May 30, 2014 1 Comment
If you’re anything at all like me, you do your best thinking at night time. I’ve always preferred nocturnal solitude where I can reflect and be alone in my thoughts on a fairly regular basis. I still don’t quite and never will understand the mass hordes of people who weave through one of the most traffic infested cities in the country, pay $20 just to park their car and have to walk a few blocks to the club, where they line up outside in extreme temperatures just to cough up another door fee to the bouncer. Then, after you get inside finally, it’s so loud you can’t even hear yourself shout, and acquaintances who you would never otherwise go out of your way to spend time with come up to you and try to make half assed conversation with you, as you both take turns screaming in each other’s ears:
Person A: “Hey man! Long time no see!”
Person B: “Yeah! how you been, good?”
Person A: “Yeah, good. you?”
Person B: “Good!”
—-end of conversation—-
Then you push your way through a moshpit of sweaty strangers to get to the bar, wait fifteen minutes for the bartender to notice you, before you voluntarily give them $7 for a beer, or even more amusing to me, $15-20 for a 1 oz shot in a plastic cup of liquor. Or, if you’re “lucky” enough to have your own table for the night, you get to pay $300 for a $20 bottle, or $80 for a fruit plate, only to have random people come and drink your shit and never offer to chip in with the bill. In fact, it’s always the same three or four guys in the end that end up eating the cost, and usually they’re the ones who drink the least (this is me) out of the group of a dozen or so. Anyways, that was quite a tangent I went on there. That’s kind of going to be the theme of this entry, lots of random thoughts just thrown on here no filter. So where was I.
Oh yeah, so I like peace and quiet at night and never go out, but honestly who am I to judge? To each their own, and as long as people are enjoying what they do and aren’t harming anyone else, more power to them. We all have different needs and preferences. I love spending time with friends, but in a more intimate situation where I can hold actual conversations with them, and we are able to lounge around and be ourselves around each other, eat, watch movies, play games, bond. In my poker career, I’ve been very fortunate to receive some incredibly kind words from various people. At times I feel validated, like, maybe I’m onto something here, or, great! all that hard work is paying off. Other times when I feel I’m going through a stretch of uninspired play I feel genuinely uncomfortable hearing these nice things. I definitely don’t want what I don’t deserve, and believe what you get in a lot of situations in life is what you put into it. I constantly challenge myself and like to put myself in someone else’s shoes when I’m watching a hand transpire. What would I do with this range, or how would this alter the outcome of the hand? What would I do better, worse, or differently? If I think I can take a better approach to the situation, why is it better? Essentially, I am constantly asking myself what my edge is in this or that spot, and sometimes there is no edge to be had. Certain hands between competent opponents just play themselves, or become labeled as “standard.” To be honest I tend to cringe when I hear players talk about hands and say things like “Oh well he never has this,” or “he would’ve done X with Y.” I remember a random inconsequential hand 5 years at the Bellagio where I bet/folded the turn in a 3b pot vs a young internet player and he turned up a bluff. He then proceeded to tell me that if I had X hand, I would’ve always checked turn and therefore my betting range on the turn is polarized towards nutted hands/floats. By the way, it was the first time we’d ever played each other. I didn’t say anything back to him, but what he said really stuck with me. Not that it was true, by the way, but just that he was so linear in his thought process that he would go as far as to encapsulate my turn check/bet tendencies, in position, in a 3b pot, in a dealer vs BB situation, with an incredibly rigid (and incorrect) assessment of what I will do with XYZ of my range. In a game like NL where there are very few absolutes in my opinion, based off of a hand sample size of perhaps 50 hands, that just seemed so absurd to me. And yet, I see it time and time again. The kid who 5b jammed AKo vs the 65 year old rock who opened UTG 5x because it’s “standard” and you should “always” re-raise AK and get it in no matter the situation. The times I hear bustout stories of some kid who called it off with XX even though your hand is much less relevant in the situation than the opponent. I think a lot of times, you can make assumptions based off how people play hands in general, but in no universe should you ever think everyone plays like you. Or thinks like you. Just because you would make this play or do that doesn’t mean the next person will. And that’s what keeps poker interesting to me. If everyone was always making “standard” or “optimal” plays, where is the edge? Short term variance can be deceiving to everyone, from the recreational player to the seasoned pro, but without analyzing why you won or lost that particular session, and what can be learned from it, your game will become stagnant, taper off, and eventually fall behind.
