30 Day Challenge Post Mortem
I did not really want to delve into my thinking about the challenge during the challenge. I thought it would be better to let the thing run its course first. So now that it is over, here are my thoughts and suggestions.
Are you playing poker for fun or to make money?
Running a challenge like this will bring this type of question to the surface faster than you can imagine. When you run a profit oriented challenge and you are serious about it, you need to play to make money first and for fun second. This means you must do everything possible to maximize profit and minimize losses. If your bread and butter is cash games like me, it means no MTTs for the duration of the challenge. This was pretty tough for me, because MTTs are fun and can be profitable, but have too much variance to fit nicely into a 30 day profit challenge. It also starts to make poker feel like work which can be a real bad thing. Towards the end of the challenge, I really did not feel like grinding cash games, but that’s what it would have taken to complete it.
How well do you deal with running good / running bad, when your results are published daily for all to see?
When I started the challenge, I had not played any poker for over two weeks. Also, I was focused on tournaments for a couple months before I took the time off to get ready for the WSOP. Whenever I have taken a decent break from Poker (at least 1 week), I usually run good coming out of it and that is what happened when I started the challenge. The time off makes poker fresh again, and I think you focus much more on playing correctly, and are relieved of some bad habits. If your ever running bad for a long time, take some time off, it will help. Anyway, I was running real good at the start, and got into a habit (bad??), of quitting for the day once I got a nice profit on the board. This would allow me to book a nice win, and keep my confidence up for the next day. It also tended to keep the number of hours I played artificially low. As a result, I played less when I was running well then I could have. I am not sure if this was a bad thing or not. Booking win after win may have helped me to keep running good.
As things went south towards the ends of the challenge, I felt like I needed to play to overcome losses, and forced myself to play when I was not in the correct mindset. I am sure this hurt my results. One thing that jumped out at me, is that even though I am a lifetime winning player, I can’t seem to grasp that playing more hours can only help my bankroll. Sure, I could have a losing session, but that is the exception, not the rule. The rule is that the more I play the more I win, but I don’t think that way all of the time.
How well do you deal with a setback?
This is a huge weakness for me, and probably many others who play poker. Can you deal with adversity or not? Does your confidence rely on the monetary results of your last session, or just how well you have been playing? I was running real good early, and my confidence was booming. You get into a zone where you are aggressively folding (TAG), and you know it is correct. You sit out, folding all of your –EV hands, and then go to war with the +EV hands. It is crazy simple, and it works. You can see that it works, and it is hard to imagine your system not working. You seem to be jumping out to an early profit nearly every session. Then it happens. You take a couple of bad beats, and post a pretty healthy loss. Somehow one session like this can really destroy my confidence. It was one unlucky session that did it to me, and I could not turn things around quickly. I was a session or two from getting the goal, and then got slapped around for a few sessions dropping money. After that, I really could not get things going again. It’s hard to believe that one bad session after a couple of weeks of running good can do that to you, but it can for me. Poker can be a dirty little bitch. For weeks she can give you the good loving, and then all of a sudden she does not even know your name.
Normally, I will play S&Gs or MTTs for a while when I get into this type of rut, but with a profit goal in place, this really was not possible. So I forced myself to play cash games when my confidence was not very high.
What causes your game to go south quick?
I think, I can see what I was doing wrong towards the end of the challenge in the cash games. You end up trying too hard to win a big pot, and make up for early losses. At $.50/1 nl, you can get away with ABC poker all day long. You raise preflop with your good hands, limp with the speculative type. You c-bet like mad, and gobble up the orphan pots. But when you get played back at, you get the hell out of there unless you have the goods. The .50/1 nl players typically do not have the ballz or skill to check raise bluff, or reraise bluff. There are a few out there, but in general the play is very straight forward. When you are running good and up, it is easy to laydown your AA to a 269 rainbow flop when you’re c-bet gets check-raised. Just give it up and look for a better opportunity. You can’t make that an automatic laydown at the higher levels, but you will not get into too much trouble at this level.
When things are not going well, you tend to make the call instead, and get stacked by a flopped set. Also, when a session is not going well for me, I usually should quit. I tend to overplay my big pocket pairs to make up for a bad session, which can make things worse much faster. I do best, when I am letting the money flow naturally to me, and am not trying too hard to force the action. When I am running badly, I try to hard to force the money my way.
If I could do it again, I would have made the challenge shorter. 10-20 days would have been better. Towards the end, I just wanted it to end, so I could play more for fun. Longer challenges are ok for MTTs or S&Gs, but if you are just grinding cash games 10-20 days is fine. Bill Ivey, has done a couple of 200 day challenges that did not work out. 200 days is way too long. Also make sure that your goal is reasonable. I picked $1200, because I figured $1000 would be fairly easy, and $3,000 was my best 30 period before.
I need to run the ladder challenge next, but my game is still a little off. I am going to take a couple of weeks to mix things up, and get the cash game back on track first.