Monday, April 27, 2009

"Clearing the Desk"...and Other "Non-Poker" Poker Tips

One of the things that I've realized (as I am sure that most of you have) is that there is so much more to this game than the cards sitting in front of you.  And no, I will not bore you with the cliche about playing your opponents cards or even playing your opponents.  People way smarter and vastly more qualified than myself have written entire books on the subject.  What I am talking about are those little things, completely removed from the game itself that can cause you to not play at your best.  With how competitive the game is becoming and the overall higher skill level of the players (as compared to say, 3 years ago) means that in order to be successful,  you can't EVER play below your best.  Here are a couple of mistakes that I have made (or still make) and I invite anybody that has any of there own "detrimentals" to post them up so the loyal readers of The Short Stack Hero can all improve our games a little bit.....

1.  Clear the Desk

This is a term that you will sometimes hear in the corporate world.  It generally applies to finishing off little tasks before going home, leaving for the weekend or taking a vacation so that you are not distracted while away from work with those little things hanging over your head.  My experience with it has been a little different.  Just recently I went through a definite downswing for about two weeks.  When looking at it afterwards,  the cause was obvious.  It wasn't bad beats or any crap like that, it was that I hadn't "cleared the desk".  During the same period I was working on a project.  I had no set "due date" to complete the job so I found myself pushing it off a little even though I knew that I should be working on it.  Instead, I would log on to play cards with the thought "I can play for 90 minutes, then I need to get to work".  I found myself being a little too aggressive to try to eek out some winnings in my short time span.  Meanwhile I was slightly distracted thinking about the work that needed to be done.  Then when I would take an (inevitable) loss it would feel twice as bad, because if I had just been working like I should have, I wouldn't have dropped $200.  While it wasn't a huge financial loss, it sure felt a lot worse because of the situation.  We have all heard "don't play with scared money".  I think that playing with "scared time" might even be worse.   Clear the desk before you play, so that you can  bring the full brunt of your focus to the table and not needlessly sap your Emotional Bankroll.

2. Don't Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater

When going through a downswing (even as short as 2 or 3 days) when you have just been getting your teeth kicked in, one of two things happens.  A donkey will  automatically blame it on bad luck. This may or may not be the case, but they never seem to even consider the chance that it may be of their own doing.  A good player will sometimes over-analyze everything to the point of insanity.  This is the situation to which I am referring.  They think that they must have a glitch in there game so they start trying all kinds of things.  Playing more hands, playing fewer hands, making more bluffs, making no bluffs, laying down to any raise or never laying down, no matter what.
If you have been a consistent, winning player, stick with what works.  There is actually something I say to myself all the time (mainly because I have so much faith in Lorin's System).

System + Time = Money  
And it is so true. Lorin has started telling his students this as well and it is a great way to get through the bleakness of a downswing.  If what you do works, feed it some hands and let it do it's job.  We will all have those standard deviations from the mean.  And while I have found that a downswing is a decent time to do some evaluation and tweaking, don't throw out the baby while dumping out the dirty bathwater.  If a pitcher has a bad game, he may check to make sure that he was arching his back or that his release point is where it should be.  He doesn't just scrap his entire motion and delivery and start over, and neither should you.

Well there are two points to start off with.  I plan on doing more in the series on mistakes (it could take me years to cover all the ones that I make).  I do hope that you will throw up you own little tidbits here on The Stort Stack Hero.  It's not giving away any strategy,  and maybe it will help exorcise some of your own little poker demons by having to call them out into the light of day.

Best of luck at the tables (and away from it for that matter)......

12 comments:

Roenan said...

Mine would be playing poker in bed on the laptop (instead of at the desk). Maybe because its late or whatever the reason but I tend to see my focus twindle when I am in bed instead of at my desk. Sometimes it can creep out of your mind that you are playing for money and that like any other job (part or full time) it should be performed at a professional level. I don't mean that we should all start wearing suits at our desks while playing but I notice I pay attention more on reads and play in general at the 'office' then at the bed.

havin_a_laff said...

