Friday, January 30, 2009

my strange problem rears its head again.

Thursday night game - tourney style. 14 players (2 tables of 7), $30 buy in. Early in the game.

I get a cheap play from the blind with JTo. Flop comes 9-Q-x, giving me an open ender. I check and the villain bets. I don't have explicit odds to call but decide to take one off since we're so early. I call the bet.

Turn doesn't help. I check, villain bets again, the same amount as before. 4-1 odds now, easy call. C'mon King or nine,
King or nine, King or nine, King or nine, King or nine....

River - A King, baby! Woohoo! Villain bets - small yet again. I raise with my straight. He reraises. (??!?). Half my stack ends up in this pot if I call. Hmmm, what's he got? Two pair, set? Maybe. Better Straight? Nope, one isn't out there. Ok, I call.

He calls "flush" and flips over Ac9c. The word is foreign to me, like I don't know what it is. A flush? How?

I check the board again. There were 2 clubs on the board from the flop. My opponent had paired his nine and was drawing to the nut flush. He made a solid flop bet with second pair. The turn didn't help, so he bet weaker, not sure if he was ahead. The river gave him the nuts and he bet small again - I would have probably upped the bet a bit more myself - but it worked out for him anyway as his flush card also gave me the straight, and I raised off over half my starting stack.

After this disaster, I tightened up waiting for a hand. I won some money from the blinds and shove/stole enough to stay at around 5-8 BB, and held on to take fifth place - a decent ending point considering my disastrous start. My ending hand was a shove from under the gun with complete crap - 3-5 offsuit, but I had 4 big blinds and was about to enter the big blind again. I got called by a pair of jacks. The flop came all low and actually gave me a shot at a straight, but it didn't come.

If you have the inclination, go re-read my account of the big early hand. Notice how nowhere in the description do I check the suits. This account mirrors (to the best of my ability) my thought process as the hand played out live. This is a problem I have at the table - an ongoing problem that might cost me a ton of money unless I figure out how to fix it. When I flop a strong hand or a real draw (8+ outs, I guess), a part of my brain shuts off and I revert to playing "level 1" poker. I stop thinking about what can beat me - it completely leaves my brain.

In this hand, I saw the open-ender on the flop and never checked the suits. Never checked them. Now, I'm not sure in this hand that I would have been able to put my opponent on a flush draw anyway - he is a pretty straightforward player, and his bets were completely consistent with his second pair. Combo hands are pretty tough to sniff out. However, seeing the possibility of the flush coming in on the river would have (or should have) slowed me down. The correct play would have been to pay off the small river bet with my straight, knowing the flush was on the board. But my decent draw clouded my ability to even consider what my opponent was holding. A real rookie mistake.

Truth be told - I did the same thing again
later in the same tourney, but it didn't cost me this time. I got to play 7T offsuit for free from the big blind and flopped the nuts - and 89J flop. I never checked the suits - again! I checked, hoping to checkraise, but my lone opponent didn't bet.

I was hoping for an Ace on the turn, or something that would hit my opponent, but an undercard blank came, and I didn't think he could bet now if he hadn't bet the flop. I checked again, and my opponent checked behind.

Then the river came - I don't recall the rank, but I did notice the suit
this time - it was a club, and I then realized that there were three clubs on the board. I had just let my opponent draw to the flush for free, never thinking about it. (At least I noticed the suits during the hand, this time, albeit a bit late). Friggin Genius, I am. Well, there was no guarantee that he had two clubs in his hand - and I needed to make some money if I could with my straight - so I lead out, not knowing what I would do if I got raised. My opponent folded, probably afraid of the flush I almost didn't see.

If any of my few (but
loyal) readers have any advice for helping me overcome my problem, I would love to hear it. Perhaps you have an inner dialog after the flop, a script you go through that helps you keep track of both your hand as well as reads on your opponent. Perhaps I just need to play for another 1/2/3 years before I stop acting like a kid in a candy store when I hit a good, but non-nut, hand. Perhaps there's a book or article that teaches me how to play draws but to stop assuming that I'll win the hand if/when that draw hits.

I know the real answer is "dummy, read the board better", but I need some help in doing this.

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