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Win, Win, Win

I have been recently lamenting the two-loss-streak that I suffered at the Joy Luck Club (my new name for NiceLook) and Salami Club, mostly because I fear what the losses will do to my mental state going into my upcoming trip to Las Vegas.

The last time (and only time) I was in Las Vegas, I lost my entire yearly profits, then a mere $500, playing sub-optimal poker. Frankly, it started with some bad luck, but bad luck begets bad play and I left Vegas a broken and broke man.

Even though that was two years ago, I still remember my inaugural Vegas trip, and a part of me feared that I would be returning to lose my bankroll all over again. Add to that my recent losses, not insubstantial either, amounting to about 1/4 of my profit this year, and I couldn't help but feel a limit hesitant about Las Vegas. Don't get me wrong for a moment. I was and am still excited to go, but that shred of self-doubt still remained, and I could not commit myself 100% to the idea that Vegas would be easy money.

I sincerely believe that mindset is 9/10s of poker, as it is in most of life. Even if you have no idea what you are doing, an aire of confidence can go a long way. Most people will assume you know what you are doing and will treat you and your words or actions as such. You may just be a donkey raising with A2o, but if you have an aire of confidence, the rest of the table might read you as a seasoned player raising with a high pocket pair. On the flip side, you could be a fantastic player, but if you enter the room scared and worried, sit at a table and emote to the table that you are nervous, they will treat you as the wimp you emote and you, in turn, will face more re-raises and other plays that will make you rightly fold. For this reason, it was extremely important that I get over my "fear" of Vegas poker and the first step was to shed my self-proclaimed losing streak.

On Saturday, I had to go to Long Island to rent a tuxedo for Dave Roose's wedding. While I was there, wifey Kim was helping her friend plan her wedding (different couple; love is in the air). I knew she was busy for the day, so I was glad when Roose called with a pokery offer. His friend Greg, a guy I had played with at the Roose game a handful of times and hung with in AC during my last attempt at a WSOP Circuit event, was hosting the game at the house he lives in with a bunch of other guys. We got there very early for the tournament, but a cash game was already under way. Unfortunately, the table was full and I did my best to relax. Along with the idea of confidence I mentioned earlier, I find that calmness is an essential component to successful live poker. When I am anxious to play, especially when I'm waiting around, I do my best to relax, find center, and prepare myself for folding. Deep breaths.

It worked, for the most part. Sadly, though, I got a lot of practice. No one was busting and leaving the table, and I wasn't in a position to demand a seat from a busted player, so I resolved to watching the table for tells (notable tells included shuffling bad hole cards, tightening lips when looking at bad flops, and one player who had a weird quick blink thing when he hit the flop HARD). Otherwise, I absently watched the basketball game on the TV and waited. And waited. And waited.

Two hours later, we were sitting in our seats for the tournament, but nothing was happening. Food was coming off the grill, so we waited for everyone to eat. Then some people had some cigarettes. Then others went to get more food and drinks. I was at my fucking wits end, and even told Roose that I would leave if he was interested. I wasn't trying to be a dick about it, but Roose, our friend Heather and I were chomping at the bit and more than a bit annoyed by the lack of organization. I wouldn't be surprised if a player or two from the game reads this post, so let me say this: the lack of organization is nothing new, and I don't hold any hard feelings or ill will. Poker players are by nature only looking out for themselves, and in my case, it was in my best interest to get the game started, the same as the other players, likely a bit drunk and otherwise altered, had it in their best interests to take a smoke break, a drive or whatever. Sometimes, throwing a home game is like herding cats, so while I grumble here, it is merely an account for what I felt at the time, but ultimately, the game went well once it got started, and the hosts were very hospitable.

There were 15 runners in the first tournament. I got placed at the kiddie table, set up in the kitchen, along with Heather, Greg's friend Josh, some cute brunette chick and a couple of strangers. The kids must've been in college, because I heard some fraternity-speak. I was not particularly concerned with anyone at my table. I had been watching them, and they were all playing poker, but they weren't Players, if you catch my drift.

The first table when exceedingly well. I started off with a big pocket pair early and went deep in a hand with Josh calling me along. I was hit with the deck when my 23 turned into three 2s on the turn, KTh turned into a flush by the river, and other hands came in easily. For the most part, the table was full of limpers who were relatively tight post-flop, so I was playing a lot of hands, hoping to steal pots post-flop or getting implied odds on seemingly crappy hands. Aside from me, a thick guy named Dave was also chipping up nicely, particularly when he called two all-ins with a nut flush draw and rivered it. Within an hour or so, maybe a little more, we were down to 10 players, and we combined into the main room.

