Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Poker Diaries: Scared Money Don't Make No Money

Why does a turtle need money?
Tonight at the home game, we had a great crowd -- 25 total players, just one short of full capacity, in that I have room for three kidney-shaped tables and one can't hold more than 8 guys, so 8+9+9 only gets you to 26 -- for a no limit hold'em game. To add my usual can't leave well enough alone spice to things, we made it a Super Bounty game, where you get extra cash for eliminating players and a 1.5X bonus for taking out a past Player of the Year. (There have been five of those, four of which still make it back for just about every game, and yes, I was fortunate enough to take it down in 2013.)

So the game is promoting aggression, and while there are any number of calling stations and aggro players in the home crowd, it's mostly a solid group of guys; some creativity, some check-raising, some c-betting, etc., etc. I've played in casinos that were softer than my home game, but since the game is a true mid-stakes game with no rake and no one getting really hurt, it's where I play my best, because I'm playing for comfortable stakes. When I play at my home game, I'm playing for my chips, not the money that was spent to get them.

And that's a big, big difference, really.

When the chips are just chips, bluffs are just bluffs; you can win or lose with them, and even feel good about the ones that don't work, in that you know that if you make that play often enough it will pay off, either in success or in getting paid for when you do have the nuts. But when the chips are money, and money is a big damned deal...

Well, time to admit it: I'm officially unemployed as of tomorrow, with the health benefits running out at the end of the month. (Feel free to visit this blog a lot and click on a mess of ads, by the way.) I used to make good coin in online advertising, and I know a lot, and have progressed nicely with titles and compensation, and now, at age 45, that's all in serious jeopardy. The company I was working for eliminated my position, and is likely to go away on their own via merger, acquisition, or just plain failure in the next 6 to 12 months, if not sooner. They don't do a lot of things well, I wasn't an effective change agent, and everything except the fact that I don't know where my next paycheck is coming from... is better in my life. But that not knowing where the paycheck is coming from is a big damned deal. Intolerable, really.

A bad job (and yes, this was a bad job) is just one of the worst things that can happen to m. It's something I couldn't stop thinking about, which means that for most of the past 18+ months, it ruined just about every day of my life. I was so worried about every aspect of the place, that I wound up not taking a vacation day in the last two years. Thank heavens for that, as the severance package was one of those "either you aren't going to be in the industry any more, and we don't need to worry about hurt feelings, or the same but for us" experiences, and it got me more runway.

And now that I'm loose, my days are pretty much the same as they were before, as it was a work from home gig, which is to say House Arrest. I still keep the same hours, but now it's scrambling for contracting gigs to lengthen the runway before I just have to take anything, really. Currently, the runway goes away in mid to late April; if what I'm working on now bears fruit, I should be able to push back Bad Things I Might Have To Do for another 3 to 6 weeks. My personal network is generating some leads, and I'm pounding the Internet like a man who is acutely aware of his lack of runway. I'm looking forward to a day when I look back and realize that this was the best thing that could have happened, and that the next gig will be better and me along with it, for what I've learned here. I work in online advertising, which is to say the Wild West; you can't complain too much when the outlaws come through and shoot up the town. It's what happens.

But, well, the game goes on. And some of the folks at the game are also professional contacts, and if I can be seen as keeping my cool during the rough patch, maybe that makes them push their HR departments all the harder to get me in the door. 45 is not exactly at death's door, and I'm in the same or better shape than I was 25 years ago.

Anyway... boy, does this not do much for your poker. (If nothing else, it gave me a smackdown from the Poker Gods when I tried to talk business during hands, and would up folding two straight hands that would have been a straight and trips on unraised flops. Yeesh.)

All things considered, I think I played pretty well tonight. I never had a pair bigger than 10s (they held and I increased my stack by 2.5X against two callers), never had a bigger ace than A-10, only really came from behind on the river once for a decent pot, and more or less danced my way around with a small stack all the way to the final table.

I managed a few bucks in bounties, got a little unlucky twice late (pair of 3s vs. two overs ended it when his hand improved and mine didn't, but 54-46 is a hand you have to win more than a few times in any tournament), and bubbled at the final table.

I'd like to think that if the money didn't mean too much, I'd have played better tonight, and made the experience positive, rather than a slight loss. But in my gut, I know that I was too cautious, missed some reads where re-raising from the big blind into aggro players would have re-stolen a pre-flop pot, and in general, played my cards, rather than theirs.

Because, well, when money matters too much, you play not to lose.

And playing not to lose is rarely, if ever, going to result in a win...

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