reading your blog, and I'm sure that we're just seeing the tip of your writing abilities. If this is any indication of what you can offer, you're gonna tear it up! Snakes on a motherfucking Plane!

HCR said...

I am quite similar. I suck at limit but somehow find myself there thinking I can beat all the drawing donkeys. I also suck at MTTs but have done pretty well at NL. So I guess in all this the only thing I am good at is NL.

Good luck Change and do what makes you happiest that day. Life is too short not too.

Anonymous said...

You answered life's question, do what your good at!

If what you're good at and what you enjoy are the same then life can truly equal freedom.

The biggest turning point in my life came when I grasped what I really was and not what I pretended to be.

BTW I love NL cash games both online and live. A different style must be incorporated but it's worthwhile.

High Plains Drifter said...

Good luck with the writing, Change. I'm rooting for you!