Failing to get in the right mindset pre-session is my biggest mistake. I am working on it. For me it means being relatively calm but alert before I play my first hand. Ditching negative thoughts like 'will this be a winning session?' is also very important. Reminding myself that the goal is to make the best decisions possible and not be too results oriented. Taking mild exercise like going for a short walk. Brushing my teeth! Having a glass of water to hand. Tidying my desk - even running a damp cloth over the desk surface! Switch the music off. Making a mental note that I will quit after an hour even if the game is good or I am stuck - because it's better to get an early night this time so I can be in better shape to play tomorrow. I notice a definite improvement in my game when I stick as closely as possible to my 'rules'.

Travis "The Dirrty" Rose said...

You know, there is something to the "professional" thing as well. That is why in companies that have office employees that never see a client, or have any interaction with the public, will still require them to dress in Bussiness attire. Studies have been done that show when somebody has to get up and make themselves look professional, they will be professional. People who have to dress up for work are more productive.
I guess if we want to be "professionals" we have to be professional about it.
Great feedback guys, that is what I was hoping to get. Keep 'em coming....

anneli said...

i find i play my best if i dont watch porn at the same time as playing 6 tables.

i also think playing naked keeps you focussed.

have you ever tried it?

Travis "The Dirrty" Rose said...

Everyday.....

I'm naked right now....

Roenan said...

As a side note to the post I was checking out 2p2 as usual looking at strategy posts and the what not.

http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/32/beginners-questions/why-shortstacking-usually-bad-idea-473476/#post10341683

That was the head post under beginner's thread so I clicked. I just don't get why there's such disrespect towards shortstackers in general. If playing this way is soooo bad, shouldn't they be STFUing and let them do it. I think it has more to do with the last post stating that good short stackers become hard to exploit. Thoughts guys since you do this style hardcore at a high level, why is the poker community aligned against that style of play (especially considering that poker strat has evolved so much just in the past decade you think that they would at least look at a neutral perspective).

Lorin Yelle said...

I can think of a dozen reasons, but here is good one: they are simply too worried about becoming obsolete and are too lazy to make changes to their strategy. And as far as short stackers being "fish", this just doesn't make sense.

If they were playing golf professionally, they would be more than happy to offer their opponents a handicap to keep them in the game. But here the "fish" have found a handicap, but oops, it's too strong!! Rather than recommend that profitable short stackers quit, maybe they should just quit and find something better to do if they find it so bothersome?

Roenan said...

Question (if you feel it gives anything away for free that you wouldn't want to answer I understand), if you are sitting at a table with a spew fish, you buy in short like normal but you double up quickly to 40 bbs, you told me you'd leave the table before the blinds were up but lets say this specific guy is a gold mine, what do you do then? (My exp has pretty much been on party poker back in the day and full tilt now and I believe the waiting period is 30 minutes before you can buy back in for the minimum at the same table, so do you just wait it out and hope he's still there in 30 minutes?)

Lorin Yelle said...

Personally I don't mind. A 40 BB stack creates the most awkward SPR possible, so to be playing a mid-stack amidst all my other short stack games actually causes diminishing returns over all of them because a disproportionate amount of mental energy would be focused on that one single table where the strategy has been severely altered. Not worth it, overall IMO.

Travis "The Dirrty" Rose said...

I am actually curious to see how Lorin will respond to this. Here is my opinion. If you are playing shortstack...you still get up. You will have to change your entire style of play if you stay. The nice side to this is that with the predominance of multi-tabling, he will be at another table, go crack him there as well. IF and that is a BIG IF, he he some drunk maniac totally spewing chips, there would be a good arguement for staying but you would have to both change your style, and accept a possible loss that a good shortstacker isn't used to.

Marco said...

Hey Lorin/Travis, Really interesting blog. I found you guys through one of the user links at that shortstacking forum, and just now ran through all your entries. Quite an easy read and I can relate to much of them (I too read Malcom Gladwell.) I too use to play fullstack but find that getting sucked out on at 100BB stings so much more, so have now resigned to trying the 20BB method. I'd love to hear more about your strategy. I've tried some modifications of the miller strategy online, and have had mediocre results over about 50K hands, would love to see what I'm doing wrong. Are you guys doing any sort of coaching? Nevertheless, Great posts, thanks for a wonderful hour of so of reading.

Lorin Yelle said...

Thanks Marco! The validation I get on this blog is the benefit I get from having devoted the last 6 years of my life to a card game and I appreciate all of it. If you can just post your contact info here (it gets moderated and won't be posted publicly) or get in touch with Travis on his profile page, he can give you the details about coaching.