I’m not talking about that crushing blow that caused a concussion during a heated Friday night high school football game years ago, and I’m not talking about when you hear a tournament director bellowing, “finish the hand your in, blinds going up.” My reference to “Clocked” relates to the hammer coming down as you reach the river and your primo set of flopped kings are busted by 68os when a 7 comes at the end, turning a 5,9,K flop into a gut shot masterpiece for Mister Drunk and Obnoxious.
But this article is not really about another bad beat story, it’s about what you and I might want to do when the going gets really tough. So tough, you start to doubt yourself, you play defensively, you begin to sweat the small stuff. All players know exactly how that feeling goes, when we experience extreme lows mixed in with the infrequent exhilaration of incredible highs. At this point your game is suffering to the point of life support, and as a result, your bankroll is shrinking, not to mention your confidence-leaving town weeks ago on an express train.
I recently received an email from an internet poker friend I have never met (which is becoming more the case since so many new poker players are testing the gambling waters with online poker). His name is Brian, and his moniker is Irishguy. This Indianapolis native was frustrated by his recent results in tournament play and felt as bad as Bill Buckner in the 1986 Series when Mookie Wilson’s ground ball slithered through his legs at first base and the Mets went on to win the Series.
Everything seemed to be slipping away. Final table appearances, placing in the money and ultimately getting pummeled in just about every ring game he played. His plea for help came across the internet like a virus alert coming from Microsoft. “What’s wrong with my game, I feel like a cruise liner listing at sea and I’m taking on water and asking the crew to break out the life preservers (and while you’re at it, make that two jackets for me! With my recent luck, one surely will have a hole in it). ”
First thing I asked Brian was to tell me about the successes he had. I did not want to hear about what’s wrong with his game; I needed to hear what’s right with it! Recounting his recent past history with internet, live action tournaments and ring games, I wanted to hear about his dominance during play. I ran a number of quick questions at him in succession designed to illustrate that he still has game, as we all certainly need to be reminded from time to time.
I asked Brian, “Do you make the top 10% half the time you enter tournaments? Have you finished high in the money, either in 1st, 2nd or 3rd more than a half dozen times. And tell me your overall standing at the internet sites you frequent, are you plus or negative?” Remarkably, Brian was able to tell me about every win, how he finished and what his overall stack size was at all locations.
As he recounted his triumphs he began to see how successful he really was. And everyone can’t win every event they enter, we only think that. He hadn’t really forgot he could stand toe-to-toe with just about anyone, he was just experiencing such a run of bad luck, he started doubting himself, started pressing and worst of all, started to pick up bad table habits.
So now what? Was there a prescription with a large enough single dosage to allow Brian to bounce back from his doldrums? I really didn’t know the answer, but what I told Brian was the following. Dust off those books on the shelf and start to re-read those chapters and paragraphs with highlighted pages; dig out those copies of Qiu Qiu Online Poker Digest and CardPlayer where you conspicuously marked outstanding advice columns and sit down and look over your playing log to see where your game is leaking and where your game has been strongest.
Sometimes self-analysis of documented play can identify a problem we can’t normally see looking at it through rose-colored glasses. Sort of “occupational blindness!” Maybe Brian was playing games above his skill level or even worse, playing at games he should have graduated from months ago. One thing is for sure, Brian’s choice making seemed to be poor and as a result, his play was negatively affected.
Finally, I reminded Brain to think positive on his way to a casino or to the computer. I instructed him to mentally prepare himself for engaging the enemy. I personally find it worthwhile to read a small passage pertaining to money management, table skills or tells before I play. While driving shut off the car radio to continue the mental exercise by playing hands (all sorts), from various positions proves to be a highly effective technique in getting the juices flowing and your mind on making proper choices. I even go as far as to practice pitching certain hands that notoriously get me in trouble for playing.
Lastly I continue to self-motivate myself by simply reminding myself to pick games offering the best return for my investment (especially online where this info is provided), picking the game that suits my style of play and to establish an attainable goal (or amount of money to make that day). Too many players take their seats at the table with negative expectations. Thinking about how much they have to “lose” rather than thinking positively about how much they intend to win.
All Brian needed was a reminder to play alert, play prepared and play to win. He still lost his fair share of hands and tournament, but regained his confidence to persevere and apply his experience with his skills and has managed to impact his monthly ledge in a favorable way. Brian still gets “Clocked,” by some river-rat, but don’t we all, no matter how good we think we are?