Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Worst Call I Ever Made

OK, so as I post this, I'm finally back in Vegas, first time in over a month.  Fortunately this time, I have some pre-written (just add water) blog posts read to go, so even if I don't get to do any blogging while I'm here, I should have enough ready-made material to last until I get back home.  But I do hope I get to write some posts while I'm here.  In the meantime.....

This is a night that started out really well….and then…..well, you’ll see.

Early in the session I limped in with Ace-6 of spades.  As explained previously, they had those cash drawings every four hours and you needed at least a flush to qualify for a ticket. 

The flop came King-Queen-Jack, two spades.  I called a $10 flop bet, as did four others.  The turn card was a low spade, giving me the nuts.  The guy who bet the flop bet $45 and the next guy called in front of me.  I guess I should have considered flatting there, but I always think a flush is vulnerable, so I decided to raise.  The pot was now so big that with my stack (close to my $200 starting stack, more or less), I really couldn’t make any sensible raise other than a shove.  So I moved all-in.  It folded back to the initial bettor who folded.  But the next guy called my shove.  He had a similar stack to mine.

We didn’t show and I didn’t like the King on the river that paired the board.  Obviously the only thing I was concerned about was a full house.  I even said to him as I tabled my hand, “You got a boat?” He said nothing, mucked his hand, and left even before the dealer confirmed that I had him covered by a few bucks.  It was a nice (more-than) double up.

Then I had Jack-10 of hearts in early position.  I limped/called $8, and four of us saw the flop.  It was King-Queen-4, rainbow, no hearts.  I checked/called $20 (three of us left) with my open-ender.  The turn was a blank and I check/called $30 (still three of us).  The river was a 9, giving me the nuts again (no flush was possible).  I was first to act, and didn’t want to take a chance of the both players checking behind me.  I guess I should have considered that more.  Betting there pretty much screams that I have the straight.  Maybe the bettor doesn’t think I’m going to check-raise and value bets?  Definitely a part of my game that I need to improve.  Then, to make matters worse, I bet $100, which was maybe right for the size of the pot but not good if I wanted anyone to call me.  As such, they both folded.  Still, it was a nice pot and I was off to a good start, up over $300.

I lost some chips and then won a small pot when I flopped a set of deuces.  It was only heads up after the flop and it had been limped so it was a small pot.

Then came the hand whence came the title of this post.  In the big blind I had Queen-7 off, no raise, so I saw the flop.  It was Jack-8-2.  It was checked around.  A 9 on the turn gave me a gutshot.  It was checked around again.  And then I hit my straight when a 10 fell.

Problem #1 was that there was nothing in the pot, ten bucks or so.  Problem #2 was that I didn’t have the nut straight.  King-Queen was the nuts.  I thought about it and felt that King-Queen was unlikely there.  I don’t know why.  A lot of players don’t raise with that hand (including me).  I just didn’t think it was likely.  I bet $12.  It folded to a guy in late position and he promptly put out a $70 bet.

A bet that size smacked of someone trying to steal the pot.  The player had been solid all evening, I hadn’t seen him do anything like that, but I felt he was capable of it.

Except for this minor detail…..the pot wasn’t worth stealing.  Betting $70 to steal a $20 pot?  Why would anyone do that? 

Although I considered he might have the bigger straight, I quickly dismissed it.  He probably had a Queen too, and we’d chop it.  I couldn’t let him get away with this steal, could I?

Besides, you know what they say, right?  “Your opponent almost never has the best hand you can put him on.”

Well, almost never isn’t never and this time he did.  He tabled King-Queen and dragged the pot.

I was really upset with myself.  A few seconds too late, I realized how terrible that call had been.  I wasn’t faulting my reasoning as to why he probably didn’t have the hand he had. It was just that….there was no pot to fight for.  Really, what was I calling for there? The most likeliest hand he had was the same as mine. So….call $70 in hopes of getting my $12 back and a few bucks more?  How could I be so stupid?  Even if he was making a move, there wasn’t enough money at stake for me to call him on it.

Really, the more I thought about it, the worse it got.  I started thinking about how he had played it at the end.  It was bad play on his part, right?  He bet too much.  He had the nuts, he should have min-raised me, or maybe 3X my bet to induce a call from me.  But no way would anyone but a total idiot call his bet without the nuts.

Which makes me a total idiot.  I guess he made the right play, he obviously pegged me as a total fish who would call such a big bet without the nuts.  Good read, sir.

I dunno if that was the absolute worst call I ever made, but man, I sure hope I haven’t made too many worse ones.  Oh, and by the way, this one’s for you, Mickey.  Mickey is the guy I met who complained about how I never wrote about any hands I played less than perfectly (see here).  Is this one less than perfectly enough for you?

It’s funny, when I played back my voice notes to prepare for writing this post, I heard myself debating whether or not to record the details, under the logic that I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself publically by blogging about the hand.  And then I heard myself saying, “I’m going to record and chastise myself for it, so I can learn from it.” Thus, my self-flagellation.  But please, don’t be afraid to pile on, I could use the extra criticism.

I was still way ahead for the night but I could no longer think about the chips in front of me or the good hands I had earlier.  I went on tilt, or at least my version of it.  That’s where I think about nothing else but that one hand and stop paying attention to the game.  I don’t go wild, instead, I turn extra tight, afraid to play anything for fear of making another colossal mistake.

