Saturday, April 03, 2010
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
*The post could have ended here and the point would still have been made.
** Note that the nature of this action dooms the recovery to failure. When presented with a challenge to his world view, a nerd takes solace from fact.***
***How many nerds does it take to change a light bulb? Any number, but the change has to be logged in a notebook.****
****Presumably when the effin' light is back on.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
If you are still interested in reading the poker articles, and can access gaming sites from work, you will find them here: http://www.eurolinx.com/en/Poker/DavidCorner.aspx
I'll also add a link in the margins in the next few days.
There might still be the occasional poker piece that is not submitted to Eurolinx that makes its way onto these pages but the posts will probably be non-gaming for the foreseeable future.
In the next few days, I'll start a new Scripting and Drifting column (for a new screenplay - sadly, I made a dog's dinner of the other one) and there will be plenty of other bits and pieces to keep the site active.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
You may have noticed that the site has had a funky new makeover and now allows readers to comment on my ramblings. Therefore, to mark this epoch defining moment, I will attempt to start a discussion about poker on TV.
This morning, I read the following comment in the sports section of my national newspaper:
‘[Poker is] a televised’ sport’ about as diverting as The Deer Hunter after the Russian roulette has been edited out. If I wanted to look at scrawny men with cadaverous complexions wearing sunglasses to compensate for the fact they are called Keith, I would have a day out in Filey.’
He has a point, particularly as one of the unique attractions listed for Filey, a small town in North Yorkshire, England, is ‘walking’. How can poker on TV compete with that?
Last night I watched a UK broadcast that featured twelve top players. It is presented in a league format: each competitor plays in six heats and their finishing position awards them points. After all players have competed, the top four automatically progress to the final table and those in fifth to eighth play two heads up knockout matches for the remaining two seats. It is about as good as televised poker gets and yet it is still pretty poor. Although it features some of the celebrities of poker, most of them will never inspire admiration in the neutral. Consider this:
The show featured Phil Hellmuth, a man who appears to have almost as many personality disorders as he does WSOP bracelets, heads up against Roland De Wolfe. I admire both players – they are talented and have massive quantities of inner belief – but is any non-poker player capable of enjoying the head to head?
In the final hand, PH (I think the initials on his baseball cap indicate ‘Personal Hell’) uncharacteristically called RDW’s pre-flop all in bet when the former held KT. De Wolfe had AQ, the flop helped neither player. The turn was also a blank. Just before the dealer flipped the river card Hellmuth said, ‘I apologise in advance’. The last card was, of course, a king.
Hellmuth looked unbearably smug. To compound the situation, the co-commentator and gifted pro, JC Tran, remarked, ‘That’s what you call instinct right there. He felt it coming.’
No, Tran, it isn’t: it is just luck coupled with arrogance. I suspect any rational non-poker player will conclude the same, turn off and try to erase the image of Hellmuth’s grin.
The example is, I think, the key part of the problem that poker faces: to applaud heroes, the spectators have to believe that the triumph is deserved and reached through hard work. Television, in most cases, will struggle to present such an image of poker. Moreover, it doesn’t help that a lot of players reach the top because they are crocodile-skinned and unemotional. They don’t make good TV.
What is the answer? Is there one? I welcome any conjurers out there in the blogosphere to try to pull a rabbit out of a hat and suggest some ideas. I’ll be right here, listening to chakra music and chanting ‘Om’.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Just to recap, we have already deduced:
1. A bit of stress is beneficial as it can make you play in the optimum zone, as long as your heartbeat stays within acceptable limits.
2. Howard Lederer uses teachings from Zen Buddhism to keep himself calm at the table and is moderately successful. (It is mostly in the breathing.)
All this and more has been covered in a ‘few must read’ posts from last week. I suggest you take a second to glance at them as there is a chance that they will change your life in ways that, just three days ago, I didn’t think were possible.
Are you back?
Welcome to the meditation tent.
Pull up a bean bag and spark up an oil burner. It is now time for some teachings from Managing Stress, written by Terry Looker & Olga Gregson, members of the International Stress Management Association and genuine good eggs.
Their book comes with five ‘Biodots’ and a ‘colour interpretation chart’. It was with these particular toys that I had the most bloggable fun during the weekend.
The Biodots are ‘small self adhesive, temperature sensitive discs that are placed to measure skin temperature.’ Basically, when your body is experiencing stress, your skin temperature dips due to a decreased amount of blood flow. By measuring this, the dots change colour depending on your stress level (and other factors): when you are lying on a sun-kissed beach listening to Mozart, the dot will be a reassuring dark blue but if, a few hours later, you find yourself in a long queue at a self service restaurant that is running out of cooked food, the dot will be a murky brown. The two poles are either ‘very relaxed’ or ‘very tense’. I decided to give the Biodots a trial.
