10 January 2006

Playing When You Aren't Prepared, and Happy Actual Birthday

I want to explore a particularly relevant poker question that Obituarium, a renowned poker blogger, hinted at in a recent post. He was talking about playing in MTT's when he didn't feel 100%, and this got me thinking about the following: should you play if you aren't prepared to play your best? And what percentage of your play is when you aren't prepared to play your best? I think online I play at least half of the time not prepared to play my best, either multi-tasking, in front of a television, sneaking in a quick session, or being tired. Live is much less, probably due to a combination of the sunk cost of being at the card room (in my travels) as well as the physical waiting time as I am on a list. And if you are going to play when you aren't prepared to play your best, what are the keys to improve your performance or mitigate your risk? Let me submit a couple of keys, but feel free to comment on any and all of this:
  • Bluff and fake less. I tend to get on losing runs by not paying enough attention to who I'm playing pretend poker against, donking off bet after bet to the same people who call me down with middle pair.
  • Get rid of marginal hands. This may sound like Poker 101, but when I'm not prepared I tend to misplay marginal hands more often, chase more with no rhyme or reason. I'll chase a gutshot for a special rush vs. any logical reason.
  • Play below your normal limit. This is risk mitigation, as well as a way to play more recklessly or donkified without hurting your bankroll.
  • Mix up your game selection. Sit at a Razz lowest limit table, Stud, low-limit SNG, whatever you wouldn't normally do. Prepare for your head to hurt if you select a game you don't normally play (like Omaha H/L where you aren't sure if you are going to win both or lose both after you're done).
  • Play the play money tables. This can be absolutely stupid to do for sure when you're at a Party all-in max on every hand table, but you'd be surprised what it's like to return to the roots of how many of us started playing online. You're able to remember the newbie mistakes you used to make, watch the #@*! comments when you donkifiedly take some imaginary chips away from someone.
  • Work the simulator. If you don't have Poker Academy or Wilson Turbo, then you need to get one of them. If you do, then mixing in some specific simulator work can be a good alternative when you're not at your best, especially if you can work on some specific things like short-handed or marginal hands.
  • Document and analyze. This should be a given, but you need this feedback especially when you aren't at your best to determine how dangerous it is for you individually to play when you aren't adequately prepared.
  • Set braking limits. Have a set time and amount that you're willing to put at risk when you're not at your best and stick to it.
My 41st year is now behind me, and it was a trying year for sure. This was the year after losing my company's major client, one that I had worked every waking hour on to drive their marketing and growth aspirations only to see them cast aside after they went from #7 in the market to #2. It was a shock to the system this time last year (it happened in October 2004) , as I had to figure out should I continue to have this company or should I go back into corporate world. My wife and I decided to give it one more year, work to pursue new business as well as do what needed to be done to not move yet find a job if necessary. The verdict: I let my five employees go in March after paying them from October-February with no billable work, was able to book three new clients, but have been struggling to make a solid business around this. My network of contacts and easier employment prospects are outside the Southeast US, so job search would most likely move us. I think my wife and I are both OK with that prospect as self employment has been a troubling experience, with financial anxieties increasing and personal rewards diminishing.

Poker has been one of my few releases, especially live. It has been a place to escape these things, although a place also that takes me away from my wife both physically and emotionally. This year, my poker results need to augment our actual income rather than be a fluctuating bankroll in my pocket. Online results were negative for 2005 and live were positive. This needs to change if poker will continue to be part of my life. I'm able to justify the losses as my hobby, but I need this hobby to contribute back to the home front not only to ensure continued support but to be a good use of my time.

There are always advantages and disadvantages to any and all situations and decisions. Our boys are still quite young, so moving would not be a real challenge to them. I am definitely underutilized professionally, and much of my self esteem is tied to my work and especially the ability to contribute and bring value. Consulting for a small firm can be a real challenge in that arena: you are often seen as an expense, you can be kept at arm's length, you rely on less talented folks to execute with no ability to drive or motivate. It is a real blessing, though, to be able to put the boys to bed at night and to sleep in the same bed as my wife most nights (when I haven't retreated to the couch in the piano room).

So to all of you who have come by and contributed thoughts, ideas, and encouragement, thanks. I'll continue to document my meanderings at the felt, whether at live tables during my travels or online.


Blogger WillWonka said...

I keep on saying that I'm going to get one of those simulators (probably poker academy); but I keep putting it off.

3:06 PM  

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