Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Leaving the PLO Party

Leaving the PLO PartyLast month I alluded a couple of times to my having endured a downswing at the pot-limit Omaha tables. Really came down to one horrific week, kicked off by a single, enormous pot (the largest ever for me) that I lost when a river card that gave me aces full also happened to give my opponent a straight flush. Followed that with some more misfortune, compounded by poor decisions and other tilty behavior.

Having felt as though I’d momentarily “lost the plot” (so to speak), I decided the best course was just to pull out a big chunk of my online roll, leaving myself a few hundy each on PokerStars and Full Tilt, and take a short break to refocus. I slowly made my way back and played break even poker for the last part of December, though still wasn’t feeling particularly confident about my decision-making or reads. Ended the year just shy of my best-ever total (2006), a record I’d have easily broken had I avoided that bad patch.

January 1 dawned and sometime that afternoon I rejoined a PLO game (6-handed, $25 max. buy-in). After an hour or so I was down a bit, rebought and built back up some, then lost what amounted to about a $70 coin flip.

If I remember the hand correctly, it had folded to me in the cutoff and I raised pot (85 cents) with J-9-7-7 double-suited (spades and hearts, I think). The button called, as did both blinds, then the flop came 7c5s4s. The blinds checked to me, I bet the pot, and it folded back to the big blind who reraised pot.

That he’s flopped a straight is pretty much a given. But I also know I have a monster draw here and am probably a favorite. Best case is he has a random 8-6-x-x hand (or maybe 6-3-x-x) and no redraws, meaning I am actually about 2-to-1 to win the hand. Worst case is he’s flopped the straight and has a better spade flush draw; there I am a little shy of 40% to win.

If I were writing a 2+2 book, at this point I’d inject a couple of pages of math to justify my decision to gamble here. If I reshove, there’s no way he’s folding -- that is, I’m guaranteed to be playing for my whole stack (about $35 at the time). In the book I’d go on about how there was a 40% chance he had the straight and no redraw, a 30% chance he had the straight and a higher flush draw, a 20% chance he has just a flush draw, and a 10% chance he’s bluffing. (Actually, there’s no way he’s bluffing, but they always include the 10% for bluffing so I will, too.) And then I’d have a table showing (.67 x .40) + (.38 x .30) + (.32 x .20) + (1.00 x .10) = .268 + .114 + .064 + .10 = 0.546 or 54.6% and thereby justify my taking the gamble.

I mean, hey, if I take this proposition 20 times, I stand to win 11, right? (Silly stuff, I know.)

Of course, I ain’t thinking any of that crap. I’m thinking this guy thinks he’s cute check-raising me, and there’s no friggin’ way I’m stepping aside. Besides, I’m probably the dadgummed favorite. Reraise pot!

Indeed, he’s only got the straight without any spades in his hand. But I miss out, and lose the pot.

Oh, well. I found another table and played some more, winning back a little, then losing a little more. Then I realized something.

I wasn’t enjoying myself. Not at all.

Imagine you’re at a party, say one of those where you were sort of obligated to go but didn’t really know anybody all that well and probably would’ve skipped it if doing so wouldn’t have made you feel guilty afterwards. Say a work colleague invited you, and you couldn’t get out of it.

Now let’s say the night before the party you develop some sort of unpleasant sinus infection. Not bad enough to cause you to miss work, but nevertheless requiring some heavy duty medication to keep you on your feet. You make it through the next day all right, during which you see your colleague and reassure him you’ll be at the party.

After a bit of hassle finding the place, you finally arrive and it isn’t until you walk in the door that you realize you cannot drink thanks to the medication you’ve taken. (Sometimes you ignore such warnings, but you know tonight you won’t be doing so.)

Someone brought limoncello.An hour passes. Everyone is having a terrific time. There’s imported beer, red and white wine, and a dude in the kitchen is mixing drinks, too, for anyone who wants ’em. One couple even brought some sort of homemade liqueur called limoncello that takes a month to make, uses lemon rinds, water, sugar, and Everclear or something. After another hour a few of the ladies have begun dipping into that, the drink’s potency evidenced by the fact that one of them keeps telling you when she passes by that she likes your hat.

The music is loud, mostly focusing on pop hits that came just a few years after you last listened to or cared for such stuff. You’re trying to have a good time, getting to know a few folks via brief, shouted conversations here and there. At some point you are standing there with your glass of water realizing you’ve been cornered by this one dude who keeps pointing at you with his Heineken bottle.

What is he saying? Seems to be going on about how 41 states cannot balance their budgets and who’s gonna ask for a bailout next and can you believe how the cable companies screw us and he’s been looking into six-month CDs and oh MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING HERE?

That’s sort of how I felt sitting there at the PLO table on New Year’s Day. Just wasn’t diggin’ this party no more. So I left.

Probably a good idea, given the size of my now smallish online bankroll. Went over to the $0.50/$1.00 limit hold’em tables and had fun passing chips back and forth. Began winning, too (making it more fun, natch).

Have stuck around at those tables for the first few days of the new year, and I think I’ll probably remain in that neighborhood. For a while, anyway. The music is quieter. Most appear to be having just soft drinks and coffee.

Gotta let this medicine do its work.

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Anonymous Zerbet said...

Great post, sir. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

Nothing quite like remembering some of us do this for fun, and what the proper reaction is when the fun stops.

1/06/2009 12:46 PM  
Blogger John said...

This was one of your most enjoyable posts. Great description of the party!

1/06/2009 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hsve been playing pot limit Omaha almost exclusively (as in 'once a week I might spend 10 minutes at another game') and I can only say that friends don't let friends play PLO.
I found my format in 10 seater double-or-nothing SnGs and I keep hitting the money, as opposed to cash games, although when I stick to Slotboom's short-stack approach, I'm doing fine. That, however, is a very narrow margin game.
The DoNs allow me the double up by sneaking into the money and have similarities with cash table short-stacking.
Having sid that, I can completely understand ou. PLO is a twisted game.

1/06/2009 6:49 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, guys. Oh, I still like PLO, Erwin -- just felt a little out of sorts & that I wasn't playing as well as I could. Will be back some day, I'm sure.

1/06/2009 7:48 PM  
Blogger cheer_dad said...

Whew, I started reading there and was gravely concerned that the doors to Hard-Boiled Poker were closing! Thank goodness it's only a break from PLO, albeit temporary! : )
To quote Knish, "Happens to everyone. Time to time, everyone goes bust. You'll be back in the game before you know it."

1/07/2009 8:06 AM  
Blogger kelly said...

Really enjoyed that post, Shamus. I can definitely identify with the feeling and my interest in poker tends to be cyclical, where I need a few weeks off every few months or so.

You should come over to the equally twisted world of Limit O/8! A lot more interesting than LHE. You'll get hammered if you play J977 though. =)

1/08/2009 8:09 AM  

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