January 11, 2007

Article at Craig on Authory

Online Poker Spotlight: RIZEN Rising

Tournament star Eric (Rizen) Lynch shares unique insights into the inner game of poker with Foxsports.com in part two of this interview.

FoxSports.com: You are always looking for ways to improve your game. More players could benefit from this type of self-analyzing.

Eric Lynch: I was reminded recently of something I said a while back, and some recent events have had me thinking of it again:

'Poker, especially tournament poker, is a game where hours of brilliant play can be undone by one momentary lapse of thought.'

I still think that's probably one of my better all-time quotes, and I'd like to expand on the idea a bit and provide another quote that may not be quite as good, but is similar in nature.

'It's often the mistakes we know we're making that hurt us the most.'

What I mean by that, is when I've been doing some hand history reviews or talking with people about certain plays, I hear people often tell me 'yeah I knew that was stupid when I was doing it, but for some reason I did it anyways' or some similar quotes, even from some VERY good players I've talked to.

Let me share an anecdote from my personal development as a poker player as an example. Last year around this time I was toiling around the $20-$50 buy in levels on MTTs and the 3/6 and 5/10 limit cash games. I was doing okay for myself, but I was in a rut. I felt like I was improving as a player but I wasn't getting any better in terms of results. I was making it deep frequently in tournaments but never closing, and I was winning in cash games but always got crushed when I tried to move up to 10/20. 

So, instead of reading more material or studying more, I decided on a different approach. Every night when I was done playing, I'd go back and look at key hands from the tournaments I had played and some key cash game hands and look at them and try and evaluate my play honestly, and I found a disturbing trend. I was consistently making plays I knew were mistakes! I'd let emotion or ego get in the way, or I'd make the classic blunder of finding a way to put my opponent, on the one hand, I could beat. Sometimes I even remember telling myself as I was making a call that it was a mistake, but I pushed the button anyways!

My point is, I was making plays I knew were wrong, and even though I knew they were wrong, I was still doing them! This was canceling out all of the good, solid plays I was 

producing and killing hours worth of hard work. Sure, I was still a winning player, but not at a rate that satisfied me, and I wasn't showing improvement the way I could. So after a month or two of seeing this trend of constantly making mistakes I should have known better than to do, I finally got the discipline myself to stop making those dumb plays. I can't honestly say what the key was, but after realizing how much I was costing myself I was able to put aside my ego and emotions and just constantly make good plays. Within a span of just a few months, I went on to win the 55k (aka rebuy madness) and the Friday Special for over $60k total. The rest, as they say, is history.

So what's my point? My point is, I went from being a mediocre player grinding out some extra 'fun money' each month playing for fun to someone who is recognized as one of the best online MTT players in the world by simply cutting out mistakes I should never have been making in the first place. I just had to apply some discipline to my poker playing. Obviously, I've learned some things since then too, but the biggest key was simply not making the mistakes I know better than to make.

To this day, at the end of the night, I go back and look at my play. If I can look at my play and tell myself I honestly played to the best of my ability and didn't do anything I knew was wrong, I consider the night a success, even if I end the night with no cashes and down over $1000. Conversely, if I win $10k in a night, but I made a dumb move heads up at the end that cost me a chance to win $20k instead, I consider it a 'lost opportunity' and get a little upset with myself. To use an already over-used sports analogy 'control what you can control, don't worry about the rest, and success will follow'. Don't dwell on bad beats or cold decks. Those happen and you can't control them. Focus on your own play and if you're putting yourself consistently in the best position you can to succeed, then you've already won.

You never know which one of those times you make that dumb mistake you know you're making that if you'd just stopped yourself you would have gone on to win the tournament. 

I'll step off my soapbox now, but please in the future try and make sure you aren't your own undoing. Don't let the mistake that costs you hours worth of work be the one you know you're making.

FScom: Can you share one of the favorite hands you've played and your play-by-play analysis? 

EL: Full Tilt Poker No Limit Hold'em Ring game:

Blinds: $25/$50 - 9 players

Pre-flop: (9 players) Hero is MP3 with qs qh UTG folds, UTG+1 raises to $150, 2 folds, Hero raises to $450, 4 folds, UTG+1 calls.

