Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Multiple Tables, Multiple Selves

Multiple Tables, Multiple SelvesHaven’t been playing quite as much here during the first part of September as I did last month when I made Gold Star over on PokerStars. Was a little burned out, to be honest, after putting in so many hands to get the necessary VPPs (VIP Player Points). Have just sat down for brief sessions here and there so far this month (i.e., 100-200 hands), which have always been preferable to me.

During August I experimented some with playing three and four tables, but mostly stuck to two-tabling as has been my preference pretty much since I began playing online. Was sitting at two tables yesterday and once again briefly experienced a phenomenon that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, something I imagine is probably familiar to anyone who routinely multitables.

I had opened two tables of my regular six-handed pot-limit Omaha game. Within a few orbits on each I was essentially even -- perhaps up a few bucks -- having more than doubled my starting stack on one while losing my stack and having to rebuy on the other.

On the table where things were going well, I’d chipped up not with a single big hand but by winning several small- or medium-sized pots. I was raising from late position a lot, often forcing folds either before or on the flop, and generally encountering little resistance from what seemed to be tight-passive opponents.

On the table where I’d lost my starting stack, I’d run into a check-raise the first time I tried to c-bet a flop, then lost some more on a failed bluff. Soon I was down to less than half my buy-in, at which point I normally top off rather than try to play with a short stack. But I picked up A-A-x-x and ended up getting all of what I had left in the middle. Was up against two opponents and lost, and so had to rebuy.

The latter table featured what seemed to me a couple of decent players, so the combination of uncooperative cards and my opponents made things difficult for me. And, I’ll add, kind of created an image -- both to my opponents and to myself -- that I wasn’t such a strong player. Meanwhile, on the former table I had both confidence and what appeared some wariness of me and my bets from the other players.

There I was -- same username, same icon on both tables. But two very different players.

I continued to play, and realized soon enough that as hands went by I was further building on those two disparate images at each of my tables. On the good table, I kept adding to my stack, raising and pushing the action in ways that were continuing to be profitable. Meanwhile, on the bad table, I became passive, limping into pots when I perhaps should’ve raised, folding in situations when I perhaps should’ve called, and so forth. I wasn’t losing more, but I didn’t feel as though I was doing what was necessary to put myself in situations where I could win, either.

Thus the phenomenon -- perhaps unique to the two-tabler, although I suppose those who play more tables probably experience some variation of it, too, -- of playing as two separate, very different types of players at once. Ever have that happen to you?

Had a moment yesterday when I played two hands almost simultaneously that seemed to highlight the contrast most vividly. I’ll start with the good.

Hand began with the UTG player limping. The next player folded, and I limped as well from the cutoff with Ad7d6c3c. Could’ve raised, but I’d just open-raised the previous hand from the button. Also I’d just as soon see a flop with this one before proceeding, and didn’t mind a multi-way pot, either. All of which is to say I had conscious reasons for my play (which I couldn’t really say was the case at the other table).

The button called, the SB folded, and the BB checked, so there were four of us in the hand when the flop came 8d5dTd.

It checked to me, and I unhesitatingly bet half the pot. Sometimes I’ll check here; sometimes I’ll bet more. Here, half the pot felt right. The button thought a moment, then called, and the others got out. The turn was the 4h, meaning my nut flush was still the nuts. Again, I bet half the pot, and this time my opponent called more quickly. The river was the 6h. I waited several seconds, then bet the full pot, hoping my overbet would look suspect. My opponent instacalled, and the hand history showed he had Jd9s7s6s -- he’d turned a straight, and somehow thought it might be good.

He actually typed “gh” afterwards, adding “thought was a bluff.” Even if he hadn’t called my river push, I’d have been reasonably happy with how I played the hand, given that all my plays were made with confidence and with a clear idea what I was trying to accomplish.

Meanwhile, on the second table, I was in another hand in which I’d found myself looking at a very favorable flop. But here I was a different player, drifting with doubt rather than proceeding with purpose.

In this one I was in the big blind. The UTG player raised the pot, and it folded back to me holding JdJs2d2s. A hand with some potential, though also one that could get me into trouble, especially from out of position. I called the raise, and the flop came 7sJh2c.

Decent flop, eh? Probably should be betting here, yes? But I checked. I think I might’ve thought my opponent would continuation bet this dry-looking flop and so was considering a check-raise, but to tell the truth I don’t know if I even had that plan fully in mind. In fact, to be utterly honest, I hadn’t even noticed the deuce when I checked (not that it mattered a great deal here, although hitting sets with both pairs is less favorable as it takes away outs to improve).

In any case, my opponent checked behind, and the turn brought the Ah.

Fearing the possibility that my opponent just turned a better set, I checked again. He bet two-thirds of the pot, and I called, having little idea where I stood, but reluctant to let go of my hand. The river then brought the Ad, giving me jacks full. I checked again, my opponent quickly bet half the pot, and I called. He showed AsKh7h6s for the better full house and claimed the pot.

I'm With Genius, I'm With StupidUnfortunate he’d draw out like that, but I absolutely invited it to happen. I could’ve still won a pot there -- his river bet would’ve been consistent with trip aces, I think -- but the result doesn’t really matter. I was playing poorly, with much less resolve than I had at the other table.

Just recognizing that fact helped me a little, actually, and I did manage to recover somewhat and ultimately play a few decent hands on my table of trouble before ending the session. Funny how this image thing works, though -- both on others and on oneself. And how easy it is to slip in and out of various “characters” or player types at the tables, sometimes even inhabiting more than one at the same time.

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