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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - That One Hand

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For those who play pot limit and no limit cash games, you know what I’m talking about when I say “that one hand.”  You know the one:  You’ve played for hours, carefully building up your initial buy-in either through the limit games at an 8-game table or by smartly taking advantage of opportunities to take pots in no limit or pot limit hold’em and Omaha.  And then it happens:  Just when you are feeling good and comfortable with your play, maybe even a little cocky, a hand comes along that undoes everything you’ve worked on, leaving your buy-in decimated and your confidence in shreds.  If you’re not careful, one or two others quickly follow that hand, as the poker gods can smell the loser smell on your breath, and just like that, a 60% profit becomes a lost buy-in.

I’ve been departing from my usual habit of playing limit stud h/l and multi-table turbo no limit hold’em sit ‘n’ go tourneys, and venturing more and more into 8-game and mixed pot limit hold’em/Omaha.  I like the action of the games, and the variation of not playing the same game over and over.  What I don’t like is that, far too often, I’ve allowed myself to get involved in “that one hand.”  Let me give you a couple of examples from yesterday’s action:

I was playing $1/$2 8-game on PokerStars, which includes .25-.50 no limit hold’em and pot limit Omaha.  I had taken my stack from its starting point of $40 to a little over $70, and was feeling that my reads were strong, and my play was sharp.  Then, in no limit hold’em, I held pocket nines in the cutoff.  I raised to $1.50, only to have the button re-raise to $6.  He had bought in for $50, and had that amount left, and I hadn’t really seen him play many hands.  THAT’S RIGHT DUMMY!  HE HADN’T BEEN PLAYING ANY HANDS!  Riding on my over-confident high, I neglected to process that piece of information at all, and called the $4.50 to see a flop, which came 8-8-5.  I checked and he bet a bit more than half the pot.  

“Continuation bet with A-K,” said my foolish self, and then I did the worst thing possible.  I just called, instead of folding or raising.  

The turn was a 6, so now I had an inside straight draw to go with my overpair, and I checked once again, and he fired another bullet at it.  My call wiped out all the profit I had played so well to amass, and it still left the river to come.  The river was a J, and I checked once more.  Sure enough, he went all-in, and now I was able to talk myself into the fact that a player who hadn’t been playing any hands just called off his entire stack with a high card bluff.  Of course, he had a pair of queens, and there went half my buy-in.

Soon after, I found myself at a .50-$1 mixed pot limit Omaha and pot limit Holdem table, with just two other players.  Now, looking back on it, I can see how annoyed I was at my previous mistake, because I thought that I was playing .25-.50, and didn’t even notice the $100 buy-in, which is twice what my bankroll management system allows me to risk at a table of this type.  The other two sitting at the table were firing out aggressively at almost every pot.  One of them had a stack of over $400, and the other one would just buy back in whenever he busted.  Soon after I sat down, I was dealt K-K-Q-10, and I raised on the button with it, which the other two called.  The flop came K-A-A, and it was checked to me, so I bet the pot, and the other two called once again.  OK, I thought, what’s going on here?  Yes, I did realize that I didn’t have the nuts, but I figured that if either of them had A-K they probably would have three-bet me pre-flop, because that’s how aggressive they’d regularly been.  The turn was a 5, and it was checked to me again, so I bet the pot once more, one player folded, and then I was raised for the remainder of my chips, which was another half buy-in, by the third player.  Still reeling from the hand at the other table, and remembering that I had seen him bluff off a stack about 15 hands earlier, I convinced myself that he was trying it again, and I made the call, and he showed A-5.  Boom!  A full buy-in gone.

Now never let it be said that I don’t learn from my mistakes:  Later in the day, I flopped a set of aces in Omaha on an A-Q-8 board with two diamonds.  I bet the pot, and was called, then bet it again when a non-diamond 4 came on the turn, only to be called once more.  When the diamond fell on the river, and my opponent made a big bet, I laid it down!  And yes, he had the flush (he also had a huge wrap draw with K-J-10-9, so I couldn’t even be particularly mad about the beat).  But this time, I walked away from the hand with the bulk of my profits intact, and went about repairing the damage I had done to my bankroll earlier in the day.

It is said that unless you can lay down the winning hand, you will never be a winning poker player.  You will just be a calling station.  Sure, there will be times when your opponent is bluffing.  Yes, the first guy COULD have had A-K, and the second player COULD have been trying to take down the pot with nothing, but the odds were severely against it.  For me, this was a lesson I thought I had learned, but clearly have never mastered.  The danger of no limit and pot limit games is the same as their allure; that at any moment, all your chips could be in the middle of the table.  When “that one hand” comes for you, make sure it is when you’ve got the best of it.

See you at the tables!

*Read Clearspine's Blog*

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