Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fed up

I'm about as even-tempered, take-it-in-stride a person as you're likely to meet. Still, I've always known that I have a breaking point, but I was never sure what it would take to get there.

Well, now I know.

Last night I finished up at the Stratosphere by being dealt the only big pocket pair I had seen all night: K-K. When I tell you that all the money went in pre-flop, you'll be able to guess that I was up against the only hand I did not want to see, and that it did not turn out well.

Tonight I played at Imperial Palace. I got into a hole early on, but then got moved to a new table where everything seemed to click just right, and within about ten minutes I was out of the hole and up about $50 on my $300 buy-in. I felt ready to carry the momentum on and score a nice, big, fat W for the record books.

The poker gods apparently had other plans. A series of three hands did me in. In the first, I flopped top two pair and lost to a flopped set. $100 down the drain. In the second, I was ahead all the way until he caught his gutshot straight draw on the river. Another $100 went bye-bye.

The third was the most brutal. I was in the cutoff and joined a bunch of limpers with my Ad-5d. The small blind raised to $12. I called along with a few others. This woman had been at my first table before it broke and we both moved to this second one, so I had been playing with her for roughly three hours and thought I had a good feel for her game.

The flop was a near-perfect one for me: 2c-3d-4d. I had a straight, the nut flush draw, and even a gutshot straight-flush draw.

The raiser bet $50. I thought she most likely had a big pair and was making this pot-sized bet to discourage others from drawing at the flush or somebody with a mediocre ace hitting a 5 for the wheel. It folded around to me. I thought that if she had a big pair other than aces, she might find a fold if I moved all in, since she had seen me show a string of pretty solid hands through the night. So I pulled out one of my rarely-used tools: the min-raise. I made it $100, hoping that she would find that irresistible. I guess she did, because she moved all in. I called, obviously. Our stacks were nearly equal, but it turned out that I had her covered by $12.

I showed my cards immediately. She did not. I don't remember what the turn was, but the river was a fairly harmless-looking black 4. But harmless it was not. At that point, she revealed her hole cards: 3-4. She had flopped two pair and rivered the boat.

I took my last $12 and left.

Two consecutive sessions ending up this way would be enough to annoy me for a little while, but I would ordinarily take a day off from playing, and by the next day be rarin' to go again. This is different. These are coming as just the latest in a series of such sessions, combining coolers and suckouts in a seemingly endless succession. March was my second-worst month ever, and April so far is ahead of even that pace. I've had four weeks in a row of net losses, and five of the last seven, and the two exceptions were both trivial positive amounts. It is, by far, my longest and deepest losing streak ever.

As far as I can tell, no more than about 20% of it is due to bad play on my part. Of course, it may be that I'm completely deluded about that, I completely suck at poker, and it is finally being made manifest. I don't think that's the case, but it's awfully hard to be objective about it. I can't tell that I'm playing any different than I did before.

But whatever the cause, it has finally gotten to me. I can't do it any more. I can't take it either financially or emotionally. I have tried playing tight, playing loose, playing passively, and playing aggressively, and it seems not to matter one little bit--the results are the same no matter what. The only way I can think of to stop the losing at this point is to stop playing. I don't know for how long. I'm not throwing in the towel forever, but I need a serious break to see if I can get my head clear and regain some modicum of desire to play again, which at the moment is utterly depleted.

I feel like Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke," in the boxing scene with George Kennedy. I've taken the punches, fallen down, and stood back up as many times as I'm capable of, and now all I can do is give in and collapse in a heap.

As a result, it's likely that I won't post much for a while, either. This has sapped my interest in writing about poker as much as my interest in playing it.

I'll keep playing at least a little bit online. For me, playing online is a completely different experience from my bread-and-butter live games. Also, I just received notice that I'm invited to participate in the "invitational" portion of the Full Tilt Poker "Battle of the Blogger Tournaments," an honor and opportunity too great to pass up. But as for live play, don't expect to see me at the tables anytime soon.

I can anticipate that many of you good people will be feeling an urge to click the "comment" button and send some encouraging words my way, or share your own tales of poker woe. I appreciate the good intentions, but please don't. This has fully brought out my anti-social, misanthropic inner self, and such messages would just tend to annoy me further. I really just want to be left alone.


Anonymous said...

No "encouraging words" to send your way, nor do I want to share my own "tales of poker woe".

Just wanted to say you are doing the right thing in taking a hiatus, and to ask you to continue to post even if it is not about poker. Your title of your blog includes at least two aspects: Poker and Grump. So continue to be Grumpy (btw, are you as big as a dwarf?), and write about what sets you off outside poker.

Who knows, it may do the soul good.

Freight Train said...

take a break.
read Tommy Angelo.
don't worry about entertaining us fools.

Keiser said...

Only encouragement I can give is since you're more likely to win than lose any given night and you're capable of losing streaks like this, imagine what it will be like when you hit its polar opposite. The evil twin streak that's the same standard deviation from breaking even as this one will be glorious, indeed!

Sauza said...

I can't say that I have not had the same experiences and results. Very recently in fact. Take a break. Revisit some things you haven't enjoyed in a while. Let the bad juju move on to some other fellow, then come back with a vengence.

qdpsteve said...

