Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Being a poker player sometimes feels like being a hockey goalie.

No one notices when you are doing your job. Only your mistakes get magnified.

After all when a goalie is stopping shots everything is status quo. We might not even appreciate a scoreless tie. No one has scored. No one is winning.

But then eventually a shot goes past one of the goaltenders.


Everything has changed. The goaltender has finally made an error.

All the shots he has stopped before do not count now.

Now all that matters are the shots he does not stop.

Can you guess that I had a rough night?

I feel like a goaltender who gave up a couple of really bad goals and cost his team the game.

I'm not sure what led to my poor play.

I suppose it could be the sugar rush from these Flintstones Vitamins I started taking a couple of days ago.

The only silver (gray?) lining to all this is that by playing poorly tonight I was able to see how disciplined I've played over the past six weeks.

I gave up my first goal around an hour into the session.

For some reason I took a stand against the player seated directly to my right.

Well sure there was a reason.

He was on tilt.

But it wasn't a great reason.

Especially once the board paired with a 5,5,10 flop.

I had the 10 so I was beating alot of hands here. Except the obvious 5 for trips.

He overbets the turn firing 25 into a 20 dollar pot. I'm either way ahead or way behind. I call. He's on tilt. One of those guys that will fire at the river and then muck when you call.

A harmless looking river card appears. There's 70 in the middle. He bets 105.

This bet represents the exact same thing it did on the turn. It's still either a big bluff or a great value bet. And I say great value bet because I am seriously considering calling him here.

Many nights this is an easy fold for me. But I had just watched him go through poker hell. He'd been playing wildly for the past 30 minutes. Anything was possible here.

I'm not usually interested in calling a 105 dollar bet on the river unless I know I'm ahead. I can fold and move on. No need to fight this battle.

But he hooked me in with his acting. He looked scared. He looked like he didn't want the call. I fell for it. I confirmed this later on when I caught him flinch in pain on a hand where he flopped a set.

I'm not used to giving away money like this.

So this was a bad call for me. If I really sniff something out then I have no problem with me making a big call. But in this spot I never really knew where I was at. I basically decided that because he was on tilt there was no way he could have a 5. And that wasn't a good enough read. I think the money lost here is me trying a little too hard to make a great call.

This hand must have put me on some level of tilt because soon after I decide to gamble with suited connectors. I flop the flush draw and on a queen high board reraise all in against a player holding pocket jacks.

What's fun about this hand and this moment is that if I knew she had pocket jacks then I absolutely love my reraise here. She bet 60 on the flop to see where she was at and I came over the top and made it 200. Incredibly she called.

Alot of players would lay down jacks on a queen high board. Especially when a tight player like me reraises. But in hindsight I don't think this player was good enough to fold.

And what kills me about her call here is most of the time I will be able to beat pocket jacks in this spot. So the fact that she called with jacks on a queen high board made her seem like a good opponent to be playing against.

My flush didn't come on turn or river and chips were lost.

I don't hate how I played this hand. What concerns me is that it came on the heels of the previous hand so it sure smells like tilt.

And when a move like this doesn't work it becomes real easy to question why I did it. It's not like I'm in there raising with alot of hands. If I were playing more aggressively then maybe it's great to get it all in on a draw. Steamroll the table.

But I'm not sitting here raising and giving action. I'm playing tight. And when I play this style of poker I don't need to chase draws. I can chase draws. But I don't need to. I can pick my spots.

And just like that I gave up another goal.

This time I got up and took a walk.

I looked in my wallet and took out two more hundred dollar bills.

We've been through this routine before. I'll start over and run it back up to even.

Who knows? Maybe even make a profit. And then we can pretend that all this bad stuff never happened.

In my first hand when I sit back down it gets raised up to 45 after a bunch of limp straddlers. I have ace king. Nice. Lets bump it up. I'm all in baby. Woo hoo. Vegas! Who's your daddy? College! Lets party!

