Monday, 30 July 2012

Coping with loss

Week 1 is in the books and I broke even.

Week 1 breakdown:

Sounds shit, but I got off to a terrible start earlier in the week at Manchester G where I think I played well but ran badly and suffered a fairly substantial loss. I am obviously aware this is going to happen but it doesn't make it any less frustrating (cue the 'that's poker' comments) but it serves to highlight what I wanted to talk about this week and that's coping with loss.

A logical mind will quickly realise that it is impossible to win at poker every time. Most people who play the game are reasonably intelligent and also know this fact to be true. You are constantly up against probability and skilled, deceitful opponents and all we can do is attempt to put our money in +EV spots against our opponent's perceived ranges and hope for the best. We all know this, yet how many people know a local reg who constantly complain about 'fish' playing badly and 'you'll never guess what he called my 3bet with preflop...' etc. I can picture a couple now and sometimes I wonder how I keep a straight face when they are discussing the 'fish' and their play. Why are people surprised when calling stations call and fish play badly preflop? Why are people upset at calling stations calling and fish playing badly preflop - surely this is a fantastic spot for us to be in?

 It all boils down to mental approach and the ability to think logically in emotional, adrenaline fuelled situations.

I'm sure some of these regs are competent players who have the technical skills to be decent players, however they will never achieve much in the game as they cannot cope with loss. Working at making variance your bitch is something we should all be striving towards as it makes is better players and better human beings.
Here's some strategies I use to help deal with bad beats and cope with loss:
1. Say 'nice hand' to your opponent -  Mentally this helps me to move onto the next hand without resentment towards the villain who just got lucky.
2. Disect the hand after your session - Don't sit and stew about the hand there and then. Your focus needs to be on the next hand, not the previous one. People and variance will not go easy on you just because you had a bad beat last hand.
3. Don't panic - reload and start again. Poker is a never ending game and there will always be another hand.
4. Don't be results orientated - just because you lost one hand doesn't mean you played it badly, nor does it mean you are 'cursed' or your opponent is a fish. You might have played it badly, but see point 2!
5.  Recognise signs of tilt - I cannot stress how important this is. If you are tilting, go home or turn the computer off. It is the single biggest leak in anyone's game and the good players are very adept at spotting when someone is steaming and adjusting their ranges accordingly. Tilt is a personal, emotional response and I cannot tell you how to spot when you are tilting because it is different for everyone. The way I spot when I am tilting is when my protocol for decision making goes astray. I have a set pattern of things I do before I make a decision (eg: Who's opened, stack size, position, hand I have etc......) and when I'm tilting I just throw the chips in and see what happens on the flop. The first step in dealing with tilt is recognising it!

I will say here before I get abuse that I am human and sometimes the system breaks down. I am not faultless at the mental side of the game no matter how many times I claim to be a mental game ninja - it's a work in progress. No-one is a robot and as human beings we are all susceptible to allowing emotions to cloud our judgement. The key to mental strength is to limit this or more importantly, recognise it when it is happening and deal with it positively!

So back to Manchester G earlier in the week. I played for about 7 hours and after the final bad beat I could feel myself starting to tilt so I picked up my stuff and headed for the car. I was not prepared to risk any more of my roll when my decision making process was compromised. What I will say is that the game was juicy and definitely worth travelling for and I'll certainly be heading back there shortly to give it another go. The long and short of it is this:  I suffered a loss, but it doesn't make me a bad player or make my decision to leave my job wrong. It means I suffered a loss.

Had a good think about the session on the drive home and on Wednesday morning. I analysed spots, put opponents on ranges, calculated odds, ran a couple of things through poker stove and after this careful, analytical process I came to the following well thought out conclusion.

Variance is a bitch.

Thinking long term, I'm pleased with my response to the tough situation and pleased with my mental strength in adversity.

I managed a second place in a small comp at the Blackpool G Wednesday night (wp Sir @Mike Thomas) and followed that up with two solid wins in local NL games and a small loss in a dealers choice game on Saturday to finish the week level. I bricked a comp on the Sunday night but won the buy-in during the break in a  cash game so no harm done!

Week 1 of my new career and I broke even - and I'm ok with that!

The week ahead

Lots of good stuff happening this week. Firstly, starting tonight I am attempting the Genting Poker Speed Challenge. Basically, you play speed poker on the Genting skin for 24 hours and they calculate points based on Raked Hands/Total Hands x Hands won. The winner gets a £1k package to the GPS of their choice. Currently, NoCash is smashing it after a monster session on Saturday. He appplied the 'sex,drugs and rock/roll' approach (porn, pro-plus and Ipods......). I'm going for the more scientific approach - I will be drinking plenty of water and eating a lot of fruit and slow release carbs like granola etc. I'm taking no stimulants although I will probably drink some black coffee. I'm also going to schedule regular, shorter breaks where I will either walk around the block or shower to try and shake off some of the cobwebs. I do fully intend to play the entire 24 hours and am weirdly looking forward to it. I'll probably feel different this time tomorrow when I'm 10 hours in! I'll be posting an update thread on RaisetheRiver and AWOP so feel free to follow me and offer support (AWOP) and abuse (RTR) throughout.

