Friday, May 24, 2013

Last ever blog

After noting in my last blog that life is a rollercoaster (at least according to a very bad song), things kept looking down for me. As I got back into the online grind, a downswing (or actually more of a sideswing, that is, a prolonged breakeven patch) that  I've been going through  since the end of January continued.

In the last blog, I put up my lifetime graph for online mtts (missing a few sites like Bodog not properly tracked). At that stage, my graph for the year looked like this:

After a great start to the year (up 35k in the first 500 games, ie, January), I then hit a 2000 game breakeven stretch. I've had these before (every serious online mtter has) but that doesn't make it much easier.

It was against this backdrop that I went into town to meet David Lappin. Lappin's a great man to turn to on these occasions as apart from the fact that he understands variance better than anyone else I know, and has a similar aversion to downswings, and can offer tons of perspective and sage advice, he's also pretty much the only person I know in poker that understands that sometimes all I want is someone who will shut up, humour my complaining and whining and forecasting that the end is nigh for all of us, and let me blow off steam.

After my mental health check up with Dr. Lappin, I got home late but in time to start a mini evening session, and promptly won two tournaments, one on Stars Fr and the other on Ipoker. Over the next week, I won another three online tourneys and a few Marbella sats, and clinched my third PocketFives triple crown (but first since 2011). By the end of that spell, my revised graph for the year looked like this:

Gary Clarke wrote a great blog recently where he said, and I quote, "Life is so simple and yet we make it so hard." I've certainly been guilty of over complicating my life recently. Gary's right: life is pretty simple. It's about identifying the things you like doing, and doing them, and identifying the things you don't like, and avoid doing them.

For the past few years, the thing I enjoy most is playing poker online. Yes, I enjoy live poker too, but only as a diversion. Online poker has always been the thing. In 2011, I became the first Irish player to win a PocketFives Triple Crown (awarded to players who win three big tournaments on three different sites in the same week). In poker, the first thing people ask you when you win something is "How much?" That is the point of poker in general, but sometimes it's beside the point. Nobody should want to go through life measuring everything in money. So in poker, where money really is the scoreboard, it's good to focus on other things once in a while, whether it's a virtual badge, or representing your country.

In 2011 I won not just one but two Triple Crowns. In 2012, none. I was actually thinking about this before my most recent triple crown. Maybe the game just got harder. Maybe I focused too much on other stuff. I still did okay under the money scoreboard system last year. I got involved in staking and coaching, and found it rewarding. I played pretty much every major tournament on the Irish live poker circuit. Did I get too comfortable with the idea that these are social occasions? Probably. Did I start thinking sometimes the purpose was just to be there, not to win? Possibly. One of the worst things about experience is poker is that it makes you realistic. When you start out, you go to every tournament thinking "I could win this". That naivete doesn't last long.

I find live poker increasingly jading. Nothing makes something less enjoyable than the belief that it has to be fun. It's like the tiresome pillock at the party who goes around insisting that everyone must enjoy themselves. I enjoyed live poker more when I didn't think of it as something that needed to be enjoyed.

I've been thinking about all this recently, trying to decide what I should do going forward. The main conclusion I came to is stop over complicating everything. Focus on the thing I enjoy the most (online poker). Be more selective in what I play live, so when I do turn up to play live, it feels special. I feel like I needed a mini break from live poker before Vegas, so apart from Marbella, I won't be playing anything else.

I think when you're young you tend to think "There's a first time for everything". I guess it's natural to give the first time you do everything, anything, a special importance. Experience teaches us that we get better at pretty much everything with practise, so first times tend to not have the same importance in retrospect. They simply represent a start.

As you get even older, you realize there is also a last time for everything. Your last day in school. Your last day in a job. Your last day in another job. Your last day in a house or country. The last time you see a loved one.

The thing about last times is you generally don't realize at the time that it is the last time. Chess dominated my life for years. Gradually I lost interest as I realised I had gone as far as I could with it. But the last time I sat down to play it competitively, I didn't think "This is it. The last time". The same is true of other interests and passions. I only knew they were over well after they were over, not as they were ending. With poker I hope that it might be different. One of my most fervent wishes is that I realise when my time as a winning player has passed so that I get out with most of the fruits of my grind intact. I don't want to be one of those people who has to lose their entire bankroll before they realise it.

In a few weeks, I head to Vegas with Daragh Davey and Jason Tompkins. Lappin is again taking the sensible route and staying home to feast online at the time of year when it is traditionally the feastiest. Next year I may make the same decision (I noted on a Vegas blog once that every year in Las Vegas, it's Last Vegas for some of the Irish contingent, even if they generally don't realise it themselve at the times), but for now I'm looking forward to giving this year's WSOP my very best shot.

After Vegas, I intend to focus even more on online, and to cut back on all other distractions. I have already started cutting back on my coaching, staking and other commitments, the better to focus entirely on my own play. Like everything else, there will at some point be a Last Ever Blog, and I probably won't even realise it at the time. Who knows, this might even be it (I doubt it though: I imagine I will think of something to blog about in Marbella or Vegas).


So this is it? I know I've been telling you for a long time that you shouldn't be allowed out of the house but are you finally now taking notice of anything I say?
No more live events, no more staking? so does this mean you and me are finished?
Certainly I hope you continue blogging. The internet would be a much poorer place without your input.
Wishing you all the best for Spain, Oh yeah, a place you said you would never play again due to lack of online poker, and Vegas, same problem. So maybe you were bluffing!
Anyway, I don't imagine you can pass on the 1m guarantee in UKIPT Galway so we will probably catch up there.

Nah, don't get rid of me that easy Mick, just being more selective about what I play live. Will deffo see you in Galway


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