Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ups and Downs

I'm sure that the inevitable ups and downs of the game of poker end the pursuit for many players. They are promised that study and hard work will equal success, in the long run. But the long run can be so much longer than they thought.

My desire to play cards was at an ebb this weekend, after my Friday night tourney. My table on Friday night was full of recreational players having themselves a nice Friday night playing cards. There were 2 players at the table whom I considered a threat. The others had mistakes in their game that were obvious after 30 minutes at the table - they called too much, they raised too high with their monsters (afraid of the suckout), they folded their way to tournament oblivion. My own game is far from perfect, but I had hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of practice and play over these weekenders.

To what end? None. Good decisions foiled by bad luck. Aces cracked by a tournament-committing Jack-Four suited. Ace-Jack chopped with Ace-Nine on an all-in.

"That's poker" is what they'll tell me. And they're not wrong. Those who have dedicated themselves to this game have brought a special form of torture upon themselves. If I were to stand in the batter's box against a major league pitcher - say Cliff Lee, my chance of hitting a home run is very close to 0%. He has put in the work to become the best at his craft, and can whip the very best players in the world, making them look silly. I personally would have no chance to succeed against him, by any measure of success. I'm simply not capable. Cliff Lee has chosen a pursuit where his hard work guarantees success against 99.99% of the population, and focuses instead on beating the rest of the 0.01%.

But put me at a poker table with Phil Ivey for one night - I've got a shot. Flop a hidden set of deuces or simply make a hideous error and get lucky on the river - bye bye Phil. Phil has to just shrug it off when some .05/.10 cash gamer takes him down. And the whims of luck might take him down 70 times out of his next 100.

Some professional players (like Chris Ferguson) give themselves a personal challenge of starting with $100 and trying to build it up to a big number by working their way through the microstakes. They do this because they acknowledge that this is indeed a challenge - their impressive skills have to overcome the forces of bad luck. Can you imagine Peyton Manning deciding to challenge himself by moving down to pee-wee football to see if he could beat the game?

I played in a matrix tourney last night. I had aces cracked by nine-six suited, all-in preflop vs. a maniac. Then, I cracked opponents' pockets aces twice myself - once with jacks that hit a jack on the river. The other time in a heads up battle where my opponent limped with the rockets, I checked my king-four, and the flop came king-king-four. I checked the immortal nuts, and my opponent shoved, springing the trap that ended his tournament.

King-four beats aces. LOL. Much like jack-four two nights before. I took no pleasure in cracking the aces, and certainly none in having my own cracked.

The whole thing seemed a bit silly.

No comments: