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Cause & Effect

April 24, 2010

Work obligations have kept me from playing — or posting — very much lately, which is probably for the best since my last few cash game sessions have been rather disappointing.

It’s not so much that I’m playing badly, though I did make a few mistakes that cost me some money. Rather, it’s that running bad has shaken my confidence and is causing me to play more timid poker than I should.

While I’m certainly never the most aggressive player at the table, I generally prefer to take the lead in the hands I play. By controlling the action, I can put my opponents to the tough decisions rather than having them foisted upon myself. It’s not a new strategy, by any means, but it’s one that works. Usually.

I played a split session at the Venetian last night and booked a small $50 loss on the night. In fact, I almost consider it a win, considering I was down more than $600 at one point in the night.

My losses came in the first half of the session. There were two pots that I mis-played where I cost myself money I didn’t have to, and one where I just got blindsided when the player on the button cold called my $15 raise preflop. I was pretty happy to hit top pair with my Ace-King and didn’t mind when he came along on the flop, since the board was a very benign Ace-4-3 rainbow.

The turn was a blank, and I pushed my last $120 into the $100 pot. When my opponent snap called, I figured I was going to take down a nice size pot. Imagine my surprise when he turned over 2-5 off suit for a flopped wheel. WTF mate?

While that hand didn’t tilt me, per se, it did put me in a funk and had me second guessing myself for the next hour or so. Especially since half the table came into the pot with me every time I raised after that. I just didn’t trust my hands to hold up or my ability to read what my opponents might be holding.

I started playing check-call poker, hoping that I might be good. And I lost more pots.

Finally, I took a dinner break around midnight and spent an hour filling my stomach and talking over the night’s session with my buddy Ernest. By talking through my play away from the table, I was able to better identify where I made mistakes and where I just got unlucky.

More importantly, though, I was able to regroup and shake off the previous two hours’ worth of beatings. When I returned to the table, I had found the confidence I lost earlier in the night. I knew I might still lose, but if so, I was going to lose by playing aggressive poker rather than timid poker.

And, the funny thing is, I started winning. A small pot here. A small pot there and, then, finally a monster that put me back to even on the night.

Of course, winning always helps boost my confidence and I felt like I was playing reasonably sharp poker again by the time I had to pack up and call it a night at about 2:30.

I know it’s never that simple, but the fact is, changing my attitude for the better helped change my game for the better. Once I stopped worrying about the money and feeling sorry for myself because I was getting run over, I went back to the game I know I’m capable of playing. And I started winning.

Cause and effect? You be the judge.

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