Harsh lessons, baby

Friday, January 2nd, 2004, 6:57 pm

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? If you’re in a game and at one point you’re up $60 but you hit a cold streak and only end up taking home $20, are you happy with the double-sawbuck or do you dwell on the forty bucks that slipped through your fingers? I ask the question because I had an absolutely brutal day yesterday. At one point my balance reached over $150, and then I got clobbered and slipped all the way down to $90. Now, I still have a $90 profit, not bad after starting out with just $50 two months ago. Then again, I lost about 40% of my bankroll in one day, and that’s chilling.

I stepped back and thought about what happened, how I came to lose so badly. And I have to say that a lot of it was just lousy, lousy luck. I had crummy cards most of the day, and when I did get good hands I took some ludicrous bad beats. That, I think, was the biggest factor. You’ll have days like the one I had yesterday. Last week I couldn’t lose, I kept hitting draws, I was playing with my opponents like a cat plays with an especially succulent mouse. Yesterday I couldn’t catch a break, except for the bad ones.

But before I get into the horror stories, let’s look a little closer, a little deeper. Was it all bad luck? No, I think I made some errors as well. Not so much tactical as strategic. There are parts of my game that I need to work on, and yesterday I think showed me a few chinks in my armor.

Number one, I played far too much yesterday. I wasn’t hung over, thankfully, unless there’s such a thing as a food hangover, and I think there is. I made wings (hot and Louisiana Lickers), and Matt’s wife Kris made Buffalo Chicken Cheese Dip (even better than it sounds). Kris also made this quiche thing, it was fluffy eggs and cheese and bacon, and, oh God, was it good. Real men don’t eat quiche? They’d eat this thing. Bucketfulls of the stuff.

So I got up and had rolls and coffee with the wife and then I went downstairs to get comfy and watch some football and play some poker. My second hand I had the nut flush and won $10 off a guy who had the king. So that put me over $150. And then the wheels came off.

I had J-10 offsuit and flopped the straight, queen high. The guy under the gun bet and I just called along with three other players. On the turn a second club popped up, and I don’t like flush draws. So when the same guy bet I raised him. He and two other players called, building a nice pot. But when a third damned club showed on the river I got re-raised. I had to call, and he showed the KQ of clubs. He’d had a measly pair and went runner-runner for the flush. Ugh.

I had J-10c a few hands later and the flop came J-10-5. Nice, right? Right, except that the jack and 10 were diamonds. I played the hand as fast as I could, but a third diamond came on the river and when I checked my lone opponent bet and then showed me A-5 of diamonds. Ugh.

I think that preflop I’m playing OK, I’m tight, I play position, I’m aggressive when I have a raising hand. I deduced very early that my little check-raise ploy wasn’t going to work so well because my table had more calling stations than a Nova Scotia whaling fleet. The few times I had big hands I raised and raised and raised and never chased anyone. That’s fine, and I adjusted for it, but a few times I had huge hands and got caught on the river by weird straights and runner-runner flushes and, once, my nut flush got busted when the sixes showed on the turn and river and a guy who had J-6 and caught a pair on the flop made a full house. That one had me biting myself. On another hand I had pocket kings and nothing scary appeared all the way to the river. I bet the whole way, and then the board paired sixes on the river (sixes was my unlucky numbers) and I was re-raised. “You gotta be kidding me” I said as I called, but no, he turned over a six. He turned over 2-6. Offsuit. He played that crap in middle position and called me all the way with only bottom pair.

I know that Party is a lot wilder on the weekends (and yesterday counted as a weekend day, I think) and I should have tightened up more than I did. But, again, I played too long. I played a few hours in the afternoon, and then my buddy Rick came over to watch me play a bit. He doesn’t play himself but he enjoys watching the game, so I saddled up again and played a bit. He wanted to see me play a no-limit SNG, so we spent about 75 minutes trying to log on to a table. God, I hate that about Party. By the time I lucked into a seat (at a $10 table, more than I like to spend) I was eager to play. Maybe too eager. I did too much calling in early position and then, when the button made a heavy raise, I had to fold. I lost like 100 chips that way, and then I took a hit when I flopped two pair only to see, you guessed it, a fourth heart on the river. He went all-in, I went all-out.

Two hands later I was out altogether. I had 8-9h on the button and the flop came 10h-J-d-5d. I had an open-end straight draw and three to a flush. The bet was checked to me and I bet 250, in what I thought was a good semi-bluff. I wanted to win the pot right then and there, but if someone called I had a good draw.

Someone did call, the chip leader. He went all-in. I was committed now, so I called. I got no help on the turn or river, and the window popped up announcing I was the 9th place finisher. I was rather pissed when I found that I’d been beaten by a measly pair of 5s. He’d gone all-in with A-5 unsuited, and I didn’t know how the hell he could do that.

