Thursday, January 07, 2010

It Gets Me to the Church On Time

So all day on Wednesday I relished the fact that I didn't have anywhere to be and had the entire day to myself. And since I was actually scheduled 'OFF' on Thursday too, not even On-Call, I knew I'd have the whole night free to do whatever I wanted, unafraid that the cell phone was going to ring and interrupt my wild and crazy evening of reading and channel surfing here at the Batch Pad.

Late in the afternoon, I thought about going out and doing some shopping, but upon further review, that didn't appeal to me. I have plenty of groceries on hand, and I prefer to do my shopping in the middle of the night when chances are slim that I'll be stuck behind some old fart that still hasn't mastered the mysterious world of debit-card technology. I still had plenty of household projects to do that I've been procrastinating for about three weeks now (first and foremost on the list was mopping all the tile in the apartment). In fact, I was all about embracing David Bowie's philosophy of I don't want to go out, I want to stay in; get things done...

Well, that was the plan. But plans like that are just downright boring. Sometime around 6:00 o'clock, I started to get restless. I thought about going to the M and playing a little bit of 4-8, but the foul taste of the bad beat I took over there the other night still lingers. As much as I like to sit and flirt with Sammi and the Cuban cocktail waitress, I was pretty sick of all the ridiculous suck-outs I'd suffered there the past several weeks. And not only that, I hate that drive on St. Rose Parkway, too. It's still under construction, and there's one retarded stoplight at Paseo Verde that is *always* red and takes about six minutes to cycle through. For whatever reason, it's biased to an empty shopping center entrance when there are about thirty or more cars sitting there idling away on St. Rose Parkway. So my mind was made up against driving over to the M.

Instead, I called down to another one of my favorite local rooms to see what kind of game they had going on, and I was told that there were three 4/8 tables and an interest list for a 1-2 No Limit game. So I told the floorman that I'd be down there shortly. I took a shower, shaved, and put on some decent clothes, grabbed my iPod, my wallet, and my chip protector, and headed on down the road.

There was an empty seat at the table I wanted, so I bought in for a hundred and got down to business. I ground away for about an hour, not making any headway at all. I took a couple more river beats, and I found myself down sixty bucks before I raked my first small pot. Not the start I had envisioned.

While I was sitting there, chatting with the gal next to me, I heard some commotion going on over my shoulder. They had started the no-limit game about the same time I arrived, and it was a spirited game to say the least. Lots of action, lots of trash talking. I saw one guy who is a total rock get busted out in less than an hour, so I knew it was a crazy game. In fact, the dealer at my table was saying to me Hey Mikey, you oughta get in that game--it's a good one.

Here's the thing--lately I've been thinking about playing more no-limit anyways. Last summer, when I was on my hugely profitable run, I had about six or seven sessions of no-limit mixed in with all of my nights at the 4-8 table, and I didn't have a single losing session. And lately I've been getting *really* tired of the jackassery and moronitude that goes on in a fixed-limit game. But the problem is, I hate to play No-Limit unless I have $400 or more in my pocket. In a 1-2 game, I always like to buy in for $220, and if I go bust, I have a little reserve. I'd hate to only have a couple hundred on me, take a bad beat, and be done within the first half hour. And I haven't felt justified in bringing $400 with me to the poker room in several months--I've been using my cash for other, more important, things.

However, last night, I just happened to have $500 in my wallet, and just about that time the no-limit game was cranking up to a nice respectable level, my pocket Aces got cracked by some junk hand. That damn near put me over the edge. Suddenly I was stuck a hundred bucks and pissed off, too. I saw that there was an open seat at the no-limit game, along with two players in the game that anyone with the slightest bit of poker skill and confidence would be salivating to play against, so I told the floorman that I wanted to move from the kiddie table over to the adult game.

I took the stack of twenty white chips that I had left in front of me, bought two stacks of red, and moved to the no-limit game. I figured that over there I could make big hands hold up, and people were going to pay dearly for their draws.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way at first. I was playing decently, certainly more disciplined, but I just couldn't get any cards. Any raise I made got me three or four callers, and every time I played a hand, I missed the flop completely. I was spinning my wheels and just couldn't get out of the mud. Bluffing is an option--I can easily bluff one person, and a lot of times I can pull it off against two people, but with three or four opponents, it gets to be hand-in-the-expensive-cookie-jar time. After my first hour at the no limit game, I was circling the bowl and found myself down another $110.

That's about the time the self-doubt started creeping in. Confidence has never been a problem for me at the poker table, but as I sat there I started to wonder if I had turned into a bad player or I was just that easy to read. I hadn't had a decent winning session in a few weeks, and it seemed like I was getting pushed around, if not downright snakebitten. Maybe I was in the middle of one of those huge streaks of bad luck that pros talk about, which would be a nice psychological crutch to use. On the other hand, one piece of advice that has stuck with me is that you should never eliminate 'I just got outplayed' from the list of reasons you're losing.

Maybe it was time to face the music and admit that I was just a sucky poker player.

I wasn't quite ready to go that far with my self-analysis, but those were the thoughts that were creeping in.

I dunno, but sitting there, I decided to try and play my best game, not make the same mistakes that I see other people doing night after night, and not give anything away. I figured that if I lost the rest of that $220 I had left, I'd walk away from the game for at least a month and clear my mind and get my confidence back while letting the bad luck go hover over somebody else for awhile.

