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Checking In

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Jun 01, 2012


Gavin GriffinI have a weird skill (I guess you would call it a skill). I get up between two to four minutes before my alarm goes off every morning. This is especially exceptional because, due to my wife’s career as a civil engineer working on construction sites, I normally get up between 5:30 and 6:30 AM every morning. Whether I have gotten two hours or eight hours of sleep, nighttime or after a daytime nap, I almost always get up a couple minutes before schedule. I guess I have this weirdly accurate clock in my head, and it doesn’t like the alarm on my phone. I sometimes think of it as an odd form of time travel where I’ve found a couple minutes in the day that wouldn’t have existed.

Unfortunately, I can’t see into the future, I can only see into the past, and I’ve decided to use this week’s column to look back on the last couple of months and check in on how I’ve been faring in my endeavors. I think the best way for me to do that is to look back at the checklist I gave myself and evaluate how well I’ve performed in each of those areas.

How well did I control my emotions?

I think I’ve done quite well at this overall. I get emotional a bit when I bust out of tournaments, especially ones where I’ve been playing for quite a long time and have a disappointing result. For instance, I busted out of the LAPC main event about halfway through day three and about 25 people away from the money after playing quite well for those three days. That is, and always will be, a frustrating situation. Tournaments are an emotional roller coaster and I handled the in-tournament swings quite well.

Experiencing a bit of frustration when the tournament is over, as long as you save it for when you’re on your way home or back up to your room and you don’t direct it at the other players, is reasonable.

As far as cash games go, I’ve been quite good at handling my emotions at the beginning and middle of sessions. I’ve been having a bit more trouble towards the end of nights when I’m feeling tired. I prefer to play longer sessions for two main reasons. First, none of the places that I play are less than a 35-mile drive from my house, so I prefer to make that drive on as few days as possible. This means that I will have to play longer sessions, but play fewer of them. Second, I have a wife that I like to spend time with, so I prefer to stay home as often as possible while still putting in the hours I need to.

I’ve recently given up caffeine, which I think will even out my emotional swings, especially those tied to feeling tired, because I should have a more even flow to my energy levels.

Everyone makes mistakes, but did I learn from the mistakes that I made?

I think this is the area I’ve done the best in. I catch myself making mistakes throughout a session, especially the ones that I think I tend towards anyways, and I recognize them quite early and correct them throughout the day. Sure, I’d prefer to regress to these mistakes less often, but I know that I’m getting better at that and I’m definitely getting better at catching them. This is an important step in the process and something that is sort of difficult to set goals for. I just have to have a bit more discipline and be slightly more self-aware every time I go to work.

Did I game and seat select aggressively?

I’ve been quite good at this as well. I don’t just move to the left of the fish every time they move, often because the games I’m playing in have more than one good spot per table, but I have been good about getting to the left of aggressive three-bettors and the few players in the game that I think play pretty well. I’ve recently started to play $20-$40 again on a few occasions, and it will be more important to stay on top of seat selection because the players are just simply better overall.

As far as game selection goes, I think I’ve been killer at this. When an $8-$16 game isn’t four or five ways to the flop on a regular basis, or the blinds are chopping once per round, I look for a table change or go to the PLO game. If I’m in the PLO game and the people with decent stacks quit, I look to find a different game. It’s good to not get content with the fact that you’re in a good game when you know there is a better game one table over that you can play.

Did I honestly evaluate my mental state and energy level?

I talked about this above a little bit and, since giving up caffeine, I’ve been much more focused and alert overall. I don’t listen to podcasts or read books at the table anymore and that has really helped with keeping me into the game and focused, along with helping me pay more attention to my emotions and focus level.

Did I go on “auto-pilot” at any point or did I actively think about my decisions?
This is another thing that has improved since I stopped listening to podcasts and reading books at the table. I keep myself actively engaged most of the time and that helps me think deeply about the hands I’m playing. I do find myself having a bit of trouble with this at times, especially in those lulls where I’m not getting many playable hands or I just never connect with flops. In those stretches, it’s very easy to just check/fold the flop that I just missed when, if I was fully engaged, I might have check-raised bluffed, or, when in position, floated and attempted to bluff good cards on the turn or river. Being fully engaged at all times is hard in a long session, but eating well, exercising, and avoiding the energy highs and lows that you can experience throughout a day keeps your mind active and focused for longer stretches of time.

Overall, it’s been a good few months for me and I hope the rest of the year continues to go well. It feels good when you’re playing well, running well, and focusing well, and I hope to keep the positive outlook, work ethic, and focus up to par when things aren’t going quite as well. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG