Poker Thoughts: Tilt Management or Be Careful What you Wish for...

If the quest for poker zen is anything like what "they" say regarding Buddhism and the quest for enlightenment, I think i am a step closer as of this week. If I recall correctly (I was a Philosophy major in college, but I'm actually not looking this one up), a prince was troubled by all the suffering he saw around him and renounced his life and claims to the throne in an attempt to understand... well, to seek understanding.

After six years, he finally achieved "enlightenment" (understanding). He was then known as the Buddha, meaning "one who is awake"). In summary, (this part I am looking up) "he realized that everything is subject to change and that suffering and discontentment are the result of attachment to circumstances and things which, by their nature, are impermanent..."

I'll stop there, as that part ties into my daily thought. But first, let me clarify... In case anyone is wondering, I'm not renouncing my position as either the Chairman of Beer FC, the President of CheckRayz, nor am I surrendering my position on top of the CheckRayz Leaderboard. I am, however, renouncing the effect tilt has on my life and specifically in my poker game.

Many a peep have written on the topics of tilt, tilt management, zen and poker, etc. In fact, I was reading a post on the Psychology of Poker entitled "Learn to think like a fish." First of all, I regard Felicia as by far the best writer and most valuable poker blogger I've come across in terms of keeping me interested in her work, checking for updates, and relating to her postings. Her writing style is friendly to both the seasoned vet at the poker table and the newbie. I highly advise anyone within shouting distance to visit her blog, bookmark it, commit to reading her blog daily. And no, she is not aware that I'm posting this, its not a paid endorsement either. In fact, she and I have never spoken, I don't believe she's ever read me or is aware I read her blog. I will, however, be sending her a thank you letter today detailing how she has impacted both my poker game and my mindset.

Her "Learn to think like a fish" entry really hit home across the board, however 1 paragraph really nailed me between the eyes (more specifically, 1 sentence). She writes "But at this point if you are truly angry and upset, you are the one with the problem, not the fish" - Felicia's Poker Blog.

I was stunned when I read that, my body going into shock. At that very moment, EVERY bad beat story still bouncing around in my brain, haunting me came to the surface. I was overwhelmed with emotion, irritation. Said another way, my ass was ever-so-chapped. As a sidenote, I'm not sure how the "recall" of others can be, but one of my historical problems has been my "recall" of "emotionally heightened" events. Ten years later, when the situation warrants and my memory is triggered, I can recall, with damn near exact details, the events that were emotionally significant in my life as if they just occured. This has always been a double-edged sword, as it comes with both the good and the bad side of said events. So of course, when beat after beat are playing in my head simultaniously, I'm feeling like a beat dog... And boy am I mad!!! Everything from one outers on the river to "SuperDonk" and his totally moronic plays all polluting the surface of my mind at once, almost as if a trash barge capcized and the "junk" is all washing up on the ocean shores.

As I'm cleaning up the once beautiful, now polluted ocean shore, it looks so overwhelming... so polluting, so... yuck. In sifting through the "junk" in my efforts to clean my once beatuiful beach, I realize that its not all the same. It is not all "junk," but instead mixed into the useless, smelly rotting trash is also things that can, and should be recycled. I'm coming across empty beer cans, old aluminum siding, milk jugs, and (insert recyclable of choice here), in addition to the standard trash one might find should he or she come across the scene of a trash infested beachfront thanks to the capcized trash barge. Gosh, whoever loaded this barge really didn't do a good job of seperating the garbage from the recyclables, did they? What pigs!

If I am going to clean this now polluted beach, I probably should begin sorting the recyclables from the garbage. This is my mind... my beach, so I guess that's where I should start. I should take that which needs to be thrown away and put it in one pile, and that which can be re-used or recycled in another pile. In the interest of continuing this analogy, I finally get the majority of the "trash" seperated and hence the beach is clean.

"What the hell Beer Dude? You still drunk from last night?" Haha, you'd think so, wouldn't ya? Nope... No drunky drunky here. For starters, I don't drink when in the house and/or around the kids, and second, do ya think I'd admit or realize the above if I was drunk? OK, I'll give ya that the mental picture of the polluted beach is not necessarily something "the normal mind" comes up with. But really, I've never... not one day claimed to have a normal, average, or ordinary mind. When I "allow" myself to, I often see things that are not nearly as clear to the untrained eye as they are to me. And with Felicia's indirect and unknowing help, I realized that these "bad beats" that were haunting me were one of two things:

1. Trash, or
2. Recyclables
(washed up onto the beach).

Said another way, they were:

1. My own damn fault, or
2. Exactly what I wanted!

OK, I'll bite, how do you figure most of the bad beats are either your own fault or exactly what you want? You're one sick dude if you really want to be sucked out by runner runner duece vs your aces when the idiot in the BB couldn't bring himself to lay down a weak ass pocket pair like that!

Don't take me so literally here... And really, don't look at it how it "appears," as taking things at simply face value is both entirely too easy and often not totally accurate. The mindless, the undisciplined, those who let emotion lead the way, and those who are too connected in "the moment" can easily get caught up in the actual beat. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going "holyer than thou" on anyone. I'm not preaching... Instead, I'm trying to share my ounce of wisdom with those who seek it... as well as to write to later on remind myself that this is the "correct" posture to take next time "SuperDonk" sucks out on me.

