Saturday, March 04, 2006

Personal Responsibility and Poker

Lately I've noticed an increase in people who feel that they are "owed" something. That they are the privileged few who feel they don't have to work for a good life, yet feel they should get it anyway. Perhaps this should be called the Katrina Phenomenon, but today I'm going to try to link it to poker & personal responsibility.

There are many different types of poker forums. Each one kind of takes on a life of it's own and has it's own tone.

Most serious poker forums have an overall theme of taking personal responsibility. The posters are generally conservative people in their political views and are successful. They may not be huge winners in poker, but they seem to be more consistent. Some new posters who just happen upon the more serious forums quickly find themselves ignored and not really wanted by the majority of members. They whine about "bad beats" and get little sympathy. Amazingly, in the very same post, they will describe a beat they took in one hand when they had the best of it at some point, then describe another hand where they were the dog during most (if not all) of the hand, and curse their luck of losing BOTH hands. They feel they "deserve" to win all the time, they were "owed" the pot whether they were ahead or behind.

They feel no personal responsibility regardless of how badly they played.

They don't usually make it in poker. They aren't accepted on serious poker forums, nor do they sustain a bankroll for playing.

In poker, as well as in life, one must accept personal responsibility in order to be a long term success. Usually the same people who refuse to take responsibility in life, refuse to take it in poker, as well.

Using the recent cheating busts as an example, one can see that in both cases, the cheater refused to take responsibility.

"But I was too good to play just one screen name. I needed at least two in order to disguise how good I was and get some calls!"

"But I opened up some more windows in order to negate my advantage when I found myself in a position to cheat!"

"But I just wanted to cash in on more rackback. I had no plans to cheat, I wanted to use the system honestly!"

These were excuses that were made during the debacle. Absolutely NO remorse, nor any admittance of the allegations whatsoever (in any real way). Just more lies and more excuses.

Excuses are one way that losers try to justify their play or their refusal to accept personal responsibility. If they win a hand where they were a significant underdog, they make claims that they "outplayed" their competition. If they lose a hand in which they were a significant favorite, they whine about "bad beats" and "suck-outs." Never once do they think to themselves that they might need to study up on their game, learn to play and with it, to accept both wins and losses with grace, dignity and responsibility.

These same losers are everywhere on the Internet. Their absolute refusal to take any responsibility, or change in any way whatsoever in order to take charge in their lives gives them away every time.

After all, why should THEY work for a living, if the government will pay them to stay home?

Why should THEY read a book about poker, when they can sit on the Internet and whine about losing?

I see posts all the time, for example, authored by losers, whining about the format of Two Plus Two, and absolutely DEMANDING that they change it. Yes, losers in life feel justified in going to a private poker forum, a free one, at that, and DEMANDING that the owners change the software and layout of the site. They harp about the colors, the readability, and everything else they can drum up, when they are being provided with FREE poker advice! They gripe about the colors on the site when they have the resources right in front of their eyes, for free, which provides them first rate information from extremely experienced players, authors, theorists and psychologists!

They are being GIVEN millions of dollars worth of resources, absolutely FREE, with NO obligation, and how do they take advantage of these resources? With thanks and gratitude? Nooooo, instead their posts resemble this:

"Change the format of Two Plus Two now! I can't stand the colors, and it is too hard to read! The site loads too slowly on my dial-up, and I have a hard time reading in flat mode. Fix it now!"

Then they wonder why they aren't well liked on Two Plus Two, or why they get flamed. They squander the resources available to them, for free, while harping on the cosmetics of the gift horse! 

That reminds me of people on welfare who abuse the system, instead of taking advantage of it. While they could be attending school, getting an education, finding a better job and getting themselves out of the projects, they are instead at home whining, "But I'll make more money if I stay on welfare! By the time I take the bus to work, pay for my own lunch, and pay for daycare, I make less than I would by sitting on my a*s at home!"

