Trip Report Part 4: By myself, but not alone.

That book I mentioned a couple of blog entries ago, the one written by Mlodinow, discusses a curious human tendency.  The brain is designed to detect patterns.  Present a person with a random string of fifty numerals, and that person will automatically attempt to decipher a pattern in the string.

The book also mentions that in any long string of random trials, seemingly anomalous results are actually quite natural.  For instance, flipping a coin ten million times will almost certainly result in discreet strings of forty consecutive “heads” within the long string of results.

The combination of those two topics is giving me a small measure of solace during what has now become the worst financial downswing of my professional poker career.  (For the record, last year’s hair growth slump was longer in duration, but this recent stretch is my largest monetary downswing thus far).

This trip to Vegas was designed to be a step up for me.  Never before had I planned such a long attack on the tournament circuit, and never before had I brought along so much ammunition (in the form of tournament entry fees).  I’m almost three weeks into the mission, and it’s been a dismal failure.

As the book states, it’s human nature to try to detect and explain patterns.  And so, looking at my hideous tournament results for the 2008 WSOP, I have been grappling with the notion that I am either playing poker poorly or that my poker playing style is somehow easily exploitable.  I’ve thought about these topics a great deal.  In the end, I don’t think either of those notions are accurate.  I am just running worse than I ever thought was possible.  The sheer number and improbability of the beats I’ve taken in these tournaments is amazing.  Amazing, and if (like most of us) you enjoy laughing at other people’s misfortune, comical.  I’m not going to even get into all varieties of beatdown I’ve suffered, but suffice to say that the list is long.

I’m in Vegas all by myself losing my freakin’ shirt.  But I’m hanging in there.  I’ve given a lot of credit for this to Mr. Mlodinow, but probably the bigger shot in the arm came from reading the 2+2 forums a couple of days ago.  I’m a frequent lurker on that message board, and it’s an amazing place.  The best poker players in the world discuss strategy there daily, and anyone who participates or even just reads along like I do is virtually guaranteed to improve their game.  The kids on 2+2 are destroying this year’s WSOP; every final table has one or more 2+2’ers at it.  But not all of them are tearing it up out here.  I recently learned that many of the most respected members of that community–some of whom are indisputably great poker players–are having terrible a terrible WSOP just like I am.  These things happen.

I’m not alone.  That’s good to know.

Oh, and this profession is not for people who appreciate sanity.

8 thoughts on “Trip Report Part 4: By myself, but not alone.

  1. I don’t play at the same level that you do and I know my game needs work. It’s been my sad experience that my biggest losses take place when I’m all-in with the best of it, a big favorite who gets run over by someone else’s dumb luck.

    All-in preflop at a 1-2 table at the Taj for an $1800 pot, AA against A 10 os, and A 10 rivers a straight. oh well.

    All-in a few seats from the money at a $200 buy-in tournament at Caesars, with AA against KK, and KK flops a set. shrug.

    Knowing that you played well is small comfort when your chips are gone. Losing sucks. I hope your luck improves.

  2. You know what always cheers me up? Rolled up aces over kings. Check-raising stupid tourists and taking huge pots off of them. Get back out there and win a bracelet dammit!

  3. im defintely going to get that book, also wanted to let u know about a book u might like called Blink(The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) by Malcom Gladwell — i think any serious poker player could benefit from it and i am only half way through it, got the tip on the p5’s forum

    Dan, i will be the first to admit the 1-2nl games in AC have some ridiculously bad players, but that was a typo right, the pot was 180, not even the worse player in the world would put in 900 preflop with A10, although i have seen some shit thats pretty close

  4. Monro– you’re right, it wasn’t $1800, it was more like $1400, still a huge pot for a 1-2 table. (I had about $700 in chips going in).

    A-10, who I had watched bluff/luck his way into a huge stack over the course of about 3 hours, had built up a stack of over $800 in front, opened from 3rd position with a raise to $20 (standard for him at this table). He’d been playing very loose/aggessive, and was making a big show about ordering drinks/flirting with the waitress- I figured he wasn’t as drunk as he wanted people to believe.

    Anyway, he had 2 callers before it reached me, I raised another $100 (which was designed to look like a move– a few hands before me A-10 and I had clashed – I folded the best hand when confronted by a big bet by him, and he flashed his rags).

    I have no idea why he reraised so much, but he came over the top with another $400. The other 2 players immediately got out of the way. I pretended to think before shrugging and pushing all in. I figured he must have KK or another premium hand. Maybe he actually was drunk, or felt he was pot committed– he clearly wasn’t happy about my all in, but he called anyway.

    I turned up my AA, and he showed A-10 os. I couldn’t believe it. Flop brought K Q x, turn was a blank, and the river was a J. Adding insult to injury, one of the other 2 players had folded JJ.

    As this idiot was celebrating his win, my wife, who was sitting behind me, started berating me for having lost my chips. Knowing you’d gotten your chips in with the best of it is small consolation when your chips are gone.

  5. Anyway, bad beat stories aside, I can definitely understand how demoralizing it can feel to go on an unlucky streak.

    Sometimes it isn’t enough to play well, and even if you know the math says things will work out in the long run, the short run can be a b*tch.

    I hope Zeit’s luck takes a turn for the better soon.

  6. Zeit, you know you’re good. I think most of us that play poker realize that.

    Speaking of ridiculous stuff, I was playing $1/$2 this weekend at Foxwoods and was in the BB with A/5 of Diamonds. A few people limp, SB completes, I raise to $10, everyone folds except for the SB.

    Flop comes 4/6/8 with two Diamonds. SB checks, I bet $20 into a $25-$30 pot, SB calls. Turn card is some random card that doesn’t really change anything. SB shoves $280 into a pot that could have been no more than $50.

    I guess he really wanted to win that pot. *chuckle*

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