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October 2019 Week 2: Poker is Hard… Really, Really Hard.

October 16, 2019

Spoiler alert in the post title. This has not been a good week. Maybe it’s a bit dramatic to say that it has been devastating, but I’m reaching a point in my year where I’ve realized I’ve had to fight tooth and nail for all my profit in 2019. Maybe I’ve been spoiled in the past. Maybe I’ve run way above expectation historically. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I’ve never struggled like this before. Not for this long. Not this consistently. It seems like every single month I’m digging myself a hole and spending the last week or two trying to get out of it. My overall results aren’t horrendous, but they have been quite middling. If I keep up the same pace for the rest of the year, my final result will be about half as good as any of my year end results for any of the past three years. I’m sure fluctuations in this business are super normal (especially when you don’t bink a tournament), but that’s still a pretty steep drop.

Well, let’s get to the sessions.

I showed up early to Palace on Wednesday to watch MLB playoffs and started my day off with an 8/16 Hold’em session. I folded to my big blind and got a free flop with the 63o for a potential Coast session. It looked really promising when the board fell Q637K and I bet all the way and just got called down by one of the limpers… but after I showed my hand he turned over the Q3 suited for a better two pair. The other people that saw the hand started razzing him about why he just called me all the way and he just said, “I’m scared of him.”

That guy obviously doesn’t read my blog.

It looked like I was going to have a pretty sizable loss for a short session, but I raised a bunch of limpers from the small blind with AQdd, got a free card on a flop of T9x with one diamond, check-called a jack turn and then got two callers when I drilled the king on the end.

That pot somewhat salvaged things and I moved to PLO only stuck -$108 for the day.

I’ve been having a lot of mixed feelings about PLO lately. I thought I was running above expectation the first two years of the game and it seems pretty clear now that I definitely was… plus the game has seen a dramatic shift. The complexion of the game is a lot worse than it used to be. It’s the same people in the starting lineup every week and instead of a bunch of loose players that have no idea what they are doing punting stacks left and right, it is mostly experienced regulars sitting down. I mean… how often is a situation going to come up where I’m going to stack a Lee Markholt?

Especially if I’m playing bad?

I call $15 on the button in a multiway pot with AK42 double suited. The flop is A84 with two clubs, giving me two pair and the nut flush draw. The PFR (who raised from UTG) leads out for a full pot-sized bet of $90, Part-Time (yeah, I’m going back to that… Mr. Freeze is a dumb name for him) calls, and action is to me. The PFR has like $400 behind to start the flop action and I have a little over $500 myself. I raised the pot, she jammed all in, and Part-Time got out of the way. We agreed to run it twice and her set of aces held up on both boards. I was pretty mad at myself for getting it in here, but I think that’s a bit results oriented because the turn card on the first board paired the 8 and I felt like I would have had to fold at that point and could have saved my stack. But I think an 8 is the only card that would make me want to fold, so the money is probably almost always going in on the turn.

I call $15 with AQQ3 single suited from the big blind and decide to lead out on the 532 two club board when I flop the nut flush draw. Part-Time is my only caller from the small blind. I bet $135 when the turn bricks off with a 9 and he calls again. And because I hate money and my game is super sharp in this session, I bet $200 on the jack river and he reluctantly calls me with his set of deuces. Boom. Another $400 punted.

Part-Time raises under the gun to $15 without looking at his hand and I’m next to act with TT22 double suited. Since the table is short-handed at this point, I decide to 3-bet it and hope to get it heads up. Mission accomplished. Part-Time calls $50 and we see a flop of Q87 with two spades. This gives me a ten high flush draw and four outs to a set – not much of a hand to speak of. I have some key blockers to the best straight draws though, so that’s something to keep in mind. I decide to check back and take a free turn card. It’s an offsuit 9 and when Part-Time makes it $80, I decide to use my blockers to represent the nuts and make a pot-sized raise to $305. It works out well, as he responds by stuffing it in my face. Now there’s over $900 in the pot and I only have about $200 behind and my flush draw is probably live. I’m getting 4.6 to 1 on a call here, so I need around 18% equity to call and a flush draw with one card to go is right around that number, so calling off seems pretty neutral… but it feels like a massive punt. Another massive punt. I make the call and Part-Time only wants to run it once. I bink a ten on the river, which gives me a brief glimpse of hope, but my set gives him a straight with the KJ in his hand and he had a set of queens before that anyway.

