I’ve made a not-so-official commitment to get back into poker. It takes a lot more planning than before, what with the kid and lack of online poker, but deep down, I feel just as passionate about the game as ever. That’s not to say that my game is as good as ever.
In a prior post, I discussed how I did not believe in ring rust in poker. I can now say that I was full of shit. Ring rust is real. The game keeps changing and taking time off from it naturally puts you behind the times. Plus, my live game has always been about feel, and it appears that feel is something that accumulates over time and dissipates with lack of use. Yes, my poker brain has atrophied, and the only solution is to get back into the gym (poker room) and work out (play).
On Saturday night, I returned to the underground game where I won $500 just a week prior. On my first visit, I arrived a tad late, but was able to get one of the two empty seats. I felt bad leaving at around 11:15pm, but I am up by 7:30 am every day and I desperately needed the sleep. This time, I decided to arrive when the game was supposed to start, so that I could leave even earlier – by 11pm – without feeling like I was doing a hit-and-run session.
Alas, my habitual promptness screwed me again. Why is it that poker players can never show up to events on time? I suppose its the same free spirit or anti-social tendencies that make us pick up poker as a game and, oftentimes, way of life. Somehow, though, I buck this trend, maintaining my belief that when you commit to being somewhere at a given time, you ought to arrive by that time (exceptions notwithstanding).
So, I arrived at 7:30, enter the room and find…the host and dealer setting up. Ugh. I could’ve sat with them, but my own anti-socialness got the better of me, so I opted to take a walk and return at 8ish. I strolled a few blocks, found a bench and took a seat. The ubiquitous entertainment provided by the iPhone paid off once again. I was able to watch some of season 3 of Banshee (a pretty kick-ass show on Cinemax) followed by a handful of videos on YouTube discussing poker tells. I knew it would mostly serve as a light refresher on subjects I already knew, but figured it would at least help me get into the right mindset.
I returned to the game around 8pm to find enough players to start shorthanded. The players were different than last time, so I had no pre-existing image or reads, but they were similarly affable.
I remember two hands that stood out to me, because I made the same error twice. I do not recall the specifics of the action, but I recall enough to publicly shame myself into hopefully playing better next time.
In the first notable hand, I had a strong hand (maybe a set?) and faced action from a player immediately to my left. There was a possible low straight on the board, so when my opponent moved all-in on the river, I had to take pause. I decided to use my amazing ability to read tells. The player was shuffling his cards, which any Caro reader knows is a sign of weakness. I obsessed on his hands, trying to decipher if the shuffling did, in fact, mean that he disliked his hand and was magically trying to change them. I didn’t want to give up my strong cards, but part of me felt like I had to be behind my opponent. He did not appear to be the type to gamboooool and his all-in clearly signaled strength. I thought about it for what felt like a long time, but was probably just 2 minutes or so. Finally, I decided to make the hero call. He showed his straight, I mucked and rebought. I had essentially talked myself into calling. Of note, I noticed the same player shuffling his cards in a later hand, where he once again reached showdown with strong cards to win the pot. So, even though my read was wrong, I may have picked up a tell for this particular player that is opposite of what most people do. Or, he may just like shuffling his cards. I guess we will know when I make a bad fold to him at a later session.
In the last hand for me, I held AQ and saw a flop of Q88, with two other players in the hand. I had raised preflop, perhaps as little as $6. I had just watched a video from Negreanu explaining the dangers of playing AQ, and perhaps that influenced my decision to try to keep the pot small, initially. Once the flop came, I bet and got two callers. The turn was an Ace and I figured that I was in great shape. I bet once again and suddenly, one of the better players at the table raised me almost all in. I was already under $150 at the beginning of the hand, and his raise of $60 more would leave me with $4 behind. I once again was faced with a difficult decision. I considered the possibility that he had an 8, but for some reason, my mind kept going back to the Ace. Perhaps he had AK, had floated the flop, and had hit the turn. If so, my AQ (for AAQQ8) was ahead of his AK (AA88K). The other possibility was that he had flopped the 8, but for some reason, I could not see it. In hindsight, I had fallen victim to the awfukkit call, as in, “I’m not doing well, anyway, so awfukkit, I call.” Calling left me with $4, so when he checked the blank river, I announced in a grandstanding voice, “ALL IN” and three my four chips across the line. He insta-called (no respect) and showed something like 85o. WTF. A lesser man will complain about his decision to call my preflop raise with 85o, but a serious player knows that you cannot control your opponents. You can only control yourself. I instantly realized that I had made an awfukkit call.
After that hand, a whopping 90 minutes after starting, I decided to call it a night. I lost $400, but since I won $500 at the same place a week before, I allowed myself the comfort of thinking of it as +$100 over two weeks.
As I took the walk of shame to the subway, I took the time to wallow in my shortcomings. The week prior, despite winning, I felt like I was not playing my best. This week, the trend of poor play continued.
Where do I go from here? Back to the tables. If all goes well, I’ll be playing at a home game tournament on Friday night, where arriving on time earns you 1,000 extra chips (a promotion I can get behind). It will also be my first tournament for 2015, but I have always felt like my grasp of tournaments has been stronger than my cash game, so I’m hoping that I can get back into the swing of things much faster than I have exhibited with my cash game.
Until then, I will continue along, living life without the benefits of online poker. Instead of playing with the benefit of things like the Paddy Power Poker promotions, I will instead be relegated to the few games I can attend every so often in person. Maybe it’s even time to read some poker books. Ring rust is real, and I need to shake it off.
Until next time, make mine poker!