Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Anatomy of a losing streak...

CC has been going through a losing streak lately and I decided to write him a quick e-mail about some of my thoughts. As usual, 'quick' turned into long, wordy, and a bit lecturing, but I think it is worthwhile to post here (honestly, I should probably go back and remind myself of some of these ideas too).

BTW, I've got to say that CC is probably the best example of a blogger creating a great following by working hard. Posting often, quality posts, and interactive content is the best way to build readers.

Here's the content of the e-mail:

I wanted to comment on your recent troubles -- I could have left this in a comment but it was easier to put in an e-mail. My goal is not to offend you but give you my thoughts as an outside observer:

I think you are on a very slippery slope right now and should be careful in the near future. The comment that really got to me was "I've had very negative thoughts during play, almost feeling destined to lose. This is self-pity combined with a feeling that is reinforced through bad outcomes." For me, my litmus test of whether I should play is an attitude like that -- if I find myself expecting the bad beat, expecting to lose money, and I can't get the feeling to go away, then I am not in the right place to play. After all, those thoughts are self-fulfilling prophecies. Put another way, those kind of thoughts go through my head when I am in that long-term tilt area.

I recommend you take a few days off until those thoughts go away.

Again, I'm not trying to tell you what to do -- but in my history, I've had a few nasty losing streaks and every single time I felt like you do now. In each case, I didn't recover until I had time off poker (at least a few days, sometimes a week). It just took me that long to shake the tilt and play because I enjoyed it.

That being said, I don't really have the ability to play my way out of a losing streak. I know some guys can, like Ted Forrest. But deep down, I know I can't, at least not now. Especially internet poker, it all moves too quickly, to easily accessed, and lets face it, we're probably all addicted to some degree. Who knows, maybe its the fact we're always sitting in the same place at the computer -- maybe we should be moving our desks to get out of losing streaks!

I think you have made some good steps to getting rid of the problem, although be careful with multi-tabling. While it does help tighten you up, remember you are giving up some reading ability (i.e. EV) and it can uber-tilt you in minutes when all your tables have bad things happen. The three seconds before each move is an excellent idea though -- when I'm losing I definitely take less time to think things through, and taking three seconds is a great way to break out of that pattern.

Ok, one last comment and then I'll go away. I wrote a lot more than I meant to, so maybe I'll post this on my blog and call it an 'entry'. I never was that good at short and sweet.

One of the biggest dangers of poker is the lack of control we have. For instance, back when I played organized sports (this labels me as a nerd, I played Ultimate Frisbee seriously for three years before I succombed to injury), if something bad happened, I'd usually try harder -- run harder, focus harder, get more aggressive. Essentially use my anger or frustration to channel energy into the endeavour. Win or lose, I was usually satisfied that I did my best.

With poker though, you can't do that. Poker really is a 'hurry up and wait' type of game and trying to take control and force a win usually makes matters worse. But, of course, when I'm losing, my natural tendancy is to kick it in and try harder (usually resulting in playing more hands more aggressively). That also results in playing longer and more frequent sessions (which doesn't help the EV).

I think many poker players are like that -- the type of person attracted to poker is usually relatively aggressive, has a background in sports and competitive games, and doesn't like to lose. I definitely see you as that type of person, based on your blog. And lately, it really seems like the lack of control is getting to you, and maybe the best way to regain control is to take a break from online poker, all poker, even blogs.

Obviously, I don't really know you, and this is just advice. But I wanted to speak up because I've been recognizing a familiar pattern in your recent posts.

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