Do you like playing poker? A couple of days ago as I was starting to return to the tables from a two-week hiatus I really began questioning whether I was enjoying myself of not. I used to look forward to playing poker for hours on end, and at the time the money I pulled off of the $25 PL tables was a necessary supplement to my monthly income. It was at the time a game, and it was a game that I could make playing money– what could be better than that? I never moved up levels because my girlfriend at the time was in school so I had to pull enough money off of the site to cover her half of the expenses. I had played $25 for about a year and a half and then we broke up. I took two months off of poker as I had a lot of shit to deal with both emotionally and logistically. Then I started playing again in October.
In October I was able to really delve back into the game and started playing 6-max instead of full-ring. I instantly found my win-rate shooting up as the game was a lot more skill-based and as my bankroll grew, I cashed out a little but was able to refill it quickly. After some long talks with my brother (formerly my poker consultant, but he didn’t stick with it and can’t really follow the games I play anymore) I took his advice and moved up to 100 6-max, skipping 50 for whatever reason. I had some up and downs as I adjusted- learning to raise a ton more instead of limping, tightening up in early position, playing more aggressively throughout, and letting people steal my blinds w/o too much of a fight. What happened though, is that the money had reached the point where the swings fucked with me emotionally. I would get angry at myself for losing $400 in a day and the downs were more bad than the ups were good. Despite this I found great success and fine-tuned my game becoming a sizable winner.
I once again skipped a level and went into playing $300/200 6-max. I had to make some more adjustments, but I think I ran really good or something at the start and with no learning curve won quite a bit at $300. The swings were brutal and I really didn’t want to play poker. I had to force myself to the table, treating it like a job. My play became uninspired and while I was still winning I felt like I wasn’t playing my best. This is one skill I think I excel at, correctly attributing poker success or failure to luck/skill. I didn’t play that much and eventually it led to my meltdown. I was running good but I dropped $1000 over the course of 3-days playing poker that couldn’t beat $25 6-max. I was a mess, I felt like I was always being bluffed and I’d call down huge pots just to see what the other guy had. I was watching movies and reading the internet while playing because I didn’t really want to play poker.
So I came back on the 26th after a two-week hiatus and told myself the money doesn’t matter, you already have made more than anyone could have expected, and to have fun. Concentrate on the tables, no surfing the web, no movies, only music and poker. My first couple of sessions were up and down, ending up +3 buy-ins over the first three days back. Part of the problem was I read Professional No Limit Hold-em, which is probably the best cash game book on hold-em, and it fucked with my game some because the people I play with are much better and more aggressive than the examples in the book. Plus the second half of the book on pre-flop bet sizing is a waste of paper against observant opponents. I was feeling pretty good but just couldn’t break through the barrier and just focus exclusively on poker like I used to be able to do.
Then I got sick. I feel like absolute shit right now. I am a miserable fuck and everything hurts. But, I had nothing to do but focus on poker. I started really putting thought into my game and re-worked a lot of my game. I found the creative side to my poker game that had been lacking. In many ways I had been afraid to lose, and so I was playing very ABC poker and not being brave and creative. These past three days I’ve probably played 12 hours and won about 12 buy-ins, never having a losing session and never remembering playing or enjoying playing this much. My hand reading is as good as it’s ever been, I’m playing my hands deceptively, and overall I’m really really happy with my game. I don’t care about the money, it is just a number at this point, but I am loving conquering the challenge that is poker.
So do you like playing poker?