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Transitioning to NOW

Posted by preachercasy151

What was doesn’t matter. Only what is.

If every poker player could live by this little aphorism, then the standard of play would skyrocket.

Our mind doesn’t like the present; it prefers the past and the future. It is difficult to stay centred, and poker players know this better than most.

Somebody new to meditation finds their mind racing away, when they are instructed to be calm. A tennis player at 0-30 starts obsessing over the possible break of serve. A heartbroken suitor replays the most painful moments of their relationship over and over, fully aware that he is prolonging his misery.

Some gentle nostalgia can be therapeutic up to a point, and having future goals is certainly beneficial to productivity. However, they are for contemplative moments – moments away from the heat of action. No tennis player is better served thinking about a possible break of serve in the future than they are staying present. No footballer benefits from thinking about last season’s missed penalty when he’s starting his run-up to take one right now.

Transitions in poker

My recent, five part series for Drag the Bar was entitled Transitions (available for FREE here), but in hindsight the title was misleading. A better name is Transitioning to NOW.

The inspiration came from one of my students, Hans, who has a tendency to spend more time in the world of was and the world of could be than in the world of is. Much of my coaching is focused on helping Hans return to the present when his mind wanders, and helping him to develop methods of staying focused with more reliability.

How NOT to play Ace King

Transitioning to NOW manifests itself in a number of different ways in poker. Here is a simple example:

Hans holds Ace King, shallow stacked in a SNG. Its a monster starting hand, and almost always worthy of getting it in pre-flop.

However, when villain elects to call Hans’s minraise and then comes out firing on J-9-8, Hans is in a world of trouble if he can’t recognize that his AK has transitioned from a monster to junk.

Sometimes he clings to his previous appraisal of the hand strength (monster), rather than the new, post-flop one (junk), and can’t bring himself to find a fold. That is an obvious error. The error then gets compounded when he glosses over the real issue when discussing the hand with me:

‘I busted with Ace King,’ he’ll explain, shrugging his shoulders as if to say ‘it was a cooler’. It would be a cooler if it was all-in pre-flop, but it wasn’t. Hans had a simple fold to make, and he failed to do so because he couldn’t transition to NOW. He got all wrapped up inwas, and forgot all about is. Brushing it off as a cooler perpetuates the problem, because it suggests that he hasn’t learned anything from the error.

And errors are only truly errors if nothing is learned from them.

 

A damn Feyn Man "Richard Feynman Nobel" by The Nobel Foundation - A damn Feyn Man
“Richard Feynman Nobel” by The Nobel Foundation –

You are the easiest person to fool

I heard a great saying the other day, that applies perfectly to Hans’s Ace King inability or refusal to transition to NOW:

‘The first principle is that you must never fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.’ – Richard Feynman.

In brushing off the Ace King bust-out as a cooler, Hans fools himself. If he allows that to become a habit, then handling transitions will go from tough to near-impossible. And that, in itself, is another transition.

I will be writing more about transitions in my Anchoring article that will be online soon. I want to hear your experiences of transitions, and how you identify and manage them. Let me know in the comments below, on my website,  on Twitter or Skype (add me – casy151 – I’m friendly!)

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The Flaw in Your Approach to Poker – and a Better Way to Think!

Posted by preachercasy151

Why do you play poker? It is the simplest question, and has the simplest answer. Yet, in years of coaching, I have found it one of the most fundamentally misunderstood concepts.

Not many people actively ask themselves why they play the game to which they have devoted considerable time and effort. And if they do, they invariably come up with the sort of answer that is symptomatic of a flawed approach to the game.

Answers like these:

‘I play poker to win money.’

‘I play poker because it means I can take a day off whenever I choose, not whenever my boss chooses.’

‘I play poker because I am competitive.’

‘I play poker because I don’t want to work a 9-to-5 in an office.’

Do any of these sound familiar? Are you the sort of player that plays poker because the alternative sucks? Are you the sort of player that plays poker because it enables you to beat opponents and feel good about yourself?

MOST GOOD POKER PLAYERS THINK THIS WAY TOO

If you are, that’s fine. Most good poker players are the same as you. They want to prove something to others, to point to their Sharkscope rankings and say ‘hey, see, I have achieved X, Y, and Z.’ Or to take their parents on holiday with their poker earnings, as if to say ‘look, mum and dad, I’m not a screw-up! This game can make me rich!’

I know I did, when I played full-time. I played poker for all of the reasons mentioned above, and several more besides.

I played poker for every reason, except the only truly valid one. The one valid reason that is at the heart of the great players’ approach to the game.

The great players play poker to become better at playing poker.

It’s so simple, yet so often misunderstood. The game is the goal. Money; fame; admiration: these are consequences, not goals.

WHAT IS INSIDE-OUT POKER?

I use the term ‘inside-out’ poker, for where the player is motivated to enjoy and improve their game, and the pleasant upside of money and respect may follow naturally. They ensue organically from playing to become better at playing.

However, if these consequences become primary pursuits then it will lead to disillusionment, to self-judgment, and to a fundamental discontent with the nature of the game. Every losing day will feel like a failure. The temptation to check results after every session will persist. Studying will seem like a chore, because you could be grinding some extra volume to boost your ranking. This is ‘outside-in’ poker, where external considerations drive your approach – and it’s the quickest shortcut to disillusionment and burn-out.

WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM DOYLE’S APPROACH TO POKER

Doyle Gets It!Doyle Gets It!

Have you ever wondered what makes 82-year old Doyle Brunson leave the house to play high-stakes poker most days? After numerous battles with cancer and the frailty that comes with ageing, he could be forgiven for turning his back on the nocturnal lifestyle and the hassle of the cardroom. He could be forgiven for letting his style go stale and becoming a loser in the nosebleed games of which he is a permanent fixture.

But he doesn’t. Not only does he still play – he still wins. Doyle is the archetype of ‘play the player, not the cards’. He isn’t bound by conventional wisdom and he doesn’t care much for what people think he’s ‘supposed’ to do. He knows, better than anyone, that there are no rules. His style is adaptive, fluid, and innovative. All of the great players share these hallmarks. Doyle plays because he fundamentally loves the game, and he still learns every day. It could be said that playing to get better at playing is what keeps Doyle Brunson young – it is undoubtedly what keeps him a fearsome competitor when countless attention-seeking would-be usurpers have blazed in and burned out over the years.

POKER IS AUTOTELIC

To the greats of the game, poker is an autotelic pursuit (derived from the Greek words for ‘self’ and ‘goal’.)  The goal of poker is self-contained. It is not ‘outside-in’, where external validation drives motivation, and which ultimately causes burn-out and stress. It is ‘inside-out’, where the challenge of improvement and enjoyment brings long-lasting fulfilment.

The grind, and its inherent connotations, has made many great players fall out of love with the game. These players are resisting poker’s true nature. Leaderboards, parental judgement, money….none of these are poker’s fault. Poker is just a game that you can play, to get better at playing it. And it’s beautiful in its simplicity. The complications are something that that you or other people have added, but they aren’t part of the game’s true nature. Recognise this, and you are taking a giant step towards liberating yourself from the ‘outside-in’ mindset.

 

Use the comments section to discuss your experience of the downside of the ‘outside-in’ approach. And don’t forget to be a hero and give this blog a share on Facebook and Twitter!

