Friday, March 30, 2007

Mom's Theory on Name Calling

So, I got my mom signed up to receive the updates to my poker blog via email. Though she may not understand all the poker terms, she reads the entries anyway. After she read my last post about me and online name calling, she emailed me her theory on why I do it:

"...because your dad did it. (It has been said that) the same sex parent has the most impact on a child. You were saturated with that type of reaction about anything competitive from day one. Don't beat yourself up. You're just imitating. You know, like the baby chimps that bang their sticks on a rock because they saw their parents do it. No deep analysis needed."

Sounds about right to me. The proverbial nail was struck flush. I hope this new info helps in my effort to conquer the problem. So far, so good. I haven't typed a bad name in a chat box since just before I wrote my initial post about it and I have had plenty of opportunities. Like today when someone with 2nd pair 8's on the flop re-raised all-in after my pot-sized bet with pocket Aces. He hit a 7 on the river to make 2 pair and crack my Aces. My hand crept toward the keyboard, but I caught myself before I typed anything. It feels good to have the discipline.

So some thanks to Mom. You always seem to have the answers to life's stubborn questions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

...And I'm a Name-Caller-Aholic

My name is Stick and I'm a "name-caller-aholic". While playing online poker and someone makes a bad play to beat me, I have a bad habit of calling them a name in the chat box. The name is usually "idiot" or "donkey". One time, I even called a guy a "d u m b a s s". But the next day, I found him and apologized. I know name calling is wrong. I know it is very unprofessional. I know it can induce the player and others at the table to play better, thus making it harder for me to profit. But I've still done it and I know it is time to change it.

It's like a drug. I make the correct plays. Raise 4 times the BB pre-flop with QQ. Make pot-sized bets on the 2-flush flop and turn so that chasing the flush is against the odds. Then the river makes the flush and they flip over 74 suited for the flush. The feeling I get is not one of defeat. Not like I feel beat. It is one of astonishment and violation. Like when another driver on the road rides your bumper for a while, then speeds past you and you want to go and catch him to ride his bumper for a while. Like you've been violated and want to ask him "What the hell are you doing, you idiot?" (No, I have never done and will never do this). They know tailgating and speeding is wrong, so what makes them so special that they can violate the law like they are not supposed to and get away with it? In poker, why does the donkey play like they are not supposed to and get away with it by winning? That's how it makes me feel. It's like a kind of "road rage" to me.

I get a type of relief when I type the word "idiot" or "donkey" (Oh yeah. Another one I have used is "clueless"). It's just barely enough revenge to satisfy the rage that has been caused. However, there's no way I'd ever do this playing live. I've been beaten by some pretty horrible plays in live games and I've shown restraint and professionalism. Not because they were bigger than me (one was a tiny lady), but because I value my personal image. When asked about how well he takes bad beats, I saw Howard Lederer on TV say "I don't get visibly upset because I don't want them to know how bad I feel." So I've remembered this and I try to live by it, also.

The worst part is that I've been called names online and have scoffed at it. I've never really cussed online, but I've been called just about every name in the book (and my mother, too). I even made a post to this blog entitled "Verbal Abuse In Online Poker". So why do I myself do it? Lack of consequences, maybe? Revenge factor?

I guess the online thing has the aspect of anonymity and all I am is a name online. No face, no "personal image". Just words on a screen. It still doesn't make it right, but I think that's why I am a name caller. If I want to stop this, I'll need to address the "rage" feeling first so the urge for retaliation will not come up again. Why do I get that feeling that I've been violated? Maybe I'm feeling robbed or something? I dunno. Half the time, I then go on tilt the next few hands. Not good. Maybe I'll go back and read the book called "The Tao of Poker". It addresses the issue of tilt in depth.

So I hereby apologize to every online player I've ever called a name and I pledge to try to overcome my problem for the good of myself and the game of poker.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Poker Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Great news from the US political front regarding the UIGEA:

http://www.professional-poker.com/news/2007/mar/916-barney-frank-uigea.htm

Things are looking better every day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Neteller Customer Coalition

I found some info that could help the folks who have money still stuck in Neteller:

http://www.professional-poker.com/news/2007/mar/915-neteller-customer-coalition.htm

I guess the group is all about being prepared to act if the court case requires it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Thoughts on "Poker Goals"

I've seen threads on Cardschat.com regarding "poker goals" and I've been thinking about mine a bit. As someone with a sales background, I know the importance of setting goals for one's self. If they are for things like losing weight or sales quotas, a person can set the goal with a certain time frame to achieve it. A person can monitor their progress and step it up if they fall behind or cruise if they are assured of hitting the goal in the homestretch. But in poker, things are not so predictable or easy to monitor. You can't "try harder" if you are behind or "slow down" when you are ahead of pace. If a player does those things in poker, they will either start tilting or start missing bets or pots. "Poker goals" are an entirely different animal than regular goals.

I'm of the opinion that poker goals must be adjustable because there are so many uncontrollable factors affecting our play. The nearest I can tell at lower levels, every cash table and every tourney table is different. The players or even the type of players is rarely the same. Even in freerolls this is true. Also, the cards never fall the same way at each table. No matter how much we poker fanatics deny it, luck will always be a factor in our game to varying degrees. Even the best poker pros in the world get robbed on the river.

