Monday, March 07, 2005

Sticking Points

I always find it kind of surreal when I have those moments that show me how much I’ve learned and make me realize, once again, just how far I still have to go.

As I edge ever closer to 30 years on this planet, I find myself thinking a lot lately about how much I thought I knew 15 years ago. 5 years ago. Hell, even 5 months ago. Even looking back at a couple of days ago, I find myself able to marvel at the fact that I thought I knew so very much about a certain thing, only to find out that I had again only scratched it’s surface.

It’s an unconscious thing really, and I will most likely walk through this day comfortable in my knowledge and experience, only to realize tomorrow that I shouldn’t have been.

I’m nearing the point where I’ve been playing poker for 18 months. Last night Mrs. Head and I entered the $3 Sunday Stars Crapshoot, and out of almost 2200 entrants she managed to last till 1100 and I exited around 650-ish. I continued by farting around on a .50/1 table while she fired up a $5 SnG and proceeded to bubble when her A8s dropped to JJ, which consequently added insult to injury by rivering the case Jack after flopping a set. I fired up a $10+1 SnG on Party to remind myself why I don’t play them. 800 chips, yeah right. I’m going to have to get my free money roll pumped up some more before I hit those bitches again, and maybe not even then. Their crapshoot format has a grand ability to set me on giant subtle tilt, the worst kind.

Why the preceding paragraph? Well, obviously to set myself up for this one. The both of us sitting there, scowling at our laptops, made me smile. I fought off my tilt by just shutting it all down instead of steaming at a 2/4 table and instantly felt better. However, it dawned on me that Mrs. Head is at the exact place I was about 6 or 7 months into playing the game.

“Poker is making me sad and grumpy”

After her initial tear on the SnG’s, things have of course slowed down, and it sucks that all I can do is just try and explain why and help encourage her through the rough patch. She is where I imagine most of us have been after beginning to play poker regularly, the place where you’ve done some winning by patiently waiting for good cards and winning big with them and suddenly this method isn’t working as well as it once did. Sonuvabitch!! WTF?! and other colorful epithets have free reign during this period.

I point out to her the things that are obvious to me now. The need to pay close attention to betting patterns and spotting weakness in a passive game and taking advantage of it, even if you don’t have the greatest cards in your hand. Working on bubble aggression, picking the right spots and not fucking up. Realizing that a min-bet after the flop, even it is 20% of your existing stack doesn’t necessarily mean that the bettor has anything, it’s a min-bet, after all. Truly realizing that sitting and waiting for the cards is not always the best answer. Hell, this is still a problem for me many times, but I can see it much clearer these days and a majority of my play has improved greatly. I just feel bad for her that it’s a sticking point that no one can push you through, you have to get through it yourself. I don’t have any kids, but I imagine the feeling is similar, watching them struggle with something you know you can’t really help them with. All you can do is offer encouragement, you can’t do it for them.

Today Pauly said it, and others in the past have said it many times. You just have to suck it up, play through, and use every loss as an opportunity to find a lesson or a leak. Granted, sometimes you just get bad beat to no end and there is only the soul-crush, but 99% of the time there is a lesson somewhere in there.

I can’t wait until tomorrow. It means I get a chance to find out many things I thought I knew today. Thinking Big today, hopefully Much Bigger tomorrow.