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The Poker Problem – What Does Your Behaviour Say About YOU?

Posted by preachercasy151

Brian take the train a lot. When he is travelling solo, he likes to read a book and relax. There are days, however, when groups of boisterous teens or arguing couples ruin his relaxing journey.

‘Those inconsiderate so-and-sos’ thinks Brian, ‘how could anybody be so rude and oblivious to the noise they’re making? Anybody making that much commotion on a public train is clearly a selfish person. I bet they were brought up badly by their parents.’

This time it’s different!

A week later, and Brian is travelling to the cup final with his friends. Some beers get cracked open, a sing-song is started. Brian is loving every second when a middle-aged lady catches his eye. He knows exactly what she’s thinking: ‘those inconsiderate so-and-sos…’

But this is different. It’s the cup final! Brian is with the guys! He hasn’t seen some of them for years! Plus, it’s a one-off. Brian doesn’t usually act like this…

U09_Luis_Suárez_7523

Can you relate to Brian?

Here’s the crucial bit: when reflecting on others, we tend to use their behaviour to make judgments as to their character. Someone who is obnoxious in public is a rude person.

When reflecting on ourselves, we tend to use circumstances to explain our behaviour. When we are obnoxious in public, it is because of the external factors. It is cup final day, or it is because we are excited at catching up with friends.

We do not re-evaluate our character because of our actions, but we do use them to evaluate the character of others.

This is called correspondence bias.

In poker, we are quick to label players as fish (or nits, or nutters, or whatever) based on a hand that we deem bizarre. We use scanty evidence to make judgments as to the character of our opponents, deeming them tilt-monkeys or probable-drunks or likely-degens, because they played a hand of poker a little strangely.

However, when we make a reckless re-jam or a loose call, we dismiss it as a mis-read or a mis-click or a mystery. We blame the circumstances – often with due reason – for our errors in judgment. Even when we know that we are on tilt, we write it off as an anomalous development which is not representative of our typical poker game.

Character vs Behaviour

There are people who have multiple affairs or who commit fraud or who bite other players on the football pitch who will argue that they are not bad people, but they had a momentary lapse in judgment.

Outsiders looking in, so quick to judge, will label them ‘scumbags’ and speculate that they are bad parents, liabilities as employees, and selfish in all aspects of life.

Brian on the train will argue that he acted selfishly, but is not a selfish person. Then in his next breath, he will argue that the couple having a shouting match on the train are selfish people and terrible partners and bad parents.

Correspondence bias in poker can be kept in check by refraining from making judgments as to the character or traits of opponents, based on moves that could be explained by circumstances (game flow, erroneous belief in fold equity, mass-multi-tabling mis-clicks etc).

And, by extension, it is important to task your poker coach with keeping you in check when it comes to justifying your own play. Sometimes you will be on tilt and eager to blame it on external factors. Make your coach earn their money by keeping a close eye on the development of leaks that you are eager to blame on easily-explainable errors.

Does correspondence bias ring a bell with you? Have a little think about scenarios in which you are too quick to extend your judgments as to behaviour onto their character, and give the article a share on Facebook and Twitter!

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Ten Poker Outlook Tips to Improve Motivation and Focus

Posted by preachercasy151

Poker strategy is written about by every Tom, Dick, and Harry. However, in my frustration at the shortage of worthwhile poker outlook ‘heuristics’ (handy little rules of thumb), I decided to do something about it.

 

Here are ten little heuristics to improve your awareness and focus at the poker tables.

-          A good poker player is one who doesn’t get in his own way

-          You are only as good as your C-game

-          Awareness is curative (thanks to Timothy Gallwey for this one!)

-          A great poker player is one who can analyse herself without rushing to judgment

-          Experimenting and curiosity came before ‘rules’; never be bound by              conventional theory. ‘Rules’ are created after discovery through creativity.

-          You will never be great if the desire to study only arises when on a bad run

-          The only thing that truly matters is this decision in front of you, right now

-          Tilt is not entirely a bad thing; a little bit of poison strengthens the immune  system

-          We must bankroll with excessive, almost embarrassing conservatism to avoid to truly focus on the long game

-          We must prepare for even the most remote possibilities, as they are often the  most impactful

 

Do you agree with my ten heuristics? Let me know which are the most useful – and which you take issue with. And of course, please take a moment to use the Share buttons to spread the word.

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Why You MUST Slow-play Pocket Aces – The Availability Bias

Posted by preachercasy151

Quickly answer this question: do more words feature the letter K as the first or the third letter in the English language?

***

Vedran is a strong low-stakes 6-max SNG player who is playing his way out of a minor downswing. He posted up the following hand in my students’ chat group:

‘I am dealt AA and open raise from middle position. The TAG reg in the Big Blind 3-bets me, and I decide to flat call, for deception and balance purposes.

The flop comes Ks Jd 3h. The reg checks, I continuation bet 60% of the pot, and the reg mini-raises me. I estimate his range preflop to be TT-KK, and, based on this range, I feel that he must have a set so I puke-fold. This is why I hate slow-playing AA!’

The Poker Mindset gets cloudy

Now, let’s get something straight. Vedran posted up the hand because he suspected that he had made an error. And believe me, he most definitely had. He had fallen foul of availability bias.

ScreenHunter_57 Jun. 18 17.31

When we think back to all of the times that we slow-played AA, we instantly recall the occasions where it ended disastrously. Our minds become awash with memories of flopped sets, of backdoor draws hitting, and of losing our place in the hand.

As such, our mind wants us to believe that slow-playing monster hands is a terrible move, and that we will somehow get punished every time we do so.

Well guess what?

It’s total garbage.

Should we slow-play Pocket Aces?

There IS a time and a place for slow-playing Aces. It’s just that all the times that it works out well are harder to recall.

In this hand, Vedran back-fitted his analysis to paint a scenario in which a fold could be deemed acceptable. However, is it remotely realistic to peg the TAG reg’s range squarely at TT-KK? Hell no! What about all the 44s and JQo and A5s that elected to 3-bet pre-flop? Just because villain is tight, doesn’t mean that he MUST have a monster here.

Similarly, on the flop, Vedran disregarded any bluffs or value raises with AK, KQ etc. He feared the worst, partially because, on an unconscious level, he has been conditioned to believe that AA gets cracked FAR more often than is the reality.

Vedran allowed his irrational fears to influence his decision-making, and It resulted in his making a very poor fold.

We are programmed to remember the remarkable. We are more likely to recall the times where we got that horrible sinking feeling in our gut as we saw the diamonds hit, than all those times where we doubled-up unceremoniously and quickly moved our focus to the next hand.

Your Mind Plays Tricks

Just because something springs more readily to mind, does not mean that it occurs more commonly. In fact, it is BECAUSE Aces win more regularly than lose that the wins become routine and unremarkable. By extension, the losses are out of the ordinary and therefore easier to recall.

And, as you have probably worked out by now, you were wrong. The letter K features more than twice as often as the third letter than as the first. It’s just that those words that begin with K spring more readily to mind.

Ladies and gentlemen – the availability bias. A nasty little blighter that needs to be kept away from the poker tables!

***

Let me know of the times when YOU fell foul of the availability bias in the comments below! And don’t forget to use the Social Share buttons to spread the article online.