From Thursday next week it's the Stoke GPS, a £440 buy-in comp guaranteed at 100k. I qualified for this in an online satellite earlier in the year and am really looking forward to it. It will be my first away trip since retiring from teaching and my first bigger buy-in MTT for a while. I'm playing day 1b on Friday and am staying over from Friday to Sunday. It's going to be very well attended and I'm sure there will be juicy cash games if I bust early followed by the Anniversary Cup (£150 with 6k added turbo) on Sunday. Would be fantastic to get a draw early on but I'm sure it will be a tough field. I'm looking forward to the challenge and hoping to be on the right side of variance!

Feel free to follow me on twitter (@awesome_hutch)/facebook and message me in any questions which I'll answer honestly and frankly.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

GG Education

Well, it's all over. My 8 year career as a Science teacher has come and go and I'm beginning my new life as a full-time degenerate gambler.

It's been a torrid last few weeks with so many loose ends to tie up and having to deal with the emotional part of leaving a job that I am so invested in. However, that's the decision I made months ago and I feel proud that I did not compromise or let my standards drop over the final term. The hardest part of leaving has definitely been some of my pupils getting upset and seeing my decision as a personal slight on them. Dealing with 'perceived rejection' is hard for anyone, but add in the hormonal rollercoaster these teenagers are going through and you get the following equation (#lovemaths):

                                  Teacher leaving + teenagers + hormones = shitloads of tears.

I'm so grateful to the friends I have in the poker community who have been so supportive of me. A big thank you to Fistby, Doublebubble and Kav who offered me plenty of well wishes and support and occasionally NoShoes who managed to mix in his standard obnoxious insults with some well wishes. I repaid these guys by turning up after double figures in pints of Guinness Friday night at the local £25 donkament at the Blackpool Circus. I didn't last long - both pokerwise and liver wise. GG.

I fit in some poker over the weekend after shaking off the hangover at the Bolton GUKPT festival Saturday and Sunday. My recent tournament form has been ok and I've binked two live comps since my last blog. I bust the £50 turbo fairly early on the Saturday but went deep in the £75 bounty on the Sunday, making the final two tables before busting my big stack in unfortunate, but standard fashion. Felt I played well in spots but did miss value in others. My tournament game is rusty tbh, I'm feeling a bit unsure about people's shoving and calling ranges which I'm usually pretty good at when I'm playing my A game.  Was nice to meet a few of the regs up there again, including Disco, Topping and Si Cawley and I'm sure I'll be seeing more of these guys over the upcoming months. Was also encouraging to see Paul 'Cinders' Worsely and Dave Wearing win big in the £250 and £500 ME respectively. Couldn't happen to two nicer guys (except me obv). I managed a couple of hours on the cash games where I felt far more at home and grinded out a couple of smallish wins without incident.

Looking forward to grinding the local cash games and I've started a thread on AWOP ( ) for people to speak up for their local games. I do want to travel a bit so I can try out the different casinos and the cash games they offer. I think we get a poor deal as cash game players as tournaments are (nearly)always well publicised and often have added value, but the cash games get nothing like that. The G have recently dropped their rewards points to 60p an hour and you only get these if you specifically ask for your card to be activated. We bring in far more money in rake to the casinos than the tournaments and it would be nice if they recognised this occassionally and offered us some added value. Please speak up on the thread for your local games and we can generate our own resources of the games in the NW that are running.

I'm going to be aiming to update this blog every Monday now and feel free to post or tweet me any questions and I'll do my best to answer them honestly. I received a question this week on twitter from @adam_mackay1  which was pretty tough to answer in 140 characters or less. His question was ,

'What rate do you figure you need to win at to beat the rake in a live 1/2 game?'.

This is obviously a question I've given a fair amount of thought to and is integral to my decision to give up my job. It's also a very difficult question to answer for a number of reasons. Online pros can consult the HEM databases and calculate all kinds of figures from their huge number of hands that can be used to work out hourly win rates or win rates per 100BB. It's very difficult to do that in a live scenario and its also difficult to get a sample size big enough for it to mean anything. I do keep stringent records of my play in live cash games and I tend to record per session rather than per hour. Other factors that make it difficult are tables are very varied in their hands per hour, their rake and the players playing. Three bits of advice I will offer are:
1. Keep records that allow you to compare different casinos/games (ie games, location and wins/losses).
2. Use these records to 'table select'. Pick the games which are best for you and avoid the ones you think are toughest.
3. To avoid being results orientated, record how you think you played as well. Give yourself a mark out of ten, or ABCDE or anything you're comfortable with. Its something Jared Tendler advocates in his Mental Game of Poker that has become my bible.

Without going into specific figures, the rake is definitely beatable but it is 100% better to push casinos for session fees rather than rake wherever possible.

Finally, a plea from me to all casino players. Over the weekend at Bolton, I saw 7 different people walking out the toilet without washing their hands. This is just unacceptable - you will be returning to the tables and handling the chips and cards that everyone else is! On our hands we have huge numbers of bacteria and other micro-organsims anway, but after urinating this number doubles according to the Food Standards Agency!  I googled this stat when writing this blog :

'A case-control study of 6,080 school children showed that those who regularly washed their hands after using the toilet during the day, in addition to normal hand cleaning habits, experienced 20% fewer absences due to illness.'

An absolute no-brainer and something we should all be doing!

Thanks for taking the time to read and feel free to ask any questions that I can try and answer in my blog next week.