Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Smallest Game in Town

Well one thing is for sure.

Absolutely no one was bluffing me last night at the MGM Grand.

That' right.

I can assure you that.

Because I called every single one of those sucker's river bets.

And every single time they had me.

I'm only half kidding here.

I really did way too much calling on the river. But it wasn't because I thought they were all bluffing me. It was just one of those nights where I kept having the second best hand.

I did 8 consecutive hours at a 1/2 no limit table which was a pretty long session for me.

There's alot of ego involved in poker. And part of me feels ashamed to be sitting at a 1/2 table. Like what kind of professional player is sitting at the lowest stakes? Yet I guess part of the reason I can call myself professional is because I am managing to stay in the game. The fact that I haven't gone broke (yet). Hence the 1/2.

But I mention all this ego stuff because last night Lowell Kim was sitting at my 1/2 table with me. I have no idea if he is more experienced than me or how good he is. But I recognized his name and googled him when I came home and it turns out that the reason it was familiar to me is that he made $329,865 coming in 28th in last year's WSOP Main Event.

His name was also familiar because I knew a woman in college named Kim Lowell.

But back to Lowell Kim- if he can sit at 1/2 I guess so can I. You get to sit with bad players. And of course you can still make a grand in an evening at 1/2. But obviously without the risk of losing a grand. Interesting that the money level you play in poker has nothing to do with your skill level. Just your bankroll.

As for my night I was up and down alot. My stack kept fluctuating and the psychology of winning and losing continues to fascinate me to no end. Most players play better when winning .

I kept noticing last night how my entire point of view of how the evening and my life was going was based on my stack size and what happened immediately before.

For example it hurt to be down 30 bucks after an hour because I had been up 70 pretty quickly after sitting down. But then after falling down 170 it felt great to comeback and "only" be down 60 later on.

Later on I jumped up to +200 and felt like the genius I am . But after I gave 125 of it back and was "only" up 75 bucks I sat there beating myself up. What the hell am I doing with my life?

Then I lost a big pot and dropped back down to below starting point, Now I felt sick. How could I give away my profit? Shouldn't I have walked away?

But then after going back up 150 I remembered what a genius I am.

Now I can sit here and pretend I didn't feel these things. But I did. And I need to fix this.


Each decision at the table has to live in a vacuum. I can't call or fold or raise based on the fact that I'm up or down. Yes the information of how I'm doing effects the players around me but personally I gotta let go of the results. It doesn't matter if I'm up or down. I just need to play correctly for that moment in time.

And that's what makes poker so hard.

My other personal criticism is that I still need to be more aggressive. I'm glad I know it. I'm glad that it pains me to play weakly. It's great that I can recognize it. But I need to act on that. There were a few hands last night where I absolutely knew I needed to raise and didn't. And that ain't too cool.

Meanwhile I also gotta mention one of the worse plays I've seen at a poker table since moving out here. Enjoy this one: Board was 4 to the flush on the turn. There's a bet. A call. And then one of the guys exposes his cards. He thinks the hand is over. He doesn't realize that we still have a river.

The guy who exposes his cards shows pocket 9's. One of his 9's is a diamond to go with the four diamonds we see on the board. Okay. He has a 9 high flush.

River comes. A blank. Now the guy who has exposed his 9 high flush has to act first. He has around $150 in front of him and there's around $50 in the pot.

What does he do?

He bets $50.

This pains me to watch. Why make this bet? There's no way it can be called.

If his opponent has no diamond bigger than 9 then he's going to fold. So betting the $50 won't gain anything. But if his opponent has a diamond bigger than 9 he's now going to raise. And of course he can also raise to try to bluff our hero. Obviously this is a hard decision for the hero once he gets raised. But why put 50 bucks out there before you have to make it?

So of course the way life works, the opponent reraises all in. Again he might be bluffing. He might not. But either way that 50 buck bet did nothing.

Our hero calls and the other guy shows his ace of diamonds. Gulp.

Meanwhile rather than bore you with the details of the ugliness of my evening, let me describe one hand that actually went well.

I picked up pocket kings in blinds. Preflop guy raises to 15. I call.

Flop is 2,3,4. I check. He bets 30. I call.

Turn is a 4.

He bets 60. I make it 160. He calls.

I think I have the best hand. I certainly don't put him on a 4 or a straight or anything in that world. I'm hoping he has something like pocket jacks.

River is a 2.

Without hesitation I reach for the rest of my chips and shove them in.

Now here is where this gets strange. Because I assumed he has to call here. My all in was like 150 bucks. There was alot more than that in the middle.

What hand could he call my raise with on the turn that wouldn't also be worthy of a river call?

Yes I was in the blinds. Yes I "could" have a 2 or 4 or straight. But he already knew that when he called the bet on the turn.

So he's sitting there trying to decide whether to make a great call or a great fold. And he shows his cards to the people sitting at his end of the table. To show them what a tough decision he has.

And that's when it hits me.

He has aces.

He has aces and wants to make a great laydown. Meanwhile I've been exuding extreme confidence this whole hand because I really thought my kings were good. Suddenly it occurs to me that they aren't good. But what matters here is that he still needs to think they are. So I go back to pretending that he has pocket jacks.

He mucks and shows me the aces.

Since he showed I ask if he wants to see. But looking back on it I wish I didn't show. I didn't need to show everyone how well I played. Better to let them wonder.

The real lesson from this hand is the power of aggression at the poker table. The cards didn't matter. By taking the lead with the betting I was able to win the pot. And too many other hands went South because I didn't get aggressive. I was too willing to show down.

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