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*I borrowed the Letter K example from Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking Thinking, Fast and Slow.

 

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10 Tips to Transform Your Heads-Up Game

Posted by preachercasy151

Heuristics are little rules-of-thumb that can be used to simplify decision-making. In poker, where every decision is vital, it is important to have some guidelines to fall back on when tough spots come up. Here are ten heuristics for Heads-Up that will help you to make better decisions, more consistently.

 

-          If in doubt, take the aggressive route

-          If you never look stupid, then you are playing too conservatively

-          There is no ICM heads-up, so you are free to take thin edges

-          Never assume; make every great SNG player prove that he’s a great HU player

-          Every street provides at least one opportunity to make a great decision

-          Contesting from the button can never be a big mistake; open-folding the button usually is

-          You need a very good reason not to c-bet

-          The second that your foot slips off the pedal is the second that your quality dips

-          A LAG fishbowl is a tougher opponent than a TAG reg

-          The great heads-up player makes plays that she doesn’t WANT to make

 

 

How many of these heuristics do you adhere to? And do you disagree with any of them? Don’t forget to drop me a comment, or get in touch via Twitter or through my website. And hey, be a hero and spread the ten tips around Twitter and Facebook!

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Are You Too Quick To Give Your Poker Coach Credit?

Posted by preachercasy151

Beware of falsely attributing an upturn in your poker results to a good coach. This one can be extremely tricky, so you have to be on your guard. Here’s a scenario for you:

Mike is a long-term winning reg in the mid-stakes 6-max Sit N Gos. However, in the last couple of months he has been losing a chunk in his normal games, and he is worried that the other regs have figured him out.

On the recommendation of another reg, he contacts a coach to see what can be done to end his slump.

Sure enough, after five expensive coaching sessions, Mike’s results start to improve. Before long, Mike is back to his old win-rate, beating his normal games at a decent clip.

The coaching worked!

Or did it?

This famous coach was the focus of one of my favourite bits of standup - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWIXVvd-oyM
This famous coach was the focus of one of my favourite bits of standup

The Poker Coaching Conundrum

As a coach, I can assure you that most players seek out my services when they are suffering a bad run of form. They think that it must be addressed urgently, and hiring a coach must be the most efficient way of getting back to form.

I am always very wary of accepting coaching applications from such players. Indeed, I reject a lot more of them than I accept.

The reason is simple – it is immoral for me to take credit for aiding these players’ recoveries. 90% of the time, what they experience is a simple case of regression to the mean.

Poker’s Regression Obsession

Regression to the mean is when things naturally settle back towards their ‘true’ level over time. For example – in poker, an average player who binked a massive tournament win was almost certainly extremely lucky, rather than someone who had developed poker genius overnight.

Before long, they will dribble some of their money back to the poker community as the luck wears off and their typical skill level emerges.

When a football team sacks their manager, it is usually because they have been under-performing relative to their normal standard. The new boss gets appointed, and lo and behold, results start to improve. Miraculous!

Well, not really.

The reality is that the team were likely going through a run of bad luck and fragile confidence – a temporary blip that would rectify itself naturally in time.

Do you see where this is going?

Let’s get back to Mike

Mike’s poor recent run was overwhelmingly likely to correct itself over time – assuming, of course, that the bad luck would not provoke bad decision-making.

The real solution to Mike’s sticky situation is to simply keep doing what he does best: grinding away, until variance rights itself and he regresses towards his typical, impressive level.

classroom

So how best do we avoid getting into this sticky situation?

I always encourage my students to strengthen from a position of strength. That means that they should look to work hardest on their poker homework when things are going well for them. It is during such times that their thinking is at its clearest, and my students are at their most responsive to new ideas.

If they wait until something goes wrong (ie. a downswing) before attempting to appraise their game, then their outlook will be cloudy. They will be tempted to attempt root-and-branch, reactionary surgery when a few tweaks were all that was needed.

My advice to Mike

In future, look to engage the services of a coach when things are going well. Don’t fall into the trap of bolting the barn door after the horse has departed. When things are going badly, it is not the time to clutter up your mind with new concepts and it is very difficult to objectively appraise your game.

And most of all, don’t assume that the upturn in results was down to the genius of the expensive coach! In all probability, in a swingy game like poker, it was a simple case of regression to the mean.

A good coach will be able to say no to applicants who are suffering a temporary blip – or at least, they must be willing to hold their hands up and say that they had little to do with the sudden upswing in the student’s results!

 

What do you think – are you too quick to seek out coaching when you hit a downswing?  Are you the sort of person who wants to pat the coach on the back when you should really be applauding yourself? And most of all, do you truly understand the nature of variance and its sister – regression to the mean?

Let me know in the comments, check out my siteor drop me a message on Twitter or Skype (just add me – ‘casy151’)

 

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What Every War Can Teach Us About Poker

Posted by preachercasy151

‘In a conflict, the middle ground is the least likely to be correct’ – Nassim Taleb

Let me explain what Taleb’s neat little aphorism means – and how YOU can use it to plug a costly poker leak.

-----

We have all heard certain over-enthusiastic types talking about poker being war. It is an understandable concept. Enemies clash, and only one can prevail.

However, the reality is that it is a card game – not life or death. The war analogy is limited and ill thought-out. Professional poker players are often close friends away from the tables, and their rivalry stretches no further than their bankrolls.

Nassim Taleb would be a great poker player
Nassim Taleb would be a great poker player

Despite this, there is one clear truth that can be learned from war and applied seamlessly to poker:

When two conflicting view-points are expressed, many people make the mistake of believing that the truth must lay in the middle. In a war, it is easy to assume that there is validity to both sides’ stance, and that they are both half-right.

This is called the Argument to Moderation, and it is quite, quite wrong. Here’s why:

Let’s say that I truly believe that the cup of coffee in front of me is stone cold. My girlfriend, however, is adamant that it is boiling hot. When I drink it, I will either spit it out because it is disgustingly freezing, or I will spit it out because it is burning my mouth.

One of us is right, and the other is wrong. The cup of coffee is not lukewarm. I will not happily guzzle the coffee down because we were both part-right. The truth does NOT magically lie in the middle.

This is all well and good, Christy, but what has this got to do with poker?

As it turns out, quite a lot!

A variant of the following situation rears its ugly head a staggering amount of the time when I am coaching students in the art of the Sit N Go.

We are on the bubble, and Hero is faced with a borderline decision. It may be that Hero has raised, and Villain has 3-bet. Hero is torn between finding a pretty nitty fold, and bringing down the hammer with an aggressive, risky shove.

The Thought Process of the Poker Player

Hero’s thought process runs thus: ‘Villain knows that I am stealing wide. He is a good player, and so will be 3-betting quite often here. I am confident that I can generate a lot of fold equity by shoving. ICM dictates that Villain can only call my 4-bet with the top 5% of holdings. And if I win this pot, I claim the chip lead and can confidently bully the bubble. The stats are on my side. I like a shove here.’

However, my hand isn’t strong, and I am contemplating tangling with the chip leader. ICM dictates that I need a monster hand to play an all-in pot here. I have a lot of equity to protect, as the short-stack benefits every time that I take on the chip leader. There is a strong argument to find a fold here.’

