Mid-year review

It’s funny, whenever I walk into a card room these days, so many people ask “Where have you been?” A perfectly natural question to ask as many of these people are regular poker players who had been used to seeing me on an almost daily basis. It still takes me a little off guard though as I told pretty much everyone that I was going to have a baby last November, and that I would be staying home with him. I also announced on this site, that my number one goal for the year was to spend more time with my family. Well, goal accomplished. I have really enjoyed the first 8 months of my son’s life, as well as the added time with my wife and firstborn son.

Speaking of goals, as the year is now half-over, now is as good a time as any to review the goals I set for the year. This allows for me to check in on my progress, and make any adjustments necessary to accomplish the goals I set forth. Exciting I know 🙂 but I already know a change that I am making, and will announce at the end of this post (foreshadowing).

On with the goal progression:

  • Spend more time with my family As already mentioned, this has already been accomplished. Last year I traveled a lot for poker, which brought me away from my pregnant wife. Now that my second son is here, I do not want to repeat the same mistakes I made with my first son. When Brady was born, I started working in the auto industry, and did not leave the business until he was 6. I was averaging about 70 hours every week, which meant that I missed much of his early years. I have always felt terribly guilty about this, and since leaving the business, have fought to have more and more time with him. With the birth of Beckett, I could be a more regular & consistent presence in his life, as well as Brady’s. I feel that I have been very successful with this, and it has brought me incalculable joy. While my poker game has suffered, it has been more than worth it, and I will continue to choose family over poker.
  • Write more Well, I suppose that technically, this goal has been accomplished as well, but it feels like I still have work to do. I did write an article for MN Poker Mag, (which can be found here) but that is really all the writing that I have done. I only posted once on my own site, and nothing else, clearly not good enough. I really wanted to post some hands in the Hand Analysis page, but I never got around to it. I had two really pivotal hands against Kou Vang in the MSPT event at Canterbury that I thought everyone would really enjoy, myself included. But now that so much time has passed, I don’t remember all of the exact specifics of the hands. I do remember most of the specifics, and why they were pivotal though, so if you all want to discuss them, let me know, and I will post what I can about them. Otherwise, I will be posting a hand from the Running Aces Anniversary Tournament. This hand didn’t have nearly as much on the line as the 2 against Kou, but still a pretty interesting hand nonetheless. Ok, so now I know I am going to post at least one more time, but that still isn’t enough…never fear, I have something new in the works, and will announce below (foreshadowing again 🙂 ).
  • More MSPT Live Broadcasts I really appreciate everything that Bryan Mileski and the MSPT has done for Minnesota poker. As such, I enjoy being a part of the MSPT in any, and every, way I can. I have enjoyed a little success in the tournaments, 2 final tables, 3 cashes, but I found even more enjoyment from doing the live broadcasts with Bryan. I have now done 2 of these, one last year at Canterbury, one this year at Running Aces, but would love to do this more. Once again, my schedule with family has really hindered me in this category as I have limited my travel availability, but I hope to do some more of these in the coming months…as long as you all enjoy my commentary, and I don’t make it to the final table 😉
  • Support my fellow players I really do enjoy being a part of the larger MN poker community. Minnesota is one of the toughest places in the country to be a successful live poker player, and I think we should all be proud of that. Last year, I was able to sweat a couple of our players while they were at WSOP final tables. This year, my timing was off. Every time we had a player at the final table, I was here at home. This did not lessen my joy though at seeing 2 members of our community come home with bracelets, including what I feel is one of the toughest, and most coveted bracelets of all, the $10,000 HORSE event. Chris “Fox” Wallace has been an extremely solid and successful player for a long time, but I think that many people felt he is overrated. Well, try making that argument now. I have known Fox for a number of years, and while he is not one of my closest friends, I feel that he could be. He is a man that I respect fully, and one of the nicest people around. Additionally, part of his past contributed to the impetus of the new adventure I’m going to launch at the end of this post…did I mention that I would have an announcement at the end?
  • One 5 figure score The one truly poker achievement goal on this list is the one that I have fallen the most shy of. I did mention when I listed this goal that I thought it would be the toughest to achieve. A combination of not playing as much, plus playing in some of the toughest fields in the country (MN) is a recipe for failure. I did come close though. In April, I final tabled the MSPT at Canterbury for the second straight year. I came in to the final table 4th in chips, and felt pretty confident about hitting the 5 figure mark, since I only had to get to 8th place. This is not a slight against anyone else at the table, just a statement about where I thought my game was at. Well…2 hands in, I was out. If you watch the stream of the event (here), you’ll see that I 3 bet with QcQs, and called a shove, losing to KhKc. Many people have called this a cooler, and they’re right, though I feel for a different reason than most. Here’s some mini hand discussion…normally with QQ, I am probably going to just call an early position raise from a fairly tight player, when I am in the BB. The biggest reason for this is to prevent exactly what happened. Many people will disagree with me, saying that I should re-raise for information. This argument has merit, but what do you do when you get shoved on? Granted, there are really only 3 hands that you are truly scared of, AA, KK, and to a lesser degree AK, but your opponent doesn’t necessarily have one of those 3 hands to shove versus a BB 3 bet. Many opponents will make that same move with JJ, 1010, AQ, maybe even more. While this means that you are probably ahead of most of your opponents range, that doesn’t mean it is the right play. I argue that seeing the flop, and verifying that there is no scare card, is more profitable in the long run. It insulates you from losing your stack against AK, and allows you to play the hand for information against lower hands that may have hit the flop. Which brings me to why I feel this particular hand was a cooler for me. The villain had been raising pretty light for several hours before hitting the final table. Every time he made a raise, I was unable to play against him as other action prevented me from getting in the mix unless I had a big hand. I was just biding my time until I had something, and there was no other action after him, before me. His early position raise was not out of character at all, and action folded to me in the BB. All I heard in my head was “Let’s do this!” I must apologize to everyone that saw my reaction when he turned over KK. I pushed myself away from the table in disgust. Not my usual demeanor, and I am not proud of it. Anyway, weren’t we talking about my failure to hit a 5 figure score? There is still time left in the year for me to get there, but my family schedule will limit the events I play in even more than they did for the first half of the year, so we’ll see.

