Bring Your "A" Game

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005, 2:19 pm

The latest WPBT event is tonight at 9PM at PokerStars. Readers are welcome to play, so on the very odd chance to read this blog and no other poker blogs, feel free to join in the mayhem. It’s under the “Private” tournament tab and the password is “thehammer”. Admission is $22. I think at the moment there are 70 people signed up, and hopefully there will be a late rush for the turnstiles. And if you find yourself up against a player with a can of Duff beer as his symbol, that’s my brother. He’s a stud specialist, so feel free to school him all you want.

I actually have hope I won’t embarrass myself tonight, since I embarassed myself last night playing a SNG. It was by far the worst table I’ve encountered at Stars, really loose, stupid play. The guy who became the overwhelming chip leader sucked out no less that 3 times when he was dominated. He had K-2 to A-2, hit his king. K-8 to A-8, hit his king. He called my $650 all-in bet with 5-2 when the board read A-9-2 (I had an ace) but this time he didn’t catch. He basically built up chips and called down every player who went all-in. The other players at the table didn’t impress me much, so I decided to sit tight until I got a monster and hopefully double up.

That’s a HUGE difference between Stars and Party–you start with T1500 instead of T800, and that gives the good players (and I, laughably, once considered myself in that category) an edge. You have more options, you can make more plays, more tactical laydowns, and if necessary be more patient.

So why haven’t I cashed in any of the 7 SNGs I’ve played at Stars? That’s right, I’ve posted an o-fer. The bottom line is that I’ve played horribly. I don’t mean, I’ve played OK but I haven’t hit my hands. True, I’ve been cold-decked for all of 2005, but I have played like the smelliest of fishes. But last night, although I hit a new low, I may have hit bottom and kicked up off the sea floor.

Down to five players I’m the 2nd bottom stack, but still with over $1300. Blinds are $75/$150, so I need to get in gear but I’m far from panic mode. Trouble is, I’m bordered by two maniacs with big stacks. I mean, they don’t fold, at all, and every other hand they’re all-in. So trying to steal the blinds isn’t too attractive an option, nor is calling in hopes of seeing a flop. Bide my time, get a hand to play with, or else shove in all my chips and see if THAT slows them down.

I get AJ suited under the gun and I raise 3x the BB, your standard raise. Incredibly the maniac folds, but the shortstack in the BB goes all in, for about $1000. I have him covered by a whole $200. And I totally brain-cramped. I tarred him with the faults of his neighbors. I pegged him as a maniac making a move, when in fact he’d been playing tight like me, waiting for a big hand to make his stand. I called, and he turned over cowboys. They held up, and I committed poker seppuku the next hand.

I was absolutely disgusted with myself. How on God’s green earth can you put your whole stack at risk with AJ? Even if one of the maniacs went all-in, how can I call? What do I hope he has? KJ? KQ? A-10? I’m a dog to any pair, I’m dominated if he has AK or AQ…what was I thinking? I still would’ve had over $1000, which was enough to hang on a wee bit and, with a just a breath of luck, get in the money.

I got up, walked around my desk, and glared at my one cat, who was sleeping contentedly on the recliner. I was really ticked off at myself. I decided to shut down the computer, go to bed, play in tonight’s tournament and take about 6 years off from poker.

Instead I logged onto a $.50/$1 table and did some deep breathing. My intent was to play an orbit, folding away, and at least go to bed without my last hand haunting me. Well, 2nd deal in get aces. Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve had rockets I have to rub my eyes and look harder. I raise, the guy across the table re-raises, and what the hell, I cap it. We’re heads up. Flop comes rags, I check-raise him, about the first time I’ve done that in a month. Turn is nothing, I lead out, he calls. The river is a scary king, because if he had kings I’m dead. But I’m not backing down now, I bet, he calls…and he doesn’t have the kings. I win my first nice pot in a ring game in about 2 weeks, literally.

The next hand I’m dealt pocket sevens. I call a raise with a few people and the flop comes 5-high. I bet out to see if the raisers pushes it up, but no, he just calls along with 2 other players. The next card is a nine, so I no longer have an overpair, but I call the bet thinking I’m still best if I’m the only one who started with a pocket pair. The last card is another nine, and I feel pretty confident that the raiser had an ace with a big kicker. “Ace-king” I say aloud, though in my marrow I’m afraid he has pocket eights. But I call him down, I have to, and sure enough he has AK. Wow, I had the courage to stick to my guns and I win a tidy pot.

I’m up $11 now, meaning I’ve earned back the buyins for at least two of my horrible SNGs. I decide to call it a night before the blinds hit me, but UTG I get pocket queens. Unreal, I can’t get a hand for 20 days and in 9 hands I get three pocket pairs. Go figure. I raise and two come along for the ride. Flop is jack-high, I bet, one guy check-raises me, and I raise him back. He thinks about it and calls. Next card puts a straight draw out there (one I have a piece of) and I bet and he calls. Next card is a nine giving me a Q-high straight, so unless he has KQ I’m golden. I bet, he thinks about it, and makes his crying call. And the pot comes my way.

So in the course of 9 hands I went from despair to…well, not ecstasy, but how about relief? The Poker Gods have not forsaken me. I can, occasionally, get a hand. I do remember how to check-raise. A $16 win might not seem like a lot to you (and, well, it’s not a lot to me either) but after a good fortnight without a win it felt like hitting the lottery.

So I come to the tournament tonight in a good frame of mind. Not that I’m going to WIN, heaven knows, but at least that I may have fun. Because I sure haven’t had much fun playing lately. After the tournament I may still take a break from playing for awhile, a week or so, clear out the cobwebs as it were. And do a lot more writing. So, hope to see yinz tonight, and just keep telling yourself, “Geno’s a lousy player, he’s on tilt, I’m just gonna run over him”. That’s right, I’m just a fish, no need to worry about me…

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2 Responses to “Bring Your "A" Game”

  1. Human Head Says:

    Boy howdy, those small gains when you’re running card dead are sometimes sweeter than the big wins when you’re running well, no doubt about it…

  2. Poker Nerd Says:

    Don’t beat yourself up over the AJ hand. With $1,300, the blinds at 75/150 and presumably about to go up AND a bunch of maniacs, I probably would’ve just shoved it all-in preflop. It’s just dumb luck that someone wakes up with KK. You still had outs.

    Make the decision immediately whether you’re willing to go to the mat there with AJ. If not, limp or make a min-raise to see the flop and go from there with your stack size. I don’t think you can make a real raise without pot-committing yourself at about 9x BB. Like I mentioned above, I think the optimal play is all-in instead of 3x in this spot. 3x leaves you in limbo there.

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