Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Random blathering to follow.

Distractions are deadly. You can have all the poker knowledge possible, and be practically psychic in your reads, and if you're not paying attention, it'll come back and bite you in the ass. Ok, maybe if you're THAT good you can be distracted and survive. The rest of us shmoes, however, aren't so lucky.

As stated many times earlier, I pretty much stopped playing poker online for May and June. There was no conscious decision, but life took over and I had stuff to do. On top of that, when I DID play, I really wasn't that interested. I'd jump in a cash game and then realize I didn't give a crap, and either donk off my chips or leave. I'd jump in an SnG or a 2+R WSOP satellite and about 5 min in I'd be wondering what was on TV, or how much airfare to Banff in December was, or some other distraction... and quickly lose. I'm sure the other players that are in these ultra-low buy-in tourneys didn't help either... something about someone calling a pre-flop raise with 95s and then getting a full house against your kings can suck the joy out of you.

Anyway, then I realized the WSOP was actually starting, and chances were running out. I just really wanted to see if I could luck my way into a week in Vegas. So I started playing seriously... well, not right away. I played some satellites to the 150 guarantee and still got distracted... I mean, The Daily Show and Colbert Report were on! Then I played one when nothing else of interest was going on, and with just my initial buy-in, insta-re-buy, and add-on, I got the seat to the 150. THIS is what refocused me. I actually had a reason other than $20 to play. I was hoping for a field in the 3000 range... maybe as high as 5000. Nope, over 7000. I figured I could MAYBE pull a top 10% finish with a field that big. I knew at least 1/2 - 2/3 would be looooooose and go out fast, so I just had to hold on through the start. But to make sure, I left the TV off, all other programs off, and shut the cat out of the room when he started meowing at me. No food... and just a glass of water in front of me. I focused solely on the game.

And I remembered why I used to be not half-bad at this online poker thing. I've been going "online" since I was 13, when I got my first modem and hooked up to my first online service, sat in my first chat, played my first MUD. Then I found BBSes, and found they were free (one day I might speak of the $1,000 phone bill from that first online service... mom wasn't happy). I played BBS games, chatted, message boarded, etc.. Then came this Internet fad, and the chats were bigger, the mail faster, the games multiplayer.

I have a pretty good ability to read people in everyday circumstances. I've pegged people's history and personality to a tee within hours of meeting them. I instinctively know if I'll get along with someone, or if they're full of shit. I occasionally speak about someone while mimicking their mannerisms and speech and freak people out with the accuracy. I've ALWAYS been able to adapt to my social situations if given enough time to pick up the "vibe". This translated well online. When I started playing poker online, I found I was pretty good at reading people... as long as I'd been paying attention.

When I wasn't paying attention, I had no idea what people were doing. I'd think a huge raise was a sign of weakness when they'd flopped a set, I'd think a check was prelude to a raise when they had garbage. Since I wasn't paying attention anyway, I also wasn't betting for information, happy to get a free card or get away from a hand. I became loose-passive. Once I was focused solely on the game, I tuned in again. I had a far better idea of when someone was bluffing one way or the other, and I made a point of making sure. Sure, I'm not 100%, and for all I know, I could be dead wrong on any hand I win without seeing my opponents cards, but it's a far sight better than not paying attention at all... or half-assing it.

In the end, focus + some luck = 358th place out of 7,377. No package, but a damn respectable showing for me. I've decided to minimize distractions when I want to win. Although to be fair, the last two blogger tourneys, I've had the Jays game on in the background, and then The Daily Show and Colbert Report (some things never change)... plus, the talk in those games is distracting enough as it is.


As for the 150, looking back with the glory of hindsight, I'm sure I could have cashed, except for one thing. I got scared. I only had ONE laydown I was unsure of, and it was a big one. I had top two pair, but my opponent was calling all my bets... because they weren't aggressive enough. If I'd gone all-in on the flop, I probably could have scared him off, even though he had me covered almost 3:1. I figured I had him beat at the flop, and bet half the pot. He called. Turn was nothing, I bet 1/2 again... he called. River paired the low card from the flop, and I chickened out. I put forth a NOTHING bet... something along the lines of 1/10 of the pot. As soon as I clicked "bet", I knew I was screwed. He raises to put me all-in... and I go in the tank. I have top two pair, but now there's a set possibilty, a full house possibility, or even quads (flush as well I believe, but I was sure he didn't have it based on the bets). I've put in about 20k in chips and have 13k left. With the blinds and antes, a win would put me at 75k and in the top 10 in chips. If it was just for cash, I would have called. It was for a WSOP package though.. $12k (AND a PokerStars shirt :) ).... I folded. I hated myself for it. I got scared... and I didn't know this guy. As I kept playing and watching him, I grew pretty sure I had him beat. He was tight, but not super-tight... and he knew how and when to use his massive chip lead. Then again, if he had the set or boat (or quads), I would have kicked myself for being a donkey.

From that point on, I was fighting to stay afloat. I came back from the brink a few times, built up some chips when I needed to... but never fully recovered. In fact, I don't think my M was that high again. I started playing scared. My goal became "get your M above 10", not "get the chip lead". So I tightened up, got passive, and eventually my luck ran out. If I'd stayed aggressive, I'd have survived longer. I would have had more chips. My new super-tight image was enough to scare away people when I had great hands, but I was terrified of being outdrawn so I was happy with occasional blinds and antes. So I went out 358th, when I know I could have gone deeper. Fear leads to tight-passive, tight-passive leads to fighting against the blinds, the blinds will eventually win. Be the master of your poker fate.


"Cum on dude." What is with the scammers and mooches? Do they really think I'm going to give them "Just $2" or "$1.10" or ".90"? I have to admit, it's amusing as hell to string them along, especially the persistent ones with the terrible spelling. What really got me though, was that at least 3 hung around the WWdN last night. Once they realized nobody was going to pay them, they decided that they'd stick around and watch, and try to shoot the shit. Sweating the players, commenting on hands... it was kind of surreal.

My favourite exchange of the night though, had to be at the final table (I'm paraphrasing).

Iakaris raises HermWarfare all-in. Herm calls, and the hands are shown. Iakaris has DA HAMMER! Everyone has a good laugh, is rightly shocked when the hammer doesn't hold up, etc.. Since Iak had Herm well covered at that point, it wasn't a huge deal. One of the railbirds chirps in:

"Ha! Raising with 72o! Such a donkey raise. You're no GUS HANSEN." (spelling and punctuation corrected).

For about 3 seconds, the table goes silent.

Iak: Uhhh.. yah... welcome to the party. You're obviously new here.

Then came all comments praising the use of the mighty hammer and how shocked we were that the best hand lost, and that Gus Hansen lacked the testicular fortitude to raise with the hammer.


And with that, I'm done. Maybe at The Mookie tonight, and I'm hoping to be able to squeeze in a couple WSOP attempts before Sunday... but life is shoving itself in the way again. Stupid friends and their wanting to do stuff and go places... and me planning things :).

It's all about perspective.

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