Sunday, December 06, 2009

Why I play

Many times this year, I have questioned why I play poker.
A bad streak started with the coming of the new year and, save for one or two good months, has hammered away at me throughout 2009. When I finally posted a great month in September and a decent month in October, I thought it was over - I mean, really, I've suffered enough - but November and now December crushed any of those hopes. Not even a healthy chunk I got from my e-mail being selected to win 500,000 euros helped.
I play at fairly low stakes and only a few hours a week, so it's not like my bankroll is in any danger of disappearing. In fact, I've still lost less than four figures this year. I know some players who lose that much in a day. But after posting wins into the thousands every year since 2006, it's hard not to look at all the time I've spent playing this year as a wasted opportunity. It's not just the losses. It's the money I should be making per hour that isn't there. At least in my mind.
I won't lie. The losses have hurt. They've drained most of the joy I had for a game I truly loved. Most of the time, most sessions are winning ones, or at least break-even, until one or two inevitable hands ruin it for me. That's how most sessions go, I realize, but the countless times it's happened to me this year, especially recently, make me wonder about the point of this game. For instance, if I spent weeks training for an event, and then, on my last run before the race, I got hurt, I'd have a hard time not mourning all that training time. And if this happened over and over and over, I'd probably give up running.
I've tried not to obsess over all the bad beats, the multitudes of draws my opponents have hit against me this year or the lack of draws or hands I've hit this year. That does me no good. Bad luck and bad beats are a part of poker, and it's your job as a player to overcome them.
Sometimes, though, it's hard. Opponents, for instance, have flopped sets against my A-A the last seven times I've played them. I've either stacked off, or when I've correctly folded them, my opponents have flashed their sets to me.
And two nights ago was a perfect example of the way this year's gone. I hadn't flopped a set in a week. 0-60, which was my longest streak ever. I played 4-4 to a single raise and finally hit on a board of 8-4-K. I sarcastically grabbed my heart. When my opponent shoved on me, I happily called. My opponent showed 8-8.
I also realize that I'm not playing especially well. I've always played too tight, and that was fine three years ago, when opponents continued to make mistakes and all I had to do was wait for them. Now they're three-betting at .10/.25 pre-flop, and I still haven't found a way to completely deal with it. Sometimes I push back too hard, other times I play way too many hands to appear unpredictable, and other times I fold way too much because I still lack the indifference you need to have toward money to be a better player.
So why do I continue to play? Well, the answer came Friday night. I haven't lost touch with my two best friends in Greeley, but I haven't seen them nearly as much as I would like lately. 
Friday we played poker. We all enjoy the game. I suffered a couple horrible suckouts, of course, but after some initial bitching, I laughed them off. Mostly we drank beer and ate queso and caught up. 
Poker allows good friends to catch up. That's worth the money it might cost me if this streak continues.
I look forward to catching up with more starting Thursday.
See you in Vegas.


Drizztdj said...

If you're not a pro, play for the game, the friends, the challenge, the grabbing a Nintendo DS for the boy with frequent players points.

Don't play for the money.

Good results make it easier, but the more you reflect on the money the more jaded you'll become each time you log on or buy-in.

lightning36 said...

Leave that stuff behind. Time to dominate in Las Vegas!

Sean G said...

It is frustrating to see the general tides turn, isn't it? Losing streaks are all well and good to write off when they are some sort of quirk or exception. However when they start to look like the normal trend, it can be really discouraging. The online game is just getting tougher and tougher.

Also like you, I have a lot of trouble with those preflop three-bets. I understand, in theory, how you're supposed to fight back, but it seems that whenever I try I am either already beat or get five-bet.

Good luck finding your way through. I hope you can turn it back to positive...

HighOnPoker said...

Ug! I wrote 3 different comments, and erased them all. All I can say for sure is that we're going to have a great time in Vegas, and isn't that enough? You already answered that. Yes, it most certainly is.