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April 18, 2006

The Ugliness Continues

Posted at April 18, 2006 06:08 AM in Beginner Topics , by Sack.

Once again I hearken back to the good old baseball playing days. The advice for this was drawn from a movie once, but beaten into my head by my Dad. I was in the middle of a horrible slump. It happens to every player at some point, and it happens on a regular basis. Everybody knows that it happens to even the best of the best, but it can still frick with your mind nonetheless. Then came some great advice. “When you’re hitting, your not swinging to hit the ball, you’re swinging not to miss.” Wow, the best advice always seems so simple. My slump had shaken my confidence, and in turn I was just trying not to miss the damn ball, when really I should have been trying to knock the cover off the whole time anyway.

We can easily do the same thing in poker after a few bad beats, bad plays, or just plain ugliness. I am glad I don’t do this anymore! But sometimes when things get bad, we start playing with what is known as “scared money”. It’s easy to get scared away from a pot that may well be yours if you don’t have the absolute nuts. If you start playing with the fear of losing money in your mind, then your doomed to never make anything. The only thing you may do is lose it slower, but scared money quickly turns into dead money when the sharks smell blood.

Right now I am still continuing the harshest of downswings I have gone through yet in my career. Case and point tonight: I get home from work and decide I’ll try a sit-n-go or two before I head to bed. Very first hand I see is a nice pair of cowboys (I’d like to submit for approval the term “brokeback” for a new nickname). Anyway, so it’s hand number one of a cheap SNG, and I’m in middle position with brokeback. I know in my mind already that if I have the chance I’m getting it all in preflop. I take the chance and limp in, figuring I’d see a raise from someone after me. This way the other limpers can contribute an extra hundred or more chips before I isolate. I get what I want when the person to my left raises 5X the BB to 100. One other caller before me, so I jack it up to 400 to try to get it to 1 on 1. The guy on my left moves all in, and the last contender folds. Now I know it’s time to gamble, since there is only one hand to be scared of. This early in the tournament donks may push with any number of hands, so to me it is +EV to take that chance on running up against aces ( winning puts me in a power position for a long while, losing I just go find another SNG). Of course he does have the aces, and I’m dead to rights on the turn when he hit the third ace. Oh well, I’d play it the same every time… but I knew my cold streak was still in tact when I finally am catching hands that are still beat.

So I jump to the next tournament. About ten hands in I get A-3 suited in the small blind. Family pot ensues and I flop the nut flush draw with 5 of us in the pot. I check it, hoping to get a cheap card. Everyone min bets, so I call getting great pot odds. Turn a blank, still min bets around and I call once again now getting monster pot odds. Turn brings a great card for me to hit a flush with, that also completes a straight and adds another over card. So I check, knowing with 5 people in the pot there should be some juicy action with the card that hit. The only possible hand to beat me right now would be K-9 of spades to make a straight flush. Guy to my left bets his 2 pair that I knew he was hoping to hit, then he is raised. I’m hoping that guy hit a smaller flush that I felt like he was chasing, or a straight. I raise it up enough to where I think I should get both to call. The second guy pushes as I hoped, and sure enough he had that straight flush. And so continues the streak of absolutely NOTHING winning for me.

Now, a year ago I would have broken my monitor and curled up in the fetal position almost praying to get hands I could fold all day just so I wouldn’t have to lose a big pot again. But that’s a losers mentality. I’ll continue to play my hands, and I’ll play them aggressively without fear, because next hand, ten hands from now, or maybe a thousand hands from now, those plays are going to start winning, and I’ll get back on track. I may keep losing for a little while, but if I play with scared money I’ll keep losing forever.

So how do you not have scared money? First and foremost never have in play more than you can afford to lose. This is where a lot of people who try to go pro err greatly. They hit a hot streak and think they can just win money day after day and make rent and pay bills. So they quit their jobs and play with no safety net… suddenly they HAVE to win, and that in itself can change your game dramatically. I was very close to making the same mistake… luckily a decent opportunity at work came up right before a previous cold streak. Had I been playing for my rent at that time, I’d be homeless now. So if you are gonna give this a try as a living, make sure you have AT LEAST 6 months worth of expenses covered where you can live comfortably.

I’ll say it again, make sure you can afford what you may lose. You never want to get involved in a pot where you can’t reload if you lose it. Being in an all or nothing situation is a bad time to play. You WILL get afraid, and a good player will nickel and dime you to death as soon as they sense it. Play within your limits, no matter what they may be. If you have fifty bucks to play with, don’t go and sit down at the $50 no limit table. You’re going to war with 4 to 9 other people, you don’t want to be stuck with only one bullet to fire. If what you can afford is only a penny table, then do it and master your craft. If you’re really that good you’ll make your profit anywhere and can work up to the bigger limits.

Beyond those major things is to simply not be scared. If your fairly sure your hand is the winner then you want to be able to call with some degree of comfort that you’ll be fine even if you are wrong. The worst thing is letting fear make you lay down the winning hand, and then having that regret on your mind as you blow away what you have left. In the end it’s better to fight and die than to never have fought at all. Swing for the fences.

losing... comfortably,

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