Anna Kournikova (again)

Last weekend I went with a friend to the Harrah’s casino at Cherokee, NC for the World Series of Poker Circuit event.  We both played in a 2-day ring tournament with $365 buy-in.

On the drive – a little over 5 hours – we talked about… (drum roll please) poker!

I mentioned that I won’t play a hand with AQ anymore, suited or unsuited.  Too many bad things have happened when I’ve gotten involved with AQ, such that I feel a certain kind of Anna Kournikova curse  whenever I see these hole cards.  As in:  looks good, never wins anything.

Click here to read my prior post about the Russian tennis playing beauty.

Anyway, I’ve decided not to play AQ anymore.  Not in tournaments.  Not in cash games.  Not under the gun.  Not in the cutoff or on the button.  Not in an opened pot.  Not as a caller, nor as a raiser.  I will not play AQ.  I was explaining this and my friend was rather flaggergasted, as this is one of the stronger starting hands.

For me, the issue is not hand strength.  The issue is tiltlessness, as that word is used by Tommy Angelo and others to describe the state of mind of a poker player playing optimally.  Your “A” game comes out when you are tiltless.  Conversely, when you go on tilt, you are (much) more likely to make mistakes.

Last summer in the middle stages of a tournament in WV, I had AQ in the big blind.  Several players limped in and my stack was about 18-20 big blinds.  I decided to shove and steal the blinds and antes.  The under-the-gun player instantly over-shoved.  Whoops!  Sure enough, he had AA and sent me packing.

On my first trip to Cherokee, I limped with AQ in late position, no one raise and the flop was Q-8-6.  Value town!  I bet the flop and the big blind player check-raised all-in on the turn.  My bet sizing was not proper in those days and I had left myself very little behind, such that his shove gave me over 8-to-1 to call.  I did and he turned over 8-6 for two pair, then binked another 8 on the river just for good measure.

About a year-and-a-half ago in Las Vegas, I raised in late position with AQ.  No more limping… I’ve learned my lesson about letting the blinds get a free look at the flop.  One caller and the flop is Q-J-6.  It’s already late and I’ll be quite happy to take down this pot, fold a couple of hands after that and head off to bed.  I make a standard continuation size bet and the young guy at the end of the table makes a huge check-raise, grabbing a stack of chips without counting them and placing them emphatically and menacingly on the table.  I’m no dummy, though, and after quickly dismissing the possibility he has QJ, see right through his “let’s intimidate the c-betting tourist” act.  So I ship it all in.  He insta-calls.  Whoops!  He turns over J-6 suited.  Really?  You called out-of-position with that shit?  He binks another J on the river for good measure.  I TILT, stay at the table until about 3:00 a.m. and blow through another buy-in before sulking off to bed.

Then there was the low straight draw that made a back-door flush in an online game when I had AQ, hit a Q-high flop and bet the flop and turn for value.

Actually I decided to quit playing AQ a couple years ago on a trip to Atlantic City.  At the Borgata, I folded AQ in early position when I had a short stack and was sitting at a very aggressive table (another mistake, but I digress).  Anyway, the hand limps all the way around.  Dang, I could have seen this flop cheaply.  The flop comes out Q-Q-Q.  Seriously.  Knowing that no one has quads, I watch several players stick chips in the middle to take a stab at this pot.  After this hand, I reneged on my commitment to fold AQ always and forever more.

Until recently, that is.  So we’re driving to Cherokee and I spend about an hour reliving these nightmares and explaining the importance of tiltlessness.  The opportunity cost of missing out on a winning had by folding AQ is less important to me than remaining tiltless, of not having to come home with another AQ bad beat story.  Another friend – who reads this blog and feels the same way about Anna Kournikova as I do – went to Atlantic City for a WSOP Circuit last spring and was doing pretty well in a tournament until he got AQ and the flop was A-Q-9.  This looked almost disaster-proof until the villain turned over pocket nines.

There is one exception that I agreed to allow myself.  Inevitably, I’ll reached a point in every tournament where the blinds have increased and my stack is getting shallow (less than enough chips to fold for 5 orbits of the button around the table, considering the blinds and antes).  Now the only plays are to shove all-in or fold.  I cannot be toooooooooo picky here, and agree that I should shove with AQ.  If I lose, I’ll probably be out of the tournament (unless the villain has an even shorter stack), so any tilting effect won’t matter.  If I win, I’ll either take the blinds and antes – at nice enough pickup in these situations – or double up, and definitely won’t tilt.

There were 411 players in the Cherokee WSOP Circuit tournament.  The very first hand of the tournament I look down at AQ, smile and fold.  I made it to the first break in good shape, with about 30% more chips than the starting stack.  The next couple of hours were pretty tough, with multiple dealer errors and trouble winning any decent pots.  Right before the next break I knocked out a very short stack, winning a JJ v. AK showdown, but still about 10% fewer chips than 2 hours earlier.

Shortly after we resumed play, the blinds went to 500 / 1,000, with antes of 75.  The total investment in one orbit of the button around the table is about 2,200.  I count my stack, and have 8,300 left.  I’ve got enough to fold my way through less than 4 full orbits.  It’s “shove or fold” time.  Peeking at my cards, I see the queen of clubs, then slide that over to reveal the ace of clubs.  This is no time to be timid.  After the first two players to act both fold,  I slide all my chips towards the center.

The next player folds, then an even shorter stack with just 6,000 remaining also announces all-in.  At least I can survive.  After one more fold, a bigger stack seems to be mulling it over carefully.  Finally he says “I guess sometimes you gotta gamble” and also goes all-in.  Everyone else folds.  I do not like this, not one little bit.  I’m expecting to see one of them have AK and the other have a pocket pair.

Show time!  I show my Ac Qc.  The short stack laughs and shows Ah Qh.  All that excitement and we have the same hands.  The bigger stack now frowns and tables Ad Jd.

Wow!  I cannot believe I’m tied with one of them and we both have the other guy dominated.

Until a J shows up quickly on the flop.  A few seconds later, I’m headed for the exit, teased again by Anna Kournikova.

Later that night in a cash game, I get Ac Qc again in the cutoff and decide to limp in.  On a flop of A-7-9 it checks all around.  Maybe I’ll win a small pot and break this curse.  I bet at it on the turn (a 6, not completing any flush draws) and get one caller.  The river is another 7, and the caller leads out with a bet of slightly more than the pot.  Aack!

Fortunately, I decide that tiltlessness should be the dominant factor in deciding what to do here.  I might think he’s bluffing when the board pairs here, but it doesn’t matter.  NO MORE ANNA KOURNIKOVA STORIES.  I fold.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $709)

Month-to-date online results:  + $497



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