Quest to Winning Poker (Part 2)

Identifying Dangerous Patterns

I have noticed for me that psychological factors may be keeping me from winning than technical factors. There is much to learn of course technically, such as hand reading, bet sizing, etc. but the psychological factors and mindset I believe are the main reason my bankroll is in the red. Fortunately, I’ve identified a dangerous pattern that has often led me to go broke. Here it is, and a few ways I plan to deal with it.

Phase 1: Initial Bad Beat

Usually, this involves me going fairly deep into a MTT, perhaps close to the money. This increases my positive expectations for my prospects. I then get a huge hand, such as Kings. I then hit trips, shove, and then my opponent hits his card on the river to beat me with a bigger hand.

My emotional state drops from a near high to an all time low. It feels like someone just punched me in the gut. I might get a little faint. I then go into phase 2.

Phase 2: The Comeback (Attempt)

After taking the initial bad beat, I usually want to finish off my session on a winning note, so I’ll enter a 1-table SnG that I usually have good results in, such as $5.50 6 Max. My thoughts are that I’ll just win this tournament, get my entry fee from the other tournament back, then I’ll stop for the day.

This mindset then causes me to play a lot faster and aggressively than I normally would. I play a lot more hands, I bet a lot bigger, and in general, try to force the issue. I may actually take the chip lead in the tournament with the aggressive play, but eventually it ends with one too many bluffs or again, hitting a bad beat.

Now, from here, there are two results that usually occur from here. By chance, I might actually win the tournament. Unfortunately, I mistakenly think that I am on a rush and then usually enter another SnG with the same buy-in and enter Phase 2 again.

More frequently, I bust out and enter Phase 3.

Phase 3: Redemption

During this phase, which usually occurs within 10 minutes of busting out in Phase 2, I enter a much larger buy-in MTT, such as a $26 MTT with huge prizes. The mindset here is that I was playing well (in Phase 1) and if I just continue that type of play, it will get rewarded here as karma for the bad beat in the initial tournament.

I play better here than in Phase 2, and sometimes very well. However, after breaking through the first few rounds, I’m usually playing against tougher competition. For example, in a tournament with 400-500 players paying out the first 50-60 spots, I might make it to the top 200. At this point, I usually get ground down and end up having to shove with the short stack and busting out before making it to the money.

After this phase, it usually hits me that I’m on tilt. However, due to my psychological state, I continue on the downward spiral and enter Phase 4.

Phase 4: The Last Chance

During this phase, I realize that my bankroll has taking some huge hits and that I’m probably on tilt. So I enter a low stakes single table SnG with the intention of just making  a little money to get momentum going into the right direction before ending my session.

As you can probably guess by now, this doesn’t happen. Like Phase 2, I’m playing differently than I usually do. However, this time it’s on the cautious, passive side. My opponents end up catching on to this and raise my small bets or bluff more often. My stack gets whittled down slowly and I end up having to shove where once again, I usually end up busting out.

At this point, my bankroll is down 70-80% in one day! The last time this happened, my bankroll went from over $150 to about $30 in a day. That’s the day I started this blog.

New Procedures

So now that I’ve recognized this dangerous pattern, I’ve decided to take on a few procedures to combat this. Basically, it’s standard bankroll management with some self-discipline thrown in.

  1. I will not enter any tournaments where the buy-in represents more than 5% of my bankroll
  2. After losing more than 2 tournaments in a row, that’s it for the day. In this case, I will actually use the responsible gambling features on the websites to lock me out for 24 hours (or 12 hours if I’m playing later in the day). That way I get to sleep on it and perhaps take the time to study my game.
  3. After every loss, I will take the time to look at the big hands and see if there’s anything systemic I can identify. This has the dual effect of improving my game (by going over my hands) and separating me from playing after perhaps taking a bad beat.
  4. This blog: I decided to write this blog as a measure of accountability. I figure that besides the three things above, having a community of other players who read about my victories and defeats will help me to play more conscientiously.
  5. Deposit only once a month. If I do go broke, I’m resolving not to be able to deposit any money in my online account unti lthe next month.

Of course, it will take some willpower to stick to this, but if I do so, I can see myself at least avoiding this dangerous cycle of bankroll decimation!