Never once do they stop and think that they are building a future for themselves! Sure, $50 less per week right now, but next year they might be making 10% more, 25% more, 300% more!!! The sky is the limit when they take advantage of the system, instead of abusing it.

I know that Tanya won't be upset that I am using her as an example, because she posted the whole story on her own journal, publicly, for all to see. She is the prime example of someone who started out on welfare, and ended up making so much money within less than a decade that she now has nine full-time employees! Welfare doesn't mean, "sit your lazy a*s at home and have more illegitimate kids." Welfare means, "Take this opportunity to make something of your life. You're very lucky, because in Mexico there is no welfare. You would be sitting on the street starving to death!"

Tanya is a winner in poker, as well. She never sits and laments her "bad beats." She gives them, she takes them. She knows she is going to get action because she gives action. She is a very aggressive player, so when she does get a premium hand, she is more likely to get called. Schooling happens, get over it. She takes it a lot better than most loose, aggressive players. She also knows that being a female can bring about both an advantage, and disadvantage in poker. She doesn't cry about the fact that she sometimes gets called down by some scummy old-school player who gripes about 'women being ALLOWED in the poker room,' she just accepts her beat with grace and knows that she is the victor. Someone like Tanya isn't going to be held down, she is going to rise to the top every time. Even when she loses, she wins. Now if we could just keep her out of the pit... lol ;)

So there are players like Tanya, who soak up their resources like a sponge and go on to become winners in both life and poker, and then there are "the others." Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at it), the "others" abound, both in poker and life. I like to see them in the poker world, I hate to see them in life.

In the poker world, these people are usually the ones who go around flaming and/or libeling other sites. They flame online play sites because they lose. They try to convince others that the site is "rigged."

They are the same ones who bash Two Plus Two or other serious forums for reasons I mentioned earlier. They also bash the sites because they aren't getting "sympathy" when they post the most ridiculous hands and/or stories of play. Usually the first post, they get some help, get tons of resources. But these losers don't want help or resources, they want a magic pill to win, and they want it right then. Work? Who wants to work for money? Who wants to study, practice, discuss and make something of themselves when "the government" will pay them? When cheating will allow them to win? When someone can just find SOME game of chance online and not have to put any effort into raking in millions?

Guess what? There IS no magic pill. If you want to be successful, you actually have to WORK at it.

These same losers are always writing me hate mail. They flame me for everything under the sun. Most recently, I just got flamed for the LAYOUT of my journal! Yes, if you can picture this, someone really thinks that I should change MY site for THEM! They have such little sense of responsibility that they have decided that it is up to me to change my site to be aesthetically pleasing for THEM. Instead of them taking responsibility and saying to themselves, "Hey, I'm getting free resources here! I am being given the privilege of reading some advanced ideas and thoughts, for FREE, nontheless! I can look inside the private world of someone's journal, someone's inner thoughts, and I have to do nothing more than click the link!" they say, "I don't like the layout, change it!"

"I don't like how you use the word 'fish,' stop it!"
"I don't like how you said Bellagio is elitist, delete it!"
"I don't like how you said Missouri is a redneck state, take it back!"
"I don't like how you talk about cancer as well as poker, stop!"
"I don't like how you ridiculed the tourney structure at my favorite cardroom, rescind it!"
"I don't like the colors on your website, fix it!"

What they are telling me is that they refuse to take any personal responsibility in their lives. What makes you think I work for YOU???  If you don't like something, change it! Get off of your butt and do something about it!

They are losers at poker and they are losers at life. These people are the same ones sitting around in their trailer, with half a dozen illegitimate kids, nine cars on blocks out in the yard (none of them run, naturally), three washing machines rusting on the porch, two dozen dogs and cats roaming in and out of house, a stolen computer hooked up to a rigged internet connection, playing on a poker site with their welfare check, losing everything by the third of the month, and then screaming at me:

"I don't like your website! Change it!"

