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Running Bad

Running Bad When you run bad at poker it is the most unpleasant experience and psychologically it is akin to the stages you go through with a new girlfriend (I mean girlfriend here not short term humping acquaintance) to whom you were initially physically attracted whilst overlooking the incompatibility issues which you would otherwise take account of had she not made you feel so unusually horny.

At first there is a sort of honeymoon period where it is very easy to overlook what would ordinarily be quite irritating personal traits (unfortunate bad-beats) and eventually the downside (downswing) becomes more unpleasant than the joy you get from actually playing (humping) and eventually you have your first argument (audible moan at the poker table).

Subsequent to that your propensity to argue becomes greatly increased and not only are you more likely to argue (moan and complain about your bad-beats) but also, more importantly, you go to the extreme reaction much more quickly.

If you consider the intensity of an argument it can be anything from a mild to a raging argument and after a few arguments you tend to go straight to “the red zone” much quicker and eventually you automatically go straight to raging anger.

This is how the psychology of running bad playing poker can work in your mind. What starts as an irritating misfortune, perhaps mixed with a feeling of injustice (especially when your bad-beat has the added dimension of a monkey brained opponent making a decision consistent with their IQ) gradually increases in intensity to the point where you can start playing a new session on a new day and the very first time you perceive any form of miss-fortune has hit you, it registers in your psyche as an unbearable injustice that drives you insane.

It is almost as if there is a thermometer in your brain that heats up quickly but cools down extremely slowly and you start off “hot” waiting for and expecting the reason to blow up.

You will become completely paranoid regarding all potential variables that you perceive could be affecting your performance and every consideration you have will always tend towards the most paranoid conclusion and will always regard the last possible reason for the losses as your own decision making.

The reality is, that when you are running badly, you become overly anxious to win the hand or not to lose the hand at the expense of optimal play. (This does not mean you are not being unlucky, just that when you are or think you are being unlucky you also tend to unwittingly play below your best).

You cannot recognise it as the actions you take make total sense to you at the time you make them. This is similar to the mistake that many young school children make when completing simultaneous equations. If they miss a step or make an error that they do not recognise at the time, then all subsequent decisions make total sense at the time and in light of the immediate previous step but, because they “missed” an error earlier on, the overall position will always be inherently flawed.

You are convinced beyond any doubt that you have done nothing wrong and in poker terms the only rational explanation in your mind is that miss-fortune adversely affected the result.

When you play online the site “is bent” you have a “jinxed” account. You are convinced that it is “not your turn” to win as the network ensures that all players have their “lucky days” and “unlucky days” and you are on the “unlucky” cycle.

A rational person might say that if that were correct perhaps you should play lower “while the fix is in” and play higher and fill your boots “when it is your turn”.

There are discernable patterns in the way the bent network Random number generator delivers the cards. Other players have deciphered this “pattern” and that is why they can make the ridiculous calls that end up beating you (the fact that they may be using it to win a $10 MTT does not strike you as a less than financially optimal use of such possible information).

It may be that in your anger at previous bad-beats you have verbally abused opponents in the chat using the very clever typing methods to over come the abusive word filters. Now the network has identified you as an abuser and now its out to get you because it’s bad for business to have chat abusers on the tables (the possibility of disabling the chat facility of such individuals does not strike you as a more sensible option).

In a live environment you may perceive that you “just cannot win here”, whatever bricks and mortar building you are in or, it may be a BOK dealer who somehow only comes to work and probably only took up the job in the first place , just to make sure that you do your money in the game. They made you lose last time they dealt; you have not won a hand so far so it is a perfectly rational deduction that this person is responsible for your bad cards or bad beats. Maybe you committed a heinous act against them in a previous life and they have now returned to haunt and punish you at the poker table.

All you know is that it is completely impossible for this level of misfortune to be just random chance and there must be some underlying evil force at work and, after-all, there is only one person dealing the cards.

In this frame of mind you fail to acknowledge that most poker dealers do not get treated as well as they deserve to be treated , do not get paid as much as they deserve to be paid and, on top of that, are often subjected to abuse and unpleasantness from players blaming them personally for events beyond their control.

I often have people asking me about this kind of situation and the best advice I think I can give is simply to take a break. It is almost akin to purging the nicotine demon from your body. You have to allow the black gue of paranoia to seep out of your system so that you re-start fresh and “clean” without the propensity to go straight to red zone paranoid at the first sign of miss-fortune.

Apparent bad luck and injustice afflicts all poker players at times (except Neil Channing and Roland De Wolfe) and if you cannot deal with it your play will be adversely affected whether you appreciate it or not.

If you are a good player and have the mental strength to get through the horrible bad run then there is light at the end of the tunnel and you will come “back into the light”

Rationalizing this to a poker player going through it is similar to being a parent with a child that you are trying to convince to leave their girlfriend/boyfriend due to them being a bitch/tosspot.

The problem is that it is very easy to say that from the outside and very difficult to rationally think about it in an objective way when you are emotionally involved in the situation.

Mon, 20th December 2010

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