Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Few Things...

First of all, before I get onto any other topic, I'd like to just shout a big THANK YOU to the many people who have supported me, and written me (with kindness) over the past year (not a complete list, by far, but I got sick of linking).

Sometimes I go off on such tangents and rants, that I end up not acknowledging the people who continue to support me. I know that out of the hundred or so readers of my site, only one or two are truly the haters, who constantly flame me or find something to destroy. That leaves most of my readers in a hard spot. They have to put up with my griping and whining, just to get to the heart of my posts.

Lately I have been able to actually type up some good information, because I have separated myself from some people who were handicapping me. This has left me free to write about what I really want to write about, rather than play defense.

Most of my posts are thoughts that I have about certain poker subjects that I am interested in. I am a thinker, my mind never stops. But don't believe for one second that I am an artist or creative person. I'm not. I haven't had a unique thought since Nixon was in office. Almost everything I write about has been addressed thoroughly before. The short-term loan analogy? I've heard that for the past decade.

I'm simply good at writing things down, at telling a story. That's it.

Lately some of my posts have been picked up by outside sources. This happened to me a couple of years ago, too, when my journal was really well read (back then I was getting about 500 visitors per day. These days, I'm lucky to get 150, and that's on a good day). I used to get upset about my content being stolen, and rarely credited. But today, well, there are just so many sites reproducing our material. I think it's a losing battle, especially if they link to us. I'm not going to waste my time on chasing them down. But thanks for the heads up!

Since my mind is relatively clear (not too angry at any one thing right now, lol), and my health is the best it has been in a long time (thank God), I'm going to try to write as much as I can on subjects I've long been itching to write about. Here are some of the topics I'd love to tackle:

1) More Psychology of Poker
2) Third (and final??? Naw, I don't think so!) theory on the demise of Stud
3) Future of Cardrooms
4) Grinding Omaha online
5) Future of tournament poker
6) Narcissism and poker

I'll try to get something of substance up today. But I simply wanted to post this first. Because for all of the ragging I do, I also try to give credit where credit is due.


Felicia :)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Learn to Think Like a Fish

(Psychology of Poker, Part One)

One thing I love to talk about, is the psychology of poker. I get more out of thinking deeply, discussing and reading poker psychology than I ever have playing.

When I go into a cardroom, I don't just take the first seat available. I have no interest in just getting into the action, no matter how poor the table may be. I would rather think and study than play, anyway.

So when I am asked why I am so bland at the tables, why my expression never changes, why I take "bad beats" so well, why I look so bored and detached, why I study everything and everyone rather than gabbing it up at the tables, these are some of my responses.

1) I always downplay my ability (this is the opposite stance of most players. They tend to inflate their ability, and decrease the luck factor when they are running well.)

2) I am hyper-aware, which makes up for my lack of skill (and is actually a skill set in and of itself)

3) I am emotionally dead (this is both a help and a hindrance in poker)

4) I realize that poker is not chess, it is poker, and that I rarely have even as much as 5% of an advantage over the worst player at the table, because of the luck factor

I can goof it up, and laugh as much as the next guy, but I rarely do this. At "fun" limits with friends, I can be the life of the party. At tables where it behooves me to be cheerful and friendly, to keep everyone loose, I can tell a joke-a-minute. I expose cards HU, I tell my opponents what I have, I flash cards to another player not in the hand, I tip the dealer more than the total pot, etc.

But this is the act, this is not the real me. And usually it is better for me to be serious than it is for me to be the table clown (this was not always so. Before the poker boom, I was more frequently the clown).

Getting back to my original point, however, why are some players emotionally controlled, while most players are out of control?

That is an easy question to answer. The recreational player who plays tight gets out of control when he is outdrawn hand after hand...the recreational player who plays loose gets out of control when he loses many buy-ins due to playing every hand, and he is "running bad." Both of these types of players are making big mistakes.

A more serious player can get out of control when he is running bad, period. Tight or loose, passive or aggressive, sometimes it just takes a series of beats for him to start tilting.

And both types of players can lose control when they are being ridiculed or made fun of at the tables. It doesn't matter if the player is a man or a woman. If another player can push the buttons of someone, he can tilt them relatively easily.

Since control at the table is something that every player should strive for, and since this seems to be a huge psychological factor in poker, I am asked just about every time I play live how I can manage to keep myself under control, hour after hour, hand after hand, beat after beat.

I already outlined the reasons I have this control (and so rarely lose it). But I will share with you how I think about poker, how I approach it, as well as give you some hints on why it is so easy for me. In this first post, I will tackle getting into the mind of a fish.

