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A Growing Tolerance

I went to the Nice Look this afternoon for some 1/2 NL poker. I generally bring two $300 buy-ins with me. The way I see it, if I'm down $600, I've got to stop. My cash bankroll is sitting at around $2500. This doesn't reflect my amount of winnings, which is significantly higher. However, I have used some of my poker money in the past for other things, mostly things for wifey Kim and I, because, for me, if poker is not making a positive effect on my life beyond watching a wallet get fatter, then it isn't worth the time or money.

I hit my stop-loss today. Sometimes, its just like that. It all came down to two hands, one that was just a cooler, and one that became a cooler because I played a stupid hand. But before we get to that, let's look at some of the earlier hands.

The table was fairly passive except for this kid across the table in the 7s or 8s (we were playing shorthanded, with about 7-8 players). For all intents and purposes, this aggressive kid, who was wearing a green shirt, so we'll just go with Green Shirt, was about 2 or 3 people to my right. Where everyone else was limping, this guy was raising every other hand and then following it up with big bets. I had heard him chatting with the head of the poker room while Green was seated at the table. I had turned off my iPod and ignored the conversation around me. I was entirely focused on hearing the conversation, since I knew that it was a sincere conversation and I could get a read on the guy from his behavior. Sure enough, he was bragging about how he was at Yale, spending half of his time in NYC, where he decided to keep an apartment. He also worked from some awesome financial company (the way he told it). The head of the room was fairly interested in what Green had to say and asked for a card, since he knows some people who want some investment advice. That pretty much ended the conversation and I went back to playing poker with a lot more info on Green than I had 3 minutes before.

What have we learned from that conversation? Actually, a lot.

  1. Green Shirt has money. He has a good job in the financial field (for the summer) and an apartment in NYC along with presumably somewhere to live by Yale. This meant that the measly $300 on the table meant little to him, and he would be more fearless with his raising/betting. He'd also be more prone to bluffing, since the money didn't matter.
  2. He was a blow hard. He wasn't talking as much as bragging about his great apartment, job and Yale admission. So, he felt like he had something to prove, and he was even more likely to be aggressive with crap cards, since he wanted to look like the big man.
  3. He played a lot. If he knew the owner enough to be that chatty, he was at the club a lot. That meant that he knew poker on some level, and he was also either an action junkie, shark or grinder. My guess was action junkie.
That's a lot of information right there, just from listening to him prattle on about himself. All the while, my iPod (turned off) was still in my ears, and my sunglasses were on. My head was tilted at the community cards, so it wasn't obvious that I was eyeballing Green. All of this is to avoid people knowing that I'm paying attention to these things. After all, I had already begun building my image of a loose, chatty player, and I didn't want them to see pensive Jordan.

Some of you out there might be thinking that I could tell he was loose aggressive by his betting patterns. After all, he was betting so freaking much, he had to be a LAG. True enough, but at this point, I was at the table for 15 minutes or so, and sometimes people just hit a string of good cards. So while it appeared that he was betting without cards, he may've been dealt monster hands a lot at that point in the game. By hearing his conversation, I had confirmation that he was likely as LAG as I thought him to be.

With that in mind, I sat tight and waited for an opportunity to take advantage of Green Shirt. In one hand Green straddles for $5, and since its him, I call in MP with Q9o, followed by two other callers. Green opts to check.

The flop came down Q86, giving me top pair, poor kicker. Still, when Green checks, I bet out $15. Action has been light at the table (from me included), so I hoped to just take down the pot. A friendly light-skinned black guy on my left calls. A nerdy looking older guy (mid-40s or later) also calls. Green folds. Lovely.

