The Poker Shrink, Vol 40 - The Titanic Syndrome
I guess this article should be called "Teddy and the Titanic Syndrome" but let's not get ahead of the story. Teddy is a poker playing buddy of mine. Last week he asked me if I had heard of the Titanic Syndrome. I had, it goes something like this: Businesses, particularly start-up entrepreneurial ones, tend to incorporate current widely accepted business management strategies at some point in their development. One of the big current rage management techniques is called "change management." By which it is meant that what keeps a good business afloat is staying current and changing with the times or "managing change." Seems simple enough and when correctly applied works quite well.
However, new very successful businesses often think they are invulnerable. So at times their "change management" is really misapplied to a more serious problem—they have hit an iceberg and the business is going under. Here comes the Titanic Syndrome: the inability to recognize icebergs on the horizon and then to under-manage when you actually hit the big ice cube. Teddy felt his game had gone cold but another player had told him he was dead wrong and he was in the middle of a Titanic Syndrome breakdown (meltdown?). Teddy didn't get it, so we sat down to analyze his game.
Teddy pulled out his bankroll notebook and showed me his results pages for the last three months. Sure enough about five weeks before the numbers had switched from 80% winners to 90% losers. I drew a line where the big switch occurred and then another line where Teddy had changed games from $5/$10 Limit Hold'em to $1/$2 No Limit Hold'em. Those two lines were less than a week apart, so I had to ask Teddy why he had switched games. I got a blah-blah-blah answer that finished with: "But even when I switched back to the limit game I got crushed." True enough, Teddy was losing at both games now.
I know how Teddy plays, at least I know how he plays limit; he always plays at one of the big "locals" rooms off the strip. He plays during the day and therefore is playing a lot of recreational rocks. Teddy changes up his game, sees a fair number of flops and always makes the value bet. But the No Limit game is not populated by the same rocks as the limit game and I noticed Teddy's sessions were now more in evening and even late at night; different game and different pool of players.
Here is where the shuffling of the decks chairs on the sinking ship began for Teddy. He realized he was not playing optimal strategy for the No-Limit game, so he started to try some other moves. Since, he was in a losing streak, the new moves were usually only incorporated for a single session or less and then he was on to something else. Have you ever stood on the first tee after reading an article in a golf magazine and tried to keep you head down, your elbow in, roll your wrist, flatten the club face, rotate your hips, follow-thru and then realize you forgot to tee up the ball?
Teddy was involved in massive change management without having identified the problem and worse yet he had taken his broken game back to the limit game, where he had been winning and was now losing there too! There were now two floundering Titanic Teddy poker ships both taking on water and leaking chips like crazy.
So what did I tell Teddy?
"Teddy, my boy, have you consider taking up Crazy Pineapple?" A joke, just a joke.
"Teddy, my boy, go back to the limit game but only after you remember your winning strategy and can stick with it religiously. Once you begin to win again, then you may consider playing some no limit, but I suggest you do that online at low stakes until you figure out that game. My best advice is that if you can't keep the two game strategies separate that you stick with limit only. It's bad enough to have one ship sinking but you keep this up and you could lose the whole Teddy Fleet."
Last I saw Teddy, he was sitting at the $5/$10 limit table with a big stack and a big smile but I detected a longing for the deck chairs over on the no limit table.