After getting whooped in the south bay I got back to my standard Oaks routine and headed in on Friday night. I'm realizing more and more that having a routine is helpful to me.
At the start of this year when I really picked poker back up as an every week usually twice a week activity I felt nervous every time I went in to play and my heart would pound in my chest with every big hand. Even though I did well right from the start there was no rock solid way to know if I was playing with a sustainable winning strategy and more significantly the amount of money I was playing for mattered to me. If I had a relatively minor downswing I didn't have enough money in reserve to continue especially with that uncertainty.
Just getting dealt in made me nervous and feeling nervous made me pissed. I used to make $100K a year doing this shit and now I'm nervous in game where I might lose $1,000? I've played over 2,000,000 hands and I'm worried about these fucking guys? But the reality was I didn't have a $50K bankroll with all the time in the world to work it like I used to. I had 4-5 hours once a week. 150 hands a week. That's a nothing sample size and I was worried I'd hit a black hole of bad luck.
When I deviate from my routine these days I get a little bit of that feeling. Is this the right and best decision to play here and now? I know now the game at the Oaks is repeatedly beatable by me with my current skill set. It's a hard fact. But that doubt still creeps in when I go elsewhere and when I lose it's compounded a bit.
Enough of the soul searching! On to the hands!
I sat down at $1/$1/$2 and bought in for $200 while waiting for the $2/$3/$5 and had one great hand while I was there. I had KT of hearts and called raise to $7. 4 of us saw the flop which came down J 8 6 all hearts. The big blind was second to act and I got the sense that he wanted to bet. It was subtle, just a short pause and look at the board and a look at his chips, but it was obvious he wanted to bet. But he checked it along, the preflop raiser checked to me and I bet out $15. A lot of players make the mistake of checking their big hands. They want to give their opponents a chance to make something, but since bet sizes are normally tied to pot size, building a pot early with a big hand is key. Mr. I Almost Bet was my only caller and had about $125 left. The turn was a black 3, Mr. IAB checked. In spots like this it's also important to think about how to best get your opponent's whole stack in there. Many players wouldn't call an all in of $125 on the turn with top pair, but will call a bet of $40 and a bet of $85. So I bet $40 and got called. The river was a black queen and after a check I put him all in. I got a reluctant call and took it down. Last session I got stacked twice in the smaller game and this time I was the one doing the stacking.
I picked up $150 in the $1/$1/$2 before heading over the $2/$3/$5.
When I got there my first hand was KK and I won $50. My fourth hand was AA and I won $50.
My next hand was against a guy who I've played against a few times who falls into the pretty good, but not too tough category. In the short time I'd been there he'd made a few big raises going to $100 against two players who were in for $20 and winning and going to $45 against a couple of players who were in for $5 and winning. He seemed to be taking an aggressive line on many hands. So when I raised to $20 with JT and he came over the top for $60 I decided to see the flop thinking he might not have the big hand he was representing. The flop came down A 8 5 and I checked to him. He cut out $40 in chips and I thought "If this guy bets $40 that's weak as shit and I'm going to blow him off of this." Then he put $10 more on and then another $10 and finally slid $60 into the pot. A half pot sized bet was a little more serious, but it still felt like a pair 99-KK that didn't like the ace or just a thin preflop three bet that was grasping. I decided to trust that feeling and check raised to $180. My opponent quickly folded. If you recall from my last post I bet $120 into a $140 pot as a bluff on an ace high board and got called by JJ. This time I got rid of the likely medium/big pocket pair.
Then I picked up QQ. There were 7 calls of $5 in front of me, I was in the small blind and made it $40 to go. 3 people called me so there was about $180 in the pot. The flop came down J 8 5 with three different suits which is a beautiful flop for QQ. I bet $120, one guy went all in for $80, and another went all in for $210! Yikes! Hoping they both had one pair of jacks I called. The runners were not good - a K on the turn and an 8 on the river, but when I proudly rolled over my queens they were good. +$430 on that one baby!
I'd won with AA, KK and QQ and was starting to have fantasies of winning a pot with every pocket pair from AA-22 in one session. In baseball the cycle is getting a single, double, triple and homerun in the same game. The Poker Cycle - something I personally just came up with - (Really!) should be winning with all of the pocket pairs in one session.
I was off to a great start, but soon got put to the test with huge bets by Mr. H. The last time I crossed paths with Mr. H I called a huge overbet beating his QQ with my 88 in an $800 pot where it all went in preflop.
This time around I raised to $25 with KQ of spades and got 3 callers including Mr. H. The flop came down J 8 5 with two spades. Everyone checked to me and I bet $75 with my flush draw and two overs. Mr. H was next to act and as he put $75 out there he said "Three fifty on top." ACK! This was a huge raise. Normally with a big flush draw, two solid overs, and some back door straight possibilities it's go time. But here my only way to win was going to be to hit. I paused to look at the rough math. I'd make my flush about 1 time in 3. If hitting my K or my Q was good also I'd win about 50% of the time. There was $600 in the pot and I had to call another $350. He had another $250 behind and I had him covered. That other $250 is likely going in no matter what so I'd basically be risking $600 to win $850. Not good enough. I folded. I showed him my hand, he said he had AJ of spades and I belive him. If that's what he had I was only 20% to win and he made a big mistake by making it too much.