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Stud Theories (Part II: Psychology)

If you have not read part one of this series, please feel free to go back and read it first.

Those of you who were here when I posted the first in this series know that my "theories" aren't regarding the actual play of Stud, but why Stud has died out over the past decade.

In this segment, I'll explore the psychology of Stud, and why it is a totally different beast from the psychology of a flop game or a draw game.

When one is playing a flop game, like Hold'em, Omaha or Pineapple, there is a type of information that can be inferred and is 100% correct. With five community cards, we absolutely KNOW what the best hand could be at any given moment. We can be quizzed one thousand times on board reading and be correct one thousand times. There is no "better hand" possible.

Given that knowledge, we can bluff an opponent off of a hand.

A draw game, like Five Card Draw, Lowball or TDL is a game lacking community cards, thus there is less information available for individual players. Players must depend on their position, memorization of how many cards each player drew, and generalizations about their opponents. But Draw games died out long before Stud games, so making a psychology theory about Draw games is virtually a moot point. There just aren't played often enough in typical cardrooms to make the effort.

Stud games are different than flop games because each player has a hand that is ~57% exposed. This gives a lot of information to observant players. But it also holds back important information:

  1. What is the nut hand?
  2. Can my hand beat his best possible hand?

Those things cannot be answered without the whole hand being exposed. And for the whole hand to be exposed, the river bet must be called.

Getting to the river, however, takes a lot more than a simple call.

And the psychology of Stud games is both easier, and harder than any other type of game.

First, we have more information about the hand than in a flop game. So in this manner, we cannot bluff someone off of his hand so easily. In a game like Texas Hold'em, for example, the bluff is relatively easy to pull off in a HU situation on a scary board. TPTK doesn't look so great anymore when the board shows three to a straight and three to a flush.

In Stud games, the situation just doesn't come up enough to do that as regularly. Sure, occasionally your board will develop so well that only the most astute player, who has deducted what you likely started with (due to your previous play in the hand), or the biggest fish, will call you. But like I said, this just doesn't happen enough in Stud to go for big bluffs and get other players to make big laydowns (especially on the river).

So psychologically we are somewhat helped and somewhat crippled by Stud games. What an interesting paradox.

The best Stud players are extremely adaptable to their always changing circumstances. Being able to switch gears is more important in Stud games than in any other type of poker game. In the excellent poker book, Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players, the text makes mention of this time and again. While in Hold'em, hands remain relatively fixed in strength, in Stud they vary wildly. A player who cannot adjust quickly and who pays less attention to everything around him, will eventually lose his bankroll.

As an example, let's say you are playing in a typical Stud game (fixed limits, ante proportionate). You are lucky enough to be in late or last position with an ace showing. If it is passed to you, you must attempt a steal. Regardless of whether or not you have anything to go with your bare ace, you must almost always try to buy the pot immediately. One of the reasons you would almost always complete the bet is because you know that position is not fixed in Stud. Because you have an ace showing, you will almost surely be in first position on fourth. It is better to win a small pot now than have the worst position throughout the hand and be forced to act first.

If you do not buy the antes on third, the likelihood of fourth street helping you is low. Barring pairing the ace, there aren't many cards that you would like to see. If the bring-in calls, he is probably going to have an advantage. If he pairs his doorcard, you cannot usually call on fourth. What if he catches a straight flush card? You are constantly put to the test with your high board. If he catches an ace, and he is now high, yes, he is the first to act, but it makes your hand look even worse! You are playing defense here, and playing virtually blind. He may know what you have, or may not know at all, but he has an advantage over you nevertheless, and will likely be able to outplay you for the duration of the hand. Unless you truly do have a monster underneath, you want to go ahead and buy that small pot right on third. Thinking to yourself, "But I have such a good hand, I want to string along as many players as possible" is a losing thought process. If it's bad in Hold'em, it's infinitely worse in Stud. Only the very best players can get themselves out of bad situations like this. It's usually better to play a shorthanded Stud pot than a multiway pot.

