Posted by in Poker

OK, not really. But the taxes are done, and the result was favorable. So favorable, in fact, that the temptations offered in all those e-mails I get from Southwest, American, and the lovely MGM Mirage properties are going to be a bit difficult to resist. Having not seen a refund in several years, this is a most pleasant surprise, and I can conjure up a multitude of ways to spend “free money”. Mourn said I should thank W. Which I will, just as soon as someone confirms that hell has frozen over.

It’s been two weeks since I posted, and there are several reasons for that. I’ve been playing poker, scheduling at least an hour’s play in a day, but it’s not going well. Same story, different verse – I’m not getting pretty cards, and on those rare occasions when I do, it’s in situations where I can’t risk letting someone catch up and pay me off more. Playing a $5 SnG on Full Tilt yesterday, I got AK, raised, and along with one caller, saw a flop of AKx rainbow. I nearly fell out of my chair.

I’m on an SnG streak of being bubble-girl. The combination of bad cards and Level 1 opponents have turned me into the dreaded tournament pussy. I can’t make the “plays” that I think constitute part of the beauty that is poker, since the people I’m playing with think the game involves “whole” cards, chips, and not much else. I realize this but I can’t get it into my head to quit.fucking.bluffing. It bluffing is a component of game theory, and game theory surmises that your opponents are all rational people, then when you realize that your opponents are not rational, you should also then realize that the incorporation of said game theory can be dangerous. But like the power-mad head of some nuclear nation, I just can’t seem to accept that. Retreating to the mindset of playing just the cards, not the people, and treating the game as a pre-determined set of actions just doesn’t work for me. It goes against everything poker is to me, yet when you’re playing at a $10NL table, there isn’t much other choice.

Observent readers will notice that a $10NL table is quite a step down from the $200NL tables I had been frequenting. Curious readers will likely wonder why.

I have always played above my bankroll. I have always known it was not smart. But I’ve always done it anyway, in search of competition that would not only force me to improve, but also stimulate my competitive tendencies, and allow me to put to use all the strategies and techniques I had studied up on. I never really worried about how things would be affected were I to take some bad beat or hit a months-long dry spell. It was just money, could be fairly easily replaced, and I didn’t (much) doubt that I had the skills to play at the limits I put myself in.

Which is why, when playing $200NL at Stars with the last $200 I had there, I wasn’t playing as scared money. Scared money would have worried that her bottom two pair were crushed by the higher two pair of her opponent, but I knew he didn’t have AJ, knew he had an Ace; but not that one, and knew I was ahead off the flop. When the ten hit the turn and my bet was raised all-in, scared money would have likely folded, fearing her read was wrong. Fearless money called, only to see that yes, her read was indeed right, but she would have benefited from taking a second to consider what that raise meant, and what hand that ten on the turn could have improved.

Stunned by the fact that I had lost nearly everything I had at Stars, in just one hand, I quickly reminded myself why playing above my bankroll was stupid. But I didn’t get upset, or angry – just sent the hand history off to DoubleAs (who is nothing but a nut-peddler and bets only when he has monsters) and listened to his thoughts. Again with the familar refrain of losses being lessons, I quickly knew that it was my own fault for not taking a second to think before calling a raise, or making any action on the hand really. When a card comes out, I often get one-sighted and think about how that card did or didn’t help me – forgetting about the other people in the hand who are considering the same things themselves.

Lesson learned, I moved on. I played a $50NL game at Full Tilt, where my kings ran into beautifully played aces. Peep sex is always good, and I collected a few tokens, only to get nowhere in the nightly guarantee tourneys. I played our HORSE tourney and in some strange twist of fate, actually finished on the bubble, at 9th. I played for Heather in a peep sex tourney of her own, and managed to come back from T300 to win a coveted token. I was getting cards, things were clicking, I was playing well. The next night, I had to play two token tourneys before I won one, but that was okay. I joined the 16K with my fellow degenerates and was happy to see aces just a few hands in. I raised and got one caller, I bet at a T high double-suited board, and pushed over the top when I was raised. I was up against QT, and the T on the turn, Q on the river sent me home.

That was the proverbial straw, and sent me crying over the injustice of it all, and seeking solace via a former pursuit. Still, I knew I had played it right, had been generally playing well lately, and therefore kept my committment to play in Adam’s $150 deep stack tourney the next day.

Yes again, I was playing beyond my means. However, I had saved up for the sole purpose of playing in one of these tourneys, and again I refused to be scared money. My decisions were sound, and the cards had to catch up with me at some point, right?

Right…because poker is fair. A tough table combined with cards that would mandate a hit in blackjack equalled a dwinding chip stack for me. On the third time that I saw pocket 7s, I finally hit my set and doubled up. That, along with the thumbs-up from Scott and approving smile from Adam, helped restore my confidence a bit. I knew I hadn’t done anything special in the hand, I mean really, how hard is it to get all your money in on a flopped set? But the flush draw that was also on the flop hadn’t panned out, my set had held up, and it had been awhile since I’d seen such things – it was nice.

Still, I was rattled by the way things had been going lately. My confidence was gone. I saw monsters in every corner, refused to push back on people I was fairly sure were raising with marginal hands, and lost all agression. Not a winning style. I finally did push with AQ diamonds, on a two diamond, all low card, flop. I was up against a set of sixes and they too held up, sending me to the rail.

On the outside I took it well. It’s poker, those things happen, I wasn’t really upset with that play, etc. But inside was a different story. My confidence was now fully shattered; I didn’t know what the hell I had done to merit such; I questioned everything I knew, or thought I knew; I doubted that I had actually learned anything in my nearly two years of playing this game.

Thank God for good friends. From the angel that gave new life to my Full Tilt account, to the comforting arm around my shoulders post-tourney bustout, to the best friend who listened to me weep over the state of it all, to the brains that don’t mind a bit of picking now and then. I refused to quit. I can’t. And that surprises me, and I think even scares me a little, because never in my life have I ever stayed with one thing as long as I have poker. It is a central part of my life, and the truth is, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface in terms of time and work I need to put in. Typically when success is determined to be difficult, I look for something else. It is my nature to want to be successful, but I want it fast, I want it now, and I want to be better than anyone else. That simply does not happen in this game, and the fact that I continue to pursue it anyway is a bit of a mystery to me.

Still, I did retreat for a while. But I had a relatively healthy Full Tilt account, and I vowed that this time I would play within my bankroll. This time I would start over so to speak, playing the $10NL tables and not moving up to $25NL until I had ten buyins in my account. And while being down 10BB in a session like that one is far more manageable than in a $200NL, it’s very frustrating. Maybe I need to adjust my VPIP for those games; the guys playing any two seem to do rather well. I began thinking that maybe ring game play just wasn’t for me, so I focused on SnGs. Not going so well there either, although I did manage to make 5th in a BlindBet freeroll on Titan last night. The deck was my friend last night, and I’m hopefull that that is a sign of changes to come, but at the same time fearful of a jinx. I’ve considered moving to limit for cash games, just because I know that most of the highly successful players play cash game limit, NL tourneys, and they obviously are on to something. But that seems like quitting to me, like I’m saying I just can’t cut it at a NL cash game, so I’m moving on. But maybe it’s actually the smart thing to do; I don’t know. I know I love NL when the cards cooperate. I suppose the true test of love is how much you stand by something or someone when things are going bad. I can’t say that my lifelong average for such tests is that great.