Thursday, October 25, 2007

How to lose $30,000: a cautionary tale

Gather around the fire kids because Uncle Marty has a story to tell you all.

It all starts with a bankroll over $115K and a 500/1000 table of Stud Hi/Lo. Gory details about the hands are below. But to summarize, I got rivered in a cooler hand which took 10K out of my stack and would have won me 20K+ for a swing of 30K. Stood up from that. Sat down to rolled up TT/T and was priced in all the way but never boated. Then I had a fantastic 4 card hand going on 4th street that blanked the rest of the way. All told I was down from 115K to 82K, over a span of a couple hours.

This all happened right before WNP and I would say that losing that much may well have affected my live play as well.

Remember the go-go 90s when nobody could miss in the stock market? Then the rude awakening? Yes everyone's a genius when they are risking too much and winning. That said, it would be hard to fathom that I've built my roll up this far on false pretenses so I'm thinking that my play is still EV+ but it is just a string of bad hands. But that's what bankroll management is all about, being able to weather bad hands but not have it kill your roll.

So here are some trap thoughts to be on the lookout for:

* I should have won that hand so it doesn't count. The guy catches a two outer on me and it is a $30K swing. I'm down $10K and got almost all of it in when I was good. If I got it in good it's OK to lose a huge pot right? Yes and no. If you are playing a game the right size then fine. But if losing one hand is 10% of your roll then I am starting to drift towards Jasonland bankroll management.

* I can get it back. I'm still EV+ so if I keep playing at these stakes I'll get it back right? Well, actually that is correct but not if you run out of money first. If you take another big hit or two now you are way down and will NEED to go down in stakes. Drop to a lower table on your own terms because you are a good bankroll manager not because you can't afford to get in higher. At least I didn't have higher tables available to try to get it back faster so I wasn't tempted to speed the process.

* I used to be at $XXX so I'm really only going back to where I was before. Well if you are back down to a lower level, then you'd sure as heck better be playing the stakes you were at when you were there before.

* I can't lose THAT many hands can I? No, it is nearly impossible to do long as you are at stakes appropriate for your roll. Gearing down as your roll dwindles protects you from having one or two hand disasters bankrupt you.

* I'm invincible. Just because you ballooned your roll up to a huge amount doesn't mean that you can't lose.

* This wouldn't have happened if I were multitabling. Actually it would. Granted, if I had enough dough to multi-table at these stakes then I would have shrugged it off as another one of the few losses compared to way more wins. Doing multitabling was a very good insulator against getting too invested in any one hand.

* It's OK, I can drive. As I mentioned before, I think that the human element is by far the weakest link in building the bankroll. Back on the 100/200 tables I had the protection of multi-tabling and relatively small stakes to just robotically grind away and get my few bucks a hand that my EV was good for. But once I switched up

* I'm entitled to win a huge pot. As the book Zen and the Art of Poker will tell you, the deck doesn't owe you squat. If you lose three big hands in a row, what are the odds of losing another big one? Well it certainly isn't 0%. Strings of losses happen and you'd better be able to afford it.

So there you go. Watch for these signs. I half ignored some rather big red flags. I did get some bad hands and I really wouldn't play these hands any differently the next time. But I have had a quarter of my roll sliced off and I need to go build that back up again. I'm going to return to multi-tabling 100/200 games until I get back over 100,000 again. I hope my experience helps someone else avoid the same fate.

Hand details below...
I'm not playing my "A" game. I have my 4th street percentage too high at around 35% and have missed catching cards and have to bail on 7th a couple times. I also have some decent hands that I show down but aren't good enough. Pretty soon I'm stuck 10K or so. Not the best place to be but with 500/1000 you are going to accept that as a possibility in exchange for the upside of winning big pots relative to your bankroll. I claw my way back and am get to being down 5K of my 20K buy-in.

And then...

I am in Seat 5 with 15,619 and am dealt As6s/4d, working on a six high low and two to the flush. I'm tasting it already because of the smattering of high cards around the table. Nothing too crazy on the deal, I bring in and five players call it.

