Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad Beat Catharsis

I feel like I have to write this out to decompress and calm down a bit. It’s all poker lingo, so if you’re not interested in poker (or in my thought process of what happened today), you can skip this one.

Not just a bad beat, but the worst beat I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been knocked out of tournaments before. My first time playing at Jerry’s, I had a flush, and Jerry himself knocked me out by rivering a Queen to make a full house. That was a pretty bad beat.

But this was worse for a couple reasons.
1. The stake for the game was higher than what I usually play
2. There were 30 good players in – lots of opportunity for hours of fun and learning
3. Being the first one out is just downright shameful!
4. I completely forgot about the philosophy of “Better to win small, than lose big” I only forgot it for about 30 seconds…but that was long enough.

The game:
30 players, deep-stack – starting with 50,000 in chips
The hand:
We’re about 40 minutes into the tourney, 2nd round of blinds. I’ve won a couple decent pots at this point, and lost one….so I’m about even with my starting stack.

My pre-flop situation:
A-4 clubs, middle position, 3rd to act
I raise 1,200 (3x the 400 blind)
Everyone else folds except 3rd position (under the gun) Steve – he just calls

Flop: 10d, Kc, Qc
Steve checks
I’m 4 to the flush, so I bet into it – 1,600
Steve raises – 3,000 more
I call

Turn: 9d
Steve checks
I check

River: 9c
Steve raises 9,000
(Before his raise, there is 10,600 in the pot)
I put him on a flush….only about 5% of me is worried about the full house possibility with the pair of 9’s
I hem and haw for a bit, acting a little scared because at this point I’m sure I’ve got him beat.
I go All-in
He calls very quickly

He turns over 10, J of clubs – straight flush, 9 to K – he wins, I go home
I didn’t even consider the double gut-shot
If any other club had come, I’d have won.
If any other non-club card had come, I wouldn’t have called his raise (having missed my flush)

Why I’m beating myself up:
There are three points in the game I could have saved myself.
1. Don’t even play A-4 this early in the game!
2. When he raises the 9,000 – I could fold, although it would have been because I’m worried about the full house
3. When he raises the 9,000 – I could just call, still a little worried about the full house, but confident in my (supposed) nut flush

Probably Option 3 is what I could have settled for. I would still have lost, but I would be left with about 27,000…hurt bad, but plenty alive to play tight for a couple hours, only getting in a hand with a monster.

In a sense, my read on Steve was right: I put him on a flush. I just failed to see/fear the possibility of the straight flush. This will probably haunt me for quite a while. But I hope this experience will also make me a better, smarter player. And the next time I’m in a tournament, you better believe I’m going to follow the philophy: “Better to win small, than lose big”