KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “Tilt”

We All Make Mistakes

“We all make mistakes – especially at home.”

I found these words at the Daily Stoic, in an article about Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher who became Emperor of Rome from 161-180, then broke with tradition in selecting his incapable son as his successor rather than a proven leader.

Ironic, isn’t it?

It was Marcus Aurelius who said this:

“Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. … I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him.”

Marcus taught us to approach our fellow humans as kinsmen –  think of everybody as a brother, sister, cousin, etc. – to be loved and not hated, despite the flaws of being busybodies, arrogant, deceitful, envious, or unsocial.  His point is that people are flawed, flaws are part and parcel of the human condition, thus we should expend extra effort to condition ourselves not to overreact.

Poker is a competitive game involving incomplete information.  Even in games like chess where nothing is hidden, there will be mistakes.  In poker, less information leads to more mistakes.  The same is true in many other activities – investing, relationships, negotiating, weather forecasting…

We all make mistakes.  The Stoics acknowledged that, and developed their school of philosophy around forgiveness – of themselves and of others.  We cannot control others in a manner that prevents mistakes, bad attitudes, negative emotions, poor judgment or devious conduct.  We cannot expect to conduct ourselves to be mistake-free.  The Stoics reasoned that we must work at controlling how we react when these inevitable things happen all around us.  Otherwise, every one of our days is surely to be ruined.

Two millennia later, Marcus Aurelius’ words ring as true as ever.

I’m re-reading The Mental Game of Poker, by Jared Tendler, which is an excellent book.  Tendler offers strategies for letting go of mistakes – whether made by yourself or other players who end up winning despite their errors – that put us on tilt, which further blocks the brain from making correct decisions.  Among other strategies, Tendler advocates writing as a tool for working through aspect of your “mental game.”  Here I am.

I have made many mistakes.  I continue to make mistakes.  I will make many more mistakes.  Poker mistakes cost me money.  Other mistakes cost me in other ways.  I own my mistakes, and they are the experiences from which I can learn the most.  I hope I can learn, and also forgive.

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Tilting in My Favor

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on February 24, 2017 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

I don’t like getting bluffed and hate it when the villain shows the bluff.  But that’s what happened on Monday at the Maryland Live poker room, which led to a chain reaction much like dominoes falling on each other.

I was grinding away at a $2/5 no limit hold’em cash game, with about $685 in my stack.  My cards are like the waves on a calm day at the beach, holding very little promise as over and over the fold themselves gently and invisibly into the shore.  On the horizon there appears the makings of a big one, or perhaps it’s just a mirage made worse by the sting a drop of sunscreen rolling down my forehead into one eye.  How long can I watch the waves and resist the urge to play in them?  How many hands can fold without wading at least ankle deep into the action?

With KQo, I wander to the edge of the waves to have a closer look.  The player UTG posts a $10 straddle.  This is the first domino; when it falls, the stakes for this hand rise.  Better cards, higher stakes, bigger waves.  Two players call, including a very loose, aggressive Asian player.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to him as “Jun.”  I raise to $45.  Without the straddle, I would only raise to $30 here.  If the only thing that happens is everybody folds, I’ll be happy to take the $37 in the pot (rake-free), tip the dealer and move on.  If I get called or re-raised, we’ll play poker.

The straddler calls, and Jun also calls.  Second domino.

Flop ($140):  622 rainbow.  This is a good flop for a continuation bet bluff.  As the pre-flop raiser, my range is uncapped.  I can have AA, KK, QQ, etc.  They cannot, and are much more likely to have hands like AQ, AJ, AT, suited connectors and gappers, and pocket pairs TT & under.  Without going through detailed range construction and combinatorics, I know this flop misses most of their ranges, and that I can represent a big pair with a confident continuation bet.  They both check and I bet $100, which is designed to say “Guys, I’ve got this!”  Third domino.  The straddler folds, but Jun calls. Fourth domino.

Now I think he is more likely to have any pocket pair, a pair of 6’s (A6, 76s, 65s), or two high cards.

Turn ($340):  3.  This should be a good card for me if I want to continue barreling, representing that I have a big pair.  With my image as a tight-ish, middle-aged white guy, another strong bet would look somewhat like turning a big pair face up.  But this time Jun leads out with a bet of $125.  Fifth domino.

Huh?

The size of his bet and the action of calling the flop then leading into the aggressor make no sense whatsoever.

I have a little bit of history with Jun.  The first hand I ever played with him, a few days earlier, I had 77 and the flop was 722.  Yahtzee!  I called Jun’s flop bet and checked back on the turn.  When a river K came out, he shoved all-in, and looked quite surprised when I snap-called and flipped over a full house. Since then I’ve noted him to be an action player, raising and calling a lot pre-flop (but not many re-raises), and a willingness to make big bluffs post-flop.  Despite my first impression, he isn’t a total maniac and seems wary when involved in hands with me after the initial ambush.

