Saturday, May 06, 2006

Self Esteem and Poker

Wow, is this a topic I've covered once or thirteen times already or what?

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), this is a subject matter that is ever prominent in poker, and must be discussed often.

Poker tends to draw gamesters. What a concept, huh? ;) Seriously, though, most poker players aren't the bubbly, outgoing, talkative, social type. They tend to be a little more introspective, serious, watchful and cautious.

Sometimes this means that they have high self-esteem and do not need outside resources to energize them. That is usually a sign that the person is introverted (according to Jung). Other times, these same tendencies are not something that the person was born with, but have developed over time in order to mask low self-confidence.

One way that we can tell if someone is lacking in confidence or not, is a simple, little test.

If something is said or written and you feel as if the source is attacking you, personally, you probably have low self-esteem. If you feel that the source was writing or saying something in general, yet you fit the description and admit it, perhaps even laugh about it, you likely have good self-esteem.

I remember once that I had a boyfriend who had issues. First off, he was underdeveloped as a teenager. He was very short and slight, his voice hadn't changed, he had no body hair. His Mom was a nurse with a doctorate, and noticed straight off that something wasn't right. She took him to an Endocrinologist who diagnosed him with low testosterone. He started getting shots. Now, obviously testosterone is needed in the system, but I think he was given too much, or maybe that was all that was available in medicine at the time (70's and early 80's). I'm not sure, I don't know much about it, but put it this way...the guy's Dad was 5'4", the guy's Mom was 4'11". None of his sisters was more than 5'4" tall. He was 6'6" tall when I met him. Something is rotten in Denmark, lol.

So anyway, I'm not sure if the lack of testosterone as a youngster was part of his problem with confidence, or if he just developed that way. Here is the point of the story, though.

Paul was a programmer, and pretty gifted. He was so much more knowledgeable in math and sciences than I was, or will ever be. So sometimes when I was saying something to him, I would repeat the same things over and over and over again.

One day he snapped, "You must think I'm stupid! Do you think I'm that dumb, that you have to repeat things over and over again in order for me to understand them?" He was really angry, totally redfaced.

I had to explain to him that it was for MY benefit that I was repeating. That I just barely had a grasp of something, or didn't really grasp it altogether at all, and was trying to understand it. So I had a habit of repeating myself in order to cement it into my little pea brain.

I do this a lot. I do it in my head, on paper and aloud. I do this for NO ONE's benefit more than my own. I do not have a great grasp of anything scientific. It is one of my weaknesses. And if I stop concentrating for just one second, I lose it altogether. So I try to memorize it, and also try to take it apart and put it back together so that the concept stays put in my brain. It is a way of understanding something that is beyond me.

Glenn used to wonder why I did this, as well. Now he knows, and it doesn't bother him at all.

As far as Paul goes, well, he had some issues, and we are obviously not together anymore. Someone with extremely low self-esteem would simply get steamrolled by someone like me. To him, everything was about HIM. No matter what I said, or how I said it, I was somehow putting him down. He never once stopped to think that in almost every situation, I was trying to educate MYSELF, not him.

This journal is a perfect example of how I am constantly picking, picking, picking at things, and mostly to remind myself of something I don't have a good grasp of. Maybe something that is a pet peeve of mine. Something that bothers me about myself.

But it seems like I'm directing my anger towards someone else, in the minds of those who lack esteem. It seems like I'm taking one person, one site, one something, and just going ballistic on THEM! Which is insane. I am usually trying to clear up a weakness in my own personality, poker play or pet peeve. I might even be poking fun at myself, or something as a whole, but not one individual.

When I read someone's journal, at times I will notice that the author is addressing something that I tend to do in my own journal, or in my own life. My first assumption is that they are speaking about a pet peeve they have, or maybe it is their own habit they are exposing, or that they are ranting in general about something they hate. I never just jump to a conclusion that they are going after me, privately, solely. I don't think I'm being "attacked," and start flaming them. It's not in my personality to think that they are "out to get me."

I see the humor in the situation. I say to myself, "Oh, man, I do that all the time!"

A great example is when a blogger says that one of his pet peeves is when someone overuses LOL or ROFL or emoticons. I am sooooo guilty of that. If he compares it to a pre-teen girl watching Barbie shows, I get a kick out of it. That is the way I write, and it's pathetic and juvenile, but I can't seem to stop it, nor do I really want to. It's kind of "me."

I started the emoticon thing because when I first got online, I used IRC a lot. Usually there were a billion Felicia's on, at any given time. Hence the reason I started using FeliciaLee (first and middle name). I also used Felicia :) Meant to be my name with a smiley. It was just convenience, so that users knew which Felicia they were speaking to.

