Poker Gods, why hast thou forsaken me?

“It is bad luck to be superstitious.”
–Andrew W. Mathis
Well, my “poker vacation” is over. Mrs. Double gets back from Sweden tomorrow, so my 3 week stint at Hollywood Park came to a close last night, and with plenty of bad beats to make me happy to return to online poker. Variance reared it’s ugly head this week, and the river was extremely unkind, so I’m sad to report that I gave back nearly all of my winnings last week in 3 terrible sessions of $6-12. I was more or less happy with the way I played, but when the $200 pots are pushed to players catching their 2 outer on the river, there’s not much you can do about it. That’s poker.
I finally realized what it means to be “running bad”– not only do you seem to get more than your fair share of unplayable hands, but the few good hands you get don’t hold up. You miss your draws, you lose set under set, and the only thing you can do to stay off tilt is to replay the hand and make sure you played it correctly. My luck is so bad that even when I sweat other players I bring them bad luck– I managed to ruin Iggy in the PartyPoker Sunday Guaranteed Quarter-Million Tournament by sending him bad luck through the monitor. Immediately after logging on (he was just above the average number of chips), I watched him lose a coin flip with his AK vs. TT, and then a few hands later painfully witnessed him lose to A4s with his pocket 9s. Oh the humanity.
The most interesting thing about spending a lot of time at the casino is getting ingrained into the Hollywood Park culture. Seeing the same faces night after night, the “regulars” who all have different reasons for playing. My play over the past year has been equally divided between online play and live play, but for the most part the live play has been on weekends only. But after playing a few days in a row, the dealers greet you with a smile and a wink of recognition, and the players who respect your play will help you find the softest table (as long as it’s not the one they’re sitting at).
Some of my favorite poker blogger posts are the ones that attempt to answer the question “why do I play poker?” After spending some time with a lot of different players, it’s been interesting to see the variety of answers to this question. You’ve got the action players, the gamboolers who are there for the excitement of hitting their river card. You’ve got the old retired guys who go there because they have nothing better to do. You can find the 21 year old WPT fans with their mirror shades at the $100 No Limit tables. Middle aged guys reading super system at the table. Dealers playing after their shift. And the pros who are always waiting, watching, looking for the best table and a way to squeeze out a couple more big bets.
I played a few sessions with OJ, who recently started dealing at HP. He’s a tough player to play against, and sitting on his left ended up saving me some money since he rarely came in without a raise. It was a little consoling that his solid play was getting the chips, and that not everyone gets their Aces cracked by 10-4 offsuit on the river.
Another thing about live play that is absent from online play is the importance of small non-poker decisions that end up making a huge difference in the amount you win or lose. For example, the night I won $1000, three small events ended up putting me in the position to win all that money.
(1) I actually got to the casino a little later than I had originally planned, since my sister called and we chatted for a while.
(2) The wait for the $6-12 was long, and there was one seat open in a new $200 NL game. The game looked good, so I sat down.
(3) Since there was only one seat open, I was forced to sit in the seat I hate most– directly across from the dealer.
So if any of these events hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have got the hands I did that night. Of course, I may have won more at $6-12, but the point is that in live play, you notice things like that more than you do online, since the online tables are always open and online choices like seat position (your view of the table is the same at all seats) doesn’t apply. This presence of “fate” in live play makes for a lot more superstition than in the online world, and you’ll find many players asking for a deck change, a seat change, and my favorite– players who refuse to play with dealers who “always kill them” and will wait 30 minutes until the next dealer shows up.
I’m exhausted, so I’m going to end this post before I start typing more nonsense, but I’ll leave you with three of my favorite people at Hollywood Park:
1. The note taker
OJ had told me earlier in the week that there is a guy who carries around a pen and a piece of paper and writes notes on the individual dealers, and what hands they give him. Apparently when each dealer sits down, he writes the dealer’s name and badge number, and the hands they give him and pots he wins. Sure enough, last night a guy sits next to me with a pen and paper, and I notice him writing tally marks next to a list of names in the left hand column. He takes notes consistently for the whole 2 hours he’s there. When he leaves, I tell the good player about the list, and he starts laughing, saying he knows all about it:
“The funny thing is, it’s made him a better player! You should have seen him before he started that list!”
I guess analyzing something, even if it’s the dealers, is better than nothing.
2. The ultimate fish
One night I recognized a woman who I’d played with before, remembering her as one of the worst hold ’em players I’d ever played with. She saw about 90% of hands to the river, and put several terrible beats on me. It didn’t take her long to lose it all back. Anyway, she walks past our $6-12 table, ignoring the “seat open!” cries of the sharks, and heads for the $20-40. 45 minutes later she taps me on the shoulder, and asks to borrow $50. I tell her I’m stuck, and ask her to grab me the next time she goes to play in the big game. If I only had a bankroll.
3. The heads up specialist
Rumor has it that there is a top section player that will play anyone heads up for any limit. “Anyone heads-up at any limit” sounds like a bankroll killer to me. I have no idea if the guy is any good, but that offer sounds a little scary. Last night I saw a couple guys playing $15-30 heads-up in the top section, and wondered if he had found a customer. I wonder if he’d play me $1-2…
Coming up next: how to beat the $100 buy-in NL game and a review of Ed Miller’s new book.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply