Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Big Empty (Part II)

I decided to get another hot dog before going back to the table. This time, a chili dog. I think it's gross when people eat at the tables, but I was willing to break my own rule just this once. I had to have the hot dog now, because I didn't anticipate getting up for another couple of hours, and I didn't want to have to sit there thinking about the hot dog and how delicious it would taste. It was about 11:30 and the room had really filled up. The list manager was constantly calling out initials and there was a decent-sized crowd around the board. The lineup at my table had changed only a little since I left to cool off. A black guy in a hockey jersey with fake gold chains around his neck had replaced Morris and a late-twenties Indian guy now occupied the once-empty 6s. He had a book of crossword puzzles with him that rested on the lip of the table. I counted out my chips. $53 left.

1st hand I get 99 UTG and raise. Got a bunch of callers. L.A. low-limit players rarely care about what position a raise is coming from, and for that, we love them. This time, though, the flop came KQA and I dumped the hand facing action.

77 a few hands later. I limp in MP behind 2 others. Two overs on the flop and no set for me. I dump it facing action.

The clock strikes midnight, bringing a new day but no playable hands for me. I see the jackhammer (J4) at least five times. (I don't care what you all think-- that hand is not playable for ME right now). I fold for about half an hour before picking up 77 and limping into another multiway pot. Flop is QQK. Red Sox guy wakes up from his nap and raises. Raising war breaks out and I dump my hand. Red Sox has KQ. Duh. I've bled myself down to only $18 in chips and rebuy $100 more.

I get threes once and fours once. No sets. 34c and 78h. No draws. So card-dead. I've only been back at the table an hour and I'm already thinking about another break. I'm actually thinking of calling for a new setup like some superstitious old bearded gambler. And then I'm dealt JJ. I'm UTG and I raise. The younger black guy with the pretty girlfriend looks at me and says, "girl, you haven't raised in half an hour! I'm scared but I'll play with you." He cold-calls. That puts me on guard. In my mind's eye I can read the page in Phil Gordon's "Little Green Book" that says "beware of the speech!" But no re-raise? My hand is probably still good here.

That is, until Fat Italian 3-bets from the BB. I cap and both of them call. Fat Italian is loose, losing, and frustrated. He could have anything here from AT-AK, to KQ to a suited ace to any pair. Flop comes 233 rainbow. Nice flop for my Jacks. Unless anyone has QQ, KK, AA, or a 3 I'm ahead. I lead out and the guy who gave the speech raises. Fat Italian 3-bets. What is going on here? It's $8 more to me and there's $72 in the pot plus the $4 more Mr. Speech will surely call. I have Mr. Speech on a medium pocket pair and I'm starting to believe that Fat Italian does indeed have one of those overpairs. I'm not reading anyone for a 3. So I'm relatively sure I'm beat here. But I can't be sure and the pot is huge. Wouldn't folding the best hand here be an ENORMOUS mistake? I call $8 more. Turn is a blank. I check-call for one bet. River another blank. I check-call again. We turn over and the $132 pot goes to...Mr. Speech who cold-called my UTG raise with Q3 offsuit! I read Fatass right on the flop-- he had AA.

One pot can turn it all around. I would have been almost even with that one. I look down at my stack with less than $50 left in it. Did I just totally fuck up in that hand? Should I have just dumped it on the flop? Do I situationally misinterpret everything I read in poker books?

Do I even know how to play this game?

I think about going home right now. But I'm wide awake and at a table full of loose-passives who have my money stacked in front of them. I tell myself that if I even win one decent-sized pot, I'll just cut my losses and leave. I just can't walk to my car without dragging ONE pot.

1:05 AM. As the cocktail waitresses mill around taking care of last call, I pick up KJs in EP and decide to raise. Four of us see a flop of T53 with one spade. I bet and everyone calls. The turn is a J. I check, intending to check-raise. A MP player bets, and I raise for my last $16. I get two callers. The final board is T53J8. One guy flopped a set of tens. The other had J5 for two pair. Yeah, he cold-called two PF with J5 off.

Some days, you fuck the donkey. Other days, the donkey fucks you. I was fucked. And down $300 in less than 3 hours. I hadn't won a single pot all night. Not one. Single. Pot.

