One of the best poker books ever written is Elements of Poker, by Tommy Angelo. One of the author’s charming qualities is his invention of words, that heretofore didn’t exist, to describe things that need their own special word. Word inventions like gobsmacked, tiltlessness, Kuzzycan, and fast rolling. And bliscipline.
Of bliscipline, he says: Bliscipline is when you are at the table and you are so totally in control of yourself and so totally at peace in the situation that no matter what happens next, you’ll still have plenty of resolve in reserve.
I needed some bliscipline at the Bellagio in Las Vegas a few days ago, when this hand occurred. I was playing at a $1/3 game, had bought in for the maximum of $300 and started this hand with a somewhat short stack of approximately $170. Having lost some pots, I was searching for my bliscipline before topping off my stack.
Villain #1 for this hand (V1) is the BB. Villain #2 (V2) is UTG+1, and opens the action with a raise to $10. A young Russian girl calls. I call with 8h 7h in the Hijack seat, i.e., two seats to the right of the button. There is another call and V1 calls from the BB.
V1 seems like somewhat of a novice player. When he first sat down, he made a comment about “being new at this” when he didn’t understand the protocol for something (straddling? string bets? I don’t exactly recall) Then in an earlier hand, I raised to $12 with AQ from a late position, and he called from one of the blinds A6o. On a flop of AJ6 rainbow, he led into me with a $20 bet, which I mistakenly interpreted as his having an Ace with a weak kicker. With no history on this Villain, I called his flop, turn and river bets and now my stack is short. He looks and acts like a tourist or conventioneer, wearing a golf shirt and being social in a way that says I’m here for entertainment, let’s play poker and drink some and yuk it up.
V2 is very aggressive post flop; on multiple hands he has tried to push people off the pot when he smells weakness. He is not overly aggressive pre-flop, but has made several raises to $10, almost as if sweetening the pot to try to take it down later in the hand.
Flop ($50): 6h 5s 4d. This is fantastic! A rainbow flop that gives me the top end of the nut straight. Rather than bliss, I feel s surge of energy and I plan how to maximize my value for this hand.
V1 checks, V2 C-bets $15, and the Russian girl calls. I decide to call, in part because I’m hoping V1 has some reason to call here as well. There is one fold and V1 does call.
Turn ($110): 9d. A safe card, albeit putting 2 diamonds on the board. Time to build this pot and set up a river shove.
V1 checks, V2 bets $20. Methinks he might have an over pair, although his bet sizing is weak. On the other hand, his bets when trying to push people off hands earlier has been much larger, so maybe this is his style for value bets, ie., bigger bets are bluffs and smaller bets are for value.
The Russian girl calls $20, and I raise to $55. After my raise, I have about $90 behind. I’m trying to find the raise size that an over pair will call, and that makes it very difficult for anyone with any value who calls this raise on the turn to be able to fold when I shove on the river. I am definitely not trying to push anyone off this pot. While there is a flush draw now, there aren’t many hand with two diamonds in them that would have put in $15 on that rainbow flop, just to chase a backdoor flush draw.
V1 and V2 both call, but the Russian girl folds. Hmmm… flush draws still seem unlikely, but a possibility. Sets (I think a set would have announced itself loudly by now)? Over pairs? Two pair? Pair + Ace kicker? V1 could have virtually anything with any value, or could not even know what he has, as he still just doesn’t seem like a very good / thinking player. V2 still seems more likely to have an over pair than anything else.
River ($295): 6d. This is a nightmare card for me, as it brings in not only a 3rd diamond, but also pairs the board.
V1 checks again, and while my heart surges up into my throat, V2 suddenly perks up like a race horse coming around the final turn with his ears pinned forward. He straightens up in his chair and starts cutting out chips for betting, 3 small stacks of 5 red (i.e., $5 each) chips, then stacking them up, and eventually sliding $75 into the pot, in a manner that tells me that I just got fucked. Or as Tommy Angelo would say, when negative fluctuation occurs, you get fluct.
Hello? Bliscipline? Where are you, my friend? I’d like to find you, ’cause I could really use your help. Right now!
My emotions go crazy. I started this hand with $170. Flopped the nuts. I’m entitled to get my last $90 in on this river, and win this pot, which will give me an ending stack of $470 or so after rake and tip.
