Why don’t I play poker that way?

by ~ August 24th, 2009. Filed under: Bankroll, General poker strategy, Poker aggression, Poker psychology.

Followup post based on the the theory that your primary objective as you play poker should be:

“Play and study so that you can work your way up to higher stakes and make a decent hourly rate.”

In theory it sounds good, though perhaps a little money-hungry. I’ve been playing poker for a while now. Why haven’t I followed this route, at least not directly as outlined in the previous post?

1. I only play as a hobby. I’ve got other commitments and hobbies that take up time so I often can’t grind the way some other people are able to do. This means shorter sessions and sometimes periods where I don’t have time to play seriously meaning some casual play and my more serious, development-focused play gets separated by time.

2. If I think back over my playing history I’ve been derailed. For maybe 6 months I tried to learn the rules and basic play by playing play money and freerolls before I started bankrolls on two sites (one via freeroll winnings, one via $50 deposit). Then I ground $10nl and into $25nl for about 6 months before running into a problem adjusting to increased preflop aggression on my part. This turned out to be quite a problem. It lasted close to a year and led me to wander to avoid spewing too much of my bankroll. So instead of straight grinding/development I ran some projects, like my Bet/Raise/Fold exercise and my 40 x $1 turbo SnG project. This was followed by my discovery of the Full Tilt super turbos, which led me to experiment with cash game short stack play. And then after all this I discovered I’d lost any ability to play post-flop, and I had to start re-building my post-flop game again.

3. I have this attitude that a good player should be able to beat any bad players because the bad players will make mathematically incorrect plays and use techniques that can be exploited by a good, more experienced player. Just like a college level basketball player should be able to fill in on a community basketball team or a pickup game of teenagers and dominate I think that I should be able to go from $50nl and casually play a $1 tournament or go to a new site and play freerolls and dominate. Maybe I’m not that good, or maybe my metaphor doesn’t hold across the translation because of the random distribution of cards.

By insisting on varying my playing situations like this I frustrate myself when I have difficulty and I confuse my playing by forcing myself to try to adapt to player types that I’ll never run into at $50nl and above. Instead of feeling superior and swelling your confidence like you do when you play a sport or a video game against lesser players I get frustrated trying to adapt.

4. I’m not very grind oriented. I’m not a long term project personality. I am very project oriented, but shorter term projects. Something like over a period of a month or two is something more my style.

Now, if the goal is long term and comes in bits and pieces that’s fine. As long as the bits and pieces have some shorter term satisfaction, or some definite sense of development. With something like learning to ski or play basketball I think that you can sense that you are improving even during the intermediate stages. Plus you do it for the fun of it as well as the exercise and what that does for your well being. Poker isn’t much fun when you’re on the underside of variance, or when you’re having aggression problems and spewing, or when you’ve put yourself in a situation of having to play bad players and are struggling with adapting.

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