Call me nuts, but here's my two cents (and overpriced at that)...

Rakewell, what if you tried playing a bit outside of Vegas? Not saying you should go full-time anywhere new, but maybe after taking a few weeks off, try your regular game again-- just *not* in LV. I have trouble believing you wouldn't do quite well against most of the tourists in Reno, Tahoe, Laughlin, and Primm.

Also, maybe consider poker dealing again. Would enjoy reading about your experiences there. Maybe S from the 'Life as a Vegas Poker Dealer' blog can help you find work in that arena.

evan said...

If you do decide to keep playing, I'd recommend going back to your $100 buy in. Make the game simpler and easier with smaller big blinds.

Speaking of, when did you make the switch from 100 to 300? Any chance that could be your problem?

If it was longer then 7 weeks ago, how much longer? Maybe you just ran hot the first/two weeks or so(if it was that short)?

James said...

Maybe your right about being crap . MAybe you should just give it up for good . Maybe you should just give yourself a shake . EVERYONE has to win and lose . When you win someone loses . Stop crying and get back next week .

Anonymous said...

Rakewell, dont play online either. Your brain needs a complete break. Go on a health kick. Go on a trip. Read some non-poker books. See some good films.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the previous comment about taking a break. It seems to me you have been taking too many breaks recently. Going on trips, doing other work etc.

You make your living playing poker and have been very fortunate to do so for some time. This means you are good at it.

You also make a little money from this blog and have developed a loyal readership. However, you have neglected the blog for a long time. It seems the only time you post is to say you wont be posting for a while.

Perhaps that same neglect has crept into your poker game. Maybe you've developed a sense of entitlement like a gov't worker that all you have to do is show up and make money.

Your blog used to be very entertaining and now it sucks. Your poker game used to be very profitable and now it sucks. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Your concern about your ailing mother is legitimate, but your focus is clearly off when it comes to poker and your sources of income if this blog is any indication.

Give up poker if you like, but any other career requires effort and focus too to be successful. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and take a look inside at why things have changed. In the mean time, I suggest playing some low stakes online or as another comment suggested, reduce your buy in until you get your game back in order.

And since you're pissed of at the world and the hand you've been dealt (pun intended) right now, put some of that grumpy energy back into your blog.

Good luck and best wishes.

Luke said...

I am truly interested to see if your vow to stop playing and stop posting "for a while" actually ends up being true. Quite honestly I have seen people in the poker community makes claims like this before and it rarely lasts. I think you just need a good sleep and I predict you'll be back at the tables within a day or two. Not saying that's good or bad, it's just what I predict.

Anonymous said...

Grump, I love your posts, please take a TOTAL poker break, clear your head, stay offline, work out, eat well...

It is just varience and a down swing!

Anonymous said...


Sorry I can't just not post as you requested. You describe perfectly what I think so many good poker players and fans of the game feel and have gone thru at one point over the last 6 years.

I hope this is not the end but simply a detour on the path.

However, if it is the end thanks for the writings and gl in the future.

bellatrix78 said...

Watch videos, catch up on your game. Play online for lower stakes than usual, not to to rebuild and make money, but to do self evaluations and session reviews. Also, online, the long run comes much quicker, so you'll be able to assess if you suck or not.

I don't know what your hourly is, but consider a coach for a one or two sessions, just to get your head back in order. Of course, if your hourly is only like 20$ then a coach is too expensive.

Post hands, leave your ego at the door. 15-20 buyin losses are not uncommon anymore now that you don't have total morons playing the game anymore. You might have months of breakeven play and still be a winner.


Rakewell said...

I am getting the impression that I have been misunderstood to have said or implied that I'm leaving poker for good. That was never in my mind. To repeat: "I'm not throwing in the towel forever, but I need a serious break."

That is all.

Bob@ThreeRiversPoker said...

My advice: Lay off the deuce-four and hit the whiskey.

HighOnPoker said...

Grump, as a reader who often fantasizes about your lifestyle (i.e., playing poker as a profession, even at the lower stakes), I sometimes find the most interesting posts to be about the difficult part of the lifestyle. Perhaps you can take this time to meditate (on the blog) about some of the pitfalls, including suffering from the emotional ups and downs of wins and losses in a game we always say should not be results oriented.

Hopefully, you can find some good content in these struggles. It may be cathartic for you and definitely useful for your readers.

I also question the idea of "taking a break." I cannot see how taking a break will realistically be helpful for a daily player who makes his or her primary income from poker. I can see it playing some negative headgames on you and cause some ring rust.

Whatever you do, though, good luck.

Anonymous said...


Take a break and you'll come back fresher and stronger. First 4 or 5 times I played live I ran into some of the same things you did recently. I thought this game wasn't for me. Fortunately, it turned around and I'm on my way to the plus side of things.


Dominick (Dmuz) said...

Three words, Grump:

Hookers and blow...

bogeyeliot said...

I recall a similar tone in one of Cardgirrl's posts...have you talked to her about your current spot? Love your blog, hope you snap yourself out of your funk quickly!

Paul said...

sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug

Mark T said...

When you return, the deuce-four will have retired, leaving its magic to its second cousin, the deuce-trey.

Ah, the stories to come!