Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Worst Cards For The Worst Play

The continuing Poker Diary posts, just so the other people in my home game can hone their ability to beat me into submission. Tonight's episode in terrible tournament play was, at least, entirely new. Amazingly new, really. Let's get into it.

From the first hand, I knew it was going to be one of *those* nights. I get 2-4 suited in middle position, on a table of folks that I know to be tight early. After all, it's at the 25 cent / 50 cent level with no ante, and everyone has got $100 in chips... but, well, 2-4 suited? Someone's going to raise this. I throw it away. No sense in getting caught up in something dumb right away, right? So the flop gives me trip deuces, as it had to, to an unraised pot of four, and my trip deuces would have taken it down at showdown. And no, I wouldn't have made a lot from the hand, not from the size of the pot that was eventually taken down... but the mental virus has been sown: I am going to hit flops I don't play, and miss the ones I do. One of *those* nights. It's important to go a little on tilt on hands that you aren't a part of. Use all of it, really.

But the next 45 minutes go well enough, except for one nagging problem... I'm not getting paid for, well, anything. Building pot bets with top pair are met with no callers, a flopped straight from the big blind goes down on the turn from a minimum raise... and the nagging feeling is rising. Not only is it one of *those* nights, but I've obviously developed a tell. Either that, or my table image is too tight to ever make money, neither of which is terribly helpful.

I take a small hit with about 10 minutes left in the rebuy first hour, but I'm still above starting stack size, when I catch pocket queens in the big blind. A pot size raise thins the field, and the flop gives me high trips and no flush draw. Getting cagey against one of the better tournament players in the room, I slow play it... and the turn fills his open-ended straight. I wind up walking right into the buzzsaw for my full stack, and kicking myself for not betting the flop, not that I'm certain that I would have taken him off the draw anyway. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And continuing the One Of Those Nights internal dialogue, which is to say that I'm dead money walking.

The next 15 minutes of play are filled with exasperating mid-level or worse hands -- Ace-6 off suit in middle position, Ace-3 off suite under the gun -- that I keep making the wrong moves with. I'm not playing enough hands, or not raising hard enough, or just wearing my hands on my face; if this were a cash game and a casino, I'd go take a walk. Nothing's working. I'm too tight. Time to do something different, and maybe show it.

After getting my blinds picked off, I get 2-7 (well, suited at least) under the gun. I never play 2-7 by choice; it's the worst hand in poker for a reason, and I generally follow the math on such things. So if I never do this, maybe it's time to give it a shot. The blind isn't raised, and the flop comes down with paint, only one of my suit. Well, why waste good cards on a bluff? And I'd never go all-in on this kind of hand, needing runner-runner for a baby flush. Every big bet I've made today, people have ran from. I'm going to shove, everyone's going to fold, I'm going to show this crap hand and that's going to change the whole tournament for me. I'll show everyone that I've got gamble in me, dammit. My shove is 3X the pot, and people are bailing from it with speed...

But not, well, the big blind. Who caught the flop nicely, and after thirty seconds of worrying that I've hit some nutty form of trips, calls with two pair of paint. Well, so much for that. The room is astounded by what I turn over, and I'm first out of the tournament with one of the more spectacular flameouts that you've ever seen. In the last three tournaments I've played at my home game, I'm 0-for-3 in all-in bets. Hard to do, Harry.

The cash game went better, and I wound up making back my tournament stake. So why was I, well, so damned stupid in the tournament, beyond my usual rank stupidity? Well, there's this... cash has been so tight this year, with work worries and stagnant wages, lower blog revenue and less poker winnings to go with rising heating and fuel costs, grocery and prescription drug bills, education expenses and so on, and so on. I'm at a point in my life where I'm so desperate to get out of credit card debt that putting anything on a card is just anathema. There's a better than reasonable chance that my children have more discretionary income than I do, seeing how they have allowances and no expenses.

And then there's poker. An indeterminate revenue or loss, a clear vice despite my overall positive numbers from it, and something that just seems like something I *have* to win at. Which is, of course, nonsense; I don't play for big enough stakes to get really hurt, and my home game players are good enough about filling my tip jar from drinks and junk food that even if I get skunked at the tables, I'm not going to be completely shut out. But still, it's in your head... and not helping you at all when it comes to figuring out your next move.

Next game is in three weeks or less. And while I hate to give up information, I have to hope that I won't be going all-in with 2-7 again...

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