I'm very lucky in the fact that most of you already know that I am a ranter & raver. I get angry and I pound out posts like I'd pound potatoes into mush. You know what a temper I have and how many pet peeves I have. You've seen me get angry at individuals, groups and various topics (mostly at myself). You've seen me lose my cool more times than I could ever count. So at least you know that I am capable of anger, that I use it to my advantage in life and all things. You know that I don't try to control my anger, that I let myself vent.

Therefore, you will tend to believe me more when I make huge claims about my calm at the poker table, if you have not watched me play before.

When you play with loose, horrible players, try to get into their mindset. Imagine you are playing a typical 2/4 LHE game where 8-10 players are seeing every flop. You are not one of these players, you tend to play tighter than they do (maybe you are even a loose player, just not THIS loose).

In YOUR mind, this is how the hand went: "I had pocket aces. I raised in MP and got three callers behind me, plus both blinds and the two limpers who had come in ahead of me. This meant eight of us saw the flop. It was a perfect flop for my hand, T72r. It was checked to me, and I bet out. Only the big blind and two other players (one before me, one after) stayed in. Four of us saw the turn, which was a perfect offsuit four, meaning no flush could be possible. I bet again, and only two players called; the big blind and the player before me. On the river was a six. I knew now that a straight was possible, but it was so unlikely and improbable that someone had stayed in with 53 or 98 that I bet anyway. I was check-raised by the big blind. The EP player cold called two. I made a crying call and was shown 53s from the BB and T6s from the EP player. Beat by both fish! How could they make those calls?"

Now let's get into the mind of the fish. Take the big blind, for example. He sees all of the limpers, he sees MP raise, he sees the cold callers after the MP raise. He sees that everyone is in the hand except two players. He never thinks about things like odds, but instinctively he realizes that with that many players to see the flop, he should probably call just one more bet also. So he does.

On the flop he has nothing save two runner-runner draws. He knows his hand is shite. He checks, as do the EP players. MP raiser bets out and gets a LP caller. He knows it is unlikely for the EP player to raise, being that he has already checked, so he figures it's just two more dollars to see the turn, and with all of the money in the pot already, he may as well see what happens. He shrugs and calls $2.00. The turn was a perfect card for him, so he thinks. Wow, a four! He looks at his hand again. Then the board. Then his hand one more time. Nope, no flush draw now, but he is open ended for a straight! He doesn't even think of the possibility that someone else would have a better straight draw and he could be drawing dead. He certainly is not thinking about the MP raiser and how he has an overpair. He only thinks of his own hand, and his own possibilities, and assumes that if any draw comes through, he must hold the winner.

He is often confused when shown the same pair, better kicker on the river and the pot is not pushed to him. He is confused when he has a straight or a flush, but another player has a higher straight or flush. Sometimes it takes him a few minutes to understand why he is beat. Different dealers have tried to explain to him the fact that no, it is not a split pot if you BOTH have a flush, the highest flush wins. Dealers have shown him the three or four cards on the board that were the community cards, and how his cards fit in with those cards, and why the pot was pushed to someone else. He vaguely understands why he is not winning, but he still thinks that most likely, when his draw comes through, he will win the pot. So then on the river he gets the perfect (to him) six. Now he has the winner! No way anyone could beat him! In his own mind, there are no two cards that could possibly beat or tie him. At first he doesn't even realize what the six has done, because he has already forgotten what his holecards were again. So he just checks. While the EP player looks at his holecards again, starts to reach towards his chips, then backs away and hesitantly checks, the BB looks at his cards again. The board, the holecards, the board...YES, he really does have a straight! So after the initial MP raiser bets out, he realizes that he must have the winner, and check-raises. When he is shown the aces and the two pair, he doesn't think about how he outran the raiser. He doesn't think he "outplayed" him. He doesn't think he sucked out or any other emotion. His adrenaline is just pumping with one single thought, "I won, I won!" While the tight raiser sits steaming, and the MP player with two pair shakes his head mumbling about rivering two pair and still getting beat, the big blind fish is just ecstatic and piling up his chips. He has a big, goofy, ear-to-ear grin. Sometimes he hears players grumbling about his bad play, but he can't really understand why, because he DID make the straight, didn't he? That means he MUST be doing something right. He didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but this is poker, right? You're supposed to "play to win." That is what everyone has told him.

Okay, so now that you've put yourself inside the head of a new, loose player who caught a miracle runner-runner to suck out on you, how can you really be angry and upset? How can you steam and tilt? How can you scream at him about what a fish he is and 'how could he make that call?'

You can't. If you really, truly got into his head, you would understand what HE is thinking, and why you want him at your table, all day, every day. Especially if he is so easygoing and happy-go-lucky as this guy.

Don't chase your fish away. Don't make them play better against you. Don't hurt their feelings or yell at them. I'm not saying you have to lie and tap the table and say, "Good hand!" I'm not going to go that far. But at this point if you are truly angry and upset, you are the one with the problem, not the fish.