So, all in all, I’m not doing that badly against my goals, but definitely there is room to improve. There are other things which have occurred this year worth celebrating, but now is not the time. I want to focus on my goals, and how I can achieve them. The biggest, and easiest, gap to fill is writing more. I think I have found a way to increase my writing, while still spending time with my family. Drumroll please….

I have decided to start playing online, and writing about my exploits!

Really?!? That’s what all the foreshadowing was about? Well in a word, yes. However; I am adding a couple twists. I think that just playing online and posting about results seems awfully boring for both the reader, which there probably wouldn’t be any, and the writer, which means I wouldn’t do it anyway. I have decided to put my friend Chris “Fox” Wallace’s bankroll management article to a little test. I have created a new page on my website called Experiment. On this page, I will lay out the details of a micro bankroll management experiment. It’ll go something like this:

  • Post rules of experiment
  • Create new account on an online poker website
  • Create new Twitter handle
  • Deposit funds into new poker account
  • Follow bankroll management guidelines in Fox’s article and play online
  • Post via Twitter when I am playing, and the table(s) I am playing at
  • Post results on an ongoing basis to the website

I’m not really sure how this will go, hence why it is called an experiment, but I am looking forward to whatever comes of it.

I hope you enjoy this new feature on the website, it should be live in the next couple days. I have already created the page, the online poker account, the new Twitter account (@YayMeGrothe in case you’re wondering), and have made the first deposit. Now all I have to do is lay out the rules of the experiment and start playing. As for seeing me in the card room? As always, whenever I can be there, I will, but I’ll always be pulling for my friends to succeed. However; the Midwest Poker Classic is coming up at Running Aces again, and I hear they are having a ladies’ edge event again…

Accomplishments, defeats and goals

I am not normally the type of person that looks back at a previous year and tries to sum all 365 days up in a nice pretty little package. I do like to learn from my past, the good, the bad, and the ugly. So having said that, I feel that I should take inventory of what went well last year, what I could improve upon, and what I am planning on doing moving forward. Hopefully along the way I can keep you at least mildly entertained as well 🙂

 

Accomplishments

Always easier to start out with the good stuff right? 2013 was a big year for so many reasons. I am actually starting with the positive stuff so that I don’t lose focus of them all by getting bogged down by what went wrong. So here is the list of accomplishments:

