For most people, starting a new year is usually a good thing. New hopes, dreams, and resolutions to try and attain get people very excited about entering a new year. I was one of those people that couldn’t wait for Jan 1st to come around to get started on those same things.

Well unbeknownst to me at the time, a heavily used word in the poker circles called variance was about to rear her ugly head and make the beginning of 2012 one of my worst poker months ever. Not only has it been a bad poker month, but it’s been a brutal month since we had to put our Lab Mac down due to cancer. She was by far the best dog I have ever owned and Ann and I were crushed when we had to do it. We will miss her very much but life does go on and we will be fine.

I know this is a poker blog, but I really don’t want to discuss hands this week. I want to talk about some of the other factors that play into the game as well.

When times are good, it seems like you win every key race, flop sets, river flushes, and the game is easy (aka. Run like Nipun). You just “get there” when you need to and you go deep or score big in a cash game. The world is right and in your mind, you are playing your “A” game and you almost feel unbeatable. You can sit at a table between Jason Mercier and Vanessa Selbst and feel good about it because you are going to #mashthiersouls.

Maybe it’s not a bad thing to feel like this. A little ego in poker never hurt anyone and you definitely have to have the confidence that you can out play anyone to win a tournament. When variance is on your side, you feel like you are the king of the world.

As we all know, this doesn’t last forever.

When variance turns bad, I think what makes a very good poker player is how you handle it. It is brutal when she does turn because you never know when it is going to happen and you really can’t seem to do anything about it. All of a sudden you stack off set over set, you make the second nut flush to the nut flush, or some person goes runner-runner against you in a huge pot.  She’s back and somehow you need to deal with her on the fly.

So how do you deal with it? Getting drunk and complaining to your friends is probably not the best way. Quit playing? Well definitely can’t do that when there are massive tournaments going that you don’t want to miss. So what do you do?

Being in the middle of it right now, I will tell you what I am trying to do to get through it.

First, I have been luckily enough to have a couple of very close friends have great runs. Jim, my good friend/coach/backer, won a WSOPC ring at the Bike. I was there watching almost the whole final table and I was able be there when he won and got to celebrate with him. He played absolutely great those two days and really deserved to win.

Second, my other good friend Rick finished 13th at the Bike for 4k, then chopped a Venetian for 5k, and lastly made day 2 at a WSOPC for 700. Great runs all coming in a one week span. Very impressive. He had been running bad for months but continued to try and play his best at all times and it finally paid off. It was very nice again for me to be part of the celebration, and yes, he did buy us all dinner. LOL.

So how is this helping me get through this horrible month? It is putting poker back into perspective for me. Poker is just a game. You are either going to win or lose. It really is that simple but sometimes I forget and take it way too seriously. When I do that, I need to somehow step back and look at my life and how happy I am overall with it. I have a great wife, good job, and a great group of friends that I wouldn’t trade the world for.

Third, I think it is important to really discuss hands in great detail to make sure you are not “tilting”. There are many forms of tilt so first you have to understand the whole scope of the word, then do everything in your power to stay out of it. Of course I was not able to do this recently in a few key spots and it cost me a ton of chips if not the whole tournament. It is always good to have a support group of your peers but even more important to have them when times are bad. If they care about you, which I know they do, they will get you back to playing level headed which is the only way to play in a game with such high variance.

Next, it is probably best to take a little time off and be completely away from the game. There is no specific time frame but I guess that just depends on how much you normally play. I just got back from Vegas and other than a few small home tournaments that I can’t miss; I will be taking over a week off from the casinos to clear my head. It’s only been a day away from it, but already I feel better.

Lastly, I think you have to find a way to stay focused on the hand while you are playing and put all your life distractions out of your head somehow. Losing our dog was really sad and I don’t know how it affected my play this month but I am sure it didn’t have a positive effect. I can usually separate life issues when I play, but when you start running bad, all of that bad life stuff seems to creep into your mind during events. I thought I was very strong mentally in this game because of my past professional bowling experience, but after going through January, I realize I need to spend more time on my mental game so this doesn’t happen again next time variance turns the cards against me.

If anyone has any other ways of dealing with a bad run, I would love to hear your thoughts. Hopefully we will get a good discussion going and all learn something about getting through bad times.

On a side note, I am having a friend redo this website/blog so in hopefully about 30 days, the site will be ready and it should be pretty cool. I will be updating my blog at least once a week with some hands I played that we can talk about and some other features that I think you all will enjoy.


Thanks for reading and remember, poker is just a game.

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