Monday, August 25, 2008

The Wherewithal

I’m not as young as I used to be…two days ago. Despite ten and a half hours of sleep last night, I am still dog-tired, feeling a bit queasy and, well, ambivalent. A bumper sticker I saw yesterday could sum it up: CAUTION: Driver just doesn’t give a shit anymore. That certainly portrays the last hand I played at the casino yesterday.

Yesterday, I was supposed to meet up with a fellow PA player, Mad Mosby, at the local casino. We had never met before, and, after several attempts to get our schedule to agree, it was finally going to happen, and not a moment too soon. The tourist season was coming to a close, meaning no more easy pickings at the tables. We were going to slaughter them like grizzlies picking off salmon coming upstream.

I was anxious for a last hurrah. So anxious, in fact, that at the last minute I decided to leave for the casino Saturday afternoon.

My dear wife was a bit surprised when I sprung this on her. Well, maybe not that surprised. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d made one day at the casino into two. “If that’s what you want to do, call and see if they have a room for you.”

They didn’t. The hotel was booked solid. Instead, I threw the sleeping cot into the back of the car, grabbed my toothbrush, and off I went, promising that I would be safe sleeping in the car. I had done it several times before.

The card room was fairly busy, but not so busy that I couldn’t be seated right away. I checked out the two 1/2 games going and opted for the one where I knew the fewest players and had the smaller stacks. The last thing I wanted to do was play deep stack poker with my 100 BB.

This weekend must have been the last fling for kids returning to college, as there was a gaggle of them at my table. A couple of them knew each other. There was a young gun who I recognized and seemed to recall he wasn’t so good of a player. There was an old loud drunk, who I also recognized as someone I had played several months before and who was crazy loose and lucky. And there was Mr. Muscles.

Mr. Muscles went on a heater right off the bat. The drunk raised it up $15 and MM would call. Anyone else who raised it up, MM called or reraised big. It wasn’t long before he had tripled up. I was card dead for all of the action except for one hand in which I rivered a boat on some guy’s presumed flopped straight. I checked my set on the flop and he jammed for his last $100. He mucked and left.

My bladder isn’t as young as it used to be either. I was on the button with A5d when it was limped around to me. I called. The flop came smallish with one diamond. The drunk bet $10, MM and another player called, and I folded. I wasn’t going to chase, and besides, I had to pee. As I stood up to leave, the turn was another diamond and both players checked. I walked away. No! I couldn’t resist and turned around to see the river. Yep, another diamond. I didn’t stay to see the betting, but when I came back from the potty, MM had even more chips. I couldn’t help but think some of those could now be in my stack.

The table changed a bit as the hours dragged on. The college students went busto, the drunk got yelled at by another player and he left, MM went over to play 2/5 and I remained card dead. Slowly but surely I was frittering away my earnings, calling small raises and folding, and losing my blinds with 72 off and the like. I saw 72, 73, 82 and other crap for hours.

I was in the BB with K7s when it limped around to me. The flop came with a 7 a 10 and 2 and was checked around. I suppose I could have bet my 7 but I was soooo out of position. I was overjoyed when a K came on the turn. I bet about the pot, $20, and it was folded around to the young gun who tripled my bet. A set? Unlikely. He would have called on a rainbow uncoordinated board. He had a King and I knew it because I had seen him push hard with top pair earlier. He lost that hand too, so I smooth called. The turn was a Q, which bothered me a bit. I checked, waiting for him to lead out. He bet $60, a nice value bet. I called. Should I have jammed the turn on his turn raise? You tell me.

I bought another $100, and sat there for a couple more hours folding. Eventually the table broke and I moved over to another table. More youngsters, plus a solid player who I had befriended. He was doing well, up about $300. I took down a sizable pot with AJ when a guy went all in for his last $25 with A10. One of the kids, an obvious calling station also called the all in. We checked it down and I won with A high, J kicker.

Eventually, however, I could get nothing going after that and watched my stack dwindle once again. My friend at the table lost with his set of tens on the flop to a set of Kings on the turn and left in disgust, saying, “This same thing happens every weekend!” I watched another kid get stacked when his K10d, K on the flop, all in on the diamond turn lost to AQd with another diamond on the river. There was still money to be had, but I had had enough.

