Why You Shouldn't Break the Cardinal Rules of Poker
Because the goddam cardinal rules are there for a reason--to keep you from losing money you shouldn't lose. The cardinal rule I broke recently is one I read this very day in Cloutier and McEvoy's No-Limit book. Let me paraphrase, since I don't have the book handy--they say that the stupidest thing you can do is try to bluff a bad player. A bad player doesn't know well enough to lay down a marginal hand, so by bluffing you're just giving him your money.
So why the hell did I make that very mistake yesterday? Because I got frustrated, and I tilted, that's why. I pride myself on my even keel, but lately I find myself going nutso over some of the lousy play we all see at Party. I know the reason why--I've been playing satellites for Party's Million Dollar tournament, and by playing smart and tight I get down to the last 50-60 sports, but then I get killed by some loon who lucked into a big stack by going all-in with 2nd pair and rivering some other loon. I feel like I should be doing better in these satellites, but I haven't gotten a big enough stack to really play an aggressive game. Tonight I managed to get some chips early on, but I couldn't get things going once the blinds went up. I got knocked out when I went all-in with JJ, hoping that the 3 limpers and the big blind would run away from a $1100 re-raise. Ah, no. Two players called me--one with AQ suited, one with 99. Of course a nine came on the flop, but I had a straight draw up to the river, when my hopes and dreams died yet again. Oh well, I gotta get to bed anyway, so thems the breaks.
But back to my horrible play the other day. I was seated to the right of a frothing, twitching maniac. I played about 50 hands against him, and I'd say he played 48 of them. I do remember him folding twice, but only twice. I'd say he raised about 75% of the time. Every time the betting was checked around to him after the flop, he bet the pot. Every time.
The mistake this nut made was showing his cards after a few of his wins. He was raising preflop and betting the pot with hands like 8-4 and an eight on the board. He beat me once when he held 33 and I had JJ, he caught his trips on the river and took down the pot. Thing is, I'd raised preflop and then raised after a ragged flop, only to have him come over the top of me. I didn't bet the turn, and he bet into me again. I called, and then he caught his trips on the river. I don't know what logic he used to make these bets, but this time the poker gods shone down on him.
He beat me again when my QQ lost to his KK, but that crap happens. He took about $20 from me, and probably $40 from everyone else. Now was the time for me to take a deep breath, relax, and wait for the hand that would allow me to win my money back. It was just a matter of time.
I waited about 20 hands and got zilch. Meanwhile Laughing Boy was playing like Gus Hansen on crystal meth. Here's where I made a boo-boo. I had AK and raised his big blind the max amount. He called. The flop came Q-9-6. Normally with AK I hit the brakes if the flop misses me. This time, when he bet a buck, I came over the top of him and raised him the pot. He re-raised me. What the hell do I do now? Like a lamb, I called and prayed for a big card on the turn. This time God said, "No". He bet a buck. I re-raised him. He re-raised me the pot. I had to decide whether I should invest another $12 in this foray. I tossed my cards in the muck, disgusted with myself.
I didn't get another hand to play back with this guy. He made almost $100 playing ludicrous poker. He did get beat a few hands in a row, but then he won a monster $50 pot when he hit his club on the river to make his flush. I wouldn't stayed at the table for like 6 hours with this guy, but I got a call from my friend Ted to go play tennis and I chose sun and exercise over existential card-related misery.
I'll be illustrating other examples of when I, who considers himself a reasonably astute player, have played like one who has his head thrust between his buttocks. I hope there won't be many such examples, but I have a couple in my head right now. I do this both to correct and improve my own play, and because I feel the need to flagellate myself in public. Though only figuratively, these days...