Going broke can have its benefits
I just got back from my first live poker session in I don’t know how long… almost two months I think. I took an extended hiatus from the game for a couple of reasons; a) my dad was in town for a while and we went sightseeing here in Vegas and in Los Angeles; and, more important, b) my finances just weren’t where they needed to be.
(The shorter version of that story is “I went broke.”)
I was making too many mistakes away from the felt and living a lifestyle that just wasn’t sustainable on my “salary”. I definitely wasn’t going super crazy or ballin’ out of control by any means. But similar to the way a small preflop error can compound on itself and become a large, costly session-killer, smaller mistakes away from the tables can quickly add up and drain a poker player’s bankroll. This shouldn’t be news to any poker player, but when you live in a city like Las Vegas and you like being social and experiencing what the city and life itself has to offer, you have to constantly check yourself.
I look down at 6s7s for my first live hand in two months. Forget that I’m in early position, I can’t help it… the suited connectedness was overpoweringly sexy.
The two biggest realizations I had during my time away were my need to stay humble and my need to stay balanced. Humility has multiple benefits: you’re happier with less, you’re less wasteful, and you end up appreciating important things such as people’s company more than, say, an overpriced cocktail from a tourist-trap of a casino bar. Don’t get me wrong, drinks with friends remains one of my, if not my number one, favorite pastime. Have you been to the Mandarin Bar inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel at CityCenter? Phenomenal venue. But pricey. It’s for sure one of my favorite spots in town, but it’s just a bad idea to spend a large amount of time there drinking $22 glasses of wine. Although you do get complimentary Wasabi peanuts and other snacks with your cocktails. And the restroom is beyond tranquil. Anyway…
I needed the hiatus to show me how unbalanced my life was. I was spending too much time in the casino and around the Strip, putting in too many hours on the grind and draining myself of my alertness and my desire to play well… and my results showed. Balancing your “real” life with your poker life is more important than balancing your 3-betting range. I found a real appreciation for Summerlin, which for those of you who don’t live in Vegas, is a suburb with real grass and trees and, like, only a couple casinos. Just getting away from the madness is essential to staying fresh and keeping my mind interested in what I’m working on and want to excel at. I’ve also been hitting the gym much more regularly over the past couple months, and plan to continue that. I’ve always been a pretty slim dude and have no intentions of winning any lifting competitions, but just seeing some type of results in that department and feeling more fit in general can only help me be happier both at and away from the tables.
Another thing that I really want to start focusing on is finding a way to incorporate some sort of charity into my playing career. I have a couple different ideas and will probably write another blog with more thoughts on this and how it came about.
I don’t mean for this to sound preachy, and a lot or all of it I’m sure has been said before in poker forums and other players’ blogs. I’m not saying you, the reader, should be doing more of this or less of that. In fact I usually have a tendency to think that most people are better than me at all sorts of things in life. I’m just trying to better myself and hopefully putting it in writing will hold me accountable.
So with newfound poker/life weapons in my arsenal, and being super fresh, I was obviously going to crush my first session back from hiatus. I cruised over to Red Rock and got on the short list for $2/$5NL, and jumped in an open seat at a $1/$2 in the meantime. I was stoked to be back in action and my nerves reminded me of when I used to live in LA, when I had a “real” job, and would drive to the Hustler Casino with a gameplan in mind for that night (lol fish). I’m immediately dealt in and I look down at 6s7s for my first live hand in two months. Forget that I’m in early position, I can’t help it… the suited connectedness was overpoweringly sexy. I limp, and a middle-aged Asian fellow in middle position makes it $8. I call after the small blind comes along too.
Unreal. The poker gods had clearly foreseen my return to the ring and arranged a special ceremony in my honor. The small blind leads out for $10, I flat, and the original raiser makes it $32. The small blind calls and it’s time to jump out the window. I make it $90 with the nuts, to which the Asian man asks for a count, and decides on a call. The small blind practically flashes his cards to the entire table and does in fact tell the entire table that he guesses top pair is no good here, and finally folds.
After the dealer half-heartedly does his duty of reminding the $1/$2 players to not talk about hands in a multiway pot, he places the 2h on the turn. This is far from my favorite turn card, especially after the way the Asian man had asked for a count of my flop raise. But I only had a half-pot sized bet left behind, and after all, this was my ceremony, hand-delivered from the gods themselves. I waste little time in moving all-in and the Asian man wastes even less time calling with the nut flush.
And just like that, on hand number one after a two month hiatus, I am reintroduced to the ultimate emotional rollercoaster that is poker.
Andrew Neeme is a low-stakes grinder in Vegas, trying to live a good life with poker. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewNeeme.