Poker Confessionals from a Bad Player

I’m a lifer…a student of poker for life, that is.  Always learning, studying the game, and realizing how much I still don’t know about it…and wondering why I’m still playing it and losing money– wait, what the–sigh… sorry, my A.D.D. kicked in.  Let me get back on track… This blog is an experiment of sorts, an expedition of what the hell is going on in my sick mind at the tables (nothing).  This being my first venture into blogging about my poker experiences (or hey – how ‘bout just BLOGGING period there, ace? Yeah true, that too!), I want to set out some goals and let you know that I am fully aware of the fact that I just broke out into a conversation with myself within the latter parenthesis (she will be doing that A LOT)…and just now.  I’m a Gemini that’s the problem, here goes:

#1 – To Be Relatable and fun or not to be?  THAT is the challenge…because who wants to read something boring!?  This is for the poker players & non-poker players alike.   Maybe it entices someone to pick up the game or another to drop it like a bad habit (it takes 21 days to break one)!  Now I’m going to assume you have a basic understanding of No Limit Texas Holdem’ but I’ll do my best to be a good poker ambassador and translate terms & abbreviations to laymen speak at the end of the blog.

#2 – To Go Over Hands.  This is called hand study, the practice of playing a hand back over and over again, and repeating it like lasagna before bedtime gives me agita, to figure out what the hell went right or wrong.  Now you’re probably asking – why bother torturing yourself about your decisions with this…hand study??  To that I reply – because otherwise what DO we have afterwards, especially if we lose?  Going over hands is crucial to becoming a better player and, simultaneously, reminding yourself you still suck as a poker player. 

My ultimate goal dissecting and analyzing hands is to pose the question #WWVD (what would @VanessaSelbst do, one of my fav players), shine a light on how stupid I was in the moment, and then justifiably make the conclusion/tell myself “yeah, that was a donk move.”  And if I get a little too termy on you, go into a verbal vortex beating myself up over leaks in my game and discussing better lines…just send me a virtual smack in the face.  I just hope I don’t loose you cuz it’s hand study… One thing though – my unbeknownst-to-him poker mentor @JonathanLittle stresses to write down all your hands, it’s the only way you can accurately assess them.   I’m a bad a girl because guess who has not been following Jonathan’s instructions? (Get it together, woman!) I’m working on it, I have my reasons to be explained in a later blog and Jonathan, calm down!  So most of these are hands revisited from my beautiful mind.  Trust me, this is much better for both of us – I can spin them to make me look better (for my sake) and make them much more interesting (for yours).  And it’s MY blog!

#3 – Happy poker pride!  Diana Ross sung it right.  I’ve done it before and I’m coming out again – as a proud flaming poker playing queen and I love it!  I’ve spent lots of time and energy suppressing my passion for the game of poker and it makes me unhappy, puts me in a crappy mood, even…and I’m done with that shit!  This is my outlet to vent, be out and proud, and talk about whatever comes to my poker mind.

Now that I’ve laid out the goals, meet Janice’s Cardinal Rules.  Yes I, like Dexter, have a code, a set of guidelines that I use to channel my urge to kill myself via self-sabotage.  I’ll intro you to a few of them thru this $100+10 tournament I played April 19th, 2014 in the Bronx, New York.  It was an intimate game with about 40 players.  I made it to the Final Table, the last table & the one that counts, but then I got knocked out in 6th place, 2 shy of the money (that means NO dinero for me).  To that I’d like to take a moment and scream “FUCK-FRIGGIN’-FREAKIN’-FUCK!!!” Super frustrating to get so far and that close to NADA.  Let’s go thru the rules that I broke & hands that affected my tournament. 

CARDINAL RULE #1:  Don’t EVER Break Your Own Rules.

I know, it sounds like I’m being a smartass but this rule is SUPER IMPORTANT and self-explanatory and more like a PRE-RULE.  Like the first rule of Fight Club – The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.  I, at least, veer from the 2nd rule in Fight Club (not to talk about it again, I think I got it the first time, didn’t you??).  I’ll give you that one later, but let’s get into some hands…

Early Stage Cray Cray Full House Fold.

YES, you read that right, I folded a full house.  Probably a foolish, nitty move (see term nit), but I’ll assess my suckiness after the hand:

With the blinds at 100-200 and my big stack of 22K (I’d worked up 2K more from the starting 20K stack), I was in the BB with Ah-6d.  Two other players in middle position limp, and I check. 

