Saturday, March 24, 2012


I played a hand about as bad as you could play it in my cash game a week ago.

I was going to write about it, but it really defied explanation. I still cannot pin down why I played it so badly. There were 4 decision points in the hand, and I made the wrong decision 3 of those 4 times:

1. Limp with seven-Ten of hearts in middle position, behind other limpers. (bad)

2. Flop comes JTT. Lead from new, inexperienced player in the blinds. Raise his lead. He calls. (good)

3. Newbie bets $20 into a $23 pot, on a 3 turn. Look for tells, don't see any. He looks comfortable, and turns to his right to check the basketball score. Realize I don't beat anything except T2, T3, T5, T6. Call anyway. (bad)

4. Newbie shoves his last $34 on a 4 river. Realize I now you beat even less than I did before. Call. (oh so very bad).

What the hell was I thinking? Was I drunk? I don't think so, I had 3 beers in me, enjoying evening and company. Was I tired? Well, yes, I was a bit tired that night. Was I tilting? I don't think I was tilting before that hand - I was not running particularly well, but didn't feel that upset about it. In fact, I had won a few nice pots just before this hand and had crawled back to near-even on the night.

The only real explanation for the hand by the turn is a form of tilt - that mid-hand, "I can't believe this is fucking happening to me, I have the strongest hand I've had all night and I'm still beat" kind of tilt. The tilt that forces you to make awful calls with trips/no-kicker, even when Mr. Newbie's got a big sign on his head that says "oooo-full house for me". (or at least "ooo, trips and I don't hate my kicker").

I was really irritated with my play of the hand for most of the week. I vowed to play better this week. In fact, I made a vow to myself to finally unleash "online mode" at my home game this week - play the same poker that I play vs. the online sharks that infest the micro-stakes waters of one of the few online sites left to US players. My overall play in my live game is tight-aggressive, solid poker, but I sometimes lapse into comfortable, easy, "let's see a flop this one time" mode. And I often pay for it - like I did by limping with 7-T sooooted.

Nope, this week would be my best effort, from the top down. I was going to take my game seriously - not just most of the way, but the whole way. I made sure to plan my week's rest around being refreshed and ready to go for Friday night. I took a cup of coffee at the perfect time before play started. I allowed myself 2 drinks early during play, and then switched to alcohol-free fare. I promised myself to think through all possible choices at every point, and then to make the best decision for the situation. I brought an extra buy-in to the table (3 total), and told myself that it was ok to get stacked if the proper decision called for that risk.

There are no guarantees of victory in poker, even if you bring your best game to the table. The cards can be bad, or just good enough to lose money. You can alternate between the two, or suffer repeated bouts of misery that makes it look like it just isn't going to be your night. Even when these things happen, you must know that as long as you played your best poker, then you should take pride in knowing that the long run will work out for you.

Alternately, you can play a good session of poker and get rewarded. You can steal pots with the worst hand and not show down, and then win most of your showdowns, even when you thought you were pretty weak. You can turn a monster draw in Omaha and know that they can't chase you away with a pot-sized bet (especially with a weak caller in between). Then you can actually hit the monster draw and scoop the mega-monster pot your way. You can count out a 309(!) big blind victory at the night's end, and the feeling of pride comes a little easier.

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