Luck is a Four-Letter Word

Sunday, June 4th, 2006, 7:01 pm

I indulged myself this weekend. With it raining outside and the house fairly clean, I played a ton of poker. More poker than I’ve played in a long time. SNGs, a tournament, and about 4 hours of micro NL action last night. I was up until 2AM, to show how hard-core I am. I think I booked a $5 profit. I wept at how cold the deck was. A table of maniacs and nary a hand to hold. It was very sad.

As I played I could not help but think of what a few bloggers wrote last week about the concept of luck. F-Train and ScurvyDog are far better equipped to discuss the subject than I am, so go read their posts if you want intelligent commentary on the subject. If you’re willing to settle for commentary without the intelligence, keep reading.

There’s no denying I got lucky, a lot, during my play this weekend. I also got unlucky a few times. And then there were long, long stretches were nothing much happened. I got cards, I didn’t get cards. I hit flops, I missed them. I bet and they folded, I bet and they raised. I was the sucker and I was the suckee…that’s gonna get me some odd Google hits next week.

I got knocked out of the tournament yesterday when my kings blundered into aces. There’s not much one can do in that situation, especially as I’d already put all my chips in the pot before I figured out something might be afoot. This morning I played a SNG, we got down to four-handed, and me and another dude were badly short-stacked. With me in the BB the other shortie raised, and even though it cost me about a third of my remaining stack I decided to call with 7-8 suited. Probably the worst play I could’ve made, but I have confidence in my cockroach-like ability to hang around on the bubble and scuttle into the money and I didn’t want to butt heads against a monster hand without seeing the flop.

Which came 3-8-8. Well, how good a flop is that? The action then played itself–I checked, he pushed, I called. And he turned over pocket queens. Aha, he only has two outs, I’m already singing “I’m in the money…”, and of course a queen pops on the turn. Oogh. A suckout always hurts more when you’ve sucked out first. More odd Google hits are coming my way.

A bit queasy I did some dishes before returning to the fray. This time I actually got some chips early on, the first time that happened in all the SNGs I’d played, but then I went card-dead and had my style cramped by the massive chip-leader sitting directly to my left. He liked to re-raise us all-in and as I couldn’t get a hand better than 10-4 I wasn’t prepared to stand up to him. We were down to four, with one guy having sat out the entire game. I waited patiently for him to go bust, and when we got down to three I only had about T1500 left. Not good.

Nor was it good when, while holding A-7, I pushed against the chip leader when the flop came with an ae. He called and showed A-10, and I was drawing thin indeed. A six on the turn paired one of the flop, giving me outs for a chop. “Paint, paint!” I chanted…only to see a beautiful seven on the river. No chop, all the chips were mine, giving me a little breathing space.

I then lost to J-10 with AQ, and once again shortstacked I pushed with KJ. And found myself up against AK. He flopped an ace…but a queen also showed herself on the flop. A blank on the turn…and a beautiful ten of clubs on the river, giving me Broadway. Twice I’d been crushed, dominated, halfway to the door, and yet I’d wriggled off the hook. I went on to win thanks to some aggressive play heads-up. Had no business winning, just as I’d had no business losing in that previous tournament.

Though, of course, that’s competely not true. The guy holding queens after the flop in the first SNG is going to hit his two-outer about eight percent of the time and knock me out. Eight percent isn’t a lot, but it’s no miracle. It happens. It’s gonna happen. It happened for me when I hit my four-outer on the river. About eight percent again. It all balances out in the end. And by “the end”, I mean “The End”, that distant point of light in the nonforseeable future where the sample sizes are oh-so-big. I got lucky. I got unlucky. I played as well as I could to minimize the role luck played. I need to play better.

To illustrate this point, the SNG I just got knocked out of in 9th place. I’m dealt pocket eights, and decide to just call the rather large raise by a guy who won the first few pots. The flop comes eight-high with two diamonds. He bets, I smooth-call. There are compelling reasons to smooth-call here, just as there are reasons why I should’ve re-raised. The turn brings another goddam diamond. Now, I have the eight of diamonds, and what are the odds that he has two of them? He checks, I make a largish bet. He calls. Don’t like that. The turn doesn’t pair the board, alas, and he throws a teasing bet out. I decide to just call, and he shows the nut flush. Maybe I could’ve pushed him off the hand with a big re-raise after the flop. Maybe I could’ve saved that big bet on the turn and seen what the river brought. Maybe I could’ve toughened up and not pushed with KQ the very next hand only to find the BB holding AK.

Or, maybe I could just say I got unlucky and leave it at that.


UPDATE: Played one last post-Sopranos SNG. Midway through I managed to get all my chips in the middle with AQ vs. AK. Flopped a queen. Thought I got lucky. How wrong I was. This was easily the most boring SNG I’ve ever played. With the blinds up to 100/200 there were still 7 of us, and pretty much every hand was an all-in. With virtually every single one of them uncontested. I don’t think there was a re-raise for…forever. Plus the chip leader, who raised pretty much every hand, always waited until the “You Have Fifteen Seconds to Act” prompt came up before making a move. I don’t think I’d do very well at live poker–I move too quickly from “mild irritation” to “constructing elaborate homicidal fantasies in my mind”.

After playing ultratight and keeping my wits, I go gaga and push all in with pocket nines after a raise. He has queens, I don’t get lucky this time, and I’m down to T230. Which, with the blinds at 100/200, ain’t good. With an all-in raise ahead of me I fold 8-3, hoping something better will come along the next hand. What I get is 6-3. What the hell, I dig in, spit on both hands, and push in my chips. Three guys call my “raise”. The flop comes 6-2-2. Ooh, that’s good. A three on the turn is even better. And then a nine on the river, which helps no one, and I go all the way up to T900.

With the antes kicking in the next hand I push with KQ and get no callers. And then my AQ defeats 8-6 and I’m back up to around T2000 and I have some hope. But I can’t get a hand, I either have garbage or someone beats me in the pot and I have to hope he gets knocked out instead of me. I’m forced to push all-in with, ugh, 7-3, and get called by a better hand, natch. I get no help, and I’m out on the bubble.

I got lucky with AQ against AK. Got lucky with 6-3 against three opponents. And all I got for it was a wasted hour and a leaky bag of frustration. Lucky, my ass.

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