Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Good day; bad day.

I had a very good day on the personal front yesterday.

You remember what it's like when you have a giant, painful, unsightly pimple right near your lip? It hurts, it looks bad, it gets more and more bothersome day by day. You know you could have avoided it if you had skipped the fried chicken or exfoliated more assiduously or just plain not had normal teenage hormones or SOMETHING. You try to ignore it, you cover it up with make-up, your nice friends tell you "It's not that bad, really!" but you know better. You can't bear to look at yourself in the mirror, you start turning down social invitations, and the pain near your lip makes talking or kissing miserable. This stupid little zit is messing up your life. It starts to feel like an enormous zit, a zit the size of the Matterhorn. You are irrationally afraid it will somehow infect your brain and kill you.

And then one day, finally, you've had enough. You are sick of thinking about that thing and of trying to not think about it. You apply hot compresses to the pimple. You perform the operation. The zit gives up the little solid pillar of hardened matter at its core, the pus flows, and maybe a bit of blood. The distended flesh and irritated nerves of the surrounding area on your face feel immediate relief. And the healing begins almost instantly. In a little while, all trace of it will be gone and not only will no one else take note of it, but you'll barely remember it was ever there yourself.

Yesterday, I popped a big metaphorical zit in my life (the healing has already begun). The relief was extensive. I was in a very upbeat mood. What better time to go play poker, right?

But I also had a bad day yesterday, and it was my own damn fault.

I was on happy tilt. I was also on only about four and a half hours of sleep. As I drove to the Ikea game, I asked myself: "Is this wise? You're kinda tired." But I was also floating on the confidence engendered by eight consecutive winning sessions. "It's okay, self, I won't stay long."

Meh. It wasn't that I played terribly. I didn't, I played okay. But I got stuck early, and then lost my buy-in and then another top-up, and then I got felted. I think I made one dubious decision (that early loss), but other than that my reads were good ~ the cards just didn't fall my way.

Nonetheless: I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PLAYING. I was not capable of bringing my A game. And even if my B game was "good enough" for the circumstances, I should be practicing the discipline of only playing when I can do my best.

I made a series of unprofessional choices: I didn't make the correct decision in deciding to play in the first place. Nor did I make the correct decision to leave after I realized that I was going to want to dig myself out, but I was really too tired to make a marathon night of it. I could have saved a buy-in by acknowledging that and picking up and going. Had I been well-rested, I could easily have rebought yet again and stayed and ground it all back and more. But I wasn't, and I knew it, so I should have left earlier and taken the more modest loss.

Being a professional poker player is not just about the decisions you make at the table. It's also about the choices you make on your way to the table and in leaving the table and away from the table. My tweet to the contrary, being a pro is not a hat you put on while you're on the baize, it's an identity that has to inform your entire life.

Am I playing at being a poker player? Or am I really a pro?

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Blogger FkCoolers said...

This is exactly why I wrote what I did less than a week ago.

You are not ready. Do not try to kid yourself into thinking otherwise.

If 6 days ago you wrote that you have all the makeup of a professional player and today you're writing this ... you have a long, long way to go.

I realize I come across as an asshole, but this is honest advice from someone who enjoys you're writing.

Don't let your friends make you feel ready when you aren't ready yet.

8/4/09 3:05 PM  
Blogger Rakewell said...

1) I would never have imagined that a deeply insigtful poker post would contain a detailed discussion of popping a zit. I would have been wrong.

2) FkCoolers: Is your assessment of Cardgrrl's capability to succeed at making a living from poker (in terms of poker skill and/or emotional makeup) made from the insider's point of view of one who is and/or has done it, or from the hypothetical, outsider's point of view, of what you believe it would take, what you have heard from others that it would take?

Also, is it your opinion that one cannot succeed making a living from poker if one suffers occasional lapses in judgment as to whether/where/when to play, how long to stay, etc.?

8/4/09 4:19 PM  
Blogger FkCoolers said...

I did it for three years. I don't advocate anyone doing it, but to each their own. It's mentally taxing and playing during the hours where games are softest means letting go of things like a healthy social life.

Occasional lapses in judgment are one thing - this was a case of 6 days ago saying you have the temperment, focus, and makeup of a professional player. Then 6 days later, not only having a total brain fart, but once again spinning off into self-doubt.

Now imagine this happening at the same frequency when poker becomes your sole income. Not good ...

8/5/09 5:35 AM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

@FkCoolers: Wow. You seem to interpret everything I write in the most extreme way, all the time.

"…total brain fart… spinning off into self-doubt"

It's just not that bad, my friend. In this blog, I review my choices and question them. I sometimes vent, I sometimes use hyperbole. I am deliberately, and consciously, living an examined life in public here. That's the whole point of the written exercise.

Does it mean I'm constantly riddled with self-doubt?


It just means I'm trying to be scrupulously honest about mistakes and endeavoring to learn from them. Isn't this how people improve?

I have no need to put on the armor of apparent perfection. I admit to my errors so that I will be more mindful to avoid them in the future. But I'm not wallowing either. I relate them, and move on.

I'm not trying to convince anyone (including myself) of anything. I am exploring and describing. If you want certainty and absolutes, you're reading the wrong blog.

You say you decided the professional player's life wasn't for you. It may not be for me, either. We'll see. Either way, you can count on me to be as up front about my experiences and choices as I know how.

Look at it this way: if it's a trainwreck, at least you'll have a front row seat!

8/5/09 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fatigue affects the judgment making mechanisms that we use to determine if we are fatigued.Studies have found that when people realize that they are fatigued they've fatigued for a while.

Which are the books that you consider have helped you the most in your game?


8/6/09 8:31 AM  
Blogger FkCoolers said...

I'd never hope for a trainwreck.

Re: taking everything to the extreme

Hm ... my ex-wife always said the same thing :)

For me to try and deny it would be plain silly. I grew up a slightly dramatic only child and some things really never change.

8/6/09 6:29 PM  

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