Thursday, 4 April 2013

Sick Call: A Poker Tale

I am going to allow myself to believe that my readers, yes all of you, are wondering what has been going on with my poker hobby.  Hi Mom!  Hi Sheila! And a big shout out to all of Russian, German and Japanese readers!  As I have documented in this space poker isn't just a hobby for me, I do need to derive some income from the endeavor as well.  So far, 2013 has been a complete bust, and I have found my zest for playing to be at an all time low.  I haven't had this little desire to play since before I discovered the game some 7 years ago.  My desire to play has been hampered in some part by my poor results in January moving into February.  I have also had little time to play with hockey taking up considerable free time, Oilers games and my own games, as well as hours and upon hours of research for fantasy baseball.  We have been visiting with mom and dad a number of times over Spring Break and the Easter holiday, and that has been very nice and quite refreshing.  With poker as with many things, play less, win less because you aren't at your best.  I really do feel like I need to be playing regularly in order to be alert and aware about what's going on around me.  You need these small advantages in order to put yourself in the best position to win.  When it comes right down to it, coupled with this "rusty" feeling, my luck has stunk and it hasn't helped.  Sometimes, you just can't overcome the cards. 

The year has been a wash for the most part, as I am sitting at about 5 bucks an hour income over 60 hours.  That's actually a decent number of hours played, but more then half of those came in January.  I started out great, and was scorching hot two weeks into the year, but then  promptly fell off a cliff.  I think that makes my struggles feel magnified, as I tumbled from the great start to one of my longer losing streaks.  Three weeks ago I did play a solid session, making a few decent plays, running into a gross cooler but not letting it derail my session, in general I walked away quite happy with my play.  I returned the next night, and although I played well again, the results played out a little differently and I gave most of the previous night's profit.  I know that part of the reason behind my poker decline is a change in priorities.  I don't eat, sleep and breathe poker anymore like I have at times.  Hockey has been a distraction.  Having fun with the kids instead of finding time to play cards is a choice I will make every time.  Lot's of my free time after the kids are in bed is spent exercising, or reading, or watching a movie with Sheila.  I don't itch to play at every free moment.  I need to find a balance though, where I am still devoting enough time to play a good game and be profitable.  Cutting back on my fantasy baseball commitments will be tough with 3 different teams to manage, but some of that time could be spent studying my large poker literature collection.  The other problem is I have been busy reading important works in literary history, and haven't had the desire to read hand examples or advice on tells from senior citizens.  I am currently plunging into "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, a book I felt I should read as it so significant in American literature.  Harper Lee was also one of Truman Capote's best friends, who I may or may not have stated here is my favourite writer ever, and I figured she must have written a great book if it grabbed his attention.  A friend tossed me a copy the other week, and I jumped at the chance to give it a read. 

Just by the above paragraph where I was supposed to be discussing poker but got distracting discussing everything but poker you can see that my poker focus has been suffering.  The poor results have led to me questioning my game and consequently contemplating my place in the local scene.  Am I good enough to hang with the small group of regulars that play way more then I do.  When my mind is rarely on poker when I am away from the table I fall further behind.  The other thing that is weighing on my mind was just how great 2012 was for me and my poker.  I can't expect the same again, not without dedicating myself to it.  I'm not really shooting for more of the same, but am looking to work harder to reach my modest goals for the year.  500 bucks a month.  Not ridiculous, is it?  When playing 20-25 hours a month its actually a pretty lofty goal.  One I plan to get back to chasing tonight when I sit down and play for the first time since last Thursday.  With that, I am going to leave you with a hand I played last Thursday, one that is a highlight of my 2013 poker year.

Sitting in early position, at this point I have ~$180, down ~$140 on the night.  I had been picking up very few hands and playing careful.  The game hadn't been too aggressive and had devolved into a lot of limping.  I hadn't been raising much either as I had been hitting very few flops and was being played back at constantly.  I look down at A3 of hearts and tossed 2 white chips in.  Another limp behind me, then one of the regular players, a younger guy with  ~$250 in front of him made it $12 to go.  He is quite aggressive and was in late position.  A call from both blinds and the early position limper, and I decide to call as well.  Some of this is out of frustration, I'll be honest.  I was getting tired of tossing away my 2 bucks every hand, and ultimately compounded my mistake by throwing another 10 bucks in with it.  The flop comes down 853 with 2 clubs.  Checks to me, I visibly considered a bet then checked, something I use on occasion to dissuade a continuation bet.  If the original raiser had gone ahead and continued, I would have had a very tough time putting him on a hand.  He checked behind.  The turn was a 10 of clubs, putting a flush on board.  When the 3 checks came to me, I decided to act on my interest from the flop.  A hand that would often think about betting the flop was indeed the flush draw so playing on the fact that I may have made my flush, I bet $25 into the pot of $55.  I got a call from the original raiser and everyone else cleared out. 

The river is an offsuit 6.  Sure, this could have given him a straight if he had raised pre flop with 79.  He could have made a straight with a 42 as well, but that's playing with too much fear if I am going to give him those holdings.  I don't want to lead out, because he will either call with a better hand or even worse, raise me off with a weaker hand.  I go ahead and check.  He bets fairly quickly verbally announcing $40 as he slides the bet in.  I almost made the snap call, as my read was specific.  He had played this like a couple of Broadway cards with one club.  No continuation bet because he didn't like the number of opponents.  On the turn he just flat called, not the move of a man protecting a hand that was made but vulnerable.  A thought when screaming through my mind though, I have been struggling at the felt.  I was already down on the session, but I would be down if I folded or if I called and was wrong.  $40 is nothing to sneeze at though, I work nearly half a shift to make that at my job.  I slid in my call, and heard some of my favorite words in poker, "well, you must have me then."  The chatter at the table didn't die down until I said, "okay, I have a three."  As the guys and gals at the table checked the board to see a ten, an eight, a six and a five ahead of the lowly three they grew quiet.  A couple guys murmured "nice call" type of comments.  I got to enjoy a period of time with a few people still bewildered.  "How did you know?"  Flush on board, straight on board, four over cards.   "You must have had some kind of tell on him, only way you can call."  I recovered most of the $140 I was down at the time, and went on to book a small profit.  These are the moments I most enjoy, when the game goes well beyond the realm of the casual player and I can take advantage of things I have learned over the years. 

That's my time, time to get going with my day.  I'm playing cards later, but first my son and I are off for a run after a workout.  Later, we will pick up Jasmine and maybe go to the park that she has been bugging me about, though it is still half buried in the snow.  I hope everyone has a great day!

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