Katie's anatomy of a Sunday grind: January 19
What if I could offer you a magic pill that would give you the ability to rid yourself of all distractions while playing poker? Like Neo in "The Matrix," I took that pill for the first time on Sunday, and fortunately, the pill didn't involve swallowing bizarre chemical substances. The "pill" for this Sunday was simple: playing completely stacked tables.
Of course, the heaviest distraction I have while playing is rather unavoidable. He's my 85-pound yellow lab, Wilbur, who likes to occasionally "cold snout" me. He shoves his snout under my arm and uses his nose like a saber made of ice to poke me until I start petting him.
Considering that I play by clicking hotkeys with my left hand and rapidly swinging the mouse with my right, that doesn't leave me with too many free hands for doggie affection!
Playing completely stacked once I had my 35-40 tables, even if I was heads-up in a tournament or at the final table of an MTT, I wouldn't see the results of my hands. It means that there was no narrative in the game, which is something that players who play tiled say is too much of a negative. If I hero-called, I wouldn't find out if I was good. I wouldn't waste time sweating all-ins at 180-man final tables. I wouldn't see suckouts or even showdowns. The most I could do is mark the hands using PokerTracker 4 to review later...if I had a precious second to tag them!
Most importantly, and the reason that I took this pill, is that it would keep any potentially negative thoughts at bay. On the heels of my worst day playing MTT SNGs - when I was down more than 90 buy-ins in a single horrific session - this was very appealing to me.
Another part of this experiment was listening to happy music. I started the day off by putting on "ABC" by the Jackson 5. This song brought me back to screaming it at the top of my lungs with my soccer team in a giant school bus when we were heading to an away game. Fortunately, I woke up from my daydream in order to begin grinding, though of course, I was still singing and finding many spots to play more than just an ABC strategy!
To implant even more positivity in my mind, I moved my run-good flowers directly over my monitor, and I'm pretty sure my favorite flower - a hot pink Gerber daisy - led the cheering section while I played.
There was also something different about this week, besides taking the stacked pill. I decided to devote myself to playing just MTT SNGs and not MTTs. Of course, there was once exception I had to make for my favorite tournament of the week: the $55 Women's Sunday. Usually that is a tournament that gets its own slot on my monitor every week for me to keep half an eye on, but this week, it was into the pile of games with the rest of them.
My first heads-up battle was in a $30 27-man. These are the smallest field MTT SNGs that I play and are non-turbos. I haven't been playing them for very long, but I love the format. Typically, there is a lot of play heads-up, which is one of the reasons I enjoy them so much.
They are the lowest variance game that I play:
Playing heads-up without having the table off to the side was kind of odd. When a hand went to showdown and I thought I could use the info of learning my opponent's hand, I had time to quickly click the replayer to see what my opponent held. Fortunately, I shipped the first $30 27-man that I played!
Despite playing a lot of tables, I had a sense that I was getting quite a few cards in the Women's Sunday. I didn't see the showdown from this hand until I reviewed the HH the next day.
Although, I knew I had won some kind of a nice pot when the table popped up and I had 16K!
I used to think that playing stacked would mean I would be more likely to miss bubble pwnage spots or those glorious moments known as "any two shoves." I combatted that by leaving the "info" tab open on all of my tables. Aside from the 180s, 27-mans and 45-mans reach the money after the final table, so I found myself once again thankful for the fact that PokerStars makes the final tables appear different than the tables earlier on.
Much like how Neo finds that the real world is not as pretty or fun as the Matrix, I assumed that playing stacked would lack a lot of the glamour that playing poker usually has. I was surprised to find that I found it perhaps even more fun than Wilbur does swimming in the ocean after a wayward stick!
With trying to keep to the fundamental writing rule of showing instead of telling, here's a short video of what I see while 40-tabling stacked:
Suddenly I was a decision-making machine. My only focus was to make the best decision quickly with no knowledge or focus on the result. I felt like I held the game of poker in a vice grip, and like I could bend the world to my will, like Neo when he dodges bullets in slow motion!
There was no negative energy when I called an all-in deep at the final table of a $35 180 with AKs. Had I been playing like normal, I would have certainly sweated my all-in and felt dejected no matter if I lost to aces or 7-2 offsuit. I didn't even have time to think about the fact that I must have busted it until the next five-minute break, at which point my mental focus only went as negative as "oh well."
Because of the info tab, I knew I was getting deep in the Women's Sunday, and with more chips than I ever had before. On a normal week, I became way too concerned with how well I did in the tournament, as it is one I very much want to win one day. Even so, I consider myself someone that has a much better control over tilt than an average player, since I've never broken a keyboard, laptop, or mouse while playing, a fact which places me near the top of the pack for not tilting! Looking back, I was too mentally invested about showdowns in the Women's Sunday in particular. If I lost two flips in a row to bust, I'd have to take a few seconds to mentally regroup. This week, a few hours went by without even checking if I was still in the tournament!
But soon, I noticed that I was on the final table bubble. I fought the urge to pull the table off from my stack to the side. At this point I hit my peak number of tables for the day, topping out at 43 games running. With my mind free from distractions, I played clear-headed poker and felt like a robot with a super power of ninja clicking, which wouldn't be the super power I'd choose if I had my pick, but it is certainly better than nothing!
On the stone bubble of the Women's $55 final table, I still found spots to apply ICM pressure, despite playing my peak number of tables. Feeling somewhat detached from the tournaments perhaps helped me to chip up during this time. Versus an aggressive small blind in this spot - that will be forced to discard a lot of her opening range once shoved on - A6o was an easy three-bet shove. Often, ranges flash in my head before I make such a shove, and here I would have three-bet shoved at least 80 percent of hands:
Soon I was at the final table of the only MTT I'd played all week:
Although I'd stopped loading tables at that point, I still kept the final table in the stack with the 30-ish tables I had left. I three-bet shoved A-K suited with slightly over 20 big blinds, but the Women's Sunday table didn't pop back up. I discovered after that I had busted to QQ in sixth place for just under $500, which topped my previous biggest cash of the day for winning an $8 180-man.
The most successful aspect of Sunday was that it was the most distraction-free session I've ever played-- even taking into account the disastrous Wilbur misclick! It took away any feeling of luck and put the entire focus on what my job really boils down to: making sound investing decisions as quickly as possible.
As my grind to 200K VPPs and 30,000 games continues in 2014, I'll continue to look for new ways to play my absolute best. Perhaps I'll take another page out of the Matrix and wear a black leather trench coat for next Sunday's grind, though I'm guessing that my pink macaroon PJs are still the optimal dressing line for my job!
Regardless of the wardrobe, I'm happy I took the pill and give my stacking experiment the same rating that Siskel and Ebert should have for The Matrix: two thumbs up!