Monday, November 21, 2005

Emotion Commentary

Man, it’s hard to even put into words the size and ruggedness of the steel-toed boots poker strapped on yesterday and this morning. She laced ‘em up tight and went to work on my junk like a man-hating Lifetime producer. So here I sit with an icepack on my nuts and a fistful of anti-depressants, writing to you, dear reader, on the verge of a massive tilt-induced coronary of SirWaffle proportions minus the bankroll destruction.

Such is my dedication.

This situation lends itself nicely to a post that I’ve been brooding over for about a week now. I’ve been putting it off in the intense wake of NaNoWriMo, and lo and behold, it was covered in fine fashion by Hank who likely said it better than I could have. In taking on the more difficult task of writing the spearhead post on emotions, he has left me with the much lighter load of simple commentary.

(before proceeding, click on the link and read his post first if you haven’t already)

Winding up his post, Hank states, “In answer to the question, "Do emotional poker players have an advantage in tournament poker?" I think the jury is still out.” For me, the jury is in and they have reached a verdict:

Being an emotional player, be it in cash games or tournaments, is NOT where it’s at.

I repeat. NOT where it’s at.

I can say this with confidence because I am one of these emotional players. Watching these folks that have the ability to retain an ever cold and logical outlook makes me Scott's Turfbuilder green with envy. I have no idea where this emotionality comes from. Perhaps I didn’t get enough hugs from Mom. Perhaps I’ve been beat down by “The Man” one too many times in my short life. Whatever the reason, I am not, and it’s doubtful that I’ll ever be, a person with the ability to be completely emotionless.

Being emotional will cause a person to make frustration errors. Some emotional people will have better control and make less of them, but they will happen, and will happen more than those made by the person who can truly let the injustices and attendant frustrations slide off their back. If I get my aces cracked by runner runner gutshot backdoor shit cards, I’m going to be pissed. Carry this situation over multiple days or weeks and my heart starts in with threats of exploding inside my chest cavity if I don’t play those suited one-gappers out of position. Just once, you know, to get me back on an even keel.

Now, take the above and apply it to the roboticism of Hank and others like him. The aces being cracked will briefly annoy, but the cold precision of their play will continue unabated. Assuming that the skill level is the same (yeah, right. While I’m at it, why not go ahead and say that I play ball as good as MJ), if I make this error once per day that costs me at least 1 SB (and likely more) and Hank does not, just think about how much that he saves over the course of a year. And that’s just a loosely defined cash game example. What if the same loosely defined terms were applied to a tournament? I end up busting because I got trapped in a marginal situation and am either busted or have taken a hit to my stack. Hank’s cold logic avoids this foolishness and by doing so automatically gets an edge with which to travel higher on the placement ladder.

The conclusion? Be more like Hank and less like me.

But fear not, dear friends. I’m not one to simply discuss a problem, but rather, as corporate America has lovingly taught me, I must bring alternative solutions to the table. Think outside of the box and change the paradigm in order to assess the risk and take advantage of the current trends to fortify and streamline future margins and matrices, as it were (dear God, I seriously need a healthier work environment).

Get a big stick, preferably a giant bamboo stick like they use/used in traditional old-school martial arts training in the East. Give said stick to spouse, significant other, roommate, friend, or neighbor. Task this person with keeping a close eye on you while you play. When pesky detrimental tilt starts to arrive on the back of those ruinous emotions, have said designee whack you with the big bamboo stick. It will hurt and it will make you mad, but will help you recognize the absurdity of getting so angry. If it doesn’t, simply repeat until you DO recognize or are too injured to play.

Either way, everyone wins. Bankroll is intact and tilt is avoided, plus your designee has had a fantastic time doing something that would normally be considered “assault”. Pfft, assault, what a bunch of pansies.

My Tae Kwon Do grandmaster, Jin Yong Kim, used to always say, “You will NEVER have perfect Tae Kwon Do, but that doesn’t mean you should ever stop trying for it.” The same goes for getting rid of emotional play at the tables. You may not ever be perfect at it, but with constant effort and the help of a giant bamboo stick, you should never stop trying and consequently, get better at control.

Emotion is NOT where it’s at.