  • Wife became pregnant I know, not exactly poker related, but one of the greatest things that happened last year. In a round about way, this did affect my poker playing though as it really jumpstarted my tournament play. Coming in to 2013 I had set a goal to finish the year in the top 10 for MN Poker Magazine Player of the Year. Prior to 2013, I had been spending the last few years focusing on cash games, not tournaments, and I wanted to motivate myself to play more tournaments. Well, up until I found out that my wife was pregnant, I hadn’t really played many tournaments, and was never going to be able to achieve the goal. Once I knew we were having a baby, I knew that I would be spending less time playing when the baby came, so I better start playing more tournaments. This brings us to the next accomplishment:
  • 2nd place finish Not normally the goal for any of us, but I was very pleased with my 2nd place showing at the MSPT at Canterbury Park in April. I didn’t really have a whole lot of expectations heading into the tournament as it was the first major tourney I was going to play in some time. I thought it would be a great way for me to get my feet wet though as I have played, and cashed, in MSPT events in the past. Imagine my dismay though when Day 1B was over and even though I had survived, I was in 114th place out of 118 remaining players. My stack was less than a starting stack. I made the hour long drive home debating whether or not I should even make the drive back the next day since I would most likely make a quick exit. During the drive, I analyzed how I had played and let that make my decision, not how likely I was to make a move with such a short stack. In analyzing my play, I realized that it had taken all of my skill & knowledge to avoid going home early. This may not sound like much, but I became very proud of the fact that I did not get discouraged even though I constantly found myself folding, something you all know I HATE doing. I decided that I would be doing myself a great disservice if I did not show up for Day 2; therefore, I made the drive and ultimately finished in 2nd place.
  • Running Aces Anniversary Champ This couldn’t have come at a better time. I had just come home from an unsuccessful trip to Vegas for the WSOP and was starting to doubt my game. On Day 1, I again found myself having to fold large hands most of the day, folding JJ twice, QQ & KK once each pre-flop, and being shown that they were the correct laydowns. I was also table hopping, playing at 9 different tables in under 4 hours, making it very difficult to gain any traction. My final table of the night had very few soft spots, but I was able to take advantage of them, and came into day 2 with a lot of confidence, and a top 15 stack. I rolled through Day 2 without much difficulty. I even spent a large part of the day with Matt Alexander at my table, and was able to just keep building my stack. Not by avoiding Matt, but by playing well, and picking my spots. Winning the Anniversary Tournament for my home room is one of the best poker accomplishments I have ever achieved, or will achieve. It really meant a lot to me to bring that one home for the Running Aces regulars.
  • Launching a website I still have to pinch myself about this one, and maybe I should pinch myself more often, then I might actually post more on my own site! I never thought that this would be something I would do. I am not very outspoken, and tend to keep my thoughts to myself. But when I realized that there are several people in the poker community that want to know what I have to say, by following me through Twitter, I thought that a website would allow me to express myself more fully. I really hate the character limit of Twitter, though I think it is part of what makes it such an ingenious tool. It is hard for me to fully express my opinions and/or thoughts with such limitations, hence the website was born!
  • Running Aces Pro Ok, we all know that I have not been named a card room pro by Running Aces. However; I list this as one of my accomplishments because many people assume that I am. I do love playing at Running Aces, and I do my best to promote the room. Whenever I travel, I wear RA gear. I tweet about it being my favorite card room. On my way to play tournaments there, I tweet about it, and ask others to come up as well. Heck, I even wore a dress to a ladies event during the Midwest Poker Classic to try and bring even more traffic to the room. While being named an official pro by the room would provide extremely honorable validation from my favorite place to play, it’s almost more satisfying that other people assume that I am.
  • Wrote an article for MN Poker Mag I was honored when Bryan Mileski asked me to contribute to the website. I thought I wrote a fairly decent article on the impact of social media on the poker community, and hope to contribute to the magazine again in the future. Oh by the way, I just wrote an article for the magazine 🙂 You can pick up a copy at your local card room, or read the digital version here!
  • Joining Team Poker Joker This is a great team, of great people, solid players, an amazing brand, and a very cool opportunity. As many of you know, prior to this I was on Team Hammerdong, I even said the words: “proud member of hammerdong” on the radio. I have nothing but respect for Rooster, and the great people involved with that team, but being a Poker Joker was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. Team Poker Joker is an extremely positive group, and the support that we show for one another is second to none. Please help support our team, and make yourself stand out from the crowd, by visiting our website and purchasing yourself some sweet gear here. Make sure to use me as your referral 🙂
  • The birth of my second son Again, not really poker related, but the single best thing that happened last year. In addition to expanding my family, this also gives me another Boston sports jersey to wear at the tables! First came Brady, now Beckett. Who’s next? Bourque?
  • MSPT Live Broadcast This was a really cool opportunity! While I was obviously disappointed that I was not playing at the final table, doing the live broadcast was an awesome consolation prize! I hope that you all enjoyed my commentary, and if you haven’t had a chance to listen to it, feel free to go back and watch it here, and then let me know your thoughts.
  • Nice Guy Award This took me by complete surprise. I definitely do try to hold myself to a higher standard of conduct than I see other players exhibiting, but I never thought that this would be an award that I would win, let alone get nominated for. When Fox posted the award categories, and the nominations, I was floored to be in the company of such great guys as John Morgan and Mike Lovelace. Receiving the nomination was like winning the award already, actually winning the award left me speechless. Thank you all who voted, and I will continue to try and act in a manner that you can be proud of.

