I knew I had it coming. After my sick heater a few days back I was in for a downswing. And a bad one for that matter. From winning four $215 Sunday Million tickets in one day I went to winning none in four days. And that was me playing the whole day as I'm on vacation. I had plenty of chances to win at least one seat, but nope, it wasn't meant to happen.

So I did what I always do when things don't go my way (which seems to happen a lot lately): I think about what life wants to teach me, what lesson I need to learn. This time is pretty obvious: it's a lesson on variance and humility.

Variance is a bitch and will, sure as hell, bite you in the butt at some time in your poker career. So the question is: how can you build a poker career without being able to deal with variance?

You can't. It's part of the game and you either learn how to deal with it, or it deals with you. 

So I decided this time is as good as any to learn how to deal with it. What helps me is that I've already cashed out $300 since the start of my challenge, having deposited only $185. I'm also still up over $600 in total profit.

So I'm basically free-rolling my variance lesson. I'm also not playing with scared money. So nothing is really at stake other than my profit and my pride. 

The difference between the two, profit and pride, is that I cannot control my profit, or only so much, whereas I can control my pride - which basically comes down to my urge to win it back, my sense of entitlement, and my need to close the day with a plus to make me feel good. 

That last part is key. I can feel frustration creep in. I have started being moody, and being angry about how unlucky I am. 

Which reminds me of Jared Tendler's very instructive book 'Mental Game of Poker'. One of his clients once told him that he only realized how much he had evolved mentally as a poker player when his wife could no longer tell if had booked a win or a loss after a session. Variance just did not affect him any more. It would no longer mess with the way he felt about the session. The only thing he cared about was how well he had played. That became his measuring stick of success. 

The concept is pretty powerful, I think. Because it puts you back in the driver's seat. And kicks the variance tilt gremlin out of it. That's when you can start taking a step back, assessing the level of your play, your strategy, your bankroll management.

Looking at it that way made me realize that my last four days weren't actually such a mess. My strict bankroll management had served me well. I'm still miles away from going broke. I don't even need to adjust my limits yet.

I also actually did play fairly well. In fact, the downswing made me focus on plugging some more of my satellite leaks that I had become a bit complacent about when I was on the heater. I figured that I needed to: 

1) cut the average number of rebuys I invest per satellite

2) adjust my shoving range as a short stack

3) get better at preserving a big stack when I have one

4) take more breaks, eat better, hydrate more, exercise.


The first one is crucial if you run into a downswing and want to cut your losses (it also increases your average win per tournament when you do win), the second is key if you want to have a chance of making it back into the game, the third is crucial to actually winning a satellite, and four is a prerequisite to playing your A-game as long and often as possible.

So I took a few steps that should help me with the above:

1) cut the average number of rebuys I invest per satellite

I now stop rebuying when the blinds reach 1.600. Yes, shame about the previous investment, but it's a +EV decision. The structure of the $2.20 rebuy Sunday Million tournaments doesn't offer itself to rebuys at this level, as limits increase in 5 minute intervals and you can only add-on (30.000 chips) when you hit the 10.000 big blind mark. And don't kid yourself: that's a loooong way to go from 1.600. Yes, you might occasionally get lucky and chip back up, but most of the time you will just spew away money in a hopeless attempt to cling on. You're better off investing it in a new satellite and give yourself a fresh start and a better chance at winning.

The only two exceptions to the rule I will make is a) when I'm on the button or cut-off and I have a good chance at chiping up using position right after the rebuy, and b) when the add-on is very close. I'm talking 8.000 big blinds, or 6.000 approaching the 8.000 jump. There is lots of stalling at that point and you can usually get away with one or two single rebuys. And the add-on is huge: 30.000 chips for just $2.20. If you also manage to tweak the speed of the blinds moving around in such a way that they have just passed you when the add-on period finishes, you're in a great spot. Even with just 3 big blinds. Note: at this high blind level, until I reach the add-on, I'm only buying in for single rebuys. It gives you better odds when you do get a hand but it takes into account that there will lots of all-ins from other short stacks too, so a premium hand will get cracked a lot of the time.  

2) adjust my shoving range as a short stack

I used to have a bad habit of shoving from ep with 44+, A7+ and KT+ once I dropped below 10bb. Don't do it! You'll go broke most of the time. It's better to fold and let the blinds run through you for a better shot at shoving from a good position where you have way more information and can take a better informed decision. Nash would correct me with regards to the 44+. But really, there is no money to be made here. You will almost always be called by better hands or by so many players that any one of them with a higher pair (not difficult) or hitting an overcard has you crushed. Don't forget, it's a relatively cheap rebuy and lots of players don't think that much about the correct calling range. I'm now more looking at 66+, AT+, KQo, KJs. I can't give you the math, it's more from my experience. And it's working better for me. 

3) get better at preserving a big stack when I have one

That's a tricky one because a big stack can quickly dwindle to a medium or short stack once the blinds get scary big. There is balance to be found between chipping up enough to be able to get through the next orbit, and not risking your stack in a marginal spot.

I haven't quite figured this one out, but I think I need to work on my blind stealing range (min raising rather than going all-in with 15 BB) and restealing with about 20 BB. Still working on that one.

4) take more breaks, eat better, hydrate more, exercise.

Taking breaks is a two-sided sword. The $2.20 Sunday Million rebuys only start once an hour and last on average about two hours and something. So usually, when I kind of start to feel that it's time for a break, I will be in the middle of a tourney while another one is just about to start. And I will be tempted to think 'what the heck, I'm still playing anyhow', so I'll just buy in and bust out in the old one just after the new one has started, and the vicious circle starts again. 

Eating better and hydrating more.... Hmm... I need to go shopping. It's tough with a schedule that pulls you in like just described, though. But: I did some exercise today, tricking the schedule by doing it before I even logged in. This way I checked that box off and can now feel like I have done something productive already. 

Blogging also helps. It forces me to focus and play fewer games. So now I've just busted in my last active satellite, missed the start of another one and will now go shopping. I might also get some plants for my terrace and pot them. I've been meaning to do that for a few days anyhow. It's a nice kind of break and might just be what I need in order to get me back on the upswing track.

Oh, and the lesson on humility? 

This whole post is dedicated to humility. 

Better luck to you at the tables and keep me honest, plz!



Challenge summary
Starting bankroll 16/5/2016: $185
Cashed out May: $100
Cashed out June: $200
Active bankroll today: $524
Total profit since start of challenge: $639