I'm plenty happy to take down the 70 bucks or whatever is in the middle.

I'm happy to race a small pair.

I'm happy to face a non pair.

Double me up or send me home!

I get called by a pocket pair but flop trip aces and just like that, my stack is up to 476. I'm only down 124 despite not impressing anyone with my play tonight.

Around a half hour later my stack climbs over the 500 mark. I feel grateful to have so much. It's been a real strange evening in that I've sat down and literally done the exact stuff that I've recently blogged about being so proud of not doing.

Stuff like calling off big bets with top pair. Playing big pots with small holdings.

A little after Midnight I chop a pot where my opponent and I both had ace jack on a king queen jack board. I should have bet the river. He checked to me and if I had fired off $100 I'm pretty sure he would have folded but my confidence was rattled from some of the earlier hands.

I should get up and go because my play is not optimal. But I'm also trying to log as many hours as possible. Seeing if I can treat the poker experience more mechanically. Perhaps more table hours will mean an eventual great run of cards. Of course I have to make sure I still have chips on the table when the rush comes. I seem to be getting myself into trouble with the hands I am playing.

I lose 25 with pocket jacks. The preflop raiser had pocket aces so I was happy to get away from this hand without having lost more. That was a good fold. but then here comes another bad goal.

I call preflop with queen 10 suited. Flop queen, jack 2. I bet and get 3 callers. Jack comes on turn and small blind bets out. In this spot when a player out of position shows strength it is (usually) not a bluff. At least not at low stakes with 4 players to act behind him. In a high stakes game this is a very creative play. At 2/5 it means he has a jack.

But in position I stare him down and decide he must be bluffing. The board has paired and he's going to represent it. Very sneaky sir. Too bad I am on to you.

That's right.

I decide that this gentlemen, sitting across the table from me, whom I've never met before, who hasn't done anything out of the ordinary, is capable of this level of thinking.

If this isn't tilt I don't know what is.

I call him on the river and of course he shows me the jack. What else would he have? It wasn't alot of money. But losing chips on this hand is not how you make a living as a poker player. This was another embarrassing crystal clear indicator of me not being on top of my game.

I make another comeback around 1 AM. I feel dirty right now. I seem to have more gamble in me than usual. Someone stares at me the wrong way and I may reraise.

It's not necessarily a good or a bad thing. Just increased fluctuation. Speed stuff up. Tonight I'm calling the 25 preflop with my 7,8 suited. I'll take more variance. Good and bad.

And it seems to pay off. I hit a flush with 7,8 suited. It's the hand that's going to get me back over the hump. Out of the red and into the black.

I bet 50 dollars on the turn and incredibly get 5 callers. Part of me is nervous I may not have best flush with this many players calling.

But before I can figure out how to bet the river a freaking 4th diamond comes out on the board. And a gentlemen in front of me leads out for 100. Once again a guy out of position suddenly shows strength after a critical card comes out. This isn't a bluff. If he's making a play then good for him.

I don't think he would bluff into 4 players. It would be too easy for one of us to have a jack or something and look him up. Someone has a diamond. If I call and he turns over a higher flush I will go insane. I can't make this call. Not with the night I'm having. I'd rather be bluffed than pay someone off again.

I try to calm down. I tighten up and fold ace 10 under the gun. Despite everything I'm still only one hand away from turning around this whole mess.

I haven't played a hand in awhile so I raise to 20 from middle position with 3,6 suited and get two callers. Flop is 2,6, queen. I bet 45. They both fold.

I keep folding for awhile and around 20 minutes later pick up pocket 9's.

When I flop a set everything seemed great.

Little did I know it was about to turn into another ugly hand. Another bad goal.

Does it even matter what happened?

I hate having an off night mentally. I've been so steady the past few months. Tonight probably hurts my ego more than anything.

Here is the ugly truth.

I flop a set of 9's on a 6,9,10 board. I bet 20 and get a couple of callers.