Defeats

This will be a much shorter list as I tend to be someone that focuses on the positives. With the defeats I suffered last year, I can still pull out some positivity in each experience.

  • WSOP, Venetian Deep Stack, Carnivale After starting out the year pretty hot in tournaments, I felt really confident about my Vegas trip for the summer. I was pretty sure I was coming home with some sort of hardware, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did I not win an event, I didn’t even cash. The closest I came was collecting some bouties in the black chip bounty at the Venetian, and I went from chip leader to bubble boy in 5 hands of a Carnivale event. On the whole, I was pretty happy with how I played, but I couldn’t help feeling devastated.
  • 51st at SHRPO $1 Million I suppose that anytime you cash in a field of nearly 3400 entrants, it shouldn’t be considered a defeat, but again I was frustrated. You can all read what happened on the hand analysis page. From top 5 in chips, to out left a real nasty taste in my mouth. Again though, I was really happy with my play, just came up short, again…
  • 1 Final Table during Midwest Poker Classic I suppose I shouldn’t really complain about making a final table, but I was really hoping to enjoy some great success during the MPC. It is one of the premier events hosted by my favorite card room, Running Aces, and like the Anniversary tournament, I wanted to bring home some hardware for the regulars. Not only did I not cash in the main event, I only cashed in one event, and I didn’t win that either, taking home 2nd place. Gross.
  • 3rd Place Poker Joker of the Year I really shouldn’t feel bad about this one as I had a great year, but that trophy is super sick, and would’ve looked great in my collection. It will be mine someday, oh yes, it will be mine!
  • Didn’t finish in the top 10 MN Poker Mag POY race I did finish in the top 20 though, so I guess I shouldn’t be too upset. However; I set a goal to be in the top 10, and I failed to reach that goal. Some of that was because I didn’t play as much early, or late, in the year; but the largest reason was lack of results in some of the larger tournament series’ in town.

Goals

What good does it do to reflect on the past if you don’t take what you learned, and forge ahead with that knowledge? Hopefully I learned what is important, and can continue to be positive moving forward. This is an even smaller list, but I think that these are attainable…no fantasies about POY awards or bracelets here…

