It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
(Hey, y'know, that would be a great opening for a novel. Somebody should try that.)
As for this post's title, I have spent the last few days debating which it would end up being. Finally couldn't decide, so used both.
As I write this, Cardgrrl is presumably in the air on her way home to D.C., undoubtedly happy to leave Vegas behind. We have spent much of the last six days together, taking on the donkeys of the world at the Venetian, Harrah's, Caesars Palace, and Mandalay Bay. But the donkeys collectively beat us with the variance stick.
I chalked up losses the first three days, though saw some recovery yesterday and today, to a unpleasant but relatively modest net loss of $345 during Cardgrrl's visit. I'll let her share her own numbers if she chooses to, but I trust she won't mind me speculating that she would be thrilled to have lost only $345.
Interestingly, her best day was Saturday (finishing 11th in a large-field tournament), the only day of the trip I wasn't playing. And, conversely, my best day was today, when she and I played at different tables at the Venetian, rather than side by side. Do you sense a pattern there? We did. We seemed to be each other's bad luck charms.
She is, however, a delightful poker companion. I used to have a shooting buddy in Minnesota. We'd go to competitions together, work on equipment together, trade magazines and tips, coach and critique and compete against each other. It made the whole experience many-fold more enjoyable. Since taking up poker, I had not found a comparable person in the game. Sure, there are lots of locals that I have come to know superficially who I find pleasant to share a table with--but nobody that I could say actually enhances the enjoyment of the session to the point that I would find myself hoping to find him or her at the table when I arrived somewhere. Until now.
Cardgrrl and I seem to think about the game in many similar ways. It is tremendously enjoyable to have somebody with whom to exchange knowing looks when somebody does or says something stupid, to talk over hands with, to trade insights and scouting reports with, to jointly celebrate hands well won and sympathize with hands unjustly lost. The time flies, and I find myself able to put up with considerably longer sessions than my attention span would otherwise tolerate.
So that should make it "More fun with Cardgrrl," right? Except there's that whole making-each-other-lose thing.
There are three possible mechanisms behind this. First is that we somehow distract each other and thus play less effectively. I can't be entirely sure of this, but I tend to think not. At least I didn't feel any more pulled away from the game than I am by the combination of table talk, music in the ear buds, big-screen TVs, my own daydreaming, etc. Second is that with a formidable opponent in the next seat, there is one less space for a money-donating, less-experienced player. This is undoubtedly true in the long run, although it wouldn't explain this week's results on my ledger: Cardgrrl actually ended up being one of my biggest sources of chips. I hasten to add that this was not through poor play on her part nor brilliant play on mine; rather, it was just the confluence of cards, position, and other circumstances that happened to work in my favor this go-around. (E.g., my queens held up against her A-K, but when I had the A-K against her queens, I caught an ace on the board. Hard to attribute much of that to skill.) I am confident that a long-term accounting between us would come out even.
That leaves the third possibility: random variance. We shared juicy, fishy tables. Tables that made her say, "Let's never leave." Tables that made me say, "If we can't make money here, we should get out of the business."
And then we'd both lose.
But you have to understand the magnitude of bad luck that was being manifest over these last several days. I know that Cardgrrl is too classy to tell her own bad-beat stories [Edit: Or maybe not! See here. LOL!], so I'll do a bit of it for her. Playing poker for six days, it wouldn't be too surprising to get hit with a one-outer bad beat one time. She had at least three that I know about--for example, hitting a king-high flush when an opponent made his straight flush and losing 3/4 of her tournament chips in the process. Or here's one that I witnessed in a cash game at the Venetian: Set over set, with her J-J against an opponent's 8-8, board J-K-?-8. All the money gets in. River: 8. Something like $500 shipped to Mr. Quads.
And if you go beyond the one-outers, the hit list grows too long to keep track of. For example, her A-10 against know-it-all donkey's K-10. Board: 10-10-8-X... KING! All the mobneys going to the wrong end of the table. It was brutal. It was genuinely painful to watch her take such thrashings over and over and over again. She got knocked out of two tournaments with A-A. First time (Thursday) up against K-K, all the chips in pre-flop, K on the flop. Next one (Sunday) up against J-Q, flop was jack-high, chips all in, river brought a third jack. The city and/or the poker gods had it in for her, to be sure.
She even experimented with the mighty 2-4 a few times. She has declined my urging to write her own post about the unfortunate results, but I'll just say that it resulted in a text message to me that included a Very Naughty Word. (I replied that the Deuce-Four only works if you believe in it. I'm glad that my testicles were not within reach of her foot at that moment.)
I had my own little hells, but got off relatively easy compared to her, in terms of magnitude, frequency, and sheer horrendousness of the beats.
So unless we do actually act, in some weird supernatural way, as each other's bad luck magnets, pure ugly variance seems the most likely explanation for the week's results.
Perhaps we'll test that theory on another visit one day. If so, I hope that I'll be able to title the resulting post, "More fun AND more money with Cardgrrl."
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.