Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A New Me

Steven: Can I get a knife or fork?
Wench: There were no utensils in medieval times, hence there are no utensils AT Medieval Times. Would you like a refill on that Pepsi?
Steven: There were no utensils but there was Pepsi?
Wench: Dude, I got a lot of tables.
”The Cable Guy”

In high school, I lived right across the street from my school. Our house became like a drop in centre for a lot of our friends, whether we invited them or not – which was cool. One guy however just kept on rocking up whenever. Once he called ahead, and I had been up late all night the night before (most likely playing video games or watching TV) and my little brother answered the phone. I told him to say I was asleep and not to bother coming around. My little brother ran back to the phone, relayed the message and then returned a few seconds later. He informed me that my “friend” said he was coming over anyway. When he arrived, I pretended to be asleep for 45 minutes, and he was still there playing Nintendo in the lounge room with my little brother. When he eventually decided to leave, my little brother said “See you later Chip” – and my friend had no idea why he called him chip. I just said he calls everyone that. Before long, everyone knew why he was called Chip, and to this day he still doesn’t know.

Sorry for the little trip down memory lane there, I’ve got some more poker content to get through so I will do so now.

I have come to a pretty big conclusion just last night. An epiphany, if you will. While watching some of the old 2003 World Series, and recounting my play over the good streak I had last month and the current loosing streak I am going through, I have come to realise that it is time to make a stand and admit what I never wanted to admit. When AlCantHang came out and admitted he was a loosing player, it was only natural for all of us to look at ourselves and consider where we stand. As I have said on many occasions, I will never be a loosing player in the long run because I have never risked a cent of my own money in poker. Every bet and raise I make are with winnings, and I will forever be in the long term black. However I have come to the realisation that is far worse.

I am a poor player.

It is hard to say, not only because of a healthy ego but because it is true. When I look at my play over the streak and the times after it, there is no real difference. My play hasn’t changed, but the cards have. Now don’t get mistaken here – I’m not blaming the cards for my current cold streak, I’m blaming them for my past success! Yes, the reason I had such a good run was luck. The “L” word. It’s a bit like that floosy you knew in high school, the one you didn’t want to hook up with at the party because you thought you could do better, but inevitably you end up with her when the night is through.

Why am I a poor player? A number of reasons really. I play micro and low limits, so the play is going to be ludicrous anyway. I try to compensate for this by playing extremely tight – or at least what I think is extremely tight. I will fold 77 in middle position, because I know it only takes one of 28 cards to make my hand inferior. I will try to limp with KJ and then dump it as soon as I am raised. As soon as a flop comes, I don’t think “What does he have, what does he think I have…” and so on, I think “What hands beat me” and that is about it. This means that if I have the nut-1, I will always pay off the nuts, no matter how obvious it is for them to have it. I get married to hands too often, and tilt comes around even more so. When I lose, it’s because I have folded my way down to a short stack and then push with Ax or any two picture cards, and then get dominated or loose a coin flip. If I win, it’s because it was folded pre-flop or I won the coin flip. That is just too narrow of a window to be long term successful. When I get outdrawn, get sucked out on, it costs me my entire stack. When I have a chance to draw, I fold.

My realisation came form watching that tournament, and seeing so many people play what I consider junk hands, and then seeing the percentages they have to win. Now I know a lot of people see the play on TV and try to emulate it, making themselves far too aggressive for their own good. I bet a lot of online pros love this stereotype. But it did show that perhaps I am being a little too tight. If my seen flop percentage is over 20% in any game in recent times, I would only be because the table is 10 hands old. Most of my amazing stories of bad beats and unbelievable draws come from me being in the big blind or the small blind. Why? Because in these two positions I am less reluctant to fold. I will imp from the small blind regardless of what I am holding.

If and when I do get a decent hand, I am scared that I will be dominated. If I get kings, I’m worried about aces. If I get big slick, I’m worried about any pocket pair. Actually that is a very funny hand for me. When I have big slick, any pocket pair scares me, but when I have any pocket pair that isn’t aces, I am worried about big slick (yes, even with Kings). And as soon as my pocket pair has an over card on the board, I drop it quicker than my Internet connect allows me too. I am also thinking that I am too concerned at winning at the showdown. While it is always nice to be putting money into the pot when you have the best hand, we know it can’t be so every time.

Perfect example last night in a $10 MTT. I have QQ and raise 3-4BB, get two callers. Flop comes King high and I am already looking for an exit. It gets checked around on the turn and river, and there is no way I am betting into this now and getting check-raised by someone who was waiting with AK (there was also a river ace out there). So UTG I checked, and so did the other two in the pot. I took down the small pot with a pair of Queens.

Ok, so I won this hand, but if either of the other two players placed even a minimum raise on any street, I knew I would have folded. If they put out a big bet, I would have seen it as strength and folded my second (or third) best pair. If it were a small bet, I would have seen it as a fake-bluff looking to be re-raised when they had the nuts. I even viewed their “check” as if it was only the precursor to “-raise”. I don’t know if this is a healthy outlook at the game but I guess my learning curve must continue.

What is weird though is in our irregular live games, I am the one that is most likely to re-raise with 52o. I am the one that the other players have trouble reading, and I get somebody to fold the nut flush to me when there was a pair on the board (I had trips only). Maybe it is because of the atmosphere, and because when I play online it is with different people each time so I have no reads at all.

Maybe I’m just not drunk enough.

My realisation though has come with other side effects. I am no longer expecting so much of myself at the table. You see, I have always expected to be good at poker. I consider myself above average in intelligence; I even had my math teacher in high school request that I get my IQ tested. Poker is a game of the mind, and therefore I always think I have an advantage over any ordinary Joe. Like I said earlier, I do have a healthy ego. In my mind, this translates to “I should be able to win consistently”, which does not happen. I have long runs in the red and little runs in the black. This leaves me very disappointed and frustrated, and usually looking for an outlet (yah blogs!). But that was because I was under the impression that I was a good player. Now I know I am a bad player, the standard drops. For some reason, it is much easier to accept being a poor player over achieving than being a good player under achieving.

Like Leslie Nielson once said in his golfing videos – “I don’t play golf to feel bad. I play bad golf, but I feel good.”

Welcome the new Heafy to the tables. He plays bad poker, but it makes him feel good.


skitch said...

"...everyone knew why he was called Chip..."

I don't. Fill me in.

Heafy said...

Chip was the name of Jim Carrey's character in "The Cable Guy", the quote from the top of this post. He befriended Mathew Broderick's character and wouldn't leave him alone.

hdouble said...

Low limit poker is all about the implied odds. Many players never figure that out, but it looks like you are on your way.