Sunday, 19 June 2011

Poker Break

In my last post I wrote something like "...but I'll leave that for tomorrow's update" and shortly after that "I'll talk to you soon!". Given the fact that nearly two months have passed since then, I'd say the irony of it is pretty obvious. It seems like one of those horror movies when one of the main characters says "I'll be right back" but they never are. I mean, whenever you hear that line in a movie you know that something is going to go wrong, right? Fortunately for me, everything's fine and I'm back with another post. And since I haven't written for so long, my guess is it's going to be a humongous one. And I'm not even apologizing this time, so buckle up.

Those of you who played at PokerStars during the month of May will surely have noticed the changes going on. One day you're playing your regular game, then the next the buy-ins are different, then the day after that the blind structure is different, then it's back to normal again and so on... Ok, maybe it didn't happen from one day to the other and I'm overreacting a bit, but the point is there were a lot of changes going on and PokerStars did seem a bit undecisive about what they wanted to do overall. I guess it wasn't completely their fault cause after the initial changes people complained a lot at the forums, so they had to change some things back, but the bottom of it is that May was a pretty crazy month.

To follow the general craziness, I was pretty udecisive as well about what I wanted to do. In the beginning of the month I had my goals all figured out and was about to make a post about it, but then I got a pretty big downswing and didn't feel like writing at all. Half of the month went by with me trying to make sense out of the new structures (lol at that 30/60 blind level, the math was getting weird and my head couldn't follow as fast). A good portion of the time I was wondering what buy-in I should be playing, since not only the buy-in amounts were changed, but also the percentage of rake you had to pay in each one. Some days, to my big surprise I wasn't even playing the turbos! One day I spent 8 hours converting my points to money while playing hyper-turbos, another day I tried out heads-up tournaments and so on... And finally, near the end of the month I wasn't playing much, I focused on studying.

About the HUs, my heads-up play sucks big time so André suggested that I read Moshman's Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em and play exclusively HUs tourneys for a couple of days. I only read a few pages of the book (it's almost 400 pages total) and played a few HU tournaments (where I was 3tabling cause no way I could take more in HU play!), but I can't say that my HU game is now awesome or that it improved at all... As I said before, during the month of May I was trying stuff out and jumping from one thing to the other.

Which brings me to the hyper-turbos. André tried to stick to the basics while explaining to me how to play, but the thing I got right from the start was that hyper-turbos are far more complicated than they appear to be. One may think that since people practically don't play any flops and it's just push-or-fold poker, it should be easier. That's completely false, the game is very complicated but in a very different way than your "regular" standard or turbo no-limit game. Anyway, the plan was for me to convert my points into money so I played the 235FPPs tourneys for around 8 hours until all my points were gone. Soon after I started playing, I realized that André's ABC advice was not enough, so I had to improvise at some points but all went well and I converted my points at a better rate than what I would get if I were Supernova and could buy the cash bonus. 

I played hyper-turbos for a couple more days after that, the ones where the buy-in was money and not points and ended up something like break-evenish or slightly negative. I was debating with myself whether I should let go of the 9man turbos and start playing the 6man hyper-turbos but in the end I decided against it. The reason for that is that I've spent soooo much time trying to figure out how to play the turbo ones and the hyper-turbos are a completely different game. I mean completely different. So, better stick to what I started learning otherwise the time I've spent on it so far would kind of feel like a waste.

The funny side of the story is that on the day I was converting my points I noticed there were some regulars at those games. I mean, ok, I can't really know who is a regular over a big period of time, but there were people that day registering in every single upcoming tounament so they were pretty regular for that day at least. Everything normal so far. May I remind you that the buy-in of those was 235FPPs so something like $3.76. A couple of days later, I go to André's office while he was playing and notice a familiar avatar sitting in multiple $357 tables. It was one of the guys I was playing against at the $3.76s! Turns out the guy was an mtt player who was trying out the hyper turbos. Why he thought it was a good idea to try out the game with players like me at the low stakes and then jump to the higher stakes and play against regulars like André remains a mystery to this day. It's good to know that I'm not the only one confused out there though. And at least I get away with it cheaply :P

Near the end of May I decided to get some private coaching (not with André :P ). I paid for 2 sessions but only went through the first one. It gave me plenty of stuff to think about and I wanted to let everything sink in before moving on to the second one. Overall, I'd say it was a good experience and well worth the money. I'll probably say something more about it after my second session.

And that's more or less how May went by. Which brings us to June. The first couple of days I went to the gym, spent some time with André and his family (which during the SCOOP was next to impossible) and then on the 4th I boarded a plane to Athens. We have direct flights from Lisbon to Athens now, which is HUUUUUGE, comparing to all the travelling you needed to do to go from Portugal to Greece before! Also, I think I got on the first flight operating on this new itinerary. Awesome! :D

I stayed in Athens around 10 days and all I did was spend time with my family and friends that I was missing a lot. No poker or anything of that sort. I came back last Tuesday, but I still haven't played any poker yet. Now that I'm thinking about it, I haven't even logged in my account once during this month. The truth is, I needed a break from poker. It's not that I've spent so much time on it that I couldn't take it anymore, but losing really gets me. It's not that I was losing big or anything, at the end of May I had $300 more in my account than at the beginning of the month, but still...

My main problem is how I react to losing. I may have talked about this before, but it's always a relevant subject so I'll talk about it again. In a conversation I had with André, he told me that nobody is unaffected by downswings. Which is no news. What is interesting though, is how our downswings affect us. Not everyone reacts the same. André for example loses his sleep for a couple of days and then starts scrutinizing his game to find possible leaks. Maybe he was on a downswing cause he had flaws in his game, or maybe it was just bad luck. Whatever the cause, he comes out of it stronger and a better player. And most importantly, he doesn't change his game during his downswing unless it's the result of hours of study and comes as a correction of a leak. I, on the other hand, drop from my A game to my B game and then my C game and the more I lose, the worse it gets. And when I'm having a downswing the last thing I feel like doing is playing poker or correcting my game. I feel more like shutting my brain down and going out for a coffee. I'm not by any means trying to compare myself to André. My point here is that even if we had the exact same skill, he would still be a better player because of the way he handles downswings. And while going out for a walk may be ok if you're frustrated with poker, deviating from your A game is certainly not ok. We should try to play our A game as often as possible. Which makes me wonder if some people fail at poker not because of lack of skill, but because they can't take the psychological pressure that comes with the game.

Anyway... For what's left of June I plan on taking small steps towards playing poker again... Cause there's no way I can 12table right away after all this time! Until my next post, I leave you with some pictures from my latest trip to Athens...

View of the Acropolis from Thisio

 Restaurants at Monastiraki

Flea market at Monastiraki

One of the stores at Monastiraki

 From left to right: French fries with oregan, tzatziki and fava

 Pastourmadopita with greek yogurt

 Cookies that just came out of the oven with frappé (greek cold coffe)

My favourite: SOUVLAKI!!!


  1. Everything gets easier the more times it happens. Andre has been playing much longer than you and he is more experienced with handling downswings. As you have more upswings and downswings you will get better at dealing with them.

  2. Wow, those pictures...
    Big mistake read your blog before lunch.

    You'll see that those days off will make a difference.

  3. Great Post Katerina, specially about the downswings. Downswings could be the natural poker variance or some leaks in our game, but also like you, sometimes I also don't handle very well with them. I hope you get back soon better than ever!
    I adde you on Skype but can't find you online.

  4. Bom blog!

    GL e Boas cartas! ;)

  5. Great post Katerina, i hope u post more often :)


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