Monday, September 3, 2018

Dids and didn'ts in Vegas

Let's start with the things I didn't do in Vegas this year. 

I didn't get there in as good a shape physically as last year. I went into last year's WSOP running 40 miles every Wednesday and finishing it feeling as fresh as a daisy. This year a few weeks out, I was struggling through 20 milers and as I stumbled in the door hearing Mrs Doke say "That's the worst I've ever seen you: you look like you're going to die". I managed to get through a couple of 30 milers before getting on the plane to Vegas, but there's no doubt I should try to get in better shape for next year if I do go back. It's gotten harder with my other commitments and travel, but I have to try harder to get back my former fitness and lose some of my current fatness. 

I didn't schedule days off this year. At the end of the series last year, I found Andy Hills grinding a daily deepstack having just bust the main. When I expressed surprise at this, Andy said that he didn't really enjoy days off because he loved the grind. That made me think "I used to love the grind. What happened?

What happened is this. For the first few years of my career, I played very single day and didn't take a day off. If I was at home I played every night, and when I was away I played live every day. People started telling me I couldn't do this, that I'd burn out. I started believing these people. I started scheduling days off. Now I do accept that grinding 365 days a year probably isn't a good idea and I do need to take some days off: just not in Vegas. My best Vegas campaigns in terms of my overall play and state of mind have been the ones where I just grinded every day. It gets me into a rhythm, and stops me getting depressed about being away from home in a place I don't even like. When I take days off in Vegas, I'm just unhappy in a place I don't want to be not even doing the one thing I'm there to do. Both Daiva and Smidge told me this year was the happiest ever they saw me in Vegas, with Smidge adding "I don't know what you're doing different but whatever it is keep doing it". After giving the matter much thought I really think the difference was no days off. 

Despite not being in peak shape and not taking days off, I didn't feel like I ran out of steam during the WSOP. I didn't even feel tired. I made a concerted effort to eat better than previous years and to drink less. I got out for a few runs. While I played every day I did make an effort to socialise with people I like and don't get to see much if at all for the rest of the year. Apart from the usual crew I was lucky enough to hang with KevMath, Jen Shahade, Maria Konnikova, Liam O'Donoghue, Jamie Flynn, Andrew Brokos, Kenny Shei, Carlos Welch, Elena Stover, Dehlia de Yong, Alan Widmann, Eugene Katchalov, George Danzer, Tom Ward, Gareth James, Robbie Strazinsky, Shirley Ang, Mike Hill, Richard Pearson, Ben Morrison, Neil Channing and Jared Tendler. 

Ok now let's look at what I did do in Vegas this year. 

I did manage to build stacks early in a lot of events, something that has long been a weakness in my game. With no background in deep stacked cash, I've tended in the past just to nit it up in the early stages of tournaments when stacks are deep and focus on avoiding major mistakes, confident in my ability to play the later stages when the stacks are shallower well. While it is undoubtedly true in tournaments that it's far more important to play shallow stacks well, it's a bit of a cop out not to try to chase EV in the early stages.  So this year most of my theoretical preparation revolved around using the simulators to improve my deepstacked play. This seemed to pay off: as I said I built stacks early a lot and in most of my events I got to double starting stack in the early going. 

I did manage to keep playing my A game while running atrociously. I took on board the advice of Jared Tendler on this front, I ran constant line checks with my study buddies, and I posted a hand most days on ShareMyPair to get more general feedback on how I was playing (I strongly recommend you do this and solicit feedback any time you have concerns about your game). 

I did notch up 5 cashes in the series so I felt like I was consistently giving myself a shot to go deep. I got down to the last 100 twice, and the last 50 once, so I had a shot to run well and make another final table. Unfortunately I ran badly at the death, but all you can do is keep getting into position to give yourself those shots. 

I did get sick at the end of the series. After busting my last event I went back to the Big Brokos house and experienced tiredness and dejection for the first time all summer. I don't mind that: it was always similar after big races and if anything I always took it as a sign of having given my all and emptying the tank, so to speak. 

In the airport I struck up a friendly conversation with the Afro-American gentlemen at the check in desk who appeared to be a big fan of Conor McGregor. He asked me if Conor was a big deal in Ireland and seemed happy when I said yes. He said he had some issues but he was a real person which he liked. He asked if he gave back to the local community in Ireland. As I took my leave, he took my boarding pass back and replaced it with another. I flashed back to my arrival in Vegas this summer and Beatriz surreptitiously consigning me to a couple of lost hours in additional security.

This time however, the outcome was a lot happier. When I got to the plane I found I'd been upgraded. 

Thank you Conor. 



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