Dial-A-Dealer - Home & Corporate Poker

Friday, October 05, 2007

Just read this post on 2+2 and it was so good i thought, ill have that. A bit like Jude Law when he spies a bit of totty that just too gd to refuse. Its by ipoker which is incidentally how i got there, i was looking for specific noted on hulios but i found this instead.

Okay, I’ve been smoking too much lately while thinking about my game and why I’m not making respectable amounts of money and I’ve come to realize something absolutely and utterly incredible about the way that I understand this game and my place in it to which I was blind and you probably are too.

One thing that I have noticed, or perhaps that I’m presumptuously inferring about the general social conception of “being good at poker” that permeates this forum (specifically MSNL) is that the idea of being good at poker is kind of a vague and general thing that does not manifest itself in particular situations, but is an arbitrary denotation that is applied to the totality of your game. For example, we can easily imagine a very good player who over a significant sample of 100k hands has a very small winrate of .5ptbb/100. This player looks like he’s losing a lot of the time and seems like he’s making incorrect decisions or getting unlucky, but we are very willing to acknowledge (and, in fact, the admission is kind of cathartic to us, the [censored] grinders who can’t move up) that he is a good player and that he’s just going through rough times and in the end he’ll win and luck will even out. The fact that he’s a good player is a kind of supervenient property upon his game that does not manifest itself in his winrate and that if you watched him play without knowing who he was, might not necessarily understand or appreciate. What is it to be good? There is definitely a difference between somebody who we can recognize as tough to play against, who we absolutely hate having on our table or on our left, who is actually very spewy and over the long term, through datamines or through the proclamations of players who we accept as better enough than us to take their word for it, we are told is not really that good. So we cannot necessarily equate being a very good player with being very tough to play with or very annoying, and we can also acknowledge that there are lots of people who play very well who are very tight and who don’t seem to splash around a whole lot, but are still capable of maintaining strong winrates and thus being considered good players.

Good players tend to look like us. They play in spots like us. We read their thought processes, and we can follow them quite clearly. They post in our threads and share our opinions a lot of the time. We feel like we are probably good players too. We just have a few leaks, they’re just “a little better.” We don’t wonder why, or how. We don’t look at our game and realize “this guy is doing something right that I am doing wrong. He is making more money than I am by doing things that I am not doing.” No, not at all. He’s just kind of better, I’m just kind of worse. That’s how it is. Maybe, over time, I’ll become better like him. Everyone moves up that way, slowly.

On a slightly unrelated note, it seems to be in this forum an inordinate respect for “style.” There is a certain distance past which we will refuse to analyze people. I can’t think of this point very clearly and I had more developed thoughts on it earlier that I can’t quite extricate, but I think there’s a huge and ugly misconception of “style” as something that’s artistic or aesthetic, something that makes you individual and special, and that that is worth something in as of itself. That is, for the most part, [censored] denial/repression of the fact that you are bad at poker and there are people who are much better than you who do different things than you do. I don’t know exactly what I mean, but, don’t try to justify yourself with style and don’t try to distance yourself from other people’s lines or thought processes or decisions with the excuse of “style.” If you are not beating 200/400, your “style” doesn’t mean [censored] [censored], because there is more money to be made which you are making no real attempt to acquire.

Your game is not just the behaviors and actions that you enact, but the thought processes behind them which contribute to the larger part of your game and what will define you in situations where you are up against other good, competent players who will be subtracting from your winrate. We solidify our thought processes into habits, which we continually re-enact in later spots without re-thinking our habits. A vast majority of these habits, for players who can beat mid-stakes, are going to be rock-solid at the lowest levels (i.e., at playing most basic hands correctly, at beating fish), but the higher levels of our habits will be different for better players than for worse players. For every poker player, there is some level at which their habits no longer can dictate the action, and they must rationalize a new decision that they have never made before. The thing that separates a great player from a mediocre player is that not only has the great player habitualized most of the decisions that a mediocre player has to rationalize (and to a high degree of precision, i.e., making the correct and theoretically sound decisions), but he is capable of re-rationalizing many of the spots which approximate habitualized spots; that is, where a more mediocre player might be inclined to treat different variations on the same theme exactly the same.