When you have a house owned by a 20-something guy who rents out the rooms to other 20-somethings, you may find that a formal dining table is unnecessary. So, don't be surprised if you find a red felt, tan leather bumper poker table in its place, complete with 10 red rolling swivel chairs. Even the dimming inset lighting was on point, and playing was a pleasure. I will offer some advice though, for all you home game hosts out there. If you have a long table, get a dealer button and have the players sitting in the middle seats act as the default dealers, using the button to ensure that the dealing is done right and everyone knows where the action is. This avoids situations where the guy at the far end of the table chucks card across the table, often flipping them.

Whatever the case, the game continued on, and I was probably in the top 3 stacks at the final table. I quickly shed some chips trying to bully this new table as I bullied the other one. I was unsuccessful until I got into a hand with a player who I correctly read as weak. I bet the flop and he called. I bet much bigger on the turn and he had to fold. It was a gamble, but I could feel that he was going to fold. I don't remember what it was specifically. It was the general demeanor.

I tried to let players bust and keep pace while I was at it. Details elude me, but eventually, we were down to five-handed, the bubble. The host/homeowner's girlfriend was playing as well. If he reads here, I apologize in advance. These guys hung out with some decent looking broads. She was wearing a brown tanktop and whenever she bent over the table to look at the cards, I got a nice view. God bless that girl, I didn't even mind when here QT sucked out on my AJ. Eventually, though, I had to bust her ass in 5th place, and we were down to 4. At this point, I had amassed a ton of chips. The big hand was when I took out Greg in 6th place. If memory serves correct, I had AKo, I bet, a player called, Greg raised all-in, and I had to think it over. We were both some of the bigger stacks at the table, but I felt that Greg, a loose player, could be making the play with AQ. Even if I was wrong, it would be a coin toss, and I had him covered. In reality, I made the call quick, so quick that Greg was relieved when he tabled his QQ and I showed AKo. I turned the King and he busted. We chatted about the hand later, and in the end, his play was good, but the results were bad. It seemed that he and I were both willing to go to war on a cointoss if needed in order to be put in a commanding position at the table.

That's just what happened. After that hand, I was the huge chipstack. I played relatively tight because I didn't want to give anyone else a chance to come back. There was some talk of a deal, but the payout breakdown was such that nothing could be worked out. Eventually, 4th went out and then the host took out 3rd. When I realized it was the host's birthday, we worked out a deal. I took 1st place and $140 instead of $160, and he took 2nd and $100 instead of $80. All-in-all, it was a great deal for both of us.

I was pretty spent after the first tournament, but 9 people were interested in a second tournament and I joined to make it a complete 10. Roose was my ride anyway, so I didn't have many other options. Whatever the case, I was up for another game, especially since I was on a freeroll.

I don't remember much about the tournament. I played well throughout, though. In the first tournament, I knew I was getting great cards early, but I used that momentum to keep up the chip accumulation without really solid cards. That pretty much carried over into the second game, high off of my win. Cutting to the chase, a few hours later and I was ITM with Roose and Heather, with talks of a deal in the air.

At this point, Roose had a ton of chips. He is one of the players I am most careful with, since I know that he is very capable of taking your entire stack in one hand if you give him the opportunity. Heather is a tighter player compared to our action junkie crowd, and while this serves her well, it also can cause difficult times for her when the game gets short. I, as I previously explained, believed myself to be the best player at the table. As much as I resepect my competition, I need to maintain this belief in order to play my best. I need to give myself the mental edge. And frankly, I have the most table experience and I was the only one that writes about poker (and therefore actively processes it) on a regular basis.

A chop was proposed with Roose getting $100 and Heather and I $50. If we decided to play it out, 1st place would get $120, 2nd would get $60 and 3rd would get $40. It may have seemed at the time that I was squabbling over $10, essentially the loss I would take by accepting the chop instead of 2nd, since no one would take Roose off of his big stack - I should note, I didn't believe that logic, but I was willing to accept the rest of the table's belief. To make matters worse, I was slightly shorter than Heather. But one of my poker tenets is that you should NEVER accept a deal for other people's sakes. You accept the deal that is best for you or nothing at all. The rest of the players were antsy, but I calmly turned to them and said in a way that was very confident and in hindsight, potentially smug, "We can make the deal right now, or I can play it out and bust 3rd place in 2 hands. Give me 15 minutes and we'll be down to 2." It took me 5 minutes. After I busted Heather, Roose had about a 2:1 chip lead on me. I offered a new deal: "You take $100 and I get $80." Roose argued at first that he was a prohibitive chip leader. "We can play it out if you want, but if I double through you, I'm going to have the big stack by a good amount." Once explained, he accepted and I effectively won an additional $30 for busting Heather and sticking to my guns. Roose, on the other hand, got exactly what he was willing to chop to when we were down to 3, $100.