I took a break after basically felting for the third time in the session and I really had to wonder what was going on. It’s not like I was playing any hands. I was super card dead, but I still managed to punt off three buy-ins with three different flush draws. I decided to go play some Ultimate Hold’em in the pit because my boy Mexi Nugget was dealing at that table and the Nationals and Dodgers were tied in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the NLDS and Mexi Nugget is a die hard Dodgers fan and I had my Nats hat on because I bet them to win the World Series when they were 32-1. I don’t ever play in the pit unless I’m using a Match Play, but this was a social play so we could watch the end of the game together and I managed to win a little money while laughing at his misfortune as the Nats took a four run lead and eventually advanced to the NLCS.

I decided to sit back down in PLO after that and put myself at risk of having an all-time worst session. It seems like this should have happened already, but somehow a -$2300 I posted all the way back in June of 2016 is still the most money I’ve ever lost in a single play. That probably has more to do with my pain threshold than anything else though. It seems like when I’m down around $1500 or so in a live game, I start to unravel emotionally and find myself wanting to disappear instead of accepting the challenge before me and grind my way out of it. That’s something to work on, for sure.

Anyways, I sat back down and the game was really short-handed – five of us, I think. I made a little bit of a comeback, but only one hand during this span really sticks out in my mind. I decided to open with the 6532 single suited and Scarecrow was my only caller. Scarecrow was running insanely good in this session; I think he ended up winning over $5000, which is totally absurd. Anyways, he defends his blind here and then donks $35 on a Q42 rainbow flop. This board smacked me obviously, but it really shouldn’t be that good for my range, so I decide to just call. The turn is an offsuit 3, giving me the nuts, and Scarecrow bets $100. Again, I decide to just call because I want him to keep betting on the river and the hands he can have that can stand a raise aren’t numerous. I would be surprised if he called a pot-sized raise with two pair. Naturally, the river pairs the queen and when he bets $215, I make the call because I fucking hate money and he shows me the Q4 full house.

Unreal. The game broke shortly after that and I booked a cool -$1256 in the PLO streets and felt like I played some of my worst possible poker.

Here are my PLO win rates at Palace the last three years:
2017: $103.74/hr
2018: $85.98/hr
2019: $7.86/hr

Uhm yeah. I’ve reached a point where I’m wondering if I should even be targeting that game anymore. In addition to running quite salty this year, I’ve come to find myself feeling really bored when I play PLO. The pace of the game can be brutally slow and sometimes you go weeks in between hands where you find yourself in an amazing spot to stack someone. I’ve played entire sessions where I felt like I maybe shouldn’t have played even a single hand. Or maybe I just need to study and practice more. I didn’t put my name up for this week’s game and I think I’m going to take at least a few weeks off from PLO to get my mind right.

My plan on Thursday was to play the $400 NL event in the Muckleshoot Classic series, but then the Tampa Bay Rays went and shocked the world by forcing a Game 5 with the Houston Astros and I wasn’t about to miss that. MLB Playoffs > No Limit Hold’em tournaments. I feel like if I’m playing an NL tourney, I should be focusing on the action at the table as much as I can and I knew I wouldn’t be doing that during the baseball game, so skipping the tourney and playing 8/16 at Palace seemed like the right call. I could enjoy the game and give it my full attention while possibly auto-piloting my way to some income.

Alas, I was extremely card dead and managed to lose the few pots I did play and sometime around the 8th inning, my wife messaged me saying how much she missed me, so I went home after the Astros knocked off the Rays and booked a -$343 in less than three hours of play.

Friday night’s 15/30 session started with a lineup of Taz, FanBoy, Animal, Radio Mike, Mighty Mouse, Scrappy Doo and a new name I’m adding to the nickname section: Dreamcrusher. Head on over to Blog Nicknames to read the write up I did for this player today.

