Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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Get Into It This Time

When you look for an escape in this game that’s all you end up getting out of it.

I haven’t blogged in a bit, life’s been kind of hectic. I got moved into my new place. I’m pretty happy with it. There’s an office, a library, a big living room, two big bedrooms, bigger kitchen then I had before, washer/dryer area, storage closet, and a big garage. Everything is pretty close, so I can actually have food delivered while I’m playing. There’s a dog park next door, but the first time I took my poodle there he found a way to escape and he ran in front of a bus. Freaked me out a bit. The neighborhood’s quiet. I’m friends with the neighbor’s dog, so he seems to holler extra loud when someone comes near my place now. I’m trying to think of a problem I’ve had with the place but I can’t really come up with one. Nice blank to draw.

I’ve been doing alright, just watching my friends crush for a bit. Naza114 had a triple crown and six final table day last week, so crazy to watch. Kid’s my hero. When I met him he was the most earnest and hard working grinder you could imagine, and he just keeps growing as a player. I really like his game time decisions, how he stays into it. His attitude’s a great reminder of what it takes to be a real professional. He’s just always playing his hardest, every hand, whether he’s playing for a 100k or 1k.

Me, I haven’t been doing too much. A final table here and there, a couple 30rs, won a small small turbo on iPoker, but nothing really clicking. Just had a couple weeks of not really connecting when I needed to, and not making some great decisions. It bugs me because I had a huge rush after PCA, but I didn’t play it well. It’s hard to have a huge huge edge in MTTs anymore, so a lot of your bottom line is determined by how well you manage the good weeks. If you make a few final tables and don’t take the fourth one as seriously you’ll be banging your head against the wall later when you’re not running as well, wondering why you didn’t pay more attention during your good run.

I handled a few real key decisions wrong. Now I’m not running so well.

Well I guess you could make the case going from final two table chip leader to not making the final table of PCA was not running well to begin with, but…I don’t know. You get bored with looking back at some point. Nothing really for you there.

If you really think about it in poker you can go crazy. I’ve finished final two tables of five different Stars live events, I have one final table that I busted out quickly from. I can rethink so many fourbet jams into the nuts, suckouts, spewy threebet bluffs, whatever. I can go “if this and this worked out I’m at so and so’s earnings”. I admit it I’ve done it before, but the more I work on poker as an actual job the more I just see the pointlessness in looking back, unless it’s to learn how you can be better going forward. I’ve been playing tournaments professionally for five years, and watched the whole world of it get flipped around. There’s tons of guys that look back, to when they were killing it, and just being pissed they don’t have it anymore.

I guess that’s why I’m really trying to get into it this time, and stay positive and open minded. Talking to newer guys helps a lot, because they still have that fire, that wonderment, that “wow I’m making six figures in my early twenties, now how can I really leave my mark?” So many of the guys I used to hang out with are so sarcastic, jaded, and lazy, I can’t stand it. You’re 25 and been around half the world playing for millions of dollars, why keep bumming over variance? Why balk at studying more?

I admit, this last week I kind of felt out of sorts. Just running bad and not thinking clearly, frustrated by so many near hits. Nothing to complain about, just the usual rough patch that comes up with professional gambling. But when you’re inside a house all day and left to your own devices its so easy to get caught up in your head, negative, or tired. There’s a lot of equity in just stepping away from the game for a day to review hand histories and watch some training videos. Or hell, just do something outdoors, go play with your dog in the park for a few hours, ride a bike, whatever, get away from the computer. Then come home and be totally lazy, play some video games, catch up on TV shows. Hang out with your girlfriend or your friends. If it makes you feel closer to 100% the next day its worth the day off to not play “meh” poker for a week.

For a long time after I got sober I felt like I was running against this clock. Playing the games now, I feel so stupid, knowing I was high for most of the years when poker players weren’t that advanced. When I did get my life together momentarily I was always withdrawing, which could be almost as bad. Now to be completely clear minded…poker is so fun now. I love my job. I love learning. I feel like I’m playing so well. It’s just annoying to think about all the years people didn’t have the first clue about poker, and how if I put the kind of study in I’ve been putting in the last two years…man if I did that at the beginning, how much money was out there? Damn.

I’ve never been, in my mind, that remarkable of an MTTer. I’ve blown most of my big opportunities. I blew the huge roll I had. I know a lot of guys like me, who were doing decent a few years ago, who rolled it up into a huge roll and started backing a bunch of their friends. For 90% of them they went broke. A lot of them got strung out. If I wanted to look at them for pointers I’d be pretty worried right now, almost none of them turned it around. A lot of them just seem to grind like a zombie when they do play now, making their $20,000 a year when they’re not drowning in makeup.

I’m trying to look at the new guys who really seem to have a handle on things, and a fresh perspective. Vets are really good to watch too, but I see them pass up on +EV spots simply because they didn’t grow up with it. A lot of them seem to just take the safest possible option on every play, their selective memory telling them they’re more likely to get drawn out on then the other guy. I really want to study some game film of a few of my friends when they’re massively multitabling, see what small spots they pass up on that occupies me too much, what small spots they drill that I don’t pay attention to.

Despite how much more educated the players get new killer players come up every year. I want to know what separates them. What understandings did they come to in their study a year ago that we all missed three years ago. What’s naturally built into them?

I’ve never gone this hard in poker, studying this much every day, and never drinking or smoking because I want that feeling of complete sober calm. I know other players can drink seemingly every night and still play killer sessions the next day but my body is just so weak when it comes to substances, I get wrung out and tense so easily. I’m feeling so damn on when I get the right amount of sleep, put in some push-ups and road work in the morning, eat home cooked meals, and drink Costa Rican coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice. I really feel like I’m where I need to be, where a grinder should dream to be. I’m just trying to take advantage of it now.

