Friday, October 22, 2010

Making good decisions in a cruel world...

Although my profits do not show it, my tournament game has had an exceptional improvement lately. I have made the top 20% of the field 9 out of my last 10 tournaments, unfortunately I only cashed 3.

I bubbled one of the Caesars Classic events last night. Although I am always emotional when these damn things end for me last night will go down as one of the more brutal endings. I played one of my best games yesterday, making only 2 or 3 identifiable errors. The field was 232 with 27 to the money. By the time there were 38 left the average stack was 61,000 and I was sitting with 108k. I was not worried about not making the money. Although the pay-outs were not so great I was looking forward to collecting some more POY points. I felt good...I felt I must be running well as this would be my third cash in a row (last Thursday night I placed 7th in a field of 113 at the Venetian daily).

Although I had a hardy stack I was moved to a table where two other players had stacks greater that 250k. Luckily they were immediately to my right and did not cause me any trouble. In the number 8 seat ( I was in seat 5) was a European maniac with about 45-50k. He was involved in every pot, calling, betting, and raising with trash. The table hated him. Of course I am the white knight to the rescue.

Notable Hand #1

Blinds are $1,000/$2,000 with 300 antes

I'm in the cut-off with AKoff. I raise 2.5x. The villain calls in the Big blind.

Flop: Ac 5c Js

I bet 2/3 the pot. The villain shoves and I call. He turns up Qc6c. I am a 60% favorite..he hits the flush.

The table was clearly disappointed I didn't knock him out. Especially the guy on my right who was holding about 275k in chips. I found this guy very funny as he was a overly flamboyant Hispanic gay male, almost like he walked out of a reality TV show. He was a very good and ruthless poker player. I remembered him vividly from one other time I played with him at the Mandalay a few years back. It was incredibly entertaining watching the European Maniac and the Gay chip leader bantering snidely with each other.

I'm down to 60k. but its okay. I'm even keel and over the next 30 minutes build my self back up to 91k again. The villain of course is still involved in every pot pissing the chips he won from me away to everyone else.

Notable Hand #2

Blinds are $1200/$2400 with 400 antes

I'm in middle position with AJs. I again raise 2.5x the be blind. The button, my maniac nemesis, calls. He has about 70k.

Flop: J82 rainbow

I bet 2/3 the pot. He jams. I insta-call. He shows J4. I am ~90% favorite. I fade the turn. The river is a 4.

The disgust from the rest of the table was audible. Since he was so despised I think it hurt them almost as much it did me.

With blinds $1500/$3000 I busted #29 with a 30k short stack shoving with 99 vs some other dudes AK. Again a favorite, albeit slight, but didn't survive. It felt as if the Gods of poker had it out for me last night as the board looked as if I was going to dodge the AK completely. Q-10-6-3 was the board. The Jack hit the river giving him the nut straight. It would have been less cruel to just have flopped the Ace and ended the torture.

I took this loss really hard, much like I took my loss at the Bicycle. I'll be honest I was considering quitting poker. I really only play once a week, and I look forward to it all week long. Its a bit of an operation to play because I'm leaving my wife alone with the kids. When I do play I give it my best. I am focused 90% of the time. After playing for 10+ hours, especially doing well most of the tourney, and then to bubble is a real let down. It would be so much easier to shrug it off if I could play one the next day...but I have to wait a whole week again...Honestly I considered briefly last night quitting poker entirely. Maybe this really is just gambling...which I don't do. You lose in gambling and I do not like to lose. I don't play black jack, I don't play craps, I don't play roulette, I don't play slots. I don't even sports bet. All I do is play poker. A sport that supposedly involves strategy and skill.

I have to say when people say poker is gambling I get very irritated. I guess it depends how you define gambling. I define gambling as playing a game where the odds are always against you and you hope to get lucky. If I could build a casino and make a game where my casino was a 60 or 90% favorite every time the maniac played it I would be rich. Sure the house would lose some of the time...but at the end of the day the house always wins.

This morning the clouds have lifted (in my brain, not in Las Vegas) and I see a bit more clearly. I am making the right decisions far more often than not and that is what matters. I certainly would rather lose making the right decisions than making the wrong ones. Eventually it will work out for me if I keep playing like I have been.