I usually have a daily goal, a monthly goal, and a long-term goal tucked away somewhere. But I know the each can change at anytime. So when and how should we "adjust" our goals? I usually start a day of poker with a realistic goal relating to an amount I want to make. Then as the day passes, I assess that goal as conditions change. About every hour I consider things like if I'm tense, if I ran into some good players, if I had some bad beats. I'll even go back and look at some hands to see if I lost because of luck or bad play (I'm about 50/50, so far). If I'm running a negative amount, I usually reset my goal to getting back to or slightly back over "even".

So why reset a goal? Isn't that cheating, as goals go? My opinion is "No". The simplest way to explain my reasoning is just to re-utter that worn out phrase "That's poker." Basically translated, it means "I played that hand perfectly and I still lost. The luck in poker is what got me." Though it is advisable to avoid being "results-oriented" and to always play that hand the exact same correct way when faced with it again, I still think a player should then adjust his goal in allowance for the bad luck hand (or even the bad luck day or week, in some cases). I'd allow this since the play was correct and the result shouldn't penalize the player and hurt his progress towards his goal. I'd categorize this the same as having to take a week off from poker to go visit sick Aunt Bessie. An adjustment would surely be in order then.

It's all psychological. If a person wants to progress in their poker achievements, I think they should be able to adjust on the fly as conditions dictate. They should be able to treat themselves to a sense of accomplishment, even though they lost. It's good for the confidence. Now when I fail to reach a daily or even monthly goal, I do analyze my play and fix what needs it. I don't always "make excuses" for why I shouldn't worry about it. There's been plenty of times when my adjusted goal wasn't achieved and I had to realize I failed. Making goals would be fruitless if I always tried to "adjust" my way out of them. But I always keep perspective and put blame where it deserves to be. I think it's OK to be happy about a small loss and to also be unhappy with a big win. Luck can decide it both ways.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

My Thoughts on "Coming Back"

To me, a day where I lose a decent amount of bankroll early and come back to near-even can be at times more satisfying than a big day on the plus side. Even though I make little or no profit on those days, it feels like a very nice accomplishment. I guess it comes from remembering those days when I wasn't able to come back.

There's a zone that I sometimes get into. A "bad zone" where there's an element of panic, one of frustration, one of self-doubt, with a dash of self-pity thrown in. A bad recipe! Sure sounds like "tilt", but there's more to it. I bet many others have experienced it. Maybe you lose a couple big hands to bad beats or just bad plays on your part. You see your bankroll take a hit, so you switch tables. A couple more losses and you're ready for some sit-n-go's. You make a big bluff and some donkey calls it with 3rd pair and you're out. You try another SnG and another. Then you are down twice as much as when you were at the ring tables. I think we've all been there.

Well then, what are the keys to a correct recovery? I'm not a full-fledged poker expert, but I'm learning some of these keys by trial and error. Everyone pretty much knows that you should avoid panic/tilt and shouldn't get desperate. But the first key I have found that helps in this specific situation is to stay with the same type of game you began the day with. The reason is that you are looking for that satisfaction of conquering the monster that brought you down. If I lose some on a ring table, I switch to a different table of the same stakes or lower (bad idea to ever go up in stakes here). If I lose a couple SnG's, I try a lower buy-in or try turbo or even a different site's SnG's. I just stay with the same type of game because the satisfaction of a comeback will be greater than just the bankroll recovery. If I'm even or ahead for the day, then I'm OK with switching games to fight boredom.

How far back do I need to come to be satisfied? Well, I'd say around halfway back usually does it for me personally. If I get down $30 and can get back to under -$20, I usually feel good. Sometimes 1 or 2 SnG cashes usually does the trick, no matter the dollar amount. The key here is that everyone has their own threshold for satisfaction.

What if I can't get back to around "half down"? The key is that you gotta know when to stop. Lately I have gotten a good feel for when I should stop until tomorrow. Then I can usually carry over the comeback exercise to the next day and try to get the same satisfaction. Say if I lose $30 in a day and quit, my satisfaction would still exist if I make back $14 the next day.

This all depends on the confidence you have in your game. I've worked my way up from 1c/2c & 2c/4c NLHE, where a bustout doesn't hurt so badly, to 5c/10c & 10c/25c, which is within the limits of my current bankroll. At my current level, I have the confidence that I can lose half my stack and still come back to satisfaction. If you don't have that kind of confidence, stay in the lower stakes until you do. This goes back to some of my previous posts on what I call "Poker Psychology".

OK, what if I reverse it? Say I play about even all day and run bad late in the day before I have to hit the sack. What then? I personally try to think of how well I played until the bad run and just try to duplicate that tomorrow. Maybe try to postpone the comeback feeling until tomorrow. Try to link the days together. Hey, isn't life a big "comeback"?

It's all about not digging yourself a deep hole. It's about trying to stay positive. It's about avoiding desperation. I believe that confidence plays a major role in it all. That role is even bigger than the role bankroll size plays. A player could have a $10,000 bankroll. But if they don't have the confidence (and skill, of course) big enough to match that number, they had better stick with nickels until they do.