OK, so recently I talked about how calling off a bunch of chips in anger, even when you know you're beat, was a bad play.
But bad beats and tough losses can also make you tentative and unwilling to call, even when you know you should.
It's another kind of tilt, but it can cost you just as much money.
I've got - on the button and I'm playing .25/.50 NLHE on PokerStars.
This is a nice hand, especially on the button, so I raise to 1.50. The action's only attracted one limper, so I wonder if I'll get much action on this, especially given that I'm at a full, nine-handed table, when my raise might mean a little more.
But the small blind raises another $1.50. This would normally send alarm bells off in my head. That screams for a call, and he's doing it even when he'll be out of position the rest of hand. He must like his hand right?
But that's exactly what this player's done this entire session. So I call him. So does the limper.
The flop comes - - .
It looks like a great flop for me, until the small blind bets $1 and the other guy pushes for his last $9.
My head, and my read, tells me I should call.
Here's what my read says:
• The guy who pushed is shortstacking, which is a word I use for playing aggressive poker with small stacks, so they aren't risking very much. There are players who swear by this kind of play, i.e. buying in really short into a poker table, trying to double up and then leaving. I personally hate it. If you hit a big hand, you won't earn nearly as much as you could, and there's rarely any room for much post-flop play.
I rarely give these shortstackers much credit for big hands, and you really shouldn't, either. They can't really help themselves and wind up donking off their stacks with mediocre holdings or a draw. He probably has a flush draw, a low Queen or a pocket pair lower than a Queen. I just can't give him credit for a hand that can beat mine. Remember, he just limped, too. If I had to guess, I'd put him on a medium pocket pair, maybe something like 9s.
• As for the small blind, he has maybe $10 more behind him, and he's exactly the kind of player who would call off his chips on a draw, too, or a small Queen. He's not an idiot, though, and that makes me think he also doesn't give the short stack much credit.
It's harder to put the small blind on a hand because of his preflop raise. He really could have a pocket pair that beats my Queen. But if he had K-K or A-A, wouldn't he have bet more than just $1 after the flop? Would he really want another player in the hand against his vulnerable overpair?
His call tells me he's hoping to see the rest of the cards for cheap, and that tells me he has some sort of a draw.
• Finally, all kinds of players love to bluff on paired flops. Usually the first person who bets these kinds of flops takes down the pot because they're hard to hit.
Yet I fold.
I fold because lately I've taken a series of bad beats. It's been my toughest year in poker so far, in fact, and many times lately I've thought there was no way that, say, someone would have a 3 in this situation, and someone turns over a 3.
Folding, I tell myself, is not a bad play here. I've only invested $3 in the pot, there are two others in it, and I do have a hand that could be dominated. I may not be that far ahead anyway.
It's exactly the kind of thing you tell yourself when you've lost a lot of money lately and you're gun shy about losing more.
I'm not wrong. It's not a terrible fold. But it's not what my read tells me to do, and when you ignore your reads, you usually lose money. If you find yourself doing the opposite of what your read tells you to do, it means your game is off because of something outside the session, like tilt, a bad run or your basketball team just lost in the NCAA Tournament, and you need to shut down for the night.
Sure enough, the small blind shows - for a flush draw, and the shortstacker shows 6-6. The flush draw does not get there, and the shortstacker takes the pot.
A pot that was mine had I trusted my read instead of my fear.