The Challenge (Revisited)

Posted: April 5, 2013 in poker
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My apologies for the long hiatus, I’ve been all over the place with new projects, new students and as luck would have it a freshly repaired ACL. To catch everyone up to speed in my last post I issued a challenge to myself which never really got off the ground. Instead, I found myself continuing to plug away at the bigger games through the New Year with mixed results. Ironically, an unwelcome birthday gift in the form of a torn ACL (and a $5k insurance deductible) served as all the motivation I needed to get to the root of my mediocrity. Knowing I would have to put a lot of focus into recovery, I decided to forgo the bigger games in lieu of heavy volume at $2/$5. In order to further push myself I extended the previous challenge to a couple friends who are regular $2/$5 grinders in the form of a bet. The stakes would be 2.5% of each other’s WSOP main event action, the terms: 8 weeks grinding $2/$5 with a minimum of 35 sessions to qualify, biggest winner scoops.
Today I’m all but throwing in the towel. When I initially made the bet I didn’t think it would take more than a couple days to recover from surgery…it took two weeks. Once my head was out of the clouds (and after two sessions where I played too soon and got crushed) I began a feverish grind of 13 days straight. Unfortunately, this week I missed a day due to Easter, another due to a juicy $5/$10 game I couldn’t pass up (which I have no regrets after pulling a $3k win) and finally yesterday fell victim to coaching priorities. I’m all but mathematically eliminated with 18 sessions in the books and 17 days left to play. I plan to give it the ole college try, but 17 straight days of $2/$5 is certainly uncharted waters for me.

Regardless of my outcome for this challenge, it will prove to be a much needed examination of both my game and my perspective as a coach. Rather than going through the motions and treating the step down in stakes as torturous punishment, I accepted it for what it is…a great outlet to work on some new concepts as well as refine some old strategies that I’ve gotten sloppy with. I’ve spent the bulk of my hours focused on staying fully engaged while applying as much pressure as humanly possible. The fruits of my labor came early last week in a hand that summarizes my $2/$5 experiment thus far…

A young reg opens first middle position to $20 and is $1100 deep to start the hand. Folds to me in the bb and I flat w/A3 off and cover. I’ve played with this kid before at $5/$10 but he played insanely tight, I can only assume he was playing up in stakes and wasn’t very comfortable as he’s been slightly more active today. Flop is A86 rainbow. I check and he continues for $25, without going into detail on my reasoning, I elect to make it $90. He calls. Now comes the range assessment; it’s very clear to me that he is going into bluff catch mode with something of relative strength, most likely Ax or 97. In either case I expect the turn to check through unless I decide to fire a second shell, which will be unlikely as the board texture can’t really change much. Turn is the A of spades, completing the badugi. As I anticipated the action went check, check. The river now brings a glimmer of hope, in the 5 of clubs. I assume our opponent has trips and is never folding to a single bet, so the only shot we have of winning this pot is either the hand checking down (as we’d almost always be best at showdown in that scenario), or him going for thin value, opening up an opportunity to run a river bluff. After some consideration he decides to bet $210 (pot is $220), which is strong and serves dual purpose; it allows him to get max value while discouraging unwanted check-raises potentially from worse hands/bluffs. Recognizing that he’s rarely full here and that he was attempting to handcuff me with his sizing allowed me to see through his line and pull the trigger. I shoved over his bet for 800 more. In the moment I was nearly positive he would fold trips and about 80% sure he would fold a rivered straight. After the fact I think those estimations were a bit high considering my image; at least I assume he considers me capable of this move. Either way he ultimately made, what appeared to be, a painful fold. That particular hand and a few others lit a fire in me. I’ve rediscovered my edge that had quietly faded, leaving behind a shell of my former self, mashing buttons hoping to be bailed out by the deck.

There is a certain torture that comes with achieving success, in that once you’ve tasted it you can never accept mediocrity again. The climb is hard, but it’s the descent that will kill you. We see it everyday, the celebrated superstar suddenly wakes up one day at 40, no longer able to perform, left grasping at straws in the hopes he can make one last mad dash to the top. Poker is ultimately worse by comparison. There’s no ingrained exit plan or age range where you’re forced to move on, and with the ever changing landscape of the game it becomes a vicious dog eat dog world. Unfortunately, most of us are blinded by the short-term money, the variance, ego, and flawed, idealistic thinking that this can last forever. My eyes have seen the light. I’m not saying that there is a career change in my near future, quite the opposite. I’ve rekindled my focus and hope to see it translate into a monster year. However, I understand we’re all playing on borrowed time. Like anything else in life, you reap what you sow. It requires being a student of the game in order to ultimately master this craft. Most of all it takes honesty and balance. The inability to self actualize, in my opinion, is the biggest flaw we succumb to as poker players. It may be the only trait a professional poker player shares with a degenerate gambler. For me it’s the area I concern myself most with, not only for the benefits it brings to my game, but more importantly to ensure that I never stop growing and bettering myself. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, but most of us got into this game as a means to a better life, and with that financial freedom should come a desire for an enriched life. The only way to enrichment is through balance and selflessness. Putting an emphasis on self educating, health, family and friends, productivity, and most importantly selfless acts toward others will, if nothing else, help us become contributing members to society. I can only speak for myself, but at the end of the day I hope to be defined through my actions rather than just labeled by my career choice.

Ok before this blog turns into an after school special I’ll end my path to enlightenment rant. I blame watching 6 hours of The Bible on History for bringing on such an aggressive “do onto others…” attitude. *Editor’s note: regardless of religious interest or lack there of, if you enjoy good ole fashion hand to hand combat, drawn out battles, and infidelity I promise this show delivers.*

  1. Nice blog, I like the way you write. Your dog is awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. admin says:

    Uhm …. defo subscribed , lets hope I get something out of your blog.
    also cool poker buddy you got there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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