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No, You’re Not Good at Poker

Everyone knows that most poker players think that they’re much better than they are. My guess is that those players aren’t familiar with Socrates.1 But that’s another topic.

I’ve been doing better lately (often making it to the final table at tournaments; even won a couple online ones), but I’m probably average or below average. But at least I know that. When I lose, my first questions for myself are, “Where did I screw it up? And how?”

Nothing cracks me up more than watching people fume after being sucked out on by someone who had no business being in the hand. Don’t get me wrong — it sucks to get a nasty bad beat, especially when you suspect that that player has to concentrate to even get a pulse. But it’s still funny. Because it’s not the donkey’s fault. It’s the unfortunate player’s.

Here’s an example from a couple weeks ago. It’s one where I pushed someone all in when I had only a draw. He wasn’t too happy.

The game was No Limit Hold ’em, $0.05/$0.10. I was dealt Ah 6h. A mediocre hand, but suited is always nice. If I hit a heart flush, it’s the best possible one. I was in the big blind, which makes the hand more playable. 7 players. First guy folds, second guy calls, next folds, next three call and I check.

Flop comes Qh Ks Jh. Some of the finer points can be debated, but this is a pretty good flop for me. There are two hearts on the board, giving me a nice nut flush draw. I’ve also got a kinda crappy straight draw. And if one or two aces come, that’s not too shabby either. I was going to call any decent bet here.

First guy checks. I check, which may have been a mistake, but I was in pretty early position. Next guy checks, and the next guy raises $0.70. Everyone else folds; I call.

A couple points to make — this guy was getting hit pretty bad. He’d been sucked out on a few times and was getting frustrated. That’s one reason I called his $0.70 into a $0.50 pot. He had obviously paired up something on the flop and it looked like he was trying to buy it. While my call was debatable, I felt my draw was worth it, especially considering how frustrated this guy was.

Next card was a blank for me. 2d. The guy bets out the pot this time, with $1.90.

Here’s the thing. I knew damn well that he was trying to give me crappy pot odds. But I also knew that he probably just had top pair, just from the way he’d been playing. I had 15 outs at this point. Any heart, any 10 and any ace would probably win me the pot. If I didn’t hit any, I would certainly lose. If he had two pair, an ace would be no good for me, but a straight or a flush would. I was looking at something like 35% chance of winning, give or take.

One more thing. At this point, he had $5.60 left, whereas I had nearly $30.00. He bet the pot, which from my experience is pretty standard and not exactly scary. So I figured I’d put him to a tough decision. I’d push him all in. If my read was wrong, and he had hit a straight or a set, then fine.

So I raised it enough to put him all in. He called. His cards? Kd 7d.

I wasn’t surprised at his cards, but I was a little suprised at his call. What did he think I had? Why did he call my reraise with a lousy pair of kings? Did it occur to him for one second that I might have been slow playing pocket kings, queens, jacks, or even deuces or aces? Did it strike him as odd that I (who had been in big blind) had re-raised him huge on the turn? Apparently he didn’t question his own judgement, considering his reaction once the river came.

The river was 8h, giving me my flush.

Well, he basically threw a fit. He was astonished, dammit, astonished! He kept asking how could I have stayed in that pot, etc. Complained about river-chasers, etc.

Me? I was certainly questioning my own play. I was thinking that maybe I should have reraised on the flop. Sure, I won, but I could have had a much cleaner win, even if it were a lower pot. Either way, I certainly couldn’t play a lot of hands that way. I got a good read, but I got lucky too. I probably had no business calling or raising on the turn.

Was he asking himself how he could have played it better? Apparently not. He tossed out a few more insults, re-bought, and went on to lose more.

That’s what kills me about players who just think that they’re good. They seem to concentrate on trying to give other players bad pot odds. Or they’re so overconfident that they think they can outplay other players for pots. And they certainly don’t blame themselves when they lose. Even when they call all in with Kd 7d with a board of Qh Ks Jh 2d.

Am I good? Hell no! I’m still learning, and there’s no sense in lying to myself. Have I been a complainer in the past, like this guy? Yeah, I’ve done a bit of my share, but I don’t do it anymore. Well, at least not out loud (I sometimes gripe in online play, but even then not to the table).

Anyway, next thing I might write about: when people complain that it’s all luck and that it’s all in the cards. I hate it when people say that shit.

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1. If you get my point; congratulations. You took philosophy 101 in college. Now shut up and get me a beer.

One Response to “No, You’re Not Good at Poker”

  1. erin Says:

    I’ve seen those “high stakes” poker games during channel surfing and I’d like to say that I think that people who wear sunglasses during poker games are big cheaters. Unless the games are outdoors or, in a room with lots of bright lights and mirrors that shine those bright lights into their eyes.

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