Flop comes Td-Tc-6h .  I bet out 300, middle position player – an older white nitty man – calls, guy in late position folds. 

Turn brings another 6s.  I check, nit bets 500, I fold. 

My assessment:  Our older man who won the hand, was a straight up A, B, C player – meaning he wasn’t going to get fancy bluffing or thinking he was Tom Dwan.  He liked limping with mediocre hands.  I’ll call him Mr. Nit Limpy.   Because he limped, another player limped in late position, so I 86’d the idea of raising from the big blind. IF I had raised I might have gotten at least one of them to fold so I could isolate and just fire out at whatever came on the flop, BUT knowing this limp-happy crew, though, I would’ve had to raise BIG enough to make one fold, and, in my mind, I just wasn’t hearing Prince singing “Let’s Go Crazy” just yet this early in the game with A-6o (that’s Ace-6 offsuit). 

When the flop came & Mr. Nit Limpy just called, I put him on a range of 9-T, J-T, Q-T & K-T and maybe A-T; 7s – 9s (pocket 7s thru 9s); and maybe A-6, 6-7, 6-5…and I think that’s about it.  When I got my full house on the turn I decided to check because of the pair of Ts on the flop.  Yeah, he could’ve had 2-pair instead of the full house.  Yeah, I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt for being such a conservative ass and folding.  His bet was small – 500 into a pot of 1300.  Why so small??  And pre-flop I don’t think this man is limping in middle position with TT-Aces for sure.  So I think if I could have a do-over I’d have called the turn and seen the river…maybe checked again in case he actually did just hold a small pair.

Why do I think my full house fold was cray cray?  Well, I had seen this nitty man show down Kc-Tc in an earlier hand after limping in, so my mind was playing tricks on me thinking he had a ten again with a better full house, so I check-folded on the turn…based on my aforementioned hand study, that’s cray cray.  Poker pros, anyone, Bueller??

#threebarrelfail

And so after the hand above where I tossed and turned, maybe I was a lil’ frustrated because I decided to bluff to the death with this next hand.  Let me stop disclaimering and just get into it:

With the blinds at 200/400 two players in middle position limp into the pot, I looked down at T-3o in the HJ.  I raise 4x to 1200.  Everyone behind folds except the BB & the 2 nits. 

Flop comes Jd-4s-7h and everybody goes to check city…so the action’s on me.  With 3800 in the pot I make it 2K.  Two people fold except for the one nit closest to me. 

Turn is a heart, I don’t remember the card but it’s a low heart.  I bet 4K, nit calls.  River is an 8s, nit leads out for 4K.  I go all in over the top for my remaining 8K, he calls.

He shows 5h-6h for a straight on the river.

 OK YES GO AHEAD and tell me I’m a donk so that I can disagree and wallow in my delusion a little bit (the voice of sarcastic, know-it-all, douche italicized within parenthesis will be played by my sarcastic, know-it-all, douche Gemini side)

 I watched the 2 nittiest people sitting next to each other (like lovebirds) limp into the pot (hey look, surprise it’s Mr. Nit Limpy again!).  I looked down at my crappy 10-3o hand in the HJ and (thought you were Phil Hellmuth?) was tired of the limp-fest every hand (welcome to your typical underground game), so I decided to punish them (you had a moment where you thought you were at a WPT TV table).  Maybe not the smartest thing to do, but I was telling the story (more like cramming it down their throats) that was consistent with someone who had a big pocket pair, AA – TTs, I’d say (and they SO believed you)

Maybe my raise of 4x wasn’t enough (you’re a girl, what were you thinking?), but I got everyone to fold except for the BB and the 2 original nits (ahh, the 2 lovebirds & the BB that’s not everyone, do you know how to count?).  When everyone checked the flop, I bet out 2K, and was called by one player (sniff, sniff…you smell that? Yeah, a straight draw, nits don’t know how to re-raise).  I decided to continue my line if the next 2 streets brought low cards (in your mind a line is a zig zag).  The turn was the low 2nd heart, I think a check behind would’ve been the better, economic way to go (cheap chicken!) but instead I threw in 4K and he called (and you shit your pants a little bit didn’t you?). 

The river 8c came and when villain led out for 4k I should’ve known that I’m a sucka and folded right there (very good, Danielson, wax on wax off…).  Instead, I dug deeper into my bottomless pit o’ stubbornness (HERE WE GO!), stared at the board for a while, then his stack (if he has 5-6 you’re up shit’s creek) and saw he didn’t have much more behind (wait for it…), and went over the top all in (sigh, are you ready to hurl?).  I wanted to barf-puke all over the table when he called fairly quickly with a straight made on the river (YEAH, I TOLD YOU HE GOT THERE!!!).