Let's replay a hand or two that I'd have previously mindlessly considered either trash or bad beats and been pissed about to see if I'm correct.

Hand 1 (playing Limit):

I'm on the button, utg limps, I raise... wanting 1 to two opponents to play ball with. The small blind calls, BB folds, and utg calls cleanly, giving me what I want... Raised pot, two players in addition to myself.

----- FLOP ----- [3s Ah Qd] - giving me a set of aces.
SB throws out a bet, both UTG and myself call. My intentions are to not arise suspician that I've hit a hand, and hoping that someone has hit ace small.
----- TURN ----- [3s Ah Qd][9h]
Shit, a flush... But that's ok... I have outs and options, and I'm probably wanting to push at least one player out here, and/or take down the pot if I can, but I'm not TOO worried about the flush. SB bets out, UTG calls, I bump it, and both peeps mindlessly call.
----- RIVER ----- [3s Ah Qd 9h][6h]
This has to be the worst card that could hit... or at least among the worst, both players check to me. I figure there's a great chance that I can get one of the two to fold if I bet and can't let the tool holding the 2 of hearts win the pot uncontested, so I bet. Both these idiots call.

----- SHOW DOWN -----I have [Ac As] (Three of a kind, Aces, Queen high)
Small blind had two pair on the turn (Q-9), but no hearts
UTG had... get this [3h 8h]

Oh yea, tilt in da house. Think about it though. I make the raise preflop and what do I want? I want two players who will call with weak hands, lesser hands. I'd prefer to isolate, but I'd gladly take one semi-legit caller who actually pushed money in the pot of his own free will, and a person who feels pot committed when he throws in a blind, be it small or big. Additionally, if you told me "Mike, I'm giving you pocket aces, you're going to get two callers, one having Q9suited to clubs, and the other holding 3-8suited to hearts before the hand began..." and then told me, "If this is not acceptable to you, I'll never deal you pocket aces again..." I'd take this matchup as many times as I could on each and every day ending in Y. I'm 65% favorite preflop. Would I take 65% before the flop? Hell yea I would!

Hand 2: The infamous hand that transformed mild mannered "that guy" into the hero and tool "SuperDonk." (tourney play, middle of live "monthly game").

UTG min raises, with an M of about 16. Action folds to me, sporting an M 15 or so. I'm sitting in the small blind and I reraise to six times the blinds, thinking this will be enough to either be heads up or steal the pot. "Superdonk" calls cleanly in the BB, giving UTG sufficient odds to also make the call. Superdonk's M was closer to 20 at this point.

Flop brings an ace, jack two. I check, wanting to see what those behind me are going to do. Superdonk bets about 20% of the pot. UTG calls, and action is to me. I'm irritated at this point and can't let go of my queens, so I reraise, pushing allin as no one has shown strength, and each of the two players could be holding anything from ace small to king jack. Bottom line, I'm knowing I had the best hand preflop, and the betting did nothing to convince me that I don't have it now. AK-A10 would have justified a reraise, as would jacks utg. "Superdonk" calls and UTG folds. "Superdonk" turns over A3o to my queens. His hand holds and he ousts me from tourney play. UTG reveals he had sevens and was convinced post flop he was beat. 20% was ok to continue, but he wasn't continuing with the allin bet.

I was pissed, and went on and on about this for a month and change. Once again, if I was asked if I was willing to put my tourney life on the line with my queens and would be against A3o and 77, would I do it at this stage of the game, I'd do it every time. Once again, I want lesser hands to call me. However, I think I'd have pushed allin with the UTG caller in this situation if I had the opportunity to do over, as opposed to just putting in a strong raise.

So really, I got what I want, though I did misplay... but really, I got what I wanted.

Let me bottom line this, as I could go on and on and on all day long here. Everything we do in a given hand is for a reason. We throw hands away that we do not want. Sometimes we get caught up in the "so I was in the small blind and I was suited, so I figured what the hell." These are the trash hands, hands that we use, should learn from (don't fall in lust with a hand just because you're in the blinds) and then throw away. These are hands that are to serve its use, its purpose, teach a lesson, and then never again played in that way. Hands that were a result, in full of my mistake, no one elses.

And then there are hands that I'd take every day. Hands that I make a move (raise to get two-three handed). I get exactly what I want out of the raise, and unfortunately go belly up. When I raise, I WANT LESSER HANDS TO CALL ME INCORRECTLY. If I get hands weaker than I to call me, and they suck out, I still want this. I still want them to call, and would even moreso want them to play ball with me if I had the benefit of seeing their cards beforehand. These are the peeps who are gonna pay a brotha over the long term. Identify these people, learn who they are. Tag them, put them in the recycle bin. Don't get mad when they suck out... and they will suck out on ya. Don't force them to play better against you. Don't let the beat, as costly as it may have just been, cause you to play worse, especially against them.

Keep your head in the game. Strive for poker zen. Let the beat that just happened enlighten you. Learn from it, embrace it, play right on through it. Make adjustments as necessary and appropriate, but do not let this throw you on tilt.

Have a good weekend everyone. May your game bring you exactly what you want.