Death, poker, and tilting

Yesterday was a rough day. The day began with an emergency meeting at work, and the entire department listened in shock as our director announced that one of our coworkers had taken her own life. It was a complete shock to everyone… I was not close to her, but in the past few weeks, had started to get to know her. She came out to get drinks a couple times after work, and seemed smart, fearless, and attractive. Our team went out Thursday night, and she seemed pretty happy. She even said she had lost a few cents playing penny hold-em when her pocket Aces lost to a flopped flush. She was 39.

I sat down at my desk and reflected on the depths of pain that one must feel when the decision to take your own life becomes attractive. The fact that I have been a few steps away from her cube for 2 years, and we only had 3 or 4 conversations in that time made me sad. LA is a strange place, and people rarely come out of their shell, especially in a professional environment. But the fact that no one could penetrate her shell was depressing.

For some reason this depression brought a quote from Rounders to my mind: “Life is on the wire. The rest is just waiting.” Spoken by Papa Wallenda, a great high-wire walker. The banality of everyday life is nearly unbearable, but waiting for the things we enjoy keep us going. In my case, I’ve always been waiting to get on the football field, but now I’m waiting to get on the poker table.

After sitting at home depressed for a while, I decided to play some poker, hoping that would lift my spirits. 2 nights ago I had won $150 in a 40 minute session by hitting a couple hands and playing solid. After seeing my stack up 15 big bets in such a short time, I realized that this could be considered a good win for a 15 hour session, not to mention a 40 minute session. At this point I decided that a win-limit might be a good thing… i’ve never believed in them, but if you assume that the table has a reasonable number of good players, 15 big bets is a huge swing beyond standard deviation, and you will be extremely lucky to swing beyond that. Yeah, yeah, each hand is independent of the last, but still… So I’m debating an experiment in which I cash out as soon as I’m up 15 big bets.

Anyway, back to last night. I started strong, and was immediately up $100 after hitting a flush (I’m at work now, so I don’t have my PokerTracker hand histories in front of me). It felt silly to think that I’d cash out after one more pot… I don’t play as a source of income, so I’ve always had the luxury of playing until I got tired, win or lose. But I’m trying to build the bankroll… anyway, the tables were of the usual composition… a bunch of tough players, with a couple fish thrown in. A lot of heads up action, and not much easy money on the table.

You can guess what happened. As the button when around, I slowly loosened up, and slowly lost focus. My mind wasn’t on the game, and I paid for it. I gambled too much, and after a 2.5 hour session, I ended up down $320. My biggest online loss to date. I was on tilt. Not in the sense that I was playing every hand, but playing borderline hands that I wouldn’t play if I was focused. J9 suited from middle position, or blind-stealing with K8o. Just bad plays. Tilt is a subtle thing for me… I’m not going to go over the edge, but it’s easy to lose a couple big pots when you play those borderline hands.

I guess it could have been worse. It’s easy to put things in perspective when you’re surrounded by tragedy. I will have a lot of time to win it back over the Thanksgiving weekend, as the wife will be working a lot. I think I’m going to take a one-day “turnaround” bus trip to Vegas/State Line on Friday with a buddy. Clear the cobwebs out of the brain, shake things up. Hopefully make up for the last Vegas abberation (although my buddy is a craps player, so I may not reach the poker room).

I’m glad I didn’t do it, but I found myself watching a $15-30 game, debating whether I should “take a shot.” It was super loose-aggressive, and looked like easy money. $300 pots… but I just don’t have the bankroll. Too risky. Luckily my wife came home and saved me from losing my entire bankroll, but man, those games look soft. Someday…

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See you on the wire…

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