Back to our hand.  Jun’s bet of $125 into a pot of $340, leading into the aggressor, makes no sense.  It feels like the “post oak bluff” described by Doyle Brunson in Super System, where a small bet appears to be begging for a call, which must indicate strength, which makes the bluff successful.  What can he really have that would limp/call pre-flop, check/call the flop, and now decide to lead out?  I’m tempted to raise to around $350-375, although this would be a total naked bluff.  All I have is King-high.  And no draws.  Heck, I can’t even beat Ace-high.  I’ve seen Jun make some pretty light calls.  Players like him who bluff a lot tend to assume that other players also bluff a lot and will pay off a lot of strong value hands.  Do I really want to get into a dick measuring contest when I don’t have a good read, just a nebulous feel?

No.

So I fold.  Sixth domino.  It gets weird when a player not involved in the hand remarks that Jun flashed his cards to the player sitting between Jun and himself (which I’d seen Jun do on other occasions prior to mucking) and asks if he can see them also.  Jun denies that he flashed his cards and then somebody asks the player in between if he saw Jun’s cards – which are face down on the table but not mixed into the muck pile yet.  This puts an innocent guy on the spot.  A lot of players would tell a white lie, denying that they saw Jun’s cards, rationalizing that the player asking to see his hand is slowing down the game and has no business demanding extra information when he wasn’t involved in the action.  The white lie is “for the good of the game.”  Other players are just straightforward and honest.  “Did you see that?”  “Yes, I did.”  And that’s what happened here.  After some protest from Jun, the dealer turns over Jun’s cards for everyone at the table to see… Jack-Ten offsuit.  Seventh domino.

WTF!  My read and instincts were spot on, but Jun’s inexplicable float / smallish bet bluff on the turn somehow worked, since I had no showdown value or backup equity.

Had I raised on the turn, Jun must fold.  I would win the pot and my stack would have grown to approximately $1,000.

That’s when I tilted.  It took seven dominoes, but the last one – showing the bluff more than the bluff itself – got to me.  I wasn’t the one asking to see Jun’s hand, and didn’t want to see it.  If he bluffed me, congratulations.  Seeing it, however, put me on a tilt.  Not a full-blown demolition tilt where I’m determined to lose the rest of my chips as fast as possible, but more like a goddammit-I’m-gonna-play-more-junk-because-it-seems-to-work-for-these-other-clowns tilt.

Which leads to the very next hand.  This time, Jun raises to $20 and I’m in middle position with 5s 2s.  This is an easy fold, a tiny wave that barely makes a sound as it disappears into the sand.  So I call.  Eighth domino. There are at least 4-5 players still to act who could re-raise.

If anyone other than Jun was the raiser, I would have folded.  The button also calls as does the big blind.  Does anything good ever happen here?

Flop ($80): As 4s 8h.  Good news:  I pick up a flush draw and wheel draw.  Bad news:  I’m going to put more money in the pot with 5-high, and my flush – if it comes – would get destroyed by any other flushes.  But we’re playing poker, so let’s play.  Jun makes a continuation bet of $45.  Since I’m not on full-blown demolition tilt, I resist the urge to raise or jam here and just call and the button also calls, then the BB folds.  Jun’s range is really wide, and the button could have a better flush draw or an Ace (probably not with K as kicker, which usually would re-raise pre-flop on the button).  With the potential draws, I would expect the button to raise with any 2-pair plus hand.

Turn ($205): 9h.  Now there is a heart draw, making one of my straight outs (3h) suspect as it could give somebody else a backdoor flush as hands like Ah Qh, Ah Jh, Ah Th could be in either Jun’s or the button’s ranges.  Jun is first and checks.  With this drawy board, he would bet again with a strong value hand, or any pair + flush draw.  The action is on me.  On goddammit-tilt, with cards I would normally fold pre-flop, it’s time to make some waves again.  I bet $125.  Ninth domino.  In hindsight, I think this should have been more like $160-175 as I really don’t want any callers.

While I’m sneaking a peek at Jun to see if he signals whether he will fold, the button raises to $275.  10th domino.  Holy oversight, Batman!  After a short acting job, Jun folds.  I better assign this guy on the button a “for purposes of this blog” nickname, so from here on I’ll call him “Robin.”

