Starting Over. Maybe.
For those of you who don't know me, I took up poker semi-seriously about two and a half years ago, decided I could learn how to beat this game and set out to read books, study the game, practise lots and try to make some money on the side. I was successful at it. Not a comet in any way, but I gradually moved up from $.10/$.20 limit tables to the point where I was playing $10/$20 6-max as my highest game but mostly hanging out at $5/$10. I was active in discussions at the forums here, and I think I did a good job of learning as I went along. Some of you think of me as a solid limit player, which may or may not be accurate. This is what I now have to figure out.
Since this summer, poker has gone completely south. My bankroll has gone from ~$5k to $500, and I've moved down to playing $1/$2 again. I accepted the first brutal losses as part of the game, i.e. variance. I never thought of myself as fully learned; I've been studying more or less rigorously all the way. But when things started going bad, I assumed that, since it had gone so well so far, this was more likely to be bad luck than a sign that I was playing very poorly. I moved down to $3/$6 and kept at it. Bad beats continued to happen. I didn't win enough on my good hands. I kept losing.
I moved down to $2/$4. I continued to lose.
I'm now down to $1/$2, and honestly - I still don't feel like I'm winning. I know that I've been at least partially unlucky, but I need to take a really hard look in the mirror and find out if I've acquired some very big leaks. It's possible, for sure. I was very confident in my game around June and confidence is just shy of stubborness. I've made some conscious changes to my game since, changes that I feel are appropriate, but I'm not sure what, if any, other changes may have happened. Even if the first downswing - over three months - can be attributed to just bad luck, it's starting to become increasingly unlikely that the continued losses is just a matter of getting cold cards.
In fact, it would be almost superhuman of me to sustain these losses without being psychologically affected. I can tell by my stats that I've become more passive - taking the route of calling down rather than raise/folding - which is, I believe, a consequence of many bad beats. This passiveness is a costing me money though, and is something I need to look over.
I'm going to do that, starting in January 2008. Until then, I unfortunately need to find the time to play 10k more hands to clear SuperNova at Stars. I'm much too near this goal to give up on it now, even if it's going to cost me more losses. Hopefully that doesn't have to be the case.
Once that's done, I'm somehow going to figure out how to start from scratch. Or should I? Is that how I start over? Can I somehow base a restart off of the knowledge I already have? I have, I believe, a solid theoretical grasp of the game. I think there's a big risk I've started misapplying a lot of those concepts in practise, but I don't think I've somehow started misunderstanding how poker works.
Another problem, if you could call it that, is that my life outside of poker has been in a bit of turmoil lately, too, not the least in regards to the wedding and, more recently, switching careers. I've had a lot on my mind outside of the poker tables and it's unrealistic to think that this wouldn't have affected my A-game, so to speak.
The CardsChat blog has been suffering from all of this, for sure. The number of strategy-related posts since my downswing started has been very low; it's mentally taxing to try to tell others how to play when you don't feel very confident how you yourself play. Nick hasn't complained about the quality or quantity of posts (or lack thereof) but I can't say that I feel very happy about what I've accomplished with the blog in the second half of 2007. Hopefully that is another thing I can turn around with the new year.
It's possible that I'll take all of January off of poker (and CardsChat), just to get a break. I know that this is one of the more popular pieces of advice and so I'm sort of pre-empting it. Taking a break has rarely been the way to go for me because I don't necessarily relax just because I've stopped doing something. In fact, taking a forced break from poker may be more stressful to me than just playing when I feel like it. I guess what I'm saying is that if I'm not around much in January, this is why.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Here's to a good 2008!