reading is fundamental

Last night I experienced something strangely fantastic.

It was very much like when I got my first pair of glasses. After moving through life for so many years in a constant state of visual fuzz, all of a sudden things became clear. I could read signs off in the distance, I could tell if that girl across the room was really smiling at me, colors became more vibrant. I no longer had to squint out into world. I was more self-assured. Doubt dropped away from me like so much unnecessary clothing.

This is what I felt last night playing poker. Earlier during the day I had spent a few hours reviewing Renton’s articles (which I mentioned in my previous post). As I read and reread passages, my basic understanding of the game began to grow and expand. I began to see why I witnessed others make more money than me with identical hands. Leaks in my game became apparent. I started to see that I wasn’t just unlucky in many situations. I simply hadn’t truly understood concepts like hand strength and odds. I saw that I hadn’t known how to properly build a pot or how to get away from a hand that was most likely beat. I began to recognize my unhealthy and disproportionate fear of drawing boards. It slowly dawned on me that I had been missing countless opportunities every time I sat down at the poker table.

When I joined a $10 NL table at Pacific Poker last night, I only had $5.60 in my account. That was it. But, strangely, I didn’t feel that anxious. Rather I sensed a new confidence and I was eager to put into practice the information I had just acquired. I had a road map for my play. And I followed it.

I stuck to the guidelines Renton laid out, varying the hands I played based on position, preceding bets, consideration of who made the bets and the quality of my opponents’ play. I found myself paying more attention to the action in each round. I developed the ability to predict with some accuracy who would limp into each pot, who would call raises and who would fold. As I got deeper in the game, I was better able to put players on hands. And I slowly, but steadily, made money.

After two hours of looking at flops, I had tripled my money. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Big deal, 15 freaking dollars… oooohh! Well, you’re right, it’s not much money. I’ve had days when I’ve won $200 or $300 when it was all over. The thing that set this session apart from most that I’ve played was (1) the margin of profit and (2) the absence of wild dips in my bankroll. I can’t recall ever playing a session where, when the cards were put away and the computer turned off, I had tripled my money. There may have been periods during a session when, at some point, I had more than three times the money I started with, but I never left the table with that much. And that speaks to my other point—this session was characterized by a steady upward climb of my stack. Nothing fancy or dramatic, but always an increase in my chips.

Now, I’m aware that in the world of serious poker play, one cannot reasonably measure his success or failure on one day’s performance. One of those poker pros, probably Sklansky again, said something like the game never ends, the game is always running. So a better measure of my success will probably be a period of weeks, months, or even a year. Nevertheless, I am encouraged. It’s become clear to me that there are ever increasing levels of poker knowledge and play. I have only cracked open the door a bit.

I’ll keep you posted.

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