But somehow, after that first hour, I really screwed it down, started concentrating, and played with a more determined attitude. I thought I was gonna rake a nice fat pot when I flopped top two pair and got a guy to call my all-in bet after the turn. He ended up having the exact same cards as I did, and we chopped. I made a $6 profit, so I was still a little pissed off, wondering aloud what I had to do to win a decent pot.

I folded pretty much everything for the next round or two, but eventually I caught a few pots. Like I said, there were a couple of really juicy players in the game, and I managed to take a few chips off of them. Sometime later, I found myself up $50, and my new goal was to make another fifty bucks and get myself even for the night, erasing all bad memories of the 4-8 table.

I got extremely lucky at one point, as there was one guy two seats to my right who'd re-bought three or four times already. There was a lot of limping in on one particular hand, and he raised to $12 from the button. I was on the big blind and looked down and saw pocket Sixes, so I made the call, as did a couple other people.

The flop was perfect for me -- 3-3-4. I had an overpair, but I was in early position. So I checked. Everyone else checked, but then the guy on the button bet $25. That tickled my radar a bit. It seemed like a bigger bet than he'd usually make--he had a pattern of raising the blinds by ten bucks every time he had a 'raising' hand, and then he'd always bet another ten bucks on the flop, no matter what. It smelled an awful lot like he Ace-something, and wanted to make a continuation bet and take the pot down right there. I figured I had the best hand, so I raised it to $50 just to see where I was and eliminate the other two players. They folded, just like I thought they would, and the button guy immediately went all-in.

I had thought my hand was good, but the speed at which he came over the top of me gave me a moment's pause.

The thought that maybe I was up against pocket Tens or Jacks crossed my mind, but I couldn't shake the Ace-rag feeling. The thing is, he only had a hundred bucks left, so it was an easy $50 call for me, no matter what.

The turn brought a Four, which double-paired the board, and he gave a little triumphant fist raise, so then I figured I was beaten. But then the river brought my two-outer Six and I said, Sorry dude, you're gonna hate seeing this...

I turned over my sixes for the top full-house, and he mucked Ace-Three offsuit face-up, punched the table, swore, and walked away.

Wow... I sure didn't put him on trips right after the flop, and it was certainly hard for me to imagine anyone betting out with Ace-Three pre-flop. But then, I told myself that not everyone plays the same way I do. Besides, every time I lose a hand with Ace-Rag, I'm always telling myself That's what you get for playing that crap... (You'd think I'd learn, eventually). But one thing I've learned the hard way was illustrated perfectly in that hand--if you flop low trips, they almost never hold up.

But that was a nice pot that put me up above par by a few bucks. Break even? No way--after that hand, it was like the clouds had parted and was on my way back to the promised land of winning.

The next hour or so I took down a few more pots and started building my stack. I didn't get involved in many big hands, but I was playing well--I made a couple of very disciplined laydowns that would've cost me *big* dollars had I stuck around, so I felt like I was playing my A-game. I also managed a great bluff that I couldn't show anybody, but I was playing against a guy who is loose when he's ahead, but he gets extremely tight when he has a short stack--he's basically there playing for points every night, trying to milk his time at the table--I've never seen anybody make $40 last as long at a poker table as this guy does. So I knew that if I were to put him all-in, unless he had the stone cold nuts, he would fold. Which he did.

It was a great play because he had position, and after the flop there were four people in the hand. The other two players checked, as did, I but then he made an obvious I'm-gonna-buy-it bet. The other two players called, both having draws, so I quadrupled his bet with a check-raise. He immediately folded, as did the other two guys, and I scooped a nice little pot. As soon as I mucked my cards, he said Yeah, I figured you had me outkicked, Mikey...

Heh. I nodded and let him believe it.

My night progressed well after that. By then, I had more than doubled up and had the second biggest stack at the table. As long as I didn't tangle with the wrong dude, I could bully some of the more nervous short stacks.

The hand of the night came when I was on the button with 8-10 of clubs. There were about seven players limping in, but the guy in the big blind raised it to $12 to go. Since everyone else called, I was getting 6-to-1 on my money, so I called.

The flop brought three face cards, two of them were Clubs. While it was an ok flop for me, I figured it might get expensive. The big blind bet out $25, and got three callers. I had a great draw and the pot was up to $184, so I called too. The river brought the Ace of Clubs which was bingo for me. Only a Queen-high flush could beat me, and there were all kinds of straight possibilities. The first two guys checked, one guy bet $30, the next guy called, and I thought for a minute and raised it to $130. Everyone folded and I raked a nice fat pot.

With that, I had just under $800 sitting in front of me, which was the biggest stack at the table. Remembering my bad-beat nut-flush that lost to a four-outer on the river that cost me $600 in one hand several months before, I decided to rack up and call it a night. Sitting around with a monster stack is cool and all, but then you've got a huge target on your back as everyone wants to double up through you. I didn't want any part of that, but I also didn't want to be the 'that guy' who rakes a huge pot and then immediately bails out, so I made a show of sitting for two more rounds, limping in occasionally but folding everything. Once my second big blind came around I said goodnight to everyone and cashed out, up almost $500 for the night.

So yeah, after last night I decided that I've had enough of the 4-8 game for awhile. Playing no-limit forced me to be more disciplined and more observant. The other night at the M when I was playing 4-8, I hardly looked at the table--I was gawking at all the eye candy or talking to random people the whole time, not really paying attention. In no-limit, I'm forced to play 'smart'. Somehow, I'd gotten scared and forgotten that while trying to protect the bankroll. But now that I've got my mojo back, I'd kinda like to keep working it, even if it terrifies me...


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