Monday, July 23, 2007

The Rollercoaster

Sebastian: Well, your objections have been duly noted and summarily overruled.
Sarah: Yes, Sir!
Sebastian: How come when you say "Yes, Sir" it kinda sounds like "Fuck you!"
Sarah: Practice!
"Hollow Man"

As predicted, after a little Poker absence I went into Poker Binge mode over the weekend. It started with the regular home game on Friday night. I made a really good decision in the early goings when I was forced to go all-in with two pair, but there were three spades on the board and the opponent is known to play any suited cards. When he didn't call straight away, obviously I was good.

After that, things got sour. I had few premium hands and got really sick of seeing 4-rag as my hole cards. When I did get good starting hand – queens once and jacks maybe 3 times, they were beaten to within an inch of their life. Then another player had another amazing run of luck where every coin-flip or 4-10 outer went their way, when they weren't flopping boats with K2o. This made me play even worse by calling pre-flop raises out of position with things like 58o or T7s. As you would assume, things got worse from there and I ended the night early after reaching my stop-loss limit.

While I can not really blame anyone but myself for the way I played, it was extremely frustrating to see someone rake in pot after pot with what seemed like boundless luck. I have been on a bit of a run of late in the live game, having 6 winning sessions in a row. But I felt like I had to play at my absolute best to grind out those profits, making brave bets when I needed to and even better calls when all I had was a pair. I guess that is the way poker is sometimes, but driving home at 5am with the wallet empty was not a pleasant experience.

Luckily, there were no cliffs between the game and my house.

I was tired. I was on tilt. I was depressed more than I had any right to be. It was still very dark at 5am. I had reached my stop-loss for the first time this year, which is 5 buy-ins. And I wasn't yet satisfied. I needed to play more hands. I wanted to play online even though this was probably the poster child for wrong times to be playing poker.

Online, I have been having ups and downs as readers would know. The current site, through PSO, has been really rude to me but I have managed to stay just above even thanks to some returns of luck and a little bit of Blackjack. I decided that luck should have little to do with it and I need to think less about what an opponent does and more about why they do it. Sounds like the first lesson of poker to me.

I was examining my results over the past few months during the week, and I have been pushing towards a certain marker in bankroll size for some time. It was getting there slowly, but I was a little stunted as of late. I felt like I was really grinding out the small profit and it just wasn't a sufficient win or loss either way. I had a good feel for the table size and players as a broad generalisation. I have been playing at the same level for quite some time, with the ups covering the downs by a little bit. I had decided during the week that I needed to move up a level to keep improving. Not based on the ratio of my bankroll to the size of the buy in or blinds, but because I was ready and able to accommodate the perceived increase in play. I firmly believe that in the times I have dabbled in the past at this greater level, the play is less rocky which I like to an extent.

So why not dive right in at 5am after dumping your last buy in at a home game on a draw?

I did, and lo and behold I played well. Folded when I had to, called when I should, and raised when it seemed appropriate. No river beats given and none taken. Just a solid little session an hour in length that netted a ½ buy in profit without getting in any danger. Sleep would be a little easier now.

Over the weekend, I found more time to return to the digital felt and apply my new focus to the games. I had 5 sessions over the weekend, and all ended in profit. That included one game where I was down a buy in before coming back to net single-digit profit which I was more than happy with.

And it could have been so much better. I had a nut flush draw and heads up against an inferior flush draw – that hit a pair of sevens on the river to take the pot. I had KQ loose to KJ also on the river when we were all-in on the turn when he spiked a Jack. I had flopped a set that lost to a turned flush, and I found myself in another situation where I could not pull the trigger holding KT on a board that showed Kc Th Jh Kh 9h. The pot was sizable, and opponent checked to me on the river. I felt like an all-in would only get called by KJ or the queen on hearts, and that I didn't want. So I just checked, and he had the ace of hearts. Yeah, he just might have called a value bet there.

Other than that, I made some great bluffs when representing hands, including a very uncharacteristic all-in check raise bluff when I was betting my draw that missed. Guess he missed his draw too then. I had my fair share of luck as well, but this time around it was in proportion and not when I was too short stacked to make anything of it. I did call a shortstack all in with TT vs AA, but when you buy in to the table with 15BB and get called, what more can you expect? Why not just play blackjack if you are going to gamble like that?