I would have never thought poker would help me be a better physician, but I see patients trying to make good decisions all the time and bad things sometimes happen to them anyway. Often when things head south so do their decisions...the irony is good decisions are more important when things are not going well (see Mike Caro's threshold of misery). I find myself these days more frequently discussing poker with my patients using analogies to their lives and health. Maybe I have a book in me.

I take solace that I am playing well. I'm not about to give up yet. I have a good 6 ranked tourneys I want to play this month, including the main event of the DSE...I'm going to start ignoring my results, and focus my energy more on my decisions, taking note and comfort in my good ones and learning from my poor ones. The world can be cruel, and there is nothing we can do about that. The only thing we have control over is our decisions and doing our best to make the right ones, regardless if the sun is shining or a Tsunami is on the way.


  1. All you can do Doc is constantly put yourself in a spot that favors you. Poker is a long term game and is very difficult to defeat once a week. Some how you defy the odds every week and I'm truly impressed.

    Especially because your results are all tournament based. Tournament poker is a monster man. You are constantly "slaying the tournament dragon" so to speak, and should be proud of your play.

    I am a player that believes poker isn't gambling, but...... i am also a player that believes tournament poker is sometimes about timely gambles. situational gambling. i.e. shoving knowing your a dog but have 10 plus outs with more than one way to win the pot, also taking a gamble for a chip lead with 10-15 outs. Everyone's goal is to win the tournament, but it cant be put on a pedestal.

    Constantly you need to analyze your game and mentally decide: What am i playing for? Do i play to win or do i play for blank?

    I have mentioned to you before about how poker may be your sanctuary away from every day life, and because of this your passion runs thick in your blood. It's like preparing all week for the big game. Unfortunately in this game just like every other game there can only be one winner.

    I would be much happier with a consistent game and placing in the top 10 every week in a tournament. It just WILL NOT HAPPEN. As good as you play variance will get you no matter what. Every good player knows this and makes it OK to get knocked out of the tournament because there is only going to be one winner in this thing and its no longer going to be them. It still sucks because losing sucks. It is what we have been taught forever, it's not OK to lose. It just has to be OK when you play poker because it's going to happen a lot. Now its your job to not be a consistent loser, but losing will happen.

    Of course 2nd 3rd 4th 5th-10th in huge 10K tournaments pays great, but in the majority of the tournaments you are playing and i am playing in the first prize is the one that matters. There are only 10-20 10,000 dollar championship events all year and i have never played in any of them. I am sure, not positive that you have never played in any of them either. Those are the tournaments where the competition is so elite you can be more than pleased in any positive result where you are netting profit.

    Never give poker up. If this game was easy everyone would do it. I know it seems like sometimes every idiot does play it, but its OK those are the guys you want there. You will get your win eventually. Unfortunately it just may take 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, or more. I personally think you have one coming to you in the next month, but we will see.

    Stay positive!!!!! For a guy that is always smiles and very friendly at the table secretly you are battling demons inside that make you very emotional about winning/ losing. Which means that when you finally win one i suppose you will be very emotional about winning. Just constantly keep putting yourself in spots to win doc and the positive results will keep flowing into your pocket.

  2. I also have a question for you if you have pocket Aces in a tournament 9 handed, you shove all in UTG for lets say 12-15 BB. How many callers do you want?

  3. For AA...Well if you want to stay a >50% favcorite you want no more than 4 callers otherwise you start becoming a dog.

    I appreciate your confidence in me Matt. I hope you are right. Like all of us my biggest demon is my greatest strength...the overachiever in me. I can be very hard on myself when I do not succeed. Its kind of wierd since usually if I do not do well at something I can fix it, in poker thats not always the case and so it leaves your brain sort of gorked out a bit. I am a very emotional being...its how I have been wired since child hood...another one of my double edged traits. My emotions put me well in tune with others and so my strengths in poker are the situational decisions I make. I have done pretty good at eliminating tilt from my game even when I am emotional, its the night after the tourney ends that I need to work on...nights like these make for a rough sleep for me!