In February last year I managed to ship the now defunct Blackpool Megastack £100 tournament (even sweeter I stacked NoCash in the final!). Before you switch off thinking this is a blatant brag post, just bear with me.
At the end of the tournament I did my usual facebooking and tweeting about how everyone sucked and about how awesome I was. It's all said in jest and just for shits and giggles, but little did I know that karma was waiting round the corner for me. Following that tournament I didn't book a winning live session for 3.5 months. Not a single one! I was playing cash games, tournaments, NL, PLO, dealers choice...... I'd have played anything to try and break the downswing! I couldn't win a flip, every draw was getting there vs me and my draws were bricking left right and centre. I begun to get into really bad habits, playing boards in ways to try and minimise variance rather than maximising EV. I was playing very passively preflop, scared of getting into flips or 60/40s as I knew I was 'cursed' and 'couldn't ever win' any of these hands.
I was very down on the game, myself and was on the verge of quitting and finding a new hobby. Fortunately for me, I'm lucky enough to know some quality people in the game who I can talk to about things and gain perspective. I'm also extremely lucky to have such a wonderful, nurturing home life to fall back on and make me feel better about myself. I spent a lot of time analysing my game, trying to 'break the curse' that I thought had fallen on me.
I am not a religious man, never have been really. As a Scientist I am a big believer that we are just very little people on a very little rock flying though an infinitely big universe. I do not believe that whichever God you choose to believe in created life. I am a firm believer that life evolved and by the process of natural selection inched its way forward, changing slowly and gradually until it became an overweight, balding bloke sat in his dressing gown writing a blog on a laptop. Natural selection, for those of you who don't know, is based on the principles of 'survival of the fittest' - certain members of a species gain an advantage over the population and pass these advantages onto their offspring who in turn do the same and so on and so on. The rest of the population either adapt or they die.....simples.
I don't think there is a better analagy for poker then this. Making a career in poker really is 'Survival of the fittest'. You either adapt, evolve and survive or your bankroll becomes extinct. Last year's downswing for me was my moment in time where I either adapted or became extinct. I made a conscious decision to engage my horrendous attitude towards the game and do something positive about things. In short, I bought a book.
If you haven't read this book and want to be successful in poker, read it. Then read it again. Then read it again. It changed my attitude towards my game immeasurably and helped to resolve the deep rooted mental game issues I had developed and tortured myself with.
I began to put some of the suggestions in the book into practice and I think the big turning point for me was a cash game session I had during the APAT World Championships at DTD last August. I had had a solid week, coming third in the HU comp and putting several solid winning cash game sessions together. Also, a couple of heavy morale boosting drinking sessions had taken place and life was good. NoCash was crushing the ME and I had sat down, with a NoCash inspired hangover to play some £0.50/1 NL to pass the time until he was done. Within about an hour I was 5 buy-ins (£500) down. I hadn't played a hand badly or been coolered, I was just having one of those horrible runs of cards we all experience from time to time. Two months earlier and I would have ranted, raged called my opponents retards and the poker Gods cunts. Basically, I'd have done all the things mental game fish do. In that moment of time, I didn't do any of this; I calmly reloaded and proceeded to play in exactly the same way and 4 hours later I was out of the 5BI hole I'd dug. As NoCash continued to crush, I continued to play my A game in the cash game and by the time Nocash had reached the final table, I'd booked a nice win. MBN to also have 10% of the reigning APAT World Champ as well!
This session gave me belief in my game and belief in my mental strength. Its a fond memory I draw on when times at the felt are tough and I need to inspire myself.
It was the moment I came splashing out the water and used my fins on the land.
It was the moment I evolved.
8 months later, I can honestly say I have not tilted in a cash game. I don't win every session obviously, nobody does but its not the most important thing for me anymore. Whats more important for me is not the monetary result of a session but how I played during the session. I keep stringent records of my wins/losses in terms of money and in terms of what level game I think I played. I am brutally honest with myself and continue to work hard on my game at every opportunity I have.
This mental strength and positive approach to my game has been the final straw that has tipped the balance in my difficult decision I described in my last blog.
The decision has been made and I have officially handed in my notice at work today. At the end of this term, I will no longer be a Science teacher, I will be the fish that has crawled onto land and attempted to pick up the playing cards in front of him.
Thanks for taking the time to read, feel free to hit me up on twitter (@Awesome_Hutch) if you want.
Next blog post will be something completely different, stay tuned.