Monday, May 04, 2009

Poker Blogs Rule 

"Jerry, just remember, it's not a lie if you believe it."
George Costanza

And yeah, that's me when I keep telling myself I'm gonna get back on here and hit the poker blogging hard. Hell, I even wrote a near uber post that somehow never got posted awhile back.

I've never claimed to be bright.

And so here I sit, early May, still on pseudo-sabbatical, mostly just using Twitter to throw out impulsive links and random thoughts. Yes, it's beyond inane but it is what it is.

Easy to do.

But still, I realize tools like Twitter are killing the written word, slowly but surely. And I, for my part, do promise to get back on the horn and return to my massive posting roots.

It is, after all, what I used to do best.

So I have only two major poker goals for the month of May. #1: To decide if I'll be playing in the 2009 WSOP Main Event and #2: To play in one damned BBT4 poker tournament.

Easy pickings.

And for now, I leave you with my main man, Johnny Hughes, and his latest poker essay.

Poker and the Agony of Defeat

by Johnny Hughes,

Rudyard Kipling said, "If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss."

However, Rudyard Kipling never got slow rolled.

For a few years, I have been sharing stories with Iggy's readers about winning at poker and strategies for winning at poker. What about losing? The agony of defeat, the guy standing off in the corner. Going broke is bad enough. Going broke in front of folks is worse, especially if you are a me kind of guy.

Recently, my little starter poker game switched to half Omaha 8 or better, half real poker, Texas Hold 'em. So I read me this little primer on 8 or better, which I have played a lot, but not as well as I do Hold 'em. And I memorized the list of starting hands in groups, A,B,C. So, I go and play and do not win a single pot. Now this little afternoon game is prelude to a much bigger night Hold 'em game. The plan is to make a winning in the afternoon and truck on out to the big game. The game plan was to eat the wonderful food during a high-low round, but I pulled up steaming and made that horrible TV walk of defeat. Our poker game has all the parking lot on a TV screen, for everyone to watch. When you go broke, you must walk out while everyone mocks you after you leave.

You know what its like. That humiliating walk away when you are busted, disgusted, and mistrusted. So, this happens the last three times I go to the game, but not for much money. I have yet to win any part of any pot. I have yet to eat the home-cooked food. They bust me so fast I might as well leave my car engine running. Frankly, I have only caught one of those starting hands once, A A 2 3. I moved in on one man who had K J !0 9. All I got was a clean place to shuffle.

I get antsy during the High Low round, and too aggressive during the Hold 'em. A couple of my semi-bluff straight draws missed after I scooted to the center. In the last Hold 'em pot I will play in a while, my old nemesis, Farm Boy smooth called the 10 bucks right after the biggest blind in 2, 5, 10. A couple of guys called and I had K,Q Hearts. Farm Boy and I both trap most of the time from that spot. I didn't think much of raising, being short-stacked at $160. It came K, 9, 2, two spades. Farm Boy bet $35 at $60, and I moved in. Now the conversation begins, "You got me." says I.

"I'm drawing." he said.

The board ragged out. He held his hand near the discards. "You got me." he said.

"King." I said.

"You got me." he said.

"King.Queen. " I said and showed it. Finally, my first pot in a couple of months, since I had not been playing. He waited and slow rolled A,K. Several of the guys I play with are thinly-hidden characters in my novel, Texas Poker Wisdom. Now, everyone treats me differently. When I make a bone-head play, they almost cheer.

I had just said I wanted a plate of catfish, but had to cancel and do the humiliating TV walk where one has great posture and appears not to care. I stopped to converse a while with the Pit Bull dog, which is just good public relations in case the fence does not hold.

Over the years playing the cash games at the World Series of Poker, my luck on the first or second day was fantastic for record rushes, most years. One year, I was all geared up. My best pal from running games growing up took 25% of my action, but stayed in Texas.

I played four days, two long sessions a day, and never won once. Each night, I would call him with the bad beat stories. Maybe I was playing too tight, because I wanted to win for him. On the last night, the only seat open was next to Dagwood, an older player from Lubbock, who was also a character in my novel. He checked me the nuts twice, and I bluffed off everything but a single green $25 chip. The next hand, I caught the 5,6, hearts and was potted for five way money. There was lots of action, a huge side pot. I flopped a straight flush.

Dagwood would go stay at the Plaza 30 days and play tight. He'd make a big deal of introducing me to all the poker room employees as if I needed his permission to get in a game. Dagwood was known for selling more than 100 per cent of his play to several partners, the plot of the Producers, long before the play. Even though he had no formal education, Dagwood made a lot of money in the stock market as an investor and a tout.

In 1975, we were playing high in West Texas, and I had a good bankroll. My first afternoon at the World Series, I won $4000 in the 2,5 blind Hold 'em game. That takes some luck, and winning all your coin flips. At that time the bookies would do prop bets and insurance bets on big pots. I'd go in with a little the best of it. That night I lost the $4000 in a 5,10 blind Hold 'em game. The next day the same thing happened, won $4000 afternoon, lost it that night in the bigger game. The third day the same thing happened for $3000. At the end of three days, I was even. On the last day, I caught a big afternoon rush and won $4000. However, the bigger game was full, with a long list. I waited and waited and never got in there. It was only when I got away from the bright lights of Vegas did I realize, that I was big winner in one poker game, and big loser in another game, three feet away. Each night I would lose a pot a show horse couldn't jump over. One night I flopped top trip, and with side pots, got in a $15,000 pot. Back then, you could split pots, make props. I guessed correctly that the other player had a straight-flush draw. I begged him to split it while the big bookies made bets on me. He was a flashy guy that wanted the action. I went up the room even for the day to fact that mirror, that "How could you?" mirror.

One year at the World Series, I went four days without winning day or night, and I felt miserable. I packed all my clothes in my suitcase and booked a flight home for dawn. I decided to play until I lost in a session and then fly home. My clothes were really wrinkled. I then won every day for eight more days.

My dear friend Bill Smith won the main event of the World Series, and was at the final table three times. But, he had to drink. Later, in his life, he was known for drinking and playing stake money in Las Vegas. The year he won it, 1985, the Mule had him staked. They flew back to Lubbock on a chartered Jet. The Mule has his end of the money($700,000) all his life. Bill was back broke in four months.

I was not a tournament player, but I would always watch Jack Binion's little speech and the kickoff ceremonies when they say, "Cards in the air." . One year, I was standing with Bill Smith. He seemed to be the only person in the room with a beer in his hands at noon. He was broke. At the very last instant, Jack Binion came over and staked Bill, whose eyes lit up like the Strip at night, and there was that old bounce in his step. Not an hour later, Bill was one of the first players knocked out. And he began that agonizing, embarrassing, depressing walk out after being busted. The poker world was smaller then, and everyone knew Bill's story. The fallen champion. He was carrying a Budweiser. It might have made Bud wiser, but it ruined Bill.

When things are going pretty much as they always have, I win three times and lose once in four plays. However, that is not so hot psychologically for me. Poker can make feel down, more than up, especially when you lose, as I just did, from lack of patience.

The pain of that TV walk of defeat with everyone watching is made so much worse by the fact those poker players watching the screen are enjoying my pain so much. That's what hurts!

Johnny Hughes, author of Texas Poker Wisdom.


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