Ego and Arrogance

October 29, 2008

Episode 17 of 20 of the WSOP 2008 ME coverage on ESPN illustrates the power of the ego.

Tiffany Michelle is the most glaring example.  Suddenly, after a few good days, and a few two outters, she’s the best poker player on the planet.  Saying stuff like “keep that up, buddy.” after being semi bluffed on turn and folding the best hand which was K hi.  One of the highlights had to have been when she calls the clock on a 12MM pot, when she is sitting there with 50bb’s, oh yeah…and not even in the f.cking hand. Craig Marquis was right to call her out.  Sure she has the ability to call the clock, but really…keep your dumb trap shut while you aren’t involved in the spot.  The players involved in the pot weren’t stalling…they were thinking.  

I understand the pressure these players are under going deep in the biggest tournament in the world, but because you luck boxed your way there you are suddenly ‘fooled by randomness’ and think your the best thing since sliced bread.  Newsflash: THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND HOT CHIPS MICHELLE.

Nam Le is probably one of the best poker players in the world.  One of the things that makes him so dangerous is that he is not afraid to play a short stack.  He has said on several occasions that he tries to enter every day without an ego.  He can make big lay downs because he’s not worried about his ‘image’, he’s concerned with survival, and preserving chips.  Someone playing on pure ego has a greater tendancy to think ‘he’s bluffing me’ or ‘too much money in pot, I have to call.’ – this logic can be a disaster during a tournament, unless you can run hot and steam roll.  

Whether it’s ego, arrogance, or naivete all these traits lend themselves to having too much gamble in marginal spots.  Craig Marquis made an insane all in shove, 10 handed, on the November 9 bubble – perhaps the biggest bubble in history with AQ from sb?  vs a standard open and flat call against two players who have him covered and no real reason to be playing garbage hands.  I don’t think this was ego, it was more likely lack of experience, impatience, and being naive to what making the 9 really means.  Dean Hambrick who was the victim of this play with QQ falling to runner runner four flush, lost half his stack on the play.  Now, another spot where it was either inexperience, tilt, or being naive – he dusts all his chips off shipping allin with AJo with lots of players behind.  He can fold, raise/fold, limp – but shoving guarantees you will get called by nothing less than a flip, most likely dominated.

Next time you are playing and start feeling like you’re the man because you got some chips in front of you try to check your ego, preserve your chips, and see how things work out for you, let the game come to you. 

Tournament poker is sick.  Variance is incredible.  Often late in tourneys players with some major leaks (ego, cocky, naive, or inexperience) leads to highly questionable plays, flipping at every opportunity, becoming overly aggressive raising marginal A/x type hands from early position, etc.  Because of these tendancies you make plays that a ‘wiser’ player might avoid because they are just too marginal…sometimes these plays work out, and you can steam roll your way to the final table or through it (a la jerry yang) so I’m a little conflicted in saying these characteristics are always bad.

I guess it is more about being confident, rather than cocky.  There is a clear distinction in life and in poker in someone who is confident vs. cocky.  You are not entitled to your chips, you are not owed anything, your superior skill does not mandate you win this next hand, or the tournament.

Play it cool.  Keep your confidence to yourself.  And ask yourself “What would Nam do?”