on getting one's groove back

I busted 24th out of 28 in the EuroFriendly Friday game when my hammer buff made middle pair and ran into AQ which had inconsiderately made top pair. Go me!

My wife, who foolishly thought I'd be busy in the tourney for at least three or four hours, spent the afternoon  downtown with our friend Stephanie (who introduced us, and was part of the best man triad in my wedding, with Dave and Darin) to enjoy the insane bargains and donut-throwing crack whores that can only be found in the garment district.

I found myself with t-t-too much time on my hands, so, emboldened by some of my fellow poker bloggers in irc, I decided to play some micro-stakes hold-em at PokerStars. Maigrey agreed to sweat me, so I could honestly assess the quality of my play, and uncover any holes in my game. Heather wasn't involved in the game at all, but we chatted on irc after each hand; analyzed my play and my opponents' play, and over the course of about an hour, I reached the conclusion that I don't totally suck at poker. I also confirmed that Heather is really, really good, especially at the often-overlooked skill of pegging the weak and strong players in an online game. In fact, when she asked me, "Okay, who are the strong players, and who are the fish?" I realized that since I started running badly, I had only been playing my cards, and rarely playing my opponents. Hee-Haw.

Being able to talk about my cards after the hand, and bounce stratagies as well as reads on various players off another player who I respect like getting playing lessons on the golf course, and was incredibly valuable. In addition to picking up some stronger and smarter ways to play in a few different situations (man, "it depends" is even more true in ring games than tourneys), I made a consicious effort to identify the weak and dangerous players at the table, then applied that knowledge to basic skills I've developed, like the story my I've told with my hand, the texture of the flop, and how scared, confident, or reckless they are currently playing. I'm not under the false impression that I was taking on world-class opponents, since this was just a weenie little .25/.50 game, but it was as good a place as any to safely begin the rebuilding of my bankroll, and -- far more importantly -- my confidence. After about two and a half hours, I left, with just over nine dollars profit.

Okay, so it's nothing, right? Not even one SNG buy-in. But that's not the point. I played a lot of individual hands, and confirmed that my basic set of poker skills -- you know, that stuff I've wondered about and doubted -- are, in fact, solid. It's tough to keep playing through a downswing that lasts so long, you start to wonder if it's just a downswing, even though I've read a lot of my fellow WPBT members are experiencing something similar.

The next time you start to wonder if you're ever going to have a black column in your log book again, grab someone you respect, and ask them to sweat you in an online game where you're safely within your gulp limit. It's a good way to start getting your groove back, Stella.

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