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Poker: Nasty November

November 30, 2015

Okay, so it wasn’t a total disaster. Thankfully I finished 3rd in the $225 Omaha 8 Or Better tournament at the Fall Round Up in Pendleton, Oregon for a career high $5800 score (for the full write up, click here). It was a performance that saved my month from the abyss. It’s the other 29 days of November that made me sick to my stomach.

Outside of that tournament win, the best day I had was for a mere +$370. In contrast, I had four days where I lost at least $780. In all, even with the big score, I profited less than $1000 for the month. Now, I know plenty of people would be happy to make $1000 a month playing poker, and I am grateful to turn a profit despite what felt like a terrible month, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit defeated after the past two months.

What’s really eating at me is how poorly I’ve been doing in my main game, which is the $8-$16 in Lakewood. I haven’t just been losing, I’ve been getting TROUNCED. After polishing off nine straight winnings sessions for a $6k profit, I have gone on a miserable and mighty downswing. Over my last 16 sessions, I’ve posted a loss 10 times and 6 of those sessions have been for at least -$750. To make things worse, of my 6 winning sessions, none of them eclipsed +$750. I’ve shaved 39% off my win rate for the year in the last 6 weeks, dropping from 2+ BB/HR all the way down to 1.21 BB/HR.

Now I can’t really say this is all that surprising. I never really expected to sustain a 2 BB/HR win rate over the long run in a medium stakes limit game in 2015 – it’s just not realistic. The average player is so much better than they were a decade ago and honestly, I feel like 1.25-1.5 BB/HR is a more realistic number for crushing the game.

So I was due from some negative variance.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. In fact, it’s caught me quite a bit off guard. November is typically my worst month of the year as I tend to get lazier as the year progresses and my focus lapses before the new year kicks me into high gear again. So with my focus and my studying at its lowest point for the year, a monstrous downswing has played havoc with my psyche. I knew I was going to fall back to earth, but I wasn’t prepared to get my ass kicked – for weeks. There have been moments over the past two months where it felt like pure torture at the table… like the cards were mocking me, laughing at me. I’m just never going to flop a set when it gets capped multiway… or my huge draw is never getting there in the monster pots – and if I do get there, I’m finding ways to lose anyway.

I had a session last week where I flopped top pair with a premium kicker twelve times and every single time I got raised and every single time I lost the pot. It reached a point where I was expecting to get raised… and they never let me down. At the tail end of that session I flopped the nut flush draw, with a gut shot, after three betting an opponent who was opening a wide range, so even though he capped it preflop, I decided to take the point and play my ace high monster draw like it was the best hand. The board was 5323 and when I got check-raised on the turn, I felt it: a total loss of emotional control. My composure was entirely relying on the outcome of this river card. A brick… and I can’t fold…. and now he’s showing me the 63 of spades. I could feel myself boiling. Not because he beat with a trashy hand, but because I was fed up with the variance, annoyed that my aggression was getting punished to the max, and, more than anything, angry at myself for letting short term results affect me so much. Now I don’t cause a scene when I’m upset, but when you’re boiling on the inside, it’s pretty difficult to hide how you’re feeling on the outside. I might not say anything, but you can tell I am fuming. And that’s when it’s time for me to quit playing.

Fortunately, one of my strengths as a poker player is recognizing where and how my game is falling apart. I know I will get out of this funk – I have years and years of history that proves that I will – but when I’m blatantly struggling with my emotional control and letting results affect my mental state, I know it’s time to start holding myself accountable again. That means making studying a priority (starting with the mental game) and making sure I stay focused at the table. It’s easy to get lazy and go on cruise control when things are going extremely well, but I’m paying the price now for my lack of dedication. It’s not that I’m playing bad – although any deviation in your mental state is technically a form of tilt – it’s how I’m handling a series of poor results. It happens. It’s part of the game and I know that. So it shouldn’t be shaking me to my core. The variance will take care of itself eventually so I need to make sure I’m focusing on playing each hand as well as I can and making sure I have a game plan for when things go awry.

Bring it on December.

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