Poker on the Kansas City boats on Saturday night was one of the worst sessions I've ever endured. It was the kind of session that makes you wonder about the future of poker, your style of play and even why you play at all.
The first hour, at the Ameristar, started out great, despite the fact that the best player at the table was directly on my left. I flopped two sets and bet them aggressively, and I was $100 up when I listened a little too much about how Harrah's was taking over the poker scene and decided to give it a shot. The players at my table were all tight, solid slingers, and I wanted easy money.
Just my luck, then, that at Harrah's, I was seated at a screw-tight table, where I didn't get paid for a flush, most of my rare pre-flop raises gathered the blinds and nothing else and no one else was doing any better. I doubt the dealer made more than a few bucks in tips during their half-hour shifts.
When a few young, cocky but cool kids (you know the type, if you don't, you haven't sat at a poker table for very long) sat down, it helped loosen things up, but by then I had endured a series of coolers that left me a little beaten down.
I flopped trips with A-10, only to lose to A-J. My pair of Aces with A-Q got bumped by a straight with crap cards on the turn. TPgreatK, with a J on the board, gave another guy two pair. I had A-Q three times and A-K twice and not once did it hit, and neither did my straight and flush draw with J-10 sooted (15 outs twice my ass). I dumped A-K once when a guy re-raised and showed me K-K. I was through flopping sets despite seeing at least 20 small pocket pairs and calling some raises with them.
I finally lost the rest, not much, when I flopped top two pair and lost to a flopped flush when the guy played 8-3 of hearts.
I bought in for another $200 and raised with A-J and got two pair on the flop, with A-J-5. The youngest, cockiest guy looked very interested, so I checked and let him bet it for me. He obliged. There were no flush draws out there, so I just called. I did the same on the turn, only when he bet $30, I raised to $80. He instantly pushed and instantly called. I knew I was ahead. Sure enough, he showed A-5, I flipped over A-J, and I didn't notice he was on a spade draw until the last one fell and the dealer pushed the pot his way. Runner, runner flush.
I wasn't pissed at him. He had a hand. But I was a bit whiny inside at that point. Really? I managed to escape all those other beats with the minimum lost. I had endured a shitload of coolers, and I played the last hand well, trapping him despite my extremely tight image. It was my chance to be rewarded for my patient, observant, egoless play.
Poker, at times, is a very cruel game.
I considered my options after I lost my stack again. I finally decided to buy in again, looking at the session as an opportunity to build my mental strength, the way the last three miles of a 15-mile run prepares me for a half marathon. I was determined not to tilt.
I managed to do just that, mainly because you can't really play 10-5 (well, I can't, anyway) and 8-4, and I slunk away at midnight. not really sure what to think.
My tight style was the same style that I saw in Vegas, and the same style I'm seeing now, even at the 1-2 NL tables. I'm wondering if that's all we might see for a long time, with the economy the way it is. You're just aren't going to see people who don't mind blowing $200 for entertainment because they saw poker on TV.
And I can't battle the aggressive style exhibited by those cocky young kids without cards, and those only come so often (or not at all), and even when you do outplay them when you (finally) get a hand, your hand won't always hold up.
It makes me wonder if I'm going to have to change the way I play.
But I'm not worried about that now. I don't know if I ever will. Poker is a recreational hobby for me. it's a profitable one, to be sure. I made more money this year than even two years ago, when the tables were much easier to beat, both live and online.
But it is a hobby, and with my never-ending duties as a parent, and my responsibility to myself to run and climb mountains, I can't take the time to truly study the game to put me at an elite level and dominate tables without cards.
That's OK. Sessions like Saturday's don't come very often. Or if they do, I might have to take up video games again.