Between 1986 and 1997, multiple employees of the United States Postal Service became so disenchanted and stressed with their conditions of work that they brought shot-guns into the workplace and took the lives of 40 colleagues in multiple tragic incidents across that great and gun-toting nation.
These acts of violence have left an idiomatic legacy in the form of the phrase “going postal”.
“Going postal” is a destructive, explosive response to pent-up, impotent rage. When the pressure of your life circumstances squeezes too hard on the core of your very self, you will explode, like a juice carton under the wheel of a reversing Landrover.
Of course, when it happens to me, as a British citizen, I’m less likely to shoot anyone than the average American. Maybe my inherent Britishness makes me a more moderate individual, maybe it’s because the UK has more sensible gun-laws; who knows? (I know; lock the guns up, America, you dicks.)
I “went poker postal” this week. I’ve stuck the word “poker” in there to soften it a bit. I didn’t shoot anyone, and I have a fantastic life, so I really have nothing to complain about, or get angry about. On the other hand, I’m a large field, micro-stakes, online poker player, and sometimes, poker is a cold bitch, and she sends me into the occasional blind rage.
I’ve been playing a lot recently, around 80 hours a week of online micro-tardation. At the same time, I have been running a bit cold.
I’m not about to launch into a load of whiny bad beat stories, I promise, not even one. I’m not trying to claim anything unusual is happening to me, normal mathematical variance is applying its standard edge. I’m financially bankrolled for the stakes and formats I’m playing, I’m just not sure I’m properly emotionally bankrolled.
I’ve dropped to playing four tournaments at once as a maximum, just to give myself more time to pay attention to stuff and apply new learnings. Also, I’m losing, and that is advice I have heard over and over again with regards to online poker; if you’re spinning out cash, drop your stakes and your tables immediately.
I busted two tournaments near the money, 4/1 fav all in pre-flop in both.
I sighed. Moved the next two up and joined two more.
It had been like this yesterday, and the day before.
By this point, the red mist had started to rise. Suddenly, everything was annoying me. I was muttering personal comments about people’s avatars anytime they opened, or raised me.
I was angry at people for luck-boxing hands I wasn’t even in.
I shouted at my flatmate for making me a coffee with white sugar, as opposed to brown.
I ‘sat-out’ on all four tables for five minutes while I flamed an irritating fly with a deodorant can and a lighter.
I dropped a muffin on the floor and then kicked it really hard against the wall, meaning I couldn’t eat it, and had a massive mess to clear up.
I was unravelling, piece by piece; with each mathematical needle and probability poke, I became more and more a woman undone.
The cold and logical part of me fully understands that I will get beaten by the worst hand an exact amount of times. I understand that it is inevitable that the guy who shoves KK into my AA pre-flop, on the bubble, will win the pot 20% of the time. I recognise the certainty that I will lose 50% of the races I play.
It doesn’t mean I fucking like it.
There is a war within me. Logical Kat is calm, she’s all like, “Hey, chill out, man. Variance, man. Read a book, watch a strategy video, be reasonable. You know the score, you signed up for this. Patience, respect the maths, maaaan.”
On Sunday night, Emotional Kat was damn sick of listening to Logical Kat’s statistical bullshit when short-term, empirical experience was making a mockery of the so-called reliability of maths.
My four tourneys went on a break, and I performed my usual routine. I made a brew, had a wee, stood on my balcony, and smoked a defiant cigarette, sure that if my premium pocket pairs could get flushed out 75% of the time then I could likely smoke a cigarette and not get emphysema.
I could feel that I was tense, and performed some hippy-shit breathing exercises to calm my body down. It definitely works, even if I look like a knob when I’m doing it.
I sat back down at my laptop and began gearing up for the bubble on my top two tournaments.
I busted in good spots, with the best hand, outside the money, in both tournaments; nothing dramatic, or mathematically ridiculous, just poker being a bitch at the wrong moment.
I actually howled, like a mountain dog; it was an unconscious noise, it just leaked out of me.
The howl was followed by a predictable tirade of Obscenities At Volume (my new album, available from iTunes for a food-stamp). I slammed my hand on my desk, spilled my brew into my open handbag, kicked the handbag across the floor, and shouted “WHY ME??” at least four times.
In full, rampant, “Hulk-Smash” mode, I returned to my computer and instantly shipped allin on both tables, with 46os and 82os. I was called by a premium pair in both cases and lost each one.
There was something oddly gratifying about this destructive behaviour, so emotionally, it was money well spent. Logically, it was really stupid, especially as I was actually in a very strong position in one tourney, with a large stack on a table of nits.
I ate an angry muffin, had an angry shower, and angrily went to bed.
When I woke up, I was still angry.
I ate an angry yoghurt, did an angry morning poo, and angrily registered for some tournaments.
I think it’s usually a mistake to register for tournaments when I’m over-emotional, but on Monday morning, I was determined to win, more than I am on most days. Usually, I just try to play my best, but this Monday was different, today I wanted to beat poker with a massive stick.
It ended up being a 300 buyin winning session. I ran well and played well, although I did shout “haha! Fuck you!” and do the double bird dance every time I won a pot.
I finished the session on a logical emotional-high.
I hate doing everything right and losing, but I am voluntarily spending 80 hours a week doing something that ensures that will happen to me. I am certain poker will hurt me, kick me when I am down, bruise me, stamp on my face and then urinate on me as I lie, shaking and sobbing in a puddle of my own sick.
The next day, I will go back for more.
When she’s nice, though… Oh! She’s so nice!
My logical relationship with poker is sound, I have a lot to learn, but I see the path.
My emotional relationship with poker is far more hazardous; an abusive, destructive involvement, where I am constantly begging for favourable attention, but accepting the brutality in the meantime.
Poker breaks my heart every day, but I still love her.
When I reviewed some hands on Tuesday, I can honestly say that, despite being angry, I wasn’t playing terrible poker on Monday. I wasn’t playing brilliant poker, but then I don’t, even when my mind is fully in the zone.
I am pleased to learn that I can play when I’m not 100% in the right mental place, it suggests to me that some sensible poker play has become second nature to me, it’s now my instinct, and will override a wobbly mental state more often than a couple of years ago.
I have put work in, and now I am seeing results. I am still playing a leaky, amateurish, often clumsy game of poker, but now, even when I’m on major life-tilt from the start of the session, I’m making better choices, such as folding 88 preflop oop to a small 3bet from a nit, 10 players from the bubble. A year ago, in the mood I was in this Monday, I would have shoved that bet, “hoping for a race”, on Monday, I called the guy a “c***” and passed, angrily waiting for better spot.
I’m not trying to say that being ragey made me play better poker, it did not, the point is, it didn’t make me play any worse, and that was a change that my game really needed.
My next step needs to be to eliminate any further incidents of “Going Poker Postal” and smash-busting multiple tournaments like a slots-player on steroids because I lost a couple of races at crucial times.
Next time my finger hovers over the “allin” button when I am angry, I will think about the gun-toting American Postmen and decide not to pull the trigger; I will, no longer, “Go Poker Postal”.