Hero is torn between two strong options. To shove or to fold? To shove or to fold? Hero weighs it up and….

Calls.

When faced with a borderline decision, Hero did the worst possible thing. He took the middle ground. He failed to act decisively, and it cost him equity – which costs him money.

He hoped that the coffee was lukewarm, when he really knew that it was either freezing or boiling.

The Move of Moderation in Poker

Poker does not lend itself to moderation. Much as a golfer cannot sink a putt if it is under-hit, the best poker players recognise that a lack of conviction is inexcusable.

And a lack of conviction is what often leads the poker player to making the move of moderation – in this case, the call.

When torn between two conflicting options – both of which are at least partly meritorious – it is criminal for the poker player to choose the third path.

It is criminal to avoid making a tough decision by making a WRONG one instead.

 

What do you think – is this leak something of which you are guilty? Drop me a message or a tweet with your experiences.

And, as always, please spread the word by sharing this article on Facebook and Twitter.

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Why Poker Players are Like Taxi Drivers – And What You Should do About it!

Posted by preachercasy151

Poker players are like taxi drivers.

No, I don’t mean that card games make them fantasise about going on Travis Bickle-esque vigilante killing sprees.

Although, I’m sure everyone has wanted to take out the dealer from time to time ;)

But the main similarity between a lot of poker players and cabbies is that they get their volume backwards – they tend to work fewer hours when things are going well, and more hours when it’s just not their day.

taxi

The Cabbie Paradox

An interesting study considered the working habits of New York taxi drivers. I’ll spare you the dry academic text, and skip straight to the interesting bit:

Logic would suggest that those who can select their own working hours should take advantage of inclement weather and subway breakdowns etc by putting in as many hours as possible when demand is at its highest.

This would free them up to take more time off when the sun is shining and nobody is interested in hopping into a Joe Baxi.

However, logic is not always the guiding force that it should be.

You see, it turns out that cabbies are driven (NPI) by money, rather than volume. So when they hit their target figure for the day, they call it quits and go get a beer. Maximising their earn is not their priority – a pretty heinous error for those whose income is at the mercy of variance.

I’m going to call this the Cabbie Paradox.

As a poker coach, this sounds eerily familiar.

It is very common to find people who still define a session’s success by its results, rather than whether or not they hit their volume target.

The logic runs thus:

If I can make $1000 in 50 games, then surely I deserve to take the rest of the day off, rather than play the other 100 games that I had initially intended?

In a word

NO.

There was a reason why you hit $1000 in such a short time frame. Perhaps you ran well. Perhaps the games were softer than usual. Perhaps you were in a great state of flow.

Whatever the reason, you don’t know when the next time that you hit the perfect storm will be. It’s not a tap that you can switch on and off at will – regardless of how easy it feels when things are going your way.

Just as taxi drivers are prone to thinking that the procession of customers will never end when the rain is teeming down, poker players who are upswinging think that they can take it easy because it will always be this easy.

Poker Squirrel and the Nuts Joke

It stands to reason, then, that when things are going well, you should maximise it. You should be a poker squirrel, hoarding nuts away for when times are lean – as they inevitably will be, someday soon. If you have a volume goal (and you definitely should!) this is the time to smash through it. Maximise that upswing by putting in the hours on those days when the game feels easy!

If you do this, then the trade-off comes when it’s not going well. You can treat yourself to a shorter day, for the nuts have already been squirreled away in more bounteous times.

The Cabbie Paradox is one whose origins are easy to trace. For self-employed people like poker players and taxi drivers, one of the most appealing attributes is the way of life. Being able to pick your own hours is a giant two fingers to the 9-5 grind, and when things are going well it is hard to find the discipline to still hit volume.

After all – who amongst your friends can say that they woke up without an alarm clock, made four figures by lunch, then went to the zoo to drink from a hip flask and take funny selfies?

Getting Unstuck

On the other hand, when things aren’t going well, many players give themselves no option but to play until they get unstuck. This determination is bizarre for the following reasons:

1)      Most people don’t play their best when they’re getting crushed – so why choose this moment to play more?

2)      It’s a results-orientated, short-termist outlook. Day-to-day goals should be volume-based, for volume is entirely within your control and results are at the mercy of variance.

3)      Poker is about making good decisions. You may or may not get unstuck by busting past your volume target, but regardless of outcomes, doing so is likely to be a bad decision – something that should be anathema to a poker player.

Let’s Be Logical

It’s clear that there is a severe logic breakdown, when it is spelled out like this.  Unfortunately, the poker world is littered with people offering bad advice.

So next time you feel the urge to slack off and quit your session early, ask yourself this:

‘Am I behaving like a taxi driver?’

 

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Pump up your Volume with this Simple Tweak

Posted by preachercasy151

Answer me this: are you interested in getting as much volume as possible into your poker grinding sessions, without having to resort to adding a ton of extra tables?

If the answer is no, then please feel free to unsubscribe or leave the site, because this one is a no-brainer ;)

You need volume. It is what makes all of the hard work that you did away from the tables so valuable.

Up That Hourly

Let me put it another way:

You may work super-hard on your poker EV calculations. You may spend hours every week running reports on Pokertracker 4, and running Sit N Go simulations through ICMizer.

You may subscribe to every magazine and read every poker book going. You may grind a lot of short sessions, to keep focused and to make sure that you’re always fresh.

Well guess what?

You’re still not maximising your earning hourly rate. You’re still not hitting the volume of which you are capable.

This is because these short sessions are terrible for your bottom line. ‘How so?’ I hear you ask. I’ll tell you right now.

Introducing Johanna – a Sit N Go Grinder

Let me introduce you to Johanna – a Sit N Go grinder like you and me. Johanna can play up to 12 tables profitably. Any more than this, and the quality of her decision-making suffers. So she asked me to help her increase her volume without adding more tables.

I asked Johanna what a typical grinding day for her constituted. This was her reply:

-          Hey Christy, I like to keep my sessions short because I’m worried about tilting and I hate to lose focus. Sometimes I can feel myself making bad decisions and I don’t really know how to stop it, so I find this easier to cope with when sessions are short. I guess I play about two-and-a-half hours in the morning, two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon, and sometimes another session in the evening when I can.

Talk about an easy fix for a coach! With one minor tweak, I was able to help Johanna to up her weekly games total by 10% without having to resort to drastic measures. And let me tell you, it is the easiest thing in the world to implement. You can do it too.

2.5 + 2.5 = 5?

I simply recommended that Johanna merge her morning session with her afternoon session. One five-hour session is worth a whole lot more than two 2.5 hour sessions.

This is because every session requires necessary downtime while tables are filling and the grinder is getting their software loaded up, etc. Similarly, it is not as though every table finishes at the same time, so time is lost at the end as twelve tables winds down to zero.

With the load up, and then the wind down, a 2.5 hour session would probably only feature a maximum of 120 minutes of 12-tabling, with Johanna spending at least 30 minutes playing below her capacity.

And for any serious grinder concerned with their hourly, this is akin to burning money.

However, when the session duration doubles to 5 hours, the down-time remains the same. Johanna still only drops below her maximum capacity for the same 30 minute duration. Therefore, she gets 270 minutes of max-capacity grinding in; a handy increase of 30 minutes when compared with two 2.5 hour sessions.

