Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

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

Friday, March 27, 2009

Running Bad

Running bad is a lot like a very specific kind of nightmare.

We all know that invisible brick walls are relatively rare. Once in a while, though, you are walking along perfectly competently, making progress on your journey, and **WHAM** you stride face-first into an invisible brick wall. Upon impact, it snaps temporarily into visibility, and it generally has some kind of label on it like "bad beat" or "cooler." (Occasionally it's marked "stupid play," but those walls are usually semi-transparent, rather than invisible, and if you're paying attention you notice that kind and climb over or walk around them.)

In any case, you stanch the nosebleed or bandage the cuts, ignore the black eye, and carry on. You get back on the right path and you pick up some steam. You may even be jogging a little. There's a pleasant breeze, the sun is shining, and all is right with your world.


It happened again. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on down the road.


You start to suspect that there is a construction crew deliberately building invisible brick walls exactly where they know you are going. The walls are fiendishly designed and strategically placed to catch you exactly in mid-stride and face-first. Other people seem to know how to avoid them. Other people seem to miraculously find the gaps in the wall and slip right on through.

After the fourth or fifth such collision, not only are you a bloody mess, but you are also a nervous wreck. It's hard to march boldly forth when all your recent experience doing so has resulted in high-impact injuries. You start to suspect the presence of walls that simply aren't there. You become more tentative; you cover less ground. But eventually you gird your loins, settle your mind, and step out in faith once again.

And it will be just when you are persuaded that it's finally going to be smooth sailing from here on out (how many walls, can there really be? the path can't be -all- walls, after all!) ~ the coast is clear and you're running swiftly downwind ~ that you will once again **WHAM** smack headlong into one of those stealth walls.

But this time, you'll be sure it was your fault. You should have seen it coming, somehow. You should have proceeded with more caution. You should be inching your way forward by feel, maybe with a blind person's cane, not trotting along like a vacationer without a care.

In short, you SUCK as a traveler. Stay home, for god's sake. You just don't have what it takes: you are wall-prone.

Remember, it's only a nightmare. Just a bad, bad dream. There is no conspiracy. There's no extraordinary density of walls on your path compared to anyone else's. And besides, those bruises add character to your appearance. Next time you'll know better, right?

The clear archway cut through the ordinary, run-of-the-mill wall, that passage through the entirely visible plain brick wall, is actually **WHAM** sealed with invisible bricks.

Oops: too bad for you.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sympathize with your losing streak. I have been on a losing streak for about 3 yrs. now. I used to win most of the cash games I played in (not so good in tourn play)but it all changed for the worse. I win the little pots but when it gets to the big pots where I either lose or win big for the game..the opp sucks out. Most of the time I am in with the best hand and the opp hits a 5,4,or even a 2 outer. It is very hard to overcome the negative thoughts that this brings on and it also causes me to be over cautious and to miss "value bets" when I should do so.
Let me know if you come up with a method to overcome the "running bad" and can get back on track.

3/28/09 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of the best descriptions of running bad that I have ever read. I have found that it doesn't take too long before running bad turns into playing suboptimally, which turns into playing badly. I'm sure that I don't have anything to offer that you don't already know, but... Tighten up, especially in EP. Select your starting hands so that you'll have easy decisions as the hand progresses. Keep playing what you know to be good game.

3/29/09 7:39 PM  
Anonymous joxum said...

oh yes, the game we all love so much! But - eventually it will stop. You will play better, you will get more confidence and you will start winning the important pots again.

It'll happen. Even to you, believe it or not.


3/30/09 5:01 PM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Take this for what it's worth. When I get in a slump, I'll occasionally try something different. I usually play NL, so I might switch to limit for a while. If my tournaments are going badly, I'll skip a few. I don't know if you can do this, but sometimes I'll take a week off -- when I return, I feel fresh again.

Just some thoughts. GL.

3/30/09 5:31 PM  
Blogger genomeboy said...

thin skin, eh?

3/30/09 9:54 PM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

@genome boy: yeah, I'm a complete wuss.

3/30/09 10:04 PM  
Blogger genomeboy said...