I coined my own term and acronym awhile back, for Sudden Onset Entitlement Tilt. Or SOET. Pronounced “SWEEEEET!” SOET is easily confused with Bliscipline. At its (sudden) onset, SOET seems like a prelude to bliscipline. I just flopped the nuts (or I have pocket AAs), and I’m going to win a huge pot, and after I do that I will feel blissful. I have many times gotten fluct while experiencing SOET, when a nightmare card arrives (i.e., I get gobsmacked!) and despite the preponderance of the evidence that my hand is no longer good, I continue to pour all my chips into the pot. Suddenly, this looks like one of those times.
I find just enough discipline (but definitely not my friend Bliscipline) to slow down and think about it. While in the think tank, I glare at one of my travel companions who is at the same table (for purposes of this blog post, I’ll call him “Zach”), in a way that I’m sure he will interpret as I just got fluct. Zach confirmed to me later that my glare indeed meant I had flopped the nuts.
It is $75 to call and the pot is now $370. I’m getting 5-to-1 odds so my straight only has to be good 1 out of 6 times for this to be a correct call in a mathematical sense. Poker players tend to do this type of math when they know they are beat, but want to justify calling anyway so they can confirm beyond any doubt the villain’s hand. I’m about to call, as this was a back door flush so it’s not like he was chasing it from the get go. And the highest card on the board is a 9. Did V2 raise pre-flop with pocket 99’s or some other combination that just made a full house? Wait a minute KKing, think this through.
What does he have and how would he play it? I rewind the hand. V2 open raised to $10 pre-flop. Then he C-bet $15, which was weak given the pot size. Then he bet small again ($20) on the turn, and called my smallish raise to $55. Was that a C-bet with total air, followed by a blocker bet when a flush draw became possible? This actually makes some sense if he has Ad Kd or Ad Qd or Kd Qd. Maybe Ad Jd. I suppose I can buy that story line.
His body language, however, is compelling. When the 6d hit the board on the river, he sat up, leaned forward, looked happy, and grabbed chips like a man on a mission. While his bet is larger in absolute terms, it is still very small in relation to this bloated pot. He wants to be sure he gets paid, and shows no fear of 2 other players still in the hand.
Goddammit! (TILT) This pot was supposed to be mine. This is where my session is supposed to get untracked. (TILT TILT TILT)
This is a time that calls for discipline. When you are beat, you are beat. I finally fold, suffering in silence. I’ve gotten much better in the last six months at being able to fight off the tilt and lay down hands like this.
A young Israeli guy 2 seats to my right nods in approval. He mouths the words “he has full house” towards me. This is fascinating, as if this other player who I don’t know, never played with before, haven’t had any table conversation with, half my age, is suddenly pulling for me to make the right decision. It is so much easier to see what is happening with great clarity when you are not involved (financially nor emotionally) in a hand. The young Israeli sees it. I see it too, although it takes a couple minutes of staring and glaring before I can let go of my cards.
Then, to my surprise, V1 check-raises to $150. All along, I had disregarded him as a threat after V2’s bet and body language, as he had checked and called every street. Now he makes a minimum raise. WTF?
V2 quickly calls. V1 shows Ad 8d and V2 tables Kd Qd. V1’s Ace-high flush beats V2’s K-high flush to drag in a nearly $600 pot. V1 called the flop $15 bet with a gutshot straight draw and 2 over cards. V2 did not have an over pair, but made a flop continuation bet with 2 over cards, then a blocker bet when a 2nd diamond arrived on the turn.
According to my Poker Cruncher app, my equity in the pot after the turn card was 81%, V1 was 19% (including his equity in the possibility of a chop if the river was a non-diamond 7), and V2 was already drawing dead.
I’m glad I found the discipline to fold. But I’m not feeling any bliss.
I continue with my sub-$100 short stack for about an orbit and a half, trying to get my mind right again. Then on my next button hand, I add $200, and immediately get dealt 9h 9d and call a pre-flop raise. The flop comes Kh 9s 3h. When the opener C-bets, I raise him and he spazzes out and shoves (AA, AK, KQ range), probably assuming I’m semi-bluffing with a flush draw. I call, the turn and river are both hearts and my 9h makes the winning flush to take his full stack (which was under $200).
Slowly, bliss begins to return. I missed you Bliss, you are my best friend. Let’s play on…