The turn was a 2. I wasn't giving up this hand so easily, so I bet out $30. The first guy folds and the nerdy older guy opts to raise to $90. I can sense that there is some BS going on. Here's what I see: a mild-mannered guy, suddenly making an uncharacteristic bet when there is nothing particularly scary on the board. I slow things down and watch him for a moment. He looks pretty angry and he's sorta staring me down. Strong means weak, people! I looked at my stack, down $100 or so before the action even started. If I call him here, he's going to push all-in on the river. How can he not? What to do? Eventually, it was his demeanor that did him in, along with his uncharacteristic play. He had seen me playing loosely and he wanted to take down a pot. I called. The river was a Ten. He pushed all in like clockwork and I called. He showed Q5 and I tabled my Q9 for the win. My read was dead-on, and the table was impressed. "I can't believe you insta-called his all-in on the river." I shoulda kept my mouth shut, but instead I answered honestly, "If I'm calling the 60, I'm calling his all-in. I made that decision before I called the $60". I didn't explain my read, though. I wanted everyone to think that I just got lucky making the right call.

Side note: A little while later, I pretty much gave $25 to the older nerd. We were in a hand where he raised preflop and I called with AQ. The flop was 227 and we checked it down. On the river, he bet out $25. I thought he was stone cold bluffing and said to him, "I think I'll play along." As soon as I said it (mumbled, really), he leaned in from across the table and said, "What's that? I didn't hear it." I felt like my statement committed me to call (I wouldn't mind your opinions on this one). Even so, I suddenly got that Spidey sense that danger was afoot. He just seemed to eager. I studied his face and he looked upset. Weak means Strong. But, fuck me, I called anyway. He had 77 for a flopped full house. I just said "nice hand" and mucked. Stupid move by me.

My goal was still to get money from Green. I got 66 in the BB and by the time it got to me, there were a few limpers and Green raised to $10. 66 is not a premium hand, but I was confident that the limpers had jack squat and I wanted to isolate Green, who by this point had taken to showing his cards here and there. All that did was confirm my suspicion that he was willing to raise with jack shit preflop (example, he raised to $10 earlier with Le Dawn, K7c). As a side note, I also noticed that when he had made hands, he'd raise to $15. Very easy tell.

So, I raise to $30 to isolate. That's my only reason for the raise. I want to face this dousche who loathes folding. Sure enough, it worked, and only Green and I saw the most ugly flop I've ever seen, AKT, with two hearts. I checked and he checked. On the turn, another Ten came out. Check, check. The river was a black 7. Check, check. He announced that he is playing the board and I showed my 6s.

I won that hand on the flop. By isolating, I knew that I'd have an advantage (a) over a single player rather than a few, and (b) against this dousche who would raise with any two suited cards. Someone said, "You would've folded if he bet, right? That was a pretty bad flop." In truth, I'm not so sure what I would've done. I really had the utmost confidence that I was ahead preflop, and he was so manic that it was hard to put him on anything, as tempting as it would be to put him on an Ace. Still, I wanted to play along. "Let's put it this way, I'm sure we can ALL agree that that was not my ideal flop."

A while later, I was dealt 94o in the BB. There were a lot of limpers (maybe 6 to the flop, including me) and we saw a JQ9 flop, with two spades. I checked my bottom pair, shitty kicker. It checked around. The turn was a 9c, making me three of a kind, but also putting a club-flush draw up there along with the flopped spade flush draw. I checked, intending to check-raise. A player bet out $8 or so. Another player bet out $60. Another player called. And then there was me. SHIT!, I thought. I could be facing a better 9, in which case, I was fucked. I could be facing a slow-played straight, in which case, fucked. I could be facing a flush draw, in which case, I wouldn't know which one and there were a lot of scare cards to be had. I folded. In the end, a player pushed on the river Ten, so it was the right play, I think. But still, it was a tough laydown.

And now, we proceed with the Shame portion of the evening. Up until this point, I was playing okay. I wasn't playing extremely well except for a few hands (the Q9o read, for instance), but at least it was passable. Then somewhere in there I decided to mix it up, and essentially my timing was horrible. Still, it was not just about timing, but about how I mixed it up. I was clearly chasing a small loss, and eventually ended up with a big one.