Remember, also, each player has his own, separate Stud hand, so if you are drawing to a flush in Hold'em, you are drawing to the only flush possible. You will pretty much know if your hand is good, and likely it is. But in Stud, there may be other players drawing to a flush! There may be a player with trips drawing to full house. You may even be sharing the same suited flush draw with another player! In loose games, you will eventually see two players show down flushes of the same suit. Not knowing where you are in a hand, getting lost, will cripple you more than the many fish who are trying to take your stack. So you really must try to play shorthanded pots rather than multiway pots, in most situations.

Most people do not have the mental fortitude to play Stud. Only those with strong personality types are meant for a game with this much variance, fluctuation, standard deviation, and bankroll devastation (similar concepts, but repeated for emphasis). A person who steams or tilts is not made for Stud games.

The majority of us were not alive when this happened, but the story is still known widely in poker circles. I'm not taking it verbatim from my book, but simply trying to provide an example.

When Johnny Moss was playing Nick the Greek during their freezeout at Binions, a key hand happened while the two were playing Five Card Stud. Johnny started with a pair. (Remember, only one card is hidden from view in FCS, so you will always know the best possible hand your opponent can have.)

Johnny made big bets the whole way, Nick calling along with a hand that could not possibly beat Johnny's. Although the pot eventually contained several hundred thousand dollars, Nick kept coming. On the river, Nick paired his holecard, the jack, which beat Johnny's unimproved pair.

Over 99% of players would have had some kind of negative psychological reaction to losing such a huge pot, on the river. I can only think of one player whose play would not have deteriorated after having lost this hand these days, in fact.

But Johnny had a different reaction. Inside he smiled. He said something to the affect of, "That is when I knew I was going to take every penny he had. That is when I knew I would eventually win." Rather than tilting or steaming, Johnny was extremely happy to take the beat. Losing a 500k pot early in the freezeout taught him everything he needed to know about his opponent. A 500k lesson which would enable him to win millions later.

These are the types of beats you will take in any Stud game. How you react psychologically to them will either force you to quit Stud games in disgust, claiming that "Stud sucks" and is "for beginners and fish," or will enable you to become an expert.

So in addition to everything else needed to be a winning Stud player, now we have the psychological aspect of it beating us down. Not many players are able to overcome all of the criteria needed to be a great, winning Stud player. Most fail.

These demanding prerequisites for playing Stud have virtually wiped out the game. In addition, our society has become one which doesn't want to work hard for rewards. They will almost always take the "easy way out." They certainly don't want to "work" so hard while on vacation, trying to relax and wind down, so recreational players usually don't seek out Stud games.

Stud games are very demanding games. They hit hard on our memory, concentration, and psychological strength. I remember a saying that goes something like, "If you don't have a splitting headache after playing a long Stud session, you aren't a winning player."

In the past decade Stud games have become almost dinosaurs of the poker world. Most cardrooms all over the globe have given up Seven Card Stud, Stud 8, Stud High/Low, Razz and Five Card Stud altogether. I believe the complex psychology of Stud games is just one more piece of the puzzle which has brought about it's demise.

It's an interesting paradox, as I said earlier. A catch-22 no matter what way we look at it. What makes Stud games the best, toughest games in the world, are also the very things that have brought about it's virtual death.

Felicia :)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Another Monday

I have been asked to comment on current events in the poker world and in the blogger world. I really have nothing to say, nothing to add, which hasn't already been picked over.

Most people assume that I have a hard, fixed opinion of just about everything. They are correct. I usually don't have much gray area in my life. Things are either black or white. Once in a while, however, there are things I just cannot speculate on. Either I don't know enough about the situation to form a firm opinion, or I can see both sides, and I simply refrain from comment due to sounding like a flake.

