Friday, April 04, 2008

The Loneliness of the Short Distance Runner

Sometimes you just gotta goMade a little (emphasis on “little”) joke over on PokerSift a week or so ago where I goofed on the old “out like a lion, in like a lamb” adage about the calendar turning from March to April. I wrote that, for me, “March came in like a lion, grazed around a bit like a wayward calf, swung back and forth like an orangutan, laid down for a while and hibernated like a black bear, got spooked like a horse after a car backfires, then went out like a screaming cheetah.”

It was an up-and-down month, and in fact ended a tad down overall (after both January and February had been winners). After that last push to reach the Silver Star on PokerStars, I didn’t feel like playing at all on Monday, then only put in short sessions here and there during the week. If we’re talking results, the first week of April has been terrific for me, actually (more than making up for the small loss in March). But the fact is I’ve only been dabbling, playing a bit of Stud/8, a bit of PLO, and a bit of LHE. Meaning I ain’t exactly taking advantage of that shiny new star at the moment.

I’ve come to recognize something about myself as a poker player that I think might make me different from a lot of folks -- at least the ones who keep blogs, post to forums, and in other ways communicate to the rest of the world about their poker-playing. I love the game, and while I’ll put in a long session now and then, I’m starting to realize I often just don’t want to sit there and play for more than a couple of hours, even if I can. I even felt that urge to leave when playing the live session a couple of weeks ago over at the Oaks Card Club in California. Even though the game was fun and reasonably comfortable for me, after a couple of hours I just wanted to move.

Hard to tell, really, if what I’m describing is a product of nature or nurture. In other words, I don’t know for sure whether my lack of desire to put in the marathon sessions is an expression of some innate character trait I had before coming to poker or a result of my schedule (usually) forcing me to squeeze in hands between other obligations. Whatever the cause, I know that keeping sessions brief helps me (1) enjoy the game more, and (2) enjoy a higher success rate.

Discipline was once a fairly serious problem for me. A long time back (in December ’06) I wrote a post where I mentioned a CardPlayer article by Steve Zolotow about discipline. In the article, Zolotow made a recommendation to “Look at your five biggest wins and five biggest losses. If you played significantly more hours during those losses than you did during your wins, you have a major discipline problem.” I followed his advice, and realized pretty quickly that the superlong sessions were almost always the ones where I’d gotten stuck and was trying to get it back, whereas most of the big winning sessions were much briefer.

Not saying I’ve overcome that difficulty entirely, but I have noticed those protracted sessions are becoming less and less frequent. Probably experiencing something like a runner figuring out if he’s a sprinter, a quarter-miler, or a cross-country guy, I guess. In any case, when I consider both the amount of time I’ve played and my desire to play over the last week or two, March really has gone out like a lion and April in like a lamb.

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