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 www.tommyangelo.com).
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