Friday, September 01, 2006

Progress Dissection

Did I spell dissection right? I dunno. I guess I could spellcheck it. I'm gonna just go with it; it looks good.

I've been thinking about the last couple of games I've played. I haven't played my "A" game for a long time, and I'm trying to figure out why that is. I felt for a while that my play was constantly improving, and it was showing in my results. I concentrated on $33 1 table SnGs for a while and found myself at least cashing half the time, and probably winning at least 25% of the cashes. Sometimes I would vary the buy in's, even getting crazy and going for the $215 buy ins. I didn't do as well, not cashing\winning nearly as often as the $33. I think that a lot of this was getting a case of bubble-itis; I do remember tightening up sometimes as the money got closer. I didn't have the bankroll to constantly play those.

Backtracking for a bit...I first started playing at some of the low buy-in NL tables. I started doing this because I was basically retarded and didn't know what a SnG was, and didn't want to play tournaments, so I was playing NL cash games. I somehow actually did pretty well to start with, taking my initial buy-in up to $200, but I remember I was playing the game like a tournament and soon that money was gone. I found the SnGs very soon after and began playing those.

Moving forward, as I was playing the SnGs, I would venture into MTTs every so often, usually playing speed tables because I didn't have the time to play a full tourney. This was pointless as I usually busted early. I continued to focus on mostly 1 table SnGs, sometimes doing the 2 or 3 tables. I've never kept track of my win\loss amounts, but up until a couple months ago I believe I have been a profitable poker player. I started by donking off $1500, then cashing out several hundred dollars multiple times. Combine that with my two big tournament scores (total of two final tables = approx $5500), and I feel that, at the very worst, I've at least broken even over my lifetime.

Over the past couple of months, I have really felt my game deteriorate. I don't feel myself playing with the same level of confidence as I used to. I think there have been a couple of reasons for this, that I've been able to identify so far:

1. I just haven't been playing as much over the past couple of months. Mostly this is due to having a girlfriend in my life now. I don't mean this to say that I blame her for this; I definitely prefer being with her than I do playing poker. But before (and in the early stages of our relationship) I was spending all my free time playing poker, and because of that, I was staying much sharper than I am now.

2. I am in the worst financial situation that I have been in since I started playing poker. As a result, losing affects me much more than just losing money; when I lose now, I lose money I could have used for other things. I haven't been able to play a game and say, win or lose I'll be ok, for a while now. So I'm playing with that in the back of my mind and therefore play much differently than I normally would.

3. I've strayed from the games that I excel at. I've realize this recently by reading other poker blogs and understanding that even players better than me have limits, and they find themselves not doing as well when playing outside their comfort level. I was doing this before by trying to jump into some bigger games, and I couldn't handle the variance. I don't think the skill level was drastically better (in fact, I KNOW this just based on some of the plays I saw at other levels), but I didn't feel as comfortable, and while a bad streak at the $33 level wouldn't faze me, a bad streak at the $109 level would.

I've stayed within my limits, but lately I feel like I've ventured out of my zone by playing in too many different games, namely 7-Card Stud and PLO Hi-Lo. I enjoy these games, and I have been mildly successful at these games as well, but I think playing these games have taken me away from concentraing on my NL game at a time when I should have been focusing solely on that (because of how infrequently I play).

Overall, in the 2.5 years that I've been playing poker, I know that my games has improved tremendously. Although I'm not ready to quit my day job and start becoming a pro, I do feel that I've been mildly successful when I've applied myself. But I do feel like I've hit a plateau in terms of my skill level. There is room to improve my game, but the question is will I have the opportunity to do this?

In the short term, no. I am not on solid financial ground, and I am still in the early stages of a wonderful relationship that I need to keep developing. I know my girlfriend does not prefer that I play poker, and in the short run I definitely agree with her. But overall, I think she feels that it takes away from time we could spend doing things together. She knows that I intend to pick up poker again at some point, so the key there will be trying to find time to play while still being able to spend time with her. I do not intend to play as often as I was before (at least 4 hours a day about 6 days a week, on average), so I think I will be able to find some agreeable compromise.

In the long term, I feel like I will be able to continue improving my game as long as I understand what I am playing for. I am not looking at poker as a potential career or even as a source of supplemental income. Poker is a hobby for me, a hobby of which every aspect I find fascinating. And I think the biggest way to improve my game is to keep this in mind. It's not the most important thing in my life, and I need to be able to step away from it and keep it in perspective, instead of allowing it to consume my time, energy, and resources. Regardless of whether I win or lose, I need to get back to just having fun playing poker.


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