Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Poker is a Stupid* Game

(*-The actual title of this blog post consists of the word “stupid” repeated an infinite number of times before the word “poker.”)

Sunday night I sent out a tweet about poker being a stupid, stupid (etc.) game.  It was sent right after playing 7 hours of poker at the 1PM Aria tournament.  So you already know where this story is going. 

As for the journey….well there was a period there where I thought I would have a really awesome, totally upbeat, life affirming blog post to write—about how I scored big in the tournament.  Wouldn’t it be great to write a post about a huge cash in a big deepstack tournament?  But of course, that’s not the way it turned out.

As my readers know, on weekends I love to play at the Binion’s 2PM tournament whenever I get the chance.  But due to smaller turnouts recently, they removed the $10K guarantee on Sundays.  So, after playing at Binion’s the day before (which turned out to be an all-too brief experience that isn’t really worth talking about), I decided that playing at Aria on Sunday would be a better option. 

I was right on one level.  They had 137 entrants ($125 buy-in) and a prize pool of over $13K.  The first place prize was over $4,000.  They were paying 15 places. 

If this post had the happy ending it should have (if poker were not a stupid game) I would go into great detail on all the many relevant hands that were key in my making it into the money.  I know my readers would love it if I described every single hand of the tournament, even the many times I folded garbage hands without a second thought.

But that would be too painful for me at this point, so I’ll just isolate a few key hands before reaching the denouement.

Things started well when I raised with KK and flopped a set.  I even got someone with KQ to shove into me with a short stack.  Small chip pickup, but winning with the dreaded pocket Kings is always a pleasant surprise for me. Besides, the guy I busted out was annoying the hell out of me.  He didn’t stop clearing his throat the entire time he was at the table.  I don’t know if he was sick or not, but aside from worrying about getting infected from this guy, it was just maddening listening to him.  I should have gotten a $10 tip each from all the other players for getting rid of him.

Still in one of the early levels, I stupidly just called an aggro’s raise with QQ.  But when another player shoved and the aggro folded to the three-bet, I found my cajones and shoved.  I had about 1/3 more chips than the raiser, who snap-called and tabled AK.  Nothing hit either one of us, and it was a good pot for me.

In the fifth level I raised with AK, got a caller, saw of flop of AK9.  When I bet out, the caller, a short stack, shoved with K-10.  He caught a 10 on the turn but no more and I had his chips.  That put me at $26K in chips where $17K was an “M” of 20.  Not bad.

Same level, with blinds at 25/200/400 and a few limpers in front of me, I made it $2K with AA.  The Asian woman with the big, fake boobies called.  She had less chips than I did, but not that much less.  Queen high flop, I bet $4K and she shoved.  I snap called.  She had been aggressive all day and I was fairly sure all she had was a Queen.  I was right.  She had a weak Queen and didn’t get any help on the turn or the river.

I had $42K starting level 6 and so I got a little cocky.  I talked myself into believing the biggest aggro at the table was bluffing and called on the river with 55.  He had a weak Ace that hit on the river.  It was a dumb play.

I raised with pocket 7’s and got called by the old nit next to me.  When he bet on an Ace high flop, I had to fold, and suddenly my chip stack at the start of the 8th level was $22K, which was an “M” of less than 10.

So I shoved with pocket 9’s and picked up the blinds, antes and a few limpers bets.  Very next hand, I three-bet shoved with AK.  Unfortunately the short-stack who raised had AA.  I didn’t get lucky.  The net result of those two hands back to back was about a wash.

By level 10, I was at $25K where an “M” of 5 is $30K.  I was definitely in desperation mode and it looked like my tournament was about to end long before I could resume thinking about finishing in the money.

I shoved with A-5 and didn’t get a caller.  Then a big stack made a big raise when I had AK again.  My shove was less than his bet.  But he only had A-8 and I had a much needed double up.

On level 10, I shoved in early position with pocket deuces and no one called me.  Then, against a raise, I shoved with QJ.  The raiser thought about it and folded.  I was definitely willing to take chances at this point.  If I busted out, so be it, I still had a whole evening in front of me to play cash.

Against another raise, I shoved with AK and this time the raiser called.  He tabled AK!  Neither of us were suited and no one it a flush.  We split some antes and blinds.

I shoved with AQ after someone had made a big raise.  I was assuming he’d call, but after tanking, he folded.  My aggression was paying off and without many showdowns, I was getting enough blinds, limpers money and antes to chip up.  Suddenly it was starting to look like I had a chance to cash. 

I had enough chips at this point to not just shove.  I raised to $10K when the big blind was $3k with J9 spades.  No one called.

At the start of level 12, with blinds 500/2000/4000, I had around $60K, which was a bit over an “M” of 5.  Not great, but there were shorter stacks than mine, a number of them.  Before the level was 2/3’s over, we were down to 16 players and were playing hand-for-hand.  The big stack at my table vetoed any idea of paying the bubble.  The min cash was $177, a $52 profit.  We all need one more bust-out to be in the money.

As we got under 20 players, I started playing tighter.  An hour into the tournament, a min cash looks pretty bad.  After 6+ hours of play, with the alternative being a $125 loss, it looks a lot better. That $125 was spent so long ago, so that $177 seemed like all profit.

So I tightened up.  I didn’t throw away any playable hands, but I didn’t take any risks like I had an hour earlier.  I was waiting for a big hand to play.

Late in that level, still hand-for-hand, with about $58K in front of me, I looked down at two beautiful red Aces in the small blind.  Even better, a guy with a stack similar to mine went all-in in front of me.

It folded to me and I of course snap-shoved.  Everyone else folded and my opponent said, “You’re probably ahead.”  No shit.  He tabled Ace-Jack of spades.