If you read this far, props to you. Because this is just a mashed up unedited “freestyle” mess of thoughts. Speaking of freestyle, this blog is supposed to correlate music and poker, so here it is. I’ve been in love with music since I was a kid. I was the only kid I knew who volunteered himself for piano lessons in elementary school, and spent countless frustrating hours by myself trying to put together a melody until my parents actually told me to stop practicing and go to bed. I actually looked forward to Thursday afternoon piano lessons each week, ready to tackle on new songs and show my teacher the progress I made on last week’s. I got pretty good at one point in high school, winning the only talent show I entered with my partner at the time (we played a two song duet and rocked the auditorium), and then I got myself a guitar and taught myself how to play off this Green Day tab book I bought. Pretty funny looking back on it now that for the first couple of weeks I held my guitar based on how I saw Kurt Cobain from Nirvana hold his on MTV, and therefore my chords were inversed until I realized that Kurt Cobain, of course, was left handed. My guitar was meant for the rest of the world who play it right handed. If learning piano was like trying to learn a bike, then learning guitar was like trying to learn to fly a jet at first. My chords never sounded clean, I could never hold it correctly without my wrists hurting, I didn’t use the pads of my fingertips and ended up muting my strings, I had no rhythm when I strummed, nor did I really understand what strumming was, but I kept at it and eventually got fairly decent at it as well. This was while I was playing trumpet in band in high school too. Was there a point to any of this in relation to poker? Not at all yet. Just felt like sharing something personal with the internet.
To me, I draw inspiration to play my best poker from music. Everybody’s trying to do the same thing as you, so what’s going to set you apart? I remember as a kid I would play a song on the piano I had spent hours perfecting, only to have someone more skilled than me sit down and make it sound infinitely better, effortlessly. At the time I felt a sense of envy, mixed with awe and a newfound determination. It was amazing to me: we both used the exact same instrument, the same sheet music, same notes and rhythm, but he would just bring something entirely different to the table that when you heard it, you knew you were hearing an experienced musician who was transcending the music written on paper. That’s the beautiful denominator between poker and music, both start with a relatively blank template. You as an artist choose to create what you want, based on the situation. The million other poker pros who do what you do and play exactly the same game do not all approach the game, or any hand, or any street the same way. I just want to be the best I can be, and preferably better than the field.
In the music industry similar parallels can be made since it’s so cutthroat. Everybody else has their talents and is trying to make it as an artist, so what is your edge on the field? I hardly think it’s any coincidence that Justin Timberlake, formerly of Nsync, is the only member today with a flourishing career. He knew the boy band days were numbered, and took it to the next level on his own to tailor fit his strengths. A couple of weeks ago I listened to every single Eminem song he’s ever recorded, starting with his Infinite album before he was well known. I have to say, I went through a period in high school/college where I really liked his music, but then stopped listening to him when he started putting out corny commercialized “mainstream” singles just to appease the masses like “The Real Slim Shady”, “Without Me,” “Crack a Bottle,” etc….but after listening to his albums in entirety, especially some of the more obscure tracks, the guy is a true artist and lyrical genius. After every track of listening to him string together flow after flow of parables and rhymes and metaphors I kept expecting him to run out of steam at some point, but he just kept getting better. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone so witty and clever with the English language, and he does it so easily several times I had to go back and listen to a verse again to make sure I got every word. Here’s some of my personal favorites:
Slim Shady EP
Just Don’t Give a Fuck
Bad Meets Evil
Marshall Mathers EP
The Eminem Show
Till I Collapse
Bagpipes from Baghdad
Old Time’s Sake
Must Be the Ganja
The Marshall Mathers LP 2
See, I told you this would be insanely random. That had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the stuff I was talking about; I just really respect creativity and talent and think it should be rightfully recognized. I think that is why I still haven’t gotten into EDM, nor will I ever probably. I prefer organic music with words and a story and some sort of emotion from the artist who put it all together in the form of a song, which is no easy feat…while EDM not only all sounds the same to me (prevalent driving synth bass, similar upbeat tempo, high treble notes for some major key melody on repeat) but listening to it just bores me to tears. No feelings of awe are invoked, like when I’m listening to Tom Morello pull off some sick guitar solo or Matt Bellamy belting out that familiar haunting voice over a grungy guitar riff or beautiful piano segment he composed, or the raw aggression/angst of Eminem when he’s making real music, or the playful banter between the Beastie Boys on their tracks, etc. All of these are very human to me, and I will always be infinitely more impressed with sounds that humans conceived, wrote, and executed with their own voices and hands than a beat machine and some synthesizers.
Anyway, time to wrap this crap up. I’m headed to Vegas on the 8th for the rest of the series, so hopefully I activate my inner musician and play my heart out.