Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Play the Game

Charlie Brown sighsHad one of those unbelievably unfortunate sessions of low limit hold’em yesterday. Six-handed (which I generally play) can be swingy at times, so it isn’t that much of a deal to experience a run of bad cards, bad timing, and bad results. And thus, not so surprisingly, when the session is finally over, feel bad.

But the badness just wouldn’t stop. It was one of those sessions plagued by what seemed an inordinate number of SIGHs or “So It Goes Hands.”

In an earlier post, I tried to make a distinction between SIGHs and other varieties of “bad beat” hands, although I suppose one could call a SIGH a bad beat. And thus call SIGH stories bad beat stories. And thus, very rightfully, complain “Hey, Shamus, enough already with the sighing! No one cares!”

The distinction that makes a SIGH is that you find yourself getting “whamboozled” (to use a Norman Chadism) without having ever really made any conscious effort to get yourself into the situation. In other words, it is not that you played the hand well and lost. You just played the hand as any sane person would and lost, often the maximum. Basically what we’re talking about here is a hand that played you, not the reverse.

I actually don’t want to lengthen this post unnecessarily with examples -- indeed, I imagine you don’t want that, either -- but I’ll give one just for the purposes of clarification.

Table folds to me on the button and I raise with QdKs. Both the blinds call. The flop comes 3sQc8c. Checks to me, I bet, and only the SB sticks around. The turn is the 2d. Again: check, bet, call. The river is the 4s and my opponent bets. Really? Okay, let’s see. I call. He turns over Ad5c.

Maybe someone somewhere plays this hand differently. But I doubt it. From my perspective, the hand played me. Thus, I call it a SIGH.

Like I say, endured a high number of these sorts of situations in the session, and so afterwards found myself muttering to poor Vera Valmore such applesauce as “Why do I even play?” I continued with my whimpering, noting that after several years of this, I am still just a recreational player piddling around in the lower limits who even when things go well can’t really earn more than a couple of bucks per hour, anyhow.

In fact, I’ve been becoming increasingly conscious over the last couple of months that whenever I play, there’s always something else I could be doing, something more profitable -- not just money-wise, but health-wise (physical and mental). Which now that I think about it, could be a bit of a distraction that may not be hurting my game, but certainly isn’t helping.

Vera, as wise as she is lovely, stopped me with a simple reminder: “You love to play. You like the strategy and you like the challenge. It doesn’t matter if you only make two bucks.” It would matter, she added, if I were losing significantly every time I play. But I’m not. Overall, I win. Not much, but like Vera says, that doesn’t matter.

What matters is the game -- being able, once in a while, to play (and not “work”). Just play the game, Shamus. You love it. Don’t let it play you.

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Blogger cheer_dad said...

That Vera Valmore sounds like quite a keeper! I think she may have even made ME pipe down some of my whimpering an whining as of late...



5/06/2009 1:47 PM  
Blogger pokerpeaker said...

What a great post. I have asked myself that many times this year and feel a lot freer now that I"m only playing when I want to play.

5/06/2009 2:48 PM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

You want bad beats? I limp from the button with JTo with 3 players + BB. Flop comes AsJhTh; I hit two pair. Check check, donkey min bets. I think for a second and decide no way he has KQ; he would be raising pre flop. He has something like A6 / A7 given the way he plays. I'm going to get him calling by overbetting the pot because that's been his pattern to call overbets. So I shovel all in on the flop, he thinks for a bit & calls. He flips over Jc7h. This is great I think... runner runner 7's and that's about it. He's like 1% here. So what happens? Turn: 8h, River: 9h for the STRAIGHT FRIGGIN FLUSH. AFTER I'M FAR AHEAD OF HIM; THERE ARE NO CLEAR OUTS FOR HIM. WTF?!?!?!? At least your flop had him drawing to an Ace (3 clean outs). My guy had NOTHING to draw to! Good to share my SH|TTY bad beat with someone else.

5/06/2009 3:43 PM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

Oh yeah... preceding that (about 150 hands ago) was my AA cracked my KK (all in on the flop) to running spades. 2 outs expanded to 11, gotta love it!

5/06/2009 3:50 PM  
Blogger Mike G said...

There probably are better things than poker that you could be doing, and your subconscious mind knows it.

5/06/2009 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Jacob Z. Clinton said...

Nice post Shamus.

Up until the penultimate paragraph I was scratching my head, trying to think of some argument to make you continue down the long and winding road..and then you end the story and I applaud.

I greatly enjoy your blog and while the U.S. centric poker politics doesn't ring my bell (but reinforces what a great home brew journalist you are) the more personal stuff touches me, and this punched me right in the gut.

Keep on poker blogging buddy, not only are you part of the game forever, you're one of the few who can put it into words.

5/06/2009 7:44 PM  

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