Thursday, July 31, 2008

Daily Affirmation; or, What Color is the Sky in Your World?

What is real and what is imagined?“Poker is just a never ending series of hands. During each hand a pot is built and won, money in the center of the green felt-covered table. No beginning and no end, because each hand takes only a minute and then we go on to the next one....”

That’s from Jesse May’s novel Shut Up and Deal, which I picked up this summer when I visited the Gamblers Book Shop. May’s protagonist, Mickey, says this early on in the novel while introducing himself. I’ve only just started the book, but am liking what I’ve read thus far.

By the way, my buddy Tim Peters gives a nice commentary on Shut Up and Deal -- and poker-based fiction in general -- in episode 2 of the Hard-Boiled Poker Radio Show. I’m hoping to post a new episode very soon (perhaps today or tomorrow). Will let you know here when it is ready.

That notion of poker -- especially cash games -- being “a never ending series of hands” is not new with May, of course. All of those who’ve been successful for long periods of time have understood and accepted this formulation as a way of dealing with momentary swings up or down. And we’ve heard most of the top pros characterize their careers as “one long game” time and time again. So much so it has become a poker (or gambling) cliché, really.

In any event, it is important when coming out of a bad session or streak to remember the long term. And that there really is “no beginning and no end” other than the ones we invent along the way.

Since I returned from Vegas, I’ve been playing online fairly steadily for the last two weeks. And as I always have done, I record every session in one of those little Moleskine pocket squared notebooks. I’m on my second one, now. (Wrote about the notebooks in an earlier post, titled “The Psychology of Record-Keeping.”) I record details about each individual session (site, game, limit, hands, time played, wins/losses), then also always make a note of the day’s total (whether I’ve played more than one session that day or not).

Had something weird going on here over the last two weeks, something I’d started noticing three or four days ago. I knew I was running well, but hadn’t realized that up until the day before yesterday, I’d somehow managed 11 straight winning days. I had two days in there when I didn’t play at all, so that meant nearly two weeks of nothing but winners.

I haven’t gone back and checked, but that was probably the longest such streak I’ve ever enjoyed. Not only that, but a lot of those days featured some pretty big days (by my short-stacked standards). In fact, I was cruising toward a record month, profit-wise, even though I barely played at all until after mid-month.

You’re noticing my use of the past tense here. That’s right -- it all came crashing down yesterday. The streak is over. A pretty bad day, too, as I found myself starting out enduring some bad fortune, then compounding it with several rash, spewy plays that ensured I wasn’t gonna climb out of the hole I’d dug. Not yesterday, anyway.

Still way up since Vegas, though, which considerably lessens the pain of yesterday’s sorry showing. Meaning I am therefore demonstrating a couple of other poker clichés...

One is becoming reckless and unfocused after having a long stretch of success. Like May writes about in his introduction, you win some and “then you think that this is the easy life and how sweet it is and the simplest thing in the world is to wake up whenever you want, go into the card room, play a little, and win.” Guaranteed recipe for failure, there.

The other is the way we poker players instinctively rewrite our stories in the most favorable ways to accommodate our own self-image. As May also says in his introduction (on the subject of assessing poker players and their play), “there is no reality, it all depends on how I present what is and how I cloud it.”

When yesterday ended and I had to record a big loss in the Moleskine notebook, I impulsively looked back over the last two weeks and quickly redeclared myself a big winner. That’s why I still keep that column over on the right-hand side listing “total” winnings since I started playing back in late 2004.

Am I “clouding” reality? Or clarifying? Does it matter?

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Blogger Klopzi said...

"In any event, it is important when coming out of a bad session or streak to remember the long term."

This is just as important to remember after a large in as well. I made the mistake of getting caught up in a few big wins and nearly lost my mind when I gave 80% of all my winning back.

I also find it funny that people will often be told to take things "one day at a time" when life gets tough whereas the opposite is true when things turn cold at the poker tables.

7/31/2008 9:44 AM  
Blogger Falstaff said...

Hey Shamus - shoot me an email - johnhartness AT gmail DOT com

7/31/2008 1:58 PM  
Anonymous gtycoon said...

klopsi makes a good point. Sometimes when some poker players are on a winning streak they may move up into larger stakes too fast and get killed.

8/03/2008 11:14 PM  

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