I thought my comments were fair. Of course, it is your blog, but I didn't think they were rude, just honest.

I read quite a few poker blogs, and I understand the variance involved in the game. I can also imagine your frustration at how your results have been.

But, I've read quite a bit related to being too results oriented. It seems you are falling into that trap. If you continue to make the right plays, statistically you will see the positive results eventually. Of course, the variance is the b***ch, but you knew that.

I dunno, maybe I'm just not getting what you're about with the blog here. You talk about not posting bad beat stories, but then "rant" (your tag, not mine) about "losing" (again, your tag) while running bad. To me, that is a bad beat story, just without the runner runner...

Frankly, I like to see the whole story. It helps me in my quest to improve as a player, which is why I read these blogs and poker books in the first place.

So apologies if my first comment didn't fly well. I was just trying to point out what I saw as an inconsistency.

I clicked the email follow up in case you want to flame me

3/30/09 11:45 PM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

@genome boy: I'm not upset by a three word comment, I promise, but I also didn't find it particularly substantive or accurate (this post doesn't have anything to do with being thin-skinned, in my opinion).

The blog is a chronicle of the challenges, successes and failures, whether strategic, psychological, or monetary, that I'm encountering in my year's experiment.

It may not be your cup of tea, and that's okay too. I have no desire whatsoever to flame you, and I'm always willing to listen to feedback.

3/31/09 12:04 AM  
Blogger genomeboy said...

ok, a misunderstanding here...my 3 word comment was actually my second comment. Before that I (had tried unsuccessfully I guess) posted my thoughts which I echoed in my followup. When I didn't see that comment posted, I assumed you nixed it cause you didn't like the comment, prompting my 3 word comment. That short comment was refering to my inaccurate thought that you didn't like criticism, and wouldn't approve the original comment (ok, even I'm confused now...)...doh

3/31/09 9:52 AM  
Blogger loosemmjan said...

You will know you are a Pro when you talk about losses as part of the game. This may not happen during your experiment or maybe it will never happen. Some can't take the losses.

A player with a blog on Card Player, Andrew ????, made a great point about the joy of winning not out weighing the anguish of losing so he was gong to take time off.

Pro's know they are good. They have a lifetime of success to fall back on. The have a lifetime of coaches and other people telling them they are good.

A pro baseball player only succeeds 3 out of 10 if he is good. The good pros know they will hit 3 out of 10. The mediocre ones will question everything. Babe Ruth in his prime knew he could hit a ball. Pete Rose knew he could hit a ball.
Manny Ramirez (sp) knows he can hit a ball.

Tiger Woods know he can make a shot in the clutch. He has always done it. No negative thoughts enter his mind, EVER.

Have you sought a winning player as a mentor or coach? Why not? Who is going to tell you: "You are playing well, don't worry"?
Who is going to tell you: "You are playing bad, get back to basics"?

You are surrounded by people with their own self doubts. How can this further your career in this game?

I have listened or read about good players that have had success. The break through for them comes when they surround themselves with other players to bounce ideas off.

You are going to Vegas this summer.
Are you staying in a house with a bunch of poker players? If not, why not? I can assure you if you take the time to make arrangements you will be way better off then going solo in a hotel room. I know it will not be easy, but if you want the good fruit you will have to go out on a limb to get it.

rambling again.


3/31/09 11:40 AM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

@genomeboy: I didn't see any previous comment. I assure you that I publish ALL comments unless they are obviously spam/commercial. I am genuinely interested in what readers think... even if I disagree with it.

@loosemmjan: You bring up some helpful points. I am still interested in finding a coach at some point. Maybe I will be able to do that in Las Vegas, in June. As for sharing a house ~ that appeals to me a lot less. I'm used to living by myself, and I will probably want quiet after long days at the table, to rest and recuperate. It would, however, be valuable to know several good players locally who would like to talk things over on a regular basis.

For what it's worth, I'm still a winning player. I share my disappointments and frustrations on my blog because learning to survive and overcome them is an essential part of the journey. I work very hard to be clear about which of my failures are due to bad play on my part and which are due to the normal ebb and flow probability. I am nowhere near tossing in the towel.

3/31/09 12:42 PM  

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