Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Schoonemaker's Attributes of a Winning Player

Iggy posted, from Felicia, from "Dr. Al" Schoonemaker (which almost certainly means from 2+2), the attributes of a winning player. I believe I'm above average on all but one of his attributes, which ordinarily I'd have a long discussion with someone in chat to discuss, but it's after 4AM, so not very many people are available to chat. And, chat isn't the best forum anyway for that type of discussion. So, both of my remaining blog readers get to suffer while I justify to myself why I, according to Dr.Al, can (possibly) become an above-average winning player.

1. Extreme self control: No impulsive behavior

I wouldn't say I've got no impulsive behavior, but in a casino environment, it's darn near. I don't really play any of the games in the pit, and since I took up poker my slot play is probably less than $200 lifetime. Over that time I know I've hit one $200 pot, so my slot play since I took up poker might be breakeven. Before I took up poker, in two or three lifetime casino trips I probably lost $500 in slot play.

But there is one way you could make me fail this point: I've "taken shots" at limits I couldn't afford. Longtime readers know I blew my first bankroll "taking shots" at Party's $15/$30. I actually think I could have beaten that game longterm, if I'd had the bankroll to sit it properly, but I didn't, so when a downswing hit, it hit me hard. I will say that I've never sat live play above myself. I've sat $10/$20 four times in my life, and three of them were "taking shots" at the higher level when I was appropriately bankrolled for it. The fourth is excusable as well because it was immediately after posting a big win one of the other times. (My only session win at $10/$20 live, unfortunately.)

2. Ability to concentrate intently: No wandering thoughts

I fail this one miserably. My mind wanders incessantly both live and online. Heck, I'm writing this whilst two-tabling $2/$4 limit. I'm slightly better live because information doesn't come in quite as fast, so I miss less, but I still miss a lot. I can blame ADD if I want, but the fact remains: My concentration sucks.

3. Ability to admit mistakes quickly: And thus terminate them

Yes. Unfortunately I see the mistake after I make it. So my timing's a bit off, here. And too often, I'm not sure how to "terminate" a particular mistake.

4. Ability to depersonalize conflicts: Be objective regardless of personalities involved

More than 95% of the time, this isn't a problem. Obnoxious people are welcome at my table if they're losing. When I do let personalities bother me, is when I don't want to tangle with someone because "he always seems to beat me." Sometimes, that's healthy: If he really is better than me I probably don't want to tangle with him. Sometimes, it's unhealthy, but that's probably just when I'm actually wrong: He doesn't always beat me, but either he or I psych me into believing that.

5. Selective aggressive play at the table

Well, if I'm a winning player, I must be getting this one right most of the time. Not that I have the game mastered by any means, but yes, I can put on my aggressive face.

6. Acceptance of responsibility: Accountability for all your results

I'm probably not the best judge of this. I think I do this—at the poker table at least—but I get this wrong in enough other areas of my life that it might be a problem at the tables, too, and I can't see it.

Gil says that I may get this wrong the other way: Always assuming that a string of poor results is my fault. But once a string of losing sessions gets to three or four, I have difficulty blaming "bad cards" or "suckouts" because it seems that over three or four sessions those ought to start approaching their statistical norms. On the other hand, live especially, we're only talking about 500–800 hands over those three or four sessions, and a bad run could easily last 500–800 hands.

7. Always demanding an edge/advantage before you play

Mostly, see the first paragraph under point one about other casino games.

But this can also be applied to game selection. "If you can't spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker." Where possible, I'm looking for the best table to play at. This is a point in favor of moving west: even if every game is bad today at Casino X, then Casino Y is right next door. When I played yesterday, while I waited for my name to be called I was scoping out each of the $3/$6 games looking for which one I wanted and which to avoid. (I got a new table instead, and it was a decent table.) Online, I probably don't switch tables enough but when I do switch, I'm looking for a table with a high average pot size, and if the site I'm on gives me this information, a large percentage of players seeing the flop on average.

So: I've got this point nailed.

8. Brutal realism: The absence of denial or kidding yourself

Again, I might not be the best judge of this. I consider myself a "small winner," backed up by actual data. I don't see any reason why I can't become a "large winner" in the future, or barring that, build a bankroll big enough to play games where a "small winner" is earning a living.

And maybe a "small winner" is okay. When I played $3/$6 every day, I was earning something like 1.75 BB/c, which translates for live play to a bit under the mystical "one big bet an hour" which they tell us should be our goal for limit play. If I'm a better player than I was then (I don't have an answer for that, I don't have enough hands at any one limit to judge), then 1 BB/h should be doable, and if I can translate that to the middle limits, I'm fine with that.

I'm a small winner now. I'll continue to improve. I'm okay with that.

(I'm trying to insulate myself from possible attacks of "If you think you'll ever make it as a pro, you're kidding yourself. Therefore you fail this point." The first part of that isn't obvious to me: I think it is possible that I'll make it as a pro. That's what this checklist thing is supposed to determine, anyway. But if the first point is true, then yes, I fail this point.)

9. Visible thinking: thinking through and knowing why you made every play

Yes, I know why I made every play. My reasons might be bad, and we can talk about that, but I did have reasons.