Back to the ladies room for me. I write down hands again so I can have a written memory of this searing pain. Bobblehead comes through the door at one point and mumbles something unintelligible at me in Vietnamese before taking a piss. I sit there, just dumbfounded at what just happened. Not one set. Not one flush. Flops for my pocket pairs and suited connectors were in outer space somewhere, certainly not at table 67. Do I really suck this much? Huh? Well do I?

I momentarily think about a trip to the ATM for $100 more to buy in to the no-limit game. But that would literally be money I couldn't afford to lose. Somehow I convince myself that I'm actually playing well, that I've just gotten unlucky, when in reality, I couldn't have told you whether I played those hands well or not. I still can't. Though I believe if I had won even one pot, I would have been feeling OK about the whole thing. I would have thought I was playing well. God, if I could even get $100 back...

Ten minutes later, I'm sitting in the $100NL, twenty yellow $5 chips stacked in front of me. I fold for two straight orbits, trying to get a feel for the table. Turns out, it feels like a dream. The new lineup:

1s: Early-twenties fratboy in a USC hat. Typical cocky loose-aggro. Over $1000 in front of him.

2s: Quiet fiftyish Asian man. Less than a buyin left.

3s: Even quieter Asian man. About $150 in chips.

4s: Older grey-haired man wearing a suit jacket with a rhinestone American flag pin.

5s: Me.

6s: Big, round black dude with a perpetually furrowed brow. Total fish. Saw him call an all-in with only a gutshot.

7s: USC asshole's asshole friend.

8s: Smartly-dressed black guy who looked like Dr. Burke on Grey's Anatomy.

USC asshole loved the trash-talk. He told me flat-out that I could never hope to beat him. Then he pointed at his head and said "that's because I've got nuthin' in here."

"Well, that's pretty obvious, I replied. You go to SC."

ZING! He didn't even try for a comeback. The dealer smiled at me and chuckled.

I bled away about $70 in blinds and a couple of continuation bets that got raised on flops I didn't really hit with overs. Finally, finally I flopped trips with 46 and pushed my last $30 on the flop. Here it is. I got one caller. Turn K, river K.

The old man turns over K3 off. I go home now.

As I turned away from the table and headed for the door, I heard USC asshole say "I knew it. Weak, weak, weak." I didn't need that. Not now. Stupid shit like that doesn't usually bother me one bit because I know guys like that are a jopke. But as I headed off the casino floor, I just wanted to reach across the table and smash his head into the felt. I wanted to slap that ugly fucking hat off his head and knock out five or six of those teeth that his mama probably paid 4 grand to straighten. I wanted to ram each and every one of those yellow chips up his fat hairy ass. Which I would later subject to hot waxing. My night was over. My wallet, empty.

I pushed through the double doors and inhaled a cool blast of secondhand smoke. A couple of security guards were huddled together, sucking down Winstons. A thick fog had settled in and it was pouring rain. I headed straight into the downpour. I let it hit my face and soak my hair as I made a slow, catatonic walk toward my car. Someone in a passing SUV called out "lady, don't you have an umbrella?" but I barely heard them. By the time I arrived at my little green machine, I was drenched. I didn't even care.

I sat in the car, just staring ahead for a long time until my involutary urban paranoia kicked in and I became cogent enough to recognize that it probably wasn't a good idea for a little white girl to sit alone in a sketchy parking lot in Inglewood. I backed out and found the exit and headed for the freeway. By the time I hit the 405, I was sobbing uncontrollably. My glasses fogged up and I could hardly see the road. I was beyond anger-- this was just sadness. Thoughts like "should I even keep playing?" and "should I even bother going to Vegas, I'll just lose" ran back and forth through my mind taunting my broken self-esteem. I was glad Showcase wasn't home to see me like this. Swings like this are something that I think he'll just never understand.

Friday night left me at a crossroads. I'm at the lowest point I've ever experienced in 2 years as a poker player. And it comes at the worst possible time-- right when I'm about to meet 100 bloggers in Vegas for the first time and have an epic weekend only 12 days from now. What the hell kind of impression does this make? In the last six months I've endured two colossal losing streaks, broken up by only one good month. I have maybe three or four hundred left online and that's it. All of my efforts to grind up a stake for Vegas have gone up in flames. I have lost all ability to self-critique because the amount of junk-kicking I've endured has fucked up my head too much for me to clearly reason anything anymore. I don't think I know anymore what's bad luck and what isn't. I've been improving so much with emotional control only to collapse again. Perspective=lost. I need helllllpppp...