  • Spend more time with my family Last year was a pretty successful year for me in the poker world, and in my personal life. However; I feel that while I enjoyed some decent success at the tables, the reason for it was so that I could be with my family more. In retrospect, I probably played and travelled a little too much, and I want to regain that family focus this year. So far, I am off to a pretty good start, as I am now a stay at home dad! Spending every day with my youngest son, and looking forward to spending most of the summer with both of my boys, fills me with satisfaction. So sorry poker players, I may not be sending out too many BOOM tweets this year as I will not be as active in the tournament scene as I have in the past.
  • Write more I am really proud of myself for launching this website. I have a lot of admiration for people that express their views for the whole world to see, and potentially criticize, and I am now a member of that community. This website was launched though with the idea that people wanted to hear what I had to say, and I unfortunately let them down by not posting very much. I promise to all of you, that I will write MUCH more often this year, and hopefully that will include writing for other poker outlets. Did I mention that I already wrote an article for MN Poker Mag this year? Again, you can read it here!
  • More MSPT Live Broadcasts Did I mention that I had done a live broadcast last year for the MSPT? I hope you all enjoyed it, I know I did. The MSPT has done a lot of great things for MN poker players, and I love being a part of it. This is a goal that I have again already made some progress on as I did the live broadcast for the first event of the year. You can listen back to it here, and as always, let me know your thoughts.
  • Support my fellow players Since I will be focusing more on family this year, and playing less, I have to find ways to stay in touch with the game that I love. Obviously I can do this by playing, which I will, and by writing, which again I will. But one of the things I take a lot of pleasure from is seeing my fellow MN players have great success. It was pretty cool to be in the room watching Blake & Everett at their WSOP final tables last year, and I was bummed that I missed Gonia’s. I also really enjoyed rooting for Steve as he was crushing last year. So, I will still show tons of support for my fellow players. Additionally, I do coach players, and I have the hand analysis page on the website. Hopefully I’ll play in enough interesting hands to make regular updates to that, so I can share my thoughts on how certain hands can be potentially played.
  • One 5 figure score This will be the toughest goal on the list. Obviously with limiting my playing opportunities, I will not have as many chances at big scores this year. Also, since I will be playing less, it will be difficult to keep my game as sharp as I would like. While I think this is a lofty goal, I do think that it is attainable. I won’t be completely absent from poker this year, so I will have opportunities to work on my game. I also consult with other players on a regular basis. The biggest reason why I think this will be a difficult goal is actually due to the level of play here in Minnesota. This is widely recognized as one of the toughest places to play poker, and as such, setting a goal to best an extremely difficult field for a large tournament score is quite a lofty goal. I will not be traveling much, if at all this year, so I will have to make this happen here at home.

So that’s it, my 2013 year in review…published in March of 2014. I know it’s a little late, but this way my year in review didn’t get lost in the shuffle of all the year in review articles that came out in January! Though I actually started writing this in January, just like everybody else. This just speaks again to the fact that I need to write more.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Feel free to comment on what you liked, or didn’t. Also, would love to hear from everyone on what your goals are for the year, and if there are ways you think I may be able to help!

Wide Eyes – Lessons from Busting

The flop just came out, without looking at it I’m watching the small blind put out a bet that is roughly 1/2 of the pot. I now will say various things to myself like, “…of course he has to continuation bet the flop after 3 betting me pre-flop; he knows I’m stealing and so he has to represent.” I, of course, just made bottom pair, with a live over, and he is never going to see this coming. I cannot wait to get money in middle…

But wait…aren’t there other factors to consider? Yes, a lot of them. To be fair it is valid to question our very existence each time a new card comes off the deck in terms of changing timelines and alternate realities, but let’s keep this simple: Playing out of position, playing from behind, and calling 3-bets light are a part of many of our playbooks.

I also think that it is fair to say that when any of us, who attempt to play this game on a higher level, are actually on our game – we can be tough to beat. The piece of advice that I hear the most from my greatest poker influence and mentor is, “Be yourself,” or “just be you.” His confidence in me is derived from seeing me play where I am completely in tune with my surroundings and in those moments I am trying to win every hand regardless of whether or not I drag the pot. However, I know from experience that all too often I can also be my own worst enemy.

The opening hand example should have been a prelude to me ruining another competitor with bottom pair, tilting them, and getting the rest of the table excited to play against me and my “poor pre-flop decisions.” What happened was that I got it in really bad against top and second set, and I was so disconnected that I actually was surprised to see their holdings. On the way home (<-drive of shame) I kept asking myself how I could have possibly made such a bad read – still oblivious to the fact that in that moment I had much bigger problems than my reading skills.

Poker is not something that one can necessarily warm up for. The moment one sits down, tournament or cash, it begins. It would make sense then that one has to already be prepared, in tune, and ready before the first hand comes. As I painfully replayed the hand in my head and recounted it for friends (much to their amusement), a truth slowly emerged: I was never mentally ready to play on that day, let alone think that I was coherent enough to get “creative.” I was distracted before I got there, I was having a hard time focusing, and I was having confidence problems related to a couple of strong players at my table. Instead of recognizing my weaknesses in the moment, I moved forward with a scenario that I am familiar with.

Let’s take a closer look:

(Tournament – Blinds 150/300 with antes at 50) Action folds to me in the cutoff, I’m probably raising so I look down to see what I will be raising with and see Q2 spades. Wow, better than I thought. I put in a standard 2 ½-ish X to $725, the Button insta-calls (no surprise), the Small Blind pauses and makes it 2,150-ish. I know the button is going to call and I insta-call. I’m dreaming of a low flop and it comes 9h 10h 2d. I haven’t looked yet and the Small Blind leads out for just over 3K. I look at the flop seeing that I made bottom pair and ship knowing that I am a huge favorite over AQ and I am beating AK. Button insta-ships (I start getting queasy) Small blind insta-calls (I can feel my food coming up) and the button snaps a tendon attempting to turn his hand over faster than his body will allow. The button shows 9 9 and the small blind shows 10 10. For the first time in a long time, I am embarrassed to show my hand.

