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dlinqnt's poker thoughts and progress on the road to pro

/Jan/2011

the downswings

By: dlinqnt @ 11:50 (EST) / 326 / Comment ( 2 )

As I write this post, i am (hopefully) coming out of a vicious downswing.  I know that they happen to everyone, and this post, and perhaps this whole blog, are therapy more than anything else. 
   i had been running quite well for a while, playing mostly the $13.50 knockout bonus sng's.  i won a good deal of the time picking up an average of 4 knockouts along the way.  i felt good, made good decisions, and played pretty well overall.  i am not a pro, and i know that i made mistakes along the way, but i made them against opponents where i had enough chips that i didn't cause myself grevious harm losing to them.  of course, i got lucky at times as well.  i am not above sucking out!
   then, without warning or explanation, everything went sideways.  suddenly, i couldn't hit a flop to save my life (chips, really), my draws didn't even come close most of the time, and when they did, the dreaded river would come along a defeat me.  it was a time where i could call out the card that would come to beat me when i was way ahead in a hand, and my calls were freakishly accurate.  i lost hand after hand, game after game, and dollar after dollar.  painful.
    anyway, this is post is not meant to be a sob story.  these things happen to the worst and the best of us, and everyone in between.  the fact is that if you play poker, you will hit bad skids here and there and they can be devastating.
     for me, there are two things that these skids do to my game.  one, i try to use bankroll management and i move down in stakes.  during this skid, i have had to move down to the micro stakes bounty games, including even the $1.40 bottom dwellers.  as usual, i moved down a bit too slow, and i suffered some pretty substantial losses.  i should point out that i do not have a huge roll, so my losses were substantial only in the sense that i lost 85% or more of my roll.  it is by no means life altering, it's just in relation to my total roll.  I should also admit that when the losses began to pile up, i made the huge mistake of paying a few of the larger bounty sng's ( i beleive the next level is a bit over $20 buy in).  these did not go well and my roll suffered. 
    the second and far more damaging thing that happens is that i lose all confidencein my game and my hopes of becoming a more serious and winning player.  when i am playing my best, i am an aggressive player.  not loose, exactly, but not tight either.  i bet and raise often, i steal pots, i take shots, i make good reads and i trust my gut.
    during the bad runs, i play scared as a newbie.  i limp, i call, i fold.  i wilt in the face of aggression, and i assume that any hand that can beat me is the exact hand that my opponent holds.  my raises are infrequent, badly timed, and often re-raised.  it's duiring these times that my  opponents often do hold the only hand that can beat me, and my fear seems to get constantly reinforced by repetetive bad beats.    
      the odd thing is that my gut is still pretty much bang on.  i know i'm beat, but i still shove my chips for some reason, i can put opponents on the draws they are on, and know that they will hit that draw, but i don't slow down.  i don't use pot control when pot control is the only way i can slow the bleeding.  instead, i go for the long ball.  as i said, i lose all poker sense and play very badly.  
     the continuation of bad streaks can be rightly attributed to bad play.  bad luck accounts for the beginning of the skid, bad play accounts for the length of the skid.  the bad luck may run for a sarcastically long time, but it's tilt and poor play that really do the damage.  
    i admit that it is incredibly difficult to fold hand after hand, knowing without a doubt that is the right thing to do.  again and again.  the alternative is more painful of course.  i fold like i should for the first twenty hands or so.  then i get a little more adventurous as i lose my blinds and pre-flop bets, and i start trying to force the pots into my stack by bluffing.  more often than not, i am bluffing into a made hand, i know it, and i continue the bluff anyway.  it doesn't take much imagination to see where that leads.  it really only takes one of these bad plays to decimate my stack, and my chances of a money finish. 
   i find myself holding two first and two third place finishes in my last six sng's.  the low stakes make the actual dollar amounts pretty insignificant. however, the reason i have a few cashes of late is quite simply due to better play.  i am playing more aggressively, taking shots at the right times, and keeping the lead where i had been giving up.  at the same time i am listening to my gut again and folding when i know i'm beat.  the smarter play is allowing me to keep tilt to a minimum (i still get rivered, but i'm not risking my whole stack in these situations).  in fact, in the game i won last night, i was injured early; down to 120 chips in the first blind level.  i kept my cool, played aggressive until i got some chips back, slowed down when i felt my opponents were strong, and ended up with the win and 5 bounties along
the way.
    so, i would like to paraphrase mike caro and remind myself that the best thing i can do in good times and bad is always play my best game.  doing anything else is asking not for a quick recovery from downswings, but instead asking for more bad beats, more sob stories, and a longer fall from the inevitable peak into the dark valley.  
    
    that's a long post.
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