A little later 4 of us saw a flop for $10 and I bet $30 on a J 9 5 with two hearts flop with the A 6 of hearts. Mr. H was my only caller. Referencing what he thought I might have he said "Queen ten is looking good here"as the turn came out. A queen of spades which put two spades on the board came on the turn and I said "Queen ten IS looking good here" as I put $75 into the pot. He paused for a second and asked how much I had left. "Another...one thousand seventy five left" I responded. I figured I was pretty much fucked at that point even before his did anything. I kind of figured he was going to make it another $1,075 to go, but instead he said "Six seventy five." I had a flush draw which is often worth continuing with but when not calling $600 into an $850 pot (again!). I waited 10 second and then folded. He said he had K T which was the nut straight and again I believe him.
At some point while this was all going on a guy I'd never played with before sat down just to my right and bought in for $300. After watching him play 1 hand I could tell by his mannerisms that he was a novice and after 4-5 hands I was pretty sure it was his first or maybe second time playing poker in a casino. He was constantly acting out of turn. If he didn't like his hand he'd just fold it regardless of where the action was. He kept raising to $10 and betting $10 no matter how much was in the pot. This strange behavior was contagious and soon other people were betting $10 into $80 pots.
In the most glaring sign of newness Mr. New would give a little play by play saying things like "I'll double your bet" and often proudly announcing "I raise" when he was in fact the first one betting and sometimes saying "Re-raise" when he was in fact just raising. I looked at him closely to make sure he wasn't two 9 year olds stacked on top of each other wrapped in a trench coat.
To sum it up, Mr. New had no clue and no hope, but still managed to project a major air of hipster smugness that made me wish to destroy him. But upon his arrival we settled in to the most tight, passive play that I have seen in the 60+ sessions I've played this year. There was one hand where 5 people saw the flop for $5, it came down A high, everyone checked it down the whole way and two players had an ace! Everyone was playing the part of the 70 year old man who was waiting for pocket aces or a set to bet! This was the total opposite of the game at Bay 101.
In a normal game Mr. New would have lasted about 15 minutes. But with this weird mix he was somehow surviving.
I on the other hand was struggling. For two hours I was just getting pure garbage. I was prepared to loosen up my starting ranges and I straddled every button to try to entice some action, but I wasn't getting anything close to playable. I dribbled down from being up $700 to up $300 on the night while every fiber in my being cried out "I MUST HAVE MR. NEW'S CHIPS! I SWEAR TO THE POKER GODS I WILL MAKE IT SO!"
Then I got dealt AA. Yum, yum, sweet aces. There were a few limpers in front of me and I made $30 to go. Only the big blind and Mr. New called me. The flop came down A J 7! Top set! Please poker gods let them have something. Oddly the big blind came out betting $20 and Mr. New called $20. There were two hearts out there and I thought maybe the bettor was trying to see a cheap turn card with a heart draw. Either that or maybe a weak ace? It seemed very strange. Whatever it was it was time to raise! I made it $100 to go. The big blind thought for 15 seconds and folded, but happily Mr. New came along. Get in there baby! The turn was a 9 of hearts which was a shitty card. Mr. New checked. He looked like he had about $210 left, so I bet $200 at which point he proudly announced "I'm...all...in." Don't let this fucking guy beat me when I have top set of aces poker gods. Just don't. I threw in a few more chips to make sure it was clear I was calling his all in and took a deep breath. The river was the J of hearts giving me a full house! YES! I resisted the urge to throw my hands high above my head, ball my hands into fists and give two massive pelvic thrusts in the direction of Mr. New. He turned over AQ with the Q of hearts and I wordlessly showed my aces. It was so satisfying.
A little later I had another huge hand come up. I straddled on the button for $10 and the action started with the small blind. The player in the small blinds is a guy I've played with probably 100 times in the last 15 years. Mostly at limit games, but the point is I knew him very well. He's tight, aggressive and a generally solid, winning player that is capable of making tricky plays sometimes. He made it $20 to go and everyone folded around to me. I had T4 off suit which is total garbage, but I was getting 3 to 1 on my money, I had position heads up and he had over $500 in his stack meaning I could win 50 times that $10 if it went down right. It was an easy call.
The flop came down K T 4 with two clubs and my opponent bet out $25. I could just call and wait for the turn, but any K would be bad and any club would likely kill the action. I made it $60 to go. At this point I figured my opponent would put me on a draw, a total bluff, a T or a weak K. He made it $160 to go and I thought "That has got to be AA or AK and he totally has me on a draw." I thought if I shoved there he might change that read and I might lose him, but if I could fade a club, an A or a K I'd get his stack on the turn. The turn was a beautiful red 8 and he shoved for $375. I snap called him and he said "Ayyyyyy, you win." The river was the 5 of clubs and I beat AK.
At that point I decided to call it a night. I won $1,273 on the night erasing my Bay 101 debacle in one fell swoop. My $10,000 bankroll is at $13,841 after 57.5 hours. I'm back in action at the Oaks Sunday and then probably back to Bay 101 on Tuesday for Deep Stack!