Saturday, June 9, 2007

Context of a bad beat. Why poker sucks.

I wasn't in a very creative state of mind after losing those $6k the other day. But I won't have you do without insight into what turned out to be a great example of what makes poker such a mentally demanding game. This will just be a report about a losing session, so feel free to spend your time doing something more fun. Stare into a wall for example.

First, I'll give you some background. I had played about 4 sessions after my long break, and I hadn't done very well. I was up a little, so nothing horrible, but I wasn't thrilled about my results up until Thursday. I was up early in the morning for a change, and played a couple of hours. Lost $3000 in that session, and I had some impossible hands like flush beat by a better flush, nut flush beat by a full house, aces cracked, expensive stuff like that. I wasn't totally down about it, but obviously not ecstatic.

So I decided to play again in the evening, determined to use that ugly red number for the day as motivation. After half an hour, I was down another few hundred, and nothing really seemed to work. Still, I maintained focus, made a few good laydowns, and still played well. For the record, making good laydowns is profitable in the sense that you lose less money than you otherwise would have, so it never really gives you a sense of victory. Then came a hand where I was all in preflop with AKs against a short stack. He rivered a flush with AQs for a $400 pot. Then I lost a big pot 3-bet preflop, and I was suddenly down $4000 for the day.

I pride myself on tilting very rarely. I make bad decisions of course, but I don't really have prolonged periods of tilt. At this point in the session, I am frustrated that I am not making anything happen, but I decide to fully concentrate on playing well, and not give in to destructive feelings. Call it stubbornness, but I just refused to quit on account of a little bad luck. Then this hand comes up.

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $6 BB (6 handed) Hand History converter Courtesy of

BB ($572.55)
UTG ($1217.95)
MP ($0)
CO ($600)
Button ($830.25)
Hero ($655)

Preflop: Hero is SB with 7d, 7c.
3 folds, Hero raises to $24, BB calls $18.

Flop: ($48) 7s, 6d, 6h (3 players)
Hero bets $30, BB raises to $60, Hero calls $30.

Turn: ($168) Ac (3 players)
Hero bets $110, BB calls $110.

River: ($388) Ah (2 players)
Hero bets $200, BB calls $378.55 (All-In), Hero calls $178.55.

Final Pot: $1145.10

Hero has 7d 7c (full house, sevens full of aces).
BB has As 7h (full house, aces full of sevens).
Outcome: BB wins $1145.10.

An abrupt change from elation that I am finally going to win a big pot, to fear of the most brutal suckout, to confirmation that this day, I simply cannot win a hand. He beats odds of about 200 to 1 for the running aces.

I must admit after that hand I am shaken up pretty badly. I don't quit for another hour, and that was probably a mistake. It's not like I go on monkey tilt during that hour (actually this experience entitles me to at least an hour of tilt in my opinion), but I am certainly not playing well after that. When you sustain blows to your poker senses like that, it is just very hard to maintain a solid game. I lose another $1000 in a combination of tough situations and questionable decisions before I quit on the worst day of poker I have ever experienced.

Even though my bank roll is capable of absorbing some hits, a -$6000 day is not something I can ignore completely. Another one of those would probably force me to move down to 400NL for a while. My focus now is on going through the biggest hands of the day, hopefully regain some confidence, and then get back in the game. I have an area or two of my game that I am not at all confident about right now, and that will require some analysis. In the end, it is often experiences like this, that force you to take closer looks at certain aspects of your game, and in time become a better player.

This was a tough blow, and it will require work to get through it. Unfortunately I have to defend my thesis soon, so I simply can't put in enough hours before the WSOP to actually work on game adjustments. Tough break, but I will just have to rely on my game being relatively solid after all. I hear the WSOP is full of fish anyway.


Lasse said...

Great blog.

Funny, I had my biggest losing day recently.

And your thought process during your session, and the way it all happened are very similar to mine.

It seems like you have a very realistic and optimistic attitude to your poker playing. And I believe you need that, in order to make it.

Reading your blog and thoughts are really comforting, since it is something I am going through also.

"When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high."

kenneth said...

I agree completely with the previous poster.

A great blog with good insight into your play, which seems indeed to be very solid (judging from your overall approach and the particular HHs you've posted). I really enjoy your "overall strategy"- and "session"-posts and hope you keep it up.

I myself only play 0,5/1 and 1/2 but have also gone through a pretty sick period; a 7-8 buy-in downswing with AA preflop all in getting cracked by AJ, a set losing to a runner-runner flush etc., so I guess it's kinda comforting to hear that others are going through something similar. Not that I would wish for you to continue to run bad - I sure don't!

Anyway - keep up the blogging and good luck at the tables!

Kristian said...

Thanks a lot guys, I am glad you can relate to it. It looks like everyone is downswinging. Have better luck!


Peter said...

Start of with a compliment to your great and interesting blog. I am also semi-professional poker player in that sense that I make about 3 times more money than my fulltime work and have so for the last 1,5 year. Time I spent on my “hobby” is about 60-80 hours per month so I can just thank the higher power how sent us the internetpoker J

Something that many say is that a human being tends to remember bad things rather than the good. This is particularly true in poker where at least I can be pretty upset after a session with a rather big win over all but because I lost that all in hand for 400BB with AA against KK and he/she rivers a runner runner flush I really cant enjoy my win for that session.

Something that I struggle with is that I tend to see my results on a monthly basis rather than a long lonngggggg session. So when I started this month with a net loss of 8000$ the first 4 session I was complete nerve wreck and questioned every move I made. A few bad decisions but nothing remarkable just dam tough beats and bad timing. One session I lost 4 times with AA all in preflop, arrrggghh! Now to my point. We can all agree that downswings happens to all of us and when I look to myself I am perfectly clear on that I most certainly have to accept these downswing since I am not that a great pokerplayer. So what can you do to handle these unfortunate but inevitable events of your pokerlife? What I do are:

1. Every time a big loss occurs, go back and watch your winnings from the past and feel good about your accomplishments.
2. Go through your big hands and see if you made a mistake or just got unlucky. If no mistake was made reassure you that in long term you will make money.
3. Realise that if I want to have this great “hobby” or job I need to understand that this is part of the game.
4. Don’t become a grumpy whiny man how cries to his wife/near ones but stand up to the beat and motivate you for the next session. Stay positive is my motto.
5. Finally and I think the most important one is to remind yourself that poker isn’t the only thing in life. Keep the distance and these bad beats wont get you so much.

Thanks again for a wonderful blog.

P.S And as to the results this month I am back in green after 3 lovely sessions J

Michael said...

I question why you bet the river after the 2nd of the running aces fell on the board. You must have suspected he had at least one ace.

Kristian said...

Certainly a valid question Michael. I couldn't really put him on an ace though, since A7 was such an unlikely hand with three 7's and two aces accounted for. I think it is more likely for him to hold a 6.

In any case, if I check it to him and he has an ace, I am likely getting stacked anyway, so actually I think betting is ok here.

Greg said...

Its a suckout for sure, but I agree with the other poster. Do you really need to bet the river?

If he doesn't set you in you can check call and save some dough...not unlike "making a good laydown", saving bets in this situation allows you to "lose less" no?

Rakeback said...

I had the exact same running Aces full house suck-out happen to me the other day.Poker's about luck. Don't believe anyone telling you otherwise. U know who said that? Doyle Brunson...