Then I saw him type, “That was a silly play”.

I got pissed, Joe Pesci in “GoodFellas” pissed. “What do you mean silly? Silly how?” I asked. I didn’t know if he meant me or him. He replied, “I just would’ve called if you bet” he wrote. I have no idea what he meant. Did he mean I should have just called his bet? That makes no sense, since I was the one who bet out. Did he mean I should have checked to him with my straight draw and then called his bet? I don’t think cold-calling is a strong play. I decided that he was, as Sam Grizzle described Phil Hellmuth, “a goofball who catches cards”.

About 58 minutes later I got into a $5 game. Now this one I had some luck, I think I put my first horrible bad beat on someone. I was in the big blind and was dealt 10-3 offsuit. The flop came Q-10-3. There were like 6 people in the pot and already enough chips to slake my thirst so I decided to come on strong and chase everyone out. I had about $650 and I bet $400. I should’ve gone all-in, but I still get antsy putting ALL my chips in on the flop, unless I have quads or something better. I was therefore shocked when a player with about $300 more than me called. The turn was a 4, which pleased me much. I had feared my foe had Q-10 or was slow-playing trips, but when he just called instead of raising me all-in I figured he only had top pair. I put in my remaining $250 and he quickly called. Again, on Party the cards don’t get flipped up, so when another 3 fell on the river, giving me a full house, Rick and I started laughing. It seemed a bit like overkill, getting a full house when I already had the hand won.

Until he turned over Q-4. I’d been in deep, deep dogdoo and hadn’t even known it. Then again, how the hell do you call a bet for nearly half your stack with Q-4? I’d been in commanding position, lost it, and grabbed it again. Oh well, it happens.

The very next hand I was dealt pocket fives and made trips on the flop. Sweet. I made a hefty bet and waited for my two callers to act. And waited. And waited. And…waited…and I thought. oh, shit. My computer locked up. My 5-year-old Gateway is about as reliable as a Colecovision and I had to shut the thing down, wait for it to reboot, and then log on again. It look a good five minutes. Rick and I were flipping, figuring that I’d lost a really good chance to take the lead and boss the table. But when I got back to Party it put me right back to my table and showed that I’d won the last hand. I had $2000 in chips and had the lead.

I almost wish my computer had fritzed for good. I was dealt AQc and flopped an ace. I played it to the river and lost to AK. That was about $300. Then when I tried to steal a $200 pot with a $200 bet I was called by one player and then saw a $500 all-in re-raise by the guy to my right. I had to get out of the way. I was dealt pocket queens, raised it $300, had one caller, and had the flop come A-K-2. I checked and the jerk went all-in. Bye-bye, ladies.

I settled down after that and watched everyone else go bonkers. The chip leader put two people out on one hand with pocket kings, and then the guy in second spot knocked out two short-stacks on consecutive hands. All of a sudden we were four. I had about $850 and the guy in fourth had $350. I just wanted to hang around until I got in the money, and then turn on the jets.

I won about $200 with a bluff, which impressed Rick no end. And then I was dealt K-10s on the button. I raised it about $200, content to win the blinds, but the chip leader called from the small blind. The flop came K-10-2. Top two pair, gotta love it. I didn’t see him with a pocket pair, so I felt I was in very good shape. He checked and I did likewise, hoping to trap him into a big mistake. Another deuce came on the turn, and he bet $150. That was his usual bet, and I decided to whack him with a $500 re-raise. He went all-in. I was thinking he had a King and had just made 2 pair, but I had the overpair. I called him. The river card was a rag and…the pop-up appeared announcing I’d finished in 4th place. I couldn’t believe it. I quickly scrolled through the hand history and saw that he’d had three deuces. He beat me with A-2 offsuit. I couldn’t believe it. He called a $200 preflop raise with an Ace and no kicker. I saw now that I should’ve bet out on the flop, but maybe he would’ve called there too. I was out, and the guy with $200 chips made $10 by my error.

After that I made a big mistake. Rick went home, the wife went to bed, and I was watching Stalag 17. I logged on to see what my balance was, and I decided to play a few hands. Mistake. I’d been playing all day, my luck was sour, and I was tired. I dropped twenty bucks in about an hour. I started slow and even though I didn’t press and didn’t tilt (I think) I kept leaking chips. Then I got absolutely killed with J-10 again. The betting was raised preflop and there were seven callers, and I flopped an open-end straight draw. An ace came on the turn, giving me the nut straight, and me and two other players made it three big bets. Another ace came on the river, another player and I traded raises and re-raises, and he turned over AK to make a full house. At last, I’d had enough, and I went to bed.

So what did I learn? Tighten up when the going gets weird. Don’t play when you’re exhausted. Understand that you aren’t always up against premium hands. And keep Rick off your goddam property.

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