Gaining 10% Every Week

Needless to say, all these half-hours add up! Over the course of a week, Johanna gets the equivalent of an extra session in, simply by postponing her lunch break until later. Short evening sessions notwithstanding, the extra half-hour of quality grinding that Johanna can now manage every day equates to an extra 2.5 hours per week – or a 10% gain, just by managing her time a little better!

Next time, we will take a look at the other aspect of Johanna’s email – the dreaded T word!

Tilt is oft-experienced, and even oft-er misunderstood ;) It deserves its own blog, so we will give it plenty of attention.

Make sure you subscribe to my email list (simply pop your email address into to this form) so that you get the benefit of my blogs as soon as they’re posted. And hey, they’re free, so be a sweetheart and give them a share!

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How to Up Your Volume – While Improving Motivation

Posted by preachercasy151

Staying on pace to hit long-term volume goals need not be a painful slog. I propose one adjustment that will revolutionise your approach. To do so, let me introduce you to Holly…

Volume. Turnover. Grinding. Call it what you like; the reality remains the same. The more Holly plays, the more she earns. Simple, right?

Indeed it is – at least in principle. However, the theory is all well and good, but it doesn’t necessary feel straightforward when Holly’s chips are being pushed towards her opponents for hours on end. It is thoroughly dis-spiriting.

She approached me looking for some advice as she knuckled down for her first year as a professional grinder. Reaching 2x Supernova was her goal– an ambitious, but certainly achievable, target for somebody who grinds the low-mid stakes SNGs.

However, she was being held back by an inability to pace herself.

Drifting Focus

In her determination to get ahead in her Supernova charge, Holly would play until her energy levels were at zero every session. Then when it came to firing up her next session, her motivation would be down, and her focus would drift off after an inordinately short amount of time.

Sometimes, the mere thought of loading up the Pokerstars client would fill her stomach with that awful sinking feeling.

The result? A disillusioned grinder. An all-or-nothing outlook. A tilty disposition. An unprofessional approach. Boom or bust. Repeat.

How could Holly re-model her grinding schedule, so that she would start every day feeling fresh and motivated?

The New Approach – via Murakami and Hemingway

My advice to Holly was straightforward: in order to reach her goal, she needed to take a leaf out of the book of two literary greats.

Haruki Murakami’s outstanding meditation on running and life What I Talk About When I Talk About Running offers a fascinating insight into his writing method. This is something that he nabbed from an unknown scribbler who went by the name Ernest Hemingway. No, I’d never heard of him either.

‘I stop everyday right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly’ (p.5).

For Murakami and Hemingway, a long-term project like writing a novel required a steady pace and perpetual motivation. They did not want their brain to associate their craft with suffering.

Writing until they fell asleep at the desk was a sure-fire way to decrease motivation for the next day. Indeed, it would feel like a mission just to pick up the pen, after such a draining session. So they would quit, right when it felt like they had a little left in them.

Sound Familiar?

The Murakami method translates to poker beautifully. Ending each session on a high, with a bit of fuel left in the tank, keeps motivation up and dodges that nasty hidden danger ego depletion (the topic of an upcoming blog).

So the first step that I recommend when it comes to hitting long-term poker goals is to actively ignore the popular myth that you should ‘grind until you can grind no more’.

The reality is that playing until you flat-out can’t take any more is likely to hinder your progress. If you are mentally and physically exhausted, then sustaining your motivation across time will become incredibly difficult. In short: the likelihood of burn-out is massively increased.

Nailing Down a Plan

When I asked Holly how many games she could manage in a day, nailing down a plan became easy. She replied ‘225 at the absolute most’. So we knocked about 10% off, settling on 205 per day (which would get her to Supernova x2 comfortably, playing 5 days per week).

This would ensure that she finished every day happy with her volume, but feeling that she was capable of more. That final, painful, stretch from game 206-225 was simply chopped off.

The result? Holly became eager to log in the following day. Poker was no longer something that she associated with exhaustion; every day, she would end her session with something left in the tank and a desire to hit the tables again to keep her Supernova hunt on track.

Here’s the Best Bit

Best of all, her results improved too! No longer were the final 20 games a race to the finish, in order to tick another day off the list. Instead, Holly found herself playing a sharper, more focused A-game for longer.

The Problem with Volume

I sometimes fear that the volume-centric poker outlook is counter-productive. Some coaches and players would have you believe that stopping short of maximum volume every single day is absolutely scandalous. I disagree, and here’s why:

It is terrible to play 500 games daily for a month or two, and then to burn out and start tilting (or even quit!).

On the other hand, the slow-and-steady method has four clear advantages:

a) A more measured pace is less likely to make your brain associate poker with exhaustion, meaning that those I-just-can’t-face-it days are kept at bay,

b) Focus is stronger, and A-game is maintained,

c) Rather than focusing on just…getting…through…..this….never-……ending…….session, which is an extremely short-termist outlook, this approach keeps the grinder focused on the long-term goal of playing the same volume daily. Once the habit is formed, it is easier to adhere to,

d) Motivation is sustained when goals are met. For Holly, playing 205 games every day is a lot more achievable than playing 225 games most days. Therefore, she hits her target more frequently, perpetuating the feel-good and motivation.

Every day is a small victory, as she repeatedly hits her volume goal.

These small adjustments can be the difference between success and failure over the long-term. They have certainly helped Holly develop a strong grinding routine.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me your grinding routine, and perhaps I’ll be able to help you optimise it. And if you think that this article could help people to reach their long-term poker goals, give it a share on Twitter or Facebook and spread the word!

Follow Christy on Twitter

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Do You Have This Costly Leak? Introducing the Diamond Star Effect

Posted by preachercasy151

I was coaching an excellent player this morning, when an interesting scenario arose. We were reviewing a Sit N Go that he had played, in which he reached Heads-Up against a guy who is generally considered the best player in those games. A particularly strange hand saw villain take an extremely non-standard line, which left my student flummoxed.

What was his thought process? I encouraged my student to talk the hand out from the start. Several different possible reasons for villain’s strange decision-making in the hand were discussed. None seemed credible. ‘Why did he decide to make that move?’ asked my student, obsessed with unravelling the truth: ‘he must have had a reason’.

Here’s the thing. Villain did have a reason. It’s just that the reason was not what my student anticipated.

Villain screwed up.

Nothing simpler, nothing more complicated. He misplayed the hand. He lost track of where he was, of the flow of the hand – a side-effect of multi-tabling. His move made no logical sense, because there was no logic to it.

My student had made the cardinal error of associating villain’s undoubted technical quality with infallibility. Of considering an elite SNG player to be superhuman and incapable of error. His reason was understandable, if misguided. To understand this, you must appreciate that villain is something of a legend in the low-midstakes games; a regular leaderboard-topper, who plays more tables with a better winrate than anyone at those stakes.

The Halo Effect is when a Person A’s judgment of Person B’s character is skewed by their overall impression of Person B. For example, it is common for us to think a movie star a cool person because of a role that they played. Or that a politician is a good decision maker because they dress well and have a strong physical presence.

This was its poker equivalent: the Diamond Star effect.

On Sharkscope, Diamond Stars denote the top players at each limit. Villain possesses several Diamond Stars. However, that does not mean that he makes the optimal decision at all times. It takes him a few days to play one thousand games; errors are guaranteed. My student gave too much respect to villain’s reputation, and attributed merit where none was due.