Now there is $605 in the pot and it will cost me $150 to call, with an additional $200 behind.  Robin’s raise sizing begs for a call.  This – in addition to my other reads on him – tells me he isn’t on a flush draw.  Raising with a draw on the turn isn’t his style.  Despite not raising on the flop, Robin has to have a 2-pair plus type of hand and I can’t expect him to ever fold if I jam.  A9, A8, A4s, 88, 44 are all possible, along with the occasional 98.  A9 makes the most sense, improving from a call-strength hand on the flop to a raise-strength hand on the turn.  Any spade that pairs the board makes me a flush but might also make Robin a full house.  So I have seven clean flush outs.  Unless he has exactly Ah 8h, it also means he does not have a heart draw either, so all of the 3’s that make me a straight should be clean outs.  If the 3c or 3d comes, my straight will be well concealed and I’m likely to get paid on a river shove.  I don’t know if he will pay off a flush.

The math is this:  $150 to call with $605 in the pot, and $200 more behind.  My equity needs to be at least 150 / (150 + 605), or 19.9% or better to justify a call.

With 10 outs, my equity should be a little over 22%.  After the fact, putting this range into my handy-dandy Poker Cruncher app (A9, A8, A4s, 88, 44, 98), I come up with equity of 23.9%, so calling is correct.  I didn’t include 99 in his range, but he might have that too.

        

Somewhere I think there is a quote that says math is for people who are bad at poker.  I can’t find it right now, but feel like I’m playing some really bad poker.  While calling $150 more is mathematically correct, I’m not happy about this at all.  Let’s review why.  On the previous hand I lost $145 when I got bluffed.  Had I re-bluffed, which I seriously considered, I would have gained over $300.  The bluffer, Jun, was forced to show his bluff – not by me, but by another player who wasn’t even involved in the hand.  This put me on tilt.

Now I have garbage that I should fold pre-flop without a second thought, but called in the unrealistic hope that I might spring some kind of trap on Jun.  I flopped a combo draw, bluffed at the turn card only to get raised, and I’m about to put $150 more, for a total of $340 into this pot, with 5-high and a combo draw, while the target of my ire is now just a spectator.  The distance between what my stack could have been after the previous hand and what my stack is probably going to be after this hand is $800.

Why am I here?  What am I doing?  When are we going to have fun?

I call.  11th domino.

River ($755):  3s.  Holy Magic Lantern, Batman!  And cue the Heavenly Choir.  It’s like the 12th domino is spring-loaded, and snaps back to flip all the other dominoes upright again.

Now I know why I am here!  I know what I am doing.  I’m having fun, right freaking now!

I shove my last $200, and Robin says “Well if you have a flush, good for you” and calls, showing a set of 8’s.

My stack is now approx. $1150… $150 more than it would have been if I had followed my read on the previous hand, which would have led to folding this one.

As a side note (yes, I know this post is rather long), this poker room was paying high hand bonuses all month every day other than Friday’s and today (President’s Day).  Any other day and my straight flush would have brought me an additional $525 windfall.  Not bitchin’ just sayin’.

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Poker Goals for 2018

Have you set any poker goals for 2018?  If so, leave them in the comments box below.

Here are mine:

  • Win more
  • Tilt less
  • Quit playing online
  • Study persistently
  • Move up
  • Write pithier blog posts

At first glance, these seem pretty obvious, and also lacking in specificity.  Kind of like “lose weight” and “be nicer.”  Then again, almost everyone could stand to be nicer, and quite many should lose weight.

At least it’s a start.  I’ll try to elaborate, as if elaboration equals causation, propelling me towards these goals like a SpaceX rocket crossing the sky, generating wondrous admiration from those who know it’s a SpaceX rocket and frightened stares from gullible onlookers who rush to their favorite conspiracy theory laden websites to learn about this latest UFO.

Win more –> in 2017, I won at poker at an average rate of approximately 11 big blinds per hour.  For 2018, let’s up this to 13 big blinds per hour, almost a 20% increase.  There.  Now we have a goal that has a finite time frame (2018) and is easily measured as long as I keep good records.  Ever since I started my adult working life as a staff auditor with a huge CPA firm, I’ve been decent enough at keeping records.  They explained the Golden Rule of Accounting:  “If your debits don’t equal your credits, your ass sets in jail.”  It’s good to know this.

Tilt less –> I’m not sure how to measure this one, and if I achieve the first goal, who cares anyway?  I guess I’ll have to think about it some more and get back to you later… I do know this:  Tilt is vicious.  Sometimes you are the boiling frog.  In this parable, the frog placed in tepid water that is slowly brought to a boil doesn’t perceive the danger and gets cooked to death.  At the poker table, sometimes the greatest threats to emotional stability arise so gradually that you are unwilling or unable to act until it is too late.  Everything is fine, a series of events, each individually non-tilting, occur one after the other like a broken icicles, dislodged pebbles, a crack in a shelf of ice under shallow snow, and a quick wind gust that join forces to push small, then larger volumes of rumbling snow that by the time it’s recognizable as an avalanche your patience and discipline is turned upside down and sideways until, like the skier, or the boiling frog, you are dead without even knowing you were dying.