Here is Shame Hand #1. The table was getting back to passive. The 2/5 NL game had started up and Green had left the table along with some other aggressive players. One of the new players was a known donkey, according to one of the 2/5 players. So, I was happy to see the Donk come to the 1/2 table, and I looked forward to felting him. Of course, when it comes to Donks, one thing is usually for certain: they will make some terrible calls. So, I wonder why the hell I tried to bluff him off of his hand in this scenario.

With QTh, having folded for a while, I raised to $12 in EP/MP. Only the BB, said Donk, called. The flop was 882, and after he checked, I made a $20 continuation bet. He called. The turn was an 8, and I fired a third bullet, $40. He called. The river was a 7. He pushed all-in. I thought for a minute, feigning confusion and disappointment and then I said it, "Show me your 8." I folded. He showed the 8. Stupid me. I shouldn't have played QTh so hard.

I did get some money back from the Donk though, in this fun hand. I had J8o in the BB, and the Donk was now in the SB, due to some moving around. A bunch of players saw the flop, T82, and it checked around. The turn was another Ten, and the Donk bet out $8. I called, as did one other player. The river was a blank. Donk bet out $20, and I decided to call. I had seen him playing, and while he had the quads earlier in the night, I wasn't impressed with anything he was doing. After I called, he announced, "Good hand. I have 9-high." He held his cards out, but did not quite muck. "Are you mucking?," I asked. "I have 9-high." "Yeah, but are you mucking? You've got to show your cards. I called you." The dealer caught on and flipped his cards, 97o, for a busted OESD. I showed my J8, for middle pair. I may've seemed like a dick, and I may've actually been a bit of a dick, but I know the fucking rules, and if I'm going to make a ballsy call, I'm going to get EVERYTHING that I paid for, including the right to see his fucking cards. Notably, 9-high was not a fair description of his hand. As accurate as it was, it implied a bluff the entire way. In actuality, the turn was a semi-bluff and the river was a bluff. That minor distinction let me know that Donk was not as stupid as "9-high."

And then, the wheels fell off. I hadn't been dealt any premium hands the entire day, and finally look down to KK. An unassuming player in EP limps, Donk limps, and I raise to $12. A shortstacked player to my left calls, and it goes back around to the UTG limper, who raises to $47. I seize the opportunity and raise $100 on top. The shortstack calls all-in for less (about $45 total), and the UTG limper moves all-in. I contemplate, but quickly call. I'm thinking AK and hoping for QQ or JJ, but UTG limper has AA, and I get no help. Felted. KK v. AA. Could I have gotten away from it? Yes. Would it have been easy? Hell no. Therefore, I'll put this one in the Cooler category, but I'm still not letting myself off too easy.

Now this next one, pure horror. Here's the setup. I've rebought $300 more. That's all I had on me, and for good reason. $600 is my stop-loss. I don't think of it as one, but I only bring that amount, so its my effective stop-loss.

I'm down $300 or so, with $300 behind, and I'm dealt Q3s in MP. I decide to limp. After all, this is a limping table, and I want to flop a monster and cash in. There are literally 6 callers before the BB raises to $12 total. EVERYONE calls before me, so by the time the decision is up to me, the pot is at least $50, and I feel obliged to call because of pot odds. Sure enough, other players call after me as well, so I did get decent odds. The flop is all spades. ALL SPADES. WHOOPEE! I think. I did it. I hit my monster flop. The SB bets out $15 and the BB, who made the preflop raise, raises to $60. I opt to call, hoping to get the overcall. Instead, the SB pushes all-in and the BB calls. I now am sitting there, and I say, "Aw, come on guys. Do one of you have the Ace or King flush? A shit, I call." And sure enough, SB had K5s, for the spade flush, and the BB had AA, with an Ace of spades. By the river, another spade fell and AA won. Even though I had the 3rd nuts at the time, I'm on the fence about whether this was a cooler hand. I could have gotten away from it. I even correctly said that one of my opponents had me dead-to-rights, but I still called.

