Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Online poker can be the most mentally tiring game known to man, not only because of the thought process involved in decision making, but also as a result of the inevitable highs and lows the fluctuations can have on your emotional state. At times, it really is a case of mental warfare, and those who remain consistently disciplined during this sometimes exceedingly frustrating battle, will most likely be the ones who come out the other end smelling of financial roses (If there is such a thing).

It’s taken me over three years to crack the online game to an extent where I could play for a living if I so pleased. It didn’t just happen overnight, it took a long long time indeed before I was able to work out how to best approach the game, and I have the emotional scars to prove it.

Even though I’ve reached the stage where I am winning the large majority of my sessions, this weekend proved that my discipline, as solid as I thought it to be, still needs a slight tweak here and there.

On Friday afternoon, I told Danafish that I’d be giving the online game a bash at the weekend and promptly advertised my target of $1k in 3 days. She seemed surprised by the figure I blurted out, but I was confident that with some good ol’ fashioned grinding and the maintenance of the tasty form I was in, that I’d have no problem in reaching this figure.

So, full of confidence in my own ability, I booted up blondepokerleague late on Friday night and hit the felt. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t get off to the best of starts.

Now, I’m not one for rambling on about various hands, so I won’t, but what I will say is that even though I was dealt a couple of kicks in the testicles, I can’t complain as my discipline let me down big time.

For the first hour, I was running well, a couple of hundred up and feeling good. I took a break after 60 minutes, as I tend to do, and returned full of vigour. However, this is where it went wrong, I took two bad beats simultaneously on two tables for my entire stack, and, out of the blue, found myself $200 down. This is one of the pitfalls of multitabling, and if, as I sometimes do, you don’t successfully handle a big sudden hit, then you really should stick to playing one or two tables.

For some reason, I have a tendency to adopt the dangerous ‘don’t stop playing’ attitude which is centred around the following thought process…

“I’m a skilful player, I have an advantage over my opponents. Therefore, if I keep playing, I will, undoubtedly retrieve my losses. I’m going to stay seated until I show a profit, and take no breaks, as I’m so desperate to show a profit for the session. I can’t possibly end a session behind, even if the last several have all shown a financial gain.”

Does this ring true with anyone else? It’s probably the most self-threatening thought process I encounter in online poker, and one in which I still can’t seem to permantly eradicate.

Part of the above inner speech is true, but the problem is that it is dependent on my playing of my optimal game, which, when I refuse to take breaks, just doesn’t happen. Fatigue creeps up on me, sometimes without me realising, and I start to chase straight and flush draws, making loose calls, unnecessary raises, and ill-timed bluffs. Now I KNOW this WILL ring a bell with some of you.

So, to cut a long story short, I ended Friday several hundred bucks down. Great start, huh?! At one point, I did manage to pull myself, probably due to good fortune, back to a $100 deficit, but, I got it into my head that I HAD to make a profit of some sort, even though I KNEW that I was shattered and playing under par.

Why?! This has happened before, and, although I manage to modify my game for a decent length of time, I suddenly suffer from complacency, perhaps being too expectant of a profitable session. Well, not anymore. I have now inscribed in my head the following message…

“Take a break you idiot! And if you’re still playing shit, then quit. Tomorrow’s another day.”

I even skipped my fave TV programmes to try, in desperation, to win my money back. What a numpty!

Anyhow, with the above message firmly planted in my head, I rose the next day with a new, non-complacent attitude. And sure enough, that loss soon evaporated and I was not only smiling again and loving my poker, but several hundred up! Awesome. I played excellent poker, took my beats with composure, and ensured that I took regular breaks, especially when I felt fatigue was knocking on the door.

I even carried my good form and attitude into Sunday. There was no need to visit the Tilt Doctor, and I felt great. By the end of the night, and the weekend for that matter, I was showing a profit of $1,100. I’d reached my target, which, considering I’d been several hundred down on the Friday, was a hell of a relief. Kinda felt like I’d achieved something though, not just financially, but also mentally. My game had improved and I’d shown a profit. I couldn’t have asked for better. Sometimes you have to learn your lessons the hard way, and this was one of them. Fortunately, I identified my pitfalls early enough to prevent a humongous hit, something that I perhaps wouldn’t have been able to manage several months ago…

Whether I’ll need to make a similar tweak to my game in several weeks’ time remains to be seen. Hopefully, I’ll avoid complacency and my discipline will stay in tact. I guess we’ll soon see…


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