Thursday, 25 October 2012

Disaster mode

Hi everyone!

By the title of this post you can guess that things are not going great poker-wise. Unfortunately for me (fortunately for my opponents), yesterday I had my worst day in terms of money loss and a pretty bad one if you look at it from a buy-ins point of view. I lost around 35 buy-ins (calculating with the average stake cause I was mixing up $37s and $74s) which is better than my worst day ever (-60 buy-ins), but still... Pretty bad! Here's the graph:

The outcome? A devastating score of -$1942. Ouch and ouch again. In the past I think I've talked about how playing in dollars puts a bit of a distance between me and the money. And that's a good thing, really. Since the currency I've been using  most of my life is the euro (okay, I was also using greek drachmas before that but that's soooooo far back in the past!), dollars do not immediately translate into money in my head. I mean, I know it's money, but knowing that it's not the same amount in euros makes me see it more as chips that I can convert into euros and therefore money. Until that translation is made and specifically calculated down to the very last cent, I feel like I have a veil of protection around me that shields me from the truth. Since one euro is worth more than one dollar (at least right now it is!), when I see myself losing I always have the semi-comforting thought of "Ok, calm down, it's not as bad in euros as it seems". 

So yesterday, when I was playing and felt that I was losing quite a bit, I sharkscoped my results before finishing my session so that I know how big the damage was. And good thing I did that, cause I still had one more hour to go for that session and if I hadn't stopped things could have been far worse. I stopped opening tables and when I got the final result of -$1942 I felt an urge to convert it and see how much it is in euros. Stupid me, I know. With the current conversion rates, that's 1493 euros. And then it hit me. After I saw the number, the next couple of breaths were hard to take in. Have you heard of the expression "breathless"? That's exactly what I'm talking about! I don't know about you, but that is quite a bit more than what my monthly salary has ever been in any non-poker related job I've ever had. 

There's really no use in crying over spilt milk, so I tried to calm myself down and go on with my day. I informed André over the phone about my "accomplishment" and let him know that I wouldn't be playing the last hour of my session. Instead, I opened youtube and watched some of those time-spending and mostly pointless videos that do, however, make me feel good cause I don't think about my problems or my life in general. When the time came, I closed everything, locked the office and got into my car to drive to my school of dance. It's a 30 minute drive, during which I put the music louder than usual and forced myself to sing along even though I didn't particularly feel like singing. I also enjoy driving so that helped too. By the time I got to the school, I was feeling significantly better. I caught myself thinking about poker while dancing, which normally doesn't happen, but my thoughts were more like "Wow, I lost in one day more than I used to make per month and now I'm here dancing and being sort of cool about it. Is there something wrong with me?"

You see, part of me still thinks like my old self back to when I had only heard of poker but didn't even know how to play or have any notion of the money involved in it. To that part of me, it makes no sense to be losing  1,5k euros in a day and be cool about it. The logical reaction would be to freak out. And then there's the other part of me, that comprehends swings and plays and variance and skill (or the lack of it) and sees the loss of that amount of money as something not only acceptable, but a necessary part of the process

Last night, sleep didn't come as easily, I'm not gonna lie about it. But I woke up feeling fine today and most importantly I'm ready to go back to the tables immediately. For someone whose worst fear in poker is to not be able to deal with the emotional part it involves, I think I'm doing a pretty good job actually. If someone told me back in February that I was starting to play the hypers, that I would lose such an amount of money and be ok with it, I'd call them a liar and a pretty bad one. Today, I put it behind me and move on. So there's some sort of progress in it I suppose...

Anyway, moving on to what happens now... I obviously can't go on playing the $74s cause I am not rolled for them anymore, so... Bye-bye $74s for now and see you again soon (I hope)! I can play up to the $37s though, where apart from yesterday's bad day I have been doing ok. André says that I'm still not at the level I was before I left for Greece in September and since I haven't been able to 6-table much lately (oh, I miss the traffic of the WCOOP!), coaching has been progressing a looooot slower than usual. For today, the plan is to play $3s and $7s not because I can't or shouldn't play higher, but because there's more traffic at those stakes and I'll get more material to review after. André says that he has spotted what I do wrong, so let's see if he can help me get back to my A game soon.

