Playing "Not to Lose"...

This afternoon I was going through my weekly football readings (Yes, first of all the Beer God reads, second he reads on things other than poker, and third he means American Football this time). I came across a little blurb that got me thinking, which also tied into the valuable phone time spent with the Shark today.

Shark and I were discussing moving up limits in general and how one must get their respecitve games ready at the lower levels to move into the "bigger" games. I'll be back to that in a second.

Marty Schottenheimer, head coach of the Chargers - former head coach of the god awful Cleveland Browns (Steelers fans by rule must hate the Browns) has historically been a very good "regular season" coach. Generally speaking, he does exactly what he needs to in order to win games. He sports a relatively decent regular season winning percentage (.602 lifetime with 177-117-1 in the reg. season). Its safe to assume that over his coaching history, he's done what it takes to get to the next level from the regular season. Now, looking at his record when he's "moved up" to said next level (playoffs), his record is horrible (5-12 --- .294 winning percentage --- he made the playoffs twelve of his 20 years coaching).

Is this the same coach? Is something different going on here with him? What the hell went wrong? In further analyzing his stats, it seems to me that while he's playing "to win" in the regular season, when he elevates his game, he plays to "not lose." Skeptics halt right there. There is indeed a difference. This isn't a "half full vs half empty" problem at all. This is a real problem that both haunts and taunts Marty. When he's playing to win, he's making the right play calls in the proper situations. He's being aggressive when appropriate, getting conservative when the situation calls for it. He's doing what works and losing what does not, until he can make it work (generally speaking) when playing to win. He's mixing it up, with respect to risk-reward when he's trying to win, and refusing to take on necessary risk when he's playing to lose. You see, there is a difference. Run left for 5, Run middle no gain, pass short for a first down, run middle 2 yds, play action for the end zone, Score! vs. Run middle lose yards, run middle lose yards, run middle no gain, punt. You see the difference? He appropriately mixes it up when he's tryin to win, he sticks with the most conservative plays when he's tryin to not lose.

In poker, I've seen many a person KILL the lower limit games, KILL I tell ya! Playing in position, throwing a standard raise (4x blinds) out there, no cold calling, being tight-aggressive. They're playing to win!!!

Then, they decide they're ready to move up the ladder to higher limits and "try their luck." However, something changes in their mentallity. They still play hands in position. However, they begin throwing a weak 'standard raise' out there (2x blinds, as opposed to 4x), which gets walked all over. They suddenly add "cold calling" to their game. Instantaniously, this monster in the lower limits is a mouse in the higher limits. Easily scared, not betting and raising with confidence, bluffed off hands they should be in. Next comes frustration and more fear. Next thing ya know, you're back down to your previous limits.

What could possibly have caused this? How could a brotha go from bein a chip slingin, check-rayzn, money making machine to being nothing more than a mouse who only occasionally can nibble at chips and pots, scared to act, scared to not act. Could it be that you begin playin to not lose?

Make sure when you're looking to move up the limits that in addition to forming good habbits now, you also are revisiting those good habbits. One must adjust those habbits to reflect the level of play, not change them or abandon them. Standard 4x raise in .10/.25 games is $1. $1 is only 2x blinds in .50/1. Know that. Force yourself to think along the lines of # of bets, not dollars and cents. Go with what has been working (after slightly adjusting the gameplan to reflect the higher numbers). You playing tight aggressive now and killin the lower levels, keep with it!!! Don't ever stop playing to win. Never play to not lose.