Be a man. Just buck up and smile. Think of this guy as someone you just made a short term loan to, with very high interest. And if he stands up to leave before you can get your loan repaid, then look at any one of the many fish still at your table, who will happily contribute to paying back your loan. Smile and be polite. Make it your duty to be a winner every day, whether you lose your stack, or take home thousands.

Felicia :)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ray Zee and Me

Over the weekend, I posted some rants. That is kind of my release valve. It always interests me which posts will be well read, which will be panned and which will be flamed. Oddly enough, the posts that I put very little real "work" into, and just pound out, are usually the best received (no matter how controversial).

Fortunately, a post that I put a ton of work into, the Stud post (part one), was given a thumbs up by Ray today, so that makes me feel good. It was very tough for me to write that post, because Stud is a big subject to tackle. I had many objectives while writing it. First, I wanted to make sure that beginners could understand it (still not sure if I succeeded there). Second, I wanted it to flow well (definitely bombed on that one). And last, I wanted to be able to get my point across about one of the factors which led to the demise of Stud being the extra betting round (complications of the game itself; I think I tackled this one okay).

Not many casual players know who Ray Zee is. I met him through his Stud book, and later through Two Plus Two. He doesn't play much poker anymore, and lives on a ranch in Montana. He is very well respected on the Two Plus Two forums, but not many people really know him, nor do they get to know him.

The difference between cash game players and tournament players has always been vast. Some players are able to cross the lines liberally and are recognized as being in both worlds. This is a very small minority, btw.

Tournament players seem to get all of the recognition. Barry has written about this many times, as well as talked about it during interviews. He has never felt it was correct to overlook cash game players, while glorifying tournament players.

In my experience, cash game players are better "players," overall, but have worse personalities and habits. Tournament players seem to have an unwritten code of ethics, yet do not adjust well to cash games. It is a horrible, catch-22 situation for some people (me), in the fact that I have many friends on the tourney circuit, yet prefer these days to play cash games only.

Ray is the epitome of the unrecognized cash game player. I have heard many rumors about him being considered the best (or one of the best) cash game players in the world, before his retirement. I have seen many people regard him as "the best" Stud player. "The best" Stud 8 player, etc. I wouldn't know, because he keeps a very low profile, and hasn't played seriously in years (perhaps he has played some anonymously, but if he does, he has kept it quiet). Old timers remember Ray with reverence, for his prowess of the game of poker, and his past accomplishments. Ray never seemed to get into tournaments seriously, nor did he seem to have any desire whatsoever to be in the top cash game player spotlight.

I am kind of a chameleon when it comes to the poker world. I am comfortable playing micro-limits online, and I am comfortable taking a 10k stake with me to a 40/80 game. I do not "need" to play high limits to prove anything to anyone. I don't talk much about my wins, nor my losses. After so many years, I hate hearing players talk about the same, so I don't torture others, lol.

I don't seek out TV games, either. Not only am I not TV material, but I simply don't want to be on TV at all. I don't want my name in magazines or in the spotlight. I have no desire whatsoever to be well known.

Yet, I do hang around the tourney circuit players. There I feel like I belong, I feel comfortable. Sort of like the feeling I have on Two Plus Two. It's just a feeling of belonging, that I just about fit in ;)

When I played mostly low-limit cash games and small buy-in tourneys, I always thought that the tourney players were even more scummy and disgusting than the cash game players. As I moved up, however, I found that the serious, professional tourney circuit players were actually better people (in general).

The higher limits I played, the worse the cash game player. They are mostly sub-human to me. I don't like them, I don't want to be around them, I am not friends with them. Since I have never played above 50/100, I'm not sure about the culture of the higher limit players. I do know that those who cross lines between tourneys and cash games are mostly good people (Barry, Ted, Jenn, Chip, Doyle, etc).

So I am always at a cross-roads when it comes to poker culture. I like the tourney players best, yet I don't have any real desire to play in them anymore. I know where my bread is buttered. I am a nut peddler. I am a grinder and like to trap. I'm perfect for low limit games and Stud games. I can consistently make money in Omaha over a myriad of limits. I'm not that good, not very bright and I know my limitations (although it did take me years to finally admit defeat when it comes to big buy-in events).

I guess in my perfect world, I would be traveling around with the tourney pros, but only to play the cash games. I would work myself up to higher limits, but not HIGH limits, in which I could never truly compete. This way I would have the benefit of being around a better class of people (only playing when there is a big festival going on), yet making some steady money playing poker.

Nothing is perfect, however, and that is why the recreational community may never have heard of Ray Zee, and will never hear of Felicia Dyer.

Felicia :)