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During the World Series, Strip rooms offer:

–Better games

–More comfortable chairs

–Better dealers

–Better service

…yet the big room at the Rio is always packed.

Odd.

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I have a wonderful river tell I now watch for in certain spots.

It applies to average to slightly-above average players, and how to respond to a big decision they put you to on the river.  It relates to mannerisms and behavior.

I’ve looked for it 4-5 times over the past year, and picked off 4-5 big river bluffs in the process.

I’ve never read about it, at least not specifically, in any poker book, and I’ve read my share.

It is so completely great that I am not ever going to share what it is here.  And nobody is even reading this!

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The sale of my company (no profit, but at least my hands are untied) and subsequent consulting work has allowed me to start playing more often.  By more often I mean once a week, ideally with the occasional Vegas run.

On the whole it has been ok–but the results have not been AS good as I feel they should have been.  Last night, for example, went from a winner to a loser playing 3-5 at Lucky Chances.  Even when I was up, however, I sensed I should have had more chips than I did.

There is an obvious explanation.  Playing only once a week engenders some really bad habits, most notably the need to get your fix by playing as many hands as possible, and, as the night goes on, playing these hands way too passively.  I’ll play well, sense that I have an edge, decide that I can just call with that Qx suited out of position, and then I can call again on the flop with some weak draw just to see what happens next (I am such a superior player, after all), and then I give up, having donated 80 bucks to the pot for no reason.

I do this.  I know I do this, and I know it is dumb. But at the same time: at mid-stakes NL tables I generally DO have an edge, and if I don’t drift into passive play I generally CAN play better on the flop.  I can mitigate being too loose.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

So I think I have a bigger problem, embodied by the big hand that took me from a winner to a loser last night:

I am the BB, and I end up being the effective stack with somewhere around $650. MP, a good player, raises to $25. Two callers in front of me and somehow it becomes obvious that I am getting the odds for the extra $20 to call with Qh7h.

Flop comes exactly how one wants it to come when playing a trash hand like Qh7h: Qc8h2h.  Top pair, flush draw with one raise pre-flop.  I check, raiser bets $60.  One call, one fold.  I raise to $160, probably a little small given the $220 already in the pot, but not a big deal.  MP then comes over the top and makes it $360 to go.  Other guy folds.

So: $740 in the pot, and I have a little more than $400 left.  And I think it out and make no mistake.  His most likely hand, I deduce, is AA or KK, which makes it 50/50 and an easy shove (I looked it up, and its actually 50.2/49.8).  If he happens to have a set, I still have my draw.  If he is on AhKh I am actually ahead.

I know I don’t have much fold equity, but even still I don’t doubt that shoving was right.  He did indeed have KK, none of my many outs hit, and I lost my stack.  And I was fine with that.  Apart from the questionable preflop call, I played the hand fine, had a chance to win a big pot, and didn’t hit.  So be it.

But here’s the thing: the guy who made the initial raise and won the pot was a good player.  And there were several not-good players there.  Some with money.  One with money and completely distracted by his computer.  So why am I positioning myself to get into 50/50s with HIM when other opportunities abound?  If I am going to play Qh7h against a raise why do it against HIS raise?

Game selection is irrelevant in a must-move format, as the NL games at Lucky Chances are.  Which makes in-game “player selection” that much more important.  Has anyone coined that term?  If not its mine,  which would be ironic given how poor I am at it.

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I’ve dabbled a bit over the past few months.  Started in Vegas at some sales meetings in December; took a little money with me, went on a good run in 1-2.  Figured maybe I could sustain it just playing small for a while, get my occasional fix in.

Trouble is: doesn’t work like that, even at low stakes.  Take the last couple sessions: which involved just enough in my pocket for two buy ins at lower stakes tables (1-2 or 3-5).  Its the same every time.  Or so it feels when I lose.

