Sunday, May 28, 2006

Personal Responsibility and Poker (Redux)

Since I am a big proponent of personal responsibility, this is a topic I tend to repeat again and again. Yes, I know the new "flames" will include that I rant and rave about the same topics over and over again. I'm just giving you a free disclaimer here. You are correct. I hope that makes you feel good.

So many people don't want to take personal responsibility anymore. It has become almost epidemic in our society. As a recent example, yesterday I wrote about how I took a "shocking" medical terminology class at Blue Cross back in '89 or '90. Today, I'll bet that class doesn't even exist. Or if it does, students probably have to sign extensive waivers to take it. Why? Because some yahoo probably sees an opportunity in that class. He or she sits down with the attitude that they are going to be set for life. After the first "shocking" photo of a vagina sitting on top of a ham, they cry, "Ooooh, my poor eyes, I've been sexually harassed! I need at least five million to make it all go away!" Thus the end of the best medical terminology teaching method.

I remember my years at AOL. It got so atrocious; the new, creative ways that employees came up with trying to scam AOL out of a free ride. One employee in our department, no less, got more and more creative as time went on. Since we were using a building in Reston which was only two stories, it had an elaborate staircase in the front lobby. One could either choose to take the stairs, take the elevator, or park in back, which was on the second floor. This guy decided that he needed a free ride for life, so arranged a little "trip and fall." Unfortunately, he didn't get hurt as badly as he was expecting. He only bruised his toe a little. This didn't stop him from trying the "I need five million to make it all better" route, though. He played out the whole bruised toe "disability" for six months or more. Limping around in a cast, showing everyone the bruise, claiming that since he'd been a police officer in the past he was going to be "permanently disabled" from the bruised toe.

When that backfired, he tried the "mental health" route. He went to several mental health professionals until he could bribe one to say that he had been "permanently disabled" by the mental stress of working at AOL. This was actually more plausible, because AOL was a real sweatshop. It wasn't odd to see people working 90-100 hours per week. Some had futons in their offices and literally slept at AOL. This joker wasn't one of them, btw, so proving that he had been mentally taxed by working so many hours backfired as well. AOL had his keystrokes to prove that he goofed off at home when he was supposed to be telecommuting, as well as being able to track the hours that he was actually in the building working for AOL. In the end, he was fired, just like he was fired from the police force. I don't think he ever managed to get a free ride, but who knows.

The reasons that people lose at poker are many. Personal responsibility is one of them. Go to any number of strategy forums and/or poker blogs, and the lack of personal responsibility is very clear. Tons of bad beat stories litter the forums. If a person loses a session, it was due to bad beats, lack of cards, schooling or any number of other excuses. Rarely does one see someone who just flat out says, "Wow, I lost because I played like shite!"

Just like my AOL co-worker, they want a free ride. That is why big tournaments with huge payouts are so attractive to most poker players. They want the lottery to take all of their troubles away. They don't want to have to "work" anymore. The American dream has turned from being able to turn almost nothing into something given enough hard work, to being able to come up with some scam or magic pill in order to live the "easy life" for the next fifty years.

Poker doesn't tend to work that way. Which is why you see so many players turning from cash games to big payout tourneys. They don't want to work at it. They want to "get lucky" instead.

Usually the person who is most likely to be a player who wants to live the easy life is the very same one who won't recognize it. Here are some traits you can look for if you are unsure about whether you are trying to "work hard" to become an expert player, or if you are trying to "get lucky."

1) Are you looking for one big windfall, or a slow, steady win?
2) Do you constantly scan the latest festivals, looking at those six and seven figure payouts for big buy-in events?
3) How much do you study about poker per day versus play? This includes:
a) studying hand histories
b) talking to mentors and/or coaches
c) discussing your play on poker forums
d) reading theory, psychology and strategy books by top players and/or theorists
e) keeping track of wins and losses
f) mentally discussing with yourself both your strengths and weaknesses, candidly, honestly, bluntly and humbly
4) Do you find yourself moving up in limits to take a shot when you are unprepared and outclassed?
5) Do you refuse to play limit, playing only NL and PL solely because you feel you can win a windfall?
6) Do you curse and scream pleas like, "Why can't *I* get lucky for once?"
7) Do you find yourself begging for a huge suck-out, to make a big score?

