Saturday, June 20, 2009

Luck, Lucky and Luckier: Part 2

This topic is something I need to write more about. I've been really thinking about it lately and how it relates to poker. The friend I mentioned in the last post chimed in with another doosy of a comment:

Sure, there's a lot of skill in poker, but if you put the best players in the world together on the same table, the skill cancels out and you are left with just the cards.
Is that really true? Is there no variation in the way we play that if we all become optimal, we are back to just playing the cards?

TripJax has that series of posts he's written on that subject and I hope to get back to talking about those soon. I recommend heading over and reading them. I have to reread them myself, cause like him, I have a very short attention span. Thankfully, I learned a while ago to make lists and take notes. The notes usually suck, but they are some place to start.

Tuesday night, I was back at poker league. This was the final night of an 8 week league. Seems I'd only made it to two other nights. 3 out of 8 makes you an awesome major league hitter but makes it tough to be in contention for bigger prizes in a poker league. Still, if I finished in the top 2, I'd go to regionals. I know...sick.

I started the night on a freeroll taking advantage of the people at the tables fighting for spots in regionals or even the league championship. It was a good night on the felt. I really felt on top of my game and was picking my spots well. This is where we, as poker players, change the luck factor. I really wasn't playing my cards much. Sure, I'd glance at them. Heck, I'd even consider what they were once and while, but for the most part, it's the people I'm playing that I made my decisions about.

For me, poker isn't about luck, being lucky or getting the right cards, it's about learning to execute risk management. I took a couple of bad beats early, but I'd kept the damage small. This really helped keep from tilting. When I'm tilting, I slip in to my "Elements of Poker" C game in a bad way.

My tight/conservative play was keeping me at the low end of a average chip stacks. No biggie. All I need to do is remain calm and play good poker. Other tables in the room started breaking and soon I found a player I've played many hands with had joined my table, 2 to my left giving him position, oh, and he had chips too. But he does have a problem, he's a loose aggressive player that just doesn't know what to do with a large re-raise.

Large re-raises in poker league are pretty rare. Most of the people that play are either loose-aggressive/passive or just loose/passive. Once the flop comes, it's all about the cards. The last two sessions for me it's been about playing players and hitting their weaknesses hard.

Grant and I have been playing each other for years but if theirs one thing that's consistent: it's his penchant for bluffing off his chips. He's also good for an over bet to scare people away. Here's how he builds his stack.
  • Player A raises in early position.
  • Grant re-raises (could honestly be any two cards)
  • Player A folds
Over the years, I've watch him do this. It works for him. He either goes deep or he goes home early. I've also noticed patterns to how he does this. Probably shouldn't tell ya either. Here's where poker and luck don't cross.

Tuesday, I made the vast majority of my chips re-re-raising Grant. Only, unlike him, there was no min raising. We are talking full on pot sized reraises. If I was the original raiser, I'd come in for 3 or 4 big bets. He'd raise another 3 or 4 bets folds back to me and I'd add up all the bets on the table let's say: 3 (mine) + 3 (his) + 1 (BB) + .5 (LB) + 2 (limpers) = 10 bets is my new raise, which is on top of the 3 I already have out there so now it's 13 bets to see the flop with his any two cards. At first, he called to see the flop. I had AK and hit the K. So did he, only his 6 kicker sucked. My 26 bet opening was way more then he wanted to call and he laid down and I showed.

I showed on purpose; to send him a message. I wasn't gonna be cheap or easy.

So for the next hour, I kept coming back over the top and my stack was growing fast. I was being dealt cards, but they didn't matter.

He was growing visibly frustrated. It probably didn't help that I had talked about how good he was at hitting river cards, but that's besides the point. I open raised with A6h and now he's just calling me. He's learned his lesson. Unfortunately, the flop came all hearts. Removing luck from your game is knowing when you give a guy rope. I gave him rope and he used it. Putting in a big bet that I was more then willing to think about and call. You know, like you do when you've got the ace but need one more...ya, that way.

I suppose, it was lucky for me to flop the nuts flush. But those things happen. You are bound to hit good hands about as much as you hit bad hands. The hardest part of learning to play poker is learning how to ride that curve until it's flat. Lose a little on the bad hands and win a lot on the good hands. Grant didn't have a heart, in fact I don't even think he had a pair, but he does have a style of play that for him is hard to shake.

There are many factors build to give us the illusion of luck. Long losing/winning streaks do a good job. 2 outers on the river in a big hand, but these are isolated events that we attempt to put meaning to. There is a probability to every event in poker. 1 outers do happen, it's in the numbers. Just because something is only supposed to happen 2% of the time doesn't mean it will NEVER happen. In fact, we want people to put there money in chasing 2 outers. 94% of the time we make money on that. We won't win every hand, I can only hope the fish keep looking for pots of gold at the ends of rainbows.


TripJax said...

Hopefully I'll be finishing up the series soon. Glad you are keeping at it...