Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Losing and My Priorities

I'm on a bit of a losing streak right now. It's actually mostly just been last night when I lost $1000 in about 2 hours (which is kind of a lot, but it's not uncommon for a single pot to reach $800-$1000). Fortunately, I am almost completely indifferent to money while I'm at the poker table; the only thing I get discouraged by is my poor play. I always considered this one of my biggest assets as a poker player. I'm able to view the chips objectively as score-keeping devices, which allows me to unemotionally take the proper course of action in a hand (figuring out which course of action is the proper one is still a bit difficult sometimes...). It also helps me avoid going on tilt, although this can still happen just because I get frustrated by playing poorly. Another interesting thing I realized is that at this point I enjoy learning and improving more than I actually like winning. This brings up something I've been thinking about the past couple of weeks: should I be playing to maximize my profit or playing to improve as quickly as possible?

Although I didn't realize it when I moved out here, the desire to win and the desire to improve are at odds with each other. This conflict didn't really occur to me until around when I played at Boulder Station, chronicled in an earlier post. If I all I want to do right now is make money, I could just play in the crazy Omaha game at Boulder Station. However, that would be a complete waste of time in terms of improving. On the other extreme, last night I was playing more aggressively than I usually do, and because I got to see other people's hands very often, I learned a lot about how other decent players play and how I can expect a table to react if I start playing aggressively. For a new pro poker player, this is invaluable information. But, of course, I lost $1000. I imagine the theoretical extremes would be to sit inside playing 8 hands of online poker at a time (which I hate, but I can probably earn a lot of money doing), versus buying into the game where Chip Reese plays (Gus seems to have skipped town) and losing my entire bankroll while observing first hand the best players in the world. So I guess the questions I'm struggling with are these: is $1000 > invaluable? How can I best balance improvement/profit? What game should I be playing, and should I be trying to play optimally or should I be experimenting with different styles? For now I think I'll continue playing in tough but beatable games like the $2-5 NL games that I play most often.

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