Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beat Me, Whip Me, Watch Me Play Poker

Another in the Poker Diaries. Enjoy or not.

So tonight, I have a freeroll for a big tournament at Parx, the closest casino to me in Bensalem, PA, and a place where it's just damned near impossible to get a sense of what will happen from moment to moment. If I can get deep in this, I can save what's shaping up to be a pretty blah holiday, as accounting troubles have left me short in the one month of the year you don't want to be short. So I'm already pinning way too many hopes on this as is, and when the Shooter Wife and relentless rain and traffic cause me to get to the table 15 minutes late, I'm none too thrilled...

But then the hands start, and hey, I'm getting cards and even hitting some flops. A-K offsuit before I can even give the dealer my receipt; I limp, the flop misses and eventually goes to the river before someone makes a min bet on a board of five undercards. Hey, not the worst start in the world: I didn't go broke or nothing. Ten minutes later, I read a player as weak when I have top pair with a good kicker, and my reckless gut play of all-in gets me up 50% on the starting stack. Hey, maybe it's my night!

We reach the break and I'm up to 15K at the break, and feeling like I'm (a) catching enough cards to go deep, and (b) showing enough to make a c-bet stand up later. I catch Broadway on the river, I spike my ace in early position, I don't get hurt in any hands, and while no one at the table looks particularly weak, they are looking vulnerable. Now in Level 6, I'm up to 18K.

And lookie here, pocket queens in early position. Let's not get into a crazy race situation here, right? Not when people will stay in for ace-rag, and any flop that's got an ace is one you are throwing away...

My min bet (WARNING! WARNING! BAD POKER STARTS HERE!) gets a tight woman on my left in, and the big blind. The flop comes out 3-6-9 rainbow, no straights or overcards, as pretty as this can be without actually improving my hand. Neither of them look happy with it, so I'm not putting anyone on trips, and calling any bet to make two of those pairs just isn't in keeping with how the table has played. I make a pot-sized bet for a sixth of my stack, hoping to end things here and get to 20K, and the woman to the left folds. The big blind... calls. That's not good. I was putting him on some mismatched over-under, where he's just hoping to catch a Jack or King to make his priced min raise bet hand OK. Maybe not.

The turn is a 2, and he shoves. Really. Snap shoves, as if there's no chance in the world that he has anything other than 4-5 for the straight, and can just tell by looking at me that there's no way I'm going to potentially go home with anything on the board that's better than my overpair. Just throw it away, count your 13K, know that you are over the average and make a move later.

But why so much, really? If he's got trips -- and I didn't put him on that before -- he'd be better off making value bets. If he's got the straight, he'd be better off giving me a free card to double up or get trips, and make a bad snap call on his river moment.

The all-in just smells like buying it with air, or that he thinks I have air, and his Ace-rag which is now a pair of rags with a high kicker is really good here, but might not be for much longer.

So. If he's got squat... I'll have 35K in chips. 3x average. Deep run worthy. 3x chips. Chip leader at the table. Deep run worthy.

I don't put him on the straight. I don't put him on trips. Which means two pair or air... and to get two pair, he'd have just had to call 3K where a deuce gives him his second pair, on a board of over. He'd had to have 9-2, 6-2 or 3-2. And who calls raises with that, against a player who has to look pretty A-B-C tight by now?


Well, as you might have guessed by now, he's the kind of guy who plays cards like those from the big blind. He flips over 3-2 suited spades -- no, there was no flush draw for him either, just the most easily counterfeited two pair in poker. Which is why he went all in, of course; he didn't want to see his luckball lowball evaporate. My 8 outs (2 queens, 3 sixes, 3 nines) miss on the river, and so much for that.

From 17K in chips to zero in one minute of chained stupidity, starting with the failure to make the early raise at least 3-4X, or the flop an all-in moment when I was sure as hell as I was ahead, or just getting away from the freaking hero call on the river. Had I folded, I still have an above average chip stack, and wouldn't feel like poker is something that's just going to add to feelings of inadequacy for, oh, the rest of my life.

And no, it's no comfort to me to know that I was 80-20 to win this hand pre-flop, and 80-20 to win it on the turn, or that having the stones to make tough calls is kind of necessary if you ever want to win. The only comfort is that I got out of there in time to read my kids to bed. That's worth something. Probably more than the rest of the night, really.

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