Other times, tilt is swift and sudden, as when Narcissus arrives, shows the bluff, and makes a point of rubbing salt in the wound.  Or Nemesis arrives, and soon makes a horrible snap-call only to be saved by a one- or two-outer on the river to join your chips onto his stack.

Quit playing online –> This should be easy, as 2017 ended poorly with respect to my online poker account.  Poorly as in poor, as in no money left in the account.  I don’t like re-loading, which feels like putting a wad of money into a slingshot and flinging it into a black hole from whence it will never return.  It’s ironic, actually, that I feel this way about online poker, as 2017 was my most profitable year in at least five years.  I made no deposits, but did withdraw a 4-figure sum.  It was all downhill after that (queue avalanche analogy again), so you might say I reached a good stopping point.

Now I’m working on a strategy of tricking myself into believing this is good news, a benefit of sorts, perhaps like a colon cleansing. I feel lighter already, free of the burden of constant activity in the large intestine of online poker with its meandering path designed to turn whatever it receives into a pile of shit.  Now that I’m clean, I must permanently improve my diet.  Perhaps the time not spent in the micro-stakes bowels of Ignition Poker can be redirected into…

Study persistently –> Sure, I’ll study poker for an hour every day, just like I go to the gym and work out for an hour every day.  Except I don’t.  Historically, I don’t approach these with the persistency that defines the best habits.  I want to.  I should.  Laying in bed in the mornings, awake but enjoying the warmth  of the covers, I have amazing resolve and self-control over the rest of my day.  My intentions are good.  Until I have to get up and pee, that is, and it all goes downhill after that.

Yogi Bhajan was a Pakistani born spiritual leader and entrepreneur who introduced “yoga of awareness” in the U.S. and became the spiritual director of the 3HO Foundation.  One of the yogi’s most famous quotations is:  “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.”

Following that train of spiritual thought, I should find someone to let me teach them how to become a better poker player.  [Hint, hint, volunteers please get in touch, just don’t call me Yogi.]  In the process of organizing and delivering a poker curriculum, I should expect to reap as many benefits as my student(s).  Which means that out of self-interest, I should be willing to offer poker coaching at very little charge.  Can greater persistency in my own study come from teaching?

Move up –> Molly’s Game never called, and I would have disappointed her anyway.  In 2017, I played almost exclusively small stakes, no limit Texas hold’em, at levels ranging from blinds of $1/1 to $2/5, in these proportions:

  • Blinds of $1/1 — 28%
  • Blinds of $1/2 — 33%
  • Blinds of $1/3 — 6%
  • Blinds of $2/5 — 33%

On a weighted average basis, that would be blinds of $1.33/2.78, give or take a penny.  In part, this reflects the fact that I live in a city with no casinos, so most of my action is in private home or house games, including some very friendly games I frequent regularly.  In those games, the stakes tend to be lower, whereas there is much more action available at higher stakes on trips to casinos in Maryland, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Florida, and elsewhere.  Moving up will require venturing into more hostile territory in my local scene, and playing at the grownup tables when I travel.  Perhaps a reasonable goal for 2018 would be weighted average big blinds of $4.00 by year’s end.

Write pithier blog posts –> Y’all be the judge.

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Tilting From the Sidelines

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on January 25, 2017 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

It started innocently enough.

At a $2/5 game at Maryland Live! casino, I’m dealt 8h 7h on the button.  No one raises.  Suited connectors like these are an excellent value for seeing a cheap flop, especially multi-ways, especially in position.  I limp in.

So far, I’ve invested $5.

The flop is As Th 7s.  This gives me bottom pair with a very weak kicker.

After a check or two, somebody bets $20 and another player calls.  Is there really any reason to continue here?

No.  Putting more money into this pot is a losing proposition.  I don’t have any draws, other than runner-runner Hail Mary types.  The board is very drawy, I don’t have the right draws (like spades or 98), and I’m not Aaron Rodgers.  So I fold.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to myself as “Player 1.”

I’ve been trying to make more notes on my poker game, partly to force me to pay closer attention to the action (which is necessary if you want to write down the salient points) and partly to review later and analyze key hands.  While this hand is playing out, I’m tap-tap-tapping notes on my phone, which I’m holding on my lap underneath the table.

“All-in,” says the dealer.  Wha—?  Looking up at the table, I see that two players remain in the hand.  The turn and river cards have been dealt, one player has bet $200, and the other has raised all-in for about $600.

It takes a couple seconds to sink in.  Before the showdown somebody tells the dealer, “get ready to call the floor.”  The poker room is running a High Hand promotion today.  Every 20 minutes, the highest hand on any table in the room gets a $500 bonus, and each new high hand has to be verified by a floor supervisor.  I glance at the monitor and see that the current highest hand is quad-something.  It doesn’t really matter what… any quads are lower than any straight flush.  I resist the urge to puke.

