Monday, April 04, 2005

Expecting a Loss

Yesterday I took a proverbial punch in the stomach and found myself down $62. More specifically, -10BB at 2/4 and -11BB at $1/2. These things are going to happen, and I know that such a loss is barely worth mentioning. It’s not like I left the tables bruised and bloody, just a gut shot that stung a bit, but with every loss comes some serious thinking.

I played well at the $2/4 tables, but I simply got sucked out on during a couple of key hands. Couple that with the fact that I won 2 pots out of approximately 250 hands, and it was pretty obvious that the cards were not going to fall for me. Then I proceeded to make the extremely grievous error of dropping down to $1/2 and morphing into super weak tight boy, folding hands that would have been winners (that I wouldn’t normally have folded) and pushing hands that were obviously beat. Needless to say, after a few of these I decided to close up shop in a very grumpy mood.

So, why was I on tilt so bad for the next few hours? What I think may be the answer came to me this morning while making myself some bacon. (For those who may be unaware, bacon has the magical ability to make everything better) I came into the session yesterday truly expecting to win, and I think that for me this is a bad thing. This may seem counterintuitive, since expecting to lose can easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I’ll explain why it seems to work better for me, and perhaps for you, too.

I don’t go into a game truly expecting to lose money. When I say that I ‘expect to lose’ it’s my way of steeling myself against what are usually the inevitable suckouts and bad play at these low limits. In the back of my head, I still believe that I can beat these folks. It’s sort of a modified “Expect the worst, hope for the Best” train of thought. If I go into a session expecting to get beat up, I don’t worry about it nearly as much and will continue to play my best game. If I end up actually getting beat up, no biggie, and if I take away a win, so much the better. Yesterday I came into the session expecting, nay, demanding a win. I won my first two pots pretty early, and expected things to continue on the same course. After all, I think it, therefore it IS, right? Wrong.

An unyielding expectation of a winning session left me $62 lighter, with a river of raging blood coursing through my veins and the inexplicable urge to scream like a monkey and throw feces at my PC's (wheee, rhyming is fun). This expectation to win, in my case, makes me feel like I’ve lost to an inferior and sets the tilt-meter into the red. If I expect to get beat up and win, I feel like the triumphing underdog. Maybe I’ve watched WAY too many Rocky movies, but it’s what works for me, and hopefully I won’t make the same mistake again, at least for a while.

By using it to avoid tilt and other bad play nastiness, expecting to lose just may be the key to your next big win. (For extra insurance, it may also be +EV to eat some bacon while you play.)