Monday, March 8, 2010

Bring your A-game

I just got back from the Gold Strike. I had a coupon for the buffet that expired today, so I decided to get a free meal.

Where did the coupon come from? When I played in the tournament Saturday, each runner who made it until 6:30 p.m. got one. They gave us an hour to eat dinner, and it was on the house.

I didn't use mine (Saturday), though. Why not?

When you are in the middle of a poker (or bridge) tournament, the last thing you need is to stuff yourself with a big dinner, then come back and try to play good poker. Instead, I went to the food court and got one piece of pizza and a salad. I didn't finish either one. Players don't think of little things like this, but I really believe that they can make a difference.

Here's something else I did. After I got ready to go play Saturday morning, I logged into online poker and played for 20 or 30 minutes. When a golfer is going to play, he might take some practice swings. He goes to the putting green. Baseball players take fielding and batting practice. All this is part of the warm-up process. People in other sports do the same thing, so why not in poker? When I got there, I was ready to play. (Glen Ashton has written about this on his bridge blog -- sorry I don't have the exact link.)

After around four to five hours of play, an older man limped in. I had started with 8000 and had chipped up up to ~38,000 and the man had ~22,000 (these are approximate, but close). I believe the blinds were 500/1000/100. I checked my hole cards and was pleased to see K K. I raised to 4000, the blinds folded and he called.

The flop was 10 6 2 and the villain moved all in!! This didn't make sense. If he had a set, he could just make a regular bet, rather than blow me out of the water. Another line is that he could "check to the raiser," then check-raise me. I finally decided he had a flush draw, so I called.

The villain turned over A 6 for middle pair, wow. The very next card, however, was the 6 to give him trips. The river was a brick.

Instead of having ~62,000, I was down to 16K -- brutal. It would have been easy to go on tilt, but I sat out the next hand, got up and went out in the lobby, and got a soft drink. I began to visualize getting aces and doubling up and thinking positive thoughts. When I got back I was ready to play again. Looking back, this was probably a turning point and part of the reason I did as well as I did.

What do you do to bring your A-game?

To see the results of the event I played in go here. Note that the win figures don't account for the chop.

Image by MOJO and taken with my phone.


  1. Food is important. Very few carbs. I also take a host of supplements, a key one being an Omega/Fish Oil. Ginseng and Ginko Biloba too. And for us old-timers, keep the salt down to a minimum to help with the ankle swelling that comes with sitting for long stretches. A good night's sleep and a few practice hands also help a lot.

  2. You warm up with online poker? You warm up with what I find so difficult? Well, Excuuuuusssse me!!

    I, too, take supplements, including big fish oil. Ginseng would be good, but it gives me palpitations. I take 2 shot glasses full of supplements per day.

    I warm up with a little wine. In Vegas, I have permission to use bourbon. Not too much or it is a disaster. Just up to the dumbening point.

    The avoidance of heavy food is clearly mentioned in my little Negreanu book.

  3. Good job - you made some money.

    Don't do anything to warm up. Just make sure I'm rested and not in a foul mood. Never play angry.

  4. Facepunching for me. Gets out the anger and wakes me right now.

  5. Wolynski, you are ALWAYS in a foul mood. Like Louie Anderson said, he has never been swimming. He never gets beyond one hour after eating.

  6. Well, it been a half dozen years since I played a live tournament. It was a local VFW -- not the boats -- and I finished third. Before it started I had a couple of drinks. Not sure what I ate but I likely snacked.

    The drinks had no impact. I used to be a professional. (Sales/Mktng with big expense a/c) What is important to me is mental outlook. That was a horrid beat you took. (Address to send $ follows) We all get them. I don't sit out. I do think about future hands but that's more what not to play/do. I have tilted at such times but they are rare.

    My "A" is all about comfort and reads. It is whether I can play the table or the table plays me. I can recognize which is which but I can't always alter it.

    BTW, that 3rd I finished with was the most disappointing tournament I can remember. I basically fold my way through 4 or 5 extra places. There were two large stack that were friends and also table captains. I did not have my A game.

  7. Being a runner I always make sure I run on days that I have a tournament especially if I want and edge. Running relaxes me and makes me mentally sharp which are exactly what you need to do well at the tables.

  8. Mojo, nice post. I agree that eating a heavy meal is -EV. Nice little break you took to prevent steaming after the bad beat, too.
    To help me muster my A-game,
    I like to get plenty of sleep and minimize or disregard any potential mental distractions. Regarding supplements, vinpocetine helps me and I also like 5-hour energy shots. Very clean and no crash.

  9. WOW Fantastic Job David. That is just terrific.

  10. you're absolutely right about not over eating and taking a break to avoid tilt.

    Sorry for being late to the party, but this is none the less a really good post, Dave.

    GL in Reno,