Variance hits everyone.  I’ve blogged about this before but thought this would be a nice time to do so again, since it reared its ugly head in my cash game session on Saturday night.

It was a live $2-$5 game, and the lineup was particularly soft.  Several loose-weak players, a total nit, a spewing LAG, and 1 other good player made for a juicy lineup.  Although sometimes the game can be great, but it’s not great for you, and this turned out to be the case for me as the run-bad seemed to have no end.  

The spewing LAG came into the game on my left, I was in the 8 seat and he took the 9 when he entered.  I learned early on what I was dealing with there… he bought in for the max of $500, promptly lost $300 in the first orbit and reloaded it from his pocket with 3 black chips.  Then in his 2nd orbit he played a hand where he raised preflop to $25 from middle position.  It folded around to the nit in the small blind and the nit 3-bet it a ridiculously large amount, 100 on top making it $125 to go.  After the BB and a single limper folded quickly, the LAG snap called the extra $100.   The flop came JJ6 rainbow, and the nit bet $150.  Again the LAG called.  The turn was a small card, and the nit shoved for $250.  Now the LAG tanked, thought about it for a while, picked up his hand and showed it to my half of the table: 99.  Then he begrudgingly folded.   The nit didn’t show but I was 99% sure he had AA with the margin of error being KK.  Giving the nit preflop action on his overbet re-raise for 25bb’s with only 100 bb stacks holding pocket 9’s was awful.  He later did the same thing, calling a huge overbet reraise preflop to $120 vs. an 80 bb stack, only to fold to a big flop bet.  

Against me he seemed to have my number though.  Every time he entered a pot behind me, things seemed to go pear-shaped.   Here’s a prime example of what I mean:  There was a $10 straddle on, and 2 people limped in for $10 in front of me.  I looked down at QQ in the cut off and raised it to $60.  The LAG snap called behind me, as did the straddle and one of the limpers.  The flop came 226 with two spades (I did not hold the Qs).  It checked to me and I bet $110.  The LAG called and the other 2 players folded.  The turn was the K of spades.  Yuck.  I checked and the LAG bet $300.  I held back the urge to vomit, and folded my hand.   He was kind enough to show me his Kc6c.  Nice hand, sir… well played. :-D

So, I’ve talked before about maintaining emotional control, and how important it is to try and avoid going on tilt.   I am long past the point in my poker career where a bad beat or a donkey getting lucky tilts me… those donkey’s pay the bills but in the process of collecting EV from them we do not collect every single pot, sometimes they take it down.  And this is a great thing!!!  It reinforces their bad play by facilitating their thoughts about how much luck is really involved (oh “it’s all luck” they tell themselves, when in fact the opposite is true… in a single hand or a single turn of the card there is a luck element that is inescapable, and for the fish it can create an illusion that poker is all luck, when in fact over the long term skill determines the winners).  So yeah, a bad beat doesn’t bother me, even a series of them, although certainly it can get frustrating.  I will admit though I do find it particularly frustrating when the scenario occurs that happened to me Saturday night… specifically, when the game is fantastic in terms of soft line up, and the cards/situations are all seeming to break against me.   Like I said at the top of this blog… sometimes a game can be good, but it’s not good for you.  Recognizing this and leaving this situation before your bankroll goes pear-shaped is a very difficult but critical ability to have imo.  

For me, the frustration (tilt) manifests itself in the form of wanting to play too many speculative hands in situations that really aren’t +EV.  This started to creep into my game on Saturday, and I knew what was happening.  I consciously told myself “don’t make this call” a couple times.  I let the bad call slip into the pot a couple others, and told myself afterwards “that is fishy Dave”.   Taking a walk and getting something to eat, just taking a break, helped me get my head screwed back on straight when this started to happen.  I returned to the table feeling refreshed and focused, and played excellent poker for about 2 more hours.  The situation didn’t change though, lots of large pots with players spewing left and right, and every time I was able to get involved the game did not cooperate with me.  When I felt the frustration (tilt) coming back, I ended up making some bad decisions in a hand that cost me ~ $200 needlessly, and immediately picked up and quit after that hand (nothing tilts me more than my own actions equaling doing stupid things at the table).  I ended up down $840 for the session.   It could have been worse since I had 2K in my pocket.   There was certainly a temptation to reload and continue playing, as the game was so damn good, but my mindset at that point was clearly off and not on my “A” game anymore, which severely limits how good the game actually would be for me going forward.  

There’ll be other good games.  There always are.  By avoiding going off for a huge number when it was clearly not going to be my night, I will be better prepared mentally and emotionally to attack them with confidence and my “A” game firmly in place.