Thursday, February 02, 2006

Anatomy of a Blow-Up

I think I might have a problem. Don't worry, I'm not talking about my meth habit or my penchant for picking fights with bouncers, it's something more insidious. I think I might be becoming more susceptible to tilting. This may be because I'm more self-aware at the tables or because I am actually becoming easier to tilt... or both.

So I guess you want examples. If you didn't want any, too bad, you're getting some. Last night I played another 180 SnG. I started off well, busting a couple of lemurs and getting to just over 4.5k early, good for #1 on the leaderboard. Things are going well, I'm feeling on top of my game, and then immediately on my left appears a guy with a picture of a donkey and a stack about twice the size of mine. This is a little unsettling for two reasons: a second ago I was chip leader and now this guy has twice my stack, and I really don't want the chip leader to be on my left.

A few hands later we have our first confrontation. I look down at A-Q, both hearts, and the action is folded to me. I pop it for just over 3x the big blind and only the big stack calls. Flop comes down K-x-x rainbow. I throw a continuation bet out there, and the big stack just calls. OK... I don't feel convinced he has a hand here, and feel I can keep putting pressure on, representing A-K. A second club hits on the turn, I bet out, big stack calls. River is another club, I fire another bullet, big stack calls. I think I'm beaten here, but I'm very interested in what he has.

K-7 of hearts?!

OK, now I'm on baby tilt. He called my pre-flop raise with K-7 sooooted, hit a K on the flop and decided to call my increasing bets down the whole way. The extra annoyance is that if three hearts hit the board, I stand an excellent chance of getting all my chips in the pot and getting paid off.

After that hand I'm down to about 3.5k or so, still in good shape before the break. But I'm beginning to seethe. I am eyeing this chip stack to my left, watching as he continues to pull retarded moves. I don't just want to increase my chip stack, I want to increase my stack at the expense of this fool on my left. I want to punish him.

This is a mind-set I really don't want to be in. But just after the break I see my chance. 50/100 blinds and I'm in the big-blind, with my nemesis UTG. Big Stack Lemur (from here on out: BSL) limps, button limps, SB completes, I check with 2-3 offsuit (a power hand). Flop comes 4-5-6. Cha-ching! I have the idiot end of the straight, but I'm feeling good. SB checks, I check and start sending telepathic messages to the BSL and the button: bet bet bet bet bet bet bet bet bet bet bet bet. They don't listen to me and it is checked around.

The turn is... another 6, putting two clubs on the board.

The SB checks, and instead of betting, say, the pot I just check. Again I start sending telepathic messages, and again the BSL and the button refuse to listen to me. I curse.

River is... the Ace of clubs. Now I am not feeling so hot. The board is paired, there is a flush out there, and to top it all off I have the idiot end of the straight.

SB checks, I check, BSL overbets twice the pot. Gah! I look at his bet, look at the pot, look at my stack. It will cost me 25% of my stack to call. But I want to get this guy. I want to get him so badly I can taste it (kind of metallic, in case you were interested). Mentally I have decided I am going to call this joker.

And that's when the button pushes all-in for 1600 or so total.

"#$%^!", I think to myself. I may have even said that out loud. And that's when my vengeful brain goes to itself: "Well, you were going to call down 800, this is only another 800." My brain cleverly hides the fact that this now represents half my stack. I am not even thinking about what the button has, I am thinking only about the BSL. I watch in mild horror as my hand moves of its own volition and clicks "call".

The BSL only calls; he doesn't put me all-in.

Let me be clear. I have no idea what the button flipped over. None. I had no interest whatsoever in what he had. I want to see what the BSL had. I want to know he had something retarded like A-9 off. Please. A-9 off.

He has 9-10 suited. Of clubs.

In apparent slow motion the chips slide across the virtual felt to join the BSL's other ill-gotten gains. I am down to 1700. I am seething. I am on full-blown punch-me-in-the-face-and-call-me-donkey tilt. I can not BELIEVE this guy had 9-10 suited and got there.

Of course I misplayed the hand. If I was playing it over again I probably would have checked on the flop, bet the pot on the turn (probably calling or even re-raising any raises), and check-folded on the river. After all, I knew already that the BSL liked them sooooted.

But none of that matters right now. Right now I am looking at my stack, now at the lowest it has been since the first few minutes of the tournament. I am about a double up away from par, but still, I am hurting inside. I am angry at myself for my play, angry at deciding to call the BSL's overbet on the river, and then deciding that if I was going to do that I may as well call the button's all-in.

Somehow I don't throw the rest of my chips away in the next few hands. I massage my scalp, get myself into the lotus position, repeat "Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean" to myself. I manage to win a few small pots, getting a little more oxygen. I'm not in good shape, but I'm not on death row. I need to catch cards soon though.

