Taking a much needed break

Published on Apr 7th, 2005

We spend a lot of time on this site talking about what games to play and what sites to play on, how to best play certain hands and which hands shouldn't be played at all, how to handle our opponents and how to handle ourselves in a poker game. But are there times we just shouldn't be playing at all? It's a topic a lot of us avoid, because we don't want to face the hard truth about it.

I want to make it clear that I'm not talking about "losing" players—they don't know what it's like to play for income, and for most of them, poker is just a pasttime, something they do for fun or to satisfy a certain urge. I'm talking about a good, solid player—a proven winner whose ability is difficult to question. I'm talking about....well, me.

For those of you who have been there, and I'm sure most of you have, you know how agonizing it can be when you feel like you're playing your best poker but you just can't win. I've read posts from some of the highest ranked players on this site about having a losing month or several losing months. Doyle Brunson even went through a losing year, and he is one of the best poker players on the planet. No, I don't feel alone at all in my despair, and knowing that others in our profession deal with the same issues helps me to maintain sanity.

I won't waste your time talking about all the specific bad beats I've taken lately—everyone has lost to a runner-runner two out draw, and everyone has lost with AA at some point after an opponent called an excessive amount of chips before the flop with garbage. These things happen, and the reason I've been able to make money playing this game is that other players are willing to move their chips in with a minimal chance to win the pot. But because there is that minimal chance, I have to be able to stomach the times they get lucky and outdraw me, which happens fairly regularly due to how often people are willing to get in when they're way behind in a pot.

Most days, I feel like a genius, because I shove all in with a set and get called by just a pair or I trap some guy into moving in on me when I'm holding a monster....or maybe I sling all my chips in with kings and get called by ace-jack. But on the days when those people get lucky and outdraw me, I feel like I've been punched in the gut, particularly when it's been happening repeatedly.

I have to remind myself that I'm a good, solid player and a proven winner. I have to think about how much money I've cashed out, compared to how much I've put in. I have to remember that there are plenty of people willing to pay me off, and that in time, they will do just that. Poker isn't a simple game where the best player always wins, or even where the person playing the best poker has to win on a given day. The best players win in the long run, and only if they are able to sustain a high level of play.

So this brings me to the point of this article, which is that I've decided to take off the next week or two, not from poker entirely or from PocketFives.com, but from playing poker for income. It doesn't mean I won't be on late at night playing $1 sit-n-go's with the "E-Crew," nor that I'll be staying out of other low stakes games that I often play for fun, but rather that I will be avoiding getting involved in games and tournaments that I would normally be playing as a source of income.

This is something we all need to consider doing from time to time, in order to avoid letting our level of play drop off as a result of a tough run of cards. I can't control what kinds of crazy calls my opponents make, and I sure can't control what cards fall to the felt, but I can keep myself from putting my money at risk when I'm not feeling confident about winning. That's always been a strong point in my game, always going in thinking I will win. It's hard to keep that up when I'm running poorly, but I can avoid letting things get worse by taking some time off to let my head clear out. Then when I return, I won't be stuck with the images in my head of 100 hands gone wrong, constantly fearing that it will happen one more time.

The truth is, it WILL happen one more time. It will happen lots more times, and I have to be prepared to deal with it and be able to recognize my advantages in this game, despite what is capable of happening.

I'll use the coming days to study up on the game, observe the play of others, and maybe read a book or two, but mainly to clear my head of any doubts of my profitability as a poker player. My bank account is a daily reminder of all my past successes—I know I won't be hurting for money during my absence from the game that has been my primary source of income for nearly a year.

It's spring now, and this break will be a good excuse for me to spend some time outside and enjoy the nice weather. When the time comes for me to start back up, I'll be ready to reapproach the game with a positive attitude and get back to my old habit of winning money.


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