I play way conservatively for the first hour or two.  After all, I don’t want to risk going bust and having to leave after a few minutes.  How embarrassing!  So I pass on spots where aggression would be the natural play.  And not just giving up on draws that have the odds.  One recent hand stands out: I’ve got 10 10 at a shorthanded 3-5 table, about $300 in front of me.  EP, a solid player but one who is visibly steaming from a recent loss and has about the same amount of money on the table as I do, raises pre-flop.  I call, knowing he’ll be aggressive on the flop no matter what, and figuring I’ll move if the flop is good.

And it is! And he is! 9, 3, 2 rainbow or something like that.  And he bets out as predicted, only he way overbets the flop, and then I start thinking he’s trying to look weak and he’s actually got a big pair, and, more importantly, I don’t want to bust out now, and I (unforgivably) give up my 10s.

Waiting for a better spot!

Problem is: the better spot doesn’t always come.  And unless you are a zen master your fingers start to get itchy.  So an hour later I call that raised pot with KQ offsuit on the BB (which is a bad play).  And flop comes three of the King Suit, so I CRAI (which is not a bad play), AND I hit a K on the turn, but not the flush, and get slowrolled by a set.

So then I buy in for my last $200, and quickly call a very solid woman’s raise with AJ suited (not terrible but not great), and the flop is J 7 5 or something like that, and she bets out as she would with anything, and I raise and commit (as I have to do once I play the hand in the first place), and she has QQ and I go home.  Two not-terrible plays and I am done!

Lately I feel like a pretty decent carpenter who is burdened by the fact that he doesn’t have any nails.

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Stipulation: I am fully aware that my life is good.

That being said:

It’s a beautiful Saturday in San Francisco.  Blue Angels flying around.  People out doing stuff, including my family.  A good day in the City.

And here I am, at the computer, working on pointless docs for useless people who make me miserable and who I am quite certain will never be of any use to me or my company, as much as they are currently pretending otherwise.  I may as well be back as an analyst at an investment bank.

And I can’t help but think that in my worst poker days, my worst runs, my worst bad beats, I never felt the kind of frustration and emptiness I feel now.

[insert photo of world’s smallest violin right here]

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Some random thoughts and events since my last post for my legions of followers:

My Q1 run of play was certainly positive.  Unfortunately, all the MASSIVE profits quickly went toward bills and expenses, extinguishing my temporary roll.  I think I know this song.

I’ve played only one session in the last couple of months.  Was in Vegas for a trade show a few weeks ago, and scrounged enough money together for a 2/5 no limit session at Bellagio.  For what its worth: ‘scrounged’ is an excellent word choice here.  I remain undefeated in this particular game over the years, which, no matter how incredibly awesome a player I am, is a statistical improbability. It helped that when down to my last few hundred I flopped quad 8s, and got matched up against Aces full AND a guy intent on calling everybody no matter what.  Another statistical improbability.

Speaking of statistical improbabilities: why is it that while I played high stakes all of the statistical improbabilities I encountered seemed to benefit my opponents?

My wife suggests that we find a way to get me playing more.  Assuming I do, will I be able to cope with this kind of pressure?

 

 

 

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Every now and then you run into the player who knows (or at least thinks he knows) all the pot odds for every conceivable poker situation.  During every hand he calculates his own odds (out loud),  after each hand he lets everyone know what the match up was (“that was a 53/47!”).  He is most vocal when he loses a pot, and chides his opponent for making some kind of ridiculous play not justified by the math.  A lot of these guys come from the east coast, makes for interesting times when they get matched up with crazy Asians out here with whom they have little experience.

One thing about this guy: inevitably he gets exposed for making dumb plays himself, and when this happens and he gets lucky he will say the following, verbatim:  “oh, well, nice that I can suck out every now and then too!”  And then he goes right back to complaining about other people.

Another thing about this guy: when he does expose himself as a donkey and gets lucky, inevitably its me on the receiving end.

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