Greenstein

Oct. 27th, 2005 06:33 pm
peterbirks: (Default)
I've been reading Dalla's book on Ungar and Greenstein's Ace in the Hole this past week (along with the Iain M Banks SF novel and Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale ... I really must focus, sigh) and I came across a great observation by Greenstein.

Basically, he points out that there are many mid-limit players who are technically as good as the high limit players, but who can't make it at the top level for various other reasons. This is spot on. In a sense, I feel sure that my card-reading and technical abilities at limit are in the, say 15-30 to 80-160 region at the Bellagio (a wide range, I admit!), but many other factors need to be overcome before I can start thinking about beating those games. Only now, on my eighth visit there, do I think that I am mentally prepared for the 15-30.

So, what is it that disqualifies me from the 80-160? A number of things, only one of which is the stake level. I don't quite have the recommended bankroll of $50,000, but, as Greenstein says, if the game is good, such pedantries would not frighten the poker player who has the right stuff. You can always pop a shot with, say, $5,000, and go back to rebuilding your bankroll if you get spanked (as I probably would be).

When I think of playing at these higher stakes, I always remind myself of a couple of youngsters who played in the 4-8 game in the Flamingo three or so years ago. These were the first of the Internet generation. They had read the books, they knew the odds, they understood domination, implied odds, and, the way they talked, they clearly knew how to play.

And they had no chance whatsoever.

1) They didn't have a big enough bankroll (they had a hundred bucks apiece I think)
2) They had too much respect for the value of $100. Losing that hundred bucks each hurt these guys. In other words, they did not have the ability to split money into "spending money" and "poker ammunition".
3) They didn't have the mental strength. They weren't beaten when they started losing. They were beaten the first time an idiot came in and hit them with a two-outer.
4) They didn't know that they were in the wrong game. (it had to be the wrong game - they were playing me).
5) They wanted to show that they were good at the game, that they weren't "out of their class". In poker, as in life, it's usually best to beware the quiet man.


Now, I think of myself hypothetically sitting down in the 80-160 game this December, and I would be like these kids were in the 4-8 game. I would display all the faults and I would be subject to all the dangers. Someone would hit a two-outer, costing me a $2,400 pot, or whatever, and it would prey on my mind. Quite simply, I do not have the ability which Greenstein says is important to great poker players -- not to be worried about playing with a large percentage of your bankroll.

This is why it's taken me five years just to build up to 15-30. I can now take a $2000 loss in an evening (it won't happen but, if it did, it wouldn't worry me), which I couldn't do even 18 months ago. And if I do lose it, I'll come back the following night. I'll know to stand up from bad games, stick with the good ones, and, most importantly, not worry about the volatility inherent to 15-30 at thet madfest that is the Bellagio during tournaments. I won't need to show people that I am not scared of the stakes, because I genuinely am not scared of the stakes.

People write quite a lot about the impact of losing on a player, but I think an equal factor is the impact of winning. If you are two grand up in a 15-30 game, having sat down with your last grand, how tempting must it be to say "what I have I hold" and to turn weak-tight? In other words, the two grand profit needs to be irrelevant. It needs to be a small percentage of your bankroll. That is the only way to stop your style of play altering. (Well, it is in my case. As Greenstein wrote, for the great players, this is not the case. Dalla makes a great comment on the late Jack Straus. Apparently he needed to have 110% of his bankroll in action every day. Let's be honest, you have to have some admiration for the guy.)

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