Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 106: In a Groove

I'd like to think I'm now playing the best poker of my life.

But it's entirely possible that I'm just delusional. God knows, my online results are in the toilet. Both cash and tournament play online have just been a litany of horrible, horrible outcomes. I've given back nearly a third of my online bankroll, and that's pretty appalling. That's more than a bit of a downswing, that's like falling off a freaking cliff.

However, my live game has been in overdrive. I had that fabulous run last Friday, and tonight I played great in a tournament (although I didn't cash), and then I went to the Crime Scene game and just rocked the house. I was in the zone and it was so much fun.

Again, the cards cooperated, for the most part. I didn't take any horrendous beats. I got away from hands that might have done me major damage. My image is fairly well established with the regulars, and this allows me to steal with impunity from time to time. I am playing with a greatly enhanced positional awareness, and I think this ~ in conjunction with a willingness to fold when my gut tells me I'm beat ~ is contributing substantially to my success.

There are few things I find more pleasurable than experiencing my own competence in action. Poker is tailor-made to frustrate that experience with great regularity. Because luck is such a large component of the game, it can be very hard to distinguish between periods of good and bad luck and periods of greater and lesser competence. Maybe this is all just positive variance. It doesn't feel that way, but we all know that, when it comes to poker, feelings can be deceptive.

If I had to identify the biggest difference in the way I'm playing since my return from the last AC trip, it is that I'm doing less overt thinking about my play. It seems that I've internalized many of the calculation and observation processes, and they are now taking place more in the background rather than the foreground. I'm still doing math and profiling my opponents, but those activities are not projected IN HEADLINE TYPE on my mental screen, where they can become a distraction. This is freeing me up to pay attention to my gut and my instincts, to relax more and agonize less. I am experiencing the game as a gestalt that flows, rather than merely a series of punctuated and independent decision-points. As a result, I'm not only playing better, I'm enjoying it a whole lot more.

My guess is, these changes (improvements?) are much more significant in live play than online. I have so much more information to work with, and find it so much easier to maintain my concentration and attention in live games. I don't get as bored, and I don't fall as often into rote decision-making patterns. I also tilt less.

Again, it's entirely possible that this is all just some kind of fluke, and I haven't really learned or gotten better at the game in any meaningful way. I suppose time will tell.

Live bankroll: 115.5%
Live ROI: 23%
[Stats include travel-related expenses.]



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