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Starting from Scratch

/Jan/2011

Anatomy of a Downswing

By: mytton @ 09:36 (EST) / 630 / Comment ( 3 )
$0.25 Sit and Go. Should be a doddle, right? Mostly weak opposition and armed with a decent gameplan the EV should be +++. That was what I thought, and early results in this format only confirmed my belief. After 30 games of the 45 player variant my ROI was up around 160% and I was already mentally preparing to move up in stakes to the next level.

Then things changed. I didn't notice at first. Just a couple of unlucky losses, a careless bet here, running in to a hidden monster hand there, and I was looking at a couple of losing days in a row. Once I noticed things were not going my way, the problems multiplied. I was now looking out for the bad luck to show itself. And it did, in spades. And in clubs, diamonds and hearts too. Suddenly the calling station who had been generously donating me chips by calling all the way to the river with middle pair turned out to have been nursing trips from his small pocket pair all along. The maniac who would raise with any two cards just happened to have AA the time I decide to call him. Annoyed, I fired up another table and promptly flamed out trying to win a big early pot that I somehow felt I 'deserved' to win.

Things went on like this for days, some better than others but always the bottom line, the bankroll, heading down down down. The one common factor was that whatever bad things happened to me, it was never my fault. Lady luck had deserted me. There was nothing to be done but plod manfully on as unfairness after unfairness rained down on me. Even if I made an obviously horrible play, in my mind it was caused by the mind-numbing bad beat I had previously suffered and therefore quite understandable. How could anyone not make mistakes when the fates were being so cruel?

The key to breaking this spiral was of course to recognise and discard this idea that none of the losses were my own fault. To stop seeing myself as a helpless victim of fate, and actually analyse my play to see what I could do differently, do better. I was surprised how reluctant I found myself to do this, as I had always previously been keen to spend study and analysis time away from the tables. Now, perhaps afraid what I might find if I reviewed my recent play, I found it hard to resist the temptation to just fire up another tourney instead, and see if my luck had changed.

Finally, I forced myself to get down to some review and I found my game had been affected more than I imagined. Any text on how to play small stakes S&G games will say basically the same thing about the early part of the tourney. Play tight, concentrate on survival, avoid major confrontation but play the big hands aggressively. As I went over my play in recent tourneys, I found I had been veering towards the exact opposite of the recommended style.

The bubble had come to seem such a distant and improbable goal to me that I had started playing looser and looser in an attempt to build the big stack of chips I thought I needed to get there. My confidence down, I had also started to limp more and bet smaller. Then, feeling victimised when villains started betting into my apparent weakness, I was all too frequently risking my stack on longshots or at best coinflips.

Having faced up to what I was doing, I forced myself to reread through all the various texts and guides to S&G play that I have collected, to reinforce the ideas in my mind. Then I went back to the tables.

There was no sudden reversal of my fortunes, but now I did not panic if I failed to build a big stack early. I was back to playing my own game and not about to tilt at the first sign of a bad beat. Good luck started to be interspersed with the bad. And finally, a few cashes finally got my bankroll moving in the right direction again. That 160% ROI was not sustainable anyway. But a decent positive ROI now again looks as if it very well might be. In short, I have my confidence back.

Once I had re-established my gameplan, there were a couple of other events on the tables that told me that things were turning round again for me, and did me no harm at all. I had continued playing the PSO league games and my deadly dull super patient approach to them had seemingly been unaffected by my struggles in the S&G arena. Now I scraped through the bubble in a PSO tourney before hitting a run of cards that took me all the way to the final table for the first time ever. Big confidence boost there.

The second event occurred late in a Sit and Go. My stack was down to a couple of big blinds. Starved of decent cards. In the big blind myself next, I knew I was all in with any two. The cards are dealt and I look down at 72o. Ah well. One raise from middle position, I call. He turns over AA. The flop 458, the turn 9. Muck those pocket aces my friend, and consider yourself well and truly sucked-out! I didn't go on to win the tournament, sadly, but I haven't forgotten it. Nor, probably has the victim. Whenever I get a bad beat now, I can look back at that hand and realise luck is never all one-way.
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