Monday, September 03, 2007

Sweet, Sweet Home

Flew back home on Friday and was pretty dang happy to do so, although I did enjoy the trip out to LA and the WPT Legends event a good bit. I'm coming to realize that I've been blessed with a pretty great gig, covering events for PokerRoom.com, especially given the nature of the work they want me to do. Since they're looking for detailed coverage only on their qualifiers, I get to avoid a lot of the headaches that other non-exclusive media have to stomach at major events, and they actually encourage me to write in a more humorous, laid-back style.

It's looking like I'll be covering four major tournaments this year that they send qualifiers to (the WSOP, Legends, North American Poker Championship at Niagara Falls, and Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic), which is pretty manageable as far as fitting into my schedule, and not an insane amount of time to be away from home. I'm not getting rich covering these but it's very nice extra money, and, as a poker player, pretty damn cool just to be at the events. So there's a lot there to be thankful for, and that sank in this last trip, especially after talking to a few of the other poker media there at a late night cash game at Commerce. It's easy to focus on the downsides, especially the 12-16 hour working days at times, but it's a pretty unique opportunity that landed in my lap, and I definitely appreciate it.

Poker-wise, it was a pretty nice trip, as I finished up about +$4,500. Most of that came from the tournament score the first day, but the cash games treated me very well the last few days. Part of it was simply running hot, but a lot of it boils down to some very bad players sitting down at the table, on a regular rotating basis. I can count on one hand the number of good players that I sat with, and still have some fingers left over.

One funny hand occured the last night, in what was a pretty friendly, talkative $2/3 NL $100 max buy-in game. Lots of showing of hands, lots of chatter, etc. One limper in front of me for $3, I limped with 67h, folded to SB who completed, and BB checked. Flop is 5s 6c 9c. Checked to me, I get a little frisky and bet $10 (willing to fold if anyone re-pops it) and only the BB calls. The BB had played very straightforward so far and made absolutely zero moves and hadn't gotten out of line at all.

Turn is 8s, putting 5s 6c 9c 8s on the board. BB checks, I bet $20, and BB pretty quickly check-raises me all-in for $200 more (I had about $300 behind at that point). I think about it for about two seconds and fold, showing the 7h. And pretty much the entire table exploded, with much shaking of heads, as if that was the absolute craziest laydown they'd ever seen, and the BB showed the 7d amidst the general uproar.

I didn't say anything other than shrugging my shoulders sheepishly, but I think that's a pretty easy laydown. Against a few of the crazy players at the table I'd insta-call there, but not against the BB. With no action pre-flop and only $33 invested in the hand and one straightforward opponent, I have to assume I'm playing for a chop, and he very well might have a freeroll for a flush as well. With no raises pre-flop, 7 10 isn't out of the question for a bigger straight, and he'd never make that move with just two pair. He'd raise with 88 or 99 pre-flop to try to think the herd, so the only hands I'm ahead of are 55 and 66.

But yeah. 95% of that line of thought went entirely over the collective heads of the table, who only saw silly me lay down a "huge" hand when someone bet big at me. And, in all honesty, it'll likely continue to fly over the collective heads, for their entire poker career.

Which brings us to the point of this (not my mad laydown skillz), and one of the things I wrestle with in my head space, especially after the last few working poker trips I've done. As much as it pains me to admit I'm, I'm a pretty good poker player. Put me in any tournament except the very biggest ones, and I've got a better than average shot at making the money. Sit me down in an average cash game and I'm better than most people at the table.

That's actually a difficult thing for me to admit. It's not modesty, but more a desire to shirk responsibility. Well, not even responsibility, but potential more than anything. I used to work very hard at poker, constantly reviewing hands, analyzing stats, reading anything I could get my hands on, etc. And it paid off, in the end. I've spent the last year or two donking around and hamstringing myself, but from a dollars and cents perspective, I'm substantially ahead, with most of that cash produced way back in the day when I was grinding it out at the 15/30 and 20/40 limit games. I've also had more than my fair share of success in live tournaments and cash games, kicking in a healthy amount to the bottom line.

Yet I still tend to embrace the self-deprecating role of the donk, reassuring anyone I meet that I'm not that good, that I have no patience these days, that I played fairly seriously at one time but not anymore, hee haw, hee haw. And I'm not sure why, other than it lets me off the hook, as far as taking my results seriously, and gives me an out, as far as continuing to ignore the things I should be working on, to play better poker.

It's very much the competitive side of me surfacing, but getting to witness the play at the WSOP and WPT Legends event does leave a burr under my saddle, even after I'm back home. As far as tournament play itself, there's not that huge a gap there. Banrkoll-wise, enormous, gaping chasm, which in and of itself presents a pretty huge gap in relative skill, as I'd currently never be table to treat the chips as chips in a major event. But I don't doubt I could hang at that level, especially if I put in the time and effort to build a bankroll to get there.

Which brings me full-circle to exactly the fly in the ointment, which is being willing to put in the time to work on my game, grinding out a bankroll again, moving up in limits, rinse, lather, repeat. And that'd be a long, long road, as while I've managed to grind my roll back up over $1,000 at Full Tilt, that's still just a wee drop in the bucket.

Regardless of grandiose dreamings, though, it does feel good to be playing "seriously" again, even if I'm still sitting at .25/.50 and .50/1 games. As far as how long I can maintain the enthusiasm before reverting into donk, recreational mode, we shall see.

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