January 4, 2005
I had my first significant winning session in B&M at a 2/4 table at the Borgata on New Years Eve. With my showing there, I have now basically broken even after the terrible start to my poker playing in Vegas during August. Aside from this playing in AC, I made it up entirely in .5/1.
Not only was dropping down in stakes important from a bankroll perspective, but it probably helped mentally, too. Somewhat paradoxically, it minimized the gravity of my mistakes, without really diminishing my ability to learn from them. I feel like playing so many thousand hands at this level online has really helped my game, though it’s still nice to be able to go have some fun with friends in brick and mortar at slightly higher limits.
And how great is it to play with random strangers on a night like New Years EVe. My table persona is somewhere around happy-go-lucky and total moron. It seems to play rather well with just about anyone – they end up laughing with me or hating me, either way it can lead them to bleed away some chips. But, for the most part, this is insignificant – it’s all about the fish. The guy who plays his hands in the dark. The old guy who doesn’t know how to play but keeps pulling out hundreds. The guy who calls down with any ace. God bless them.
Of course, I still find myself making mistakes. Less than before, and less egregious ones, but mistakes nonetheless – playing too aggressively in small pots and making calls with draws in pots that weren’t quite big enough. Indeed, afterwards, I found myself going back over Miller’s book and finding examples that precisely matched hands I had played and clearly explained the ways in which I played it wrong. For instance, I came in from BB with T3o, board was QJ9 rainbow, with 7 players, checked to mid-position where it’s bet, called around, I figure the pot is big enough that it’s appropriate to call here. I think Miller’s example on p. 141 basically agrees here because the pot is so big, but the turn call was wrong. With everyone still calling, there’s too much of a chance that even if I hit my straight, I’ll just be splitting. Moreover, I could be beat by a higher straight, and, though the board was still a rainbow on 4th street, it also paired the board, giving another way for me to lose.
One thing I did better was pushing my big draws. For instance, I came in from late position with A4s, around 6 players i think. Flop comes 53X, with two hearts. A bet from EP and three callers, I am last to act and raise. Miller describes a hand quite like this on p. 143: “You have twelve outs to a straight or flush and three more to top pair. However, your ace outs are vulnerable to anyone else hanging around with a bigger ace, so if the pot is large you should try to induce any such player to fold (while building the pot that you will often win).” The card on turn was not that scary, so I decided not to take a free card, knocked two out with two remaining.
Then, I made an impatient mistake, betting the river when I didn’t hit but sensed weakness – I’d seen these two players in particular call down with essentially nothing, but really, who was I kidding? – I wasn’t going to win this pot with ace high. It was just one of those situations where I just unthinkingly threw chips in there, betting on the miniscule chance that they were on draws too and would fold – I should know better than to do such silly things.
Luckily, this is the only time I remember doing such a bonehead mistake in a long time. Nevertheless, in both online play and b&m, I do find myself sometimes making a play too quickly, and that causes mistakes. In b&m play, though, it’s more likely to be out of frustration, though I’m pretty good with that aspect of my game. In any case, I need to focus on slowing down and being more patient with tricky decisions, particularly in medium-to-large pots.
In general, I feel like I’ve improved a ton since my Vegas play. My losses weren’t all due to variance, nor am I playing mistake free now, but I feel like this upswing isn’t just plain luck either. I’m getting better, slowly but surely.