Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Everything Matters

I've heard the following quote in the cash games at the Card Room a few times, and it's all I can do to keep quiet. "There's not enough in the pot to bet at."

I consider this attitude to be ignorant of pot odds and "the long term". If the pot is only $4, and I can win it half the time with a $2 bet, I should bet. If my opponent doesn't want the pot, that makes it even easier for me to add a few chips to my stack.

There's been a correlation so far between people espousing this disdain for small pots, and ignorance of pot odds in other situations. If I could just see the thought bubble, "It's only a $5 bet to draw to my gutshot. That's cheap. I call." Nevermind there's only $10 in the pot.

Every little bet you can save, and every tiny pot you can win that you normally wouldn't.. they all add up over time. It's not anything you're going to notice in one evening. "Oh look, I cashed out for $227 instead of $212 because I folded earlier in a few hands than a fish would." But if you play as much as much as the regulars do, it adds up.


I was reminded of this concept when I read a thread on Tucker Max's messageboard. The topic of the thread was Tucker shining a spotlight on another internet writer.

The question boiled down to this: You have potential. Are you going to seize it, and risk failure to be the best you can be? Or are you going to talk a good game, but do nothing?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Folding kings the weak-tight way

So I haven't quite painted the picture of the play at the Card Room. The most glaring mistakes are made in multi-way pots (and we almost never have a heads-up flop). If you flop bottom or middle pair in a 5- or 6-way pot, in first position, do you bet into the field?

Everybody at the Card Room does.

Oh, and maybe 20% of the room understands the concepts of pot odds. It's all I can do not to laugh when somebody min-raises out of the big blind after 5 people have limped in. Another interesting thing about playing at the Card Room is that while I'm dealing there, I learn a lot of tendencies, without people learning my habit at the same time.

So when I'm not at a table with Tarheel, there are few people in the game that I actually respect. Cliff, who says next to nothing, is one of them. He was UTG for this hand, and had about the same stack I did, $200 or so. He raised the $2 big blind to $10. I was right next to him, and repopped it to $25 holding kings, mentioning something about clearing the riffraff out.

Scummy Guy at the end of the table, on the button perhaps, calls my $25 cold. So much for clearing the riffraff out. When it got back to Cliff, he made it $75 total.

"Cliff's good, and he's tight, and he knows I'm the same. Can he make that raise with queens? I don't think he can. Him having the other two kings is a mathematical improbability. I'm sure enough that he's got aces that I'm going to fold now."

And show my coworker, Brandon, who's playing right next to me.

Scummy Guy got all in with Cliff, and the flop was paired with two diamonds. 755 or something like that. The turn and river were running diamonds, with the river being the ace of diamonds. At this point, I thought I might look like an ass... that Cliff has queens, or the other two kings. It sure looks like he hates that river ace, or the diamonds.

It turns out that Cliff actually had the aces. He was slow to show his hand because he didn't see the board pair, and thought that any diamond had him beat. Scummy Guy did have red sixes, but Cliff's aces-full boat was the winner.

And then I did something that is indicative of my poker personality. I showed the rest of the table my kings that I folded. (They were away from the muck.) I also told Cliff that my current stack would be his if I respected his game less.

I'm not sure what it is about me, but when it comes to poker, I have a pathological need to be right, or to show everybody else that I was right. Early in my poker playing, I was insanely weak - any raise would get me to fold a medium-strength hand. I hated being wrong, showing down a loser. I've slowly overcome that tendency, and I'm much less adverse to making a mistake or to being wrong.

This hand also reminds me of my infamous "I flopped a straight flush, and folded on the turn, correctly" post. Not only because I folded a strong hand to an even stronger one, but because I just had to know. And I had to be right.

I was a math nerd growing up. The answers were always absolute. When I figured out that x = y + 3, that was the answer. There was a lot more certainty involved when I used to say "I aced that math test", than when I thought I did well on an English composition. Perhaps that's what I lovc about poker - you never have all the information when you make your decisions.