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May 10, 2011
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By the time I left the Aria last night, I could have kicked a puppy.

I don’t generally go on tilt, but yesterday was ugly. It started in the $1-$3 cash game where I felt like I’d just gone 12 rounds with Manny Pacquio. Every time I got my money in ahead, I lost. AA lost to AK. AK lost to AQ. You name the beat, and I took it. When my full house went down quad 5s, I decided enough was enough.

Of course, I must be something of a masochist because I figured there was no better way to calm myself down than to play in the 7PM tourney. So, yeah, I jumped in. And things went well, for a while.

By the time we got down t0 20 players, I had a slightly larger than average stack and a nice passive table. I was calm and in control. And then, I wasn’t.

The first beat hurt, but I couldn’t complain. The guy on my right made a smallish pre-flop raise and I re-raised him all in with my Ad-Kd. He called and happily tabled Aces. Painful, but standard. A couple of hands later, the table broke and I found myself back at my starting table with many of the players I had faced earlier.

A couple of hands in, I looked down to find my own pair of Aces on the button. One player raised in front of me and I put in a substantial re-raise. The small blind folded and the big blind moved all in for his last few thousand chips. The original raiser folded I confidently flipped up my bullets while my opponent showed Kh-Qh.

I don’t really have to tell you what happened next, do I?

Thankfully, it was a small pot and I didn’t lose very much. However, with the blinds now at 400-800 with a 75 ante, my stack was starting to feel a little light. I was looking for a double up or a big pot to give me some more breathing room.

I didn’t play a hand until I was in the cut-off, where I looked down to find pocket Jacks. Like earlier, a player had raised in front of me, giving me a perfect opportunity to come over the top and move all in. Which I did.

This time, the player who cracked my Aces was in the small blind and he again moved all in behind me. The original raiser folded and our hands were revealed, with my Jacks well in front of his pocket 8s. Until the flop. An 8 in the door. Of course.

The turn gave me a gut-shot straight draw, but I couldn’t complete it and suddenly, I was very short stacked.

I again nursed my stack for the rest of the orbit, but I knew I didn’t have much room left to maneuver. On my last hand, one of the bigger stacks raised to 3,000 and action folded to me on the button, where I looked down at Qh-9h. Not a premium hand, by any means. Still, I had about 12 BB left in my stack and my image was pretty solid. I had moved in two times previously, and had shown legitimate hands each time.

A steal attempt here had a good chance of getting through. Or so I thought.

I shoved and action folded back to the original raiser, who made a quick call and tabled the worst hand I could possibly see; pocket Queens. When hearts failed to fall, I left the table as tilted as I’ve been in a long, long time. Not because I ran into Queen-9 into Q-Q on that final hand (though that didn’t help), but because that hand capped off a long and shitty day of poker.

I like to think that one of the strongest parts of my game is that I keep a pretty level head at the table. I don’t generally go on tilt and I understand that everyone takes some bad beats once in a while. I’m sure I’ve laid out as many of them as I’ve received over the years, so I try not to complain. Yesterday, though? It was, as I said earlier, ugly, and I left the poker room as pissed at the cards and other players around me as I’ve ever been before.

Twelve hours have passed since I left the Aria and while time may not have healed my wounds from yesterday, it has given me a chance to put the day in perspective. Now that I’m away from the tables, I realize that what happened was really no one’s fault. It was variance, and I was simply on the wrong side of it more often than not. Shit happens.

Are there hands I could have played better? Maybe. I certainly didn’t have to put my tournament life on the line with Q-9, but, on the other hand, I don’t feel like I made any major misplays throughout the day. Looking back, I feel confident that I made solid decisions and got my money in with the best of it more often than not, even when I came out on the wrong end of the hand when the last card hit the table.

I won’t say that winning isn’t important to me. I’m a competitive guy and, like most people I know, I hate losing money. But that’s the thing with poker. Sometimes you’re going to do everything right and still come up short. The cards don’t care if you’re an 80% favorite heading toward the river. What’s going to fall is going to fall. The real trick to being a winning player is to put the beats behind you and move on without letting past events affect your future decisions.

I was probably more tilted than I care to admit at the end of last night’s tournament and maybe I made a reckless play to bust myself out. Or, maybe, I just ran into an opponent with a hand that he wasn’t going to lay down. Either way, what’s done is done and all I can do now is look back and try to find the mistakes I may have made and fix them.

So yeah, yesterday hurt, but it’s all behind me now and, more importantly, your puppies are completely safe.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 10, 2011 1:46 pm

    I really could empathize with what you’re talking about here as I’ve had that same crappy feeling, in that same room in fact! That feeling where everything is going along well and all of a sudden the wheels completely fall off can be jarring indeed.

    I really think that one of the hardest things about becoming good at this game is learning to keep yourself in check emotionally. Math and strategies can all be absorbed with enough effort, but controlling our inner caveman (or cavewoman) is much more challenging.

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