Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Staying Live

In one of those WSOP freerolls yesterday. All the sites got ’em. No spinach to enter (just frequent player points). This one saw nearly 400 entrants, with just the top three getting a spot in a weekend satellite (from which the top two go to Vegas). Ended up tilting with the other Quixotes for nearly a couple of hours before busting out around 60th.

My play was passable for 100 hands or so, although I wouldn’t rate it too special. Truly it had been more serendipity than savvy that had me where I was (sitting around 40th with 7500 chips or so w/60-70 players left). I’d doubled through once early with aces vs. kings. Happened upon quads another time, winning a decent pot. Then I get rubbed out but fast, the last hand being not a little disgraceful for your humble servant.

After having folded a couple of rounds’ worth I finally find myself with 9c9hin late position. The blinds were 100/200. The UTG made a min. raise to 400 and it folded around to me. I thought about the reraise, then decided to play it safe and smooth call. The remaining players all folded, and the flop came 5d4s4c. The UTG promptly made a healthy bet of 1200 chips (just over the size of the pot). With absolutely no evidence to support the theory that he was making some sort of play with overcards, I somehow surmised he was and put in 3000, effectively committing myself to the pot. Having me well-covered, he reraised all-in and I made my second (or third) error of the hand and called to see his JdJs. There were no undeserved miracles on the turn or river, and it was the bum’s rush for me.

As the experts (and even the not-so-expert) frequently point out, calling off one’s last chips is nearly always a bad idea, particularly when there is no pressing need to do so. But there it is. Not looking for excuses here, but it has been a few months since I regularly played tourneys. Finding (like a lot of folks, I gather) that ring games provide a steadier stream of scratch, it has been some time since I’ve played more than a couple in a week. I had some success a few months back, making some final tables in tourneys roughly the size of the one I was in yesterday. (My best finish was 2nd of 390 in a $1 PL tourney, netting $58 for 4-5 hours’ effort.) Looking back, I realize now that those triumphs were mainly the result of a combination of stone-cold patience, a few decent decisions here and there, and a hell of a lot of luck.

When I play tourneys now I occasionally will find myself struggling to “stay live” at the table. Absent some premium hands early on, I tend to keep my head well inside the shell for the first couple of levels, with the lack of action usually inducing an undesirable lethargy I must consciously fight against when I’m eventually compelled to play. There are at least a couple of negative consequences of sitting out multiple orbits in a tourney. One is how folding 15-20 hands tends to skew your idea of a playable hand. It’s something like how a couple of months alone suddenly makes you wonder on a Friday afternoon what the frumpy receptionist with the twitchy eye is doing come punch-out time. (Thus did those nines look a little too shapely to me, I fear.) Even worse, the rest of the table stops worrying about you. You no longer rate their concern, quickly becoming an easy mark who’s getting easier with each hand.

By “staying live” I don’t refer simply to continuing to pay attention to the proceedings. Rather, I mean making the conscious effort to belong at the table . . . to be a part of the game (even if you aren’t in a particular hand) and to ensure that others around the table know that you’re there and may well be vying for their chips at any moment. In ring games it is also preferable to remain “live” as much as possible -- most particularly in no limit games -- though hardly as vital as when you're merrily gliding down the progressively steeper slope of a tournament.

So avoid Shamus’s shame and try always to stay live. Or become dead money.

Photo: “EKG - Electrocardiogram,” public domain.

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