The first guy calls the all-in bet and the raiser turns over his cards, and scoops the large pot with his A-high flush.

I only lost $5 on this hand, but it feels like I lost $1500.  Call it the “opportunity cost” of folding on the flop for $20.

Maintain poker face.  Looking calm, disinterested.  Don’t force the table to listen to me whine about what woulda / coulda / shoulda happened.

Feeling #$$J&##@*&>!!  Invisible TILT.  Injustice tilt.  Internal raging fire tilt.  FOMO tilt.  I-could-book-a-nice-win-and-go-see-a-movie-tilt.

 

When the cards are shuffled and cut, the order has been determined.  As often happens in poker, had the same community cards been delivered in a different order, the outcome would change.  Dramatically.

For solace, I turn to the 2nd century Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who wrote:

  • “Begin each day by telling yourself:  Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.  But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.”

At the poker table, the other players are my “brothers” in the sense described by Aurelius, and so is the dealer.  In a different way, so are the cards.  As inanimate objects, the cards are the most ignorant of all as to what is good or evil.  The cards never show any gratitude or loyalty.

According to Aurelius, I should not be angry with my brother.  But I was.  I was really, really, really, really, very pissed off.  I still am.  This entry could be a happy-brag-blog rather than a tilt-whine-blog.  The rest of my session didn’t go well either (two lowlights:  AK v 77 on KK7 flop and AK v KK (who flatted pre-flop) on KQ5-A flop-turn.  In both cases, the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be an oncoming train).

What will today bring?  For one thing, today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness…

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Why Avoid the Bad Players?

Yesterday I was hanging out with two poker friends, talking poker talk and gossip.  One of them, who for purposes of this blog post I’ll call “Melanie,” mentioned that she just started playing online poker again, at the micro stakes.

The problem, says Melanie, is that the players are so bad at blinds of $0.02 / 0.04 that it’s hard to win.  But once she moved up to $0.05 / 0.10, the play becomes a little bit more rational and she’s winning at that level.  One of her complaints is that at the micro-est of the micro stakes, there’s not enough money at risk for people to be willing to fold.

When I play online (cash games only), lately it is at blinds of $0.50 / 1.00.  I’m not sure if this is “low stakes” or “mid stakes” but it’s still pretty low in the overall scheme of things.  I told Melanie there are still plenty of bad players at this level, and all of the levels in between.  Rather than try to avoid the bad players, why not exploit them?

One way to exploit bad players is by folding.  If they won’t fold, you won’t win by bluffing.  So playing lots of junky hands with the intention of “out-playing” them when you smell weakness isn’t going to work.  Another way to exploit bad players is by betting strong hands for value, in ways that maximize the pot size when they call.

Here are two examples:

1 – Eight-Four is Money!

In this hand, I was the big blind with 84 off-suit.  There is a min-raise to $2 from middle position and everyone else folds.  Really, I should just fold as well.  In the back of my head I hear the voice of our friend Myles saying “eight-four is money!”

Since this summer’s World Series of Poker TV broadcasts, I’ve noticed a lot more min-raises in these online cash games.  Apparently, people see the pros on TV making very small pre-flop raises, frequently just 2x the big blind.  It’s one thing to do that in tournaments, where the blinds are increasing, causing lower and lower stack-to-pot ratios as the tournament progresses, and chip preservation is paramount.  It’s a fine strategy for tournaments.  But for deeper stacked cash games, I  think it is ill-advised.  If we are going to exploit other players by value betting when they call too much, we should bet as much as we think they will call, which is more than a min-raise.

Anyway, I call the extra dollar, and the flop is A84 rainbow.  Yahtzee!  I have bottom two pair.

I check, with the intent to check-raise.  If he makes more than a token C-bet, indicating a good chance he has an ace, I’m going to make a very large raise.  He does and I do.  He bets $4.50, which is a pot-sized C-bet.  A pot-sized re-raise would be $18, and I decide to make it $21 as a slight overbet.  If he calls, I’m going to shove any non-ace turn card.

Perhaps this seems too aggressive.  Won’t he fold a hand like AK to such a large raise?  Yeah, maybe.  Or maybe he’ll spazz out.  And he does, coming back over the top with an all-in shove.  I started the hand with $99 and he had me covered.  Of course, I snap call, and to my amazement he only has TT.  The turn and river cards don’t help him, and I double up my stack.

I guess he just convinced himself that I was full of shit, my raise was so large it must mean that I want him to fold, and being the pre-flop raiser he could represent a stronger hand than I could.  I wish I could have seen the look on his face when my hand was revealed…

2 – Putting the Tilted Guy on Tilt

In this hand, the villain in Seat 8 had lost 1/3 of his stack just two hands earlier, in a pre-flop all-in battle of the blinds.  He had AK in the BB, while the SB had AA.  Whoops!

