As an experiment last week, I announced upon sitting down to play poker that I had a hard stop four hours later. I set the alarm on my phone and explained that when it went off, that would be my last hand for the night.
In recent months, a recurring theme has been the deterioration of my play after about four or five hours. Things are going well, then for whatever reason – tired, irritated, bad beat, cooler, card dead, impatience, distraction – it all goes to hell in a handbasket with costly and unnecessary mistakes.
I’ve searched for the reasons for this leak and think being tired is probably numero uno. Call me Captain Obvious, but I’m not as young as I used to be. Various tactics to boost my energy – caffeine, breaks, stretching, naps before playing – haven’t been particularly effective past the 4-5 hour mark.
So I simply set a hard stop and stuck to it, in four separate poker sessions. It actually felt liberating, in the sense of having fewer things to worry about. I didn’t have to worry about making a bad quitting decision later in the session. I didn’t have to worry about another repeat of a good session gone bad.
Last night’s variation was different, as I set a timer to go off in 20 more minutes, already an hour into a late night online poker session. Two minutes before the bell, my KK got into a 4-way all-in pre-flop with AdKd, AhTc and 6s6h. The board ran out Td Qh 4h – 4d – Jc, making a Broadway straight for the villain with Ace-King suited. Sigh.
Two hands later, I quit. That decision had already been made.
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