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Monday, October 04, 2004

Get Serious
Time to take stock, time to assess my game, time to try and figure out why I'm not raking in more money.

I was kicking ass and taking names for much of the summer. In June I finally got the hang of 2-tabling. In late July I made the jump to $2/$4 and started winning money in amounts that, compared to my previous year of playing .50/$1, seemed positively huge. In August I played for the highest stakes of my life -- $3/$6 -- at the cooest poker room in the country -- the Mirage in Las Vegas -- and won.

Since then, I've mostly been treading water. Win a little, lose a little. Example: I bought in this past Wednesday at Party for $320, and got a 20% percent bonus. I cashed out on Saturday with $300. It felt like I only lost 5 big bets but PokerTracker -- which pays no heed to bonuses -- knows the truth: I lost $84. Then I took $200 over to Empire for their 10% bonus. Again, cleared it in no time, and when I did I had $210 -- again, I could tell myself I won $10, but really I lost $10. Kept on playing on Sunday after the Pats won, was up $180, then lost it all back. What happened to my game?

A lot of things, but my recent experiences in Las Vegas stand out. I can't emphasize enough how happy I am about those August wins in Las Vegas. There's been a little devil on my shoulder telling me that I should try even higher limits, and he won't go away. What he forgets is that I played against mostly poker-newbie-tourists in Las Vegas, and the competition online plays very differently (mainly more aggressively).

Another thing is that I became really hooked on live play. I used to think that playing poker in the casino was kinda boring, because of the slower pace. But at some point in Las Vegas I learned to really watch the action and the players. When I was "in the zone" I usually knew how I stood in any given hand -- when to slowplay, when to bluff, when to value bet, and so forth. Casino poker newbies really telegraph a lot of information, not so much through obscure tells but through obvious stuff like their facial expressions or grabbing for chips early. And a lot of times I couldn't point to anything specific, but would just have a vibe about whether I was going to take down the pot or not. As Kevin Nealon says in Happy Gilmore, "Doing the Bull Dance, feeling the flow. Working, working."

I was able to loosen up a bit, for example, when I knew I could get in for one bet with a marginal holding, or when I knew that I could steal a pot because my opponent was unhappy with his hand.

Online, I don't have any of that. The first thing I did to fix my game was tighten back up, but it's been hard getting back to just concentrating on betting patterns -- it's like I have one fifth the information, and I'm never too sure where I am in a hand. Plus, watching betting patterns, in comparison to watching real live people, is a little boring, and I've been reading blogs and stuff while playing online. Not good.

Finally, I got away with drinking while playing in Las Vegas. It helps me keep the table mood light and fun, and, to a certain point (which I crossed at Odogg's bachelor party), I can usually be a little drunk and stay focused on the game. At home, in front of the computer, having more than one beer just worsens my not-watching-the-betting-patterns problem.

So what's the solution? Well, I could head down to Foxwoods. And I do want to tackle the $4/$8 game down there. But that's not really a solution. I need to be able to transition between online and live play. I need to get back to my online A-game, which means no drinking and more concentration. Focus is the key. And less hubris -- the money isn't going to fall in my lap (although it's wonderful when it seems that way), I have to work for it.

Really, what I need to do is get back to taking online play more seriously. It's my never-ending balancing act between having fun, improving my game, and staying profitable. I've blogged about it before, and I'll probably blog about it again. It is fun to steal the blinds with the Hammer. It is fun to grab another Sam Adams as I'm playing. It is fun to 2-table, watch football, listen to Boot Liquor, and read Iggy's latest post at the same time.

Now and then I have to remind myself that it's more fun to win.

I'm winning money playing the lottery at e-lotto. I've won more than one cash prize, nothing really big yet. Happy Holidays everyone.
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