I got home at 3, smoked a bowl and watched Sideways on HBO. It felt good to laugh. When the movie ended, I thought for a moment about watching the sunrise and finding a 24-hour diner, but sleep came before I could roll over and put my shoes on.

Will I feel better tomorrow? Or will another 3-1 favorite get outdrawn and send me to the loony bin? Right now, all I know is that I can't stand to look at a deck of cards. I think I'd stand a better chance of doubling up if I bet it all on black.


April said...

"But the annoying part, really, is not the losing. And it's not the money either. Because you can always get more money. It's a feeling of betrayal almost, the appearance of a suddenly topsy-turvy world where logic no longer seems to function, where bad players win effortlessly, and good play is penalized. It's a funhouse-mirror world where logic - and the familar laws of long experience - no longer apply. It's as if you accidentally dropped something, some object, and now the object falls up, not down. It's the dismissal of a world you knew - or thought you knew."

That part of the Tao of Poker has always hit a chord with me. I think it speaks to how you're feeling now.

Can't say much other than I know how you feel. I'm a little gunshy myself after my last trip to Vegas. But I'm going to focus on hanging out with my friends and not worry about the cards too much. Sometimes very hard to do, but I think it brings about a real difference. I think sometimes we (especially women) fall into a habit of over-analyzing everything we do, every hand before us, etc. instead of just letting it come naturally. You do know how to play. This is that horrible earth-shattering loss that we all go through at some point. The difference comes about in what we do with it - learn and move on, or let it destroy our love for the game.

Daddy said...

The ability to cope with a loss is what truly separates winners from losers.

Fuck it. You packed a bowl, and moved on.

A finer action couldn't have been taken.

Everyone has a downswing at the tables. Even me.

Get 'em next time.

JasonSpaceman said...

A blogger friend told me while I was in the midst of a bad streak recently that the only thing that really mattered was that I wasn't off my real game - writing. This post is an excellent insight into what the Losing Streak looks like, and a lesser writer couldn't have pulled it off. You can wear that proudly on your lapel.

Here's my advice (and remember that this comes from someone who has been there): get away from the game. Seriously. Get away until it's time to go to Vegas. Read, write, get out of town, do anything but play poker. Your head isn't in the right place for the game right now. And if you are still feeling the same in Vegas, concentrate on mingling and having fun instead of playing. Not only will you be less likely to dump large sums of money you can't afford, but you'll have a much better time.

Oh, FWIW - the word verification I have to type in to post this comment has XXX in the middle of it. Hehehe.

Unknown said...

(I know I've been posting a lot, please don't think I'm stalking you, I WON'T be in Vegas, so don't look over your shoulder).
I printed out this blog, not only for the excellent writing, but for the reminder that it happens to EVERYONE. Daniel N. (I can't spell his last name), one of the brilliant players out there, totally bombed at this year's WSOP. Last night I lost at Hollywood Poker, once when I guy called my all-in and got his gutshot straight, ruining my set of 8s and my night.
The thing I hate and love about the game is luck does play a part. You can play great and lose and play awful and win. And even if you suck out and win, you think you played great, and even if you play great and lose, you think you played like shit.

BUT here's the thing. I believe luck does come around in circles. In fact, sometimes I love it when I'm in a bad streak because I KNOW the streak will end with a glorious night.

That glorious night is coming, and I think it will come in Vegas, so don't SPOIL it by spending all that luck you have coming on an online game. Save it for Vegas.

GL and I can't wait to hear about the trip.

Unknown said...

Whatever doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger.

I read that someplace.

You don't even need to play poker in Vegas if you don't want to, I hear they have strip clubs there!

Hugh Williams said...

Variance is life-long curve. It'll eventually turn.

I also think that the WSOP TV coverage has brought a lot of clueless fishies to lower-stakes games. Clueless fishies can be delicious in small number, but a school of them swarming a table can drown your ass in fucking ludicrous beat-downs. Flop comes rainbow 5-2-2 after you pushed pocket kings 5BB pre-flop? Better fold, Mr. 88.9% VP$IP probably has acey-deucey suited!

The frat boy you played against sounds like the type that has either "dogg" or "dawg" in his online monikers. I know your aggression is never supposed to be vectored against individual players at the poker table, but those are the players I take particular satisfaction from beating.

Take solace that you'll probably be negotiating undercoating on your new car with him in couple of years.