Monday, 10 October 2011

Run Bad and Enjoy It

"Variance doesn't have a memory, only we do" - Me to annoying students moaning about running bad


This post will cover the mental aspect of grinding, as requested in the last blog post comment. It is only my personal opinions and nothing in this post should be taken as authoritative advice. You should seek professional advice for dealing with any serious issues discussed in this post. With that said, I think my advice is the nuts! :D

It's such a difficult and underrated aspect of the game, and something which is a constant battle for all poker players. I would say for my current SNE chase, it is one of the three most difficult aspects of the chase: 1) endurance+ and application, 2) staying positive, motivated and undeterred by running bad, 3) cashflow/bankroll management concerns.

For me personally, playing the way I want to is EVERYTHING. What happens at the table only concerns me in so much as I do need to show a profit eventually, but provided that is going to happen eventually and I won't busto before it, I don't usually mind. What does tilt me though is things going wrong from my side, either making a bad play, misclicking, or getting disconnected...

It's clear that the things which I care about are the things within my control. I'll recall in my head what could have been done differently (e.g. not accidentally folding AA), or more important spots such as making a bad spew play to give away a good stack. I remind myself afterwards that every hand is a piece of the jigsaw for this entire chase, and each must be respected on its own. You cannot attribute a negative emotion from a previous hand to a hand you are now on. This is the EXACT same way I approach variance. Variance doesn't have a memory, only I do. For the purposes of crushing the tables, I'm going to erase my memory whenever it's beneficial to do so. Every decision will be given 100% attention and respect, independent of everything else that has happened. That's the idea anyway!

Also when pursuing such an enormous goal as SNE, it can feel overwhelming. You can grind for 10 hours one day, feel like you worked like a machine, then the next day get up thinking you maybe achieved exactly what was necessary and nothing more. If you slow down you'll fall behind pace already. It's really about glass half full/glass half empty. The key is to always see the glass filling up. I made reference to this by a VPP progress bar, but there are other ways to do this. For example, why not reward yourself for achieving a volume goal (make sure it isn't a profit goal since variance can inflate/deflate how much profit/loss you make). So for me personally, I'll reward myself in recreational time, a movie, or something more significant like buying something I've wanted or going out for a great meal. It's really based on behavioural psychology: I want my positive behaviours (working my ass off to make SNE) to be connected with good things happening (getting to chill out/relax, play with something I've been wanting, eating well). If you don't reward yourself, you'll feel the pain without the pleasure, since the reward comes a LONG TIME after you start the pursuit.

I think this mindset is key for a number of things which could be called pursuits:

.Playing hundreds of hands (some badly) to win a big MTT

.Losing weight/giving up smoking etc (some days will be bad along the way)

.Training for a marathon

In my opinion the key is that we are constantly processing loads of negative aspects of something we need to do, or are doing wrong. If we can get rid of all of that trash, and pay attention to the very positive things we are doing or have done, and reward these things, this will build confidence and morale. So for example, a student might consistently get deep, only to get really unlucky each time or make a bad mistake. I want to only focus on the fact that he is getting deep VERY often, and the likelihood is that he will get the score very soon if he continues to do so well. I think this aspect is key for how we react to high-stress/workload situations, such as having several important things to get done at home/work and not knowing where to start, finishing a huge study/work project without the end being in sight, making SNE! Tilt/negativity breeds from stress which comes from anger and anxiety which either comes from being overloaded or something happening which we didn't want to happen. If you convince your mind that everything is ok, the vicious cycle can be stopped before it starts. I think anger management rests on similar premises. Also, if you lose a hand which gets you upset, deliberately make yourself laugh after it happens. It's harder to get mad when you're laughing. Whenever you feel like you're still getting mad, just keep deliberately forcing yourself to grin and laugh. It should help at least a bit to replace the angry behaviour.

I'm really inspired by sporting greats such as Lance Armstrong and Roger Federer when it comes to the psychological strength that makes them the best. The best players at every game suffer terrible things happening constantly, whether it be injuries, playing bad, or being criticized in the media. The difference between them and everyone else is that they have 100% self-belief, and they don't care about anything negative. If we can do that at the poker tables, we will really play our best poker, free from tilt and low-confidence. So whenever I feel myself getting angry mid-session, I try and visualize how Rafael Nadal would come back against his opponent no matter how bad he is playing or whatever injury he's carrying. Somehow they find a way to win, even when they shouldn't. The Australia-South Africa QF match last weekend in the rubgy world cup was the ultimate example of this.

To finish with, there's one other way I motivate myself. Whenever I feel like I'm running soooo bad, or something bad happens to me in life, I watch some war documentaries, or keep up to date with current affairs about what's happening in various war-torn parts of the world. Maybe I'll see what real pain was for Holocaust victims or for people suffering from terminal illnesses. That A) immediately gets me out of a completely unjustified mindset and B) motivates me to do better with the opportunity I have and most people never have, and to use good fortune and success positively whenever I can get the chance!

Quite a long post so I'll leave it on its own and give a progress update in a separate blog post soon, good luck everyone and STAY POSITIVE ALWAYS

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