This session started off innocently enough. I made it to my first break with $20 of sugar after around 90 minutes of play. The most interesting spot during this stretch was finding myself with red aces on QJTccTc in a heads up pot versus the small blind. It feels super gross to bet the turn and fold here when I can check back and show down for the same price, but a) I don’t think my opponent in this hand will fold a queen or a jack in this spot and b) I don’t think he is capable of turning whatever he has into a bluff. Even check-raising a hand like AcQ is a pretty ambitious play on this board texture against an under the gun raiser. As such, I’m confident I can bet the turn and river for value and fold if he raises me with little concern that I’m laying down the best hand, so that’s what I did when he check-raised the turn. I’m not folding aces in heads up limit Hold’em pots… like ever… but this felt like an early moment of clarity for me and I still feel good about the fold.

Two hours later, I’d be taking my second break of the session and it’s safe to say things had unraveled. I was now stuck just over $1000. I mean… what in the FUCK? This 15/30 game is unbeatable for me all the sudden? Every Friday it’s the same shit.

There were a couple of brutal ones during this stretch.

In one pot, I had AJo in a 3-bet multiway pot and the flop was A53 rainbow. Scrappy Doo called 3-bets from the big blind and then donked into two raisers on the flop, but I felt compelled to raise because I don’t want anyone else to call for a single bet. That cleared the field out but then Scrappy 3-bet it and I called down without improving even though this is a line I never expect to be winning against. The 5 did pair on the river, so there was at least some chance I sucked out on A3. But I paid it off and Scrappy Doo turns over the 42 offsuit. In a 3-bet pot. I’m pretty sure that’s not a hand he’s defending with 100% of the time, but I’m sure glad he decided to gamble with it here.

In another hand, Dreamcrusher raises under the gun, I 3-bet TT next to act, and Taz calls 3 cold in the next spot. The three of us see a flop of 642 rainbow and I lead and 3-bet when Taz raises me. All three of us are still in for the turn. Perhaps I should be concerned when a 3 falls on 4th street after Dreamcrusher calls two bets cold on the flop, but I was very sure I had the best hand on the flop, and I didn’t think the turn should help her under the gun opening range (at a full table)… but I know Dreamcrusher is capable of playing almost any two cards from any position in almost any situation… so whether or not the turn should help an under the gun opening range is pretty fucking irrelevant here. In the moment, I bet the turn like a dummy and then paid her off after she check-raised and bet the river. She showed me the 75 offsuit.

I made it to one more break. I suppose I was already crumbling under the weight of another poor session on top of weeks of run bad in this particular game, but I was about to snap. I probably played another hour or two and during that span I ran super hot preflop and ultra bad after the flop. I lost with QQ to AK when my opponent called down and rivered a pair with no other draw in sight. I had JJ vs KQ on a QT973 run out in a massive pot. I had AK on a KT8cc79c runout and didn’t even bother calling a river bet. I had QTcc vs J9 on JT9cKQ in a massive pot I ended up having to chop. I had QQ again against a single big blind defender and got a disconnected king high board and of course he had K2 offsuit. And then I had TT vs 77 on K7447 in one of my final hands of the night. That last one was against FanBoy and I’m pretty sure he’s cognizant of the fact that I’m tilted out of my mind and making sharp folds is no longer on my agenda, but I decided to give him three streets of value anyway. That last one upset me so much that I decided to call it a night. Not because I lost another hand, but because I was clearly making very bad decisions and my emotions were out of control.

I ended up finishing -$1875 and I only played 6.5 hours. That ranks as my third worse session I’ve ever had in the 15/30 game at Palace and my performance in this game in 2019 has become alarming. Again, let’s take a look at my 15/30 win rates the last three years at Palace:
2017: $31.19/hr
2018: $58.05/hr
2019: $9.12/hr

Yes. This year has been depressing.

Even though I left the game early and my plan was always to play the Main Event of the Muckleshoot Classic on Saturday, I went home Friday night on the fence about it. I was really stewing and a good part of me knew that it would be a dumb idea to try to play a major tournament the next day. I decided to sleep on it and set my alarm for 8 AM to see how I felt in the morning. Well, my alarm went off at 8 and I gave getting up zero thought before turning it off and going back to sleep. I woke up a few hours later and didn’t even bother to look up how long late registration was open. I just took the day off and that means I missed an entire Muckleshoot Classic for the first time in 5.5 years. That means I’m going to have to grind my way to my annual standards of income the old fashioned way.

