Monday, March 28, 2011

NYT article about jungleman, and my thoughts on high stakes and why I haven't taken shots...


quick caveat: The following email was something that I sent to a friend in response to our discussion of the article. In it I explain why I haven't tried to play high stakes and talk about some of the traits that I share with those players just not at their extremes. HOWEVER, I'm not suggesting that I am good enough or skilled enough to play with or beat nosebleed high stakes players. But it's fair for me to talk about it because I understand the mental transformation that takes place when you start gambling for serious sums of money. I also am skilled enough at NLHE where I would have a decent chance of making money if I tried to shot take at high stakes.

here is my email to my friend:

but I'll never get to that level because I don't have the disconnect with reality and money that those guys do. It's why I've never been comfortable playing higher than 5/10 or 10/20, and when I lose more than $5k I feel like shit. I think it's probably somewhat genetic, but also has to do with the environment I was raised in. It's why I had to wait so long to tell my parents about poker, and I could never have lost thousands learning the game. they would have killed me. Plus I've always put away money for retirement and paid off loans instead of taking shots at higher stakes despite having the bankroll a few times. I definitely have had about enough money in my accounts more than once and could have tried to grind 10/20-25/50 nl and have a few big 5-figure scores, but I've always chickened out, withdrawn a big chunk of it and stayed at midstakes.

i think the guys that are comfortable playing that high, and have that gamble in them are just a different psychological makeup. I kind of admire it, but at the same time I think it makes it tougher for them to connect with the rest of the world for whom money has a different meaning. I have trouble sometimes seeing money the way other people do, I can't imagine how different it would be if I was losing and winning like jungleman and durrrr are. Especially if the only people you have to discuss about it are online friends. (Which is an entirely different discussion about the mental health aspect of the guys who's social life is now mostly related to the internet and online relationships that they have developed through poker.) I try to not talk to online people about winning and losing because I hate showing weakness to my opponents. I don't want them to know if I feel weaknesses in my game or if I'm not playing confidently because of a downswing. However talking about it with my wife rarely works because as hard as she tries she doesn't really have a grasp of what making decisions for a couple of thousand dollars over cards feels like. Similarly to the fact that I don't understand what making decisions in the hospital for her is like.

It's just kind of weird how your stress, ego, and mindset are altered by the game both in the short term and long run. And it can be even weirder how winning and losing can you make you feel for short stretches. When I'm on a hot streak and owning guys and all of my decisions feel perfect I feel like some kind of genius aggro gambling beast. and when everything is going wrong you just feel like a total lost fool and everyone is just making fun of you while they rob you blind. you finish a session where you win +5k and you are just like "fuck! I can do anything I just made $5k in 3 hours". and you finish a night where you drop like +5k while grinding till the sun comes up and you just want to crawl under the covers and hope it was a nightmare. I start questioning whether the game has passed me by and if I should start looking for jobs. and eventually i just study and work harder and the variance swings the other way and I feel like a genius again.

it's very addicting if you have a competitive mindset. It provides mental stimulation that most regular jobs never approach. I don't mean addictive in a gambling addiction sense, but addictive in that you want to be better than your competition, you want to win and the struggle feels more real than other things. In a comparison of mental and emotional stimulation the many jobs I had from high school until I worked for an engineering firm were not even close. And it's kind of like a sport but in sports your body is a limitation and can let you down and you may never understand why. but in poker there is no limitation only your mind and work ethic, and if you make mistakes you can pinpoint them and there is noone to blame but yourself.

But the money is real enough to me at 5/10. at 50/100+ where those guys play the money would just be a nightmare and I'd probably have a heart attack and die in the middle of a session.

Friday, March 25, 2011

why I'm not bitter about the loss:

(something I sent to a friend that was asking me how I was taking it today)

when your program has won 4 national championships in 20 years you realize that you can't get too greedy. even the best team each year only has about an 18% chance of winning it all. So to win 20% of the championships in a given 20 year period is pretty absurd. Even if we had the best team every year we wouldn't expect more than that, and clearly we haven't had the best team every year. And we were a couple bounces away from winning another 2-3, so being bitter and bitching would just be silly as a fan. There are lots of Duke fans that have mini-meltdowns after games like that and start ripping on K's recruiting, gameplan, or some of our guys that consistently make mistakes. And I think that is just silly. Being a Duke basketball fan is awesome, year in and year out. If our fans don't think we're lucky to have this team and this school to root for right now then they've just gotten spoiled. We always have good guys that play for our team, most of our players stick around and graduate, and we've never committed any major NCAA violations. We may be the mosted hated team in college sports, but that is because success breeds contempt. And I'm positive that given the opportunity to achieve what Duke basketball has in the last 20 years all of the haters would gladly trade programs.

I know that down the line Coach K is going to retire, and when he does we're likely to go through a dry spell much like UCLA did post-Wooden. I'll save my meltdowns for those years of potential futility. Or maybe we'll hire Brad Stevens from Butler and he'll keep us going (I love that guy and would love to see him coach my program).

I'm proud of our players and team. The had a great season and just picked a bad night to play Arizona. If Arizona plays like that the rest of the way noone is going to stop them, but I highly doubt they will. My only disappointment for the game is that our seniors didn't get to go out in more heroic fashion. After the great careers they had I'd have liked to see them lose in a way that was worthy of a memory.

back to the grind.

we lost, it sucks, not much else to say.

great careers by our seniors. It's a shame they couldn't go out in more heroic fashion. I need to get back to updating. poker is going well this month after a couple of slow months to start the year. I'm ahead of the game in my prep for taxes, and I'm going on vacation to Cancun with the wife in two weeks.

so life could be worse.

Thanks for the great year Duke Basketball 2010-2011, good luck to the guys that are moving on, and here's to hoping the rest of the team and the new additions keep the proud legacy going.