We’ve all endured a losing session and prayed to the Poker Gods for a change in fortune. Every one of us has put up with the vagaries of variance, done our time at the Last Buy-In Saloon and been as card-dead as Stannis Baratheon on Father’s Day. But what are the pitfalls of running well? Running hot may feel great at the time, but is there a downside to running like God? Well, yes, there are plenty actually. Here are a few reasons why that guy you can’t stand who keeps winning might not feel so good when he kicks off those diamond shoes.
Dangers of Running Well: Overconfidence
Hang on, we finally start winning and we should feel bad about being too confident? Well, oddly, yes. While the perils of remaining rooted in the mire of a losing streak can be damaging to your poker game, the same is conversely true about enjoying a winning streak too much. That feeling when you win a poker tournament, of looking around you and seeing no-one except the poker media watching you have your picture taken with your friends and your new trophy is a euphoric one. So too is it a great feeling to punch the mid-morning air at 4am after crushing souls you’ll never even meet online. But although winning is the most addictive feeling in poker, keeping your feet on your ground is much better for your game than reveling in your success. Even if you were amazing, your poker is never perfect and holding onto your humility when you are successful is one trait all top sportsmen and sportswomen have in their locker.
Dangers of Running Well: Analyze That!
Looking at your own flaws is so much easier when you’ve had a costly losing session. It helps you arrest the slide, change the course of your fortunes and you’re a way to rebuild your bankroll. But reviewing your play when you win is, if anything, more important. Self-improvement when you have made mistakes you have identified after busting a tournament is easy when you think about it. You can’t have been perfect because you didn’t win, so you analyze how you should improve. But the truth is that even in victory, there are a hundred ways you could have performed better. Poker great Phil Ivey once took down a tournament and was miserable throughout his post-game interview. When asked why, he explained it was because he wasn’t happy with his play….and that’s Phil Ivey. Look for areas you could improve in, even if you wipe the floor with your opponents.
Dangers of Running Well: What Goes Up Must Come Down
While we’re telling you to keep your feet on the ground, a much more insightful way to look at overconfidence might be to beware any falsehoods that you believe. While humility is a better bedfellow than confidence (they steal the duvet and the less said about their morning breath the better) it’s the false dawn that can be most dangerous. How many young winners of major tournaments have you heard about who have gone off the rails, and how many over 35s have done the same? It’s a lot less the older you get partly because life toughens you up and knocks those sharp edges smooth, but also because experience tells you that the calm can be followed by the storm. If you are winning, then don’t just up your limits and start believing your own hype before you can point to consistent, smooth improvements both in your results as well as your skill. Measure yourself against your peers in terms of your poker prowess, and be honest about situations where you’ve been fortunate to escape a situation you played badly in.
Dangers of Running Well: False Sense of Security
We’d all love to believe that we can give up that job mucking out the elephants to take on poker’s finest. But the truth is that even after a big win, we’re more than likely going to be best off picking up that mop and bucket and toweling down Nelly (What, her parents were tired) instead of buying seven hoodies, leaving our facial hair to grow and renaming our avatar ‘ball3r4lifeyo’. Don’t give up the day job just yet because you won the Uppercut overnight, or binked your first piece of poker bling! True success in poker is racking up win after win, posting yearly profit and then (and only then) should you probably consider yourself a professional. Working in a ‘regular’ job and playing really good poker can seem like it doesn’t always mix, but actually, the discipline of combining both a semi-pro poker existence along with a completely different role that puts food on the table and pays the bills you might struggle with if you were relying on a good cash game session is the secret to many players who have now turned pro. You may be on your way to a career as a professional poker player. You might also be a successful player with an enjoyable ‘other job’ that tempers the rollercoaster ride that is the greatest card game on Earth apart from strip-snap with the Sand Snakes of Dorne.
Dangers of Running Well: Pride + Fall = Wolfpack Humiliation
Morrissey once sang ‘We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful’, which might have been more true for him, the loveable old misery, but still holds water today. We’ll bet that your peers have been supportive through rivers of run-bad, but do you really know how they’ll be when you are raking in the readies? We all love to win, but doing so gracefully can maintain our support group rather than alienate them. If you’ve ever relied on people around you for a confidence boost, then don’t forget them when the chips are up rather than down. Taking too much pride in our own achievements is actually bad for us in many ways. Whatever we attain, there is always another level, and enjoying success on a personal level by giving back to those who have helped you get where you are gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, and not just the morning after a celebratory night out.