Sometime I will also refuse to get into a battle because of the absolute ignorance of the whole thing. For instance, you will rarely read me tackle the subject of women's only poker events. I don't play them, I don't support them, end of story. In this case, my utter silence on the subject should speak volumes. If it doesn't, then you are one of the millions who shouldn't be reading my journal. Your head is buried in the sand and you need to get a life. Don't come here seeking to sing Kumbaya on my site. I'm not holding your hand and walking you down the primrose path.

So that is that. I won't even bring up some current discussions. They are beneath me and I won't condescend to address them.
As an excellent segue into my next topic (lol), I am going to just touch on a few things happening physically to me post-cancer treatment.

My hair came back, as most of you already know. I started to let it grow out just a touch, although I have had very short hair for the past seven years anyway. To my surprise, once it got to about 1.5 inches, it started curling!

For a full day, it was curly, and then the next day when I washed it, the curl pretty much fell out. It still has a "bend" here and there, but the real curl is gone. Bizarre. I would have loved for it to stay curly, and would have let it grow out somewhat. I waited for about two weeks to see if it would come back, but it didn't, so I finally had Glenn shave it off again, and I'm back to this look:

I also bleached it one last time, mixed with some ash blonde color, so that it would look more natural when my real color grew in (brown & gray). I'm sick of coloring it, so I'm going to let it go. My face is already a train wreck, so I don't care anymore. I had Glenn take a couple of pictures the day it was curly. I rarely take pics, so it might be a while before they are developed. On the plus side, since Glenn's PC imploded (read Decker's tale, it is the exact same as what happened to Glenn last week), and since he has a new PC, we found that the last digital camera wasn't dead after all. The software just went wacky on his old PC and refused to work. So we have a functioning $19 Walmart digital camera after all. Now I'll be able to post pics when I actually want to, instead of when the disposable POS is ready to take to the processing center. Oy, vey! Modern technology and I obviously don't mesh well. I'll post more recent pics, as well as the pics of the Ogden House and the attached hooker hideaway motel as soon as I can.

My mouth hurts all of the time. I have sores on the inside, and my teeth are moving around. Chemo, chemo, god I wish I hadn't done it.

I am still anemic. I am taking four different kinds of iron, all supposedly easier to absorb than the cheapo brands. It doesn't seem like they are doing me any good. My skin is still virtually translucent, I can't think straight sometimes, and I chew ice constantly (pica).

The "doctors" (none of whom I trust), keep wanting me to go to the hospital and have a picc line put in. I keep refusing because of the likelihood of getting a staph infection and having it become so serious that I will be at risk of death. I don't want to be in the hospital that long. For whatever reason, the thought of being in the hospital for weeks or months at a time, in and out of an ICU and being that sick are more scary to me than death. I'm strange, I know. I never claimed not to be ;)

So we are at a stalemate.
As the days go by, I am more and more comfortable with my "withdrawn" place in society. I have pulled back from so many things that I thought were important. Fortunately, they don't seem to miss me any more than I miss them. Time will tell, I'm sure, but as of this moment, I am extremely happy with my decisions to pull out of Yahoo, pull out of different medical communities, pull out of subsets of the poker world and some of the other things I was involved in. I was definitely over extending myself. While it is true that I have nothing but time, I simply don't have the time, nor the energy for THEM, in particular. I can't be bothered to be dragged through the mud anymore. I want to be around positive, uplifting people, not negative people who pull me down.

I am almost finished with my Stud post. In theory, I think I have it worked out. I need to work on the way it reads, edit and proofread it several more times, but I think I finally have the gist of it coming out just right (thank god).

Once that is done, I'm going to veer off into another direction and study personality types and poker, and see what, if any, traits of narcissism that certain personality types possess. Most especially those of serious, winning players. That should take me about a century or two, so I'll be busy indefinitely, haha!

Have a good week, everyone. I hope the best for you, and that you are as content as I find myself these days.

Felicia :)