I tried to sleep. Maybe it was the coffee, or maybe it was the K7. I tossed and turned a while before getting some much-needed rest. I woke with first light, fell back asleep and went back into the casino at sunrise. I had some breakfast, drank a couple cups of coffee and made my way back to the poker room. I thought I felt okay.

The tables were already going strong. I recognized players from the night before, apparently going without sleep ant sleep at all. After a short wait I was seated at a 1/2 with mostly older guys, maybe some my age, some decidedly older, and a couple young players. One of the young guys was a regular as he knew all of the dealers by name, and they knew his.

By and large it was a strong, aggressive table. Folks weren’t afraid to get their money in, and some big pots were taken down with some big hands. The young regular was out of his league, even though he was right in there with a loose aggressive style. He lost a buy-in in fairly short order and reloaded. A bit later I was in two hands with him.

An older guy on my right opened with a small raise, I called with A9s and the kid completed in the BB. The flop came with an A and the old guy made a C-bet, which I raised by that same amount, just to see where I was at. The kid called, as did the initial bettor. The turn was a blank, the kid checked, as did the old guy and I. The river paired the board and it was checked all around again. The kid flips over trips, the old guy mucks. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. I should have raised more on the flop or bet the turn. The upside: I didn’t lose too much and I now had information I could use later on.

I was catching some decent hands. Too bad. I limped with KQc and called a good-sized raise after another player did as well. The flop came with a Q. I checked, the initial bettor made a good-sized C-bet, the other player and I called. The turn was an A. I knew I was beat, the other player didn’t. I was down under $100.

Meanwhile, the kid had taken down a few pots with trash hands and was building a stack. I tell myself to just be patient. Qs in early middle position. The old guy to my right has limped and I raise to $12. It folds around to the kid who raises it to $40. The old guy calls. There’s almost $100 in the pot, and hoping the kid thinks his jacks are good, I push the rest of my chips in the middle. The kid calls and the old guys goes all in as well. The flop comes with a K, turn is a K, river is a 10. I know I’m beat. The kids shows Aces and the old guy mucks.

Time to call it a day. Yet, I still have to wait for Mad Mosby to show up, and that’s a couple hours from now, so I go back out to the car to lick my wounds and take a nap. Again, the sleep is less than restful and I wake up in 45 minutes. By the time I get back to the poker room, the kid is down to $60. It just makes me feel worse.

After killing a little time lamenting my session over the phone with my dear wife and chatting with my son in Chicago, I go to meet Mad Mosby. Just as I had suspected, he’s a great guy. I told him about my beats, tried to justify my play, and he listened like a nice person would. We talked about Poker Academy and I hope I convinced him to join us at the 3rd Annual PA Rendezvous in Las Vegas next year. He would make a fine addition to an already wonderful bunch of folks. I just hope I can attend as well.

Suffice it to say, lamentations kept me awake for the drive home. Did I play poorly? Did I play scared, tight-weak poker and then tilt off the rest of two buy-ins? And now, I don’t have enough of a bankroll to return to the casino for the foreseeable future. But do I have any business ever going back? Is my game worse than I think it is? Tight isn’t good enough when I’m not aggressive enough to raise it up or get it all in good before the turn or river, and then get frustrated with the turn and river beats. Or, maybe I just don’t have the fortitude to play this game, weather the beats and move on. Like a whipped dog kept on a chain next to a ratty-looking doghouse, with bad beats and a small roll, I may still have my tail between my legs when the kids come out to play. I’m happy to see someone but I still half-expect to get clocked.

When I told Mad Mosby that I was down two buy-ins, his response was, “What? The guy who has all of my PAX (play money) on Poker Academy?” Yes, the disparity is striking. Oh, I sometimes get clobbered on PA. The difference is that I am not crippled when it happens. I can come back, and always do, gradually building my roll higher and higher. Yet, when it comes to real money, knowing that I don’t have much to begin with, my game goes in the toilet and seems to stay there. The difference? I can’t afford to lose real money.

I’ve been dancing around this realization for a while now. I’ve been telling myself that I’m a good enough player, and that the seemingly constant losses and break-even sessions at the casino or online shouldn’t be happening to me. Others seem to think I’m good enough to beat the game as well. I have had three different people offer to stake me. I have turned them all down, first, because I don’t want to be beholden to someone, and second, because, afraid of losing someone else’s money. I’d still be playing scared. Yes, it is a bankroll issue.

