Friday, August 29, 2008

"Ego as Currency" or "Why I Never Play Heads Up Online"

Sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where the wagering of your ego is far more consequential than the money involved. What could this possibly mean? Before I get into it, I will start this with a story of a seemingly inconsequential event that happened a few years ago.

Back when I had originally set out as a professional, I used to believe that every time an opportunity came up that was +EV I should take it if it involved only a minor monetary risk. After all, that is what people like David Sklansky would approve of. However, there are a certain number of other mental attributes of your game that comprise a part of your "psychological bankroll" that must be protected at all times, just as you would protect your physical bankroll. These are attributes such as confidence, self-esteem, and general psychological well-being.

So there I was at the Golden Nugget, my favorite neighborhood bar. At this bar everyone knew me as the guy who makes a living playing poker. I was on a downswing of about $1500 or so and my bankroll was suffering, as was my confidence. I had a few drinks in me and my friend Mack had propositioned to play me in a heads-up $20 freezeout. I quickly accepted because I had viewed it as easy money since Mack was a rank amateur who perceived himself as far superior to the other rank amateurs (he was not, by the way) that he had played with in the bar's weekly freebie tournament. Since I was short on time, I had set up the game with five minute blinds, thereby increasing the luck factor greatly. Incidentally, back then I only had one aggressive gear and did not know how to handle a player heads-up who would never fold. So even though I thought (wrongly) that I could beat Mack 8 out of 10, I managed to mangle the first game and then being infused with a mild intoxication of liquor with a strong intoxication of tilt, I played a rematch with the same rules and managed to butcher that one as well.

So I hit the ATM, gave Mack his money, told him "good game", and promptly stormed out of the bar. Since I had about $800 or so in the bank and my bar tab was roughly equivalent to the amount that I had lost, the utility of that money wagered was insignificant at the time. In retrospect, I wasn't really playing for the money at all. I was just playing for the pride and a ridiculous need to feel superior to someone who felt superior to others. The end result was a continual second guessing of my abilities which would spill over into my regular game where there was real money at stake. All for a lousy $20!!

So how does this relate to my online heads up game? Since I realize that I lack the ability to beat the heads-up of players at stakes that are meaningful to me, if I were to drop down and play against opposition I am quite certain that I could beat, I would be putting my ego on the line and set myself up for a massive tilt session if things do not go my way. If tilt were contained in a vacuum, this wouldn't be such a problem except for the fact that I would probably sit back down in my normal game to try and recoup those losses- only now I would be doing so with half a brain.

1 comment:

Kevin Stevens said...

Trawling through your archives and this post is a little gem.