Unless something miraculous happens in the next two days, I have just withstood my worst month as a professional poker player. Specifically, in January 2007, I went to the Bahamas and Borgata and played a lot of tournaments, and I got my ass handed to me in almost every one I entered. Borgata in particular seems to be my personal house of horrors: despite comically shitty fields in every event I’ve ever played there, I can’t seem to win a dime in AC’s monstrous faux-Vegas joint.
I’m pretty bummed about this dry spell. If I had started last year out this way, I might be in court right now rather than typing this. But it ain’t last year, and I’m not about to jump out my window or anything. I have spent a bit of time considering what went wrong in January 2007, and here are my conclusions.
Natural Variance: Tournaments are swingy. And by swingy I don’t mean married couples having consensual sex with each other. I mean that droughts are totally normal: a tournament player’s result charts should have big swings. By playing exclusively tournaments (rather than cash games) in January, and by putting quite a bit of tournament entry money into play, I certainly did not mitigate this factor. I can recall quite a few hands where I was bitten by bad luck. I also know that I held an unusually low number of premium hands both at Atlantis and Borgata. I usually mock people who complain too much about never being dealt aces. A good player will pick up chips regardless. Shame on me for mentioning that.
Holes In My Game: Another thing I have noticed about this month is that I made very few creative “outside the box” plays, and when I did make a creative (read: aggressive) preflop play, I failed to follow that play up with post-flop aggression. At this point, I can play a reasonable brand of tight-aggressive poker when I’m drunk, half-asleep, eating dinner, watching TV, whatever. Too often this month, I was in that autopilot mode. There were situations at Borgata especially, where I should have played more hands in position, and situations where I should have reraised preflop with air. Instead, I played surprisingly passively and let some poor players “dictate tempo” to steal a sports phrase. Only at very rare junctures could an observer say that I was terrorizing my table. And people who win poker tournaments terrorize their tables.
Mental State: This one strongly correlates with the prior category. Unfortunately, I’ve spent the last two weeks in a mental fog. In small part this is due to the accumulated effects of constantly losing, which does wear on you a bit. It is also due to some serious frustration dealing with Neteller, which held quite a bit of my money in limbo for several weeks. It seemed I had no recourse, but I recently was able to secure my funds through some rather cunning means. But the larger reason has been the sudden illness and subsequent death of my parents’ dog Maggie. I really loved that little fucker, and when I heard she was on her way out, I was overwhelmed with sadness. I think the news reduced my focus a bit, and my game suffered.
She was a really special dog. She had a level of intuition that most dogs are incapable of–what poker players call “second level thinking” and what lawyers might call an understanding of “proximate cause.” Maggie was able to identify the things that deprived her of attention and eliminate them, like a petulant child. For instance, she had no tolerance for books or newspapers. If you began to read in her presence she would attack whatever you were reading and scratch it out of your hands. She also knew how important the TV remote control was. When she was feeling especially feisty, she’d grab it and hide under the bed, causing my father a lot of grief and providing the rest of us with a good laugh. She also knew how to use her “table image” to her advantage: Any time a person walked through the front door, she brought them a gift (usually a shoe, but sometimes a pillow).
I remember the day my mother and I picked Maggie up as a pup. I was in my first year of law school, immobilized after having knee surgery and living at my parents’ house, so I spent a lot of time with her back then. I helped train her and I like to think I also helped instill her with the unique persona she displayed from that time forward. She was very affectionate, but at the same time she took no shit from anyone. Even though she was physically diminutive, my parents’ place was Maggie’s house! Hanging out with her whenever I’d visit my parents was one of the best things about going home for the past decade. Seeing her bedraggled and helpless for the first time in her life in the past couple of weeks was heartbreaking.
Appreciate your pets, it’s easy to forget their life spans are much shorter than ours. RIP, Maggie May….
As for me, in the last tournament I played, I was totally on point. In the Full Tilt $300k Guaranteed last night I found myself doing funky things like reraising fools with 10-5 offsuit, checkraising guys with air on ace-high flops, and being a general nuisance, just like Maggie. They couldn’t run me down until there were 70 people left out of over 2100, and I almost made a huge score. You haven’t heard the last from me.