Here is a link to ShareMyPair to see a replay.  When the river gave me quads, I decided to go for the whole enchilada, expecting a nominally tilted guy to run through the stop sign and crash.

Thank you kind sir!  I’ll take better care of your poker chips than you did.

Bad players make bad mistakes.  We can exploit them – trust me Melanie, this is fun – as long as we keep in mind that the #1 mistake bad players make is calling when they should fold.

READERS:  Your comments are always welcome below.

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Intermittent Explosive Disorder

What is tilt anyway?

I ponder this while reflecting on an online poker session last night.  Up a small amount, I was going to close out the session and go to bed early.  But look, there’s pocket tens, let’s just play this hand.

Fast forward and the villain has pocket nines, but hits a 3rd nine on the river.  Now I’m down a small amount – can’t quit there.

The next hand I get AKs.  One caller, who also calls my C-bet then shoves on the turn with the board showing 654-7.

An orbit later, with pocket deuces, I call a pre-flop raise and float his C-bet on a flop of 753 with a flush draw.  His C-bet sizing didn’t convince me that he had much.  A deuce came on the turn giving me bottom set.  He shoves and I snap call to find out he has pocket queens.  Just like the ending of a movie I’ve seen too many times before, the river is a queen.  Burned twice by 2-outers on the river in a span of just a few minutes.

In 20 minutes after deciding to book a small win, I proceed to blast through 180 BBs, recover a little bit, and go to bed an hour after I really wanted.

Tilt can be so sudden and unexpected.  Like road rage.  Looking for understanding, I found this article: The Psychology and Biology of Road Rage, which introduced me to the term “Intermittent Explosive Disorder.”

According to Wikipedia, “Intermittent explosive disorder (sometimes abbreviated as IED) is a behavioral disorder characterized by explosive outbursts of anger and violence, often to the point of rage, that are disproportionate to the situation at hand (e.g., impulsive screaming triggered by relatively inconsequential events). Impulsive aggression is unpremeditated, and is defined by a disproportionate reaction to any provocation, real or perceived. Some individuals have reported affective changes prior to an outburst (e.g., tension, mood changes, energy changes, etc.).”

The psychological root of this is something called Hostile Attribution Bias, “the belief that every accidental injury  or threat is purposeful, and personal.  People with IED over-personalize every interaction, and then over-react with immediate aggression.”  This is obviously dangerous when it happens to the driver of a car on a busy highway and financially self-destructive when it happens at the poker table.

I’m not prone to road rage and my propensity to tilt isn’t severe enough to classify as a disorder.  But I do tilt, having experienced many of the types of tilt Tommy Angelo describes in his wonderful book Elements of Poker: steaming tilt, simmering tilt, too loose tilt, too tight tilt, too aggressive tilt, too passive tilt, playing too high tilt, playing too long tilt, playing too tired tilt, entitlement tilt, annoyed tilt, injustice tilt, frustration tilt, sloppy tilt, revenge tilt, underfunded tilt, overfunded tilt, shame tilt, distracted tilt, scared tilt, envy tilt, this-is-the-worst-pizza-I’ve-ever-had tilt, I-just-got-showed-a-bluff tilt, I-gotta-get-even tilt, I-only-have-so-much-time-to-lose-this-money tilt and demolition tilt.  Entitlement tilt is my biggest nemesis.  I can handle bad pizza.

On the other hand, I have some friends with tendencies much closer to Intermittent Explosive Disorder when the poker Gods deliver just a few of the 10 plagues of poker injustice upon them.  Dear friends, you know who you are!

Do you have a tilt story to share… put it in the comments section below.

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That’s Not How It Was Supposed to Work

First of all, welcome back!  I’ve been blogging for awhile at my e-commerce site – http://www.anytwo.biz – but recently shut down that business due to the low sales volume simply not covering costs.  A business mentor told me long ago that one of the keys to entrepreneurship is to “fail fast.”  If your business is going to fail, he said – which happens at least once or twice to every entrepreneur – the sooner you recognize that unfortunate fact and move on, the less you will suffer.

On to today’s subject.

Last night I was playing poker at a friend’s weekly garage game.  The player on my right – for purposes of this blog I’ll call him “Sam” – started commenting on my very tight pre-flop play.  After winning a few small pots early, I went pretty card dead for awhile and was content not to push the action without a decent hand.  My starting stack of 100 BBs went up to about 160 BBs, then slid back to just 90 BBs.  At one point, I limped in three times in a row just so I could tell Sam, look at me, my image is changing.

