17/08/2009

Like a Cat to Water

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Some people take to poker like a duck to the proverbial water... not me... nothings ever that easy for me. I took to poker more like a cat to water than a duck. I was definitely the one who was trying to ram a square peg into a round hole. But over time I did manage to work on reshaping that peg until it fitted better than it did originally.

I watched a series a few months back on BBC called “Million Dollar Traders”. This was a fascinating short series of programs that brought normal everyday people from normal everyday jobs and thrust them into the trading environment. I have done a lot of research on this field over the years so I am aware of what type of person it takes to be successful in that arena.

It was sort of funny because it seemed blatantly obvious to me halfway through episode one who wasn’t cut out for the intense life of a floor trader. I once read an interesting line inside a financial trading book that said that good traders simply “are”. This basically means that the core abilities that make good traders are within you and probably cannot be taught.

I have always had character flaws that have hindered me in poker and have formed a barrier to future progress. I have battled them because I don’t like losing but yet in poker you have no option but to accept losses. This means that to succeed then you have to force yourself to be something that you are not or at least this applied to me.

Many people are handicapped when it comes to gambling by psychological problems that they may not be able to control or eliminate. All this leaves me to think that there are very few people actually totally suited to playing the game. Also are the players who are playing for the highest stakes actually the best players?

In some cases yes... in many cases then no. A good technical game, good game selection and the bankroll and the ability to withstand monumental swings and you can take your place in the highstakes games on FTP. I would imagine that points one and two in that list would be in the arsenal of most of the players who frequent this forum. Points three and four however are more problematical for the majority of us.

Technical ability is vastly diminished if you fear loss. I mean... if you had a million dollars to your name and you were a very strong mid-stakes pro, would you want to go and play someone like Guy Laliberte heads up for 500k? How much edge would you have when you are faced with the prospect of losing half of what you own and the other person wouldn’t even register a half million dollar loss?

I once got offered a very large bankroll to play at a high level which I turned down. I turned it down not through fear but because I knew that I could never perform optimally above a certain level and the only way that I could ever realistically do that would be to slowly build myself up to that level over many years and even then, the mental hurdles would have probably stopped me getting there.

It was totally different with blackjack, you could determine your edge and psychological factors didn’t really affect your play. So while hammering a square peg into a round hole isn’t the best way forward... there is still tremendous fun in having a hammer in your hand bashing away.

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