Rough Day at the New NL Table

For a time, my employer was trying to get a yellow chip limit Hold’em game going, so I ended up getting paid to play $15-30 Limit Hold’em with a kill. I loved this because I had already logged over 1000 hours of experience in that specific game. The game helped my bottom line for the time period that my casino was actively encouraging it, and I’m sorry to see them give up on it.

Still, it’s hard to deny the appeal of no limit. It’s what everyone sees on TV and what everyone wants to play. I feel I’m developing some skill at the game, but I miss the protection of limit where the bets and calls are fairly automatic most of the time and where your liability when you get drawn out of is just one more bet. So here are a couple of hands where I lost some money today.

I had about $500 in front of me, and I pick up AK of diamonds in early position. I raise it to 3 big blinds (my standard preflop raise) and get called by Tom, a somewhat reckless prop who can sometimes be easy to read, and a lose called who’s be playing a lot of hands and has more chips than I do. It was hard for me to imagine a better flop for my hand when I saw Ac 10s 7h. An ace high flop without a flush draw. The loose player checked to me, and I checked as well since the board was fairly safe. Tom bet $30 into the $45 pot and got called from the loose player, I raised the bet another $70 when it was my turn, to make it an even $100. Tom shoved all in for the rest of his stack, which was another $150 over my bet. The loose player folded. I felt obligated to call give the strength of my hand and the fact that I was now getting pod odds of $150 to $450 or three to 1. As it turns out, Tom had flopped bottom set.

I get sucked into the pot odds and the strength of the hand, but Tom is a donkey and I should not have paid it off. I’ve played with enough donkey’s to have mastered certain axioms of have they play. For one thing, a donkey may make a bet with nothing to steal the pot, but I’ve never seen one raise with nothing after the flop. A donkey can see the ace on the board, and figure that my check raise (particularly combined with my preflop raise) equated to a big ace. If they are still giving you action, you’re in trouble. I should have just laid it down there.

The other hand I played was against the loose player. He tended to play most every hand, and sometimes come in for a big raise preflop. He raised it to $30 preflop and I called him with Ah Js. It was a loose call, but he was a loose player and I had position on him. The flop came Ks 10h 8h. He checked to me, and I bet $30 which he called. The turn can with another rag heart. I checked it to me and I bet $50, he check raise me $100. Going back to the first rule of donkey poker, if they are raising you after the flop, they have a hand. That much I knew, but I also knew that I had the Ace of hearts, so he couldn’t have the nut flush, so I had some outs. It was possible that he could have had a flush, but since I had the Ace of hearts I couldn’t imagine that many suited hands he would make it $30 with before the flop, so I figured my straight draw was good too. Nine hearts in the deck, plus the 3 extra queens is giving me 12 outs. I wasn’t sure if my hand would have been good if an Ace hit, but I did figure that those extra ace outs had to figure for something. I decided that the hand was good enough to continue, and the pot odds offered on the call were three to one on odds of roughly three to one. But I figured, mistakenly, that this might be a good opportunity for a semibluff. So I shoved all in for the rest of my stack, a raise of another $250 which he called.

He had a set of 10s and I get no help on the record. This has led me to not the second rule of donkey poker: if a donkey could make a good laydown, he wouldn’t be a donkey. It’s OK to make a bet as a semibluff because they might not have much of a hand, but if they are raising you they not only have a hand, they have a hand that they are not going to let go of. Do not attempt any fancy plays from that point on. If the odds are there to try to draw out on them do so knowing that you have the implied odds of the rest of their entire stack because the simply can’t let go of the hand at that point.

Anyway, what a rotten run of cards. Still, it is nice to play a game that demands my attention. A worthy investment of my time.

My Daughter’s 2nd Grade “Warrior Cats” Play

My daughter has fallen in love with the Warrior Cats series of books by Erin Hunter. For those of you who haven’t heard of it (which I expect is all of you), it’s basically a tribal warfare storyline using anthropomorphic cats. It’s certainly not my favorite subject matter, but the books are far more complex and dense than anything else she’s shown an interest in and pursuing them has caused her reading to excel. She now reads at a level far above that of the average 2nd or 3rd grader.

She’s also shown an interest in being a writer, and wrote a play inspired by the Erin Hunter novels. Her 2nd grade class agreed to perform it (well, half of it anyway) during the last week of school. Here it is.

The Day to Day Mindset of a Professional Poker Player

Being a professional gambler means you lead a strange and unconventional existence, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve done the corporate grind and I find it wonderful to not have to such freedom from middle managers trying to make sure I understand the full extent of their limited authority. Still, the day to day existence of a poker player has it’s own interesting trials and tribulations. I think the biggest challenge I face is just keeping my moral up.

Because the game is all about trying to beat eight other people at the table with you, you win most of the time you’re there. In fact, even if all you did was win your fair share of pots, that means you’d only be a “winner” 1/8th of the time or so. I kept track of my daily wins and losses because that’s what we’re supposed to do as good poker players, but I developed a habit that I was just leave the book in the car at the end of the day. Entering a failing day always felt so negative to me that I figured I’d just wait till a big up day, but when that came, I typically didn’t feel like entering all that data either. I just wanted to celebrate in my glow and I feared that entering all of the losses the book contained would just bring me back down again.

As the weeks turned into months, I began to wonder just how bad the data would be when I finally entered it into my spreadsheet. I was sure it would tell me I was a loser at the game of poker, but I wasn’t sure how much of one. Really, since I’m paid by the house, being a loser isn’t such a bad thing. I don’t get to chose my own game as most professionals do, and the game I’m typically sitting in isn’t the one most professionals would chose. Furthermore, at $25 an hour, I can afford to lose, oh $5 or so an hour and still be ahead of most people’s jobs. Let’s face it, $20 an hour to gamble all day isn’t all that rough an existence. So I finally got off my ass and entered the data and discovered… I was actually a winner at the game of poker. I was truly surprised but even with the games I was being put in, I managed to add to, and not subtract from, my hourly rate.

To me this reveals a startling truth about poker: everybody feels like a loser most of the time, even the winners. I now see how people just stop caring if they’re playing correctly over time because they figure they’re just going to lose anyway, so why bother trying to do what’s correct. They allow their previously good and profitable play degenerate over time until they are losing players who have no hopes of anything but a brief flash of temporary good luck.

I remember when I first started learning about poker, Mike Caro lectured that you as a poker player needed to envision that you were being hired by someone else and playing with someone else’s money. That the wins and loses that you were taking were all someone else’s responsibility, and instead that person was paying you a flat rate per hour simply to make the best decisions possible. The point of this exercise is that poker is not about winning pots, but instead about making the correct decision as best you are able. If you simply keep making the best decisions you can, the pots should take care of themselves.

I think Mike is one to something here, because it takes the pressure off of feeling like you have to win everyday. You don’t have any real control over whether you win or loss a given session at poker, but instead need to just focus on making the best decisions you can. “Let success take care of itself,” is what Mike would say.

It feels great to have the data saying that I’m doing something that many people find rather difficult. I feel very secure that I can continue to make a living and provide for my loved ones if I just aim to keep improving everyday. I love my job and I love the influx of new faces everyday. This is a great country, and poker is a great game. To borrow an ending from Jerry Maguire, I love my life, I love my fiance, and, I wish all the rest of you my kind of success.