For many years I rode BMX at a high level, I ski jumped competitively, and I rode moto-cross. Something that I learned from those sports was a technique that I referred to as “wide eyes.” It really just means looking at everything, even if focused on one thing. In regards to those sports, focusing too narrowly can actually lead to problems like disorientation. Not a great situation when flying through the air.

It is actually a concept that I had attempted to apply to my poker game years ago. It doesn’t just help me in the moment, it helps me prepare. I used to wait for my turn at the top of ski jumps and continue to open my eyes as wide as I could until I felt that I had a full perspective on what I was about to do. In a way, it helps me find that special place where I am in the moment, aware of my timeline, focused, but also looking ahead to where I am going.

None of this was present at the onset of this hand. To be honest, none of this was present before I started playing. I had not taken any time prior to the start of the tournament to honestly assess how I was feeling or thinking. I was there, but essentially I was trying to imitate another version of myself.

It’s easy to point out my mistakes in this hand. Even so I could have won the hand by folding pre-flop to the 3-bet. Instead, I used all of the familiar markings of the hand to sell myself the dream of dragging a massive pot while exploding brains around me. I had lied to myself and then while still believing the lie; I became surprised at how far off I really was.

My point is this: Poker is hard. (<-Obvious) I recently watched a guy on America’s Got Talent ride a unicycle on a tightrope, covered in gasoline, while juggling flaming bowling pins. What a great metaphor for poker. How many times do you suppose he fell down just learning to ride a unicycle? How many times do you suppose he dropped bowling pins just learning to juggle? How much pain did this man endure until he could ride a unicycle on a tightrope while juggling flaming bowling pins? Did he ever set himself on fire?

I think better questions are: Did he ever take a day off when he knew that he was not mentally ready? Was he still a productive part of the circus while preserving his body or even his life? Did he have a process before attempting hazardous stunts that allowed him to be in a better state of mind? Was he honest about his self-assessment? Did he have a pregame ritual?

I am going to have to make honest evaluations about myself before sitting down to play, and continue to do so while I play. I also know that if I cannot find my “wide eyes” I will have to make adjustments and act accordingly. I fully accept the carnival side of my poker game, but in moving forward, I must learn to keep the unicycle on the tightrope.

Running bad or playing bad?

My local card room, Running Aces, just held their annual fall tournament series, the Midwest Poker Classic. I had high hopes for myself with this series. I have had a pretty solid year, and was hoping to add some really great hardware to my trophy case. I played in 7 events, firing several bullets at each one, and only cashed 1 event, taking 2nd place. I was extremely disappointed with my results, which then prompted me to ask myself: “Self” cause that’s what I call myself “am I playing bad, or just running bad”?

 

It is an important question, but I think for different reasons than most. Many people talk about running bad like it is an inevitability. I am not going to argue that “running bad” doesn’t happen, but I do believe that how we are playing our own particular style of poker, can influence just how badly we run. For example:

 

I have a friend that is a very tight passive player. He is very good at playing that style, and has enjoyed a lot of success in playing that way. We all know that is counter intuitive to how I play, and so does he. Recently we were playing a spread limit cash game together where I took a significant amount of chips off of him, and afterwards he was asking why I played the way I did against him. You see, every time we would get involved in large pots together, he always had premium starting hands, and I had my normal any two. Often the bulk of the money would go in when I was behind, and he just couldn’t get his head around the fact that I was willing to put so much money in against him when I probably knew that I was behind. What I explained to him is that because I know his range is so small, I will never be able to win large pots against him with premium holdings of my own. The only way I was going to win big pots was to force him to define his hand pre-flop, hope to flop decent against him, then catch up on the turn and river.  By 3 betting him pre-flop, I could almost determine every time if he had a big pair, or just a big ace pre-flop. If I 3 bet him, and he just flatted, big ace. If he 4 bet, most likely I’m up against a big pair. So, when I 3 bet and the flop comes Q76 with two spades and he opens, my 75 with a spade doesn’t look all that horrible. Yes he probably has AQ, but I have tons of ways to win the hand. I can represent an over pair or set because of the 3 bet pre-flop. I can represent two pair because he knows I’ll play any two. I can represent straight and/or flush draws. Those are just the hands I can represent to try and get him to fold. Not to mention the trip outs, the two pair outs, and the back door flush & straight outs. He just shakes his head when I explain to him that this is the type of hand I am hoping for against him, in addition to him only holding AJ and having to fold on the flop to my continuation bet. He asks me if I can teach him how to play like me, and I tell him I could, but he wouldn’t like it. Just as a cheetah cannot change their spots, a poker player has to be comfortable with their own style of play, and he definitely would not be comfortable playing the way I do.

