Friday, June 01, 2007

Get back on the horse that threw you?

I played in another 45-player $1.25 SNG on FullTilt last night. I hadn't played in one for a few weeks so I had to get back into the mindset. I started out slow, but caught a couple of very nice hands, such as a flopped nut flush that I milked for a decent pot. I built a healthy stack and was playing fairly well as I tend to do when I get some chips to work with.

Yes, here comes the "but" part of the story. I don't have the hand history so I will recount the carnage as best I can from memory.

I have about 5600 in chips. Blinds are 120/240, and I'm in the BB. I get Q7o, and it's folded to the SB who completes, and I check. Flop is K-Q-x of mixed suits. SB checks, I small-bet my second pair, SB calls. Turn is an 8. SB bets small. Thinking he doesn't have a K, I raise 960. He reraises me double. I now have about 4400 left.

So, I got on the horse on this hand and I spurred him on with my raise. But when the villain reraised me, I should have put him on a hand that could beat me (K-x, two pair, something) and reined in my steed so we could run again later. Instead, I kicked him even harder, right toward the brick wall straight ahead, with a re-reraise all in with nothing more than middle pair. The villain instacalled and showed Q8. His two pair held up and I crashed into the unyielding barricade of my donkery, busting in 10th place.

I could not believe that I committed such blatant poker hara-kiri. I told myself recently that I was going to play smarter and not be afraid of folding to wait for another hand when the signs were there that I was probably beat. And I had plenty of chips to work with, even if I had folded to his reraise. There was plenty of fishy play in this tourney and I should have been able to go much deeper.

I was so disgusted with myself after that hand that I told my wife, quite seriously, that I had just played my last hand of poker. Ever. I felt like I didn't deserve to play, that if I could throw my chips away like that I shouldn't be allowed near a table, virtual or actual felt. I gathered up almost all of my poker how-to books and put them in a shopping bag to take to Half Price Books to sell off. (I saved a couple books for sentimental reasons.) The bag sits on the floor about two feet from me now, ready to go.

My wife scoffed at my declaration that I was quitting. I've done it before, and so far I have always gone back on my pronouncements. She told me, quite wisely, that everybody makes stupid plays sometime, and I shouldn't quit playing because I was a donkey in this tourney, if poker is something I enjoy. My answer was that I wasn't sure I was enjoying poker as much as I used to, that I felt like my game was standing still while the players around me were getting better. It isn't fun when you look around the table and decide that maybe you really are the sucker.

After my wife calmed me down, I told her that I would have to give my poker future some careful thought. I considered changing my tactic from quitting forever to just taking the month of June off from poker completely. No playing, no reading poker books or blogs, no watching poker on TV, nothing. Now, having slept on it, I am not on mega-tilt like I was last night. After all, even if I run the horse full speed over a cliff, of my own volition, that doesn't mean I should never get on one again. What would that teach me? That I definitely am a loser and a quitter. I don't want to be that. I may never be a super-skilled poker shark, but I can strive to learn from my mistakes and not allow them to beat all of my self-respect out of me.

That doesn't mean that I am jumping back into more tourneys with guns blazing, bound to show myself and all those donkeys out there that I am a fearless, badass mofo. I will, instead, be sensible and prudent, find my leaks and try to plug them (if I can find patches big enough), and work towards a steady improvement of my game. I may even put a few of those books back on the shelf, so I can use them in my improvement plan.

Many of you have probably heard about Chris Ferguson's quest to start from a zero online bankroll and build it to $10,000 or more. He talks about it in an interview on Pokerworks. I think that is an admirable project, and maybe I can try to accomplish something similar. He has a good headstart on me, so I expect he will reach his goal sooner than I could, but I figure it's worth pursuing. Perhaps the quest will give me an incentive to write regularly in this blog, to provide reports on my progress and my experiences along the way.

I don't know if I will get any playing in this weekend, but we will see what develops in the coming weeks. Stand by for my next announcement that I am done with poker for good, for keeps, for eternity. Or at least until I come off tilt.

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