In the end, I blame myself and luck equally. I can't change luck, so I can only focus on my errors. If I was thinking more clearly, I could've analyzed the situations better. If I took my time and acted rationally, I could've listened to the part of me that thought my flush was no good. But I didn't give myself that chance.

On the other hand, when I left the game, I wasn't too upset. The idea of losing $600 still bothered me, but it was only in a curious sort of way. I wasn't actually upset. I was up over $700 on the month, so I had the money to lose. I lost all of my chips on the KK v. AA and Queen-flush v. King-flush. These things are bound to happen, so accepted the fact that they happened, and the $600 I lost as a result.

If you can't handle the swings in poker, don't play. This game is not for the feint of heart. $600 is a pretty penny, but I have come to accept it, and I will come to accept higher losses in the future. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that jazz. Before the $600 loss, I was amazed that I could handle $200 losses. Before that, it was $100, and before that $20. My tolerance for loss has increased, as has my winnings. And everything is right in the world.

This post was written over the course of three days, so excuse me if its a bit disjointed. It is now Monday, and I'm glad to finally be done with it. Sometimes, reliving losses in blog form can be just as painful as the actual loss.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 6:02 PM,


At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very well observed piece.Thank you for that,I am sure it will help me in the future.



At 2:48 AM, Blogger Jackie Lynn said...

I get youuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!! Too cool. Can't wait to get started on HUC5 playing my all time favorite opponent, Jordan!!!!!!!!

At 10:14 AM, Blogger StB said...

I wouldn't say you were a dick for asking to see the cards. I would have done the same. Getting the info is important. Afterall, you paid for it.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger jamyhawk said...

Great post!

I agree you had every right to see those cards. That is not being a dick.

And I wish I could tell you, you should have folded the KK, but pre-flop is so hard to let that go.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Great post, Jordan. I love when you focus on the hands like this in your live recaps.

Don't know how you actually fold KK preflop there. Even the flopflush is very, very hard to lay down in that spot. I mean, even if you knew he had flopped a flush as well, the Queen-high nature of your flush is probably worth getting it allin against two players on the flop. I highly doubt I possibly keep myself from getting stacked on either of those two hands, and I would hate to be the guy who is willing to fold to action when I flopped a Queen-high flush in a multiway pot.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Aw, you guys are so good to me. During the Wall Street Game last night, I walked into the apartment as Jamie was reading my blog aloud. A couple of the guys also said that you can't get away from the Q-high flush or the KK. I agree, generally, but what if I could? What if I could be so correct with my reads that I can lay down those hands? That's where I want to be, and I think I can get there. I was halfway there already, by calling out the fact that someone had the K or A-high flushes, but now I need to act on it. But as I said, I'm not being hard on myself for those hands. They were definitely coolers.

As for making the guy show his 9-high, even though on paper it doesn't look like a dick move, its very different live. I had to make a point out of it with everyone watching, and I'm sure my tone of voice was annoyed/insistent. Still, you are all correct in your analyses, and I preach it here: if you have the right to see his cards, you should stand up for that right. Otherwise, you are not getting full value out of your call/play.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger RaisingCayne said...

Yeah, great post Jordan. One note, you asked for some thoughts on your "giving away $25" after stating that you'll "go along for the ride" (or something to that effect)... I really agree that your statement, however vague, was essentially a call. Had I been the pit boss, and asked to make a ruling, I would've commited the $25 out of you to call the river bet. I completely understand that you KNEW you were beat after the guys "huh, what'd you say" response... but your statement did commit you to making the call.

I have no doubt this two buy-in loss post will soon be replaced by one about a victory! Good luck!

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Can't get away with the flush, the KK... limp/call then push = AA unless its some 17th level poker thinking guy. I'd call everytime though absent of reads.


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