Tuesday, October 03, 2006

One soft ball, big balls to play tight and why puking at 3 a.m. may only be the 24-hour flu

OK, first things Frist.
I played poker last night.
(Said in that bully’s voice on “The Simpsons): Ha ha!
Strangely enough I managed to do this without deciding to start selling heroin to prospective customers at Jayden’s day-care, sampling the majority of Las Vegas’ hookers or betting the deed to our house on a pair of 6s.
But you never know, right? Thank God poker is being banned. Now I’ll only watch evangelists on TV and dress in white all day and smell faintly like peppermint.

• • •

I was especially proud of my two-hour session on Absolute Poker, and not just because I managed to say fuck you to the Man. I cleared 100 hands of my 400-hand PSO bonus, which means I’ll get it done even before the SWAT team and black helicopters swarm my house. Ha ha! And not only that, I finished ahead $30, which was nice given my bad luck as of late (two-outers were golden against me in the last couple of weeks), and I played $1 NL for the first time in my life, figuring that, given the current situation, there was no time like the present to try it out, right?

But I was most proud of the fact that I was down at least $50 combined on both tables and yet managed to come back and finish ahead. Usually if I’m down for the night, I’m down for the whole night, either stewing far too much about the bad beat I took (tonight’s specialty was losing to a pair of 3s with KQ and top two pair despite me betting the shit out of the hand when he spiked his set on the river) or playing with my balls shrunk up to my stomach because I don’t want to finish further down for the night.

Sure, I hit quads on the turn with MY pair of 3s and got insane action on the hand. That helped a lot with the comeback.
But mostly I made a tough call.

• • •

Playing a tight style, as I do, seems easier. Dan Harrington in his tournament series even says it’s much better for beginners to play in that style because the energy they expend throughout the tournament is much less than the level needed to be an aggressive player. You don’t face nearly as many tough decisions that way, he said.
That’s true, and yet, playing tight means occasionally you face some incredibly difficult decisions on whether to call.
In order to play tight effectively, you have to be willing to make some tough calls, or even raise, in some difficult situations.

Last night I had A,10 and simply called, as I like to do a little more than I’m willing to admit. When the flop came 10-high with a flush and straight draw out there, I bet it hard. I had two callers.
The next two cards were blanks, or at least they looked like blanks to me, given that there was no way they could have helped the draws. I think one was a 2 of diamonds and the other was the 4 of clubs. I bet it hard again on the turn and then checked on the river, the smart thing to do when you’ve got a medium-strength hand, or at least that’s the way I roll.

Unfortunately, many times, the “play-ahs” at the table see a check on the river as a good opportunity to bluff, and that’s when you have to made a decision while the board is beeping at you.

My opponent, as we were heads up at that point, bet the pot, a stiff bet of $25. I’ve thrown away TPTK many times facing such a bet in the past and been right many times.
But the bet made no sense, unless he had a set, but if he had a set or two pair, even, wouldn’t he of raised me with the draws out there when I bet initially? I figured yes, and that he was bluffing, and I made the tough call.
He was bluffing.

I’m not bragging about the hands. It’s possible, too, that I was already slightly tilting from losing to the 3s and this was a “ah, fuck it” call, and I got lucky. But reading bluffs is probably the biggest way I’ve improved as a poker player in the last two months.
And it’s because I’m willing to make those tough calls now to protect my game as a tight/aggressive player. If you don’t, tight just ain’t right.

• • •

I’ve always loved softball. I played it all through my elementary years and through high school, forgoing baseball (the ball goes too fast) for a more relaxing game that still let me dream about being George Brett for a day.
That’s why, I suppose, I have looked forward to tonight’s game all week, even though I’m 34 and even though it’s coed softball in a novice league.
Our Tribune team is 6-0 and we’ve got a chance to go undefeated for only the third season in the almost 15 I’ve played for the city league.

The good news is we’ve already won our division, so the pressure is off. The bad news is we’re playing the other team that won its division, and I have a sneaking suspicion those players are just better than us. We should, at least, give them a great game.

I plan to go out and play as hard as I can despite puking my guts out at 3 a.m. My first thought was “Oh, no, I might not be able to play,” as if I was a 10-year-old worried about his night trick-or-treating and having to go to school first. Fortunately when I woke up this morning I felt pretty good. Not 100 percent but a lot better than I thought I would. Say 80 percent? 80 percent is good enough for softball.

I have no idea why my stomach decided to believe I was at 28,000 feet climbing Everest, but maybe there is something to that “24 hour flu” everyone talks about getting. I always thought that was an urban legend, as I rarely get sick, like once every five years, but when I do, it usually takes a week of me moaning on the couch for me to recover.
I have to go. There’s only three more hours before I have to leave for tonight’s game.
Then I’ll be on slinging the virtual chips under the cover of darkness, or, at least, my basement.

P.S. Mega props to CC of Quest of a Closet Poker Player for tipping me off to a college student in Greeley who makes almost $10,000 a month playing online poker and appeared in the “Wall Street Journal.” CC's analysis of the new poker laws will not only shine some sun on that little black spot in your heart, it's the best breakdown of what exactly is going on I've read on the Web.

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