I set out a plan: wear the dot for two hours before a poker session, play for four hours, and then keep it on for a further three hours. That way I would acquire some knowledge of my normal levels, how I was affected during the game and how long it took it me to relax.
When I first placed the Biodot on my wrist, I was annoyed that it registered ‘unsettled.’
I muttered ‘Oh sh*t.’
It then registered ‘tense.’
Time to go for a walk.
By the time I was ready for poker, it had changed to ‘calm’, the third most relaxed state of the seven on the card. I had still not achieved ‘very relaxed’ and had noticed that when I stopped at a coffee shop, I became ‘involved.’ Maybe my body was more wired than I had thought. Regardless, it was time to go to work.
After the first two hours of my day job, I was moderately ahead and had played few big hands. I felt fairly calm and was gently reassured that my sensitive friend still thought I was ‘involved.’ If only they worked in relationships: had an ex-girlfriend used a dot that informed me she was ‘unsettled’, my home might still feature fresh flowers.
It was during the third hour that my bankroll suffered its first major wilting of the session. I was dealt AA under the gun and raised to four times the big blind. The player to my left flat called. I always hate that as it makes it far more likely that other call stations will want to peek at the flop. They did. In total, four players called and I was first to act after a rasping flop of A-6-8, two hearts. My dot told me I was ‘tense’; my head told me that I was about to stack.
The dot had it.
Another player flopped a set of eights and two others had the flush draw. Only one jester who saw the flop did not put all of his or her cash into the middle. When the third heart landed on the river, I saw a huge pot go to a comedian who had called my raise with K-5 of hearts. I didn’t really need the dot to inform me I was now ‘very tense’ – my fingers were practically embedded in the table and my laptop was covered with spit.
Needless to say, I had a drier screen before my Biodot registered a change. I was gradually able to retrieve my departed Euros but, at the end of the session, I was still ‘tense’. I found that interesting.
I was not aware of any symptoms of stress and yet, according to the dot, I still had not fully recovered from the big pot. The Biodot was an outward manifestation of tilt. I have always known that every player suffers from tilt, but I had always thought I had developed reasonable coping strategies. The Biodot disagreed. I have work to do.
One of the techniques mentioned in ‘Managing Stress’ is meditation. In the name of relaxation, better poker, and writing that tries desperately hard to be original and funny, I intend to give it a whirl.
I don’t I think I need to meditate but I will see what happens.
Is that you on my effin’ beanbag?
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Regular readers, and some other members of my family, may recall that I posted this a few days ago:
‘I will give some serious thought to how to manage stress at the table and will attempt to devise a proper inoculation program.’
I have since made plenty of notes and some of them are not warnings against making bold promises on the blog.
I thought it would be a good idea to gather some wisdom to help me along the path to poker glory and so my first stop was at The Professor’s library.
Howard Lederer, winner of two WSOP bracelets, acquired his intellectual nickname because of his cerebral style at the tables. He also exudes the kind of calm that you simply cannot buy from street corner purveyors of un-prescribed medication. I was curious to know how he does it.
Apparently, he attributes his relaxed approach to Zen Buddhism. On his blog, he specifically mentions ‘Zen in Art of Archery.’ As luck would have it, I bought a copy a few years ago but had never felt sufficiently curious to read it. I think I bought it to impress a girl. However, I was intrigued by Lederer’s comment:
‘How is it possible to stay mindful of the hand when if you win this tournament it could might your life? I believe the study of the Zen arts can lead you down that path.’
It was clearly time to put on my sandals and take a stroll.
I soon realised it wasn’t going to be an easy journey:
‘Zen can only be understood by one who is himself a mystic and not tempted to gain by underhand methods what the mystical experience withholds from him.’
I found that sentence difficult to reconcile.
Er, well, I’m a poker player. My very economic survival depends on underhand methods and the denial of the mystic experience.
I began to doubt the professor.
I read on and stumbled across:
‘Only [he] who is completely empty and rid of the self is ready to become one with the transcendent Deity’.
Again, that could be tricky.
I am sitting here and I wilfully believe that other people may be interested in reading my opinions. I’m also complimenting myself on a finely cooked hamburger. I fear I have a way to go. Howard is way ahead of me: he is a vegetarian.
However, as I digest more of the thin book, I start to realise that some of it may help at the table, particularly the material on breathing.
The author is trying to master archery. To assist him, his Buddhist mentor teaches him breathing exercises, ‘after breathing in, [stretch] the abdominal wall and hold it there. Breathe out slowly and evenly and draw a quick breath – out and in continually, in a rhythm that will settle.’ This causes the author’s muscles to ease and to feel relaxed.