We see this in football. In Scotland, Celtic rarely get beat at home, regardless of how poorly they play. They have a bigger budget and better players; however, this is not the sole reason for their imperious home form. Their apparent invincibility is a daily topic in the red-tops and on the sports shows. Players at ‘lesser’ clubs are treated as irrelevant by the media, whereas Celtic’s players are rated as demi-Gods. When they take to the turf, the visitors afford their exalted opponents too much respect, and might as well be 1-0 down by kick-off.

Deference does not win battles. Opposition that you consider to be of superior ability can be overcome by playing them, not their reputation. If you are a profitable, hard-working player, then you must trust your decision-making and problem-solving skills, regardless of your opponent. Sure, the best players make fewer mistakes than most; however, you can be absolutely certain that these do occur on occasion. So if it looks like a mistake, and it smells like a mistake, then it probably is a mistake. The esteem in which my student held his opponent determined his reaction, despite the evidence that suggested that villain simply misplayed the hand.

How often do you fall into the trap of thinking that excellent players always play every hand optimally? I know that I have made this mistake before, and I would bet that I will make similar errors in logic in the future. However, the first step towards eliminating a leak is to recognise it.

Christy Keenan is a poker coach, writer, and player. He has a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology, and specialises in decision-making in competition.

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A Sport Betting Challenge!

Posted by preachercasy151

Never one to back down from a good challenge, on Saturday I will make my first sports bet since 2010, and second since 2006. Here are the details:

Can my online poker background and Sport Psychology MSc be utilised in the world of sport betting? Can I successfully analyse the upcoming Man U - Sunderland game, and predict its outcome?

Keep your eye on this page  for a short strategy video detailing the challenge I face, and the thought process behind my decision-making!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Casy-Bets/170823853068918

 

 

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Participants Wanted for Poker Study: 6-max SNGs

Posted by preachercasy151

Hi folks,

As some of you might be aware, I am currently undertaking a Master's degree in Sport Psychology. My dissertation is going to be on decision-making in poker. If you meet the following criteria and would be interested in taking part (no fee for participation I'm afraid, but it's going to be a fun study!) please PM me at Drag the Bar, email poker@christykeenan.com, or add me on Skype (search 'casy151')

*Winning 6max SNG player with an ROI not more than 5%

*Willing to find an hour or so to undertake the study in the next month

 

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Two New Blogs on Gambling; New Strategy Articles

Posted by preachercasy151

Hey everyone,

My favourite website Ed Uncovered commissioned me to write a couple of articles about gambling. There are plenty of poker references, although they are not strictly poker pieces. You might get a kick out of them - especially if you like Breaking Bad.

Also, as some of you may know, I am a regular Poker Strategy writer for the best poker mag in the UK: Poker Player Magazine. Some of you may enjoy having a little look at some of my Sit N Go pieces.

At the moment, I am w0rking hard at my Sport Psychology Master's. Keep a regular eye on http://christykeenan.com/ for the latest articles and blogs, and as always I'll be posting the best of them right here at dragthebar.com.

Much love,

 

Christy

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Movin’ On Up

Posted by preachercasy151

As well as being one of my favourite songs of all time (Movin' On Up by Primal Scream), it makes a pretty good name for September’s blog. A few of my students have found themselves in the enviable position of moving up in stakes recently. They have beaten their usual game for an impressive winrate, and now they’re ready to take a shot on some bigger buy-ins. Here’s the single biggest piece of advice that I gave them:

Blend in the new stakes; don’t jump into those games exclusively.

There are a few good reasons behind moving up in stakes slowly and seamlessly, and those reasons all centre around the individual’s comfort zone.

First and foremost, it can be intimidating to step up to higher limits. Some people become inclined to gamble it up more than usual, almost as if they’re unconsciously trying to get lucky and take the new games by storm. Others nit up, protect their chips to the bubble, and hope to take it from there. Neither strategy is optimal.

The allegory I always use is that of a young footballer. He’s an 18 year old winger and has really been impressing for the Youth Team. His style is fearless; he likes to take defenders on, using his direct running and dangerous crossing to terrorise opponents. Now the manager selects him for the Senior team. He is ready for his first-team debut. He gets onto the pitch and instead of running at the full-back, he decides to keep it simple and play easy passes to his more experienced team-mates. When he has a chance to shoot at goal, he plays a square ball instead. Now does the manager want to see this from the youngster? He most certainly does not; the youth was selected for his mad skillz, and now he’s playing like a nit! That is not the type of performance that the manager deemed good enough for the big games.

When you move up to bigger games, you must resist the temptation to think about the stakes. Your natural game made you a stand-out at the lower-levels; now take that same skillset and keep doing what you do. Do not modify yourself initially; improvements can be phased in over time, once you have a better feel for the intricacies of the demands of the new level. The young footballer and his manager believed that he could bring the ruckus to the first-team scene, and my students and I are no different. If I tell them they’re ready to take a shot, then they’re ready to take a shot. However, taking a shot does not encompass making broad adjustments to their natural game. It was their natural game that brought them this opportunity, and it is their natural game that will make the most of it.

The only way to overcome new limit tension is to get comfortable at those limits. The best way to get comfortable at those limits is to avoid attaching added significance to those particular games. If you tend to play 12 tables of $15s, why not try 9 of those and a couple of $30s? When the tables are stacked up, you will not give the $30s extra attention; you will just play your natural game and keep your decision-making consistent. Or let’s say that, like me, you regularly play the $60 games on Pokerstars. You have beaten them comfortably over a big sample, and you want to start playing the $100s. Your first thought should be to select good, beatable $100 games, and mix them in with your regular $60s. That way you get a feel for what it takes to beat the $100s without having to make the psychological leap of thinking ‘now I’m a $100s player’. Poker should be about playing in good games, not about stroking your ego by only playing the highest limits you can afford.

In a recent session, I played 40-odd $30 games, 60-odd $60s, a dozen $100s and four $15s. I’d rather have played them all at the $60s and $100s, but those games were often extremely tough and I have no interest in losing money. If a $100 6max game is registering and I see Foreman12, AndyAFC#1, Koovoon, Bigstealer and maybe one fishbowl sitting, should I think ‘well, I’m a $100 player, guess I better register’? Hell no! I think ‘there is no way on earth that I can sit in this game and expect to earn money long-term’, so I check the lobbies at lower limits instead.

So when somebody asks you what games you play at poker, your answer should not be ‘the $100 6max Sit N Gos’. Nope. Your answer should be, simply, ‘the good ones’.

***For more on the subject of Moving Up in Stakes, check out my video with MD261 entitled ‘Soft Eyes: The SNG Outlook’ only at Drag the Bar!

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On Patterns

Posted by preachercasy151

The thing is, patterns don't exist. Things happen, entirely at random, and we instinctively attempt to rationalise, formulate, and categorise them under the totally arbitrary and misleading title 'patterns'. Do any of the following sound familiar to you?

'I was running like dogshit so I quit.'

'I lost my first five coinflips and I thought 'uh oh, it's gonna be one of those sessions!'.'

'These big combo-draws haven't been hitting for me recently, so I decided to just fold instead of jamming.'