And that's when I get A-K. Right now these look huge. The action is folded to me, and I pop it. BSL, friend of mine that he is, comes over the top and puts me all-in.

I go cross-eyed. Dammit! OK, OK, let me think. Let's state the obvious: he could have a big pocket pair. But how big? A-A, K-K big? Q-Q or J-J big? Some other pocket pair? He could have A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-10, K-Q, K-J... especially if they are soooooted. After all, he's a Big Stack Lemur. And we HATE HATE HATE the Big Stack Lemur.

I hit "time" and eye the tournament lobby. I'm about half par, and the blinds and antes are starting to get pricey. I don't like calling all-in with A-K, but I need to make a move soon, and here might be my chance. And this is the BSL. HATE HATE HATE HATE.

Let's dance. I call.

BSL flips over Q-Q. Could be better, could be worse. I'm prepared to race, as long as I win.

I don't know what hits the board on the flop, all I know is that there are no friendly A or K cards.

Turn, no paint.

River... no.


And just like that, it's all over, and all my chips slide one position to the left. I stare at the screen for a couple of minutes, not taking anything in. Reverberating in my brain is the fact that since the time the BSL sat down I had been eyeing him as my mark. And somehow he got all of my chips. And I know that it's all my fault.

It's about 10:15pm. Normally when I bust out of a tournament around this time I shrug my shoulders, log off and potter about my apartment doing this and that before getting ready to hit the sack. But I can't, not after that. I need action, and I need it now. So I immediately sign up for a $10 + 1 rebuy tournament about to kick-off, and sign up for a O8 Limit tournament with Waffles. I don't really like rebuy tournaments, but I don't care, it's definitely going to give me action.

As rebuy tournaments go it's up and down. Double up early, then bust. Bust again. Double up, and get to the break at about 2.5k. Not great, but there you go. Get the add-on, and decide to try and play real poker from here on in. A little bit later, after not seeing too many cards and being eaten by blinds I look down and see Q-Q. These look like gold. I am first to act, and decide to just push all-in. A double up here puts me in good shape, and I want to mete out some pain. At the table is a big stack with 22k, and again I go with the telepathic messages: call call call call call call call call call call call call.

After a moment or two he calls, everyone else folds, and he flips over K-J soooted. Spades, and I have a spade. I am feeling good, this is looking great. Take this hand and I have chips to work with. Two spades hit the flop, and all of a sudden I am not feeling so good.

"No King no spade!" I chant over and over, as the turn card hits. No King, no spade, as ordered.

"No King no spade!" I demand, imploring the river to deliver me from my plight.

The river does not listen, and spitefully reveals a spade. Once more I look on, dumbfounded, as my chips slide across the virtual felt.

I'm snapped out of my condition by the other tournament beeping at me. Limit O8. Right. OK. Guess I should concentrate on that. So I do, playing my ultra-tight Limit O8 game, winning a pot here, escaping a bad situation there. Click, click, click. Smooth, easy, calming. I'm doing OK, but not fantastic, but that's fine. Click, click, click.

And I'm out in 70th out of 260th or something. But I feel alright again. I know I've not been on my game, thrown away a tournament and sprayed some cash in my tilted state, but I feel better now.

Next step: not getting tilted in the first place. I'm working on it.


  • Just reading you story put me on a little tilt, since I have been guilty of this so many times.

    I think the problem boils down to expectation.

    We see the donkey. We know it's a donkey because it plays like one. We know we are better. We expect to beat the donkey, and fortunately, most of the time, we do.

    the problem with our particular brand of expectation is that it is unrealistic--we expect to beat the donkey 100% of the time and it's a personal affront to lose.

    I'm so guilty of this, it's just sick. I'm still trying to find a cure.

    By Blogger Human Head, at 11:36 AM  

  • This is one of the biggest problems I have with tournaments. In a cash game, I know that I will get an oppourtunity to take the lemur's money, but in a tournament, if variance decides to kick in, lemurs can destroy me.

    By Blogger Wes, at 12:09 PM  

  • Here's something pretty basic, but easily ignored. The first hand to start the tilt parade was against the only guy who had you outstacked. That is the one guy you DO NOT want to play against, under any circumstances (without the nuts of course). Let him bluff you with crap and fold the AQ happily. It's key to make sure you don't tussle with the other big stacks because (a) he's big stack for a reason such as good play OR luck, (b) its easier to push smaller stacks around, and (c) he's the only guy that can take you out of the tourney.

    If you had avoided him in that first hand by check-folding the flop, checking it down, or not raising his blinds, you maybe (MAYBE) could've avoided tilt.

    By Blogger HighOnPoker, at 6:05 PM  

  • I think I know the problem. You have Waffleitus. It is a state of tilting that can only be aquired by association with the ultimate bad luck, tilting Master, otherwise know as Sirfwalgman.

    By Blogger Veneno, at 2:16 PM  

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