Curses, Schmurses!

Today we have a guest blog post, courtesy of a longtime reader who, for purposes of this entry, I’ll call “Michael.”

Michael writes:

“This is my last orbit. I’ll play until the blinds,” I announce to the table. It’s almost 1:00 am at a $2/5 cash game that could be at any casino on the East Coast. I reach under the table to grab some empty racks and start loading my chips. I’ve got a nice profit of around $500 for playing just a few hours. I have to get an early start driving back home tomorrow or I would stay until the table breaks.

As I finish racking my chips and look at my next hand, the guy to my left asks, “So you’re not afraid of the curse of playing out of the rack?” I shake my head: “No, I’m not superstitious,” which is true. I don’t have any favorite socks or underwear, no unwashed lucky shirt, no talisman or jewelry to rub when sweating my favorite team or the soul-crushing river card. Math is math; the cards are random; no cosmic force is going to alter the order or composition of the cards just because I’m a good person.

My decisions are my own and that’s all I can control.

Having decided to risk angering the poker gods, I now have six hands left to play before I leave. It folds around to me in the cut-off and I look down at KTs which is solidly in the middle of my raising range from this position. I raise and only get called by the big blind. Nothing too exciting but I lose a modest pot to KJo on a King-high board. Could have been worse. I still have a profit of around $450 and I still don’t believe in curses.

Two hands later I end up losing TTAQo in a 3bet pot to a Q on the river. Now my profit is down to $300. Is there something to this curse thing after all? Or more likely, does playing from the rack influence my decision making ability such that I make worse decisions? Am I not aggressive enough because I’m trying to lock up a win? Or too aggressive trying to take down pots before they can get away from me? Looking back at these two hands, I’m happy with my decisions and don’t think I would play them differently. I guess I still don’t believe in curses.

Last hand of the night: I’m first to act, under the gun, and look down at 99. Still solidly in my raising range and I open it up. I get two callers, one in middle position (the villain) and one on the button.

The flop:  9♥ 5♥ 4♠

While top set is a great flop to have, it can be tricky extracting value because it blocks so much of the villains’ calling ranges. In this case there are flush and straight draws I can extract value from. A board like this favors the callers’ ranges more than mine, so if I continuation-bet it should be on the larger size, but a check is also fine.

Instead of either of these options, I decide on a 1/3 pot C-bet. These two particular villains are on the looser/splashier side and this is likely the last hand of my life against these two villains. In other words, there’s absolutely no need to balance my range. Middle position calls and the button folds.

The turn:  Q♣

This card doesn’t really change much unless the villain has Q♥ X♥, or a flush draw hand that now adds a straight draw, like K♥ J♥. Either the villain has something (a draw is something) or they don’t. If they don’t, I’m unlikely to get paid. If they do, I like to get value from my strong hands, so I’m not slow playing. I make a 2/3 pot turn C-bet and Middle Position calls.

River:  4♥

How juicy! This card gives me a full house and completes the flush. After taking a second to think, I make a 1.5x pot bet. Again, either he has something or he doesn’t and I’m hoping that something is at least a flush.

After a moment he raises me for just over the minimum. I take a moment just to make it seem like I have a real decision. It’s unlikely he has QQ since he didn’t 3-bet me pre-flop. And if he has quad 4’s, I will have to start believing in curses after all. I have him covered, so I 3-bet all-in. He sits up, furrows his eye brows, shakes his head and then tosses in his chips. I show my boat and he slams down his A♥8♥ for a losing flush.

As he stands up to go to the cage to re-buy, I tell the rest of the table I’m sorry to leave but I had announced that as my last hand and I was sticking to it. They are, of course, sorry to see the chips go.

When I first racked up my chips, I was up about $500. Now I’m sitting on a profit of about $1,400. I know that cash games should be considered just one long session. It’s completely arbitrary where one session ends and the next begins; I could have called it quits one hand or one orbit earlier with very different results for this “session.” But I’m glad it ended where it did.

And I definitely don’t believe in curses now.

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