Monday, November 26, 2012

Fourth-and-29

Over the weekend I played a short session of fixed limit hold’em over on Hero Poker. I’m basically down to just a half-hour here and there, still goofing around with the small roll I won in a freeroll a good while back (just after Black Friday, actually).

A lot of times I’ll just jump in a one- or two-dollar SNG to scratch that itch. Or, as I did on Sunday, just play a little bit of cash for quarters. Or nickels and dimes, even.

I’d won a few bucks and was just about to sign off in this session when I was dealt pocket aces and decided to stick for one more hand. Raised and had a couple of callers, with one check-calling my bet after the flop came jack-high. The turn was a king and my opponent led with a bet, and when I raised he just called. The river brought an ace, giving me a set, my opponent check-called my bet, and I won the pot.

He showed his hand after -- K-J. He’d gotten lucky on the turn, making two pair. But I’d gotten even luckier on the river to make the winning hand.

I signed off, then spent the rest of Sunday watching NFL games while sweating my picks. Had one of those “hero picks” again late in the afternoon in which I’d taken San Diego to beat Baltimore. As I was explaining last week, a “hero pick” is one in which I’ve gone against the entire pool and taken a team no one else has (or almost no one), meaning I’m setting myself up for a two-game swing by either gaining a game on everyone or losing a game to the field. (I’d also consider a “hero pick” one which has a reasonable chance of actually winning; i.e., not just picking a hopeless underdog for the sake of going against the grain.)

Last week I was griping about another “hero pick” I’d previously made in which defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory (the Panthers game). Well, if you follow the NFL, you know how San Diego managed to do something very similar yesterday. Up by 10 with five minutes to go, they’d ultimately allow Baltimore to tie the game, giving up a late first down to the Ravens on an incredible fourth-and-29 play in order to make it happen. The Ravens then managed to convert a few more long third downs in OT on their way to kicking a winning field goal.

When that game ended I thought back to the Carolina game as well as to a couple of other instances this year where my “hero picks” had been improbably thwarted by last-second heroics performed by the teams I’d picked against. As in poker, we remember the losses so much more vividly than we do the wins.

The fact is, last year I won the pool after benefiting repeatedly from hitting games thanks to unlikely last-second heroics. It takes a little effort to remember them, but I do recall a couple of late season examples.

There was one early November game in which I’d taken Baltimore to beat Pittsburgh and the Ravens drove 92 yards at the end for a game-winning score to win 23-20. And I took the Giants to beat the Cowboys in that game near season’s end in which New York had not one but two TD drives in the last four minutes to win 37-34 (remember that one?).

In both cases, a lot of the pool had gone the other way with those picks, thus earning me a two-game swing. And in both I’d gotten very lucky -- kind of like that ace on the river -- to come from behind and prevail.

But like I say, it somehow takes extra effort to remember those wins. Meanwhile, the “hero picks” that almost get there but then crazily don’t remain firmly in mind. Ridiculously, I feel like I’ve been cheated out of something I “deserved,” not unlike what happens to some of us after suffering a bad beat in poker.

Serious sports bettors -- like good poker players -- simply have to grow accustomed to that feeling of getting jobbed. I’ve been reading my buddy Dr. Pauly’s new sports betting blog, Ocelot Sports, where it’s obvious that experience of having had a sure win stolen away happens practically every night.

Thankfully I’m not a serious sports bettor, just like I’m essentially a recreational poker player. The stakes aren’t ever that high for me.

Still hurts, though, to watch a team I’m pulling against gain 30 on a must-have fourth-and-29. Talk about a one-outer.

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