Since this is my first blog entry here on PokerCurious, i'd like to make a short introduction of myself.
My name is Gonçalo (the weird "ç" is read like "ss", in case you're wondering :p) and I’m a recent engineering graduate from Lisbon, Portugal. I am currently working in the IT & networking area, and im also a big poker enthusiast and playing at the tables whenever i have the time for it :)
As a poker player, my career is still short-lived. After discovering online poker about 2 years ago, i played for a while online on micro-stakes before deciding to quit due to real life issues stealing most of the time i had available to play. Despite being away from the game for more than 1 year though, i still followed some of the big names and the results from the big tournaments, which probably means the passion i had for the game was there this whole time.
This last June, however, and after reading the online poker blog of a friend of mine, together with a few forums and some other poker material, I was overcome by an intense urge to play poker again...a game i always loved so much since i discovered it. I decided i would try to manage to put some time away each day after work to play poker on a more serious tone. I'd pursue the objective of growing a bankroll of $400, with careful bankroll building and support it with a daily study of the game, which i still try to follow as rigorously as possible. I was able to jump from the $5 to $10-level sng's after less than 2 months of play, which i consider positive. At the moment im still adjusting to the new sng stakes i play at, although my playing volume is still low. I mostly 4-table on my gaming sessions, but am still more comfortable playing no more than 3 tables at the same time, to maximize my readings over my opponets and be able to make better adjustments.
I'm also a big fan of Rexy's blog since i discovered it a few months ago, and figured this blog context would be, in the worst case, a good opportunity to put my grinding in perspective and review my weak spots.
"What holds you back from being a better poker player than you are today? What are your shortcomings and weaknesses?"
While trying to work on my answer for this blog and struggling to be as honest as possible with myself by pinpointing my weaknesses at the game, i reached the conclusion that my most serious shortcoming is frequently playing at the tables with a very negative state of mind.
I know it might sound anticlimatic, and/or like a minor issue to some, but i'm pretty much convinced this is the single aspect i need most to improve to be an accomplished player at the tables. I particularly notice these flaws when i'm starting to go down a few buy-ins on a session, or by bubbling out of a few consecutive sng's, especially when i had a decent stack advantage early on and somehow things didnt go my away near the end, as it always makes me feel i squandered my stack away. On those occasions my game tends to detriment a lot, way higher than was to be expected by the disciplined player i'm always reminding myself to be.
All sorts of bad thoughts start flowing through my mind at those times. I find myself talking with that dark part of myself that i don't like in the least, panic and frustration kicking in:
(The bad "me") "OMG! How could you reraise him with only AQo or tens? you SUCK hard at reading skills and putting people on a range!"
"Good job Einstein! the profit of several days of careful play down the drain in a short amount of time... i hope you're proud...Have you learned about playing tighter? You really suck at managing a big stack on the bubble!"
"Wow you're awful...being outplayed by that guy who is obviously such a fish, hahah!...stick to your day job please!"
Whenever i enter this frame of mind i find myself going down on a spiral of bad plays, frustration and, inevitably, bad results start to appear.
Though i like to think i've made some progress in this area, I have to admit i have "conversations" with the bad "me" way more often than i would like to, and consequently suffer the notorious effects of tilting at these times. I start playing either timidly in excess - avoiding most confrontations even if i think i have a small advantage, with the fear my (probably) stronger hand won't hold up and my frustration will grow even more, and only adjusting when i already have too short a stack and my chances of maximizing my winnings on that tournament have already been severly damaged - or by playing too loosely, with even some spite calls here and there, and a higher frequency of sloppy attempts to try to bluff opponents out of pots, even when i'm perfectly aware they are aggressive and loose, and i should be doing the complete opposite of that. I'm a bit ashamed of myself when all is over and i realize what i was just doing at the tables during that time... :s
Another aspect i'm unhappy with is the quality of my game when i move up my gaming session to more than 3 tables. Due to the increased pace of more games at the same time, i tend to make more "autopilot" moves, with more shortcuts, poorer post-flop analysis and play, and sometimes being a lot less accurate at assigning hand ranges to my opponents.
On a more general level, another aspect that i consider that is holding me back from being an overall better player is the fear of playing outside the SnG + (occasional) MTT environment, where i feel safer. Things such as cash games and other poker variants like PLO, stud, etc. scare the hell out of me, and the short-lived experiences i had with them were quite bad. I plan on trying to get better at this aspect, but i havent yet dedicated the time and really commited myself to improve on this aspect, though.
Finally, a big shortcoming I recently started to be aware of is my heads-up play, which has a direct and quite negative impact on my profits. I came to the conclusion that i lost about 70% of the heads-up play last month, and I now believe i need to seriously improve this aspect of my game. I'm not sure exactly why, but i seem not to be able to make adjustments to the normal push/fold strategy of previous stages of the tournament. I feel like, for some weird reason, i'm always trying to rush that part of the game, maybe because the bad "me" is telling me that i reached heads-up, i already cashed in, so i can relax a bit.
Frequently, at this stage I find myself lacking the creativity to make moves over my opponents and not being able to adjust in due time to their strategy. It's like my stamina gets drained out too much during the intense bubble and ITM play, and I frequently arrive at the heads-up confrontation too tired and playing well below my A-game. I therefore end up being too aggressive and trying to rush things as much as possible... It's pretty awful :x
I am aware at least , though, that this is a huge leak on my game and one i need to focus serious attention.
As a final note, I am constantly reminded that every good player had to walk a long and tough way to improve their game, especially the mental aspect. By reading the blogs of some pro players, such as Rexy, we are constantly reminded that the psychological aspect of the game is a huge and maybe the most important factor for an accomplished poker player overall, as well as probably the hardest one to master, and that many competent and winning players have been lead to lose most of what they accumulated on a short span of a negative state of mind at the tables.
The rush of the poker tables hits hard on everyone, though, and in this way poker is no different than nature, forcing one to be "strong" and adapt to be able to "survive". I try to be aware at all times that discipline, solid play, right frame of mind and focus at the tables are they key, and I continually focus on trying to better these aspects of my game.
Thanks for reading and good luck at the tables!