Thursday, September 29, 2005
Finally, the upswing.
In my last 7 sessions at Trump (prior to last night), I posted 6 losing sessions (to varying degrees) and one break-even session. I was starting to think the honeymoon was over. I was still in the black in terms of Trump profits, but my BB/hour took a massive hit and I was down to around 1.5 BB/hour profit. Ouch. Granted, this only covers a month-long timespan, but I started to wonder if maybe the fishes AREN'T beatable over any long term. I squelched those voices in my head and went on with the brutal task of analyzing my own play and admitting my leaks that were contributing to my losses, and labored on.
Last night, I headed to Trump after work, confident that if I just kept playing my game (sans leaks), the table would be mine. I am happy to report that I doubled my buy-in last night over the course of 3 1/2 hours, posting a profit of a little over 5 BB/hour and left a winner. Finally.
One leak I discovered while thinking about my play of the past couple weeks was that I started chasing unlikely draws on the river. With one card to come, my odds rarely justified a call of a big turn bet, but the allure of the sizable pot overwhelmed me. I started chasing - namely, the gutshots and the 2-overcard draws. Sure - the gutshots are likely to win the pot if they hit. And - with the size of some of those pots, I'm sure that sometimes I had odds to chase. The fact is, though, I wasn't calculating my odds. I knew I should be, but I didn't want to because the odds might say, fold. And I didn't want to fold. The overcard draws are just sick. Hello - Earth to Shelly - your top pair may not be any good against 5 opponents who've called down all that way. It's just a stupid thing to chase. The weak players over-value top pair, and chasing top pair is even weaker. I am quite disappointed that I let myself get sucked into the trap of Pot Lust. It's not pretty and it's not profitable.
Last night, however, I rekindled my relationship with poker and got back to the game. For the first time in a while (maybe ever), I felt like I was "on." I was running on all cylinders, making good laydowns, making better raises, and reading people well. I reclaimed that blissful emotional detachment from the pot. Laying down a gutshot draw wasn't "disappointing." It didn't feel like anything - except the right move, considering the pot odds. Making the right move felt good, and that's as far as the emotions went. I'm not sure if I have ever felt quite so comfortable playing poker before - where it was almost effortless. Almost second nature. I didn't realize it while I was sitting there, but thinking back on it now, it just felt damn good. Everything clicked. I was in sync with the game.
It didn't hurt that I had a great table - a very nice mix of fish, a regular, and a couple solid players. All were friendly. The table chatter was pleasant without being annoying, and it was a great atmosphere to play in. Most of the dealers were in a good mood too, and that somehow really does affect the game, I think. To my right was a quiet man in his 50's or so who played like a rock and didn't speak much - though had a very good sense of humor when he did come out with a comment. Two to my right was a 26 year old lawyer who battles insurance companies for a living. He was a solid player.
His friend at the other end of the table (who reminded me of Ashton Kutcher) was getting very lucky, if not a solid player. I made the early mistake of thinking he was solid, but realized that it was coincidence that the hands he showed down were monsters. It became clear after a while that people were folding to him much too often, and he had the opportunity to muck more hands that resulted in dragged pots than he had to show down. It turns out that he had flopped quads on his first hand at the new table, and everyone feared him since. (See? Flopping quads totally kills your action!) This kid was smart enough to take advantage of his table image, though. He got cracked off a few times showing down relative junk (Q7 suited), but it wasn't very often.
In the 1 seat was a friendly regular whose name is escaping me. He always drinks his coffee with cream and Equal. Nice guy. Good player - he knew how to pick and choose which hands had +EV based on the game conditions at the moment, and to me that said clearly "avoid getting up against him without a monster on your shoulder." He was telling us that he had to go back to Iraq in a few weeks. I don't know if he was military - it seemed like a civilian job, or a contracted government job. He wasn't specific, except to tell one story that he'd lost most of the 18 men in his team, and the work involved dismantling bombs. He hated the war and thought the US should pull out of Iraq. He said, "Every time I go over there could be my last. I never know if I'll make it home." Wow. I can't imagine living like that.
To my left was a 50-ish man who'd been playing since noon. (It was 10pm by the time I arrived). He was trying to "win his way back to even." He was friendly but fishy. To his left, the rest of the table was VERY fishy - the "any two cards" variety, which causes shivers up my spine. If you manage to get lucky against them, they're like a gold mine, but if you're on the bad end of the suckout stick, they can make you weep like a baby. One of the three oober-fish was prone to bluffing. I prefer the "any ace or face" fish. They are much more predictable. Watching an oober-fish drag a pot with a goofy ass two pair just grinds my gears.
The biggest highlight of my game last night: I only lost one showdown. It was with pocket Kings, and the friendly fish to my left beat me with 3-4 suited when he rivered a second 4 to make trips. Since we'd had some earlier banter about playing various hands, I said (in a conversational tone), "Wow - you called me with 3-4 suited?" He said, "Well, yeah, I had three of a kind!" I said, "No - I mean, preflop." He replied, "Oh. Well, I don't usually play that hand - that's the first bad hand I played in a long time." I said, "Come on, they all say that!" He said, "I know, but they were suited!" If I had a nickel.... I said, "I know... Good hand. I'm going to suck out on you later - you know that, right?" We had a good laugh and I quietly lamented the shipment of a stack and a half of my chips into the fish's collection. I knew he'd give them away in due time - I only hoped it would be back to me.
I did manage to get a few of those chips back when I called his preflop raise in late position with pocket 3's (flop it or drop it, right?) I flopped it and my set of treys beat his pocket Queens. I was content to call us even at that point.
I saw AK twice and hit it neither time, though managed to make a cheap exit from the hands. AQ suited won me a pot against Ashton Kutcher - though I did get a bit lucky. I missed the flop, and acting after Ashton's check, fired a continuation bet at it. I lost a couple opponents, but Ashton hung in there. He wasn't acting quickly, though, and I'd noticed that when he had a good hand he immediately went for his chips - so I thought he might be drawing. The turn was a blank, and he checked it. I bet, and he called. The river came the third of a suit, and I thought I might have been set up. However, the face was that of a Queen, giving me the top pair, top kicker I'd been hoping for. Ashton checked, and to avoid the possibility of a check raise (and to contribute to the ongoing "this is a friendly table" mentality that was being shared amongst players), I checked behind him and turned my cards over saying, "I rivered a Queen." He nodded and mucked, appreciative for the check on the end. I'm glad he noted it (since that's why I did it - aside from fearing the flush, of course).
And that, my friends, is how I got my groove back!
3 1/2 hours, 18 BB profit, and some good vibes. Another tidbit of note - my new lucky penguin made his table debut last night. His name is Jeremiah, and I liked having him there with me. He'll be back.
I'll probably head to Trump one day this weekend. Not sure which day yet. But now, I must go fix my cousin's computer and then go to work. I'll happily ride my poker buzz until my next swim in the fishbowl.