This definitely helps. As Lederer puts it, ‘I sit at the table and relax. For two years now, I have been practising my own form of poker meditation.’
Try it yourself, preferably during an online session, behind closed doors. It helps focus the mind, it boosts concentration and it makes you less susceptible to sledging.
Just remember – it is not perfect.
The beauty of poker is that no teaching is perfect, a point I’m sure ‘The Professor’ would concede. When Daniel Negranu made some immature remarks about Annie Duke, Lederer’s sister, Howard chose a public forum to articulate his distaste. As he later commented, he was ‘extremely steamed’. He was definitely not totally relaxed, nor completely free of the self.
Agitation is part of poker and I realise that I will have to rewrite my goal so we produce a ‘Stress Reduction Program.’
Its first lesson will be: Practise your breathing.
Its second lesson?
There I go again. I should read my own notes. Stop by next week to read more of my (yet to be conceived) bumper sticker wisdom.
Monday, February 02, 2009
Here in London it is a day of disruption and chaos.
Is it because of a burst water pipe?
It is because of snow.
Overnight, we experienced a relatively heavy snowfall and the city is at a standstill. People are unable to get to work and everywhere there are signs of broken routines.
Lives disrupted can promote a time for reflection. As I contemplate the temporarily changed landscape, I spare a moment to wonder what the hell went wrong with my New Year poker resolutions.
Regular readers may recall that I decided to steal the UK’s five most common resolutions and adapt them to poker. They are:
1. Take regular exercise
2. Lose weight
3. Cut down on spending
4. Save more money
5. Learn a new skill
I intended to maintain my exercise pattern as I believe that a healthy body boosts concentration for poker. I pledged I would do more sit ups. I also stated I would continue to play badminton and enjoy a daily walk. It hasn’t happened. I think my busted physical flush has helped contribute to a lacklustre month at the tables.
I have been more irritable – that costs money. I have been more easily distracted – that costs money. In my only game of badminton, I ended up on my ass – that costs more than money. I cannot continue to allow myself to be floored by: the weather, the fact that my badminton opponent has just become a father and is avoiding the sports hall, or any other reason I concoct to help me deny that I have been a bit lazy. I must improve. I will improve. February will different and, at my current high levels of irritation, heaven help anyone who says otherwise.
One consequence of all of this inactivity is that I can now boast a more expansive stomach. Given the demand for new land in London, my gut is now attracting some interest from lowlifes in real estate. Apparently, even my belly button has potential. Curious parties should email my contacts and discuss ways to chop up this particular area of unprecedented growth.
Please do. The extra cash might help.
I’ve been trying to cut down on spending. I resolved to improve my ROI from 14% to 15%. Guess what? It has dipped to 13%. I’m mildly concerned. I might even console myself with another tub of Ben and Jerry’s.
I suspect my ROI has dipped as a consequence of my irritation. Poker is a very psychological game and everything is related:
Lower exercise levels=more irritation=lower ROI=more Ben and Jerry’s.
I am aware that I have definitely been in the wrong state of mind when I have played some sit ‘n goes. I found myself playing too aggressively at times, particularly when I was defending my blinds. I was stubborn. It is the biggest flaw in my game and it is far more likely to surface when I am irritated and unfit.
I have had slightly more success with the fourth resolution: save more money. I pledged I would try to reach a PTBB rate of 8.0 from 7.4. I ended January at a rate of 7.7. Improvement has been made, if not quite enough. However, I am reasonably happy. At times during January, the cash games have been so full of sedimentary rocks that I have half expected an excited geologist to appear and claim that the tables provide crucial evidence of the earth’s evolution.
However, I am more than happy with my progress towards learning a new skill. I managed to profit playing Omaha Hi/Lo. It wasn’t earth shattering – and certainly wouldn’t distract out geologist friend – but I made steady earnings at a new game and therefore reduced my ice cream consumption. I would recommend the experience.
I hope that your goals are progressing better than mine. It wouldn’t be hard. Regardless, it is important to review them and set modified challenges. Here are mine for February:
Exercise: walk every day for one hour. Do 10*50 sets of sit ups per day. Coerce my opponent to play badminton once per week.
Lose some weight: Bye-bye Ben & Jerry, hello broccoli and juice.
Cut down on spending: Return my ROI to 14%
Save some money: PTBB of 8.1
Learn a new skill: make 15 stacks profit at Omaha Hi/Lo.
I’ll post an update on the first Monday of March. By then, London should be back to normal. If I stick to my plan, so should my stomach.