Tuesday, August 26, 2008

POKER DRIVEL: A Rant and a Lesson

I'll start with the rant, just to get it out of the way...

I had one of the most frustrating runs of poker in my entire life last Saturday. I attended a "friends and family" tournament at my cousin's house. Everyone there who knew me well would've put heavy odds on me to win the game at the outset. Sure, 24 people bought in, but most of them were VERY casual players and were drinking heavily from the start. Even better, many of the rest were regular "home gamers" who thought they knew far more than they did and were eager to get all their chips in the pot with a mediocre top pair.

Four hands in, my first opportunity... I look down at Kings from the Big Blind. Under the Gun (first to bet pre-flop) raises 10x the BB. He loves his hand, which means it's probably an ishy-to-decent Pocket Pair or a medium-to-strong Ace. Unless he's stupid lucky, it's not better than Queens. The pot was 75 with the blinds before his raise to 500. He's got 4,500 behind. I have 4,950. It's folded around to me. I push. I know, I know, PUSH??? But I made the decision consciously using the following logic:

1) I know he's going to call. These guys never lay down their raised hand to a reraise. Many of these home gamers have some absurd, ego-driven notion that they can't be pushed off a hand. He has to call. Otherwise he's being a wussy. Heh.

2) For the first 6 levels, we've got unlimited rebuys, after which there's an add-on. If he has Aces or gets lucky some other way, another $20 and I'm right back in it.

3) I want to establish an aggressive, in-your-face table image early - win or lose. I can leverage this later to incresse the value of my smooth calls and value bets.

He calls of course. He's got Sevens. Here comes the flop...


I kid you not. I should have taken the hint and left, but no... I told myself every time these fools get lucky, it works in my favor as it reaffirms their bad behavior and makes them ripe for the picking - assuming they ever STOP getting lucky.

That hand was the beginning of a very long night. The next hand I played, probably 45 minutes later, I flopped a straight on a rainbow board. Of course, the other guy flopped a higher straight. They were pushing each other around with mediocre hands... But every time they played me, they had the absolute nuts.

Card dead, card dead, card dead... Used the button to steal a couple blinds against the weak-tight players to my left. Lost AQ to 7T, AK to A2, Aces to KQc. Basically I was destined to lose every hand I got myself into... Play it slow, play it hard, didn't matter... They called no matter what the odds and they hit ALL NIGHT LONG.

Finally the rebuys ended. I added on, giving myself around 8.5k chips against a table average of about 10k. Most people did not add on. Didn't make much sense to me either.

Card dead, card dead, card dead... Finally I got 9s from one behind the button and decided to push them sorta hard to see where I stood. The blinds were 300 / 600 and I raised to 2400, about a third of my stack by that point. Big Blind called.

Flop comes...


He's all-in. I call. He has Jacks.

To my discredit, I was less than polite while dumping my chips to the middle of the table. I wasn't violent or yelling, just unceremoniously shoving stacks of chips into a big mess in the center of the table. I was about as frustrated as I've ever been at a poker table.


I tell you that not as some whining bad beat story, but to make a point... Sessions like this happen. Sometimes you're not allowed to win. Sometimes you get Qs twice, find yourself against As both times - then when you get As against Qs, the other guy draws out on you. It just happens, and it happens in streaks.

It's absolutely normal to be frustrated. Luck can be the stupidest thing in the whole wide world. But through it all, remember that short term results don't ultimately matter. If you insist on playing good poker no matter how bad it's going at the moment, if you stay consistent through all the ups and downs, good things will happen in the end...

At the least you've developed a maturity worth having. At the most, you've learned one of the most important skills to becoming a great poker player.


bastinptc said...

I see what you mean. This type of setting is what it is. And these situations happen. Still, when the losses seem uncanny, the cards mock you, and the beer has run out, poker sucks for a couple days.

PAPro_SandMan said...

Yes. Yes it does. I especially identify with the "cards mock you" feeling. For some unknown reason, in my mind, it feels like a very personal screwjob I am receiving when I have nights like this.

El Forrest Gumpo said...

"heavy odds on me to win the game at the outset"

A 24 person tourney with (I assume) fast moving blinds?

I'll take the odds against mate. ;)


PAPro_SandMan said...

Well, I played for 6 hours without winning a hand particularly... Just stole a couple blinds. So, no, not fast blinds at all.

Start at 5k chips, blinds at 25/50, 30 minutes levels - didn't quite double each level. Game took about 10 hours start to finish.

It was the type of group I almost guarantee I would have dominated with average or better luck. Not because I'm some poker god, but because they were soooooo bad... Especially the ones delusional enough to think they were decent.

El Forrest Gumpo said...

The problem is you're at the mercy of the cards though? In the pub tournaments I sometimes play, most of them have no clue but the problem is every hand goes to showdown. There's no point bluffing, or trying to push them off hands etc. Also is its self dealt the # hands you actually see are super low. You just gotta catch cards and play them better than the others there.


PAPro_SandMan said...

Yeah, I'm aware. I've played a whole lot of tournament poker against bad players. My point was that these are the specfic kind of player I can really manipulate to my purposes. It's easy to get maximum value out of made hands while they flounder around and trade chips back and forth at random.

In any case, the point was not to posture, but to make the point that these people were bad... And not just bad, but, as I said above, the exact kind of bad that a good player can leverage and control - especially the ones who like to pretend they know something. Sure, you've got to have some cards, but it's much easier to leverage the cards you do get to maximum effect.

In any case... The point was that it's easy to blame yourself for failure even when you're the best player in the room by leaps and bounds. As Daniel Negreanu once said, "The cards can make you look like a genius or they can make you look like a moron."

It happens to everyone, no matter the quality of their play, and the trick is to ignore the results in favor of the methods... If your methods are correct, the results should take care of themselves... A truth that can be hard to keep track of when you've just been drubbed by a table full of loons.

Drew Pruitt (stickyd) said...

Greetings Sandman. Hope you are doing well. If you could send those bad players willing to play 10 hour tournament down to Texas, I sure would appreciate it. Stay frosty :)

PAPro_SandMan said...

Heya Sticky!

Yeah, it was a situational thing... Was more of a family and friends party complete with stocked bar and tapped keg. Poker was the secondary activity, "hanging out with buds" being primary.

We literally had people (wives mostly) who bought in to play and had to be taught the basic rules of Hold 'Em. Bizarre situation I've never seen anywhere else.