OK, let's start my online poker diary for the month of May with this hand. Let me see what you think. I've got a pair of 10s and a $40 stack at a .10/.25 table playing Rush Poker on Full Tilt.
I'm in the small blind. UTG makes a standard raise to 75 cents. A guy in middle position raises to $2.75. Now it's to me. I can fold here and will sometimes and maybe I should, but to me this is a perfect opportunity to make a lot of money. I can invest $2.65 and hope UTG just calls. If he shoves obviously I can fold.
I call. UTG surprises me by folding (he must have had A-K or maybe A-Q). Sweet. The flop comes even sweeter when it's - - . I check. Middle position, unsurprisingly, bets the pot, $4.44.
OK, so there are draws out there, and though I am not worried about him drawing here - I'm putting him squarely on a big pair - I am worried about a card killing my action. There are a LOT of cards that could scare him off with his one pair. So I check-raise to $8.88.
I'm hoping that the min-raise is weak to him, and I'm also hoping he sees it as an insult, and I'm furthermore hoping he thinks he needs to protect his hand.
Sure, enough, he shoves his entire $56.26. He must have A-A or K-K right?
So I fold.
I mean, that's what you would do, right? Of course it is. He's got two outs, and surely one of them will hit. That's a lot of money to invest!
OK, OK. Stop screaming at me. Yep, I did fold. But this brings me to my first hard lesson I've learned this month:
• Take a moment before you fold or call - Mis-clicks suck. The problem with Rush Poker is you can just fold, fold, fold so rapidly that your cursor gets stuck over that Quick Fold button. Even when you're in a dream scenario, you're about to make another $40 and you won't get another chance like this all month.
Yeah, I mis-clicked a fold, and it cost me at least $60. Ouch.
• Coolers mess with your head - I had just doubled up with a suckout, which I deserved after the last couple of months (entitlements is another lesson that we'll get to in a bit). Finally. And then I flopped a set. I min-raised on the turn, and the guy raised me back, but he didn't shove. This set off alarm bells, but honestly, there were no draws on the board. It was about as safe as I could get. And he did raise, so it's perfectly conceivable that he could have Q-Q, K-K or A-A. Only one hand beat me, in fact, and of course he had it: 10-10 for a larger set.
I honestly was upset at myself for a second. I should have folded. But there's NO WAY I can fold there, right? I mean, I can beat a LOT of conceivable hands.
That's the way it's been this month. Coolers have killed me. The suckouts are, for the most part, gone, but the coolers have really hurt me this month, and not only that, they're making me afraid of monsters under the bed. I once considered folding top full house because I was certain he had quads before I reminded myself that this was Holdem and not Omaha (which brings me to my next point).
I hesitate to whine about coolers too much because poker players are famous for saying they ran into a cooler when they're really just overvaluing their hands. Stacking off with top pair is not a cooler. It's stupid. But really, a lot of the time this month, I'll have the second nuts, in Holdem no less, only to see the guy flip over the stone-cold nuts. I really have to wonder if I'm just not good enough to recognize it or if this is just a trend.
OK, on to my next point.
• There are no coolers in Omaha - Last night I had Queens full, the top full house, and this time, the guy did indeed have quads. I lost $5 on the hand.
I'm getting even better at Omaha, and I think my biggest change has been to understand that bad players lose a lot of money when they hold the second nuts. In Holdem you need to extract as much value as you can with the second nuts, and if the guy indeed has the nuts, then so be it. But in Omaha, losing with the second nuts is not a cooler, it's common.
I was willing to call a pot-sized bet on the river (because I had kept the pot small), but there was no way I was going to raise for value. When he showed me the quads, I shook my head, virtually rapped the table and moved on. That's the way it goes in Omaha.
I have lost with Queen-high flushes, top full house and set over sets this month. But I haven't lost a lot. I should, to be honest, probably be losing less. I probably shouldn't be playing a hand like that at all.
Does that mean I play weak? I do not always play weak. I put all my money in this month with top two pair because a player was willing to go to the mat with his Aces (and a flush draw, which didn't hit, and that's the difference between this month and last), and I knew he only had a pair. Sometimes I gamble.
But generally I have learned to let go of "great" hands when I know I'm beat. And THAT brings me to my NEXT point.
• I play better when I stick to my style, even if it doesn't win as much money as it could - I play tight-aggressive poker with a smattering of moves. A small smattering designed to make me slightly unpredictable. That's it. That's my style. That means I play cautiously. It means I might get pushed off of hands occasionally. It means I probably won't win many tournaments (though it also means I cash in quite a few).
I love Rush Poker for this very reason. Though I am getting a little tired of the robotic way 90 percent of the players actually play Rush Poker, I am also liking the fact that I can fold as much as I like without clawing my eyes out in boredom.
It's not fancy, but when I fold good hands in the beginning of my session, I tend to play better throughout, even if it wasn't the right fold. I missed out on a $60 pot because I had trips in Omaha with top kicker. It turned out (amazingly) that I would have been good. But I'm not going to the mat with trips in Omaha because you will lose most of the time, even against bad players, so I made a good laydown. I played the rest of the session well, losing only $7 despite an incredible amount of suckouts and coolers (and a few good hands, I'll admit).
I'm comfortable with who I am as a poker player, and when I play like it, I'm usually successful.
• I play one tournament - Let's face it. Tournaments are fun. They are probably the most fun I'll have in poker, even if they are exhausting. But I don't play very many of them. Why? It seems, especially online, that there are two stages of a tournament. This is only true for me and my tight-aggressive play.
Stage A - You chip up playing good hands and making good moves.
Stage B - The blinds get too big and you push and pray.
You can work and work for three hours and then the blinds creep up so fast that you just have to hope you hit with A-Q and shove. It seems like a waste of time.
They're still fun though.
• Entitlement in poker is dangerous and discouraging - I lost a $135 pot, at .10/.25 Omaha no less, when my open-ended straight and nut flush draw didn't hit for me. I was furious. In these last two months, players have gone all-in repeatedly against me with nothing but naked flush draws and hitting. Players in the last two months drew more than an obsessed artist and hit way more than they should.
And yet, I put in my stack for a huge pot and have a ton of outs and none of them fall? Really?
I had to quit.
This is the entitlement we feel in poker, and it's dangerous and discouraging. It takes all the fun out of your game and makes you make risky plays (I'm not saying my play was risky) because you "deserve" to suck out or hit your draw.
You don't deserve anything. The cards are unemotional and so are the percentages. That's what makes the game beautiful.
If you're feeling this way, that's a form of tilt, and you should take a few days off.
You're entitled to one.