Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hands & Happenings (In Search Of)

Hands & Happenings (In Search Of)Yesterday I spent some time filling in some gaps in the Hard-Boiled Poker archives. Was mainly working on the section called “On the Street” and did manage to get that page entirely up-to-date with links to old posts. Two of the other archive sections -- “Shots in the Dark” (where go posts about strategy, theory, or other abstract ramblings) and “By the Book” (book talk, including reviews) -- are presently current as well.

I still have to go in and add a bunch of links to the other two sections, both of which are the largest ones here on the site. There’s “The Rumble” which collects posts that consider how poker gets discussed and presented in various media. Then there is “High Society,” under which heading go posts about the pro circuit, the WSOP, and so forth. Will probably try to get those all done this week.

I noticed something yesterday while adding some links to that “On the Street” page. That’s the section where I’ve stuck posts about my own play, or “hands & happenings at the tables.” Kind of where the whole idea for the blog began, as a place to write about my low limit adventures and maybe try to work out some ideas as a means to improve myself as an amateur player. If you think back to 2006 or thereabouts (when I began Hard-Boiled Poker), that’s really what a lot of poker blogs were doing then -- talking about hands, tourneys, what have you.

It only took a month or two for me to realize that it wasn’t terribly interesting to keep writing about hands all the time. It also occurred to me -- especially once I realized I had a few readers -- that it probably wasn’t all that interesting only to read about such stuff, either. So I started writing about other things, and soon came up with the five sections.

Anyhow, one item of interest I discovered yesterday was that the frequency of my “On the Street” posts has dropped off considerably of late. While I was averaging about five per month or so through the end of 2009, I’d only written 11 “On the Street” posts during 2010. That’s out of 178 total posts this year (through yesterday).

In fact, when I wrote an “On the Street” post last week -- “Dam Bluffers” -- it was the first time since May I’d written a post specifically about my own play. Noticing that drop off got me thinking about the reasons why I’m writing less about playing.

One obvious reason is that the more I write about poker -- which I’ve been doing a lot, both here and elsewhere -- the less I play.

My buddy Eric (a.k.a. “FerricRamsium”), a full-time tourney reporter for PokerNews who has been traveling the world over the last couple of years covering events all over, has a funny line on his Twitter bio that comes to mind here -- “I used to play poker before I got into poker.”

During the two months I was in Vegas this summer helping cover the WSOP, I did manage to play here and there -- probably 6-8 sessions or so, including some fun mixed games with my fellow PN colleagues over at the Hard Rock. But really most of my energies during that period were devoted to writing about others’ play, and I while I did have some interesting hands and potential anecdotes to share from my own sessions, I wasn’t too inspired to break them down here.

There are probably other reasons, too, for my posting less frequently about my own play. As one plays more and more, the novelty obviously wears off, and hands or situations that seemed especially interesting (and seemingly worth writing about) become less so with repetition.

I think the instinct to talk about one’s own strategy and thinking might also necessarily lessen the more one plays, too. Indeed, in that “Dam Bluffers” post last week I noted that those who offer a lot of commentary about others’ play in the chat box often turn out to be less than solid players themselves, often revealing themselves to be relatively inexperienced. Or just experienced enough to start to have some ideas about strategy and an irresistible urge to share those ideas.

One last reason for less frequent posting about my own play is that I haven’t been winning at the same rate this year as I have in past years. Not that I ever won a heckuva lot, playing at the micro/low limits as I do. But still, the fact that I’ve been essentially running in place for all of 2010 has probably lessened the urge to write about “hands & happenings from the tables.”

We all like to tell others about our successes. And most of us are less enthused about sharing our failures. Even if such preferences can be defended as “natural” or “human,” in poker they represent a pretty obvious flaw. Or at least a limitation. One has to be willing to examine closely one’s lack of success -- to write about it, for instance, if that’s the way one generally performs such examinations -- if one hopes to improve.

I’ve been playing a lot more (all online, natch) since returning from Vegas. I still entertain thoughts of gunning for that Gold Star over on PokerStars this month, and am in fact on pace to do so, although I’m considering Stephen’s suggestion (in a comment last week) about perhaps waiting until October to gun for that so as to land that free seat in the Quarterly VIP Tourney in November.

I do like writing about hands. Not so much because of my desire to (pretend to) demonstrate any special strategic knowledge, but because of the way poker hands can often produce interesting, compelling narratives -- little stories with plots, characters, and themes.

Will try to keep an eye out, then, over the next few weeks while “on the street.” Plenty going on out there. To paraphrase that old film noir, there are eight million stories at the tables. I’ll try to find one of them.

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