I’ve been mulling over this blog for a while now, and couldn’t quite work out how to approach it. It’s a tough concept to articulate, and is one that I believe that the vast majority of poker players fail to acknowledge. In fact, I’d go further; most people in life seem to have trouble with it.
At the tables I had an ugly downswing that lasted around six weeks. It was pretty unfortunate and expensive, but there wasn’t a whole lot that could be done about it. I ran an obscene amount below EV in all-in pots, and a disproportionate amount of moves that I made ran into tops of opponents’ ranges.
For a poker player, if you are not familiar with this then you don’t play enough. It’s a reality of the game, and I’m certainly not complaining. In fact, I was able to take a really great positive out of the downswing, and it is the moral of this blog:
Sometimes the hardest thing is doing nothing.
I’m not talking about playing less. I’m not talking about folding more. I’m talking about resisting the urge to make reactionary changes to my game. This took great discipline and confidence in my ability.
I have an ROI of over 8% across all sites; just because my results took a dip did not mean that I had suddenly become a fishbowl at the tables. I had to keep faith in the style (somewhere between TAG and LAG, I guess) that had earned me a lot of money over the last few years. This was not as easy as it sounds.
It is my view that the vast majority of people expend an excessive amount of focus and mental energy on matters that are completely outwith their control. In poker terms, this involves sweating cards, berating fish, and cursing the Poker Gods.
We are egotistical creatures and we want to control everything. When things go against us, we have an urge to adjust our (winning) strategy because we fear that it is no longer profitable. This is not just counter-productive, it is poker suicide.
An obvious example is merely calling or checking back a monster draw because ‘they just haven’t been hitting recently’. In other words, reining in your poker instincts because of some short-term negative variance is going to adversely affect your bankroll.
It is natural to look for a scapegoat, and it is not always easy to keep faith in your decision-making when you can see your bankroll diminish by the day. However, sometimes you have to hold your hands up, say ‘all I can do is ensure that the next decision that I make is the best one possible’, and let the Poker Gods do their worst.
Any significant changes to your game should be implemented from a position of strength, when you are thinking matters through clearly and can handle the swings emotionally. In real life, I have lost count of the amount of people who have had a shitty day at work or whatever and decided that they need to make a radical alteration to their life.
Of course, this is often just venting; we all do it and we all need to do it. However, I can’t help but feel that these decisions should be shelved until an unemotional state of mind can be accomplished.
In other words, when things are going bad, focus on riding it out. Big changes can wait until the downswing – at the tables or in real life – has subsided. Minor adjustments and improvements should always be at the forefront of one’s mind, but the real radical stuff can wait til another day.