 

I apologize, I kind of went on a tangent there, but the point is, part of playing well, and avoiding “running bad” is to make sure you are comfortable with your style of play. What was happening in the above example is that he would start to get outside his comfort zone of play, because he knew he was playing against me. He would go ahead and get all his money in with just top pair top kicker against me because he always felt I had air, or some other drawing hand. While that is correct, he wasn’t limiting his losses against me like he normally would against other opponents. That my friends is the key…

 

I’m here to tell you, bad beats ARE the inevitability of poker. They happen. They have always happened, they will always happen. You don’t need me to break down the math for you, we’ve all seen the numbers. Until your hand is at 100% win, there is always a chance that it will lose. AND IT WILL LOSE. The numbers are infallible. There is a reason why AA loses to 22, because it can and does. The most important thing to realize is how to manage these losses, both through bankroll management and psychologically. I’ll probably talk about how to do those things in the future, but for now…

 

What does this have to do with running bad, or with being comfortable with your play? The above example shows how my friend could have limited his losses by playing his normal game. Instead, he comes away from that session talking about how he ran bad against me.

 

Let’s go back to the beginning when I was talking about my MPC results. It was really an awkward time for me as whenever I busted, I was actually getting my money in ahead, then losing. I was extremely tempted to chalk it up to running bad, but that answer did not sit right with me, so I decided to analyze further.

 

An interesting phenomenon has been occurring to me at the poker tables lately. I am getting respect, not really something I am used to. Additionally, “the book” is out on me, meaning that people know that I have no qualms about 3 and 4 betting pre-flop with very light holdings. This is causing me to see more flops multi-way than I really want to. The whole purpose of raising pre-flop, for the most part, is to isolate your opponent. The more callers you have, the more difficult it becomes to have good hands hold, or to take down the pot with air. Because of this, I felt that I needed to alter my game slightly. I am sometimes opening and raising pots even more than I had in the past, to feed into the belief that I never hold strong cards. Sometimes I am not opening for long stretches of time at all. The interesting thing to note here is that I altered my game based on what I perceived other people’s conceptions of me are. I would be wild, or I would be really tight. Well, I didn’t need to be really wild and advertise, because everyone already saw the commercials. And when I went into super nit mode, people just waited for the right spots to do to me, exactly what I had been doing to my friend.

 

So on those occasions that I was playing overly aggressive, I was busting early because I did it too much, then had to ship with short stacks. While I waited until I had the best of it, you cannot consistently cash by always playing the short stack. When I was playing super tight, I was getting beat by lesser holdings. Is this running bad, or playing bad?

 

I submit that I was playing bad. I further submit that playing bad leads to running bad. If I hadn’t altered my style of play to something I wasn’t comfortable with, then maybe an argument can be made that I was just running bad. But I had changed my style. I didn’t need to be more “wild” than I already am because I already have that reputation. Becoming a super tight player is not something I enjoy either, and it makes me an easy target to pick off. So, if I was playing bad, how can I turn it around?

 

Well my friends, I can’t tell you ALL my secrets, but I do feel pretty confident right now because I have discovered my flaw. It may take some time for me to iron out exactly how to find the balance I once had a hold of, but just knowing that it is there means I’m already on the path to plugging this leak. I think that there will soon be an avalanche of BOOM tweets coming, and when it does, please don’t tell me it’s just because I’m running good.

 

Notes

There are a number of people in the poker world that I respect, and I also feel that they have some interesting views on how to play poker. Because of this, I have invited some of them to write for the site. You will see some of their posts in the near future, and I know you will enjoy them. Some of these people have requested to stay anonymous, so when they post under a nickname, please respect their desire for anonymity.