4th street gives me a 2h and my low improves. A guy showing 87 opens for 500 and Q3 ahead of me bumps to 1000. That is unusual for this table of relatively sane players. Typically no one is going to get out of hand and when you are showing Q3os you aren't exactly telling a compelling story. I flat call but am ready to deal with re-raises. Two others call the 1K, one player folds and the original bettor calls the extra 500.

I'm running good when 5th street gives me 3h and I have made the second nut low already. Guy ahead of me with Q37 showing opens for 1K and I immediately bump to 2K for value. Villain raises to 3K, we lose another player, guy to my right calls and I cap it at 4K, call, call, call. From Villain's hesitant call after I re-raised, I read that he is now worried about me.

6th street gives me another deuce. Fine. that improves my chances of making something to scoop with. Villain picks up a Ts and opens betting. A call then I raise. Call, then Villain raises again. I'm not worried. That T is a brick for his low and I'm pushing the betting, bump it to 2K. One caller then Villain goes to 3K, he is willing to ride this one out. Call, I cap, call, call.

Four handed with one all in going to 7th and 4h gives me second nut low and two pair. Definitely strong for low and possible scoopage available. Another player is now all in and Villain and I cap it.

Villain shows 8h3s/4s5hAhTs/2c and rivers a gutshot wheel with one of the two remaining deuces (I had two of them) to scoop all pots. 44K+. My side of the pot was 22K plus change from one of the side pots. I am 10K deep in this hand so that represents more than a 30K swing from Villain catching a two outer.

I stand up from the table and start writing up a blog post about it. I am pondering if I am playing above my roll but am at 97K where I was a couple of days ago and hovering around the 100K mark, still 100x my original stake which was cause for celebration. I take a break and decide that that was just a cooler hand. My read was correct. He was drawing super thin and he hit. I decide it's OK for me to sit back down.

Reload for a full 20K and miss with a couple hands to knock me down to 15K. Then I pick up one of my rare exceptions to playing a low, being rolled up, TTT in this case. I'm 40% to boat and am check/calling all streets with a guy betting all streets and one other check/caller so I'm funding less then 33% of the chips into the pot. Blanks on all streets and I lose to a flush. Down to 10K now.

Three hands later I pick up 2d5d/3d. Strong. Three to the wheel and suited. I complete to 500 and get three callers. My next card is 4h for four wheel cards and an open ender for high. I bet, get raised, and then I re-raise. One player folds, the other two call the 1500. Ks, I bet, call call. 2s, I bet, call, call. 7th street adds insult to injury, 5s. I bet in case they both have no high and missed their low, call, call. I have no low and my two pair are trumped by Jacks up. Down another 5K and I leave the table.

1 comment:

Marshall said...

I haven't read the hand details part, but all of the flags you posted are 100% legit and totally transferable to the Cakers. Being able to go back down a level is a key element I am sure. I am curious to see if ego/pride etc get in the way when it comes my turn to go down a level (once I go UP a level).

I have read Zen and the Art of Poker 3 times now, and I love what you referenced there. The deck will brutalize you. I have no sympathy for the deck and I expect nothing from it. The deck is my bitch, therefore I slap it.

In Zen and the Art of Poker, the author makes a sweet analogy relating poker to other sports. In football for example, like most sports/games, the person that has the most talent and/or works the hardest will be the best. But the luck factor in poker is so random and so unforgiving it takes a special demeanor to handle it. It also takes a lot of bankroll insulation. Imagine if you were a football player, and you were the best one on the field. You juke too fools at the line of scrimmage then spin move into a stiff arm breaker and bust out for the end zone. But at the 20 yard line, a spectator shoots your foot with a gun. Totally random, and for seemingly no reason, but he does it. And this is an accepted part of the game. There is no outcry, the players simply line up again for the next down. You are left robbed of you touchdown and helpless.

This is what we face in poker. You can play literally perfectly and still lose. WTF? The key here is accepting that these losses are coming, and weathering them. Managing your bankroll is a key way to accomplishing this.