In poker, the equity of decision-making should exist entirely in a vacuum; or rather, the swings of fortune/misfortune have no bearing on the mathematical correctness of each decision. Just because you are, in fact, running like dogshit, doesn't mean that you should eschew the mathematically best decision (ie. shoving) in favour of the 'safer' option of folding. When that happens, you are letting variance win. You are allowing the totally random will of the Poker Gods to influence you towards making a sub-optimal decision. So much for poker being a skill game!

Just think of how much mental energy and focus you could free if you stop allowing these arbitrary 'patterns' to permeate your decision-making. They don't exist, and yet poker players expend so much focus trying to rationalise them. Let's take a look at my results over the last ten days:

Day one: + $807
Day two: + $347

This is going so well! I've cracked poker! I'm a genius! The poker Gods love me!

Day three: - $1571
Day four: - $528
Day five: - $189

Jesus, I suck. The poker Gods are punishing me. I run so bad. I hate this f game!

Day six: + $1179
Day seven: + $667
Day eight: + $263
Day nine: day off
Day ten: + $138

Cracked it again! Poker is my BITCH!

These ten days yielded an overall win of + $1113. I like to earn money, so this is good news. However, notice how completely arbitrary my means of demarcation are! Had I elected to use a five-day sample rather than ten, I would have been stuck $1134 - rather less impressive. And had I gone for a twenty-day sample, guess what? Back to being a genius again: a win of $1962!

Now, it looks as if my winning and losing days come in streaks. I win for a few days, lose for a few days, win for a few days. There must be something behind that, right?

Well, for me the answer is no. I have a deep-enough understanding of variance by now to recognise that this is just chance, just the swongs of online poker. For the more recreational player who checks his results after every session, is more apt to tilt, and generally allows his confidence to be affected by the short-term swings inherent in the game, then yes, I would agree that he is marginally more likely to book a few winning days in a row while his confidence is high.

However, in my case (and hopefully yours too!), variance plays a miniscule part in my poker life. Some days I run good, some days I run bad. Overall, I run exactly even. If I allow a completely alien factor such as 'how I'm running' to inform my decision-making, then I'm losing the poker battle. And making correct decisions is the ONLY consideration at the poker table. It is all that matters.

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Poker and Football

Posted by preachercasy151

...two of my favourite things. Watching England's supplicant display against Italy in last week's European Championship fixture reminded me of Chelsea versus Bayern Munich in the recent Champions League Final. In both encounters, the seemingly weaker side elected to sit back and defend for virtually the entire match with the intention of booking a penalty shoot-out or binking an improbable goal on the break.

As with poker, the margins for success in football are extremely thin. Chelsea managed to hang tight against Bayern, take the game to penalties as befits their pre-match gameplan, and win the battle of nerves against the German megastars. Their manager Roberto di Matteo might not have selected an entertaining route to victory, but by God it was successful. With the trophy in his back pocket, di Matteo's negative selection policy was vindicated.

Contrast this with the England performance against Italy last week. Similarly spirited displays that offered plenty in guts but little in imagination. With a defensive line that held steadfast even in the face of near-constant Italian domination, England mimicked Chelsea's doggedness and they too secured the target of a penalty shootout. Had England triumphed (as looked likely before two late misses from Young and Cole in a swongy shootout), then their affable manager Roy Hodgson would have been vindicated a la di Matteo.

So how does this relate to poker? Well it's pretty simple. In poker, results don't matter. Decisions and performance are all that a serious poker player will focus their energy on. I have lost count of the times that I have explained to a student why their decision was not a correct one, only for them to shoot back with 'ah but he folded so it worked'. This type of thinking may be relevant in footballing terms (ie. 'Chelsea's defensiveness won them the trophy so it was a good tactical decision', or 'England's gamble to play for penalties didn't work because they lost') but it has no place in poker. In football, results are everything. The fact that they played like a fish will be instantly forgotten if they take the trophy home; vindication is in the winning. When it comes to poker, the result is an often-inconvenient footnote to the decision-making process.

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Doing Nothing

Posted by preachercasy151

I've been mulling over this blog for a while now, and couldn't quite work out how to approach it. It's a tough concept to articulate, and is one that I believe that the vast majority of poker players fail to acknowledge. In fact, I'd go further;  most people in life seem to have trouble with it.

At the tables I had an ugly downswing that lasted around six weeks. It was pretty unfortunate and expensive, but there wasn't a whole lot that could be done about it. I ran an obscene amount below EV in all-in pots, and a disproportionate amount of moves that I made ran into tops of opponents' ranges. For a poker player, if you are not familiar with this then you don't play enough. It's a reality of the game, and I'm certainly not complaining. In fact, I was able to take a really great positive out of the downswing, and it is the moral of this blog:

Sometimes the hardest thing is doing nothing.

I'm not talking about playing less. I'm not talking about folding more. I'm talking about resisting the urge to make reactionary changes to my game. This took great discipline and confidence in my ability. I have an ROI of over 8% across all sites; just because my results took a dip did not mean that I had suddenly become a fishbowl at the tables. I had to keep faith in the style (somewhere between TAG and LAG, I guess) that had earned me a lot of money over the last few years. This was not as easy as it sounds.

It is my view that the vast majority of people expend an excessive amount of focus and mental energy on matters that are completely outwith their control. In poker terms, this involves sweating cards, berating fish, and cursing the Poker Gods. We are egotistical creatures and we want to control everything. When things go against us, we have an urge to adjust our (winning) strategy because we fear that it is no longer profitable. This is not just counter-productive, it is poker suicide.

An obvious example is merely calling or checking back a monster draw because 'they just haven't been hitting recently'. In other words, reining in your poker instincts because of some short-term negative variance is going to adversely affect your bankroll. It is natural to look for a scapegoat, and it is not always easy to keep faith in your decision-making when you can see your bankroll diminish by the day. However, sometimes you have to hold your hands up, say 'all I can do is ensure that the next decision that I make is the best one possible', and let the Poker Gods do their worst.

Any significant changes to your game should be implemented from a position of strength, when you are thinking matters through clearly and can handle the swings emotionally. In real life, I have lost count of the amount of people who have had a shitty day at work or whatever and decided that they need to make a radical alteration to their life. Of course, this is often just venting; we all do it and we all need to do it. However, I can't help but feel that these decisions should be shelved until an unemotional state of mind can be accomplished.

In other words, when things are going bad, focus on riding it out. Big changes can wait until the downswing - at the tables or in real life - has subsided. Minor adjustments and improvements should always be at the forefront of one's mind, but the real radical stuff can wait til another day.

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Everything Flows

Posted by preachercasy151

Hey folks,

I like to swim. I’m not very good at it, but I do it five times a week and it’s a great way of improving my fitness (hey, I’m an online poker player – exercise is pretty foreign to me). One thing that I’ve been mulling over recently is the concept of being In The Zone.

Every now and then, I get into a great flow where swimming feels completely natural. I glide through the water without fatigue and without even having to think about my technique. This is my swimming A Game.

Most of the time, I need a little break after a dozen or so lengths. My technique starts pretty well but, as I tire, my time deteriorates and I get pretty leggy. This is my B Game.

