Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Evaluating Oneself

I played the Skills Series last night. I knew no-limit O8 with blonkeys was gonna be funny, but even I could not foresee the kind of play I saw all through the night. I have written previously about how I have actually noticed some improvement in games like Omaha from the group since the Skills Series and Riverchasers started playing them every week or two, but when no-limit Omaha came into play I guess some people just froze up and reverted to their normal blogger ways. I got donked out around midway through the field by two huge dumb suckouts that should never have happened, and shut down in disgust as for whatever reason I was far more frustrated than usual about the result of my night in Skills.

As I thought about it into the night, I figured out why I was so frustrated, and it is only marginally related to the play I saw in the Skills game overall. I have been involved in a few situations over the past day or two where someone has made a definitively poor play against me, got rewarded for it, and then gone on to justify their actions repeatedly to me with various and sundry arguments used by losing players the world across. It's funny, because the people involved in these discussions with me are the same people who always seem to be involved when it comes to justifying their poor play instead of really sitting down and thinking things through.

Although I am sure there are multiple qualities that mostly all strong poker players share, one thing you will always notice about a truly great player is a drive, almost an obsession, to get better. Poker, and no-limit holdem in particular, is such a complex and deep game with so many nuanced decisions based on such a multitude of ever-changing factors like betting patterns, stack sizes, table positions, pot sizes, players left to act, etc. that anyone who thinks they always "get it right" every single time they play the game is dooooooomed to lose. You heard me right -- people like this have no shot. Anyone who spends half their time pushing with garbage and then ranting about people calling them down with slightly better garbage, but then the other half of the time calling down with the same garbage themselves, and then ranting about the people who pushed with slightly better garbage, those people share perhaps the most common flaw in poker, and, simply put, it does and will impede their ability to develop into a great poker player.

This is not my opinion, and this is not just a thought I had while in the shower this morning. These are cold, hard, facts of poker, and any strong player knows it's true. If you do not (or do not have the ability to) evaluate your play in a vacuum, and do whatever you have to do to see your plays the way that people who are not in your own head see them, then you are doomed in this game. Doomed. If you consistently overplay AK preflop, but you refuse to see it or refuse to consider it, you are doomed to keep losing money with AK. It's that simple. Everyone else will know it, some of your friends will try to talk to you about it, but they will fail to crack through the glass with you, and you'll go on losing with AK. And, if you're a blogger, eventually you'll bore us or make us laugh with your blog-bitching about how much you hate AK, how AK is just a "drawing hand" not to be pushed until it connects with the board in some way (I love that one), and other silliness like that. All when in reality, you are misplaying the hand, it is costing you consistent money, many people have tried to tell you (you should not need to be told at all btw), but you simply choose to deny deny deny instead of facing the reality of the situation. Poker is not nice. Poker does not choose to spare you from the math because you have hubris or blindess or denial as a major character flaw. And most of all, poker is not going to tell you when you are misplaying something or making a consistent mistake in some aspect of your game. It is solely up to you to discover that, to admit that, and to react to it. Others can help lead you to water, but ultimately whether or not you sit and drink is 100% solely and completely up to the individual player.

I know I've written about this several times before here on the blog, but really, if you care about your poker game -- as I believe the people I've been chatting with this week do -- you cannot be this person and expect to win. It's so bad with some people that most of us can literally predict exactly how their pattern of denial is going to go. I did it last night. Even though I told one individual that they would soon start claiming they had more outs than they actually did in their horrid suckout, and eventually that they were the favorite, etc., they literally went and did the exact same thing, right before my very eyes. It would be comical if only it wasn't really happening right before my eyes. First the suckout happened, it was some kind of a 6-outer on a bad call. And here, one thing I should point out is, the number of outs that a hand had does not change over time. It can't. It's just a math thing, it's nothing personal. Maybe some of you have been reading these super awesome Stupid/System posts and taking them a little too literally, I don't know. But hands can't really have 87 outs twice, and a hand can't have 6 outs when you make the idiocall, but then an hour later it changes to having had 9 outs, and by the time you go to sleep suddenly you had 12 outs. Then I get up in the morning and read on your blog how you made a smart call based on your 15 outs twice and thus you were the favorite.

No. 6 outs when you made the call equals 6 outs right then, 6 outs an hour later, and 6 outs the next day. And guess what? Nothing you write on your blog can change that fact! I know a lot of this stuff may seem simple and obvious to some of you, but equally obvious is that others do not understand this most simple of sillinesses. You were 25% or whatever when you made the call. Believe me, in an attempt to protect one's own ego and to remain in utter denial about this game called poker, anyone out there can doctor up a hand history, throw in a flush draw where one did not exist, tack on 8 or 9 extra outs and then claim you were a favorite in the hand. I have the hand histories, I have the screen shots, but I'm not going to correct you. You can say and think whatever you want in your blog, in the girly, in emails to me about the way a hand played out. Statistics are just numbers, and everybody knows that if you look hard enough you can manufacture just about anything from stats like that. Anybody can make up hand ranges for their opponents, not based in reality but rather instead by just continually adding in shitty hands to the opponents' ranges until you get the math you are looking for. There's nothing smart or unusual or sexy in doing that. Anyone can do it.