10. Ability to learn from your mistakes

Usually, but not always. I first have to recognize that it's a mistake. Next I have to recognize what I should do instead the next time I'm in that situation. And finally I have to actually do that the next time. Point three is the one that takes willpower, and my results are mixed. I'll give myself a 75% here. I have room for improvement.

11. Obsession with winning

I'm not sure that I agree that this should be on the list. Of course I want to win. But I've trained myself for my entire poker career to look beyond this hand and this session, so on any particular day, to say I have an "obsession" with winning is probably—almost certainly—overstating things.

What Dr.Al might mean by this is enough dedication to winning to spend much time in studying the game. I do read the literature, but I have to say that I don't "study" it, because I don't really know what that means. I never had to do it in school, so I don't know how or what we're talking about, now. That said, there are things I want to do to and with the literature that I haven't done. If I can call that "study," then I might get only a 50–60% grade on this point.

12. Ability to make adjustments based on observations; adapability

Yes. Do I do it enough? Probably not, see point two. But I do adjust my strategy based on my opponents' observed characteristics. I'll give myself a 100% within the limits of my attention span, but if I don't account for that, then it might drop as low as 20%.

As far as this point applies to the long view, I don't have to account or adjust for anything. If people stop playing Holdem and start playing Whackem-Slappem, well, that's what I'll learn, if that's where the fish are. I like being an iconoclast, but I like fish, more. The same is true of the migration over the last year from fish generally playing Limit, to fish generally playing No-Limit. I've been playing a lot of No-Limit to follow them. I suspect other changes of these types, I can and will adjust to as easily.

My overall score on this checklist is probably above 80%, which isn't bad. I wish I didn't fail point two so miserably, but there isn't much I can do about that. (A shrink gave me a free sample of the latest-greatest ADD treatment. I didn't notice an effect, but possibly I had the dose too low. He wanted me to ease into it to find the proper dose. In any case, I didn't notice an effect.)

I don't have anything great to say here now. The checklist doesn't "prove" anything, but I found it interesting, so I wanted to post my response to it. And now I have. Umm, yay?


awesome, thanks for this post, it gave me a great laugh, and i need it. hilarious. you are the poster boy for reasons to not turn pro. a winning player backed by actual data??? here is your data:

tried to be a pro---ended up broke.

turned tricks to make some money, tried to turn pro again---ended up broke.

rinse, repeat . . .

thanks for the laughs
Nice to see that your blog is back!

... Also, I think every poker player struggles with each aspect of that list at one time or another. I know I do.

Anyway, I can't wait to here about your exploits as a poker dealer!

Good Luck!
First off, if you have all the attributes of a winning player, shouldn't your first question be, "Why am I not winning?"

So, lets take your points step by step.

1) Extreme Self Control. Yes, I would agree you are a rock. As long as you play with braindead opponents they may pay you off with TPTK when you hit finally play that pair of pocket aces.

3) Can you admit to your mistakes? Do you still think you played that 57sooooted hand well? Even through massive advice that you did not. Well, you must know more than the entirety of 2+2 afterall, they're merely successful players who may not have the characteristics of a winning player, unlike you.

4) Obnoxious people are welcome at your table? You mean obnoxious people who say things like "slap a turtle and call it thursday" or whatever garbage that was. Thank goodness Gil was with you, or you might've scored, i'm certain.

5) Selective aggression, eh. You were VERY selective in your aggression when you folded the second nut back there. Ni han suh!

6) Its just a bad run sweetie, no worries. Lots of players have bought nice things with their profits and you have to sell your car to move to vegas with that magical ONE THOUSAND dollar bankroll. Don't worry, everyone else is just running well!

7) Always demanding an edge, hmmmm. I've played with you in a game where you were clearly the 6th or 7th best player at the table, not sure where your edge was there. . .

8) The absence of denial or kidding yourself. . . Ho ho ho ha ha ha, are you joking?

9) "Yes, I know why I made every play. My reasons might be bad, and we can talk about that, but I did have reasons." Are any of these reasons mental illness? If so, you may have a worth excuse.

Keep on writing. Whenever I have a bad day, I turn to you and realize I lead a charmed life.
geezus, cut the guy some slack.

keep posting g!!
by all means keep posting, we enjoy good trainwrecks!!!
Here's an idea that has merit for fellas in your boat.

What you do, is after blowing your wad on another hopeless shot at 10/20, you can stroll out to the front entrance of the casino. You can offer a blumpkin to anyone willing to stake you in a cash game and/or a tournament. I suggest this as a way to freeroll, or bonus whore if you will, some valuable time at the casino tables where maybe, along with reading 2+2 and SS2, you can actually improve you game and not lose so much.

Casinos actually allow and encourage this, they have special rooms, called restrooms, where they allow the blumpkin-for-bankroll transaction to occur. Casino Execs are committed to enabling the problem gambler the necessary measures to ensure maximum profits at your expense.

Performing blumpkins before sitting in is also beneficial in that you will be able to concentrate on playing cards instead of talking to other players, as your jaw will be too tired to speak. Some casinos actually let their panhandling customer read at the table instead. You'll have to look into that yourself.

Think about it. Blumpkins are +EV.

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