After a few orbits, I was still thinking about the hand, so I took a break.  I walked around the casino for bit, trying to clear my head.  I missed a few orbits. 

When I resumed play, I was in a little better state of mind.  I won a small pot raising with Ace-King and taking it with a c-bet on the flop.  But I wasn’t done playing badly.  In the small blind, I limped in with Ace-6 of spades but the big blind made it $12.  Two others called so I called as well.  The flop was Ace-10-4 and it was checked around.  I assumed the big blind would bet and I also assumed my kicker was no good.  The turn was another 4 and this time I put out a $30 bet.  The preflop raiser called and then a guy shoved.  Who?  The guy who had King-Queen in that infamous hand.

After he had taken my money, I had seen him get caught in a big bluff—the first time I’d seen him bluff all night.  He had shoved-bluffed and thus had to rebuy.  So that was in my mind now.  But his shove was only $38 more than my bet, so I called.  I couldn’t put him on a 4 and I thought I’d get some money back from him.  The other guy folded.  The river was a blank and sure enough, he had 5-4 offsuit.  Really?  I guess I had no right to complain, playing Ace-rag suited.

This did not help my state of mind.  I was still up, but all I was thinking about was the $150 or so I had given away from the money I had won earlier.  I realize that’s poker, but it was much worse because I had lost it due to bad play and not because of getting sucked out on.

When you’re playing badly, it helps to get lucky.  Actually, getting lucky helps even if you’re playing well.  I limped in with Ace-4 of spades, trying to get another flush before the 10PM drawing.  It was raised to $12 but when two others called, I decided to come along for the ride.  The flop was Ace-King-x, two spades, a great flop for me.  But I just called a $30 bet from the preflop raiser.  There were three of us left.  No spade on the turn, just another Ace.  I didn’t know whether I liked that or not.  I still I felt was going to be outkicked, or maybe someone had a boat.  I checked.  The preflop raiser looked like he was going to bet, but changed his mind and checked.  So it was still three of us seeing the river card.

The river card just happened to be the case Ace.  That was nice, because on this night, it seemed I was only going to win when I had the nuts on the river.  I was first to bet, and I felt I had to put something out there.  I made it $50 hoping for at least one call.  A raise would have been too much to hope for, but I would have been ecstatic to take it.  The preflop raiser called and the other guy folded.  As he called, he said, “I’m hoping for a chop,” and tabled King-Queen.  This time I could beat King-Queen.  Easily.  His boat was no good.

Winning with quads was nice.  It was a good pot and I even got paid on the river.  Still, those bad hands were mostly what I was thinking about.  Frustrating. 

Then I had a tricky hand.  Pocket Queens, both red.  I raised to $8 and had four callers.  It was a low flop but two clubs.  I bet $30.  The only caller was a guy who had me covered by plenty.  The turn card was terrible, the King of clubs.  So now there were three clubs on the board plus an overcard.  I checked.  Big stack bet $80.  I thought it about and folded pretty quickly.  I was certainly gun shy about making another bad call.  Just too many ways my Queens were no good there.

Having failed to get those bad hands out of my mind, I decided to call it quits while I still had a decent profit left.  I was up over $200 even with those terrible hands, including possibly the worst call I’d ever made. This was probably the worst I’d ever felt after a winning session.  I hope I can learn from it.


  1. Interesting twist.... I made a horrible call, went on tilt, and walked away a winner... Stop the self-abuse!! ;-)

    1. I disagree with Mr. Reed - continue to analyze your game because it will only make you better Rob. I don't know if you've picked up on it reading my blog (seen it the few times that I've mentioned it), but when I was in the early stages of my "poker career" (using that loosely) learning the game at the Mirage, one of my favorite things to do was to walk over to the aquarium that's behind the check-in desk every once in a while to look at the fish and clear my head. Much like myself, it seems that your M.O. is to camp at the table for hours at a time, and I think that it's necessary to give yourself breaks... Good luck out there during this "madness" Rob!

    2. @Mr. Reed, thanks for the comment. I did refer to it as "my version of tilt." The main issue was that I was unable to think of anything positive about a winning session because of how badly I played that hand.

      @Coach, thanks. Fish don't relax me but I get your point. I do take short breaks--maybe too short--when things aren't going well. Sometimes I'll hit the Mens Room even when nature isn't calling just for that. And I will sometimes take an extended break and just walk around to clear my head. But your point is well taken.

    3. Ok so you played a couple hands horribad...shit happens.

      Just be productive and think about what you can do to play better in those situations in the future....beating yourself up about it for an extended period of time isn't improving...let it go and decide to take more time to make a decision next time..etc..etc.

      Overbetting the nuts on that nut flush hand was bad but luckily you found someone playing even worse to call off so it worked out....

      "Don't go broke in a nothing pot" Doyle Brunson

      Take time to evaluate how much value you think you can extract from THESE opponents in THIS situation....your estimations will get better over time.

    4. Thanks, bill. One of the reasons I wanted to post this hand was for the learning experience. I remember thinking at the time, "I'm never blogging about this hand, too embarrassing."

      But I wanted to learn from it, and not just the obvious, which was what a bad call it was. No, I wanted to learn from my reaction to it. I mean,I was having a real good session and bad as this hand was, I didn't lose that much and I was STILL in the middle of a nice session.I was actually depressed because of the bad play, instead of being positive due to the overall good results I was having.

      So I want to learn how to put bad decisions behind me and not suffer through a winning session! Bad for my game, and bad for my overall mental state.