Apart from that... After a couple of weeks of the schedule I described in my previous post, it became crystal clear that I cannot keep going on a regular basis with only one free day per week. Not because my weekdays were too busy, they were softer than what I'm used to overall, but because one free day per week is simply not enough. No, I'm not a party animal and I don't want all the free time of the world for myself. It's just that out of the two free days that most people have, I believe one goes to running errands, cleaning the house, going to the supermarket, and organizing your life (whether it's backing up the files on your computer or something else you need to do, the point is it's not necessarily a fun activity and you don't have time to do during the week). The other day is spent with family and friends. It doesn't have to be as linear and that, people obviously do the laundry and go out for a dinner in the same day, but everyone has some time attributed to both of those sort of things. So with one day only... What do I do? Spent some quality time with my boyfriend? Go out with some friends? Or tidy around the house? And then, every now and then, don't we all need a day were we do nothing at all?

No, no, two free days need to be a standard thing in my life no matter what. I talked with André about it, told him that if he couldn't figure out a way to improve my schedule I would probably go insane and being the great problem-solver that he is, he came up with a solution. It's as simple as not really having time for breakfast, but getting my breakfast while doing our morning coaching. Which, starts at 9:00 a.m. now. I have to wake up a bit earlier compared to my previous schedule, but whatever. It really doesn't bother me to wake up earlier and it makes a world of difference to get an extra day for me. So, I still work/study 40 hours per week, do my exercise and everyone's happy! :)

Oh, I have one last piece of news for you guys... André asks me from time to time to participate in his videos. My typical reply is "no" cause I'm not particularly fond of being in front of the cameras  (I get nervous) and he's the Pokerstars sponsored player and therefore the one that people want to see, not me. I broke the rule of participating in his videos only twice. The first one was when they were making a team Online video about him and they needed short interviews from friends. It doesn't make much sense for friends to appear in the video but the girlfriend that lives with him to be absent, so I went with it. Plus, they had a crew fly to Portugal all the way from the United States, so I felt bad playing it a diva (which I'm not) and refusing to participate.
The second occasion was during the Micro-Millions challenge that he did. I made a post about what I was going through during that time and he had the idea of me making a video of it. Again, I was not very keen on doing it and refused several times before agreeing (if you were watching the challenge you know that André was not in great physical shape back then due to lack of sleep so it was harder for me to keep saying no to him about anything).

When a couple of weeks ago he came to me saying that he had an idea about a video that would promote the new Pokerstars mobile application, my first reaction was "Forget it, enough is enough already!". He went straight to counterattack saying "There's a shopping budget for you involved". Not losing time to think I said "Okay, what's the plan and when do we start?" :D I am a girl after all, and the word "shopping" brings a sweet melody to my ears. Especially if he's the one offering to go shopping with me (I usually have to drag him along).

This video I actually kind of enjoyed doing. Yeah, there was the usual awkward nervousness in front of the camera, plus tons of people staring at us cause we were filming in some of the busiest streets of Lisbon, but apart from that it was fun. And more importantly, I brought back home some goodies:

The video is not uploaded yet, but it will be soon so look out for it. For those of you that will be feeling bad for André after you watch it, let me remind you what I've been through during the Micro-Millions and let's just call this payback time! Heheh! :P

See you guys at the tables!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

WCOOP recap and plans for October

Hello again!

I know this post comes a bit late , but I haven't really said anything about my poker progress lately so I thought I'd update you guys.

As I wrote in my previous post, I only played the first two weeks of the WCOOP. But even those two weeks were enough to give a nice boost to my bankroll. Actually, I've never had that much money in my Pokerstars account before. Here is my graph for the month of September:

My total profit was $4,827 which makes September 2012 my best month so far. Somewhere along the way I think I also broke my record per day in terms of buy-ins but I was too busy playing at the tables to stop and make a post about it...

Now here comes the best part. In a previous post I talked about my current bankroll management. When the WCOOP started, I was playing the $7s and the $18s. However, since I was on a good run and improving I reached the next "step" of my bankroll plan pretty fast. And that included playing $35s. André let me mix in some $55s cause they seemed to get more traffic, but suddenly the $7s were history! I quickly made Platinum for the next month and got some of the VIP bonuses along the way. You just cannot beat free money, there's no deal better than that! 

Since the VPPs were flowing into my account a lot faster than before and my bankroll was continuing to grow (almost reaching the next step of my bankroll management), André put me playing some FPPs hypers that are equivalent to the $74s. Since you only pay with FPPs and not real money, those tournaments get less traffic than the regular ones. The good thing about them though is that they are also a lot softer than the regular $74s. I'll admit that the first time I started playing stakes that were so high, I was very intimidated. And I'm not just talking about the regular nervousness of moving up a level. I mean, I've always been a micro-stakes player so far. It's hard to put in my head that I went up to play the $74s...