So the moral to this story is – make your decisions early/have a plan but don’t be so married to it that you’re blinded to the actions of your opponent.  First off, I didn’t think thru his calling range pre-flop.  Had NO FRIGGIN’ IDEA WHAT HE WAS CALLING ME WITH!!  There was no room for ranges in my mind, instead I had images of Pamplona – I was the bull that was gonna show this stupid schmuck what a bad idea it was to be running this street with me.  But he flopped an open-ended straight draw so I don’t think a 2/3rd pot c-bet would have done anything.  And then he improved on the turn with a heart flush draw.  So by the time he check/called the flop, the turn, and LED out on the river I could see my name on the red muleta up close and personal. 

The big fail was not raising enough pre-flop.  A 5 – 5.5X bet should’ve eliminated most of, if not all of these players (again it’s an underground game, I’ll have to try this out and get back to you).  Overall, it was a spot that didn’t work out for me, but it was fun to try and I’d like to think I’d do it again!  Even though afterwards my head felt like it was going to explode, I got up from the table to walk it off so I wouldn’t go on tilt.  The hand crippled me but I was not out.  Determined, I sat back down and ran it back up to be in contention for the final table. 

 CARDINAL RULE #2:  Never Play when you’re F^)$in’ Fatigued

Time to meet the follow-up to Rule #1 (remember the Fight Club rule?).  #2 is simple, don’t play tired.  I had had a mind-depleting day and started this tournament a little off (see earlier hands for proof).  And at 1AM I was fluffing up my pillow at the table to finish out this tournament.  As a result, I went from being a hawk to a heel, missing opportunities and feeling delirious with my mind playing tricks on me…

Staring Through Your Sunglasses Into Your Soul.

I was short stacked with 6 big blinds left.

With 2 tables left and blinds @ 500/1K, a young guy with sunglasses min-raises UTG+2, it folds to me and I call with pocket 4s in the BB.

The flop I don’t recall, but the board was all overcards.  I check, he bets 2K, I call.

Turn is a rag low card (not a 4!!!), I check, he bets 2K again, I call.

On the river I check, and after a long time he checks behind, I show my pocket 4s to beat his unmemorable air. 

 My assessment:  I was recently moved to this table and had been watching Sunglasses spew off his chip lead at this table.  When he min-raised and it folded around to me I really should’ve just shoved all in…based off my observations of him, that was a missed opportunity.  Then the flop came all overcards, and the words “ugh shoot me in the head” danced in my mind.  When he bet so small and didn’t look to see how much I had left behind (not much) it told me this guy didn’t know what the hell he was doing.  Another missed opportunity to shove all in, but the overcards scared me.  Then, his same bet of 2k on the turn – strike three, another clue that I didn’t pick up on!  Frustrated with my bad play how that translated was I looked over at him with dagger eyes to get a read as the river came out…and I checked, staring right thru those dark sunglasses and telepathizing Dirty Harry’s famous words “Go ahead, make my day” into his brain.  It worked because he chicken-checked with shit and I took that pot down, yo!

 “Come On, Double Me Up”

This is a hand I was involved in with the overall tournament chip leader, a Dominican guy, who had just recently been moved to my table.  I dubbed him Dominican Don Juan (more on him later).  He was cleaning house and taking no prisoners…and not speaking any English at the table, a reoccurring theme in these underground games (you’re not supposed to use anything but English, cardroom rule).   With the blinds at 1K/2K I’m in the BB with J-Qhh.  The chip leader limps in early position and it gets around to me.  “I’m all in,” I say…he’s thinking and thinking…shuffling his chips…“estoy todo…in,” (I mean, really?  Do I have to translate? All in is international) and then he looks up at me.  I just got a hunch that if I did a reverse Jedi-mind-trick, he’d fold.  So I did, “Come on double me up,” I quipped.  Oh, that he understood, and it worked!  Yeah, maybe I had him beat, and yeah, a conservative tight move you might say, but it was getting down to the final table and J-Qss had failed me in a similar scenario in the past when I shoved, so I was happy with the fold. 

Erroneous Snap Call.