Pre-flop I really don't think this hand is all that interesting. UTG+1 makes a standard raise, with QQ I make a pretty standard 3x his raise re-raise, and he flat calls. Sometimes people slow play AA/KK this way, but it could easily be something like 88-JJ trying to flop a set, or a big Ace hoping to hit a flop (although I think this is a poor way to play a big ace, either push to see all 5 cards or fold here IMO)

Flop: 5c Kd 2h ($975, 2 players) UTG+1 is all-in $2300, Hero calls all-in $1475.Uncalled bets: $825 returned to UTG+1.

This is an interesting street. UTG+1 open pushes a very uncoordinated flop for well over the size of the pot. Well, what does this mean?? This is a very good flop for AA/KK, and a good player would certainly check to the raiser here to extract more. There are virtually no draws here. I believe AK also checks. Perhaps if he made a very loose call with KQ it might play this way. So we've pretty much decided every hand that checks here beats us? So, what does he bet here with?? I felt really strongly that he had either JJ or TT here (or even the other QQ). Those hands make sense since it's a very good flop for them in terms of one over card that's not an Ace and no coordinated flop. I even typed into chat at this point (Full Tilt lets you do this) 'JJ huh?' as I was thinking. I eventually decided that if he was willing to play a hand that beat me this way, I was willing to donate all my chips to him and called.

Turn: Jc ($3925, 0 player + 2 all-in - Main pot: $3925)

River: 8d ($3925, 0 player + 2 all-in - Main pot: $3925)

Results: Final pot: $3925UTG+1 showed As Qd Hero showed Qs Qh I honestly never figured him to do this with AQ. I usually like to use hands with multi-street action for hands of the day as they tend to involve more interesting decisions, but this is something I've seen a lot more of lately. It's sort of a weird stop n go. The lesson here is to use common sense, try and get in the mind of your opponent and what it makes sense for him to have. Every fiber in my body told me that this is not the way any sane person would play AK/AA/KK, which meant the only logical alternative was I was ahead.

FS.com: Everyone is always frustrated with middle pairs. Every winning player has a different answer. We are curious what you think of the strategy with middle pocket pairs.

EL: This is a bad answer, but it's really all table dependent. At some tables, I'll muck middle pairs UTG, while at others I'll raise them. It all depends on how aggressive the table is and the likelihood of me having to play a big pot out of position with a tough hand. It also depends on what phase of the tournament we're in and how deep the stacks are. I'm more likely to try and see a flop with deep stacks with mid pairs than with shallow ones. Middle pairs are really hands you need to play situational, and if you're always playing them the same way then that's probably a leak.

FS.com: At the end of 2005 you started an online blog. You certainly seem to be giving away a lot of hard-earned knowledge.

EL: At first I just started the blog so my family could keep track of how I was doing at PCA (PokerStars WPT event at Atlantis) and the LA Poker Classic. I shared it with a few friends and it started getting some traffic. I really never planned on it being a 'teaching' site and still don't. It's a place where I can vent some random thoughts and think out loud. If other players benefit from it, then I'm very happy for them. For me, it's a constructive outlet, and writing the blog helps make ME a better player. On top of all that, someday I would like to have the chance to do a paid writing gig for poker, and this (the blog) seemed like a good start for that.

FS.com: Tell us your relationship with the training site PokerXfactor.com?

EL: I'm really excited to be working with PokerXFactor.com. I've always enjoyed teaching poker to people, but with a small child at home and another on the way I just didn't have enough time for a lot of the 1 on 1 instruction I was doing. PokerXFactor allows me to get into the teaching aspects of poker I enjoy but I can do it around my schedule by making videos for the site at 2 am or whenever I bust if I don't want to go to sleep right away. I have tournament and cash videos up on the site right now. I'm currently finishing a series of videos that includes commentary and instruction from my PokerStars $1 million win, and after that I have a lot of stuff I could possibly do, including other tournament wins or cash games. Mindwise does an awesome job listening to his customers at PXF so I try and give the users what they want from me as best I can.

In Part 3 of our exclusive interview with Rizen, he will discuss his play at the World Series of Poker where he finished 3rd in the $1500 Pot Limit Hold'em event for $104K and 24th in the Main Event cashing for over $494K.

Craig Tapscott is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com Poker, Card Player & Card Player College magazine.