Posts Tagged ‘The Grind’

Since the WSOP I’ve been in an awful lull, moreover when I play I lose. Some of this is a result of negative variance, but mostly I feel I’ve spent a lot of hours pressing. I’ve let the game get away from me. It’s been slipping for quite some time. I have done my best to spend hours off the table analyzing my sessions; where I’m leaking money, even to the point of questioning my entire approach to live cash…something I’ve never, in my career, second guessed.

Life has a funny way of giving you exactly what you need just when you need it the most. In my case it was the opportunity to coach. For two weeks I was holed up in Stony Brook, playing the role of Gregy, a style in which my own game closely reflects. Being surrounded by 9 other people dedicated to improvement through discussion, debate, analysis, even trial and error allowed me to begin a stripping down process. I came home ready to conquer the world, completely blind to how much more work needed to be done. After a handful of sessions where I got beat up by the deck as well as by my own poor judgement, I was fortunate enough to be approached by a friend looking to transition from the work world to playing for a living. My initial response was jaded. I told him, “As much as I love poker and don’t regret the past 9 years, if I had the chance to do it all over again I would have never played a single hand.”. However, I really enjoy the coaching process and seeing his enthusiasm it was easy to take on the challenge of teaching someone from square one. In turn I’m also going to do the same, checking my ego at the door for the greater good.

The Challenge:
So much of my game is built around creating edges in areas where conventional wisdom dictates taking a more traditional approach. The result is a fine line between excellence and utter failure with no middle ground to cushion the blow. So obviously I must be insane to employ such a style if there are easier, lower risk ways of operating. Maybe, but I feel to continually stay ahead of the game and maintain such a high win rate I have to constantly challenge myself and thought process. I trust the foundation in which I’ve built my game upon. Unfortunately, after playing double dutch with that fine line this year, it’s clear that my game needs patch work from the bottom up. So this is where I challenge myself in a different way. This is where I check my ego at the door and take a step down to work out the kinks, strengthen the ABC’s and force myself to care about the intricacies as much as the results. For at least the next 5 weeks I’m going to do two things that I haven’t done in years, grind 6 days a week and do so exclusively at $2/$5NL.

Since this is meant to be a learning experience I am going to go through the same exercises I assign to my student. The first of which is a completed list of short-term goals I expect to complete over the next 5 weeks:

Goals (Nov. 17th – Dec. 23rd)

-Play 6 days a week; minimum 30 sessions total

-Play a minimum of 30 hrs/wk

-Let no session go longer than 10 hrs.

-Maintain $75/hr win rate (very likely on the high-end, but I’d rather err on the side of unobtainable)

-Spend 5 hrs/wk on hand and session analysis

For the sake of balance I’ve included a few physical goals as well:
-Maintain a strict workout regiment

-Continue strengthening my arm through long toss once or twice a week

-Back to tracking diet via myFitnessPal

Along with logging my hands for future analysis I will also keep a log focused on reflecting upon each session utilizing these questions…

Quality of play:

Quality of the game:

Number of mistakes and cost:

Quality of Focus (did we go on cruise control, tilt?):

Ability to over come dip in focus:

Somewhere along this uncleared path I call a poker career, I lost my way and for too long was unwilling to backtrack. Fortunately, there is a trail of crumbs leading me back to base. I hope this challenge proves to be a step backward in order to take a leap forward, but most of all I hope it humbles me. I’m at my best when my ego is bruised and in check. When the only hurdle is defining to myself just how badly I want to succeed.

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, that’s when you’ll be successful.”

In 2003 something very profound happened to the poker world. A degenerate accountant, with a last name too ironic to be fiction, parlayed his last $36 of online money into $2 million. A perfect storm, that if pitched as a script would surely be dismissed as hokey. I’m a first generation product of “The Moneymaker effect”. I’ve watched poker transform from a shady backroom game to a sophisticated, calculated, battle of wits where only the strong survive. I grew as the game grew; taking my lumps in stride, receiving a crash course in business, life and responsibility. 

Those who helped blaze the trail for NL Hold’em to become the game of choice, speak as if the game is solved. A mathematical game dying due to readily available strategy content, far-less “dead” money, and young optimists with all the answers. However, NL Hold’em isn’t a mechanical game easily conquered by someone who employs a solid strategy. It’s a living, breathing organism that feeds off of short-sighted, small-minded, narcissists.

The fact is, most players create a ceiling through a flawed approach to how they think about the game. Given the dynamic nature of the beast, the game quickly passes them by. The fraction of players who keep their fingers to the pulse adapt. They creatively find new ways to exploit the human element, manipulating each and every variable, resulting in an undefined style that leaves opponents questioning every certainty solidified in their own play. The true innovators are the ones who don’t accept such terms as alwaysnever, and standard. They are the ones who are trashed for not falling in line; their out of the box ideas often dismissed as reckless and mechanically flawed. But this game isn’t conquered by execution. Game theory is the driving force of a world-class pro, willing to sacrifice fundamentals in order to challenge players of all abilities, rather than surviving on an all fish diet.They are the trend setters, hidden beneath a cloak of judgement.  

A close guard is kept on the method behind the madness, revealed in detail to only a trusted few. As eye-opening as my mistakes have been, the most influential asset at my disposal was the close group of peers I discussed the game with. I imagine very few have been privy to the diverse talent and intelligence as was in my group. We learned the game on the fly and our results grew in correlation to hard work and analysis. Most importantly we learned how to think.

Earlier this year I was presented with an opportunity to provide content for a poker app that aimed to make a competitive game out of hand analysis.  I couldn’t sign on fast enough. Insta Poker was the perfect format to provide that group-like environment to the masses; providing a road map with a clear starting point to anyone interested in studying the game. Once I committed to working with Insta Poker, it became clear just how enthralled I was with the learning process. My ideas for in-depth teaching quickly surpassed both my time and focus. I developed a structure; each pack would posses a unique lesson, yet collectively (much like chapters to a book) the packs complete a series, “The Playbook”.

Since my audience is vast in skill set and knowledge of the game, I wanted to develop from the ground up. Now that the first two packs have been released, solidifying the fundamentals of poker, I want to expand the learning process by creating a forum in which packs can be further examined/explained, while providing an open line of communication between myself and the audience.

The first major hurdle I aim to overcome is clearing up any uncertainties resulting from my writing style. I’ve received constructive criticism that my explanations tend to be convoluted to those not all that familiar with poker vernacular. I felt blogging would be perfect to further define the content as well as the language in each pack. Furthermore, I plan to address the desire for more free content by releasing a free pack each month which I will dissect both on Insta Poker, as well as in the correlating blog. Finally, I wanted an outlet where the debate can begin where the packs left off. Consider the comment box an open forum where any questions, thoughts, criticisms or general arguments can be posed.

I’ll end this entry with a two-part video series. It’s a commencement speech given by author David Foster Wallace. Amidst his well versed stories and witty quips, lies an eye-opening lesson on our flawed default thought process. In short, he explains the importance in taking the time to learn how to think. Enjoy…