Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Dish Best Served Cold

Plotting Revenge Is FunDr. Alan Schoonmaker’s Your Worst Poker Enemy (2007) offers a lot of advice about how to recognize and deal with one’s emotions when at the table. In a section about anger, Schoonmaker lists some of the ways anger can negatively affect one’s game -- e.g., we read others less well, we become impatient, we show vulnerability, etc. The last item on the list refers to how anger sometimes causes us to try to seek revenge, say, against a particular player. Here Schoonmaker shares a Chinese proverb: “When you sent out for revenge, dig two graves, one for your enemy and one for yourself.”

I had a humorous situation come up recently at a PLO25 6-max table that could be interpreted as my having been unduly influenced by a desire for revenge. I’m not going to deny that I wasn’t entirely motivated by my hopes of “getting back” at a certain player, but to be frank the whole scene was a lot more lighthearted than that sounds. Some funny chat, too, so here goes:

I’d bought in short ($10) and after twenty non-eventful hands or so had dribbled down to $7.65. Non-eventful for me, at least. A guy across the table -- Mirabell -- had caught a great rush during that same stretch, going from $35 or so to over $100. Everyone else at the table was low, the second-biggest stack being that of Witwould who sat on my right with a little under $20.

(As always, I’ve changed the names. The chat, however, is all cut-and-pasted verbatim.)

Then came a hand where I’d limped in with 4h4s2hAc. All checked the J-2-x flop, then a four on the turn got me interested. A deuce on the river meant I’d filled up, but unfortunately I lost my tiny stack to Witwould for whom the river made jacks full.

I probably would’ve forgotten all about the hand, but as I went to rebuy I noticed some chat down below:

Witwould: nice hand
Witwould: thank you very much

I knew what the guy was up to, but I decided to play dumb.

Short-Stacked Shamus: ?
Witwould: i was complimenting myself
Witwould: no one else was offering praise and i thought it was a nice hand

While I make it rule not to engage in this stuff too much, something possessed me to express offense at my opponent’s efforts to be witty.

Short-Stacked Shamus: it was okay . . .
Short-Stacked Shamus: but not worth such a show
Witwould: meh
Short-Stacked Shamus: yes, meh

That’s when I decided to rebuy for the maximum, $25. Might as well have some ammo, should anything else arise with my new buddy.

A few more rounds went by, then I had a hand against the big stack, Mirabell, in which I’d flopped top two (aces and nines) in EP and made a big, somewhat risky check-raise against him. He didn’t rush to respond, eventually hitting the “TIME” button as he contemplated how he wanted to deal with my surprise bet. As we all waited, Witwould decided to chirp up:

Witwould: TIME means fold

Mirabell did fold. Then came a little more chat.

Mirabell: no it actually doesn’t
Short-Stacked Shamus: not always
Mirabell: it means I have a very good hand
Mirabell: and need to think about
Mirabell: what I am going to do
Witwould: well you folded didn't you
Witwould: couldn’t have been that good
Mirabell: well you’re a moron aren’t you?
Witwould: jury’s still out on that one me thinks

Short while later Witwould manages to win a $35 pot after making a questionable turn call, then sucking out a king-high flush. Feels so good about it he again chooses to celebrate in the chat box: “smart people 0 - moron 1.”

About 20 more hands go by. I’m involved in a few smallish pots, winning some, losing some. No one is chatting. Am still sitting at around $25 when I have a very fortunate hand in which I hold A-7-x-x, flop comes A-A-7, and I end up nearly doubling up against a guy with pocket sevens. My stack is now a little over $48. Then comes the big hand.

I’m in the BB where I’m dealt 5cTs9h9c. Folds around to Mirabell (still with $100 or so) who calls from the cutoff. The button -- who has $13 -- calls, and Witwould (with $37) completes from the SB. So the pot is just a buck when the flop comes 8h7s6s, giving me the nut straight.

This might be one of those weird situations in PLO where one flops the nuts but should perhaps consider getting out. Witwould checked, and I decided to check as well to see what the others would do. Mirabell checked, and the player on the button bet $1 (the pot). Then Witwould decides to check-raise pot ($4 more).

I’m pretty well convinced Witwould is on a draw. The fact that I have two nines also makes it a little more likely -- though not definite -- I’m the only one with the nut straight here. I decide just to call. Mirabell folds, then the button repops for the rest of his stack (about $10 more). Witwould instantly reraises his entire stack as well, making the pot about $56 total. I owe about $30 to stick around.

What would you do here? Is folding an option? For me, it was not. For one, I’m not good enough yet to let go of these kinds of hands. And yes, I was perhaps more than a little motivated by revenge against Witwould. I called.

The button player had 5dAsJd4s -- a low straight & the nut flush draw. I expected to see that. I also thought Witwould had to have a set. But no. He’s got 5h5sJc9s -- a 9-high straight & the nine-high flush draw. Ugh. Clearly he didn’t see my sticking around here as a possibility.

This is all very nice. I only have to dodge six spades (I’m holding one) & the three tens to win it all. And I do, thus taking the $88 pot.

Feeling pretty fine, I can’t resist typing “gh” when the dust settles. Witwould hastily exited the premises without further comment. That’s when Mirabell made my night:

Mirabell: mabye he shoulda used the TIME button
Short-Stacked Shamus: lol
Mirabell: :)



Blogger Klopzi said...

I've read that book by Schoonmaker, along with many others, and I too have found myself seeking revenge.

In fact, revenge is a huge driving force for me at the tables. However, I don't find myself becoming unhinged while trying to get even against my chosen opponent.

Instead, I use my opponent as a focus for all my poker energy. I don't mind winning pots against the other players at the table. However, I know that the time will come when I'll find myself in a pot with my nemesis.

And it's then, after having studied his (or her) every move since the start of the session, that I strike and get back all that I originally lost to my nemesis...and then some.

As long as you aim to get your revenge in a cold and calculated manner, instead of emotionally flinging chips in an attempt to buy back your dignity, I find that revenge is a viable poker tool.

1/22/2008 1:18 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I have assheadedly gunned for revenge on individual players several times in my day as a poker player. The vast majority of those times I just ended up getting stacked or eliminated myself. It is good advice to avoid making poker personal at all costs and at all times.

Nice post, funny stuff.

1/22/2008 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Buzz said...

I too have read Schoonmaker, good book - I have his new one on order.

I have to say thanks for this great blog entry - after a bad night at the tables this gave me several laughs and now I feel a whole lot better!

1/23/2008 6:28 AM  
Blogger jj said...

Nice to share the frustration! Cheers, jj.

1/24/2008 5:50 PM  

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