Sunday, May 3, 2009

Short Stack Coaching and The Poker Power Nap

Due to the recent inundation of short stack coaching requests, we have decided to add that option for all aspiring short stack professionals. We are starting a new site that will going live hopefully within a week to accommodate all of those requests. For all of those looking for great and rare information about short stacking, please contact Travis on his profile page. Now that this matter has been settled, let's get back to business...

The Poker Power Nap

When the inevitable frustration builds from this game, the power of taking a single day off can dramatically increase both your mood and your profits. Of course, this type of advice is nothing new. But I have actually spent a lot of time figuring out how and why this always seems to work. But before I get into this, let's figure out how you know when to take a day off. It's not whether or not you are winning or losing, but about your overall approach to the game. Here is how you can tell: when you wake up in the morning and absolutely dread playing, yet feel obligated to do so because you have to pay the rent, break your downswing, win that rake race or achieve that next Iron Man level, meet your hour quota for the week or month, or achieve that lofty earnings goal you set for the month. For the record, all of these reasons are bullshit. The logic here is simple. If it will cost you a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to try and meet any of these goals, then obviously you have failed in each and every one of them.

That being said, if that feeling of dread is pervasive, it is time to take a day off. Or maybe two, or even more. You know it is time to come back when you have worked through your fears and misgivings and are actually excited about playing again. So the question is, what exactly happened to your brain during that downswing or God mode session? And this is what I figured out.

During an extended downswing or hot streak, your mind slowly begins to distort the true odds of a variety of occurrences and reverts to your natural human state of pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is the basis of our superstitious behavior and odd ritualism. Our minds are NOT hard-wired to understand the true odds of anything in a vacuum. That is why a typical player continually makes bad odds-based decisions, even though most of the time they still understand they are making long shot plays. On the converse, when running hot, we begin to overestimate the odds of our winning hands holding up. In fact, quite often a long hot streak interrupted by a moderately bad day can have devastating effects on the psyche as well, even though anyone looking over your shoulder would tell you that you have nothing to complain about. But of course, that is not how our brains actually work.

Most of us spend a year or more conditioning our brains to base poker decisions on true odds, thereby forsaking our basic human psychology. However, long bouts of play, particularly that which is not examined in the heat of battle or after, will inevitably erode that conditioning. Taking a day off releases that built up tension so that we can regain the effects of that conditioning that we have worked so hard to achieve. So next time before taking the reflexive action of attributing bad results to simply running bad, take some time off and allow your mental muscles to time retract and let things fall into focus on their own.


L4Y SP said...

Excellent post , thk you . something i really need to take to heart .

John said...

Good post, a day or two off always does the world of good for me anyway.

Lorin Yelle said...

At the risk of being cheesy, it's almost like magic. But I subscribe to the notion that anything that seems like magic is indistinguishable from science. So I just (hopefully) found the science.


Hey man, your cartoons were classic!