Swim with Fish Long Enough and You’ll Pick Up the Smell

Thursday, May 20th, 2004, 10:07 am

Several big-name bloggers have recently posted, uh, posts wherein they reflect on the true quality of their play. Both Iggy and Hank write about the evolution of their games. If you’re reading my blog it’s probable that you read theirs as well, so I won’t summerize or comment upon them, other than to say if you haven’t read them, you should. They’re both in Vegas now, the bastards.

Anyway, they got me to thinking about my own game, which I feel hasn’t been evolving. If anything, I’m backsliding. I don’t feel like I’m playing any better than I did a few months ago, and my results reflect it. The last two months I’ve only about broken even, and this month I’m down about $50, in large part because I got impatient and moved up to $1/$2. I tired of grinding out big $4 wins and wondering if my time would have been better spent by rooting around in the couch cushions.

I also tired of $25 pot-limit, mostly because I found myself getting gunshy as my bankroll dwindled. Mostly it dwindled by me cashing out a few hundred here, a few hundred there, which in retrospect was a mistake. Had I hung on to the cash for my bankroll I could have fully taken advantage of the deposit bonuses I’m offered as well as shrugging off those bad beats as the duck shrugs off the water.

So why am I playing poorly? I’ve actually studied more, reading Cloutier and McEvoy’s book as well as Gary Carson’s tome, and I think picked up some valuable information. I haven’t been playing nearly as much lately, for a number of reasons, but when I do play I don’t do well.

And why is that? I think that, to a large extent, I’m playing down to my level of competition. We know that there are lots of fish out there just waiting to be hooked, scaled, fileted, breaded, panfried, and served with a lime vinagrette. This doesn’t mean that these fish won’t put up a fight. Doesn’t mean that a few of these fish may have learned some non-fishy moves. Doesn’t mean that these fish haven’t evolved themselves, aren’t ready to slog their way out of the surf and take their first sandy steps.

I’ve been playing by the book, instead of with my brain, and it’s just not much fun. When I’m fully engaged in a game, I have a much, much better time. The perfect example of this is the tournament I took second in last Sunday night. Instead of a school of fish I was up against 32 of the best pokerbloggers in the Free World. Every hand was fraught with…the stuff that gets fraughted. These guys and gals have sharp teeth and hearts of stone. That sudden re-raise that caught you off guard? It might be a bluff, it might be a move, it might be a trick of such diabolical subtley that, fifteen years later, you’ll still wake up in a cold sweat trying to figure it out. This wasn’t push-in-your-stack-and-pray Party garbage. You had to be on your toes. Your tippy-toes, even.

I played well–very well, even. When we got four-handed I faced extinction on every deal, so I couldn’t just be a spectator and wait for a monster hand. It was a total blast, living on the edge like that. And that’s another part of my game that’s been lacking–concentration. Watching TV and surfing the ‘Net while waiting for a big hand is not the way to poker greatness. If the game isn’t interesting enough to hold your attention, should you be playing in the first place?

So what’s the solution, for me anyway? Moving up again in limit–to $3/$6, say–might give me the juice I need to stay focused but might land me in the poorhouse, for now I don’t think that’s an option. I think more tournament play is what I need right now. I love playing in them, I do well in them, and playing in tournaments may help sharpen my claws for ring games, where aggressiveness has never been one of my stronger suits.

OK, sorry you had to slog through my self-analysis. Still, not a bad idea to do the same thing yourself. Coming soon, I think some posts about the WPT season so far, including my ultimate WPT table. And, mercy, that Shana Hiatt does wear a bikini well, doesn’t she?

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One Response to “Swim with Fish Long Enough and You’ll Pick Up the Smell”

  1. Chad Says:

    I have the problem of playing down to my competition, too, especially when I’m playing limit. In NL/PL, it’s easy to get away from a hand when someone reraises you $5 while holding middle pair and the board is all over cards, but I get caught in limit. “Just one more bet, and I could hit my set“, when my low set probably won’t help me out at all and I’ve been beat all along. That’s just the way I look at it, at least.

    Ps-Yes, Shana wears that bikini exceptionally well. Hoo boy.

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