The thing that very few people can do is to actually objectively look at a hand that they participated in, and see it as if it was a hand played between two unrelated other players. And don't get me wrong, it's a hard thing to do. It can be dam near impossible for some people, or for many people on some nights. Shit, it's hard as hell for me to do quite often at the time I am playing. So you know what I do to combat that difficulty? Do I just refuse to think about my play and simply allow my initial unwillingness to face that I made a bad play cloud my judgment and prevent me from potentially learning something and getting better as a poker player? Or, alternatively, do I spend hours -- literally, hours -- reviewing screenshots and hand histories of most of the big hands I am involved in? Every. Single. Night. No exceptions, no excuses. I look at my big elimination hands from every tournament I play in, and since it's hard for me to see my own mistakes sometimes right after the fact, I usually do my hh reviews the following day. So I take an entire night to sleep on it and to let my own personal, egotistical connection to the hand fade away before taking the time to evaluate my play and try to learn from my mistakes.

As I said above, that is where the real rare ability / skill is. Show me a poker player who is under control, understands the game and who is ready, willing and able to question himself or herself, notice what may be otherwise painful to one's ego to notice, and is quick to react appropriately when a leak is discovered, and I will show you a winning player or at least one on the road to being a winning player. Especially in today's age of blogs, personal journals and IM and other instantaneous electronic communications, any schmoe can change the facts, use statistics to their advantage and claim they made the right play when they actually just played hand exactly like a phucking blogger would have. Keeping an open mind and being able to react to fix leaks after being able to discover them to begin with, that is one of the rarest skills in this game we all know and love.

Don't forget the Mookie tonight, 10pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "vegas1". I will be there going for my third straight cash. Who thinks they can possibly keep me from that goal?

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Blogger Astin said...

Replace "poker" with anything else and you sum up success in just about any venture. People don't take criticism well, and they're even worse at giving it to themselves. Objectivity is hard to come by.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

These rant posts are my favorite. I don't know why. But I enjoy them immensely.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

"But hands can't really have 87 outs twice"

Goat, please tell me this is not true! Poker as I know it is crumbling right before my eyes!!!

4:06 AM  
Blogger Luckbox said...

It's been awhile since we've had a good old fashioned Hoy rant in which he lets us know why everyone sucks at poker except him. They are fun to read. Not as fun as Waffles' rants (since they're much shorter and us bad poker players have short attention spans), but fun nonetheless.

4:07 AM  
Blogger Bayne_S said...

Yes Hoy I should have folded A268 to your pot size bet on a K75 rainbow flop.

I had already seen you go to felt preflop with KK73 so should have shown your O8 game more respect.

4:21 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

Alan: Poker hands can't have 87 outs twice, ever. That's because if all you have is 2 coming, then you've seen an out-destroying flop.

Avoid flops, preserve your outs. All in pre.

In Omaha, I have a series of supercomputers running in tandem to prove conslusively that the average hand has preflop outs approaching infinity. This is import work and requires a great deal of concentration, so run down the street and buy me a sandwich, hmmm?

4:24 AM  
Blogger loballr said...

I echo what astin said. I think if you truly want to make others better, you have to illustrate your own mistakes and maybe it flips on a lightswitch for your readers. That's what I want to do in my blog if I can ever get it going, then hopefully everyone else can tell me how terrible I am then show me how to correct it.

5:01 AM  
Blogger Schaubs said...

Is AK behind every pair or just top pair?

so confusing this poker stuff is.

My eyes would bleed if I studied that much Hoy. I'd rather golf or stab myself with a keno crayon.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

You're killing me!

5:16 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

Alan is a masochist. That's why he loves self-rantolation so much.

5:17 AM  
Blogger $mokkee said...

you should re-title this one. good read.

"you want the truth? you can't handle the truth!"

7:57 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Goat... thank you. God, I have so much to learn. But infinity outs!? Oh my god... I'm just gonna play omaha and jam pre every hand.


10:06 AM  
Blogger Weak Player said...

If you can not evaluate your own play critically and improve upon it, then you are doomed. This is true, but doomed to what? If you are a recreational player, that may be okay. If you really want to win, then it probably is not okay. The fact is that really good self-anlysis is hard work. Harder than actually playing. And very few that are aware of the need are willing to put in that work.

I think that if you are okay with that, then there is no problem. Otherwise, you are doomed.

10:33 PM  
Blogger PokerNotes99 said...

Wow, intense. These are the "rant" posts I remember with a fondness. Just goes to show how much I still have to go if I want to move out of the recreational realm. And I thought AK was gold. And I thought your odds get better with time. And I thought it was "sexy" to manipulate hand histories. So much to learn...

11:03 PM  
Blogger Blinders said...

Hoy, do you own a mirror? This post could have been easially someone else posting about you. You almost never post an actual Hand History, and almost always spin the facts of the hand in your favor. You did not even post this hand history, yet go on and on about how many outs there were or were not. While not allowing anyone to objectively verify what you are claiming. Don't get me wrong, I know you are a student of the game, and are looking to improve, but you do these same things all the time. Love the rant posts though, so keep em comin.

12:47 AM  

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