2 comes on the turn. Now I bet 45 and get one caller.

King comes on the river and he leads out for 45.

If this were a standardized test question the correct answer would be CALL.

FOLD is wrong. I can't lay down a set of 9's here.

RAISE isn't always wrong here but it sure isn't always right. Not when a player with 7,8 or jack,queen is beating me.

CALL is most correct. You win pots from hands you are beating. And you don't lose additional money to hands which you are losing.

The other really big clue is that up until the river I've been doing all the betting.

But now suddenly he fires out a 45 bet. Usually this bet is not someone trying to steal your pot. It's a player wanting to put some chips out there to gain value from their hand. They don't want you to check it down. It's not a big enough bet to get good hands to fold. So it's a bet that wants to get called. It represents strength.

But I ignored this obvious message.

Instead I push out 145 chips. I raise him 100. I make a freaking value bet.

Why? Because I have a sense of humor.

Seriously. What is wrong with me?

I'm not sure at what point I decided I was ahead. Cause I do recall noticing that he led out with a bet on the river. And I thought I understood what that meant. But then I forgot. Within seconds. And so I raised him.

He thought for a moment.

My small brain is actually thinking "He he! When he folds right here I am going to be back up on the night!"

And then he says "I'm all in."

Never mind.

Guess I'm not going to be up on the night.

Further evidence of what I already knew.

He has a straight.

The only question now worth asking is whether his straight was flopped with the 7,8 or rivered with him holding the jack, queen.

Otherwise he wouldn't dare have the courage to reraise me here. Not from the way I've bet this hand. I obviously have something.

He's not bluffing. No. He has the goods.

I still have $300 in front of me. I can fold. I mean I have to fold.

I will have lost 200 on the hand but that's the breaks. He sucked out on me.

Whatcha gonna do? Happens to me everyday. I still have 300.

I'm still up 100 since sitting down at this table just 100 minutes ago.

Lets fold and move on.

And I wish that's how the story ended. But something was wrong. I wasn't myself.

I wasn't the guy I am night after night.

The guy who makes these lay downs over and over again.

Tonight for some reason I was the sucker who called the all in by the guy holding the nuts.

I am genuinely stunned by my play. I know too much about poker to be involved making a call like this.

The whole thing is torturous. Instead of smooth calling 45 dollars on the end after my set lost to a straight, I somehow managed to call off the rest of my stack as dead money. It's almost inconceivable.

What's really scary here is a really good player might even fold the set to the initial river bet! Right?

Like I'm fine with calling the first 45, but a really good player might watch his opponent lead out with this bet on the river and actually get away from this hand. That would be awesome to watch.

Of course I go the other way with it and raise.

And raising actually isn't terrible in this spot for some hands (as a bluff) because at least we'll find out for certain where our opponent is at.

When I raise to 145 he might fold a semi strong hand like top pair top kicker.

Which is why when he reraises me back all in I have got to listen to the information that is being said.

Information that I've specifically asked for.

Information that he is SHOUTING AT ME.

With my $145 bet I asked my opponent loud and clear if they were serious about the original $45 and my opponent went all in.


My call is awful. Going back to hockey, it's kind of like the other team was just trying to ice the puck and my goalie let it slip through his legs for a goal.

It will be a few days before this gross feeling goes away.

And of course losing money stinks. But at the end of the day I really wish I could have folded this hand just so I wouldn't have to live with the ensuing emotional baggage of calling.

Feeling stupid bothers me way more than losing money.


Fuel55 said...

I assume we'll see you at some of the WPBT Blogger events in December?


Robert said...

I'm planning to play that Saturday tournament at the Venetian and based on my recent play I'm sure everyone will want me at their starting table.

Check Raise Chin said...

Hey Rob,

Sounds to me like you kinda outsmarted yourself this session.

Sucks but it happens. There's always next time bro.

Keep up the great work!