However, it seemed pretty clear that if I wanted to do well in tournaments, where finishing in the top three once is better than barely finishing in the money 10 to 15 times, I'd have to play more boldly than I had up until that point in my short pro career. I was further encouraged to be more aggressive by a talk given by Matros, Greg Raymer and Russell Rosenblum at last fall's FARGO convention, during which they discussed the importance of taking advantage of even relatively small edges, even if it means risking your tournament life in the process. This is especially true for players like me, less experienced and talented than the best players, who can afford to wait for bigger edges -- who, in other words, need not risk their tournament lives taking only a small edge from far lesser players.
So off I went -- the new Mr. Macho -- and proceeded to land, hard, on my face. (Those who know me personally will tell you that's like bringing coals to Newcastle.) Suddenly, I couldn't win -- or even place or show -- to save my life. During the two-week run-up to the $10,200 WPT tournament at Foxwoods in November, I played in 20 or 30 small-stakes one-table satellites ($125 and $230 buy-ins) and Act IIs ($150 buy-in), and only finished in the top three one time. (I was second, with about a third of the chips, in a $230 buy-in one-table satellite, and eagerly accepted a $700 chop from the chip leader.)
Obviously, something was wrong. But what? As far as I could tell, I was gambling only when the pot odds were in my favor. I wasn't making obvious mistakes -- at least, nothing that was obvious to me -- and people were not taking advantage of any betting patterns. (To be honest, I wasn't lasting long enough most times to exhibit any betting patterns at all.)
I knew it couldn't just be bad luck (could it?), so I guessed that, at this stage of my development, I was not suited to carry off an aggressive style of play. (Not the right temperament? An inability to follow through properly?) So I decided to back off. First, I avoided the bigger buy-in satellites ($500 and $1,000), even though I had done well in those in Vegas back in May when I was just starting out. I also resisted the urge to buy in to some of the $1,000 and $2,000 preliminary tournaments. Then I cut back on the small-stakes one-table tournaments.
Then I started playing in very small stakes tournaments ($60) at a quasi-illegal New York City club.
Nothing worked. I kept losing -- three small stakes tournaments in a row without making it to the back half of the field. At which point, frustration turned into ...
Some would claim, of course, that anger is just another form of denial -- or some kind of emotional cover-up. One does not wish to accept responsibility for one's own failures, so one gets angry at the perceived (really, misperceived) cause.
I can dig it. But actually, I was angry at myself. To break my streak, I tried a few "editors-only" free-roll tournaments. Nothing, nothing and nothing, even though most of the other players in these tournaments barely knew which hands beat which ... and, in point of fact, didn't even care. I was beginning to feel ...