An interesting series of posts appeared on Red Chip which underscored how the game really works right here at the $5 level, in the smoke-traced dungeons of cards and crappy coffee, as well as confirming much of what I wrote about in my long (but based on discussion, still not long enough) dissection of the Cardner – Malmuth conflict.
As I briefed in Less Known Poker Truths, and not facetiously at all, win rate threads are the worst. Poker, I’m afraid to break it to you, owes you nothing. This is going to be a touchstone for your Mental Game solidity. You are free to go into a downswing at any time, and yet your imaginary hourly will still hold. All edge is theoretical, all results are real. This poster issued a particularly confused lament. First he wants to humble brag about his $40/hr win rate, which is couched in a way that essentially admits it’s not really $40/hr, but a cocky summation of recent experiences. Then he wants to tell us about some beats, which is like informing us that there is, in fact, some CO2 hidden amidst the oxygen in his part of the country. Then he wants solace that it’s not all like this. What about the trees, buddy, what about the trees?
First of all, brodude, no one wins $40/hr at one two and needs the comfort of his fellows, so burst that bubble. Second, beats are intrinsically part of poker. I lament runbad all the time, but I have never posted a beat in a forum looking for comfort for the simple reason that if it is a beat, there is nothing to be gained by it. That win-rate you brag about is ultimately established in the variance of give and take. Count your money over the long term; there may even be a suspiciously on point song about this. You can tell – and even strong players such as Gargamel himself are often guilty on this count– the players who really understand poker by their reaction to wins and losses. If you really get it, losses are not worse than wins are good. (Gargamel’s weakness is not misunderstanding poker, but his raging hard-on for short term results mimics misconceptions, and his taste for herby, nutritive Smurf blood leaves him vulnerable to mental suffering when deprived of it, as he measures too much of his time in blue smudges on the wall and on his face and hands.) As Jim Courier said about his career in tennis, tying your self-worth to results is very, very dangerous.
To repeat, because it is so important, the experience of losses should not be more extreme than that of wins. If you feel differently, it’s because you have an entitlement leak in a game which is not a sport but is a competition and therefore a performance. There is no applause for your stinkers, so you should congratulate yourself on your nights of playing well. You earned it. The game is hard. Celebrate, because it wasn’t owed to you yet you took the prize. That’s an odd assignment for some, but a real one: enjoy the right things more. If you win tonight, go forth and party, Persuadeo blesses and commands you. Or at least have a 3 a.m. carne asada burrito at a truly disgusting taco joint, like I do. And flan, sometimes! (How do all the toilets get plugged at once? What if it’s one, truly awful customer with an intestine like an anaconda and its appetite?)
Another thing we see in the forums is the endless use of compliments like Fish and Donkey. I use them all the time as part of my poker writing, but it’s a finer point that you might think. It’s usually a stylistic choice that I find compelling. For instance, you will rarely if ever see these words in a strat post from me, especially in a poker forum, because what matters is what people do, not what they are. Using dismissive terms has to be earned to be utilized properly. For instance, when you do something retarded, then tell me you are up against a fish, what exactly is going on? More entitlement, and therefore more misunderstanding of the nature of poker, which leads to dire results and feelings. Look at this hand history: who is really the fish in this one? Is there one? Is it relevant? I’m not picking on him, either: this comes up over and over again, and most everyone does it at some point.
Here’s a trick to understand poker better: When you finish writing up your hand history, set it aside for a moment. Now look at the details again, and write it all up from the Villain’s point of view. I guarantee you, even if you are hopelessly subjective or in love with yourself, you will have a new appreciation for your villain, bad as he might be. As another, even greater tennis champion said late in his triumphant career, “I’ve learned to fear every opponent.”
So those are some examples of where the Malmuthian conception of the mental game succeeds and possibly, in the second example, even meets up neatly with the Cardner idea, at least as broadcast, especially if looked at by way of Tendler. I am also coming across a number of situations where the Cardner approach really is the best way forward, especially as part of my Blog Roll series.
Some people, for instance, do need to step aside from the numbers and learn to breathe, refocus, and reformat their approach. TBC, who I wrote about here, hasn’t needed any more strategy for a long time, but real life coaching help, which is in fact at the heart of what Dr. Cardner proposes. I think “Minion’s Monkey’s” or whatever would have succeeded better under some sane direction. And whatever happened to this special guy? Poker strategy is not always enough: if your life is a disorganized, baleful disaster, it will bleed into your time on the felt too easily. This makes sense and I know about it personally. If you have serious issues that extend beyond the X’s and O’s, finding help for them is a first and second step forward. Poker is a solution to no one’s problems, after all: it is a problem.
It can be an endlessly fun one, though. More blog reviews coming up!