10/12/2008

Tell Us Something We don’t Know

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

The good old days... oh yes I remember them. The time when you could log on and play poker and sit with eight other players, six of which were poor and the other two were mediocre. You could sit there and play a decent card dependent strategy at limit hold’em and if you were decently versed in Sklansky and a little Ciaffone then you were the bee’s knees and profits automatically followed.

But then online poker grew up and graduated into being a far more serious entity. Gone are the days when you can basically do whatever you want and get away with it. Now it requires a far stronger game in order to succeed but the flip side is that there are far more people playing the game online.

It was common back in 2000 to log on to a big site like Paradise Poker and have to wait for a game for quite some time and things were even worse on the smaller sites. But as you begin to move up through the levels, the standard of play becomes so strong that basically all of the players have good decent solid styles. This means that value is harder to find and the standard at $5-$10 through $25-$50 no limit is very strong as these are the levels that tend to be populated by good players who don’t want to play higher or don’t have the bankroll or the stomach to take the swings at those levels.

But now that the online scene has got a whole lot tougher, many previously successful players have struggled and have either fell by the wayside or been forced to adapt. My own personal demons were apparent to me some time ago when it became obvious to me that I was not a natural poker player.

I was seduced by online poker because it offered the potential to earn money without leaving the house and that is probably what appeals to millions of people the world over. But I have several major personality flaws that are not conducive to playing strong poker. Firstly I have poor concentration levels, so much so that when I was playing full-time I wasn’t always playing my “A” game. In fact I don’t know what game I was bringing to the table but with utter certainty it sometimes came well down the bloody alphabet.

Secondly I am chronically impatient not just with poker but in everyday life, a trait that I have to try very hard to suppress. I am also what can be considered slightly volatile in nature. I have been known to throw my laptop on more than one occasion after a bad beat, causing me to refrain from now playing online with my laptop on my knee.

As a poker player I leave so many boxes un-ticked that it defies belief. On numerous occasions I have thought about packing it in and doing something less stressful but I just can’t walk away from it. So I have had to work very hard on myself in areas where others naturally have those qualities.

But keeping emotional and mental stability is not just important at the higher levels, it is literally the difference between life and death. Of course we all know this, how many times have you read this in some book about how you “absolutely must not tilt”.

Well do you know what... sod to the books because there isn’t a player alive who doesn’t know this! But yet the sheer importance of keeping your composure at all times has now elevated so much in importance that it can literally be the difference between winning and losing as you move up (that and game selection).

But flaws only become apparent when you are going up against opponents who are skilled enough to exploit them. A club snooker player may get away with continually leaving the ball short of the baulk cushion in club matches but that would get ruthlessly exposed at pro level. What Rochdale get away with in a routine league game against rival lower league sides would get mercilessly taken advantage of against premier league teams!

Poker is exactly the same, you can be immersed in an environment where you have no discernable flaws or they remain unexposed. But moving up through the levels in poker means that you not only must become a different poker player but I would also go as far as to say that you need to become a different person as well and that is the really tough part but yet that is an obstacle that faces many poker players who attempt to not only win but to win at higher levels. It is certainly a problem that can be worked as long as you are aware that you have it in the first place.

About the Author