Fortunately for me, things kept going well. Shortly, I was not only playing the 4.500 FPPS but the regular $74s as well. Winning money at the $74s was a huge confidence boost apart from everything else. At that point, I had my trip to Greece so I did not fully benefit from the extra traffic due to the WCOOP tourneys, but oh well! I'm very happy with how it went! The only misfortune was that what I had planned to be a 10 days trip ended up lasting until the end of the month because I got sick. That took me back quite a bit, not only because I lost one week where I could be playing, but because staying more time away from the tables made me forget certain things and be out of poker shape.

Now I'm back, batteries fully charged and feeling much better physically than when I left! Last weekend André and I attended some Magic: The Gathering tournaments and that was fun, but from Monday we got back to business. Since the doctor made it crystal-clear that staying in front of the computer more than two hours straight is a no-no, we had to readjust my schedule. The final version is something like this:

9.30-10.00: Wake up
10.00-11.00:  Breakfast/ Getting ready
11.00-13.00: Work
13.00-13.30: Lunch
13.30-15.00: Work
15.00-15.30: Break
16.00-18.00: Work
18.30-20.30: Dancing lessons
21.30: Dinner

What is mentioned as work refers to either playing or having coaching with André. It depends on where his and my schedule combine but the general idea is that I get 2-4 hours of coaching per day. You may think this is a rather soft schedule right? Hold on a bit cause there's a catch: I only get one free day per week. That's right. No more weekends (or in my case Friday-Saturdays cause I always had to play on a Sunday). From now one it's one day off only. I'm not crazy about that and I don't know for how long I can take it, but I couldn't come up with a better schedule that satisfies all of the following parameters: working around 40h/week, doing exercise on a daily basis, sleeping 8-9 hours, getting one hour of massage per week. Combining all the above and getting two days off on a weekly basis seems impossible. If you come up with a better idea, please let me know cause I couldn't think of anything. I just can't have it all and the only thing that I can afford to sacrifice right now is my time off. Not my work and definitely not my exercise that contributes a lot to my good health. Oh, I forgot to mention that Sundays deviate from this schedule, it's practically play two hours, have a half hour break, play two hours, have a half hour break... And so on until I've played 8-10 hours total.

I'm already following the new diet that my nutritionist gave me and today is the first day that I'll be going back to doing exercise. I'm not fully used to the change of lifestyle yet, but I think that will come with time. If only I could figure out a way to have 2 days off per week... My life would be perfect! :P

Anyway, as far as poker is concerned I'm doing ok although I'm still quite rusty. During the first week after I came back from Greece André put me playing the $3s and the $7s again. This week I moved back to my "normal" stakes, or at least the ones that my bankroll dictates that I should be playing... Which is from the $18s all the way up to the $74s. 

Now that it's not a SCOOP or WCOOP month, I'm working with the regular Pokerstars schedule. They have tons of tournaments, which on one hand is good cause there's almost always something that you can play but on the other hand... Planning a two-hour session can be a nightmare. Especially if you are playing multiple stakes. You basically need to keep track of when every tournament that you win entries to is starting so that you can unregister on time. Which is no easy task, you can take my word for it. So far I've been trying this out for 3 days and I already played 2 MTTs that I wasn't planning to... Not to mention my super blunder of registering to a $357 tournament! Yeah, you read that one right! Three digits tourney (not only that, but also the highest one you can play on a regular basis on Stars!). How did that happen? 

Let me explain this to you so you can learn from my mistake and not do the same. So, there I was in the middle of my session having disabled the $37.50s from TableNinja cause the tourney they were feeding was about to start. I unregistered from the MMT and a bit latter when I assumed that the tourney had already started, I wanted to check if there were more $37.50s running. So while TableNinja was running (attention, this is the key phrase here!), I typed the numbers 3 and 7 in the PokerStars filter. Surely, the first tourney that appeared containing those numbers was a $357 (and not the $37 that I had in mind). Good old TableNinja registered me to it and before I had time to blink, the tourney started and popped up in front of me. You see, not only was I ignorant enough to not fully understand how TableNinja works, but I was also unlucky enough to be the 6th and last person registering at the $357. Lesson learnt: TableNinja does not control what it registers you to, it only controls the filters. If you mess with the filters while it's running a session, then you will be registered to whatever appears first in the Pokerstars lobby. And good luck with that.

Fortunately, my luck was good for two reasons: Jorj95 was not playing (he's only the best player in the world at the hypers, duh!) and when I reached the bubble I was up against an opponent that I recognized from the $74s. After a lot of all-ins and tossing chips back and forth which, may I add, is not very good for your blood pressure, I ended up winning the thing. Which was great cause otherwise I don't know how I could forgive myself the stupidity of throwing $357 out the window. Really.

