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Playing Slow

I received a comment to the last post that went somethin' like this:

"When you play poker, you shouldn't do it to escape from being depressed or having a really bad day. You start out on tilt -- playing emotionally, not rationally -- and you won't play your best. Likewise, if during a poker game, you lose a big hand or get sucked out on and feel yourself going on tilt, stand up & take a break until you feel calm later on. Fellow players will sense your mood & take advantage of it." -Flawless

Flawless has a point. When you aren't in the right emotional state of mind, poker can be a brutal way to seek therapy. I don't doubt that one bit. Likewise, if you suffer a bad beat or lose a big hand in a game, a break isn't a bad idea either. The sharks (and even minnows) can smell the blood and its often an uphill battle back to even.

But all that said, there will be times when you are not in your best state of mind but poker still must be played. It might be that you RSVP'ed for an event and you can't back out. Perhaps its a scheduled tournament (live or online) that you can't miss or already registered for. Maybe you are on vacation at a location where poker is available and you want to play some before returning to your pokerless state (I'm looking at your downstate NY...). What do you do in these situations?

I'll tell you what I did. I lost myself long enough to allow my mental and emotional clock to reset.

After leaving work last night, I still had a lot of time to kill before I attended an Upper East Side 1/2 NLHE game with a $5/half hour time charge. I decided that the first course of business was to get some sustenance. With time to kill, I opted for Jackson Hole, a burger place with the aire of a dive bar and tight quarters. I grabbed a seat at the counter while the illegal immigrant staff made two dozen burgers on the grill. I ordered a beer and a cheddar cheeseburger deluxe and read a magazine. It was relaxing raging solo. The pace is refreshing, and there are no expectations.

The burger, as always, was humongous and delicious. Among burgers in the city, Jackson Hole is definitely one of my top picks, albeit, not a top pick. The burgers are insanely large and fall apart as you eat them, but they also have the perfect red center I hope for in a juicy burger. The steak fries do the trick, even if it is impossible to finish the burger and fries without unbuttoning one's pants.

After eating, I strolled into the cold night air. It hasn't been too brutal in the city, but we are finally entering the land of 40 degree highs, and last night was fairly chilly. I took the walk over to the game's general location and then did what any intelligent person looking to hide from the cold in NYC would do; I looked for a Starbucks.

From my office alone, I can find about 5 Starbucks in a three block radius. It's absolutely insane. So, once at the general location of the game, I merely looked down the block in every direction for the familiar green sign...and there it was, a scant one block away. I entered the Starbucks, ordered my drink, and grabbed a seat for a good 30 minutes. And I read. That's it. I let the poker and the pressure fade away with a steady diet of distractions.

I finally got to the game a good 30 minutes early. Matty Ebs met me downstairs and I hung with him while he grabbed a slice of pizza. After we were done, we turned the corner and entered a narrow door leading to a narrower staircase. The first thing I felt when entering was a sharp pain in my calf. I looked down to see a ratty radiator cover that had fallen from the wall. I propped it up and Matty and I made the long walk up the rickety stairs to a small platform. Matty opened the door and we both squeezed in, as the door was only able to open a slight amount due to some obstacles on the other side.

Inside the apartment/poker room were two main rooms and a bathroom. The first main room is half-kitchen, half-living room. Instead of a couch, though, there was an orange felt poker table stuffed in the corner and a pile of chairs. The set up was not yet complete. A 52" flat screen TV made up the remainder of the decorations. The other room should've held a bed, but instead held a green felt poker table with a smaller TV wall-mounted behind the dealer.

In the main room, a cup was set up to collect the water leaking from a hole in the ceiling. It was not raining. A door opened to a rooftop, which was a nice extra for such a decrepit apartment. I could simultaneously see the potential in the apartment and the disaster that it had become. But with nothing better to do, I introduced myself to the hosts and grabbed a seat.

I probably hung out for 45 minutes before the game started. I hate waiting, but I was taking it easy, lightly reading an abandoned newspaper while watching the TV. Eventually, enough players arrived and I grabbed the 2 seat. It was in a corner and I stuffed my bad in there with me. I am notoriously careful about my bag. It has everything in it usually, although admittedly, when I play poker, I keep my poker wallet on me at all times.

The players were an interesting group. The first arrival was Dave, a middle-aged friendly guy who just got laid off from running some sorta electronic trading company, although I have no idea what that means. Other people arrived and varied from blue-collar-looking Italian guys to a quiet, tight lawyer-type kid who was also a friend of Matty's. Eventually a big guy showed up and instead of forcing him to squeeze into the 1 seat, I moved over, giving him the 2 seat. I didn't realize it until now, but as soon as he sat down, he began crushing the table. Que sera, though.

I didn't keep notes on hands, but I did recall a few. I realized fairly early that some of the players were going to be very transparent. I picked up a reliable tell on one of the hosts immediately. Other players didn't seem to care about keeping their shit tight. One guy kept lifting his cards high to his neighbor's benefit. I would've said something, but it didn't harm me once and I didn't want to be the table cop or even tip off the table about how seriously I was playing.

