are your desperate hours? Is there a time during each poker
session when you don't play your best? Researchers have
long known that people perform better at some times than
others, and it varies from one person to the next. Some
of us begin the day on a high note and are at our best early
in the morning, but we run straight down from there. Others
among us are night people, and hit their stride once the
sun sets. Still others do well in the morning, lag in the
middle of the day, but catch a second wind in the evening.
Poker players are no different. Some are at their best when
they first sit down. It takes a while for others to get
into the flow of the game. Although everyone's game tends
to fall apart when they're tired, some of us can play all
day before tiring while others run out of energy after six
or seven hours at the table.
own desperate hours occur when I first sit down. It always
takes me a while - usually between 30 minutes and an hour
- to get into the flow of the game. Unless I've had an opportunity
to scope out the game from the rail while I'm waiting for
a seat, I don't know who's on tilt, who's been calling every
bet and raise with a weak hand, and I can't tell whether
a player's raise represents a legitimately strong hand or
is simply the actions of a maniac who's throwing money into
the pot more out of habit and ego than anything else.
sure, if the maniac is a regular player and usually plays
that way, I won't necessarily credit him with a strong hand
when he bets or raises, but even maniacs can go through
cool-down phases between periods of intense, unrelenting
everyone plays the same way all the time. Even the same
players in the same game go through periods of overvaluing
and undervaluing their hands. And it depends on a multitude
of factors. If an aggressive player is getting beaten up
it can mitigate his aggression . Even perpetual maniacs
realize that losing diminishes the intimidating aspects
of overly aggressive play. But not always. Sometimes a spate
of bad cards and bad luck just leads to more aggression,
and you never know which way your favorite maniac is tilting
unless you're watching it happen.
games sometimes seem like organic entities with lives of
their own. They are a supple, dynamic medium with characteristics
that change before your very eyes, even when the players
remain the same. And it takes me a while to connect with
that dynamic and plug into the game's texture so that I
am accurately reading and reacting to the shifting sands
and changing winds swirling around me.
I first sit down in a game and get involved in a pot I have
a tendency to stay too long with hands I should have abandoned
- and would have, too - once all my antennae have been deployed
and are working optimally.
The fact of the matter is this: the first hour I play can
cost me money. Maybe I'm even a losing player for my entire
lifetime of first hours. I don't know for sure, but I am
bound and determined to do something about it.
Becoming aware of a problem is, of course, the first step
towards solving it. Now that I'm aware of it, I'll be a
bit more judicious when I first sit down in a game. Maybe
I'll wind up leaving a little money on the table with hands
I win, but I plan to lose my proclivity to call on those
occasions when I should have folded, during my first hour
have another desperate hour too - though it's not that much
of an issue for me. It's when I'm tired. My antennae are
deployed, all right, but they're working overtime. When
I'm on overload I simply cannot process information as well
as I can when I'm sharp and on top of my game. This, however,
is no big deal for me. I generally get up and go home when
I get tired. I beat down that old urge to stick around when
I'm losing in hopes of getting even a long time ago.
other players haven't, and I see their play slip by degree
every day. Good players are not immune to this shortcoming
either, and I'm not about to tell them - not at the table,
anyway. The fact that I play much better once I've been
in a game for an hour or so is new information for me. I
never thought much about it before, and don't recall seeing
anything about it in print either - though I'm sure that
somewhere, some other poker pundit happened on this a long
time before me. Nevertheless, I'd like your take on this.
Is there a particular time of day, or point in a playing
session when you are vulnerable - and if there is, what
do you do about it?
you throw off money out of euphoria when you win a couple
of pots in a row? Does your playing style change appreciable
when you are tired, and how long does it generally take
until your energy begins to lag? What about when you first
sit down in a game: Does it take you a while - as it does
me - to get a read on your opponents and the texture of
the game you're in?
me a note. I'll share the best and most unique responses
with you in a future issue.
Until then, take heed and remember Pogo's immortal words:
"We have met the enemy and he is us."