I played in the 10/20 Omaha 8 game at Palace on Sunday. After getting huge lists for the Sunday O8 game the first two weeks, this past week saw a massive dip in attendance. I can hardly blame the customers. The first two weeks we had a full game and a list that was 10+ deep all day of people that specifically came to play in the 10/20 game. However, both weeks the staff didn’t start a second red chip game because they didn’t want to break the 4/8 O8 game. Well, there’s a 4/8 O8 game every other day of the week… I don’t see why that needs to be a priority on the day they are trying to spread a bigger game and attract a different player pool. What happens when you lock out a full table worth of people that want to play 10/20 and force them to play 4/8? Not once, but two weeks in a row? They stop coming in. So there wasn’t much of a list to speak of in week 3 and the game started to fizzle around 7:30pm and was completely dead by 8pm (after going past midnight the first two weeks) and honestly, it makes me wonder about the future strength of the game. The players have already been conditioned to think that if they don’t have a seat to start the game, they might as well not even show up. Good job, Palace.

I got off to a terrible start in O8, reaching a low point of -$700 or so, but I rallied back before the game crumbled and ended up booking a $356 profit.

And then I was somewhat surprised when The Leak decided she wanted to play 8/16 and we ended up playing for another 6+ hours. I had some miserable moments in this session, taking the $611 I brought to the table and nearly turning it into $0. In fact, there was a hand where I would have been all in if I had bet the turn and river, but I checked back second pair and ended up winning the pot. I don’t ever get all in in a limit game, so that would have been a first. Like… the players at Palace have never seen in happen… in 5+ years. I just didn’t feel like reloading because I didn’t even really feel like playing. Fortunately, I rebounded and ended up booking a rather small loss, thanks to this pot:

The hijack opens, Radio Mike 3-bets from the cutoff and I cap with AK of spades on the button and it’s just the three of us. The flop is AJ9 with two spades and it checks to me. I bet, the HJ calls, and Mike check-raises. I think Radio Mike is overly passive after the flop, so AK is not in great shape against his check-raising range on this board texture, but since I have the nut flush draw as well and there’s a third player in the pot, I go ahead and 3-bet it anyway. They both call. I’m planning to check back a blank turn, but it’s a king and I feel like that gives me the best hand most of the time, so I bet and they both call again. The river is another ace and I’m a little surprised to see Radio Mike lead out. It’s a bit of a weird play. I actually thought he might have AJ on the flop or maybe a set, but the sets seemed highly unlikely when he just calls on the turn. Anyways, I have the nuts here, so I raise and he asks, “do you have quads,” and I respond, “you know I don’t have quads” (because it seems like he has to have AJ or A9 here). But then it is clear that he doesn’t have an ace and he asks if I have AK and I say, “yes,” but that doesn’t stop him from putting in the call and I’m somewhat shocked to see that he had pocket jacks.

That hand somewhat salvaged my session and I finished 8/16 -$78.

All in all, it was a -$3360 week of live poker for me – a devastating blow after finally getting off to a good start and, once again, I find myself stuck in the middle of a month. So what’s that, nine months in a row I’ve been stuck at the midway point? I’ve only had two losing months this year, so the final results aren’t terrible, but it’s not much fun fighting an uphill battle. Every. Single. Month. On the bright side, I had a rare very good week in online mix games to somewhat soften the blow.

On another bright side, this month marks three years since I last clocked in for a day job. That seems like an accomplishment worth celebrating. When I look at my bankroll when I quit working and compare it to now, it doesn’t feel like I’ve made much progress, but then I remember that we’ve bought two houses, I paid off my student loans, started an IRA, and cleared all our unnecessary debt and that seems pretty damn cool. That’s something to keep in mind during what has certainly been a down year for me. Poker has been good to us and I’ve made considerably more money playing poker than I ever did working a day job.

Stay the course.

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