Saturday, January 17, 2009

Small steps

We had reached a strange but potentially deciding moment in what had been for me a strange tournament. Turbo Tom and I were heads-up Friday night in a $40 tournament at Diverjoules, the last men standing from a field of 18 players.

Turbo pushed his last 38K on a turn card that, at first blush, I believed did not help him. Something told me nothing on the board had connected with his hand. Unfortunately, nothing on the board was good for my A-6 suited either. If I call and lose, my sizable chip lead will be gone. I pondered. Could my ace-high be actually be good? I reviewed the preceding action and gave Turbo a long, hard look. The answer arrived. My ace was ahead. I called and Turbo sheepishly flipped over 10-7. My ace high held up and the tournament was over. Turbo, a good sport and good guy, grumbled and wondered how I could have made that call. Knowing what I think I knew, how could I not?

By all rights, I should not have reached that point in the proceedings. I don’t question my good fortune in life, but I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly lucky poker player. You would not have known that Friday night.

After a poor start, I doubled up when my 5-10 suited cracked limped kings in a blind vs. blind battle with Monsignor. I then doubled up at the final table with Jd-9d vs. Colin’s A-J with a flopped flush. Three-handed and in the money, I got a huge double-up when I my pushed Qh-8h outran Turbo’s big slick on the river.

My luckboxery created the expected pissing and moaning from players and audience alike, but I didn’t care. Shit happens in poker and, on this frigid winter night, good shit happened to me. I’ll take it.

When I trudged out to my car afterward, the temperature having dipped below zero, I felt pretty warm inside. I’ve spent the last month or so working, with limited success on my tournament game. I’ve played nearly 90 tournaments online since the first of the year as I try to make the incremental improvements needed to finally break through.

I’ve sustained an insignificant monetary loss thus far, but I believe I have gained some knowledge. Situations seem clearer. The read against Turbo was half situation, half body language, but it was a read and not some half-cocked guess. The process worked well.

The difficulty in this self-improvement effort has been determining what I don’t know. Ultimately, it really comes down to decision making. Better players make better decisions. Their mental checklist in determining how they play a hand contains more items – more information to consider – than the rest of us. I need to study and work harder to expand my checklist. When that happens, I can only hope that the monetary rewards will follow.


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