Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taking It Seriously

I made a mistake the other day.  I realize that a poker player making a mistake isn't headline news.  But a poker player admitting he made a mistake may be.

The hand:  We were at the very early stages of a tournament.  Most of the players, including myself, had quite a few chips in relation to the blinds.  I was on the button and everyone folded around to my pocket aces.  I raised the standard amount, the small blind folded and the big blind called.  We went to the flop heads up.  The flop was Kxx rainbow.  He checked, I bet about 3/4 of the pot, he called.  The turn was a Jack.  Again, he checked, I bet about 2/3 of the pot, he called.  The river was a brick.  He checked, I put in a value bet of less than half the pot.  He shoved.

I erroneously called for several reasons:

1.  The player in the hand with me is an aggressive player entirely capable of shoving with nothing.
2.  According to traditional wisdom I was "pot committed".
3.  The philosophy of "chip up or chip out" early in a tournament.
4.  My REAL reason.  I'll get to that in a minute.

Let's look at these reasons to call:

1.  Making a call against an aggressive player capable of shoving with nothing is sound reasoning but not enough of a reason for me to have made this call.
2.  The traditional wisdom of "pot committed" is just plain wrong in a lot of cases and this was one of those cases.  In reality I only had about half my chips in the pot.  In any case, if you're beat (with no draws remaining) and you make the call it is wrong even if you have 90% of your chips in the pot.
3.  The "chip up or chip out" philosophy/strategy only applies if there is another tournament/game you can move to if you bust out of this one.  I had full intentions of going home at the end of this tournament no matter what the results.  And, let's face it, this philosophy is pretty thin in any case.

Now for the real reason I made this foolish call:

My wife isn't a poker player and she admittedly doesn't understand a lot of the strategy and math involved in poker.  But she understands human nature and she knows me extremely well.  When I got home and told my sad story to her she immediately pounced on the REAL mistake I made---I wasn't taking it seriously.

One thing I've noticed about my poker experience is that  I almost always win at cash games.  I haven't run the numbers but I believe I come out ahead at about 80% of the cash games I play.  The reason:  I take it seriously.  One of the reasons I don't often play cash games is that I'm exhausted after only a few hours of play.  Why?  I'm playing with real money and since I grew up poor I respect real money.  Consequently, I am concentrating on everything that happens during every hand.  That's why I have a stellar record playing cash games.  I take it seriously.

The tournament in question was a "free roll" at the Beau.  I actually invested $10 into the tournament for extra chips.  Now I'm not a wealthy man but $10 hardly constitutes a substantial investment.  Consequently, I wasn't taking it seriously.  In a cash game I wouldn't have made that particular call.  Period.

Going forward I plan to take each session of poker seriously no matter what the investment.  After all, I'm investing my time and need to take it seriously or don't bother with it.

Now, I'm not saying I won't make any foolish calls (or other plays) in the future because I know better than that.  But I won't be making foolish mistakes simply because I'm not taking it seriously.

See you at the tables.

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