Friday, December 12, 2008

A New Beginning

Yesterday was my half-birthdayYesterday was my half-birthday. Yeah, you heard me. Maybe today I’ll go get myself half a cake.

No, I don’t normally mark the half-birthday milestone, but I just happened to have had a horrific couple of days at the online tables -- following a very nice stretch of several weeks -- which knocked me back a bit and thus has further encouraged this here feeling of “starting over.”

One unbelievably painful PLO hand in there in which the river card that gave me aces full also happened to complete my opponent’s straight flush, thus ensuring I would lose a pot so big I don’t even want to be specific here about the size. Let’s just say it was the biggest pot -- by far -- in which I’ve ever even been involved. Agony!

If we look back at those four stages of dealing with losing big pots as described in Matthew Hilger and Ian Taylor’s The Poker Mindset: Essential Attitudes for Poker Success (2007), I think it is safe to say I am still hovering between the first stage (“anger”) and the second (“frustration”) on that one. Will move on eventually, I believe, and perhaps this idea of a personal “reboot” will help along those lines.

I had been thinking further about those four stages, the last of which is “indifference” in which the player is able somehow “not [to] register any mental anguish from losing a big pot” and instead focus “entirely on how his opponents played and what can be learned from the hand.” I began to wonder whether or not poker would be fun if one reached that stage. Isn’t part of why we play tied to the various emotions the game produces? What would it be like to play without any emotion at all?

Matthew HilgerI decided to ask Matthew Hilger about that. In addition to co-authoring The Poker Mindset, he also writes a regular column for Card Player and a newly-expanded edition of his well-regarded book Internet Texas Hold’em (first published in 2003, I think) is appearing any day now.

In response, Hilger pointed me to a section near the end of the book titled “The Emotional Paradox of Poker” where the authors discuss that very issue of how removing emotions from the game (a key part of developing the “poker mindset”) could potentially turn poker into “a bland game that is more like an exercise in intermediate mathematics than the thrilling, adrenaline-pumping roller coaster that it can be.”

Thus the paradox. We play to win, because among other things winning gives us pleasure. But in order to win, we cannot let emotions (like feeling pleasure) affect us too greatly.

There’s more, but let me just again recommend The Poker Mindset to you and you can read for yourself what the authors have to say about this and other subjects.

By the way, there were some interesting comments on yesterday’s post about the WSOP apparently considering dropping rebuy tournaments for next year’s Series. (Check ’em out.) I liked Greylocks’ point about cash games being like rebuy tourneys. Indeed, one is “starting over” all of the time in cash games, whether we’re talking about rebuying into the game, or the smaller type of “starting over” that happens with each hand.

So I’m six months older. I sincerely think I am a much better poker player today than I was back on my last (actual) birthday. But there’s still work to do. And fun to be had.

Speaking of, let me shout out to my many buds who have gathered in Vegas for the big blogger hootenanny. Had a number of “wish you were going”-type messages sent my way, for which I am very grateful. Y’all enjoy yrselves, now. I trust everything will be comprehensively chronicled for me to read about over the next couple of weeks.

That’ll come later, though, I know. After you all have returned to your regular lives. And started over.

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Blogger Jennifer said...

Definitely miss you here! Maybe next time you'll make the trek... :)

12/12/2008 2:25 PM  

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