I rarely play poker lately, and in my last few sessions, spread over months, I’ve been losing pretty consistently. The losses do not bother me in the aggregate; I realize that it is a small sample size and, for the most part, I’m happy with how I’m playing. But in the short term, after leaving the Sands with a $200 poker loss and a $340 non-poker loss, it can sting a bit.
Nonetheless, I still love the game, so when Robbie Hole texted me out of the blue in the middle of last week and asked me if I wanted to join him to the Bethlehem Sands for a poker tournament Sunday, I was hoping and praying that I could join. Fortunately, wifey Kim is still the wonderful enabler with which I fell in love, so I got the green light for a day of debauchery.
I met up with Robbie in Manhattan. We both arrived at our meeting place early, and hit the road without delay. On the drive down, we had the pleasure of discussing a wide range of topics, both general and personal. Its rare that I drive in cars, since public transportation is great in the city and I do not own a car. When I do ride in a car, I’m usually alone or with wifey Kim and my son. Driving with Robbie, though, for almost two hours each way offered a chance to sit and talk without distractions. I really need to find more opportunities like that.
Once we arrived at the Sands and Robbie got a new player’s card, we made our way to the cashier to buy into the event. It’s a weekly $200 buy-in, with $100 of the buy-in going to a bounty. After buying in, I burned through $40 at a slot machine to kill some time. Lord knows why I wasted my time. I generally hate slot machines, and this was no exception. Alas, Robbie was already playing, so I just went along for the ride. Not that I blame him though; I’m a big boy, and it was entirely my fault.
When the tournament started, my table was shorthanded, but by the end of level three, we had a complete table. Play was good. I felt in tune with the action, and I made sure to pay attention to my opponents’ tendencies. One player two seats to my right (but acting immediately before me, because the seat to my immediate right was empty) was on a particular tear. He was playing well, but I noticed a particular tell, a micro-smile that came one when he liked a card. He held it for a fraction of a second, but it was there, for sure. When I first noticed it, he revealed flopped trips (KT on a TTx flop). He smiled at each subsequent card before getting paid off on the river and showing his trips.
Not long after, I took a large pot from him by slowplaying. I flopped a pair, turned trips, slowplayed to the river, hit a full house and then sized my re-raise on the river in, what I would deem, the perfect amount to get paid off. I was feeling good about my play and I was tuned in to the action. Wonderful.
A while later, a player two seats to my left got into it with the good player on my right. This is the first stupid line of the night. The way the hand played out, I was fairly certain that the player on my right had hit trips again. He had the same micro-smiles, and his betting pattern was very close to the first trips hand. On the river, he placed his bet and the player to my left said this: “That’s how you play trips...[pause for thirty seconds]…you know what, I call.” The player on my right showed his trips and offered to his defeated opponent, “You should trust yourself.” The defeated opponent replied, “I wasn’t sure or I wouldn’t have called.”
Look, folks, this is one of the stupidest things you can say at a poker table, and yet it happens all the time. “I think I’m beat, but I call.” “I think you have trips, and I can’t beat trips, but…I call.” It’s my First Rule of Poker, so longtime readers probably know it before I say it: IF YOU ARE BEHIND, FOLD. Yes, its an oversimplification, but the point is valid. If you have a read and believe you are behind (not taking into account draws, etc.), just fold.
What really happened was that the guy to my left did not trust his instincts and made a bad call. He announced that the other guy plays trips this way to save face before showdown. If the guy to my right does not have trips, the guy on the left is happy because he won the pot. If right guy does have trips, the guy on the left just showed everyone through his speech how smart he was.
Only he was not smart. Why point out to someone that they have a betting pattern? Why tell the table that you can read players or that you can read players but still don’t have the gumption to follow your read? There is nothing to be gained from his face-saving nonsense.
Eventually, the table broke and I moved elsewhere. I was largely card dead, and when I tried to bluff on two occasions, betting wars broke out among other players, so I folded and took the smaller loss.
At the new table, I was forced to play all-in-or-fold mode, since the blinds kept raising but my stack remained the same. Others were in the same spot, which led to the second stupid thing I heard at the table.
A player pushed all-in and was called by another player. When their cards were exposed, the all-in player had something like KT. When he lost (I think to AA), he said, “That’s the best hand I’ve seen in hours.” Well whoopdeefuckingdoo! But that’s not how poker works, buddy.
Here’s the deal: Poker and probability owe you nothing. Pocket aces are statistically expected to occur approximately once every 220 hands or so, but you could go 440 hands without seeing Aces, or you can go 1,000,000 hands without seeing Aces. More importantly, if you have not seen Aces in 1,000,000 hands, that does not suddenly mean that your 27o is stronger. Yet, this shmo was using his card-dead-ness as an excuse for his lack of patience.
It’s the same scenario as above. The player wanted to save face, so he made a feeble excuse for why he pushed all-in with KT. Well, guy, you did not save any face, and you still lost your chips.
Now, that’s not to say that you should never go in with KT there. It’s just to say that being card dead is not an excuse for the play. Hell, when I went out, I had 93s and pushed all-in on a TJQ flop, only to be called by AK. I was the BB, he was the SB, and we limped to see the flop. It was only us, so I could not anticipate his hand, and I was trying to semi-bluff. I was also getting close to being desperately short. So, I’m not on some high horse about going all-in with KT. I went all in with a much worse hand. But my reasoning was at least based on the real world. I needed the chips, my stack was short, and it appeared like my opponent would give up his hand, based on the action. The fact that I had not seen a good hand in a while was irrelevant.
After I busted, Robbie and I played some blackjack, where I lost another $300. Why the hell do I play table games? The answer is that I’m a fucktard. On the drive home, I announced that I was done with table games. Thirty-seconds later, I changed my mind again, knowing I was going to be in AC with wifey Kim for X-mas.
So, I lost money, but I had fun. At least I didn’t say anything stupid.
Until next time, make mine poker!