Friday, January 4, 2013

The single worst poker decision I've ever made.

If we define tilt as "allowing your emotions to make decisions at the poker table", then tilt comes in many, many forms. I experienced a form of tilt last night that guided me to make the single, most ridiculous poker decision I've ever made at a table. Let this post serve as a memorial, a cautionary tale, and hopefully a lesson for my future self.

My home game mixes in one orbit of Pot Limit Omaha for every 2 orbits of No Limit Holdem. I don't talk much about Omaha on the blog - I'm not particularly good at it, and I personally find that reading about Omaha hand histories can be hard to follow. But I'll make an exception here to fulfill the need of documenting this atrocity.

Someone entered the pot with a raise. I held two pair in my hand, Kings and Nines. One King-Nine was suited (hearts), and the other was not. This hand was worth a call. There was one other caller, in the blinds, and we saw a flop.

Like most Omaha, flops, this one brought good and bad news. Eight Eight Deuce. A king-high flush draw, and 2 overpairs, which would give me the top full house if they hit. The original raiser checked to me. I felt like I could bet this flop and did so. I got one caller.

The turn was an exceptional, sensational Nine, giving me the top full house. A monster. I bet $25 into a $35 pot.

My opponent paused a beat, then said "raise pot". Our resident math-genius immediately announced the bet was $84, and he started cutting out the proper chips.

I've thought about what happened next for many hours now. Bizarre thoughts went through my head, instead of the obvious "RAISE ALL IN, DUMMY". I would characterize the two separate thoughts in this way. The first was the fear of getting stacked. Not because I give a crap about the $100. Not because I would be out of money for the night (I had another buy-in tucked nicely away in wallet). Just because I guess I hate getting stacked. I hate it. A sign of failure and all that. I know this is absolute terrible, destructive thinking in poker, and I have little trouble playing with aggression most of the time when needed, but when the bets get big and the stack gets threatened, my emotions take over in a destructive way. Apparently.

That's the least bizarre of the two thoughts that ran through my mind, though. The second was even more strange. It was something similar to the following:

"Oh my freaking god, does he actually have quad eights?
"I'll bet he has quad eights. That is the sickest thing ever".
"What would be EQUALLY sick, though, would be if I actually folded the top boat to this raise, and showed everyone what a boss I am".
"That is an INSANE idea!". I'm going to fold this boat! Ha Ha! I am THE FREAKING MAN".

And that's exactly what I did. I announced to the table "forget it, you've got quad eights, I fold", and then showed my two nines. The table sat in stunned silence, processing what I just did. My opponent in the hand looked particularly baffled, which is of course the exact moment when the emotion left my head and logic took over again.

"Oh, you didn't have quad eights?", I said.

"Uh, no", he replied. Which told my now-perfectly-sane brain that he had pocket twos, eight-deuce, or nine-deuce, most of which were drawing dead or nearly dead to my monster overfull.

That I just folded.

For no sane, reasonable reason on earth.

Ah, tilt rears its head again. Most people describe tilt as a gradual, building type of rage that occurs over the course of a session, and then causes us to do things outside the realm of proper play. My tilt is a much more insidious - mine occurs mid-hand. The adrenaline of the moment washes over me and causes a poor decision. Like shoving my stack in and blowing someone off two pair, for example. Or flopping the nut flush and getting runner-runner boated. I identified these hands as Monster Tilt at the time 6 months ago, and I guess that name still applies here. After all, I did have a monster. But it was the stack-committing raise from my opponent that really caused the adrenaline rush, and the destructive, outrageous thoughts that lead me to fold. Ever hear of tilt-folding a monster, for ego reasons? Well, now you have.

If you're interested in the thinking a sane, decent poker-playing person could have followed after facing the raise, it would have looked something like this:

"Oh my freaking god, does he actually have quad eights?
"I'll bet he has quad eights. That is the sickest thing ever".
(gathers self). "Well, yes, he could have quad eights. That’s one combo of possible hands."
"Or he could have 9-8. That’s 2 combos."
"Or he could have 2-2. That’s 3 combos."
"Or he could have 8-2. That’s 6 combos.
This player would get all-in with any of these hands. So I’m beating 11 combos and losing to 1.


Next up, finding ways to deal with this mid-hand, adrenaline-based tilt. It's crushing my game.


Spot said...

No doubt, PLO takes a combination of patience and paranoia to play effectively. Bluffs are rare in this game, or so we tell ourselves, and therefore we look for the nuts... and the uber nuts, for if you play the game often enough, you see the quads and straight flushes. (I love quad eights for it seems I get this hand more often than any other quads, which also results in me calling preflop every time I get a pair of eights. Yeah, I know.) Yet, I can only recall one hand in which a player called to the river to get better quads... vs my eights. I knew he hit it and still called. Why? Because if quads beat you, then you did nothing wrong by calling off your stack. I've since resolved to never fold holding the nuts according to the board, but to just chuckle, say "Nice hand," (plus make a mental note to vomit later) and take heart that you too will do the same to someone else in the future.

The Poker Meister said...

Can't comment on the trials & tribulations of omaha, as I'm not an omaha player. However, I have learned this throughout the past year or so of playing live poker solely: take your time with decisions. There is no clock like online, so you can carefully think through each decision. Honestly, you should already play a little bit of each scenario out ahead of when it actually happens, but shy of that, TAKE YOUR TIME.