Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day 74: Scorched Earth and Other Signs of Destruction

When things are going well, it's difficult to remember how awful it feels when things go badly. And, conversely, when everything is going to shit, it's difficult to remember what life was like when things were easy and pleasant. In fact, I maintain, except for the very most highly evolved persons, virtually impossible.

This trip to Atlantic City was a classic arc. Things started out pretty well. I went deep in a tournament or two. I was up a couple of hundred bucks at the cash table. I was flirting with my tablemates, with the dealers, the floor staff ~ let's be honest and say just about everyone ~ and they were flirting right back. Fun was being had by all concerned. The cards, while not spectacular, were well within normal and acceptable parameters. Poker was being played. And life was good.

(I add, on an entirely and purely personal note, that one cannot truly claim to have lived, as a poker player, until one has closed down a cash table in a casino and proceeded, whilst stone cold sober, to make out with the player immediately to one's left, as the dealer sits by and does his or her best not to hear or see anything. The entertainment value alone of this experience is enormous, quite apart from any other enjoyment that may be derived from it.)

And so one quite naturally thinks to oneself, "things are going swimmingly, yea verily I shall extend my stay in this paradise of gaming, where the rooms are cheap or free, the people pleasant and accommodating, and the cash runs like milk and money, err, honey."

But no paradise is without its snake, no rose without its thorn. Or, if you are me, your paradise becomes a snake pit, and your rosebush becomes a thicket of thorns without a bloom of any sort.

That horrible, perhaps unfamiliar, but indisputably ominous creaking noise you hear in the background, is the sound of the doomswitch being pulled from the OFF position to the ON position. You don't know it, yet, but you are FUCKED. Everything that was fun and good is now going to become very, very unfun and very, very bad. It's as if the Apocalypse had five horsemen, not four, and the guy after Death (Death’s really, really mean older brother) is coming specifically for you. Did I mention: really, really not good?

You will go through the stages of grieving. You will deny. You will rage and you will make stupid decisions. You will bargain. You will be very, very depressed. And eventually you will accept. Or you will kill yourself.

You know, one or the other.

In short: you will tilt. Welcome to my world.

I can tell you exactly when it all started to go south. It began innocently enough with a run of bad cards. Everybody has them, it’s no big deal. Patience is all that’s required, right?

Lots and lots and lots of patience. HOURS of patience. I cannot possibly enumerate the number of times I folded 9 2 offsuit and its ilk. I am told that premium hands were to be had during this stretch of time, but I can assure you, they were not to be had by me. After a while, and I mean a LONG while, non-premium hands of the vaguely connected and suited sort start to look like pocket aces. So, in the course of several hours, I played a few of those, with decidedly uninteresting results.

Time to mix it up, says I to myself.

I am in the cut-off (one seat to the right of the dealer button). Six people limp in to the pot with the minimum opening bet pre-flop. I look down at 10 8 of clubs. In my state of diminished capacity, it looks like gold to me. Suited and connected, by god! I feel frisky and daring. I raise to four times the big blind. The idea was, I would get to play for a biggish pot, against one or two people, with a hand that had possibilities against likely callers.

Now normally what would happen here is that something like half or more of the field would fold. Generally, people who limp into a pot are not terribly excited about their hand. A big raise is likely to scare them off.

This is not, however, what happened in this case. No indeed. Every one of the limpers called my raise. We are playing 2/5, so there is now $150 in the middle and I have a hand of dubious value, at best.

And then the clouds parted, and angels sang (I thought). The flop came 10 of diamonds, 8 of spades, 8 of hearts. Yes, dear friends, I flopped a full house. The phrase “I couldn’t believe my eyes” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I actually double-checked my hole cards, because I thought I couldn’t possibly be so lucky. But, lo and behold, it was so. I was in possession of the second nuts (the second best possible hand, after pocket 10s for the bigger full house).

And it got better. The first two limpers checked the flop. The third limper made a bet of $50. The fourth limper folded. And the charming fellow to my immediate right, a delightful young man who was a reasonably skilled player and fun to talk with to boot, pushed all in for about $320.

My god, what could be better?!? I am worried about one and only one possible hand, and if he had pocket tens in the hijack (two to the right of the button), I very much doubt he would have failed to raise pre-flop. My only concern now is to make sure that anyone with an overpair who may have limped pre-flop hoping to re-raise — like maybe the guy who just bet $50 — does not get a chance to draw to a bigger full house than mine.

This is an easy problem to solve: I shove for my whole stack, about $530. Obligingly, the third limper folds, leaving me heads up with the guy to my right. I get a rebate of $210, the amount more of money I had than he did.

I turn my hand over. He sheepishly shows the 7 8 of diamonds. He has trip eights. "I folded a ten," announces the guy who led out for $50. My heart swells with gladness. Both my patience and my creative daring are about to pay off. With two cards to come, I cannot be beaten.

Quoth he, “I need runner runner overcard pair for a chop.” The table laughs and groans. The probability of this happening is something on the order of .05%. I’d like to think the heat death of the universe will come sooner, but I know for a fact that is not true.

How, you ask?

Turn: King of hearts.

River: King of spades.

Perfect, perfect for the chop.

Yes, friends, I chopped this pot. I didn’t lose it, I will grant you. The two of us each made a little bit of profit from the money that others had already committed.

But I could not outright win a pot that I was the overwhelming, PROHIBITIVE FAVORITE to win. And that, folks, was the beginning of the end.

Before that, I was card dead. After, I was card crucified. Before that, I couldn’t get any traction. After that, I got my money in good and got bad-beated so many times that people were commiserating in hands with me before it even happened, because they knew it would.

