21/02/2008

Perpetual Motion

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Just like to say a big thanks for all the kind words last week, it is very nice to know that my work is appreciated on the forum. Last week I talked about if playing no limit was conducive to your personality or not. This actually opened up a potential topic that is infinitely fascinating to me and this is the ever changing face of poker.

I have played online for longer than most I would imagine having first played in the spring of 2001 if I recall correctly but the dates are a little hazy these days. But the transformation in the online environment and the quality of the participants has undergone dramatic changes since then and will continue to do so.

The quality of players in the limit games back in 2001 and 2002 was pretty poor and you could do very well in most games simply playing card dependent strategies and doing little else. The online game was a place where amateur players and beginners flocked to who either had no desire to get to a real card room or they lived too far from one.

But there is a seriousness online now that was not present a few years ago. Players sense or have heard that poker can be a serious revenue stream and take steps to educate themselves in playing the game better and how to get a piece of the action.

We have players using a multitude of various pieces of software to track their own game and look for weaknesses, track their opponents game, find weak players and weak games, track earn rates and standard deviation. Then we have ICM calculators, simulation software, staking, information sharing websites... I could go on all day.

In the modern online game then we are rapidly approaching a point (If we have not reached it already) where technical expertise will not be enough. Too many people will be able to play the game well (unless we are talking about micro limits and really small stakes) in order for straight forward solid poker to work without further assistance.

Other factors will assume greater importance and this was something that I wanted to mention last week but ran out of time. Technical prowess and knowledge will only take a player so far. It will be critical for many players to self analyse not just their own games but also themselves. I think that many players fail in this task and spend time improving the technical side of their own game and observing their opponents but fall way short of understanding themselves as poker players.

The poker environment is in a state of perpetual motion, I know many limit pro’s and semi-pro’s who have packed the game in from when they were playing full time in 2003 and 2004. Many did so because they could never make the transition to playing short handed, others just got stuck in a rut and over estimated their own games and never worked on their game and slowly but surely were caught by the ever increasing masses and then overtook. When the playing field gets levelled then the rake kills you and especially at the lower limits.

Some years ago, I conducted a test on myself with the aid of my partner. I have always thought that one of my main strengths as not just a poker player but also as a person is the ability to see myself for how I really am... warts and all. Many people sweep their own failings and mistakes under the carpet or are totally ignorant of them. This will hurt you not just in life but in poker too.

Being unaware of your failings for instance will certainly hold you back in areas like relationships both in starting one and keeping one. But poker is sort of a microcosm of life itself and personality traits will reveal themselves in other activities and poker is one of them.

The test that I did was to write down a total of twenty five one word descriptions of myself and then get my partner who knew me better than anyone else to do the same. We did this without consultation and then compared the results. I was amazed to find out that we had written a total of seventeen words down each out of the twenty five that were either the same or a slight variation.

I already had a good idea of my own personality traits so the results came as no real surprise to me but what I had never done before was to analyse just how these traits fitted into my poker game and what this actually meant. I once read in one of my psychology books that it was a proven fact that a persons personality was basically set by the time that they reached thirty years of age.

This data was from a very reliable source so I do not have reason to doubt it. This brings the question... “can we actually change as people”. We probably can but the chances are that we won’t and if we cannot change our personality traits permanently, then what does this mean with regards playing poker?

Temporary changes are not enough, that’s a bit like putting on a show when you are taking a girl out for the first time or going to meet her parents. Give it enough time and the real you will emerge. If you are easily bored, impulsive almost to the point of being rash, paranoid, proud and just downright nosey in everyday life... then what makes you think that you simply will not be able to avoid paying off that big bet on the river in your next online game with that piece of garbage that you are currently holding?

I have news for you, the results and subsequent analysis of my test indicated that I was not cut out to play no limit hold’em ring games. But being a stubborn (a descriptive that both me and my partner had on the list) sod, I did not accept the analysis as being the end for me in NLH and worked to find a way around the problem.

I eventually succeeded, the methods that I used to change my game to help it blend with my character will be discussed in detail in a forthcoming book that I am about to write which will probably come out at the back end of this year so I don’t really want to replicate that here. So to succeed in poker in 2008 and beyond, you need the technical knowledge, the best rakeback deals, beatable games, sign up bonuses and all the rest of it... oh and nearly forgot... take a look in the mirror and do that test. As usual, I welcome responses on the forum.

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