Lessons From Losing

Ahhhh . . . I think I may have risen out of my card funk. For about the last week of online playing I had been getting my butt handed to me. Over about 5 sessions I lost 150BB. I’m not going to claim that I played every hand like a pro but when you sit down and see 300 hands in one session and have a 2% win rate with a total flop seen rate (both when you put money in and when you get a free ride in the BB) south of 17% you’ve got to figure that the poker gods are trying to educate you on the fine art of patience while losing. Perhaps they were trying to induce a tilt. Regardless, I stuck it out and tried to play solid poker even when I lost with a full house the fifth time in a row.

Yes, tonight I think was the turning point. The last two sessions prior to this evening were little better than breakeven. Both nights I would go down about 30 or 40 BB and then spend the rest of the evening clawing my way back to a 1 or 2 BB win. Tonight I ripped the cover off the ball with a +50BB 100 hand session. I was finally making my ace high flushes and crushing them. Two hands in a row I gave the table a smackdown. Once with AKs which turned into an ace high flush and a 30BB pot (I love guys who re-raise you on the river when you have the nut flush and there’s no pair on the board) and another pot for about 15BB when I had AA and instead of winning with my pair, the river was the fourth suited card and I just happened to have the ace of that suit in my pocket pair. Net-net I’m still down about 100BB from where I was a little over a week ago but considering I had been on a four week winning streak prior to my setback I’m not too upset.

Now, all of the above being said, I actually think a losing streak helps your game. I went back and re-read a lot of material during my rut. I also spent a lot of time analyzing how I could have played hands differently. It reinforced some things I was doing correctly (even if I lost the hand) and opened my eyes to where I may have been playing incorrectly. When you’re winning it’s difficult to see the flaws in your game. There’s probably no better evidence of that than when someone posts a hand on the 2+2 forums bragging about well they played a particular hand only to have five regulars rip the hand apart starting with the fact that the guy should have never even been in the hand with his unsuited two gapper playing UTG. Winning hides both big and small mistakes. Losing shines a big bright light on them if you’re serious enough to analyze your play. If you’ve taken advantage of the opportunity, when the cards do come back around your game should be even better than before.

When you think about it, losses improving your game should be more obvious than it is. I think every person who plays winning poker (or is trying to become a player who plays winning poker) started off with a good spanking that caused him or her to want to learn more about the game. Maybe they started off as the maniac who quadrupled their money in a month but then lost it all in one session against a better player. Maybe they beat the micro-limits but constantly got worked over at the higher limits. Whatever it was, losing (or more accurately, the desire not to lose) motivated them to find out why they got beat.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hoping for future card droughts but as they say; when life gives you lemons shove them down someone’s throat make lemonade.

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