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Return to Live Poker (pt. 2: Planning to Improve)

Stoic Poker Bad Beat
I needed to learn to be more Stoic in my reactions to bad beats.

I returned to poker in the last post, now let's see if I managed to adjust after my first session. At the end of each session I take notes and the following were my simple notes from my first session. Remember, my head was spinning from the anxiety of returning to the live felt:

  • I limped too much

    • I need to do more 3-betting because of how light they limp, and how light they call. I need to push my equity rather than being afraid of them getting lucky and hitting.

  • I called too many raises with 2 pair or less.

    • Crush Live Poker taught me that people in live games of almost all levels are not bluffing very often when they raise. I was plugging in my online opponent's thought processes and playing style, when that IS NOT who I am playing against.

  • I didn't do enough c-betting.

    • I was letting the hand not being heads-up stand in the way of c-betting. In theory, that makes sense, but not when they are calling with any two pieces of paper that make their heart warm.

Not exactly high level analysis, but I was trying my best to get better, and these seemed like obvious mistakes I had made in my first session which was a loss. Once I had finished my session review and made some notes, I went to bed with the plan of going back the next day.

The next morning I woke up, did my morning routine (15 minutes of meditation, at least 30 minutes of exercise, 1 hour of learning, smoothie, dog walk, fit check,) and when I was done I called my uber to head down to my local casino and try again.

Before I called my ride, I had a lot of nervousness. I had been more nervous than I had expected the day before, and losing didn't take any of those nerves away. I was stressing the whole ride downtown and by the time I was at the table my heart was pounding and my hands were sweating before I got my first hand. Ugh, I knew I had to figure something out to deal with these feelings, but I didn't have a plan for that specific problem, yet.

Unfortunately, my second session was also a loss. This time I was following my rules and doing a lot better. I was getting a ton of cbets through, and I was squeezing the everloving shit out of those limpers. Then came my big hand of the day.

I had AK on the button and there was a limp train so I 8xed it and got one limp call. The flop comes AT5r, he checks, I cbet small, he calls. Turn comes a 5, I took a good look at him and didn't think he had a 5 so I bet big and he called, causing me to put him on a lesser ace. The river comes a 7 no possible flush and I go all in with my two pair with nut kicker. He tanked forever and called with A7o for a better 2 pair.

My mind immediately started telling me my play was horrible, I was horrible, I had no chance to succeed at the game, etc. I was blinded by tilt from a simple cooler that used to happen to me ten times a day when I played online. Something about it being in person, having to actually push away my chips, and watching the other guy celebrate had my brain on fire.

It was very clear I had to deal with the issues of nervousness and tilt in the live realm. Not only did I know I had work to do, but I knew I had a very long way to go until I was where I hoped I would eventually be.

I wanted to be able to smile when someone stacked me, rebuy, keep playing well, and stack them back twice :) But right then, I was a spot with serious mental game issues.

I decided I needed to extend my morning routine so that it lasted until I was sitting at the table. I would listen to something calming from the time I finished my standard morning routine, and I would keep listening to it during my ride to the casino while doing some breathing exercises.

The best calming material to listen to that I found was something near and dear to my heart. I have an audio book of the Tao that always sets my mind at ease and listening to that while calmly, deeply doing some focused breathing made a huge difference in my mindset during poker sessions.

My solution for the tilting was more based in Stoicism. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop my initial internal reactions to these mini-traumas, but I could put a plan in place to train myself to have no, or even positive external reactions.

The plan was a series of simple, but increasingly challenging steps.

  1. Start by saying nothing after a bad beat until that becomes routine.

  2. Next, start tapping the table in the "nice hand" gesture until that becomes routine.

  3. After that, I would tap the table and say "nice hand" with no tonal sarcasm.

  4. Then, I would tap the table and look them in the eyes and say "nice hand."

  5. Finally, the goal was to tap the table, look them in the eyes, SMILE, and say "nice hand."

I had a long way to go in the evolution of my mental game, but I have always been someone who enjoyed having work to do, once I could see the path I could take to get where I wanted to go. I know obstacles will arrive along the way, but that is just part of life.

I also know those challenges will pop up for everyone else in poker. My opportunity to rise comes from me being able to handle it better than they can. That can provide a consistent incremental advantage that builds over time. And that is the shit I love.

Check back in a couple days to see if I ever managed to turn things around, or if I had to quit poker and wait for the summer to end so I could start collecting checks from Superintendent Polk again, at the Public Poker School for Children.


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