I was feeling good until I saw the flop.  Other than it being all spades, this was about as great a flop as he could have hoped for.  It was a Jack and two spades, giving him 11 outs! A meaningless red card on the turn gave me a bit of relief.  It was short-lived.  A black 7 hit the river.  It was not a club.  The lucky bastard had caught his flush.

I really thought he had more chips than I did, but after the count, it turned out he had $7K less. 

I was stunned, and mindlessly started playing with my 14 $500 chips.  There was one hand left before the break.  Numb, I looked at K-3 offsuit.  I suppose I could have shoved there, but there was a raise in front of me and I couldn’t think too straight.  I mucked.

All I could think of during the break was all those chips I would have had if I had won that hand.  I’d be over $125K and would not only be almost guaranteed a cash, but in serious contention to get a big pay day.  Three or four places were getting more than $1,000. 

Another player pointed out tha, if I had won that pot, the bubble would have been broken, we’d all be in the money, and hand-for-hand would be over.  Everyone would be happy except that one lucky bastard. 

Poker is a stupid game.

Still hand-for-hand, still on the bubble, I counted my stack of $6,500.  Antes were still $500, but the blinds for the new level were now 3000/6000.  In other words, on the first hand, I would have exactly one big blind.  To say I needed a miracle would be an understatement.

And I got it.  Very first hand, in the cut-off seat, I looked down at pocket Queens.  It folded to me.  I shoved—which was really just a call.  The small blind completed and the big blind checked.  The board was Jack high.  Neither of them bet any street.  One had King high, the other had Ace high and I was still alive, now with $21K.

Not much, but at least it gave me a little wiggle room.  Obviously I would need another break, a decent or semi-decent hand to play before the big blind came to me.  And maybe someone would bust out before I had to shove again.

I throw away some garbage hand next, but on the hand after that, I looked down at pocket 5’s.  That looked like a monster in my situation.  It folded to me and of course I shoved.

It folded until the big blind.  The big blind had the biggest stack at our table by far.  I think they had to borrow some chips from the Bellagio to give this guy all the chips he had in front of him.  So of course he called.  He tabled King-8 of hearts.  By the way, he was the guy who had vetoed paying the bubble.

With the hearts and the two over-cards, I knew I was not in the best of shape.  Until I saw the flop.  It was 5-Queen-Jack.  Yahtzee.  I had a set.  I was looking good.  I’d have close to $50K after this hand, almost back up to what I had lost when I got the Aces, and in pretty good shape to survive the bubble.  After that, I wouldn’t be in great shape to get past the min-cash, but hey, anything can happen, right?

But the turn card was a 10, giving the big stack an open-ended straight draw.

Which he hit when a f***ing 9 hit the river.

Yeah, a god-damned 9.

I didn’t say a word.  I was incapable of speech.  I just sat there in total disbelief, with my mouth wide open.  I think I sat motionless for at least a minute.

Neither of those beats were the worst I’d ever experienced.  But taken together, the two of them, in about a span of about 5 minutes of actual “poker time,” were truly a horrific 1-2 punch.

One of my fellow players said, “Man, are you running bad.”  Another one said, “You should be the chip leader now, and instead, you’re out.”  To be fair, I wouldn’t have been the chip leader, but the point was well taken.

Instead of a big cash, I was out on the bubble.

Poker is a stupid game.

After a quick dinner, I tried playing 2-6 at the MGM.  But I was in a daze, totally not into it.  I didn’t last an hour.  I lost a few bucks, but never in my life had I felt less like playing poker.

Poker is a stupid game.

Note:  The pictures accompanying this post having nothing to do with poker, or anything I've written about it.

But these pics make me smile. Poker?  Not so much at the moment.


  1. WIth the set of 5's, you were about a 97% favorite on the flop. It therefore must come close to being one of your worst beats.

    As a cash game player, I don't think poker is a stupid game. Tournaments are a stupid game.

    1. Thanks, Mr. S. True enough on the set of 5's. Time after time I consider giving up n tournaments....but I do enjoy them. Until that last beat...

  2. Forget it, it's over. And good job leaving MGM's game early - NEVER play when you aren't into it...

    1. Thanks for the sympathy, Coach! :)

    2. You ran into bad luck, obsessing over it won't change it, so gear up for next time... ;)

    3. One of the reasons I do a blog is to obsess, whine, moan and kvetch over bad beats. :)

  3. OUCH. denise makes a great wonder woman

  4. Are you getting your chips in when you are ahead? Yes; Are you finding spots to pick up chips with aggression? Yes; Are you continuing to learn and play better? Yes; Worry about playing your best and the results will come in the long run.

    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, cowboy.

      You're right about the long run. But I will point out what John Maynard Keynes--the father of "Keynesian" economics--said:

      "In the long run, we're all dead."

    2. You had a great run. Last time I checked tournaments you run 75% not to cash or make the money. I love tournaments why? because even though I lose more than I win I do not have those tilt nights where I lose 5 or 6 buy ins. I am losing less playing tournaments then cash and that is good enough for me.

    3. Thanks, ed. I suppose that's one way to look at it....but I've never lost 5-6 buy ins in one day. Ouch. In fact, sometimes when I have a long run with nothing to show for it, I do try to convince myself that I saved a lot of money I would have lost playing cash. But that strikes me as being even more negative. I'd like to think I have a decent chance at winning at a cash game.

  5. Poker is a stupid game. It is not a game of skill, cash or tournament. You either get the cards or you do not.

    It is a game that is over hypped.

    Chess is a game of skill, poker is a game of chance.

    And, cash games are also games of chance. Look at Gus Hansen who is down over five million playing cash games.