Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Poker Diaries: Ah, Satisfaction

Today, or more accurately, last night... is the reason why I play poker. And this is the day's soundtrack for it.

It's not that I won, though of course, it is. The money was unexpected, welcome, wonderful; it will go in a bunch of different directions, most familial, and while it did nice things for my place in the yearly standings and points race, I've been in that position enough times to know that these things are, like plans, just a way to make God laugh. Rather, it was how it happened, with patience mixed with aggression, slow plays and traps, all-ins with the nuts that got called, and enough luck to win, but not enough to discount the accomplishment.

Oh, and I also came back from a 10 to 1 chip disadvantage at heads up, over the course of an hour, to win. That's going to stay with me for a while.

And of course, This Way Lies Danger, and over-confidence, and walking into tough tables with deep stacked maniacs who will make me regret getting out of bed, let alone stepping up to the table. But that kind of thinking is just as dumb and regrettable as the low time depression that happens when you play badly. It's like having a drink or two with friends and becoming convinced that the alcohol is necessary and masking a greater problem, even though the amount and severity of the liquor never goes up, and your health and safety are at no risk. It's eating great ice cream while yelling at yourself for not getting to the gym more. It's wishing that your elected officials were more in line with your priorities, rather than appreciating the parts they get right.

It is, basically, looking for something to complain about, and while it clearly makes for easier blog grist, it can't be any fun to hang out with. So, um, me? Good God, stop it already. Just enjoy the fact that good play is something you are capable of, and be present in the moment. Or the memory.

So here's a few more things I'm going to try to remember, and forget, and re-read later, and forget all over again. If you play, you're probably going to do the same thing.

1) When you avoid getting into hands with people whose play you respect, you are, on some level, disrespecting your own game. Which can't be good. I get picking your spots and knowing the table, but you don't have to be better than them for the rest of your life. Just this hand.

2) Showing the nuts when you aren't called might make the folder feel like they've got a great read on you, or convince the rest of the table that you are a card rack. If you always advertise, or never advertise, this is also, well, information. And spreading false information can help.

3) Position is important, but not as much as your table read. Let's say you have Ace-Queen off in the small blind, with a few limpers behind you. The standard play here is to try to raise for value, and to drive some of the weak draws hands out so that you don't wind up paying off connections. It also helps to tell a continuation bet bluff, which might not even be a bluff since you've got the Ace high, especially if the board pairs. (And, of course, your stack size is the 8,000-pound elephant in the room.)

But if the big blind always defends, or constantly raises, limping might be a great play... because now you are either seeing the flop cheaply with a highly disguised power hand, or watching it build for more information behind you. And for all you know, the under the gun limper has a pair and is just hoping someone raises so he can shove. There is, in my opinion, no "right" way to play this, other than the simple admonition that if you do it the same time every time, that's wrong.

4) The rest of your day has nothing to do with your cards. Last weekend, I did a big mess of yard work and despite taking precautions, wound up suffering a poison ivy infestation on both arms. For 48 hours, despite careful application of topical ointments, it just persisted, and irritated, and got to the point where I just couldn't take it anymore. So after finishing work for the day, and getting much of the Cave transferred to host my game, I ran over to the HMO... and proceeded to wait for an hour that I didn't have, to get seen by an English-challenged doctor who, after getting the $30 co-pay, spent 30 seconds in my presence before writing me a prescription. I covered up my arms, prevailed upon the Shooter Wife to finish the room prep, and pretty much ran full tilt (and started the same) to get things right.

The story doesn't usually go "You have an annoying day, you feel rushed, and you play great poker." No, instead the story usually goes, "I couldn't get out of my own head in time to not have the rest of my day also go sideways, despite the fact that I really love poker nights, and my home game regulars."

Also, the story doesn't end with "Then I took a pill from a prescription for the arm problem, and like magic, my freaking arms don't hurt anymore." For $12, generic.

So, in summation... life is good. Noticing that life is good is good. And poker players that only notice when life isn't good have curious ideas about what poker should be like.

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