November 25, 2011
After busting out of the 50k challenge I've been doing some analysis of some of the big losing hands and sessions that got me there. When I was playing these I had a strong feeling that I was being sucked out on and that lead to me feeling a great sense of injustice. The truth is that I was actually making some key mistakes, and fixing these mistakes is going to help my poker a lot. In fact over the last week or so I have been winning a lot and part of when I have been winning is ensuring that I don't fall into these particular errors, which are really thinking errors at their heart.
Something that can help with all sorts of thinking errors is something that comes from rational emotive behaviour therapy, which is nowdays usually called CBT. This is the "ABC model". The idea is that we all believe that our emotional state and therefore our behaviours come from some sort of event. But the abc model says that the activating event (A) is filtered through our beliefs (B) to produce the consequences (C) and therefore by changing or challenging our beliefs we can change the emotional consequences. So a simple example is "my partner said something hurtful to me therefore (s)he doesn't love me any more". So the activating event is what they said and our emotional consequence is that we think they don't love me any more. The reason that activating event leads to that particular emotional consequence is that we have a belief that if they loved us they wouldn't say hurtful things. The truth is that of course maybe they were just having a bad day. Maybe it is because they love us that they feel safe to take out their negative emotions on us by saying the hurtful thing or whatever. By challenging our beliefs we can change our emotional responses to particular activating events and hopefully over time become more rational.
So wtf has this got to do with poker? Good question. Very simple example. We get dealt ATs, someone nitty raises from the cutoff, we 3-bet them, they call. Flop comes AQTr. We cbet, they raise, ("they keep raising cbets", we think to ourselves!) we jam, they call and show AQ. We feel annoyed and tell ourselves it's just a cooler. But the truth is that the consequence (C) of getting stacked was result not just of the activating event (A), but also our belief (B) that they raise a lot of cbets. Perhaps we should examine that belief a bit more? Perhaps it's just a small sample and they're running hot and have been smashing boards left, right and centre? Perhaps they raise a lot of cbets because they're a nit and they always have it.
In any case, one of the things I'm changing right now is before I act, to think about and challenge the beliefs that are underlying my action. At the stakes I'm playing it is leading me in a lot of situations to nit up pretty hard, but not always. For example, this morning I had AQs versus a villain who was crazy to begin with and was tilting pretty hard because I had taken half his stack in a couple of medium pots. He raised, I 3-bet, he jammed 75bbs. Normally I fold here. But I thought a bit about it. Why is he doing it? He's fed up with being pushed around and isn't going to take it any more. So what is he doing it with? Pretty much anything. I called. His J8s did not hold.