With the blinds at 1K/2K a guy in middle position goes all in, I snapcall in the sB with Kh-Jc without even taking a sec to look at his stack!!!  And who doesn’t check out someone’s stack first??!! (bad joke)  He flips over Ac-Jh, has me dominated, and the board runs out loyal to the best hand.  I had more chips than him (whew), but not by many.  I was crippled again.  I chalk my bad, reflexive call up to fatigue.  And just like that, Poker Yoda appeared and spoke to me, “Chip stack aware of you must be, at all times…”  YESS, YESSS YODA…

Where’s Poker Yoda Before a Hand??

The blinds were 1K/2K at the final table, down to 8 players.  I’m in the sB with 5c-6h.  The other woman, NO not the mistress, but the only other woman (I’m usually the only woman) goes all in UTG and I, again, snapcall.  She flips over her pocket Ks and wins the pot.  This was more of fatigue rearing its ugly head, a huge mistake and the beginning of the end for me.  I knew better than to call the tightest player and an older woman at the table going all in UTG.  That kind of move from that kind of player deserves an automatic fold from me.

CARDINAL RULE #3:  Don’t Mess with the Chip Leader.

So after fatigue and hallucinations of grandeur, this was the rule that did me in.  As you can figure out, the Chip Leader is exactly what it sounds like, the BOSS, the bully, the one with ALL the chips and all of the power.  So…when you have fewer chips and decide to dance with the chip leader you are putting your tournament life on the line, that’s right – your life IN the tournament.  That’s why I avoid chip leaders like tickled tourist with their cameras in Times Square unless they ask me to take the picture.

Poker is much like an episode of Game of Thrones. #GOT You’re Tyrion Lannister in Season 4 Episode 6, on trial at the final table of your life versus your father, Tywin.  In this scene, Tywin’s put Tyrion on trial for the murder of his grandson, Joffrey. Even though Tyrion didn’t do it, he has very little tricks left up his sleeve to get himself out of this predicament.  You could say Tyrion doesn’t have very many chips left.  Tywin has all the power and most of the people in the room on his side – he has almost all of the chips to destroy you. 

 Regardless, you say, “Fuck it!” and spew out an Emmy worthy speech that you know will potentially put you in deep shit (but win you the Emmy): “I know I’ll get no justice here, so I will let the gods decide my fate.  I demand a trial by combat!”   Now we all know there was a second where you thought to yourself, let’s be smart, take one for the team, and just concede to Dad that we did it.  But, NO, because he did way too many things to piss us off – starting with listening to his crazy pants daughter Cersei’s accusations that we killed her sonnephew (if you watch the show you know what I mean), and ending with having convinced the love of our life, Shae, to be shady and testify against us as a witness on the stand – so we’d had enough!  I digress – but boiling it down, Tyrion made the decision to tangle with his father because he let his emotions and situation get the best of him

 That’s what happened to me at this final table, minus the court scene…the Tywin at my table had all of the chips and I had had enough.  I was angry and tired, so I did what I knew how to do.  I gave him the Peter Dinklage speech (it was the delirium, I was channeling him).  He just kinda looked at me funny.  No one could stop this fool on a winning streak, not me, not anyone…

Meeting Your Maker:  the Chip Leader, Variance, & Momentum

(color commentary italicized within parenthesis provided again by my sarcastic, know-it-all, douche Gemini side)

I had my eye on this chip leader from our earlier dance, and he played like a Dominican Don Juan – loose, lucky, and flirtatious (how does one…play flirtatious?  Does he put out a bet and ask for your number?)  The thought that a player is just lucky can get you in trouble (thinking he plays flirtatious might, too).  In poker, we have a euphemism for luck, that’s variance.   We don’t call it luck because…we just can’t!   Variance is a fancier way of making bad luck less painful and making good luck seem like it was your doing.  Getting lucky in poker is too easy, experiencing variance IS a part of poker.  See the difference?  It’s like the saying about life – “shit happens.”  Variance happens.

Now variance has a friend called momentum.  They go together like (Dominican men playing flirtatious? You know a girl is writing this) peanut butter & jelly, rice & beans, and this untalented lucky tool with chips had both.  My fatigue was cranked up here so I’m looking at Dominican Don Juan (shit, why not nickname him Flirtatious Juan?) and having flashbacks of that song from the movie BREAKIN’ “There’s No Stoppin’ Us” playing like bed music under this hand. Ozone, Turbo, and Special K are doing windmills and pop locking on his shoulder, taunting me to go all in.  Here’s how it went down in the last hand, I have 6 BBs left (you and your 6 BBs, do you notice it’s always 6 BBs?)

