In this Gutshot guest blog, we have prolific online player Vikram Jeet Singh talking about the trials and tribulations of becoming a wiser player over his decade long journey in the world of poker:
“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” – Seneca
It had started, a three-minute delay countdown that I had set in my OBS streaming software for the first ever Soorma11 poker stream on Twitch. It was midsession, so the music was already banging, the bare minimum widgets like ‘chat’, ‘webcam’, ‘display capture’, ‘microphone’ had already been tested multiple times in test-streams but for some reason the delay caught me off guard. I had already told some friends that the twitch stream was about to launch into orbit, so I knew there’d be at least one-viewer from the get go, still though, there being a delay in the stream going ‘live’ and it being the first stream, not knowing if it actually would, or some unanticipated server issue would cause everything to crash…it all caught me off my game.
‘Legendary league of awkward twitch moment achievement’ UNLOCKED.
Slowly, I got better at it. Practice makes perfect, aren’t I right? Hey, even a Greek Philosopher agrees with me on that.
Anyways, it’s all easy once you get over the odd blunder here or there, and you know that most of the actions you are taking are wise, get over that hurdle of shipping a tournament on live stream, the stuff gets chill.
However, the excitement of streaming, getting followers was at that point not as important to me compared to the higher degree of focus required on the tables to not get distracted off your game. You have never played live poker if you fear pulling off a bluff just in case you get looked up and feel embarrassed so that part was never an issue, but a motivator.
What slowly started creeping in though was the fact that I am giving away information about my game, the broader strategy that I deploy and not that I was some benchmark of perfect strategy, but still, here I was giving away knowledge I had acquired through investment in both time and money, either by myself or those before me who had ‘invented the wheel’ figurately speaking.
Then again, there was the evidence to the contradictory, a lot of players much better than me, playing higher stakes, giving away a higher quality of advice didn’t seem to have this apprehension (Well some still do.)
What I realized was that watching a stream, even from the perspective of learning some new tactics or broader strategies is a highly inefficient way to learn. If someone is using a youtube 30-minute highlight reel or a full stream to learn or pick up tells on a player or the broader strategy, they are not going to get too far.
To win in poker, you must work harder than Hulk Hogan’s ‘seam stress’ if you know what I mean.
The dude went out to perform on a weekly basis for decades and tore his top off literally every time. Sure, he must have had tons of them, but in principle, you see what I am trying to get at?
Tournament Poker is a game of applied mathematics that form the fundamentals of the game but where, when and how to use those fundamentals changes according to the player pool and shifts in the average knowledge your opponent has access to.
There are positions in NLHE with the widest ranges being utilized, don’t you want to know how to counter those tactical ranges? I could go on about strategy but in the end, if you are able to play solid poker, and cut out un-forced errors to borrow the term from tennis, then you will be able to beat most opponents. Too many times I have seen players lamenting a bad beat for the reason they finished 5th 6th or 10th. They almost never go back and look at the ‘spewy’ losing plays they made sometime earlier in the tournament and in fact it is those mistakes that are hurting them in the long run. It is preventing them from scrutinizing the Quality of a decision compared to the Outcome, or what is generally known in poker as a ‘Results Oriented’ bias.
The more you eliminate those crucial errors, via coaching, becoming a part of a group of players dedicated to winning, or if you have the talent, just by analysing your game yourself (there is plenty of statistical data available now – but again this would be somewhat counter-productive without augmenting it with ‘peer-review’ which only comes through coaching or two or more minds coming together and analysing the situation) the more consistent you will become at beating Poker and therefore achieving much better results in the long run by overcoming variance that hits you hardest on the Final Tables by simply increasing your frequency of deeper runs.
Un-forced errors weren’t enough, I will borrow another analogy from the tennis world. It is one of the most prominent sports where the coach and the family are always in the stands, cheering on their player. At least, the sport with the most blatant show of such support that is not from fans.
Moral support, reviewed validation and correction of your game, a unit of like minded people who take poker seriously are just the bare minimum you need. Then comes the hard part of making sure whatever you learn, you deploy in your game and then after a decent sample size, look at your stats to see if you really put the work into improving or are you just one of those people who thinks whatever they learned and discussed for an hour is going to stick with them forever without putting in conscious effort to eradicate habits – a pattern of behaviour very hard to change.
Poker is a game of math and it really takes logging in millions of hands, sifting through tens and thousands of them, and only then can you can rightfully say “yep I worked hard, and the improvement can be empirically verified.”
When I started to approach the game in this manner, apprehensions about streaming or players improving in general or finding exploits in my game were gone because the next stream I will have a drastically reduced frequency of that exploit whether it was due to it being a leak or just that the application of the strategies shifting, and yes, it can happen in less than a week.
Why am I so sure of not being outplayed in the long run? Not because I aim to play perfect poker, I still have no idea what some random villain from the Button raised to 5x with? Does he have AK or K7? Nor do I approach the game in this fashion but approach it instead with the belief in the work I put in and constant desire to be on the frontier of a winning strategy based on solid fundamentals. Moreover, the typical nonchalant attitude I have observed most players have toward coaching, I know they are just not going to work as hard as I do and except for some small bouts of enthusiasm, they will mostly default to their usual patterns and one of them being – not having enough money to invest in coaching.
Poker players who want to learn know that if money is the problem then all you have to do is drop stakes, and then use the extra funds and invest in improving your game. That sounds much more logical than playing games you can’t beat, don’t have the Bankroll to beat nor the funds to invest in learning how to beat them. Why don’t you sell a pack of tournaments 4 weeks from now and have the investors 80/20 (the typical deal we see) back you for coaching for the 3 weeks and then play. I bet you never thought of that and I can bet you, you wouldn’t bet that.
Just as I finish this article this happened. I am not even kidding. This hand will be the least looked at hand the next time I get coached: https://www.boomplayer.com/en-IN/27605469_0181321C9D
Again, The quality of the decision out-weighs it’s outcome. Seneca, the same Greek philosopher also said that he’d rather spend each day giving several pieces of gold a day to a person who provides him with values and virtues, than waste time on someone who doesn’t ask for any money but takes up that valuable time. The essence being, money can be earned back, time, on the other hand, cannot.
About the author:
Hi, I am Vikram Jeet Singh. Been grinding online poker for over a decade. I love this game. Strive to be the best at it and work hard to realize that aim. Speaking solely from a Tournament Poker context, I have had a multitude of highlight wins including 2nd in a SCOOP 2018 Event. I have serially won on Indian sites with success in major series like the IOPC 2018 which included 2/2 High Roller Final Tables in both NLHE and PLO. My live MTT sample in India is 2 Final tables in 5 events. These days you will find me on both cash and MTT tables as NeuroScientist and Prison M!ke.
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