Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Staying Alive While Card Dead

I haven’t been playing poker much…and obviously, writing about it even less.  We’ve been extremely busy at work (Spring Break, equipment repair, new staff prep) and I’ve been trying to get over a nasty cold.  Last week, though we had some time off, who felt like playing much poker?  There was so much going on about the world, it was a little distracting, needless to say.

But I confess there was another reason I’ve been reluctant to spend much time on the virtual felt.  I am currently going through my semi-annual bout of being extremely card dead.  And while playing poker is naturally fun, winning is even more fun, and getting a constant stream of 3-8 offsuit hands is not fun.

OK, it’s not quite like that.  It’s worse.  One Sit ‘n’ Go I never got a card higher than a ten in three straight rounds, with my best hand a 10-7 offsuit.  One tournament had me with pocket rockets in the big blind, and everyone folded…and next round, pocket kings…and everyone folded…and I never saw a pair the rest of the tournament.  Stuff like that.

So, how does one pull oneself out of a funk like this?  Back in the old days I’d wait for a decent hand (or wait, and wait, and wait for a decent hand), and when I got it, I’d bump it up 3x and depending on whether I had position or not, I’d make a play for the pot.  This wasn’t terribly successful, as any player with a decent chip stack would hang around with squat just to see the flop and try to steal my raise…which they often did.  And if I was able to hit the flop with my holdings, they’d never contribute to the pot, so the play was not a worthy one.  I chalked it up to the nature of playing small stakes poker:  live with the fishes, and get eaten like one.

And then it dawned on me – as long as I’m hanging around some real donkeys, why not make a play like I’m one of them…or at least, it looks like I am?  And so began my practice of picking a decent spot, and…yup, you guessed it – ALL IN!

The play works when everyone folds, of course, and fold equity can help your through those periods when playable hands just aren’t coming your way.  And if you do get called…unless they have a monster, you stand a 50-50 (or better) chance of pulling ion the pot and lasting a bit longer.  I’m usually not a fan of coin flips, but if you restrict your hands to the top 10% or 20%, you should be 60-40 or better.

I tried this three times earlier this week, and met with success twice.  First time out there were three of us left in a 9-seat SnG, and I had already made the money but was well in third, way behind the chip leader.  After three rounds of folding, I picked up K-10 suited and pushed, was called by the second-place player who had a few more chips than I.  Why he called with 3-5 is a mystery, but I nailed him and he went out the very next hand, so while I didn’t win the tournament, I did move up in cash.

The second time was similar, except I was a distant fourth, one out of the money, and way behind after a series of meager hands.  I had played exactly 2 of 26 hands, and everyone else beat each other up, so I still had most of my starting stack except for a few blinds.  Pocket jacks became mine on the button, and after the first player limped in, I pushed.  Both blinds folded and the limper called me with A-3.  My jacks held up and he felt compelled to push all-in himself his next hand while in the big blind (with pocket fours), was called by the chip leader with A-K, and both Ace and King fell on the board, and I made the money again (didn’t last much longer than that, unfortunately). 

The third time I pushed after being card dead was another time I had made the money but languished in a distant third place thanks to a string of puny pips.  I found pocket Queens on the button and pushed only to be called by the chip leader with 8-7 suited.  Despite being a nearly 4-1 favorite, when the flop came with an A-5-6 I knew my goose would soon be cooked.  The turn brought the dreaded 9 for a straight and I headed for the rail.

Still, I had to marvel at the quick turnaround this seemingly silly play netted me.  I’d rather have some decent hands and make quality strategic moves, but failed that, it’s ALL IN for me.  For now, anyway.

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