Saturday, August 22, 2009

Curbing the Beast

Oh poker blog, how I have neglected you. The crazy thing is that I've actually had good ideas for posting lately but now I can only remember a couple of them. I need to get stuff down somewhere when it pops in my head so I don't forget.

I read a lot of poker books. I think the way that I got started on those was the idea that if you read and study hard enough, the answers will come to you and you will be a "good" player. As I've read and learned the game more, I've come to the conclusion that there is a limit to how far books can take you. They provide good foundation, and can stimulate thought, but I just don't believe that truly artistic poker is found in a book. By the way, I don't consider this a particularly shocking revelation or insight on my part, it's just part of the evolution of anything, but I digress.

One book that I've never read, but in which I've had some interest is Your Worst Poker Enemy. I don't think this is a huge spoiler, but your worst poker enemy is - you. It's a book basically about how mentally you can mess yourself up greatly at the table. I had a horrible experience getting beat around by my worst poker enemy a few weeks ago. It strangely enough came playing some 3-6 limit poker with my wife in what should have been a fun relaxing and low stress environment. Unfortunately, I had one of those nights where I just couldn't win a hand. It started with a couple of bad beats, but then I started getting angry. How dare these people play their junk and catch against me!! Although I was trying to restrain my outward behavior, my wife said I wasn't very successful.

I've thought a lot about that night since then. Before that night I recognized on an intellectual level the importance of not getting emotional at the table, but I think you really have to go through the experience to internalize the dangers of getting overly emotional.

I'm no psychologist, but it sure seems like the key to controlling those feelings is to keep one's ego in check. Not only does the ego bang its caveman club around and unleash those icky emotions, but it also blocks out logic and reason. I think you can basically be in one of two states at the table, either emotional or logical, we all know which one is more profitable. Your ego is the beast that comes and swallows up all your profits at the table I think.

The good news is that since that night, I've had great success in taming my beast. It's true I've not been put to the test the same way I was that night, but I decided to focus on the fact that I'm getting to play a game. I can tell you that I've been genuinely happier at the table this way, even when I haven't been winning. I wanted to make sure I memorialized this here so that I could from time to time get a reminder about taming my beast.

1 comment:

  1. LVGlenn I must get hold of that book. I've heard about it and read excerpts from it. I like the psychological side of poker and the statement that YOU are your worst poker enemy runs so true. I've seen many good players break down in a game (and yes I've done it myself) and you can often trace it back to one hand that threw them. It's not so easy to see in yourself the causes for going wrong. With poker being a solitary game getting feedback isn't easy. You have to do some navel gazing and reflect on your game with honesty. That's not easy! Forum posting is a good way to get feedback and thanks for your comments on some hands I've posted on AVP.
    A way I like to keep my ego in check is to think to myself 'You know what? You're not as good at this game as you'd like to think you are!' GL GG WP