Anyway, all is well that ends well. Hm, ok, maybe it hasn't exactly ended cause I still haven't got the hang of it and I'm struggling a ton with what I play, what I don't play, where to unregister, what filters to disable, which ones to enable and so on... I think that I should make a written plan of what tourney starts when, otherwise I may keep struggling forever... But before I go, I want to show you guys the graph of the last three days that I've been playing the $18s+. Here it is:

I'm losing $462, which if you consider that my average buy-in is like $28 (always according to sharkscope) it's like 16 buy-ins negative. I just got to keep things in perspective cause $426 sounds like a lot of money to lose in 3 days and I don't want to go crazy! 16 buy-ins is fine, can't even be called a downswing and I know that I'm not playing as well as I was a month ago. So, for the rest of October I need to get used to my new schedule and work a lot on improving!

If you have any thoughts you would like to share with me or you can figure out a way for me to get 2 days off per week, I'll be glad to read it in the comments below! :)

Until the next time... See you at the tables!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


I know, I know. It's been one month since I last wrote a post and considering that September was the month of the WCOOP it's rather strange that I gave you guys no news. But I have a good excuse this time.

It all started around three weeks ago, on September 12th. The WCOOP had been going awesome until that point, much better than I could have hoped for. I wouldn't be playing until the end of the WCOOP because I had a trip planned to Greece on the 13th, but I was very satisfied with my progress that far.

I woke up that Wednesday having everything planned. I had to run some errands and make some final preparations before my trip, write a blog post about my progress at the WCOOP and then I'd be ready to leave the next day! Greece, here I come!

Lisbon view from above!

However, sometimes things go in a different way than what we had planned. As soon as I got my feet on the floor to get off the bed, I realized that the whole room around me was spinning. I don't know if you guys have ever experienced vertigo, but for me that was definitely a first. Unlike what some people think, vertigo is not the same as being dizzy. Dizziness is something very common and I'm pretty sure all of us know what it feels like. My best description would be the feeling you have after being on a merry-go-round. You feel a bit disoriented, but that's it and it goes away fast. Vertigo has nothing to do with that. Later on I found out that there are different kinds of vertigo, but the one I was experiencing was the one where you feel like your body is perfectly still and everything else is moving fast around you. You try to look straight ahead and focus on something but it's impossible. Naturally, you lose your balance and walking or standing suddenly gets hard.

To help stop the vertigo I closed my eyes (they could not focus on a single object anyway), and then put both of my hands over them. Complete darkness seemed to be making things better and after some seconds the vertigo went away. Unfortunately, my adventures were far from being over. Simple things like going to the kitchen or sitting on a chair would trigger a vertigo. André, who woke up the same time as me told me to just lay down until I felt a bit better. Even that was no easy task, because when I switched from one side to the other, the whole room came spinning after me. André has had some similar issues in the past (only a couple of times though), and it always seemed to go away after a day. I cancelled everything I had to do that day and decided that I'd stay in bed in order to get better.

The next day I woke up really early. André was still asleep. Momentarily, and since I wasn't fully awake, I forgot about my condition and tried to get out of bed. Vertigo again. When I realized that it was the second day that was happening and there was no improvement whatsoever, I started panicking. I slowly got out of bed and went to the guest room. I found some books to keep myself busy, laid on the sofa being perfectly still and waited for André to wake up. When I heard him going to the kitchen, I stood up to go meet him but I lost my balance and had to hold on to the wall to not fall on the floor. I remember that moment very vividly and I was very very scared cause I had no idea what was wrong with me.

André took me to the nearest hospital. There after seeing a general doctor, I was sent to an otolaryngologist (ENT for short). He barely examined me and then decided that the problem was with my inner ear, which is the part of our bodies that controls balance and hearing. He said it was nothing to worry about and it's not anything serious (as in life-threatening), it only has impact on the everyday life of the person. What was that supposed to mean? That I would have to put up with vertigo forever? Apart from all the rest, I was worried about getting on a plane. What if it triggered the vertigo and I had no control over it since it wouldn't be up to me to stay still? The doctor assured me that there was no problem and gave me two pills to take before going on board. He also gave me another set of pills to control the vertigo, that I was supposed to take every 8 hours during my entire stay in Greece. And last, but not least, he gave me a list of exams that I was supposed to do immediately after coming back.

Needless to say, I left the hospital feeling more confused than when I went in. I took all the pills like I was told to, and eventually I got on the plane even though I was scared sh**less of what might happen. Fortunately all went well and I arrived in Athens without any more episodes. By that time, I was more familiar with my condition so I was moving more slowly and avoiding any abrupt moves of the head that could cause vertigo.

