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High On Poker

Mind the Poker

January 31st, 2018

Last night, once I confirmed that wifey Kim planned to spend her evening engaged in a television program of which I had no interest, I decided to play in the almost nightly online poker game mentioned in the last post. I signed on at 8:33pm, and found that an 8:30 tournament was running with 6 players with 7 minutes left for late registration. I entered the game and prepare to lose my $40.

I’ve played this game already a handful of times, but have yet to cash. In one of my first tourneys (maybe the first), I bubbled. After that, I figured it would be easy to dominate this group of players. I didn’t know them from a hole in the wall, but I had to assume, based on my experience, that I was probably more knowledgeable about the game then my competition. Also, from what I saw, the group consists of a bunch of friends – remember, I got into the group through Dave Roose, but other than one other player who I barely know, the rest of the field are utter strangers. In any event, in my experience, when facing a group of friends, the interloper is at a natural advantage. They know each other’s tendencies, but not mine, and I enter the game with an open mind, picking up not only how players play, but how others play against them.

Regardless, despite my illusions of grandeur, I kept losing. I blamed it partly on ring rust (something that I admittedly claimed did not exist in a prior post). I also blamed the lack of information available in online poker, as compared to the live game. Finally, I had to blame my lack of attention.

With all that in mind, I figured that last night may be my last attempt to play in the game. I had consistently lost, so at some point, I had to accept that I was not cut out for the game. I also had a nagging feeling that since I do not know these players, I could be swindled via collusion. Of course, that’s the nagging feeling of just about any losing player, but it was present nonetheless.

So off we went, a last ditch effort to win. And I played well, too. I tried to get back into small-ball poker, making lots of min-raises with a wide range early on, hoping to build an image as well as a stack. I hadn’t made a ton of headway, but I was definitely doing well when I was brought back to reality.

Of the 7 players, 5 were left, and I had around 7k+ from a 5k starting stack. I also was dealt AA and used the same small-ball approach to get some action. Fortunately, it worked, and I found myself all-in with a shorter stack (4.5k) pre-flop. He had AK, and I was in great shape…until two Kings came out on the flop. Ugh.

Down to 2.5k, my first reaction was, “I want that action every day and twice on Sunday.” I couldn’t be upset with the outcome. My second thought was, “But maybe this particular group is just unlucky for me. If I can’t win, I can’t keep throwing money at this.” Finally, I reached my last thought, and it was as if a switch had turned on in my head: “Wait a minute! Just because you lost a hand and most of your stack, does not mean you are out!”

Of course! I was on the verge of tilting, but I pulled myself back from the precipice. In my head, I thought to myself, “This is just part of the story of how you won the tournament! This happens all the time. You take a hit, you come back, and you win the thing. The hit doesn’t matter if you are still in the game. Get back in there!”

And so, I did. I played much better attention, taking notes on my competition to begin to establish pattern-based reads. I picked and chose my shots carefully, working my stack back up. When we were down to four and even three, I was the short stack, at times with less than 10x the BB, but I was able to build my stack back up to the point that I became chipleader with three players left, and then chipleader with a nice margin.

Ultimately, one of my opponents took out the other, leaving us heads up. I had a 1.5:1 lead on my opponent, but heads up is a fickle beast, and in no time, we were even. He proposed a chop, and we were done. My profits from this one tournament still leave me in the red, but the win does remind me that keeping the right mindset may be one of the components I was missing from my earlier tournaments.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the hard things about poker is learning the same lesson over and over again. You make a mistake, you learn something, it fades into the background, and then you make the mistake all over again. But, hopefully, each time the fade gets slower. I’m hoping to remember to keep the right mindset for quite some time.

Until next time, make mine poker!

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