With the blinds at 1K/2K Dominican Don Juan limps in UTG+1.  With Kc-Jc I’m UTG+2 and go all in.  It folds around to the button who also goes all in.  Dominican Don Juan thinks for a second and then overcalls.  He has 3d-4c and the button has my hand Kh-Jh…no bueno.  Don Juan spikes a 3h on the flop to knock us both out.

My Assessment:  If hindsight was foresight I’d be rich, because I don’t think this was the best shove spot.  The level was about to go up to 1500K/3K so I had to make a move.  With Kc-Jc, 6 BBs left, and position on Don Juan, something he probably thought was sexy, I had already told myself if he limps, I’m shoving.  Sure enough he limps!

Here’s where it all went awry.  Nitwit on the button ALSO went all in.  He had me covered so I was worried about him.  Really, I’m the nitwit for shoving with Kc-Jc.  I didn’t even have an ace in my hand with a line of players behind me like Nitwit and Don Juan. 

SO, with all the money in the pot it comes back around to Don Juan with a massive flirtatious stack in front of him.  The temptation is there – a great price to call for him, so he calls with crap.  OTB Nitwit blocks 2 of my outs with Kh-Jh so when the 3 of hearts comes on the flop (how romantic) and the board doesn’t improve Don Juan scores a threesome by knocking us BOTH out.  I get up to leave in 6th place…but not before he caresses my cheek, tells me with his thick Dominican accent it’s OK, and asks me for my number – kidding!!  That one was for my sarcastic, know-it-all, douche Gemini side…

POKER TERMS USED

A=Ace J=Jack Q=Queen K=King & T=10, Ts=pocket tens

BB – Big Blind

BoardThe board are the community cards in the center of the table (the cards on flop, turn, & river)

Calling Range – The set or group of hands that will call a certain bet.

C-bet – short for continuation bet, when a player bets out at the flop who raised pre-flop.

Donk – short for donkey, a moron, or inexperienced player; also known as a fish or newbie

Early, middle, and late position:  If you have a table of 10 players and 2 are the blinds you have 8 people left.  The first three people are early position.  The next two are middle with the last three, called highjack, cutoff, and button respectively, are late position

Highjack – the player 2 positions before the button

J=Jack, Q=Queen, K=King & T=10

Leaks – flaws or weaknesses in someone’s game

Limp – to pay the minimum pre-flop (price of big blind) & not raise the pot

Line – how someone played a hand; a line of thought or action you take

Min-raise – that’s a minimum raise, if blinds are 500/1K that’d be a raise of 2K

Nit – a conservative and tight-passive player that avoids confrontations

OTBshort for On The Button, that’s what you are…on the button

Overcards – Cards on the board higher than your pocket pair (in the blog example ).  A converse example, if it’s heads up and someone’s all-in, the two remaining players would expose their cards.  If it’s pocket sevens versus ace-king, the ace and king are referred to as “over-cards.”

Positionit’s what you want to have on a player. In poker, position is power, being on the left side of a player means you have “position” on him and get to act after.

Pre-flop – the round of betting before the flop

Rags crappy cards, not premium cards at all

Range – a poker player’s likely or possible holding (whole cards)

sB – small blind

Snapcall – A “snapcall” is when a player calls a bet without even taking a moment to think about it, aka insta-call because it’s instant.

Spew – to play recklessly

Tilt, On Tilt – to lose your sh$t emotionally after loosing a hand (which usually results in stupid plays afterwards)

UTG, UTG+1, UTG+2 – it means UNDER THE GUN.  The player sitting in the position immediately to the left of the blinds, pre-flop they’re first-to-act.  For subsequent betting rounds they act after the 2 blinds.  UTG+1 is one over to the left, UTG+2 is 2 over…

Variance – a mathematical term that is used to describe the distribution of results around an expected value.  It also refers to cash fluctuations.  NOTE:  while it is technically a statistical term to measure the spread of a sample from its expected value, it’s more broadly used in poker to mean fluctuations in luck and the corresponding effect on player’s bankroll.  Even more generally, poker players often just refer to extreme good/bad luck as “variance.”

Villain – the opponent

 **Terms taken from pokerterms.com, WSOP.com, pokertips.org, pokerzone.com, poker-king.com, twoplustwoforum, flopturnriver.com, learn-texas-holdem.com, and my OWN DAMN MIND!

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