Thursday, December 13, 2012

Owning your mistakes--or not

Last night I was at MGM Grand in search of men in cowboy hats. They were there by the millions,  it seemed, streaming by the poker room for hours, but none of them ever stopped in to play. Go figure.

Anyway, at one point I was in second position with K-K and intended to raise to $8. I dropped the red chip on the table and was going to drop my three blue chips next to it. But--oops!--I saw that I had just two blue chips in my hand instead of three. Without thinking, I reached back to my stack to fetch another blue chip. But as I moved my hand forward again to drop the three blues, I realized that I had screwed up, and could no longer legally add more chips to my bet. The red chip, sitting lonely out there on the felt, constituted just a call of the big blind, as I had not announced a raise. I would have to play a limped pot from out of position with pocket kings--not my favorite situation to be in. Worse, everybody had seen what had happened and knew that I had wanted to raise, so they were alerted that I probably had a big starting hand, and there was little chance of going for a limp-reraise.

Oh well. This was, as far as I can remember, the first time I've make that particular error, and I'm not going to beat myself up over making one dumb string-raise mistake in seven years of playing.

The flop came A-K-x. I bet, hoping that somebody with an ace would call me down, but the bevy of limpers all folded. Small pot won. Disaster averted.

Another orbit or two later, I was again in early position, this time with A-Q offsuit. I raised to $8--legally this time. The guy across the table from me was on the button, and had his attention divided because he was chatting with a friend standing behind him. It appeared that he intended to call my raise, but instead of picking up one red chip and three blues, he accidentally picked up two of each and tossed them forward, then resumed his conversation. It took the dealer a few attempts to get his attention and tell him that he had to raise to $16. He didn't understand at first, because he was not aware that he had put in more chips than my $8 worth.

When he couldn't convince the dealer that his intention of just calling should be the determining factor, he appealed to me: "You know I meant to just call, right?" I wanted to stay neutral, so that nothing about the strength of my hand would be given away by advocating for some particular outcome. I also didn't want to antagonize him. So I said, "I don't know what the house rule is, but I'm fine just abiding by whatever it is."

I pause here to note that the dealer was wrong. The player's min-raise would have been to $14, not $16. But I didn't care, and I didn't want to add another issue to that of whether his bet should be construed to be a raise. I wanted to stay out of it, and let the dealer handle it. Let her be the object of this player's irrationally growing wrath.

He finally accepted her direction to increase his bet to $16. I just called. Of course, I could have reraised. After all, unless he's shooting for an Academy Award, he was not one bit happy about having to put more money in, so he was not sitting on any hand that he really loved. I didn't want to blow him out of the pot when there was a high chance that I had a hand that dominated his. I.e., if he had a weak ace or a queen with a worse kicker and we both hit the flop, I could win a big pot. If I were to reraise and he were to call, I'd be stuck playing for a bloated pot with A-Q from out of position, which is not an enviable task.

I won't bore you with the details of how the hand played out, because they're not relevant to my point, but I ended up winning the pot when I hero-called his river bluff on a somewhat scary board.  He showed 3c-4c, which had flopped bottom pair to my top pair.

The fact that he lost $50 or so on the hand stoked his irritation even further. For another five minutes after the hand was over, he continued arguing with the dealer about her forcing him to increase his bet to a full legal raise. His intention to merely call should have governed what happened, he kept insisting. I don't know why she kept explaining it to him over and over, or why she kept apologizing for enforcing the rule, as if it were somehow her fault. I think she should have either ignored him, told him to drop it, or called the floor to handle it.

The point, though, is that we all at least occasionally make technical mistakes when playing poker in addition to the tactical ones. All you can do is accept that you erred, figure out the implications for how the hand will now play out differently, and move forward. It is pointless, dishonest, and self-defeating to try to get a do-over, or to blame somebody else for what you did, or to get hot under the collar about it, thus clouding your judgment for how to play the hand optimally. This guy last night did all three.


Michael M. said...

So I said, "I don't know what the house rule is, but I'm fine just abiding by whatever it is."

I think this is the best possible response to these kinds of situations. Even if you think you know the rule, even if you want a particular ruling, just let the dealer and/or floor sort it out. No need to antagonize the player, no need to put the dealer in a tough spot, just wait for things to shake out in the normal course.

Nice hand, sir.

Anonymous said...

One time when down to 3 players in an SNG (not a large total number of chips involved) I intended to bet a stack of 20 blacks without first verbalizing the t2000 and after the stack had slid forward about a foot and the motion was wonderfully fluid the stack started leaning backwards and the top five chips tumbled backwards before the stack hit the racetrack line and I ended up with a bet of 1500 and instead of complaining that I meant to bet 2000 I actually just started laughing as did the other two opponents and the dealer. The villain took that as a sign of strength and folded...

Regards, Lester

Big-O said...

Grump...are the blinds 1 and 2 in this game? (I'm trying to work out the min raise amount you refer to.

Rakewell said...


Mr Subliminal said...

The player's min-raise would have been to $14, not $16.

Not familiar with MGM Grand's raising criteria, but this is room-dependent. Not sure whether it's Aria or Venetian (or some other place), but a re-raise from $8 has to be to at least $16 (double), even though the initial raise was $6. Yes, I too was surprised.

Rakewell said...

Yeah, there is one room with that rule (raise must be at least double prior bet, rather than equal to or greater than amount of prior raise), and now I'm struggling to remember which one. Mandalay? Planet Hollywood? I don't think it's MGM.

Anonymous said...

Grump, you don't ever get burned out, playing in these games full time? I get burned out after 3 days of poker in Vegas.

Anonymous said...

Can you write a column about how you avoid burnout and how you avoid getting annoyed about the typical comments that happen at every game?
Also, can you write a column about your current thoughts about Tony Bigcharles?

Rob said...

Nice post. If the guy was so upset, I'm wondering why he didn't call the floor.

So no cowboys playing? How about the live band that was so annoying over the weekend. Was it still there during the week?

Rakewell said...

Still there. But other than the volume being too loud (and get off my lawn!), I kind of liked them.