 

The hand history page has not been updated with a new hand for a while, but it will be soon. I have had some requests from people to analyze their hands, and will be posting them soon. Also, there will be a hand from me coming soon titled: The Anatomy of a BOOM Tweet, so stay tuned…

 

Thank You

1 year ago I was just another guy with a family, job, and a hobby.  Not much has changed today. I have an amazing family, a pretty good job, a Twitter account, I’ve started posting on MN Poker Mag, and I have my own website. What?! Not that long ago I barely understood what social media is let alone have my own account! Writing an occasional blog for a magazine? I’m not a writer. Website? For what purpose?

 

I cannot answer that question. I do know that this website, and any other type of writing I do, would not be possible without you, the reader. I am really struggling with trying to understand why people have started following me on Twitter, and what I owe them because of that following. Some people would say that I don’t owe anything, just live my life & if people are interested in it or not, that is their business. I am not capable of being that guy. I feel that I have an obligation to give people more, if that is what they desire. I know that I would not be where I am today without other people helping me along the way, and so I will attempt to give back in this small way.

 

This website will have many facets. The main page will always have my most updated blog post. There will also be other pages, all with different purposes. The Rules of the Road page will be an ever evolving list of personal conduct rules of the site. As I believe this site is for everyone, I feel that I need to adhere to certain standards and code of conduct, both in jest and in strict adherence. There is a Hand Analysis page. This will give everyone a chance to see how I have played given hands in certain situations. However; I am hoping that the page will become more of an open forum for people to discuss hands in general. I would love to receive hands for analysis from readers, then post my thoughts on the site. I would then encourage everyone to discuss constructively. I love being a part of the larger poker community, and I am hopeful that this page can be used to bring us all together, and make us all better.

 

There will be more content to follow in the coming weeks & months, but this is all I can do for now. I am preparing For the Midwest Poker Classic, and will hopefully be sending out BOOM tweets shortly. Before I go, I feel it is incumbent upon me to thank some people, without whom, none of this would be possible. Fair warning, some of this will be ultra sappy. You’ve been warned:

My wife. It really should go without saying, but that doesn’t mean I won’t. I know most people feel this way about their own spouses, but I truly did win the “Spend your life with the greatest person ever” sweepstakes. You are all playing for second place. Thank you sweetheart for putting up with me, and challenging me to be better than I ever think I can be.

Jim. This would not be possible without our epic battles trying to determine if making the 175 BB call on the river with 9 high is good. What started out as two guys with common interests hanging out occasionally, has grown into the greatest friendship I have ever known. Love ya kid…anyway back to me 🙂

Bryan Mileski. Is there anyone who has done more over the last few years to promote MN poker players? I say no. Bryan’s launch of the MSPT has really spoiled us players, bringing several large dollar buy in tournaments, with great structure, close to home. He also publishes a magazine highlighting MN poker players, and hosts a radio show about MN poker. You do too much sir, and I feel that it is often without enough praise. I thank you for all that you do, and for giving me the opportunity to write for the mag. Speaking of which, have you all read my first post? Shameless plug!

Fox. Seriously a good dude. I will never be able to engross readers into my material the way that you do sir. Thank you for helping me get this site up and running. Everyone please visit Fox’s site, he is a really sharp guy. But if you just want to know what he has to say without leaving MY amazing site, watch this:

Erick Wright. Yeah that’s right, I’m gunnin’ for you 🙂

Rooster. I am really into the communal aspect of poker, and this is most embodied by Rooster. He is clearly the Mayor of my favorite room, and makes sure that we all remember to have fun playing this game, and not take ourselves too seriously.

 

I know I forgot to list some people, and I apologize, but I heard the band queuing up so it is time for me to leave the stage.

 

Hope you enjoy whatever this site becomes. I may have peaked in my poker career, though I don’t think so. Even if I have, I hope to keep this site running. And if my poker career does continue to flourish, I hope to see all of you along for the ride. Now keep your arms & legs inside the car at all times, this is gonna be a helluva ride! BOOM

 

The dawn of something new

This is the new home for all of my random thoughts and observations. I certainly hope that you will find it mildly interesting and/or entertaining. If not, then don’t come back, but tell your friends and family to visit 🙂

 

This is technically my first post, but I really just wanted to throw something up that wasn’t the cookie cutter WordPress welcome message. I promise I will have a much more thought out, hopefully well thought out, post up soon. Until then, just remember to play Qs3h like a boss! BOOM