And Then Life Happened


I was going to write about some cash game strategy and talk about places to play in Vegas tonight, but we’ll just have to wait a day for that.

Once in awhile life comes along and puts everything in perspective. Today is that day for me. A very dear friend, one of my favorite people in the world, passed away after a long battle with cancer this morning. I took the day off today, and will take the day off tomorrow as well. Playing high stakes tournament poker when your head isn’t right is a recipe for disaster. My backer is a good guy, and easy to work with, and he deserves to have a player who is sharp and with a clear head. And I need a little time.

If you are going to play live tournament poker for a living, you have to be on the road. A lot. I’ve spent almost half my time on the road since Black Friday and I miss my wife and my dogs and my friends and my favorite bars and my favorite bands and a lot of other things. When something like this happens to put it all in perspective, I have to wonder what the hell I’m doing. Going home to my family right now would be a lot easier than going back to an empty hotel room.

I’ll probably get some writing done this afternoon and go out and have some drinks tonight. I am working on a book with Dr. Aaron Rochlen, a psychologist who has written about the game and approached me about writing a book on poker and psychology. I told him I didn’t have time to put into a project that I wasn’t sure would sell, so he went out and sold it and now we’re writing it. Our due date for delivery to the publisher is July 31st, which means we have some work to do.

So far it’s gone very well. This book isn’t about how to win by using psychology, my pal Dr. Alan Schoonmaker has covered that subject far too well for me to think I could improve on what he has done. This is a book for casual players, their spouses, and anyone who is interested in the psychology of gambling, risk, money, people, and poker. We talk about how poker concepts relate to psychology and psychological concepts relate to poker.

We just finished a chapter about being a predator at the tables. I found it interesting that Dr. Rochlen wrote mostly about how to be a predator and how to release that part of yourself, while I was much more concerned with talking about how important it is to leave the predator at the tables and not take him home with you. Perhaps I know my predator all too well and don’t like him much, while the good doctor has less to fear.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who got a little wake up call recently. You may remember Brad Booth from an episode of high stakes poker where he had some very notable hands against Phil Ivey and Patrick Antonius. Brad’s reputation the last few years has been questionable, and he was called out on the twoplustwo forums recently by some of his friends and creditors. His youtube response from yesterday is ballsy, admitting that he is deeply in debt, broke, and has made some serious mistakes. It’s also quite sad. Watch it here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zbNieYoaos

This reminds me of a number of my students over the years who were recovering addicts. When a new student tells me that they are a recovered alcoholic, I can tell you what their problems will be almost every time. They have trouble folding hands, but most people have that problem. They also have trouble playing too loose, but this is also a very common problem. The problem that people with addiction issues have is that they love the game too much, and can’t resist a game. If you have an addictive personality, you can tell me if this sounds like you.

You play games that aren’t very good, or games where you haven’t been a winner, because you WANT to beat them, not because you are likely to do so. If you are a tournament player who loses at cash games, you continue to play them, jumping into a cash game as soon as the tournament is over. You tend to play games that are too high for your bankroll or your skill level and the swings in your bankroll are huge.

Keeping accurate records and playing in the games where you make the most money is the absolute key to making real money playing poker. If you were a plumber, and also had a job at a gas station, and didn’t know that you made five times as much money as a plumber, you might work both jobs for many years and never make enough money to be comfortable. Players who play games that are tough to beat are in a similar spot.

I’ve seen friends who can play 16 hours a day, grinding away at games that are so small they are rake traps or playing online at stakes they can’t beat, and I know those players when I sit down at a table. If you can not manage to play only the games you can beat, you need to treat poker as recreation, because you will never make a comfortable income. I pretty much tell everyone that playing poker for a living is a rotten job these days anyway, but it is much worse if you can’t make serious money playing it.

I’m off to get a few drinks in Vegas. By the time you read this I’ll have a hangover. Back to a more regular blog tomorrow, no more random streams of consciousness if I can avoid it, but for today that’s all I’ve got.

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