Across the North American continent, many areas are currently going through drought conditions. The lack of rainfall has an impact in many areas – food production and browning lawns are just a couple – and, if left unchecked, can have long-standing ramifications across all aspects of life. In the game of poker, players can experience much the same issues and with the same debilitating effects.
Players can enter a “poker drought” when they aren’t seeing the return on investment (ROI) that they normally would through their play. Whether it is cash games or tournaments, a week’s or month’s long lack of success can drive poker players to the point of madness and even potentially giving up the game. Using some of the suggestions below, perhaps you can end your own “poker drought” to make the money flow once again.
Everyone thinks that they analyze their game well, but that isn’t always the case. Players tend to remember the “big hands” – such as when their Aces are crushed by an opponent – rather than remembering the times that they administered similar “bad beats” on a hapless foe. You have to be able to honestly look at ALL aspects of your game to garner a good overview of what you are doing.
When playing online, it is fairly easy to use some poker software, such as PokerTracker or a similar product, to document your hands played. In reviewing this information, look for idiosyncrasies that deviate from what should be normal results. For example, if you’ve noticed that your Aces are getting beat way more often than normal, look at the situations where you are playing – and how you are playing – those big hands. Perhaps you falling victim to “Too Cute Syndrome (TCS),” where you try to trap people into hands and end up getting trapped yourself, or perhaps you aren’t leaving yourself enough ammunition (chips) when playing these hands to ward off your opponents.
The poker software you use should be able to show every statistical analysis that you need to make some serious examination of your game. Are you playing too many hands? Are you limping too much? Are you making “crying calls” on the river when every bit of info in front of you is telling you that you’re beat? The poker software will present this information in an unblinking fashion and can be excellent data if read correctly.
In a live setting, it is a bit more difficult to put this analysis to use. There isn’t a ready-made software that you can use, but I would suggest something that, to this point, I’ve only seen one professional poker player actually use.
A few years ago while covering a tournament, I saw Gus “The Great Dane” step away from the tables. He pulled out a digital voice recorder (DVR) and, speaking quietly and in Danish (lest his tool fall into the wrong hands), recounted information to the device about hands, his opponents and particular situations that might arise again. It is something that he could review during a break or at the end of the night and makes perfect sense in analyzing your game.
You can also go the old fashioned route – remember Greg Raymer writing down information on a notepad when he won the 2004 World Series of Poker Championship Event? – but, for my two cents, going the route of the DVR will help you out tremendously when trying to capture those moments in a live cash game or tournament and should improve your returns accordingly.
No Shame In Stepping Down
One of the toughest things for a poker player of any experience to realize is that perhaps the game you’re playing is too tough for you. Perhaps you are playing “scared” at the higher stakes, realizing that the money in front of you (or the tournament buy in) is x percentage of your bankroll and that you NEED to have a good performance to bolster your account. With those pressures, many players do not play at an optimum level and need to consider the stakes they are playing and, just maybe, need to step down.
Are the players making moves on you in the higher level games that you’re not seeing? Are the plays that you make not having any effect on your opponents? Are you fearful of making a particular play, thinking of the impact on your wallet? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then there is no doubt that stepping down would be the right move.
At lower stakes, you might be freer, unafraid of the loss of chips, to make some plays that were getting picked off in the higher level games. You won’t be seeing the sharks circling every time you put a bet in the center of the felt. You might even find that the lower stakes players are doing things that you might have been doing on the higher stakes tables that was giving your intentions away. Learning these things will not only improve your game, it will also have an effect on your bottom line.
A Balanced Life
Everyone gets a little tired of the daily grind. Whether it is a day job, chores around the house or hitting the online or live poker tables, there needs to be some diversity in life to not only be able to enjoy it but also to be able to maximize your performance. Without this diversity, people become mechanical and, like any machine, will make mistakes in their actions.
While poker is a passion for us all, it is important to be able to step away and do things that aren’t poker related. For myself, I have a handful of television programs that I watch religiously and none of them have the acronyms WPT, WSOP or such. In addition to this, I have reading that I do outside of poker books that are simply for enjoyment (recently, I have been delving into the history of cryptanalysis and rock music, for example).
It is also important to get out and see the sun (or moon) on occasion. Outdoor activities, from something as simple as a walk to going to a concert or museum, allow you to free your mind from the inner pressures you are putting on yourself. With a clear mind, you will be able to figure out the answers to many questions, even those that expose themselves on the poker tables.
These are just a few ideas that you might try when you are in a “poker drought.” By putting some effort not only into your processes of your game but also your personal life, the money should once again flow, well, like water.
What do you do to break those “poker droughts?”