My best laydown cost me $50 or more still, but it was a difficult one. I have J9o and see a flop with 2 others. I have $190, first position has $70 and second position has $170. Flop is QdTd6c. First to act bets small, second calls as do I. turn is Kc, completing my open-ended straight. First and second both check, so I bet out to make any flush chasers pay some. FP calls and SP makes a regular sized raise. I think about shoving it all in, but decided instead to re-raise to $44. I have a big stack and he would surely know that I am not bluffing here. FP calls, and then SP goes all-in. Ouch – there is only one hand that beats me at the moment, and if he has AJd then I am in real trouble. I have to use some of my time bank to think about it, as this pot is now nearing the $400 mark if I call. I decided that there is little chance he has J9 as well, and if he does have that then I can only hope he doesn't have the flush as well. That is pretty much the best case scenario for me, and I have to lay it down. FP calls, which I am very happy about since it lets me see the cards. The river is a blank, and SP shows AhJd.

I don't think I played the hand perfectly, and in hind sight he has given me plenty of hints that he has me beat and it should be a regulation fold perhaps. But in the moment, with all those chips in front of me and all those chips in the middle, I really had to decide if I was folding a chopped pot or not. In the end I made the right decision, and perhaps the $44 raise saved me from a bigger bet on the river anyway. When the diamond didn't come, maybe I put him on the flush draw and would be bluffing me? Who knows, but in the end I came out un-scathed and with still more than the original buy-in in front of me.

My biggest profit hand was – drum roll – pocket Aces! I had them a few times and usually won the blinds only. Once when I did try to slow play them pre-flop, opponent flopped two tens and I was forced into making one of those crying calls. Other times I was fortunate enough to get it from the big blind with a raise in front of me. A re-raise and the short stacks go all in, I call and no beats come so I take a reasonable sized pot.

The best was with a stack of $99, I decided to call the standard sized raise by the button from the small blind as did the big blind. Flop comes Ks3d6s. I have AsAh, so that is a good enough flop for me. If he has KK then I'm screwed, but that is life. If he has the flush draw then I want him to pay and hopefully not see another card if I can, and if he has just a king, then happy days.

Pot was $12, so I bet out $6. To me, if he has the flush draw or set, he would just call. Anything less and he probably wants to raise. BB folded so that was a flush-worry gone. Button raises to $16. That's pretty much what I wanted to see, as there is no way he puts me on AA and I am now fairly confident on AK or a flush draw. If he has the flush draw though, it's not the to the nuts as I have the Ace of spades.

What would he think if I pushed all in here? If he has AK, he might put me on the same hand or a small set, but not two pair and I've already ruled out rockets. He has me covered by a few dollars, and the pot already has $20 of his chips in there so lets make him make a decision. If he instantly calls, then I am screwed. If he has to think about it, then happy days.

I push all-in for a gross over-bet. Even if he folds, the pot is big enough to satisfy me.

And he thinks about it…there is only good news from here on in.

And then there is better news – he starts talking in the chat box. I decided to indulge him.

"Oooo…what have you got?"

One of my good friends from the home game likes to make sure the whole table is having fun, and is happy to forego some small profit in the mean time to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves. He'll do things like promise to show his hand if they fold, and then do so, or agree to check down a pot from the flop. I decided to do the same here and quell his curiosity if he wanted it

"Do you want me to show?" – and I clicked the buttons "muck winning hands" so that I could show him, and then I threw him a curve.

"Then call – lol". I threw the "lol" for two reasons; one because I did intend to show (and expected him to fold) and two because I am playing under a female name so it seems to fit the part.

"I have K T…"
"And you have to think about it?" – Let him make of that what he pleases. But if I had KT, I'd have folded by now.
"You on a flush draw?"

Now this is where it gets tricky. If I say "Yep", I don't know if that will push him either way, or whether that is what he wants to hear or if he will even believe me. For some reason though, I don't want to lie and then show that I was lying. I joined this little banter to give him some fun and not make an enemy. I do have a back door flush draw though, but if I say as much then that might tell him what I have. I still want him to call if he has AK, which is what I believe he has now that he has to think about it. I want him to think it is a split pot – that way he will be surprised and happy if he folds, and I'll be in a great position if he calls.

"Could be" is what I decided to go with, after taking some time to think about it which probably did me no harm.

Eventually he calls, and has AK. Turn and river bring no spades or kings, and I take home a big pot. He goes silent.

"AK, that's what I thought you really had". Maybe a little needling, but fuck him he lied to me. I decide it is best to leave it there.

A few hands later, I called a post flop raise with just over cards and hit a king on the turn. It gets checked to the river and I take the pot while the loser of the hand (different player) laments that his pair of tens were no good.

"Your (sic) just a lucky fish."

"Yes I am" I said, then cashed out as that hand was the final one I needed to clear for the PSO bonus. Seconds later, I was putting through a withdrawal for the full amount and never again will they see me at those tables. I had more than doubled my original deposit to the site and was in a state of euphoria as I had more than made up for the losses on Friday night.

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