Friday, November 18, 2005

#5 - Playing When You Feel Like It

Ok, so it's Friday, not Thursday. My apologies to the legions of faithful readers out there. Let the hate mail commence. Hate mail is better than no mail. Rofl :-/

Have you ever had a fight with someone, whether they be your significant other, a close friend, or the crazy landlord with the lazy eye, that went unresolved? Of course, everyone has. Think about how it affected you that day. Maybe you weren't paying as much attention in class, or weren't able to finish a project at work on time. There was a valid reason for your head being elsewhere, but it hardly counts as a viable excuse. Your boss doesn't care about your personal problems (at least. unfortunately for you, not more than the company's bottom line). The professor, in all likelihood, will not cut you any slack on the midterm because you were "distracted." What's more is that very few of us would use these oft-called "personal issues" as a defense for our subpar performance. Even as I write this entry right now I'm distracted too by forces outside my control and the relevance of this blog. But I digress...

So if you know that such stressful events come up from time to time and affect your ability to think clearly and function as per normal, why would you gamble for large sums of money at any time when you are less than 100% focused and committed to the task at hand? Of course you might think this is an obvious statement, but you'd be surprised how many people will still hit the tables in spite of, and perhaps even because of problems that might be going on in other aspects of life. Make no mistake about it, if you try to gamble in order to escape your problems, then you have another problem. Gambling can become a crippling addiction, much like alcohol or stamp collecting. They all have support groups. Running from problems or issues you should be facing head on will not solve anything and only exacerbate the situation.

Still, you don't need to have major marital problems, health problems, or issues with your career or finances (how ironic) to be affected at the table. There are many issues specific to each person that can grab their attention and hold it hostage. The key is to know when you are affected and your ability to concentrate is affected. Some people can concentrate on the game in spite of a bevy of external issues (Phil Ivey was playing in a major poker tournament only a week after his father passed away). Other people can't think straight because they missed the latest sale at Barney's. Go figure. In any event, if you seek to be a long term winner at poker, do not attempt to play if your heart and your head isn't into the game. You won't be able to savor your wins nearly as much, your loses will be magnified ten-fold. Your decision making will be impaired, causing you to miss value betting oppurtunites or obvious tells. A lapse in concentration might cause you to fold even while getting tremendous odds to draw or, shock of a all shocks, while holding the winning hand. Worse yet, when you realize these mistakes you'll become more disgusted with your current situation and spiral down the drain. The way to avoid this pitfall is to steer clear of it in the first place.

Play only when you are ready to devote the time and effort to the task at hand, which in this case is playing poker. Remember that as Dan Harrington pointed out, poker is a game of incomplete information. The long term winners are those individuals who pull together every single piece of information available to put the puzzle together. So, try not to be your worst enemy at the tables will ya?

Monday - No Day But Today.


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