I wrote a blog entry last week telling about my endless downswing, possibly sounding a little emo. Progress since then: I didn't play before Sunday, and on Sunday I played all majors, ft bubbled one and got bad beated for cl pots with less than 100 left in four other tourneys with 40k+ first, resulting in a -4k Sunday. That was my best Sunday in a looooooooong time. I haven't played a day since.
I've been trying to think about all this lately, to maybe come up with solutions, or at least with new weapons to tackle the situation (to learn about the situation, see my previous entry). I have yet to come up with a solution, but there's a thought that's come to my head recently that I want to write about.
I think there's a good chance that I'm on the verge of burning out.
I have played poker professionally for over four years now, for most of my adulthood. I've always been pretty obsessed with it, I've always put on more volume that almost anyone I know. I've always put it ahead of relationships, family, everything. I've been a good student, and outside the 60 hours a week I've spent playing I've also probably spent 5-10 studying. Poker has been with me everywhere I've gone to. If I'm alone somewhere, say on a bus or airplane, it's a rare thing my first random thoughts aren't poker related.
In the last year or so I've pursued this thing harder than ever. I've previously written about how I went entirely broke in late 2009, making me stop my entire cash game career and switch to MTTs. Before that I didn't really have bankroll management or anything like that, but going through the pain of hitting the absolute rock bottom made me a huge bankroll nit. From then on I always put money before success, bankroll management before taking shots, and took every possible precaution to never ever go broke again. For the next couple of years poker was just a job to me, I simply grinded because I was making good money, and I played with a bankroll of an absurd amount of average buy-ins and never really tried to take my chances at the highest buy-ins.
Exactly a year ago I was faced with an opportunity to try my luck at higher stakes getting guidance from someone much better than me. It was what I wanted, I was getting a bit bored at being stuck at the $60 ABI level, even that I was up 200k from the last 1,5 years. I wanted to pursue becoming one of the best, not just one of those guys making six figs a year taking money from the fish at mid-stakes. I wanted to feel pride for what I do.
When we started with my mentor/backer I made it clear that my motivation in this was to pursue the highest stakes and to become elite at MTTs. Many people asked me why I got backed, it made virtually no sense since I had enough money to play on my own and was doing well for myself. I'm going to tell you what I told them, and what was 100% the truth - I did it one hundred percent to improve. I was fully aware that my hourly rate would drop since I had to give half of my winnings away, and I knew that it wouldn't happen fast. But I really thought it would happen.
The first few months were really tough. I took really tough beats for huge equities late in live tournaments, and I had a bad online downer (although compared to what's been going on lately this was a piece of cake). Then in November pieces started clicking together and I had a 100k month, built from tons of 10-20k scores here and there. After this I was pretty sure I would just rape everyone this year, and I made a humble yearly goal of winning 250k.
During this whole time I've both grinded and worked towards my goal of getting better and winning a lot of money tirelessly. I've already played more tournaments this year than I played in the whole last year and it's only August. I've played so fucking much. I've done hand history reviews, watched videos, had long theoretical conversations, posted hands, yadda yadda bla bla bla for such a crazy amount of time it's not even real.
I got really obsessed with the PocketFives rankings too, as I made the #1 spot for Finland last December for the first time and then lost it early this year. I really really wanted to get it back and played extra hours just to get there. I wanted to win a triple crown too, just to have that stupid badge, and played more extra hours whenever I had the chance of winning it, and it took me 15 attempts and about 100 extra hours on the felt playing meaningless early morning tournaments to finally bink it last month.
I'm not even going to try to pretend that I'd have played my A-game the whole time. I've had obsessive stretches where I've played 12 hour sessions every day for weeks, I've played on days when I knew it was a really bad idea to play because I was tired/tilted, I've played poorly for a variety of reasons. If I had been more humble with my goals and hadn't pursued them mindlessly I'm sure I'd be in much less make-up.
And then there are the live tournaments. Oh, the fucking live tournaments. For my entire career up until this year I've been doing pretty well in them. But ever since we started, coincidental or not, I've just lost and lost and lost in them. I'm not sure how much it's affected the overall picture, but I'm sure at least a little bit. I must say that I love live tournaments much more than I love online poker, and I have never not played my best wherever I've been playing live. But obviously when you drop 20k on some EPT trip it takes its toll mentally for your online game (even that it shouldn't), because all of a sudden you have to work three weeks just to catch up with that 5-day trip.