I was supposed to stay in Athens for little over a week. More than half of that time I spent visiting doctors, doing medical exams or staying in my house cause I couldn't really go out. Apart from the vertigo that was very persistent and still there a week after it first appeared, my psychology was, uum, let's just say not great.

If there's one thing I can't complain about, that's lack of medication.

To cut a long story short, the ENT (the new one I visited in Greece), the ophthalmologist, the orthopedist, and all my exams were pointing to the same direction: my problem was my neck! What caused it? The simplest thing you can imagine: bad position when sitting on a chair for many hours. Basically, if your spine is not at the optimal position for a long time, things start going bad. What happened to me specifically was that the muscles located at the back of my neck and my upper back started being sore and developed an inflammation. Somewhere among all that, the blood vessels could not transfer blood to the brain the same way they do under normal conditions, so my inner ear was not getting enough oxygen, started malfunctioning and caused the vertigo. At least that's the explanation that doctors gave me. 

My medication got changed to muscle relaxants and I slowly (but steadily) started improving. The orthopedist also gave me stretching exercises that I need to do 1-2 minutes per day or when I sit in front of a computer and feel like I need to move. I extended my stay in Greece for one more week. I had barely spent any quality time with my family and I was not going to get back to work if I went back to Portugal anyway. The follow-up visit to my ENT went well and when I finally got that plane to come back last Saturday I was almost completely cured. I think Sunday was my first day without a vertigo episode. Overall, it lasted 2,5 weeks. Now I'm feeling great. I only get slightly dizzy when I tilt my head back, but I'm pretty sure that will also go away until the end of the week. My doctor said that I can go back to doing physical exercise after October 10th, so things are finally going back to normal.

What is most interesting about this story is that I never felt any pain. My neck and muscles (that were the source of the problem) felt completely normal and did not hurt at all. I had no headaches of any kind, no dizziness, nothing that would indicate that something was wrong. I went to bed feeling perfectly fine on one day and woke up a mess on the next. I never saw it coming.

This experience was a wake up call. Working hard is fine as long as it does not endanger our health. I know for a fact that lately I have been working so much on improving at poker, that 8-10 hours in front of the computer seemed like a natural thing to me. It's not. I had to learn the hard way that even if your brain is resting when you stop opening tables and go to facebook or send some mails, your body is not. And now it's time for changes.

The first thing to change is my chair. The one I was using was not cheap and André got into a lot of trouble to get it for me. I had been using it at my previous job that involved a lot of typing and found it comfortable. Turns out, if you are playing poker and mostly use the mouse you tend to get a more relaxed position on the chair and the one I had is simply not good for that. After all that happened, I'm never going to place my butt on that chair again. I'm currently trying out one of André's old chairs, but I'm also on the hunt for a new one. If you have any suggestions, I'll be very happy to hear them.

As you can see, we take chair-testing very seriously... Let me introduce you from left to right: Chair I'm currently testing, chair that caused the vertigo, ok-ish chair, André's current chair.

Secondly, I need to change my schedule. According to the doctors, more than one or two consecutive hours in front of the computer is not acceptable. End of story. There's no excuse for anyone, not MTT players who get a 5 minute break every hour, let alone for SNG grinders who can stop opening tables whenever they feel like it. The ideal thing is to have 2-hour sessions with 30 minutes break in between. Half an hour may sound like a lot to some of you, but considering what happened, I'd rather be generous with time for my breaks. Also, I need to include exercise in my life. Last year, I was going to the gym. Guess what, I hate the gym. I find it extremely boring, which is why I ended up not going most of the time. I cancelled my subscription last month. Last Easter I found a nice dancing school to which I registered, but with poker and all I never really had time to go even though it's something I enjoy doing. When you spend 8-10 hours playing poker, you don't really have the strength to go dancing on top of it, right? Well, I obviously need a change of attitude. André made a schedule for me where I work 6 hours per day and then have time for some physical activity. That sounds nice, but the catch is that I work 6 days per week and only get 1 free day. I'm trying to figure out a way to change that, so that I have 2 free days like most people do, while including physical exercise in my everyday routine. Once I have it figured out, I'll make a post about it.

And lastly, I will start including massages in my weekly schedule. If you think the same way I was a month ago, you probably find this a luxury. I assure you it's not. I had a massage yesterday and unlike what you might imagine, there was little relaxing and a lot of shouting involved. Today though, I woke up feeling a lot better! I also have an appointment with my nutritionist tomorrow. It's been months since the last time I paid her a visit, and since I started getting my health back on track I might as well go all the way, right?

That's all for now... I'll be back soon to let you know about my progress in September and how October is going.

Good luck at the tables!


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