At this point, it was well past midnight. I was exhausted from poker and partying and ready to head home. Sunday was Mother's Day, and Kim and my families had a joint brunch planned for 1:30pm. At this rate, far out on Long Island, I would have to either sleep at my parent's LI home or hitch a ride to Queens with Roose and then hop in a LI train to a NY train for about an additional 1 hour to get home. In other words, timing was becoming an bitch, and wifey Kim's call seemed to suggest that she had a tough night and was not looking forward to waking up early the next day to clean the apartment solo for the family to come over. For wifey Kim, I decided that come hell or high water, I was going to be in bed when she woke up Sunday morning, so it was to my benefit to head home. At the current rate, I wouldn't be in bed until 4am or so, but Roose was my ride.

At this point, I had been playing for about 5 or 6 hours straight. When the other player were waiting between tournaments, I had been playing back to back, with barely a piss-break in between. But Roose, surprisingly, was up for the third game, and when some other tablemates asked me to stay, I replied jokingly, "Sure, I have nowhere else to go." Someone chuckled and I deadpanned, "No, really, Roose is my ride. I have nowhere else to go."

About 15-20 minutes into the tournament, Roose turned to me and said, "It just hit me." The look of exhaustion on his face would've been funny if it wasn't a reflection of what I had been feeling for the last 2 hours. We agreed at the table to play for broke, and Roose even joked that if he busted, he would leave me behind. At least I hoped he was joking.

We both ramped up our aggression, and by the time it was three handed, well, Roose and I were sitting 1st and 2nd in chips. I don't remember who took third, but Roose had accumulated the big stack once again, and this time, he had me outchipped probably 4:1. When he busted 3rd we talked briefly of a chop, but due to the 8-player format, the set payouts of $60 and $40 (Third got $20) were unchoppable, given our stacks. We played one hand all-in blind, with my T7 falling to his AJ.

On the ride back to Roose's Queens apartment, we did our best to stay awake. We were both riding high from our wins. Roose took 1st in two consecutive games. I took 1st, 2nd and 2nd in three consecutive games. Considering that we opted not to play out the tournaments, my accomplishments are even greater. I probably could've taken 1st in at least one of the last two tournaments, but 2nd will do, especially considering the difference in payout. I once again re-established my belief that I excel when playing in a home game against strangers. Its an interesting phenomenom, and probably has a lot to do with my ability to start with a blank read and build it through their interactions with friends. Add to that the fact that I'm a wildcard to these group of pals and I can often gain a large advantage on the group. Maybe I'm looking into it, though. The bottom line was that I played smart poker, and never once got myself all-in (that I can remember). I've written before about de-lucking tournaments, essentially avoiding all-in plays so that you won't have a chance to go bust, even on a 2-outter, and subconsciously, I played a delucking came.

Best of all, I set myself up for a good time in Vegas. I was able to pad the bankroll $200, a miniscule amount overall, and I was also able to start a new win streak that has left me feeling confident and ready for whatever challenges may come.

We arrived in Roose's apartment at 4:45am. The train to NYC was arriving at 5:50. I told Roose to get some sleep and I set up on his couch. I set my cellphone to vibrate the alarm at 5:40, knowing that the train was a 5 minute walk away. I watched TV as my eyes involuntarily closed. At 5:35, I woke myself up and stared at the TV, trying to follow the drivel in order to keep my brain from shutting down again. It was like being in a hazy dream. 5:40 came around and I headed outside. Dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, I was shocked by how cold the morning air was. I was dressed for the late afternoon, when I originally headed to LI from the day before. I was unshowered, and fairly disheveled from my day-old clothes. I waited in a bank ATM to hide from the cold as I eyed the train tracks. When I heard the rumble, I ran downstairs and found a seat in the train far enough away from the sitting pool of vomit. When I arrived in NYC, I avoided the subway for a taxi instead. I got into bed at about 6:30 AM. As I crawled in bed, next to a resting wifey Kim, I had one thought:

"At least the lack of sleep is good practice for Vegas."

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 7:30 PM,

2 Comments:

At 1:16 PM, Blogger meanhappyguy said...

Nice post!

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on chopping. I don't mind chopping if the situation is right, but I agree that you really shouldn't think about anyone buy yourself--and what YOU think is fair--before making a deal.

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Yeah. This one was particularly tough since it was late and people wanted to start another tournament. Most of the people I didn't know had left, so it was all my friends looking at me expectantly, requesting a chop. I just couldn't do it, because I knew that I had an edge. All too often, I see players agree to chops merely to please the other players. It's a bad way to play.

 

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