So, what is the solution? I suspect there isn’t one except to quit playing for cash. Relegate myself to Poker Academy play money and the pub tourneys? The thought of it makes me ill. If I swear off the casino, I still have enough of a bankroll left to play my home game. That may be the answer. Still, I worry that the damage done may be irreversible or like some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and it won’t be long until that money is gone as well.

I love this game of poker. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for me to be playing it at the moment. I’m going to scale back. I’ll stay away from the casino, and stick to PA, my shitty little pub tourney and my home game. After all, this is supposed to be a blog about poker first and foremost, right? Right? So, dear readers, we’ll see how this thing plays out. And you’ll get to go along for the ride.

Will bastin turn his game around? Will bastin go broke and swear off poker forever, only to find new joy in quilting bees? Stay tuned.

One final note: I witnessed my first bad beat jackpot Saturday night. Quad fours against a 7 high straight flush. It happened at a 2345 Limit game. A game at which I can afford to take a few bad hits. No, not really. Not with my bankroll.


Forrest Gump said...

In sporting terms, I think it's better to toss up 'retirement' some days or even weeks after the dust has settled rather than straight afterwards.

How close do you live to the casino? I find it a little dangerous deciding on a pre-determined time frame that you're going to play. The tables might be stacked with regulars, you might be off your game, it just might not be your day - in which case you need to just rack up your chips and leave.

I'm pretty lucky as I'm only 30min drive from the casino, so I play anywhere from under 30mins or into the wee hours if the table looks juicy.

I'm curious how you're outlook changes in the coming weeks. This game is a little like Hotel California.... :)


bastinptc said...

I don't mean to suggest that I am finished. Not yet. Lord knows, I've been through this before and here I remain, indeed looking to involve myself further in the poker world. Still, this does not mean that I have quit thinking about my motivations for continuing. Indeed, I have been rewriting and adding to this post in my head all day today. I will spare my readers a minor tome.

As for the distance to the casino, an hour and a half, pretty much on two lane roads. Getting there is as troublesome and time-consuming as leaving. But you are correct, sir.

Fades out with the Gypsy Kings' version: Ciudad California...

Cardgrrl said...

Bankroll is key, there's no doubt about it.

I couldn't possibly have contemplated my year-long experiment without being willing to really and truly bankroll myself for it. *gulp*

I will not sit down at a table in a casino this year without at least 5 buy-ins in my pocket. It puts my head in a completely different place.

Only an hour and a half to a real live casino? Cripes, I'd commute there every other day if I had one that close!

Forrest Gump said...

Yes, I was referring more to retirement from real $. I was just saying that often you seeing sporting greats retire after a brutal grand final loss, but over the off season they're back for another year!

Good point from CG. My little trick was putting my casino winnings in a separate container and only ever using that money for trips to the casino. That way, mentally I was playing other peoples money instead of seeing my own hard ended going into the pot. :)


matt tag said...

there are plenty of real money but micro stakes online. You should be able to absolutely kill at those games with all the bad players.

I know it's ultimately not about the money with you, or you wouldn't have spent so much time becoming one of the top 3 PAX players. So it must be more about the intellectual challenge and the thrill of competition. Play .01/.02c if you have to, but play!

PAPro_SandMan said...


For all of our differences, we can be remarkably similar. That same emotional roller coaster, complete with beating myself up after a particularly bad session and considering tossing the whole damn game, is just about the story of my poker career. I had a session almost exactly like that on Saturday - table full of donks who don't even particularly know how to play the game, yet the cards consistently deny me the opportunity to make them pay. For one, I was mostly card dead. Played probably 12 hands total in 6 hours. For two, every time I did get in the right position to take somebody down, they made exactly the mistake I wanted them to - and drew out EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I was enraged, depressed, discouraged... And somehow, even though I knew better, I managed to blame myself. It never seems like time will change anything, but it always does. In a couple of days, I'm always aching to play poker again.

Have you tried multi-tabling microlimits online like FG and others have suggested? I've been doing that just recently and having some reasonable success.