Well, I asked for a mincash and I got one. So I’m off the schneid. Still, I’m in a nasty mood. A really foul horrible mood.
I’m not unmindful of the fact that I’m privileged to be part of a very small group who can actually earn a living at tournament poker. I also have no plans of quitting. And I’m well aware that I’ve cultivated a style for myself that leaves me prone to long droughts. Still, the accumulated effect of so much losing for such a long time is beginning to wear on me. I’ve been doing a LOT of fuckin’ losing lately. I know its affecting me because I’ve caught myself acting unusually.
I take some pride in the way I comport myself when I’m playing poker. One of my rules stems from the fact that I expect to win and therefore act as if nothing unusual has happened when I do win. The football players who just hand the ball the ref after they score a touchdown are the baddest, and those are the guys I try to emulate. Jumping all over the room when you win a big pot means you’ve probably not won too many big pots in your life.
I try to maintain a consistent and corresponding attitude about losing. Bad beats and coolers are inevitable in poker; going nuts over them is tiresome and a waste of energy. Plus the guys who complain about bad beats and coolers are often masking the fact that they misplayed the hand. I also consider myself a generally stoic loser and try and act that way. I strive to have a reflective attitude about the big hands I lose and to understand them and learn from them.
Also, I can’t stand poker players who walk around with a sense of entitlement, thinking that they are either owed something or that they have some kind of special aptitude that the rest of us are missing. I think that poker players who lack humility are incredible douchebags and I refuse to be one of them.
Finally, I never tilt.
In the past week or so I’ve followed none of the guidelines mentioned above. I’ve found myself veering off into a bad place, behaving in ways that I don’t like. I’ll illustrate by briefly discussing the end of my last three tournaments.
In the first tournament, I finished 21st in a $500 deep stack event. I ran into some bad luck late, losing with AK to AQ all in preflop and then getting coolered, JJ > 99 in a blind-on-blind hand to bust out. None of this is especially surprising, but my attitude was. When the tournament was reduced to three tables, I looked around the room and realized that I was the most accomplished player left. I played the rest of the tournament with a chip on my shoulder, disdainful of my less experienced opponents, working myself into a lather and even laughing out loud when players were making amateur-ish moves like open limping and opening pots to six times the big blind. When I eventually busted I actually slammed a fist into the table. Then when the payout lady congratulated me, I rolled my eyes then stared at her incredulously. Just gimme my mincash bitch. I spent the entire ride home thinking how unfair it was that I should run into bad luck against a dream field of idiots who would have been so easy to abuse if I could only have run better.
In the second tournament I went deep but finished out of the money in a $1000 event. I played at the same table with a metrosexual Asian guy for probably eight hours. By the middle of the second hour, I hated him. He was a good player–active and dangerous–that much I was willing to concede. But he was also very confident and chatty and he played very slowly, all of which annoyed me. He talked his way through his hands, looking right at his opponents and saying the things that normal players internalize. (“You bet flop, checked the turn, and now you want me to believe that king on the river helped you? That makes no sense.”). Normally this kind of stuff wouldn’t really register with me, but I was actually enraged by this guy, slowing down the game with his expensive watch, elegant shirt and nonstop jibber-jabber. I couldn’t wait to bust his ass.
When the field was down about 45 players, the average stack was around 20 big blinds. The tournament (like most tournaments) was boiled down to the old openshove/open-reshove game. I picked up two tens on the button on Metro Asian’s big blind. We had similar stacks of around 25 big blinds. It was folded to me and I made my standard openraise. The small blind folded and M.A. started in with his usual routine of staring at me and shuffling his chips around. I lowered the bill of my baseball cap and thought to myself: “please, please shove on me. For the love of God shove all in now.” After over a minute of grandstanding he did just that. He pushed all in and I snap called, opening what I was sure was the best hand. The guy hesitated, his eyes lit up, and he tabled pocket jacks. The board bricked and I was out a few minutes later. I spent that particular ride home trying not to drive off the road (I was exhausted) and obsessing over how absurd it was to have played eleven hours of poker and have nothing at all to show for it other than the heartache of losing to a jackass.
The third tournament was the Borgata Summer Open main event. In that one I started out at a typical passive table with a few soft spots. Then after a couple of hours I was moved to a new table and placed to the immediate left of a very loose and very bad player with a lot of chips. His VPIP was about 80, which translates to “he was playing almost every pot” for those of you who don’t speak pokergeek. He also didn’t like folding postflop. While this type of player is a virtual ATM machine when you make a hand, they can be very annoying to deal with when you don’t have a hand.
Also seated at this table two seats to my left was a Russian guy with whom I was already familiar. We were both regulars at the Upper East Side’s Ace Point poker club circa 2004. Lately he’s been trying his hand at tournaments; I’ve seen him at Borgata a few times this year. I know his game (from five years ago, anyway) very well. He’s capable of being aggressive postflop but is otherwise straightforward. He’s also usually pretty loud and dumb, full of silly jokes. Nothing totally out of line, but enough to occasionally annoy. Yesterday he was drinking Coronas and had already begun to annoy me since I was in a mood that rendered me susceptible to annoyance.
My stack fluctuated from around 50k up to near 70k after winning a couple of pots off of the loose cannon, but then dropped back to around 43k after making the kind of hero call that is often required against that breed of maniac. My hero call (with 99 on a board with an A, K and 10) was no good in this instance, and I was pissed off about it. I stewed in my seat awhile, then this hand took place:
Blinds were 300-600 with a 75 ante. We were less than a minute from the dinner break and I had AQ offsuit on the button. It was miraculously folded to me (i.e., the maniac didn’t openlimp!) and for the very first time in two plus hours at this table, I finally opened a pot. I made it 1600 to go. It folded to my Russian friend (stack size 50k) who instantly reraised to 5600. What now?
Against a known loose/aggressive player who likes to three bet, this is an easy reraise all in. Against a tight player who never three bets, this is a fold. Russkie fell into the latter category. Yes, he likely knows my reputation for opening wide on the button, but the way this particular player would combat my aggression would be to call lighter, not to three bet.
I considered the options, decided that Russkie’s range crushes mine here and was about to fold and head to dinner. Then I reconsidered and decided that we were sitting deep enough to pursue a third option: take a flop in position. Is AQ off a great hand to do this with against this particular player’s range? Not really. I tossed in a grey 5k chip.
The flop came A Q J rainbow. Bingo, right? Wrong. That was a bad flop for my hand and I knew it. Three of the hands he’d three bet with just made sets, 10-10 and whatever random shit he’d get out of line with (i.e., almost nothing) whiffed, and only KK and AK just made a hand that I’m crushing. I thought to myself “I’m probably gonna go broke here” as Russkie made a lead bet of 10,000. I stared at the board forlornly, knowing that the only play was to jam all in and pray that he had something I was ahead of. There was no turning back. I announced all in and Russkie reacted by looking at the dealer and saying “did he just say all in?!!” Right then I knew I was toast. The dealer confirmed and Russkie called, tabling QQ. I was in my car five minutes later.
This ride home was the worst of all. I say that because I spent the entire trip deluding myself. This time, all I could focus on was how I’d been coolered. How could he show up with QQ on an A Q X board? What horrid luck I have!
No. What a horrid display of displacement and scapegoating. It actually took me until this morning to realize that I had tilted and then played the hand terribly.
This realization doesn’t make me feel any better–probably worse–but at least it is helpful. I’ve run afoul of all the rules I set for myself and mentioned at the outset of this blog entry. But I’m now aware of the emotional turmoil I’ve inflicted on myself, which is the first step towards changing it.
The second step: making a nice score in the WSOP main event? 🙂