And then there are times when I get into the pool, swim five lengths with considerable exertion and then go for a sauna. I do not want to be in the pool, and the pool does not want me. Ours is a loveless marriage. This is my C Game.

Over time, I have noticed that my C Game days have decreased from once a week to once every few weeks. My A Game days have increased in turn; in any given week I will have at least one of these. My B Game is my standard, and it has improved dramatically. As I swim more regularly, what is my A Game today will be superceded by next month’s B Game. Next month’s C Game will equate to today’s B Game. In other words, improvement is a moving target. Tommy Angelo calls this ‘improving from the bottom up and from the top up’, and I think he’s bang on the mark with this one.

I did a coaching session this week with a student who plays the 18-Man SNGs on Pokerstars. He did not play flawlessly; I would say that he played his B Game. However, his B Game this week is vastly superior to his A Game of three months ago. Improvement may not be easy to measure in yourself, but hard work ensures that these In Flow A Game moments occur more frequently. And that is a pretty good target to strive for.

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Outlaws and Thieves

Posted by preachercasy151

Part of my job is to trawl through the poker forums every day.  Sometimes I offer strategic advice, sometimes I learn something new, and sometimes I just laugh at the whining on BBV. However, what I have noticed of late is a real determination among the recreational players to improve their game.  Of course, this concept is not new; every professional was, at some point, an amateur just trying to get their head around this poker malarky. Recently, though, it’s been especially noticeable.  It seems as if every time I log into the Drag the Bar forums or the Team Moshman blog pages, another noob with their head screwed on right is offering focused insight into this game we love. Strategy posts, long-term goal threads, video discussion; it seems that the hunger for knowledge will never be sated.

These aren’t people who spend their time dreaming of binking the Sunday Million (although it would be nice); they are smart, realistic folk who realise that, if they put in the time and work, then they have a real shot at making some solid money at poker. Gone is the image of poker being a game for gamblers, outlaws and thieves; it has been replaced by the booksmart, analytical outlook of the new generation of poker player. As someone who makes a chunk of his income coaching others, I can assure you that the sea-change in outlook has proven most refreshing. Here’s to the next generation!

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An Even Keel (another short tale)

Posted by preachercasy151

Poker involves a lot of pain. One thing is guaranteed: if you are not able to remain emotionally even, then you are at a disadvantage. Of course, I handle swings well because I have more experience than most when it comes to disappointment.

After all, I support Aberdeen FC.

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A Short Tale

Posted by preachercasy151

I was awoken today by the sound of my phone ringing. It was my girlfriend, asking if I'd like to meet for lunch in half an hour. I said 'sure'.

That sums up why I play online poker for a living.

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Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In

Posted by preachercasy151

I've blogged about similar concepts in the past, but as a Sit N Go player it is important to keep certain concepts at the forefront of your mind. Tommy Angelo can take sole credit for this one:

There are no hot and cold streaks. They are arbitrary creations designed by the individual to get their head around or make sense of what is happening to them. There is the current hand, and the current hand alone. We look for patterns in order to rationalise a game that, no matter how experienced we are, can always throw up a good kick in the teeth. For example, if one of my students asked today, I would say 'I've run like crap this week'. However, if they had asked me on Tuesday how I was running, I would have said 'terrific...playing good, running good. All is well!' So these arbitrary demarcations regarding 'streaks' serve no purpose but to try and help us see patterns in a game that is inherently random. Poker is fluid.

Now where these 'streaks' become dangerous is when they start to inform your decision-making. For example, if you flop the nut-flush draw with an overcard and an aggressive opponent donks into you, your default line would be to stack it in. But today you might think 'ach these draws just aren't hitting for me right now, I'm going to wait til I have a made hand before I tangle with this guy' and either call or chuck your hand into the dustbin. In this scenario, you are trying to manually reduce your variance by taking a (hypothetically) sub-optimal line and, in so doing, are allowing your completely meaningless definition of your 'bad streak' to have a negative impact on your decision-making. And, as I am forever telling my students, the important things are:

DECISIONS, NOT RESULTS

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Welcome to the Occupation

Posted by preachercasy151

Hey everyone,

Unfortunately I won't be able to grind much for the rest of the week, but I'm going to be coaching more.  I'm at my parents' house until I make the move from Aberdeen to Edinburgh on Sunday. My sister, her husband and their two wee girls are coming to spend time with us, which is always a delight.  My brother, his girlfriend and an assortment of family friends will also be visiting, so it's going to be a bit of a free-for-all.  I find it impossible to keep focused on grinding when there is a lot of activity in the house, and the games are tough these days.  Anything less than 100% focus is a leak, and so I'm going to take the opportunity to log some coaching hours and make some videos for Drag The Bar.

It is also a great opportunity for me to review my game a lot.  With so many students, coaching and writing commitments it can be easy to get lazy and neglect my own improvement.  Fortunately I am lucky in that I can turn to some fantastic players in Team Moshman and the wider poker community for advice anytime that I feel I'm getting a little bit stale.  My HEM problems are incredibly tilting; in short, despite my various rebuilds and the help of some HEM experts, it still is randomly ignoring HHs, the HUD is volatile and the replayer temperamental.  Not much puts me on tilt at the tables; the window cleaner banging away at my window and broadband/connection problems are pretty much the extent of it.  I guess I can now add HEM problems to the list.  All I can say is roll on PokerTracker 4!

So if you don't see me at the tables much for the rest of the week, it isn't because I have become lazy (well, I am lazy, but that's not the reason!).  Simply, every setback has opportunity attached; Monteroy taught me that, and he was bang on.   With all this family around, things are going to be too hectic to do much grinding.  However, there are tons of poker-related activities that I can instead turn my focus to in order to both improve my game and that of my students.  Plus, the new records from Wilco and The Waterboys have both just been released, and they're magnificent.  It would be a shame not to give them the attention that they deserve.  See you in five days!

All the best, everyone.

Christy

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Adios REM

Posted by preachercasy151

Hey folks.  I was all set to write a poker blog this week and then the news got through that REM have split.  From the moment I got into music as a young'un, it was Stipe, Mills, Berry and Buck all the way.  Green still ranks up their with my favourite records of all time and, although I can live without their most recent output, their 80s catalogue is probably the most consistent run of brilliant albums in musical history.  A bold claim, of course, but let's think about it:

Murmur

Reckoning

Fables of the Reconstruction

Lifes Rich Pageant (the lack of apostrophe always tilted me)

Document

Green

Barely a dodgy track, let alone a whole album, between them.  If there was a gun to my head, I would pick Can't Get There From Here from Fables...as their worst.  Beyond that, I can honestly say that I would happily listen to every single song that they released in the 80s (minus a couple from Dead Letter Office, their odds n sods contract-filling compilation).  Even the mighty Wilco and Waterboys can not hand-on-heart claim to have matched REM's consistency over the course of six records, let alone their first six.  And that's before you include Out of Time, Automatic, Monster and New Adventures (each of which are outstanding records in the context of anybody else's repertoire).  Modest Mouse had Long Drive, Lonesome Crowded West, Moon and Antarctica, and Good News; four quite brilliant releases that rival almost anything from the 90s onwards.  Still, they lag behind REM for consistency.

While my musical tastes have evolved and I have fallen in and out of love with countless bands, REM have remained a constant.  They deserve to be spoken about alongside the all-time greats.

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