Thursday, August 03, 2006

Winning Notes On The Losing Streak

Sometimes (often), others say it better than you ever could. Larry Phillips:
There is no level of experience at which it ceases to be amazing that you can play poker all day long and not go on a hot streak for fifteen minutes, while across the table another player has been on one for six or seven straight hours. There is just no amount of expertise where this stops being an awe-inspiring sight-- but it it something we have to deal with, and learn to integrate into our game. Probability tells us that such a thing is simply going to happen once in a while. Still it is always just as wondrous to behold the first time you see it as the 500th...

All real gamblers know the Inner Scream. It's like the face in that one painting, The Scream, the oval-headed guy with his mouth open and his hands on his cheeks. It's exactly like that, only it's on the inside. It's a scream for just average luck, not even for good luck anymore. For the wondrous state of affairs where, every time you get annihilated, there is some kind of offsetting win of some kind, somewhere. It's just pleading to break even.

Even the most calm, serene, and composed among us has a limit. It might be 7 losing hands in a row. It might be 7 bad beats in a row; it might be 7 hours or 7 weeks or 7 months. However long it is, there is a limit beyond which our sense of humor begins to leave us.

A true cold spell is a thing of wonder. It is almost breathtaking in its scope and depth... It's a feeling caused by a combination of events so unlikely, so statistically improbable, that it's really hard to believe. And yet we see it happen right before our eyes, often over and over again.

Statistical occurances that are 20-1 against, 50-1 against, 100-1 against happen routinely, in an unbroken string. And as a player you know these odds. And you know they are even longer when combined.

But the annoying part, really, is not the losing. And it's not the money either. Because you can always get more money. It's a feeling of betrayal almost, the appearance of a suddenly topsy-turvy world where logic no longer seems to function, where bad players win effortlessly, and good play is penalized. It's a funhouse-mirror world where logic-- and the familiar laws of long experience-- no longer apply. It's as if you accidentally dropped something, some object, and now the object falls up, not down. It's the dismissal of a world you knew-- or thought you knew.

Some who read this will know exactly what I'm feeling and trying to convey, and others, like I once similarly did, will scoff and think things like "yeah quit whining everyone takes beats" or "sure blame bad luck for your bad play". Truly, nobody knows you when you're down and out. You really can't recieve objective responses from people when you try and relate the magnitude and consistancy of horrible luck: everyone, even those few who truly know the game and have had the experience, reserve a little corner of their brain for doubt and distrust in your ability to objectively see the situation and accurately judge your own play. Poker players, by nature, know to believe nothing someone tells them, if only because they know too well the nature of their own fish-stories.

Mentally at least, I feel as if this run is behind me. It's there, still looming and within sight, but slowly fading. Heavy losses, yes... broke, no. Stakes have been reduced. Hatches have long been battened down, and will remain so. A little average luck please?