One of the hardest parts to moving up is that people pay a great amount of attention to very salient spots, such as huge river decisions and bluffs, and they do not take the time or effort to re-rationalize lower level situations that contribute significantly to their winrate. If you keep the fundamentals mostly the same of when you played 2/4 when you move up to 3/6 or 5/10, although it may appear as if you play not much differently than other people do in the large pots, you actually are sacrificing lots of EV in the smaller or medium sized pots because you are not re-rationalizing many of the decisions which you treated as routine at lower limits. The distinctions you have to make to be a great player are very fine and they are very numerous. I think that’s probably one of the big reasons why very good players tend to shoot up the stakes MUCH faster than most people – it generally does not happen that somebody shoots up the ranks from 5c/10c to 2/4 extremely fast and then can’t move up any higher. The reason for this, I think, is that such a person will be very used to treating poker strategy as a constantly dynamic organism, which he will formulate and reformulate in many degrees and aspects in whatever game he is playing, whereas somebody who plays the same stakes for a long time will simply be wasting his mental energy if he tries to think out every single routine spot he plays; the human brain doesn’t work that way and cannot work that way. These patterns become imprinted on your subconscious mind, such that to an extent when you are playing poker you could not tell someone who points at a decision and asks you “why are you doing this” – the thought process NEVER consciously entered your mind, you are merely recalling a pre-formulated response to the situation. Of course, any intelligent player will be able to re-rationalize the situation and explain after the action what the original thought process would have been, had you had actually thought it out. However, mistaking the ability to recall a thought process afterward with having actually thought out the action is a poignant fallacy, and something that will probably bite you in the ass in the long run if you don’t have the self-awareness to recognize it. That is not to say that the thought process has to verbal to be present, and also you need not rationalize many of the situations that you will be getting into (however, if you are NOT a top caliber player, a vast majority of the things you do will be suboptimal and so you WOULD gain a benefit out of re-rationalizing many of your small-medium level decisions).

One of the huge fallacies I think I was making before, which may be some form of denial, was treating the game of poker as a combat of competing pre-rationalized strategies. For a long time while I was grinding out 3/6, I did not make most of my decisions. What I mean by that is, it was very rare that I respected somebody enough to decide that I needed to re-rationalize my decisions for medium-large sized pots, and that I would be capable enough of winning just by completely relying on the intuitions that I had acquired after playing an enormous number of hands 12-tabling. I did not realize this at all, and would probably have denied it vehemently. And it was probably not true to the extent which I am attempting to portray it now. I was a winner, and that kept me complacent enough to know that I could beat everyone I was playing with, so it was probably good. But it never really occurred to me that a good player, if he moved down to 3/6, would be making 6-7 ptbb/100. 6 to 7! That’s enormous! I could never sustain that. What would he be doing differently than what I’m doing to increase his winrate so much? What fundamental mistakes am I making that he wouldn’t?? He would be playing so much better than me, making such better reads and decisions than I would! Why didn’t that occur to me?? Why didn’t it frighten me, inspire me, drive me? How could I simply rest, knowing how much I lacked that other people have? I think I probably treated a higher-level player, somebody who’d be able to make 6-7ptbb/100 at my stakes, as merely a set of pre-rationalized strategies that were more “optimal” than mine. He wouldn’t be thinking these things out, he’d just have already thought them out a long time ago and routinized them, and so he’d be chugging along with the same absentness of mind as I had.

[censored]. [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored]. Anyway, that’s all I can think of. This probably sounds like nonsense to a lot of you and maybe it is, I don’t know. Poker is [censored] crazy, and I’m really bad at it, and I want to get better.


if anybody actually thinks this is helpful, I will edit it later to make it more coherent


Blogger pokersked.com said...

That is a mind blowing and intimidating post. I give up poker :)

12:28 AM  
Blogger Alex Martin said...

thats exactly what i thought. lol.

cheers for posting.


1:15 AM  
Blogger Bazclef said...

Sick post. Sweet blog too. Recently read this ZeeJustin 2+2 post which enlightened me also! http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=7339473&page=0&fpart=1&vc=1

11:39 PM  
Blogger Alex Martin said...

Cheers Baz, ty for posting, ill be updating the links son and will add yours if you dont mind. Cheers for 2+2 post.
Iv seen that picture on Crypto cash tables, you play 2/5?

4:40 AM  

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