Oh, I won the hand. Of course I did. Why else would I bring it up?
I generally keep a level head at the tables. (Heck, just yesterday I was writing about I wasn’t prone to taking too much risk at the tables.) I’ll make mistakes, of course, but usually am able to avoid any real serious blunders. Looking back on yesterday’s session, I can see how a combination of factors led to my slipping into a wild little haze of irrational play right near the end of the session that led to the Worst Hand. Yes, I was most definitely on tilt.
In Your Worst Poker Enemy (2007), Al Schoonmaker includes a terrific chapter about “Preventing and Handling Tilt.” I’m rereading it again today, and am finding myself appreciating it even more after yesterday’s incident. He gives a list of tips for avoiding tilt, including keeping good records, identifying “your triggers and warning signals,” asking yourself questions about your motives as you “constantly scrutinize both your play and your emotional state,” avoiding the impulse to try to get even, and, of course, leaving the game at the first signs of tilt.
Running through the entire chapter is the general notion that the player who is on tilt frequently doesn’t realize it -- thus is it very difficult to leave the game at the first signs, since by definition tilt is a condition generally unrecognizable by the person suffering from it. Writes Schoonmaker, “Some people have even called a brief period of tilt ‘alien-hand syndrome.’ They feel that their brains have lost control over their hands. They watch, almost helplessly, while their hand does something stupid with their chips or cards.”
Man, that was me all right.
Have another book here on my shelf called The Poker Mindset by Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger (also published in 2007) which features a chapter on tilt. The authors talk about how “tilt has many layers and nuances” and “can lead to the deterioration of a player’s game into a loose uncontrolled mess.” They also do a good job identifying different types of tilt, including loose tilt (playing too many hands), passive tilt (checking and calling, checking and calling), formulaic tilt (too much “by the book”), aggressive tilt (betting and raising, betting and raising), tight tilt (losing confidence), and FPS tilt (where becomes overly affected by Mike Caro’s “Fancy Play Syndrome”).
During my little tilty period yesterday, I did spend a few hands in the “passive tilt” phase, then had one hand where I probably demonstrated “FPS tilt,” then, in the Worst Hand Ever, it was pure “aggressive tilt.”
The session had begun with two fairly rough beats that took most of my original $50 buy-in. The first came on the very first hand. I’d been dealt A-A-x-x single-suited and raised preflop, getting a caller from a short stack who had about $15 to start. Flopped an ace and bet it, and my opponent called me with a gutshot to a wheel. He’d get there on the turn, at which time we got the rest of his chips in the middle. So a quick hit down to $35. About four hands later I lost most of that (about $30) after flopping a straight, then trapping a different opponent into putting his entire stack in on the turn with bottom set. He filled up on the river, and I was gonna be playing uphill for a while.
Managed to battle back (thanks largely to the very poor play of the short-stacker who’d won that first hand), and was close to even for a long stretch. Then I tumbled back down after losing three or four hands against a new, crafty player who’d come to the table. There was some misfortune involved in those hands, but really the guy just plain outplayed me (repeatedly), basically earning the maximum from me on his made hands.
So I was losing, but really was doing just fine mentally. Then came a weird succession of unlikely -- and costly -- bad beats. Not gonna recount them in detail, but there were no less than three hands, each against different players, in which my opponent rivered me with three, four, and eight outs respectively.
That’s what unhinged me. Might’ve been different if all of the beats had come from one player, but it seemed like the whole table was full of lucky SOBs who’d managed to pilfer my chips unfairly (so went my irrational train of thought). That’s when I passed through a short period of “passive tilt,” had a dumb blind-vs.-blind hand in which I’d flopped trips then mangled it (my “FPS tilt” hand), then cruised seemlessly into that scary “aggressive tilt” that led to the Worst Hand Ever.
Actually won and lost a couple of big pots first before getting to the hand, including receiving one absolute gift of a hand when my overpair of kings somehow was good against two other players who checked down a fairly big pot. Then came the hand. For those who are squeamish or easily upset, I ask you now to look away.
I had just about exactly $50 when the hand began (having rebought). I’d had a second table going for some of the session -- where things had been going better -- and so overall was only down about $25 at this point.
The hand started with me limping UTG with . (Already suspect, I know.) The fellow in the cutoff raised pot to $2.25, the button called, then a player in the small blind who only had $2.55 to start the hand reraised all in. It folded to me and as I knew the betting was no longer open to further reraises, I went ahead and made the call, as did the cutoff and button. So there are four players in the hand vying for the main pot of $10 or so, three of whom would be playing for a possible side pot.
The flop came . No flush draws. Not much in the way of straight draws, although someone could have a Broadway wrap. I have top and bottom pair. I checked, and the cutoff -- the original raiser -- checked as well. Then the button bet $6 into the dry side pot.
I’d seen the button make a couple of stabs at orphaned pots before, as well as some other cheeky plays, and so in my unreasoning state decided this must also be a similarly insincere bet. So what did I do? Reraise pot! (Channelling Jamie Pickering, there.) I pumped it to $28.20, it folded back to the button, and without hesitation he reraised me pot right back.
Oof. I have just $18 left, the pot has swelled to $80, and I know, know, know I am beat (by a set of jacks, probably). Well, I say that now. At the time I had no idea what was happening. My brain had lost control of my hands. So I called.
What did my opponent have? A set of aces, actually. He’d just called the preflop raise rather than reveal his hand with a reraise, and had trapped me fairly soundly. He held to my . So with an flop, what are my chances?
Well, you know already how the story ends. The came on the turn, improving me to a whopping 10%. And the came on the river, giving me the straight and the entire three-digit pot.
Suddenly up for the session, I left immediately, almost frightened by my actions and the redonkulous good fortune of that undeserved runner-runner miracle.
As I said at the start, the Worst Hand Ever. Which I’m sure I wouldn’t be writing about today had it turned out the way it was supposed to.
But I did win, and so am therefore able to share it with all of you as an object lesson. Watch for the signs of tilt! Don’t put yourself in these spots. Just because someone else hits that three-outer on you, don’t make that an excuse to go for your own three-outers!
I feel like some sort of penance is definitely in order here. Think I might just have to take a day or two off from playing altogether after that applesauce. Maybe longer. Give me a chance to reread these chapters. Anyhow, I hope sharing my embarrassing play helps someone out there.
Now that I think about it, though, the fact that I won the hand doesn’t really help that much in the lesson-learnin’ department, does it? Ignore that last part of the story, everyone! Wipe it from yr minds, if you know what’s good for you!
(I am a crazy person.)