Seven Habits (… of Highly Ineffective Poker Players)

This is a story about an accumulation of mistakes that started innocently enough but eventually created a TILT and the loss of my full table buy-in.

Mistake #1 – Playing poker when I have more important things to do.  I suppose we could say this about nearly every poker session, but that is not the point.  Here I started a session a little before 8:00 a.m. on a day that I needed to focus on several projects for paying clients.  I’m not a full-time professional poker player, but a self-employed business consultant of sorts, working from a home office, so I should start the workday by working if I have actual paying work to do.  Anyway there was a full ring 1-2 NL table with a seat open at my online poker site and I was only going to play for a little while, as I was well aware of other work awaiting my attention.  This is an important mistake, as I’m much less likely to bring my “A game” (to borrow a phrase from Tommy Angelo (Note:  Tommy is a wonderful poker player, thinker and writer.  See

Mistake #2 – Over-betting a marginal hand.  After about 15 hands of being mostly card dead, I got J-9o on the button.  (OK, I know, still card dead.)  After one limper, I raised to $7, and was called by the SB and original limper.  On a flop of J-4-3 rainbow, both players checked to me.  I bet $13, the SB check/raised to $28 and the other guy folded.  I interpreted this min raise as a sign of weakness, hoping to bluff me off the pot with minimal risk.  Frequently this would work.  But because of Mistake #1, I was eager to make a quick profit so I could move on to other stuff I had to do.  I 3-bet to $51 and the SB calls after a few seconds.  The turn was a 10, completing the rainbow.  He checks and I shove.  Really.  I shoved in my last $134 with top pair and a very modest kicker, hoping that I had effectively represented much stronger and he would fold.  Which he did.  At the end of this hand, my stack was $256, a gain of $56 over my initial buy-in.  Even though I won this pot, it was still a bad play.  I risked my entire stack on a one-pair / mediocre kicker hand.  Way too impatient, further amplifying Mistake #1.

Mistake #3 – Not quitting.  Clearly this is the time to quit.  I have other things to do (for which I will get paid – did I already mention that?).  I feel impatient.  I just got away with a terrible play.  While I bullied the SB off of that pot, there is no way a weaker hand is going to call.  Being the SB, he could easily have called my pre-flop raise with 4-4 or 3-3 to go set mining.  Or overplay a TPTK (top pair, top kicker) type of hand.  I know all of that, so I should take the $56 gain and quit right now.  I even thought about quitting, which is part of what led me to this post.

Mistake #4 – Out of position and don’t know where I stand.  One pattern I am aware of lately is playing too loose when I am ahead in a session.  I spend the next few hands practicing being very tight with a healthy stack.  I even check the option in a limped pot with A-Qo in the big blind (folded the flop, but would have won this pot when an A hit on the river had I stayed).  Then I get to another hand where I’m in the BB, with 7-6s in a limped pot.  I check the option and the flop is 6-3-2 with two spades.  Both of my cards are clubs.  I bet $4 and there are two callers.  The turn is A clubs and I decide to fire a second barrel of $13.50.  The button calls, and the river is A of hearts.  I check and the button bets $14 into a pot of $43.  Duh!  He has an Ace, right.  This just screams value bet here and I know I’m beat.  Yet for some reason I cannot explain – other that my head is just not in the game at this moment and really hasn’t been this entire session – I make the call.  He shows A-2s for a full house.  I now have $220 remaining on the table.  I should quit.

Mistake #5 – Overplaying suited connectors.  Five hands later, I am UTG+2 and raise to $7 with 8-7s.  My feeble rationalization for this bet is that I’m balancing my range by raising with suited connectors in a middle position.  To my delight, everyone folds except the blinds, who both call.  Throughout the rest of this hand, I’ll be last to act and now I’m confident I can outplay these guys and take down the pot.  The flop is K-9-8 with two hearts.  Well, at least I caught a part of this flop.  Both blinds check and I bet $17.50 into a pot of $19, hoping to take it down right now and discourage any flush draws from continuing.  The SB calls, and the turn card is the 4 of hearts.  SB checks and I decide that I must represent the flush myself, as surely he will recognize my flop bet as a semi-bluff.  I bet $29 and he rather quickly raises to $58.  Shit.  I fold.  Now I can see on the hand history that he held A-5 of hearts for the nut flush.  So my for my representation.  This story was pathetic given the pre-flop raise and over-sized c-bet.  Now I have $164 remaining.  Double shit.  I could have quit when I was ahead by $56, and now I’m $34 down for the session and my other work is still waiting.

Mistake #6 – Not quitting again.  At this point I can feel the TILT coming on.

Mistake #7 – Not slowing down when something seems awry (a/k/a TILT).  About 35 minutes later, I’m down to $123 mostly due to sloppy play including a lot of very loose called with unsuited connectors and 1-gappers hoping for a miracle flop, and a few C-bets that didn’t work out.  I get Q-Q in the SB position, and ahead of me there is a limp, a raise to $6 and a call.  I pop it up to $26.  The original raiser folds, but the caller calls again.  Calling station?  What might his range be?  I give very little thought to that, essentially decided to shove almost any flop, including… K-7-2 with two spades.  Not an ideal flop, but only one over card and generally worse if it were an Ace.  So I just shove, and Villain calls with K-Qo.  OK, so his call of my pre-flop 3-bet was awfully loose, and he should have thought for more than 2 seconds about whether I might have A-A, K-K or A-K here.  But that doesn’t matter now.  I think the pre-flop play was OK, but the shove on the flop was just totally spewy.   I actually had him covered by about $23.
I shove my last $23 with pocket fives on the button on the very next hand, after 3 limpers, and get two calls.  Both connect with the flop and now I can get on to my other work.
Year-to-date online results:  + $5,559

Month-to-date online results:  + $223

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