My first hand was a complete bluff. I held 34c on the button. I don't recall all of the action, but after it checked to me on the Q82 flop, I bet out $15. I got one caller, but he didn't seem too thrilled with the situation. He checked the 8 turn and I bet out $35. Before that point, no one had bet more than $20 (with no significant pots), so that was enough to scare him away. I was feeling good.

A little while later, I raised preflop to $7 with AA and everyone folded. LEMON! I got QQ several orbits later after the table had warmed up, though, so I raised preflop to $12 and got four callers. The flop was AKx, so I checked the flop and check-folded the turn. Naturally, a guy won the pot with A6o.

I made two slowplays that were probably poor plays in hindsight, even though one saved me money and the other would've ended in the same way regardless. It was a limping table and once I established that there were sufficient calling stations, I began limping with a wide range. With J8o in the SB and several limpers, I called a bet to $7 or $8 to see a flop: QT9, with two hearts. Having flopped the second-nuts, a Q-high straight, with a flush draw possible, I should've bet out immediately. As it were, I chose to check since I was in first position and I figured that the preflop bettor would continuation bet, if nothing else. Once he bet out, I was planning to check-raise. Of course, it checked around and we saw the turn, an offsuit Jack. Anyone with a King had me beat, so I checked, the guy on my immediate left bet $7, the guy on his immediate left raised to $32, and the guy on his immediate left called. Well, that was enough info for me, so I folded quickly, as did the $7 bettor. At showdown, the two players left showed K7o (raiser to $32) and KQo (the caller). In hindsight, I realized that the KQ guy, with top pair, second kicker, was not going to fold to a flop bet and would've taken the lead on the turn, so my passive play saved me money. But in reality, I should've taken control of the hand earlier when I made my hand on a draw-heavy board. (Side note: The same guy played a flopped set very passively earlier in the night, eventually announcing when he called my two-pair river bet, "Okay, I'll pay you off." Then he showed the set and I was awestruck. Regardless, that taught me that he wasn't the type of guy to bet good hands, and checking his top pair on the flop merely confirmed that read.)

In the other slowplay hand, I limped for $2 on the button with 37s. The flop came down 456 rainbow, so when it checked to me, I checked as well. I figured I was way ahead and aside from another straight card, I didn't have much to fear. Sure enough, the turn was an 8, giving any other 7 a straight as well. Admittedly, I was mildly pleased with the 8, since I feared someone slowplaying 78 at the loose preflop table, but at showdown, I learned that I let 76o catch up. Lemon!

I was down to around $130 or so from my $200 buy-in because of some of the aforementioned hands and missing some draws, and decided to straddle for $4 from UTG. I got something like 5 or 6 callers and when it got back to me, I raised $25 on top. Anyone want to guess my hand? AKd. I love this play. Oftentimes, people can't believe the huge raise from a straddle, and accordingly, I got two customers, including Matty Ebs (who rightly thought I had a premium hand, although he guessed the wrong one). The flop was AK3 and Matty led out by betting $75 immediately. I acted all defeated and said that if I called, I'd only have $35 or so left, so I pushed it all in. The other guy folded and Matty had no choice but to call. He had figured me for JJ or so, and thought that his push would force my fold. If I had JJ, he'd be right. As it were, I wasn't dropping my top two pair and he was drawing dead after the blank turn.

Up to $300, I played on until 10:30, when it was time for another $5/half hour time charge. It seemed like a good time to leave. I was down to $231 and didn't feel like giving 1/6 of my profit just to play another 30 minutes. Instead, I cashed out, made some pleasantries and hit the road.

It's a good game made slightly less good by the time charge. The game seems low-key enough, so I may begin playing a bit more regularly. The small profit is nothing too exciting, but a win is a win and the mental aspect of leaving with more money than I arrived with is worth more than the actual $31.

Tonight I head to the movies to see Twilight with wifey Kim. The choice of movie is all wifey Kim, but its a vast improvement over a crappy rom-com like 27 Dresses or Made of Honor, so I'm actually very pleased with her choice. Tomorrow we are heading to my family's house for the holidays. Wifey Kim's family will be there too, which is awesome as both families get along and it saves us the hastle of choosing one over another. But where's the poker in all this? Hell if I know. That's got to change.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 9:56 AM,


At 3:59 PM, Blogger Lucypher said...

Congrats. I like the way you relaxed before playing and have found this to help me, too.
I also enjoyed reading about the burger. Whenever you have the chance, tell us more about the food scene in NY.

At 2:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice post

winning was a big accomplishment, given your mindset, because as you said -- that is a huge factor in many ways ... well done.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


I understand the frustration of playing in a time charge game. I ONCE played a game where the guy, lets call him "Blake" for a name, would host a .25/.50 game at his casa. The only rake was when he'd pull .50 out of a pot but ONLY when the pot had gotten up to $3.

His standard play on my big blind, raise it to $3 to play no matter what his two cards were, knowing that as tight as I play I'd fold.

But then I met poker bloggers and I started to loosen my play up.

Instead of letting him drag the free .75 I'd re-raise him to $10. I checked the A27 rainbow flop and then called when he pushed. I showed him pocket twos for the set against his AKd.

We left the game when it became more of a game of chance (people calling $10 pf raises with Jd3d because "they were sooted".

Continued best of luck my friend.



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