I'm sure I'm leaving tons of things out here, but I'm hoping some of you will find yourself in these examples, and decide to change your goals in poker.

One of my own, personal weaknesses is taking a shot. This has a lot to do with the fact that it is hard to find games other than HE at middle levels. I find myself wanting to simple "keep up," instead of knowing that I have an advantage at the table, and that I am prepared both mentally, monetarily and skillfully to beat this limit.

I remember reading a quote somewhere, but I certainly don't know where. It goes something like, "I could never worship a god who 'sends' people to hell." Then the responder says, "God never sent anyone to hell, people send themselves there."

This is not meant to be a theological debate. My point in making the post is personal responsibility. If you find yourself saying things like, "I can't work in a place which won't give me a raise/good review, etc," and you didn't actually deserve a raise, promotion or good review, then you cannot blame the company, the problem lies within yourself.

The same goes with almost anything in life. If your wife leaves you, and you constantly, bitterly remark, "She left ME, how could she? It's HER fault, not mine," then almost certainly she did not leave you, you left her long before she made the step of "physically" moving away.

I work very hard in my marriage. I make compromises that individuals do not like to make. But I am not in an "individual" arrangement, I am in a partnership, and we have to work together. Glenn, however, is a much more giving, loving and accepting person than I am. So if he were to "leave" me, per se, I could only have myself to blame. I worked at things much "less hard" than he did. Fortunately, we have a great marriage and we are very open about differences that we have, and things that come up. I do believe in marriage for life, so I never dwell on any negatives in that aspect.

Recently, a serial abusive poster was banned once again from 2+2. Because of things I said here, he assumed that I was the one who got him banned. No, HE was the one who got himself banned. I didn't do it. I can point out his past to those above me, but his history of abuse and duplicate accounts got him banned. I am just a moderator, I was not the one posting in such an offensive manner under his account. Take responsibility! (I will, however, point out that he, himself took responsibility for his abusive posts and banable behavior. I am just using this as a recent example of my overall point of poker and responsibility.)

I am responsible for whether I win or lose in poker. I am responsible for my results, the games I choose to play in, what happens to my money and everything else that matters at the table. If I lose control and steam away my money because some old man is being abusive to me and doesn't "believe" in women at the table, I still only have myself to blame. I could have reported him, if he was effecting the entire game, or I could have ignored him. I could have asked to transfer tables, if he was only effecting my own, personal game and not harming anyone else, or I could have just left. I have so many choices in these situations. If I choose not to make any choice save the choice of getting angry, deciding to go after him, personally, and letting him have all of my money, it is NO ONE'S FAULT BUT MY OWN! I do not make excuses for my failures.

So what are you looking for in your poker journey? Are you looking for a lifetime of hard work, proven, positive, steady results? Are you looking for a hobby, a career or a second income? Are you looking to have some control over a life of good decisions with an overall positive outcome? Or are you looking for that great pie in the sky? A huge windfall which will make you "set" for life?

No matter WHICH path you are looking for, your chances of succeeding are much better if you work hard and take personal responsibility for your results. Don't get caught up in excuses for bad play. If you find yourself telling a "bad beat" story, first assume that you played badly, either before, during or after the supposed "bad beat." And then analyze your play, as a whole, again and again, to find out what led up to this beat. Then take responsibility for it.

There is a saying among top, solid, successful poker players that goes something like this: "He may have lost a dime on that "bad beat," but he lost one hundred times that on BAD PLAY."

Poker is more in YOUR head than it is in anyone else's. It is more about YOU and where you are mentally than it is about an individual session, your opponents or how the cards fell.

First decide to look within yourself. Take responsibility, and then become a winner in both poker and life.

Felicia :)