For years I was a real lazy reg. Talking with a few players on Skype for poker discussions I feel is keeping me on my game. They’re all such hard workers, and just winners in their mindset. If they can work toward it they’re going to do it. It motivates me.

Before, I didn’t really care about anything but putting in anything but the standard amount of work, and getting enough money to keep travelling, keep partying. Staying in outer space so I never had to look at the mess I made on the ground. It just wasn’t how I was brought up, to put my all into something. I did at the beginning, but that’s because I was a fanatic about the game. It’s easy to stay focused when you’re living in some apartment complex known for how many people committed suicide there. It’s easy to stay into it when you got back from a stint at commercial fishing, and you realize real men with real families have to put in sixteen hour days putting their life on the line to support their families. After a while in poker la-la land, where all your friends are making six figures and playing credit card roulette for sometimes thousands every night, you become disconnected, spoiled, and rotten.

It’s not till you have only a mattress on the floor, an ash tray, and a thirty dollar desk in some boarded up apartment in San Jose that you realize…what this game means.

It just never made sense to me. My family wasn’t the Brady Bunch, but my mom never told me I couldn’t do something. We just were all into whatever substance we were on at that point. I was a clown in school, annoying. I got good grades in most classes but others I couldn’t wrap my head around. I got to a point in math where I barely was keeping up with the other kids. I probably studied more than most kids in my Japanese class but was the worst student. I didn’t take either subject seriously at the beginning of high school, but when I really put my all into it I was still at the back of the class, confused. I liked poker in school, took it more seriously than anything I’d ever seen, because I thought it was the way out. I never thought I’d be great at it. It just seems to be one of the things I could do okay at. Some kids could always kick my ass, my roommate especially, but I could always start a game in the back of a class and make five or ten bucks.

College never even really came up as a topic between my parents and I, my teachers and I. In a very well-off high school where pretty much everyone was going on to some higher education, I guess that should have bugged me. I just thought about poker as some pipe dream. I knew I’d probably be killing myself at some normal job, looking to get some credits at a community college. Nothing wrong with that, but my family was losing our house, I couldn’t live with my mom anymore, and I was on my own, bumming rooms from my friends, working whatever job I got. I wasn’t sad, I was happy to be on my own, and nobody held me down, but I did kind of have this attitude of “whatever I get is not deserved.”

When I wrote freelance and reviewed video games they’d always take me 1.5x as long to finish as it did for my colleagues. I tried so hard in a lot of classes and barely hung on. I was the slowest learned at a fast food restaurant, I mean, shit, that’s some aloofness/stupidity. My boss when I was commercial fishing I’m pretty sure thought I was retarded at some point, it took me so long to learn anything with my hands. I had this attitude at 18 of, you know, “maybe at 22 I’ll have an okay apartment, be playing poker semi-seriously, have a job I don’t hate, taking some classes, dating a girl whose not 200 pounds.”

Then I’m 19, splitting my time between this high-rise condo in Seoul, and this really nice apartment in Seattle. WTF?

I thought my attitude of whatever comes is extra for me, I don’t deserve anything…I thought it’d make me humble. But I realize you have to be a little entitled in this game, you have to put in enough work that you think you deserve it. Otherwise, you expect nothing, the game’s just going to go past you. And damn it went past me at different times.

I feel bad when I see a bunch of American regs finally get relocated and back on Stars. Their game was a little dated before Black Friday, now it’s garbage. They play full sessions for like a week and then you see them on once in a while. I can’t imagine having some of the entitlement a few of them have, with no work to really back it up. Then you just get your ass handed to you by these new Euro regs who’ve been on, what, a year? Must feel pretty daunting. I guess that’s why a lot of them don’t get over it.

I’m just trying to change what I can change now. Blogging, because writing keeps me into it. Studying with my friends, because it’s keeping me actively updating what I think about poker. Watching Pocketfives Training and Cardrunner vids, trying to get one in a day. Doing five lessons a week. Getting in Pocketfives Training videos. Watching televised poker again because it makes me more of a fan of the game. Ordered my 30″ monitor, it should be here in a few days. Moved to a house with way more security, super high-speed stable internet connections, and more space. Also in a new place I can get some necessary papers for Party Poker, because they don’t seem to like the papers every other site is accepting.

I found a sick line the other day I should have been doing for years. Discovering stuff like that makes me still thrilled to put in work outside of the tables. It might take thirty videos to find that line but if its going to make you thousands over the coming years you’re a fool for not looking for it.

The hardest part is being patient. Sometimes I want things to change all at once, but it’s a gradual process. Real gradual. This last week, I don’t know what was with me, I made a small final table and just couldn’t stay focused, I was so out of it. I have to tell my friends I’m at a final table sometimes, because if they’re watching I can’t check out. I probably wouldn’t have done some of the dumb call downs I did if they were able to go “what in the hell Alex?”

I think that’s the most difficult part of being a reg whose been doing this since I was out of high school. I’ve played so many pointless hands, put in so many worthless hours, grinded myself down so much, gone through so much money – it can all feel pretty routine now. It’s hard to convince your mind you’re really saving money in CDs and percentages of other companies when the other 17 times you made real money you blew it. I don’t feel any of it, which is great deep in a pretty big tournament, awful for a lot of the day-to-day grind that requires active focus. I guess this blog helps that. Reporting to a bunch of strangers what you’re doing makes you a little more accountable. Competing with your friends also makes you want to stay on your game.

I gotta go get my jog in at the local university track and fire up a session. Gl to all of you.

1 comment:

roi_MM said...

Simply amazing post. I will read it again soon, right now I'm thinking about lots of things. I'll contact you soon Alex.