How Short Fuses Affect the Long Run

It's late in the 2007 WSOP $10,000 Main Event and Scotty Nguyen is the chip leader with 11 players left, only to have one player light his short fuse.

In short order: Scotty blows up, throwing his chips away to finish in 11th place for just over $475,000. Compared to the first-place payout of $8.2 million, Scotty's blow-up was possibly one of the most expensive in history.

He partially redeemed himself the following year, winning the 2008 $50k H.O.R.S.E Championship, but even though that victory made him just under $2 million, his short fuse still cost him as much as $7.7 million in total profits.

And although we all should be so lucky to make a mistake of such proportions, the same concept applies to the lower limits.

How the Bad Outweighs the Good

Meltdowns and blow-ups can be some of the most expensive mistakes you make. One meltdown can easily be worth more than three winning sessions.

Mike Matusow
Try to learn from the mistakes of Mike Matusow.

For example, take a $1,000 buy-in cash game. The game is tight and plays tough, but you, as a winning long-term player, make an average of $300 a session.

If you have a serious meltdown at this game, you'll be lucky to lose as little as one buy-in. Needlessly losing $1,000 (this is outside of your normal variance) negates 3.3 sessions of work. That one blow-up now has you essentially working for free until you've caught up those three-and-a-third sessions.

There is no positive equivalent of this mistake to help balance it out either. Doubling-up is the counter-balance to getting stacked. Hitting a lucky draw is the antithesis of having a draw hit against you.

There is no anti-meltdown to make up for blowing your top.

The Online Meltdown

Having a meltdown while sitting at home, with no witnesses, can be a death blow for any poker player.

A live meltdown may cost you one buy-in; an online meltdown can end up costing your entire roll. It's amazing how easy it is to begin your meltdown with losing one buy-in at your regular stakes, then to say "screw it!" and step up to a big game.

Stepping up limits in this frame of mind is never a good idea. You're gambling on getting lucky and are not thinking clearly. The odds are against you here.

Even if you don't have your whole roll in play, the very sizeable loss you're almost bound to take usually fuels the inferno. Re-buys, more limit jumps, swearing, broken monitors ... and 30 minutes later an empty account.

Daniel Negreanu
You'll rarely, if ever, see Daniel Negreanu lighting his chips on fire.

Can You Learn From Your Mistakes?

Some players are prone to blow-ups; some are even famous for it. Mike Matusow is invited to everyone's cash games for this very reason.

If this situation is a recurring event in your life, you will have a hard time keeping your long-term results in the black. Even if these blow-ups don't felt you, knowing you've repeatedly thrown away hundreds of BBs is enough to instill doubt, fear and depression.

None of these are mind frames for optimal poker.

Good players learn from the blow-ups, get tired of the self-inflicted floggings and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. These players are usually even thankful for the meltdowns of the past, knowing that they won't hinder the goals and dreams they have for their future in poker.

If you're a good, winning poker player with quality bankroll management, as time goes on, you will be playing higher limits and always putting a larger chunk of pie into play.

Knowing your meltdowns are behind you, when the stakes were much cheaper, and knowing that you won't be pulling that crap now, should do nothing but help instill confidence into your game.

More strategy articles from Sean Lind:

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Ritchie Wager 2012-12-24 03:06:25

Brilliant article, learned this the hard way tho !

MelMeiko 2009-09-12 07:06:00

I agree as well. Such simple frequently everyday emotions, or lack thereof, can effect so much and really get in the way of one's better judgement!
I'm always nervous when I play online but offline play is quite fun.
Great article.

Jeremy 2008-09-02 19:29:07

I used to have a huge problem with blowing up. I've found taking a walk outside of the poker room seems to really work for me. This was definitely a good read.

Sean Lind 2008-09-02 16:50:00

Talking about knowing when to quit:
<a href="/strategy/psychology/when-to-quit">When to Quit - By Sean Lind</a>

UlDuffer 2008-09-02 16:12:00

I couldn't agree more. When I first started out these blowups were my main leak. I would play for way too many hours and too late at night (zombie). Then i'd lose a big pot to a beat and tilt away my role trying to get it back by gambling and moving up limits. My advice to anyone to avoid this fatal flaw is to play well within your roll so that a loss of a buy in is not such a big deal and to learn when to quit! - GL at the tables Fishays