Running Bad

Running Bad

Saturday, 10 January 2015

10 top tips from Jeff Kimber.

Running bad happens to us all. No-one likes it, and there’s no quick fix. So how can you make it end? Keep playing.
Whenever I’m winning, running well or bringing my A-game, I make sure I take stock of the situation. I think about what I’m doing well, whether it’s a good fold I’ve made, nice read I took advantage of or player weakness I identified. I try to remember everything that I’m doing to store in my memory bank for when times are harder.
To say I’m running bad right now is an understatement. We all know that, in the long run, fortune will even out - that’s variance. But we also have to make sure that we’re not helping the bad run continue.

It’s easy to think ‘I keep losing with aces, so I’m going to stop three-betting them and keep the pot small’. But making a decision like that minimises future pot sizes, not allowing you to re-balance the variance at the same value. While always working to improve your game is important, changing the fundamentals because of a bad run is obviously a bad idea. The problem is, in the fog of a bad spell, it’s often difficult to see the wood for the trees.
I’ve not cashed in a live tournament since June, midway through my Vegas trip when I won a comp at the Wynn, and the run-bad has started to get to me. I’m not playing at the top of my game, as much as I’m trying to. So, with a New Year upon us, and safe in the knowledge that it’s always advantageous to keep improving, cutting out mistakes and doing basic things well, I decided to turn to some friends for help.

Poker’s a strange industry, in that you’re trying to win all the money from all the other people playing, yet you count some of them as friends. I picked ten of my closest poker buddies, who have one hundred years of experience between them and won over £10 million, sending them the following text:

“Apart from being less grumpy when losing, give me a pearl of wisdom to play better.”

Some of my group are fundamentally excellent; some are aggressive, while others land on the tight side. Some replied very seriously with sage words of advice, others responded with jokey replies obviously meant to cheer me up. While I won’t embarrass each friend by attributing their words to them (after all, I didn’t text them with an article for Bluff Europe in mind, I wanted them to help my game) I think their advice will help every poker player, especially those stuck in ‘one of those spells’.

1. Overbet against the older calling stations. Never call on the river in a tough spot without the nuts.

My first reply, from one of my oldest friends, definitely resonated with me. Julian Gardner once told me that his strong record in the WSOP Main Event was due to spending the first half hour of each day eyeing up each player, before choosing which ones he’ll play big pots with later. The older calling stations are obviously favourites; all we have to do is make a hand and bet the hell out of it! I’ve let my ability to pick on the weak and win easy money slip. Obviously, we have to call some rivers, but when people are generally strong when they bet big on the end, so if you’re going to make a big call, have the goods!

2. Don’t be worried if you think good players at the table are trying to ?outplay you.

We’ve all had it. The young kid in the sunglasses and hoodie sits down, raises your blind every hand, and we think ‘I’ll show him’. Actually, let him crack on and think he’s got us where he wants us, as there will be plenty of time to find the goods later. Keep playing the bad players while they’re still with you, and don’t let ego get in the way.

3. Just try and enjoy playing - it’s a game after all. Don’t waste a chip. Be patient and don’t give up.

A run of not going deep in tournaments can become monotonous. It’s important to remember that poker is a fun job. While you won’t run well sometimes, you won’t start running better by not enjoying your time playing. Playing properly down to your last chip should always be in the forefront of your thinking. I certainly think I’ve lost a bit of the enjoyment factor during my down swing, though I’m pretty happy I rarely get knocked out by giving up and just sticking my chips in.

4. I actually think being less grumpy will help more than you think - when I’m happy at the table, I play my best.

Some tables are hard, but force someone to have a conversation with you. Doing that helps me to not get bored and play hands I shouldn’t be playing. One of the main reasons decent online players don’t do well live is simply boredom.

Enjoying the game, as discussed above, can make running bad seem a lot less important. Being more personable at the table can never be a bad thing, as it helps get information from opponents in hands, making them less likely to want to bust you. They’re more likely to go easy on you, and your own positive mood can also make a poker table a more pleasant place for everyone. Be prepared to be forced into a conversation by me at a table near you soon!

5. Slow down every action you make.

This helps me because I find mistakes often come from acting too fast. Maybe count to seven seconds before you make any action, just to make sure you’re not spewing and that you’re happy with your decision.
I act quicker when I’m impatient to make things happen, even down to occasionally looking at my cards as they’re dealt rather than when the action’s on me, so desperate am I to pick up decent hole-cards. Trying to win a multi-day tournament can only be done with patience and I need more of that at the moment.

6. Imagine I’m a parrot sat on your shoulder and can see every move you make. Any bad moves, I’ll peck you hard. Good moves get a squawk!

It’s a funny way of putting it, but I really like the meaning behind this one. We gloss over bad bluffs we made while telling people that our aces being cracked lost us our tournament life. Would you be happy to send every single hand you’ve played to a friend to review? Bankrolling sites, such as BRS and Badbeat, demand that of their players, and playing like someone’s watching you, saying “What were you doing there?” can help your game. Whenever I play on the TV table, I play my absolute best, as I know people will be watching the stream. There’s no peeling from the big blind with rubbish or calling when I should be three-betting. I should be playing this way at all times.

7. Play every hand perfectly and individually without being emotionally affected by previous hands.

Definitely great advice, though perhaps easier to say than do, following this would help every poker player in the world. You’re not owed anything if you get a big hand cracked. You’re not more likely to flop a set if you haven’t flopped one all day. You’re not entitled to get your chips back off someone who got lucky against you. Taking emotions out of poker is key. Ever seen Patrik Antonius or Phil Ivey blow up and lose control? Neither have I.

8. Many years ago, there was a TV fortune teller called Evadne Price, who used to come on just before the black and white television schedule shut down for the night and say ‘Think lucky and you will be lucky’.

The power of positive thinking, delivered by one of my more mature friends! It’s true though; a bit of positive thinking can do wonders and by putting previous negative thoughts out of our minds, we are mentally refreshed.

9. Don’t give a fuck and treat everyone ?as scum!

While this is obviously not the most in depth piece of advice, it’s a pretty good idea to not let your aggression waver, and not be in awe of any of your opponents. The delivery may lack something, but I like the sentiment, and the friend who sent it has had great success of late playing much more aggressively than he had previously.

10. Be aggressive in position and nitty if you must, but never let your bollocks dangle in the dust!

I’m sure the former lead singer in a punk band turned WSOP Main Event finalist who sent me this won’t mind me saying he possibly should have stuck to writing lyrics given his turn of phrase, but a combination of aggression, playing position, changing gears, and being ready to get your chips in when needed isn’t a bad checklist either!

So there we have it, the pearls of wisdom from some of the UK’s most successful poker pros. Make sure all the basics are in order, and you’re not forgetting any of the things that have made you successful in the past. Oh, and don’t let bad habits creep into your game.

I’m going to read these words again before I next play, and hopefully 2015 will be a prosperous year of running good for us all!

Tags: Jeff Kimber, strategy