In a nutshell, I've just worked way too much. I haven't rested, I haven't taken breaks, I haven't played feeling good and revitalized for an absolute eternity. In normal jobs people have something like 150 off days a year, when I've had maybe 15-20 percent of that in the last few years. And for what reward? A
six-figure make-up that doesn't seem to be going anywhere and is just
getting worse every session.
I've always loved poker. Not just loved like everyone loves it because it's a great game, but loved it in an obsessive way. Every day I've taken off I've missed it dearly, and every time when I've been starting a session I've been pumped, like ridiculously PUMPED to get it going. I've loved all the tournaments I've played, the whole thing. It's just been one of the most precious things in my life, my treasure.
The last couple of weeks have been really weird, because I haven't even felt like playing. I guess this is normal for a lot of people, but not for me. I ALWAYS want to play poker. I have never experienced these feelings since I first played poker in 2007. All of last week I really didn't want to play until it was Sunday and I got a bit excited for majors. I think I played really good for the first 6-7 hours building stacks everywhere (pretty sure I'd never even been deep in so many majors at the same time), but once the endless late-game beats started I could feel myself slowly letting go again. By the end of the session I was just really happy and relieved that I didn't have to play, and haven't felt the slightest of needs to play ever since. I have no idea if I'll play before next Sunday, but I doubt it. I know it's bad in a make-up situation like mine, but I really need to learn to take care of myself better and choose to play only when I feel like it. Fuck PocketFives rankings, I'm not even going to look how far I've slipped from the top spot. Yes to mental health.
A funny thing happened a few days back. I was having one of these pointless off days when I didn't really do anything at all, but didn't play either because I didn't want to. It was like 2AM, and I didn't have anything to do. I just entirely randomly went to our local casino and played 2/2 NL for a couple of hours. This was the first time I've played live cash in Helsinki in approximately four years. I didn't go there to win (or lose), I didn't go there to work. I just wanted to play live poker, because live poker is fucking awesome and I felt like socializing with other sleepless people.
I didn't know a soul at the table, but I chatted with a couple of guys and just had fun. I don't even remember if I won or lost and it's not important at all. I doubt I'll be going back for another four years, but I thought this was an encouraging experience - I actually enjoyed myself. If I could play live poker 24/7 and somehow be rolled for it I'm sure I'd never burn out.
Another encouraging experience happened to me just now, when I noticed a PM from a CardRunners member thanking me for my videos saying they had helped him a lot and that he just had his record month online. When I think about it objectively, I still think I make really good videos, and I've always been good at analysing hands on paper. I don't think the skill has gone anywhere, and I don't doubt that I still have it in me to win whatever I want to, but I just don't have it in me at the moment to function properly when I play. I'm just too burnt out from playing, and simply should not be playing until I feel better. (I still love making videos though, so I'm going to do a couple of interesting ones this week I think).
This week feels pretty stupid already, because the weather in Finland is getting shit, there's nothing to do yet I still don't want to play. I strongly believe things will take a turn for the better in a couple of weeks when I have some friends from abroad coming over for a week of general debauchery. I'm sure we'll be getting drunk a lot and playing a few fun-filled sessions. They are all much more successful than me, so I can only learn from them, and some fun social grinding might be exactly what I need at the moment. I'm just so tired of being stuck in this room, alone in the dark of the night, clicking buttons (losing) having no one to talk to.
When my friends leave early September I'm leaving too, for the Unibet Open London and then WPT Malta. After that I'm going to stay in Malta with friends until the end of WCOOP. I'm aiming to play a decent amount of live, and every time I play online I'm going to have people around me. This is something I'm already looking forward to, even that I'm not (yet) really looking forward to the actual playing online part. I think a big part of my burning out has something to do with being in this alone, always playing alone, never making it a fun, careless thing. I have a really nice group of people on Skype who I talk to during sessions, and while it's kind of great since they are all really positive fellas, it's also a bit sad because many of these people grind together and always maintain a positive attitude, whereas I always find myself playing alone feeling depressed. I can't wait to join all the weed heads to get in the right mood from the start.
Side note: I've played alone for about 98% of my lifetime Sunday sessions. The four biggest scores I've had in my life, I've had someone with me on a live trip or by chance at home.
And with that, I'm off to the couch to watch Breaking Bad.