Monday, January 09, 2006

High and Low

Poker is really strange. Or maybe it's just me.

I played four online tournaments on Saturday, cashed in none and performed worse than I have in recent memory. The thing is, I knew before I sat down that I was in no frame of mind to play, which is one of those little clues I should be able to pick up on by now.

Even before the $16K Guaranteed started on Full Tilt, I was in a state of agitation, almost like I was FORCING myself to play, because, well, that's what I do on Saturday nights at seven o'clock. When the first three orbits gifted me nothing in the way of playable cards--a continuation of the last two weeks on the virtual felt--I was seething. As such, I pushed my AJo blindly, angrily, into AKo when I flopped nary a pair.

April popped up into the FT chat box, saying I was primed for a comeback, but my 90 remaining chips were less horrifying than the idea that "PEOPLE SAW THAT?!?!?" Oh my lord.

I yanked myself away from the poker machine and had some "Me" time. I was acutely aware of my stupidity. Apart from the indefensible play was the certainty that I should have seen it coming. Should have passed on the tourney and saved my $26 for another day.

I'm not really sure the origin of my poor attitude. I didn't play much during last week because I simply didn't feel like it. So perhaps the days away from the game compelled me to get back in, eventually winning out, even as my mood resisted.

In the course of 45 minutes, I think I shrugged off that agitation. I think I came back with a better attitude. I definitely came back with a little beer buzz. None of which helped.

I busted out of the $69+$6, though I played better. Not excellent, but more patiently. I was card dead--repeat--and pushed with the worst hand. C'est la vie.

Then I played the $8K and here's where we hit rock bottom. I actually had a stack, was playing solidly into the third hour (by this time, I was a little hammered). I see a free flop in the BB with Q4o and check when it comes 766. Only one other person is in the hand and he checks, as well. The turn is a queen and I'm certain I have the best hand. I check and he bets the pot of 800, which I min. raise. Just trying to be cute. I know I'm ahead and I want to milk that out of him if I can, though I have the idea he's folding. He doesn't. My thought is that he has a bit of a straight draw, 98, T9. The river is a lovely Jack of hearts and I push out my fancy little value bet of 1400. He pushes. Ha Ha! Sucker! Your busted draw bluff will not work against me!

I insta-call and he flips K9 of hearts. I celebrate. The virtual pot gets shipped to him.

I never saw the flush board. Never registered the two hearts on the flop. Never saw them, in fact, until I pulled up the hand history.


I remember the last time I mis-read a board. It was almost exactly a year ago. I folded when a fourth spade fell on the river and a guy pushed on me. I folded my full house. Must be something about those pair boards and flushes.

Aside from the obvious embarrassment (yes, people saw THAT play too), I took it pretty well. I wasn't angry as much as I was self-critical. Sure, everybody makes a mistake like that once in a while, but this was more like an "I told you so" moment. As in, your mind is not right to be playing and right there is the most glaring evidence as to why.

Worst of all, I think, is that this is a lesson I've already learned. I preach it often. Take your 'A' game to the table. If you are not feeling that 'A' game, stay away. I've bled off plenty of buy-ins to know better.


Sunday morning, I was able to put it all behind me. I woke up feeling fine (I did hit both my NFL playoff bets on Saturday), settled in with some coffee and signed up for the $6K Guarantee on Full Tilt. I played my 'A' game--with the exception of one hand where I picked the wrong time to gamble in a battle of the blinds--and finished 12th, losing a race as one of the short stacks just shy of the Final Table. But I was pleased with my play and attitude.

Took the rest of the afternoon off and watched some football/de-Christmasized the house, before logging in for the $16K. Um, I played fine in that one too, for the 5 minutes it lasted. Crash!

I, and others, quickly departed the severed Full Tilt for the $11 Crazy Re-Buy on Stars. Again, I brought The House (that being my particular house) and cashed. A minor award (finished somewhere in the 120 range), but one that was maximized by my cards and play and if I win that LAST race, I've got bullets to spare. I didn't, but I did play four hours of solid poker, while both enjoying myself and being focused.


I remember a soccer game I played when I was ten years old. It was a friendly, but it was memorable because it was played in front of about two-thousand people. It was the League's annual picnic and the Main Event was my team against an older high competition club from our town. We were the reigning State Champions and that was part of the draw.

I don't think our coaches put too much of a premium on the game, but we did. Pride, the swell of the spectators...whatever it was, we played with championship intensity, sort of a little brother vs. big brother mentality. The crowd was active and loud and it spurred us. We not only won 2-0, but we dominated the older kids, who were no slouches themselves.

Two weeks later, we played them again on a lonely Saturday afternoon. There was no crowd, just two teams getting in a game in an abandoned park. No intensity, no buzz, no motivation. No 'A' game.

They beat us 6-0.


Lesson learned this time? Jeez, I hope so.


At 1:26 PM, Blogger StudioGlyphic said...

Never play without an audience.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger cc said...

You hint at a broader question that I struggle with, both live and online: should you play if you aren't prepared to play your best? I think I play more often not prepared to play my best online for sure, but should you sit down in the first place?

At 3:05 PM, Blogger April said...

I believe my exact words to the IRC gang were "Either Joe's having a rough night, or he's let someone else play under his account".

There is no shame with this group. Hell, we still accept the guy who managed to pour a beer on himself.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Poker Jones said...

Just read your post on Pauly's site and your most recent entry. Good stuff (and well-written, to boot). Fully appreciate that "Why-the-hell-did-I-register-for-this-thing feeling. (FYI, I'm a new blogger ( and the Book of Pauly says leave comments if you ever hope to get anyone to read your stuff. Look forward to reading through the rest of your stuff.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Lady Falcon said...

I read the article you posted on Pauly's website yesterday regarding multi table tournament strategy. After I read your article, I played in two online MTTs and made the final table in both. Made 5th out of 132 in a $10 limit hold'em game. Made 8th out of 475 in a $5 no limit hold'em game. Played both simultaneously...and I think that helped me in both -- less temptation to play marginal hands when you're playing two different tourneys at the same time. That, and I was looking at porn online between hands too...which also helped to curb the temptation to play marginal hands...especially in the first hour of the tournaments.

Thanks for the tips! Very solid.

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous SteveP said...

Your manifesto is brilliant. I'm an avid reader of the poker blogs, and after reading your post on Pauly's site yesterday, things got better. I was in the worst poker slump recently and thought this year was going to go poorly thus far, but I came in 2nd in a $5.50 MTT out of 674 players last nite...your post was inspirational. thanks! Your site is now in the favorites folder for sure.

\m/ (metal horns to you)


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