LOL and ROFL and other juvenile terms were a way of filling up a conversation. Nothing is worse than dead air when relaying a story online. Especially back in the days of the 14k baud connection when someone would type out a huge story, and there was no response from the listener that he was still online (hadn't been disconnected in the middle of it). So tons of people just got used to typing something, anything into the dead air, to let the typist know that they still had an audience.

Now, hmm, it is nothing more than a bad habit that can't be stopped.

So it cracks me up to read a rant by another blogger who hates stuff like that. Stuff I do every, frigging day and don't even realize it.

But do I feel attacked, personally? Do I feel that someone is going after me? Naw, I just take it as a general rant and rave.

Sometimes the person really IS going after me, and I'm too retarded to see it unless they spell it out. To those people, I usually just say to myself, "Get a life," and move on.

Nothing bothers flamers more than to just be ignored. They are after attention, and I generally refuse to accommodate them.

So with all of these examples, I'm hoping that you get the connection that a healthy self-esteem is required in poker. Someone who is a calling station is the weakest link in the poker world. They cannot hope to win or succeed. I think that they generally have low self-confidence. I say "generally" because sometimes this person is a new player, and simply doesn't know where he or she is in the hand, so takes a step back and simply calls down an aggressive player.

Generally, though, a habitual calling station simply does not have good, healthy self-esteem. He cannot be the aggressor, so he plays reactive poker. Reactive poker has no chance of winning in the long run. A player has to be willing to put his balls on the table and bet & raise, not check & call.

If you are a poker player and you are not sure where you stand in this equation, I urge you to either look over hand histories (if you are an online player), get a mentor or think specifically about your last few sessions.

Hold'em is an easy example for this. Ask yourself, "How many pots have I limped into lately?" "How many times have I open-limped?" "How many times have I opened in late or last position and limped?" If you have been doing this quite a bit, you are being too passive. You should be betting and raising when you are in a pot, playing Hold'em, in general. Not open-limping. There are always exceptions, but for the most part, CALLING is not a good, viable strategy. Hold'em is a game of aggression (as is all poker, but in HE, it is even moreso).

When you have a strong hand, you need to be in there raising. When you start looking for MUBS (monsters under the bed) every time you have a strong hand and play a big pot, something is wrong. You cannot see ghosts around every corner when you are playing poker. You need to assume you have the best hand until you are proven wrong. Seeing those MUBS will make you slow down and become passive, when that is not the right strategy.

A good exercise in aggression is one that I practice occasionally and force Glenn to practice, too.

When Glenn is running bad, his play gets more and more passive. It only makes the bad run worse, because even when you are winning, your wins are smaller, whereas you are still getting charged the maximum when you lose, by decent players. So you need to work on your game, shake it off. Read Dr. Al's book, Psychology of Poker. Study hand histories, ask someone who will be honest with you, and a billion other little tricks that smart players use when they are running and/or playing badly.

Here is the trick I was being specific about, though:

Glenn was losing every session, every big hand he was involved in. I think he got 13 or 14 straight sets snapped off either on the turn or river (this is not even counting the premium pairs that didn't flop a set, and got beat via some other reason). So he was dealt pocket aces while I was in the room. He immediately started whining, "Oh, brother, here we go again!" He still raised or re-raised with the aces, he wasn't quite that passive, but he was automatically expecting to be beat. I immediately jumped up and put my hand over the table, so that he couldn't see the board (flop, turn or river), and told him to just kept his pointer on bet/raise/raise any. The action played out, and we had no idea what his opponent hand was when he kept betting into and raising Glenn, but in the end, the pot was pushed Glenn's way. Glenn went and looked up the HH later.

The important thing was, he got the most bets in with his winning hand. Had he been bet into or raised by his opponent after seeing the flop, he would have slowed down, since he was running so badly, and simply started playing reactive, passive poker.

Once again, reactive, passive poker is LOSING poker, and may also well be a sign of low self-esteem. Running bad usually amounts to playing bad. Sure, everyone goes through bad runs. It is a part of poker, but the majority of the people who go through bad runs start PLAYING badly as well, and then the run is worse, because they stop making the most out of their winning hands, while being charged the most with their losing hands. It's a NO-WIN situation. Believe me, you are not "due" to start winning after an extensive bad run. You aren't due anything. You can and will keep on losing, if you aren't right in there plugging those leaks. Be diligent, be assertive, be aggressive. If you lack the self-esteem to always be putting your balls forward in almost every poker situation you find yourself in, you will not ever be a long-term winner in the game of poker or life.

Felicia :)