For the following forty-eight hours, until I finally slunk out of the casino at 3 am this morning, it was carnage. I lost at the cash table, I lost at tournaments. The quality of my play definitely suffered, and I didn’t quit soon enough in a couple of sessions, but honestly, no matter whether I played well or badly, I was just going to get killed. It was only a question of whether I would lose my money quickly or slowly.

The hand that stuck a fork in me and let me know I was truly done went as follows.

It limps to me on the button. I have A 5 suited: again, not a monster, but one of the better hands I’ve seen in 48 hours. I raise the standard table raise of four times the blind. It folds around to one guy who limped in, and he calls.

The flop comes A 3 4, with two of my suit. For those of you following along, that means not only do I have top pair (aces), but I also have a draw to a straight and a draw to the nut flush. Let’s count the outs: 9 flush cards and 3 non-club deuces is 12 (or 15 if we believe that the remaining 3 fives will give us a winning hand if we get our second pair). Suffice it to say, this is a pretty good situation. Most of the time, we are favored to win if the other guy has an ace in his hand. He will need to pair his other card or the board in a suit other than ours and have a better kicker.

He bets out nine times the big blind on the flop. Bingo! We think it likely he has an ace. (Given his previous behavior when holding an ace, this seems like a reasonable assumption.) We hope very much it is a good ace, so that he will call when we proceed to raise him another fifteen times the big blind.

He calls our raise. While this causes a small twinge of anxiety, basically we rejoice. We are building the pot with what is likely to wind up the best hand.

Turn card is the queen of spades. Okay, no flush draw for him, and no flush (yet) for me. Did he have a queen for A Q two-pair? Apparently not, because it went check-check on the turn. (Should I have bet here? I thought it prudent to take a free card, still drawing to my flush, straight, or second pair, and exercise some pot control.)

The river is the 5 of hearts. Icing on the cake, baby! My flush didn’t materialize, but I have two pair. He bets out, I re-raise, and he shoves for about half the pot’s worth more. My heart sinks. I am fucked again, somehow.

Was I outplayed by a flopped set, or did he have pocket 5s? Did he slowplay his A Q?

Hell no! He called a thirty dollar re-raise on the flop with A 2 offsuit. And was the lucky beneficiary of a three-outer on the river for the wheel (an ace through five straight). Which river, of course, just happened to give me my second pair, pretty much ensuring that I’d call — although, to be honest, it was a crying call. (I didn’t expect to be beaten by the deuce, I must say. I thought for sure I was going down to a set.)

And that was enough for me. Not only did my hands not hold up, my good hands all became snares and delusions, perfectly devised to trap me into parting with more of my money while revealing my opponents to be people who made really bad decisions. And prospered by them. (Oh, how I both envied and despised them!) I was so desperate, shell-shocked, and disbelieving (surely, OMG, not again!) that I had become a pay-off wizard.

As I was turning my chips in at the cage (what few chips remained of multiple rebuys — yes, I rebought, because I believed that somehow, some way, I would actually get paid off rather than outdrawn, silly naive girl that I am), another player came up behind me. “Say,” he said, “weren’t you playing in that 2/5 game where that guy went runner runner for the bigger boat.” Yes, I said. The young dealer waiting behind him to pick up a rack of whites piped up, “Hey, I heard about that! And I have to say, I’ve never seen anyone take more bad beats in a row than this woman.”

That’s me, a legend in my own time. (I may have laughed bitterly.) When casino personnel are talking about you in pitying tones, you know you’ve had a bad run.

I’m telling you, you have to have a mind of winter to play this game. Because it will kick your ass. Hard. My bankroll took a big fat hit. I am still ahead, but now very little indeed. Two days undid most of two months. Evidently, losing is a much more efficient proposition than winning.

Yeah, poker is fun, baby. Lots and lots of fun. Now, where did I leave that cyanide?

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Blogger bastinptc said...

Wallace Stevens, eh? I feel for you, my Queen, and refer you to your previous post.

11/1/08 5:42 PM  
Anonymous THETA Poker said...

> if he had pocket tens in the cut-off, I very much doubt he would have failed to raise pre-flop.

You truly are on tilt (or in a crooked game) when you fear that your opponent may be holding the case ten and a FIFTH ten when holding T8 on a TT8 flop. I feel your pain, but sometimes it's time to take a break from the game.

Good luck and good skill!

11/1/08 11:53 PM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

Obviously I reported the flop incorrectly, as I also mentioned that my opponent had trip eights with the 7 8 of diamonds in his hand. The flop was 88T, naturally.

I corrected the post. Thanks for catching the error, friend Theta.

11/2/08 3:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"My only concern now is to make sure that anyone with an overpair who may have limped pre-flop hoping to re-raise — like maybe the guy who just bet $50 — does not get a chance to draw to a bigger full house than mine."

This is a basic mistake and a serious leak. Why do you want over pairs to fold?? They are behind!! Get them to put more money in the pot. Flat call and let them draw:

Board: Td 8s 8h

equity win tie pots won pots tied
Hand 0: 87.935% 87.94% 00.00% 21764 0.00 { Tc8c }
Hand 1: 12.065% 12.06% 00.00% 2986 0.00 { TT+ }

If the guy with AA (or whatever) stays in then you and the lucky 87 guy are chopping up Mr. AA's stack instead of losing money on the hand (to rake).


11/5/08 4:59 PM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

Of course you are right, Loki. This is the behavior of someone who's been outdrawn so much she is scared of her own shadow.

Not +EV and I know it.

11/5/08 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, in this case it almost certainly would have played out the same (even a total fish will often fold an overpair in these situations), so no money lost.

Did you take a walk or anything after this hand? What methods do you use to recover from a bad beat?

Expert players tilt just like everyone else, the difference is that they recover faster.


11/5/08 7:57 PM  

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