Then came a hand I wasn’t involved in.  After the turn card, one player went all-in for 150 BBs, a short-stack called, and the player on my left – for purposes of this blog I’ll call him “Adam” – went into the tank.  While Adam had the bet easily covered, 150 BBs is a large bet.  Ultimately Adam called, showing a top pair / top kicker hand and lost to an over pair.  He was pretty steamed.

On the very next hand, the player on Adam’s left had the button and posted a 4 BB blind straddle.  Several players called, including me holding pocket 4’s.  And Adam, still steaming, raises to 20 BBs.  After a couple of folds, he gets one caller and the action is back on me.  Hmmm…

pocket fours

This is now a very interesting spot.  Adam’s range is very wide.  Being on tilt over the previous hand, and in the cutoff seat of a straddled pot with no raisers in front of him, he would be raising with just about anything here.  Given my image and Sam’s running commentary about how tight I play, an all-in squeeze here should command some respect.  And Adam knows I don’t get out of line very often.

I shove in the rest of my 90 BBs.

After a minute, Adam calls.  The 3rd player, who I fully expected to fold, also calls.  This is a guy who didn’t like his cards enough to raise the first time through when the bet was 4 BBs from the straddle, and didn’t like his cards enough to raise the 2nd time through after Adam bumped it up to 20 BBs, yet somehow he likes his cards enough to call 90 BBs on the 3rd time through.  Can you say “loose, passive?”

That’s not how it was supposed to work.  I just wanted to make them fold and collect the dead money.

The flop is 886, which is good for me if I’m up against unpaired over cards, and bad for me if either of them has a better pocket pair.  Since neither of them is also all-in, both have the opportunity to bet and create a side pot.  Both check.  The turn is a J and both check again.  This might work out.  The river is a 3, which is definitely good for me if they both have unpaired high cards.

The 3rd guy says “I’ve got nothing!”  Adam announces “Ace high.”

Sheepishly, with a side glance at Sam, I turn over my pocket 4’s and triple up my stack.  He practically jumps out of his seat, while I calmly explain:  “That’s how we do it.”

Read more…

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip… Uh Oh!

Dear Readers,
Sorry for the bad beat story to follow here, but you KNOW that’s how I get these out of my system.  At least I hope to get it out of my system, ’cause dammit it still hurts.  If you don’t like bad beat stories, consider yourself forewarned to stop now.
Last month I was at the Harrah’s Cherokee casino in western North Carolina during the WSOP Circuit stop there.  I had a really bad cooler in a cash game, as described here.  One of the guys traveling with me (I’ll call him “Chad”) said it was the kind of hand that leaves you restless and angry all night, such that when you wake up the next morning, the first thing out of your mouth is “Fuck!”
Yesterday Chad hosted a 18-player tournament.  This was a bonus event for some regular cash game players, essentially a free roll, with a prize pool of $2,770.  Other than $20 to add-on some extra chips at the first break, there was no cost to me or the other players.  The prize pool was to be divided among the top 4 finishers, 45%, 30%, 20%, 5%.
When we got down to one table of 9 players, we all agreed to take $100 each, then divide the remaining $1,870 among the final 3 finishers, 50%, 30%, 20%.  I thought this was a nice way to mitigate some of the risk.
At the first hand after the next break we were still 9-handed, with antes of $100 and blinds at 400/800.  I have about 25 BBs remaining, which is about 2/3 of the average stack size.  At this point, the play has tightened up and therefore I want to ramp up my aggression slightly.
In UTG+3, all fold to me and I look down at Ad 9d, and raise to 2,100.  The player to my immediate left (I’ll call him “Andrew”) 3-bets to 4,200 and everyone else folds.  Andrew’s stack is almost identical to mine.
I have not played in tournaments with Andrew, but have played with him frequently in cash games.  His 3-bet range is wider than many of the players, including 99+, AJ+, KQ type of hands, and he will C-bet a large percentage of the time especially in position.  Calling him here is debatable, but his 3-bet raise was rather small so he might just be hoping I was raising light and will go away.  I call out of position – in hindsight I should not be doing that for 20% of my tournament stack, but that’s what I did.
The flop was Qd Jd 3d.  I have an ace-high flush, THE STONE COLD FREAKING NUTS!
 
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!
My, oh my, what a wonderful day?
Plenty of sunshine heading my way.
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!

Oh, Mr. Blue-bird – on – my – shoul-der.
It’s the truth, its actual.
And everything is satisfactual.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!
Wonderful feeling.
Wonderful da-a-ay!

I check, and Andrew bets 6,500.  I’ve got him!  He’s now invested more than half of his stack in this pot.  Maybe he has AA or KK or AQ.  I count my chips and have the 6,500 to call, plus 8,700 more. “All-in” I announce, after some theatrics with the counting and shuffling.
Andrew looks pained, and tanks for awhile, saying repeatedly “I have to call” and “if this how it’s going to be, then so be it” and finally calls.  He has me covered by exactly 100 chips.  The pot is just over 50 BBs and more than 1.3x the average stack size.  Winning this pot will put me  in a position to threaten the biggest stacks at the table.  Fan-damn-tastic!!!  Zip-a-dee-doo-dah some more.
Then Andrew turns over QQ and my heart surges up into my throat.  He has top set, with two cards to come that can make him a full house or quads.  This is much stronger than I was expecting given how long he was thinking before he called.  I turn over mine and stand up.  It’s like I’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends.  I’ve just been crowned King of the Prom and handed revolver with two bullets in it for a mandatory game of Russian Roulette in the same gesture.
Click goes the revolver.  The turn card is Ks.  Missed.  Maybe this time the movie will end differently.  77% of the time I will win here, with one card to come. He has 10 outs.
The dealer burns and turns.  3h on the river.  BANG goes the revolver, as Andrew completes his full house.  I feel like my brains just exploded all over the table.  I already know what the first word out of mouth will be tomorrow morning.
Next I have to exit stage right.  I try to do it gracefully, which is difficult when your FUCKING BRAINS ARE SPLATTERED ALL OVER A POKER TABLE.  Andrew has to wipe sweat off his hand before he can shake mine, which we do awkwardly, in the manner of combatants who both know an injustice has occured.  Of course, that is what we signed up for.
I walk straight out to Chad’s deck.  After a couple minutes, I text him – he’s only a few feet away, but inside the house – to request a bottle of water.  I cannot even walk back into the room to get my own.
Here is the thing:  I played well. Early in the tournament I lost a hand with straight < full house that took me down to less than 4,000 out of my starting 10,000 chips.  Patiently, I fought back, and doubled up to about 12,000 on the last hand before the $20 add-on gave me 5,000 more.
I look back at the remaining players, knowing I can play with any of them, knowing I could go deep in this tournament, knowing now good it would feel to bring home the extra cash.  Knowing the pain of being on the outside, looking in.
A few minutes later, Andrew is the next player to bust out of the tournament.

OMG x 3

Here is the very first hand played n a session today, followed by the very next hand, followed by hand # 5.  Enough to make anybody tilt.  OMG.  OMG.  OMG.

Merry Christmas!

Slide1 Slide2 Slide3

What Can I Say?

Dear Readers,

What can I say?  I’ve been running good and winning more than my fair share lately.  Since this blog is supposed to be about poker playing mistakes, there is less material.

Maybe I’ve learned from my mistakes and/or from blogging about them.  That would be nice!

Maybe I’m just on a short-lived run of good fortune.  A few nights ago I called an all-in bet on the flop by the same guy twice when he had a short stack.  I could afford to call; losing wouldn’t hurt me too much.  (Still, it would hurt.)  The first time I had flopped a flush draw against his top pair, and hit my flush on the turn.  The second time, he had flopped a flush draw again my top pair, and he missed.  In a $1 / $1 no limit game, these two pots totaled approx. $175, roughly equal to my winnings for the night.

Not complaining, just can’t analyze or vent about making a poor play.

Similarly with online poker.  A few mistakes here and there, mostly from being overly aggressive in some spots on Bovada’s Zone Poker 6-max tables, but more often than not, the aggression has paid off.  Overall results too good to blog about.

OK, how about this?  I did get into a bad mental state during a live private tournament last Sunday.  This is a league with the same 24 players each month, with funds being escrowed to send someone with the most points to next year’s WSOP.  Two of the players at my table – on the far end from me – were sitting next to each other and several times one would flash his cards to the other just prior to folding (always when the 2nd player was already out of the hand).  It’s bad etiquette, and the general rule is that if you show your cards to one player, you must show everybody so no one gets an informational advantage.

More than once, I asked to see the mucked cards that had been flashed.  It got under my skin and affected my play.  Tilting at the poker table is never good, and this time was no exception.  On one hand, both guys announced “fold” then both flashed the cards to the other and simultaneously mucked.  I said something, and (thinking the hand was over) reached across and flipped over one of their hands… and THEN realized there was still a player who had not acted yet.  It was horribly embarrassing – I pride myself on knowing and maintaining proper etiquette at the poker table as well as paying basic attention to what is going on.

Not long after, I played a hand very poorly (pre-flop limp, flop attempt to steal) that left me somewhat short-stacked.  And not long after that, I shoved with AT off-suit, one of the card flashers with an even shorter stack called me with QJ suited and hit one of his cards to win the pot, doubling up through me.  Boy was I pissed!

Nothing went right after that either, but the lingering takeaway was losing my concentration on the game itself and getting caught up in the game-within-a-game.

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