Total hands in November amounted to just about 4,400. That’s compared to 8,100 in October. I generally fare better when playing shortish (100-200 hand) sessions, although missing days affects me negatively, I think, as I find it difficult sometimes to get my head back into the game (as the PokerShrink would say) when I’ve been away for even a short while.
I’ve written before about considering myself a “recreational” player, although perhaps a little more serious than most of that category when it comes to thinking about the game and trying to improve. Even so, I find myself often lapsing back into “Level 1” thinking at the PLO tables, especially when I haven’t been playing regularly. That is to say, I find myself thinking a lot more about my own hand than what my opponent(s) have, a bad tendency that leads to a more passive style that relies more on my catching cards than anything else.
Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger talk about “Levels of Thinking” in their book The Poker Mindset: Essential Attitudes for Poker Success (2007). There they call the level where one is only thinking of one’s own hand “Level 0,” the level where one also considers one’s opponent’s hand “Level 1,” and so forth. The idea is the same, though, no matter how we number the levels.
I think PLO is a game where the difference between those two levels is perhaps more obviously noticeable than in, say, limit hold’em. Players who are brand new to PLO find it exceedingly difficult to put opponents on hands or hand ranges. (Hell, some find it tricky reading their own hands.) Even experienced PLO players like myself sometimes find it hard to keep thinking about opponents’ hands. And when you stop doing that, you necessarily become less effective.
As Taylor and Hilger say, “most players tend to think at different levels at different times.” Various factors come into play, causing us to move up or down levels, but the one they focus on is experience. “When a player is in a familiar situation, he is more likely to think at a higher level than usual,” they explain. “However, when faced with a difficult and unfamiliar situation, the same players will just revert to the [lower level] with which they are more familiar.”
Like I say, for new players especially, PLO presents a number of unfamiliar situations that cause one to focus more on one’s own hand than worry too much about what others have. Other factors can cause such lapses, too, like fatigue or tilt or whatever. But I like that idea that familiarity leads to clearer thinking, and thus helps one think more clearly about what the opponents have.
Thus the problem I’ve been facing with my intermittent play -- when I log on after missing a couple of days, I have to refamiliarize myself with starting hand values, bet sizing, calculating equity, etc. Such is the plight of the recreational player, I think. Also of the older player whose jingle-brain stopped growing probably before some of his opponents were born.
Now let’s see if I can remember how to post this sucker.
(That picture above comes from the poster for the 1987 film The Stepfather. I just wrote a little something about that film for Film Chaw today -- check it out.)