I sat around a table with some friends Saturday night, and there were chips and cards moved around, but I can't with any degree of honesty call what I did playing poker. It wasn't just that I was running bad, which I was. It wasn't just that I had a couple of bad beats, which I did (although I dished out as many as I took, not that you ever feel the memory of the beats you lay on someone quite as keenly). It wasn't just that I was playing perhaps the worst poker I've played in some number of months, which I was.
It was that all of those things were going on and I felt completely powerless to stop it. For much of the night, it was as if I were playing poker in a dream. I saw my hands doing things with chips, and as the sane part of me screamed "NOOOOOOO!!!!" from inside my head, my hands threw out ridiculous overbets, stupid call after stupid call, and shoved my entire stack into the middle more times than I care to recall. There was a tournament to start the evening, of which I recall exactly one hand - my pocket queens held up very early to bust Mark, who shipped it in over the top of my raise with pocket tens. We peeked at the burn cards later to find that both remaining queens had been burned, which was nothing more than an interesting factoid.
I didn't win. I didn't cash. I didn't even sniff the money. I don't remember how I went out, but I'm pretty sure I got it in bad. I coulda saved myself the $30 if I'd just done like Special K and showed up late for the cash game. Frankly, I shouldn't play tournaments with extremely low buy-ins. I don't play tournaments that well to begin with, and if I'm not gonna be able to focus on the play because the payout is too low to be interesting, then I should just avoid them. I won't, because typically the tourneys are hosted by my friends, but I can pretty much just chalk them up to a predetermined loss.
At one point in the cash game, I thought to myself - "wow, I'm playing like crap. And I can't stop myself. I should leave early or this could get expensive." And I didn't. And it did. At one point I was $210 into the $.25/.50 cash game, following buy-ins of $60, $50 and $100. Somehow I managed to struggle back to even, including my tournament buy-in, on the back of catching cards and actually playing one or two hands well. And really, that's about all I played well. I think there was a hand where I flopped a straight and Jim rivered trips that I got paid on every street. There was another hand where Brian the Red doubled me up, although I don't remember anything about the hand. Then, just as I thought "there's about 45 minutes left in the night, I'm even, or just a hair ahead, I should go into complete lockdown and get outta here with my skin intact" I picked up pocket Kings.
Now, Special K had just had his Kowboys cracked on an Ace-high board the hand before, so I thought ugly things about my kings. But I dutifully raised about 8x the blinds and got a couple of callers. I know T and Skoon hung around, and there might have been one more to the flop. Flop comes down Q-J-x, Skoon checks and I fire $15 into a $16ish pot. T calls and Skoon raises me $30 more. He's pot-committed at this point, so I'm 95% sure all his money is going in. I look around at T's stack and she's got about $60-75 in front of her. I raise another $50 on top to make sure that anybody in the hand with me is playing for all their chips. T folds, which I kinda hated, and Skoon calls. I ask him "do you have two pair?" and he shakes his head. Until the 6 on the river comes down and he says "now I do," and turns over Q-6o. I double him up, and feel a little grossed out.
Now comes the worst part. Instead of regrouping, getting my head straight over the next few hands and recapturing my losings, I go on drunken monkey tilt and call Jim's preflop raise the very next hand with 6-8o. Flop comes down 7-6-7, and I call his flop bet. Turn is a 7, giving me a boat, and he bets out strong. Of course, in the depths of my rational soul I knew he had an overpair, but the monkey tilt that was controlling my hands shipped all my chips into the middle. I ask him if he has the case seven, he says no and tables queens. I mention that I'm drawing dead, ship him my stack, and go home.
It's not so much the money, as the tilt. I've had a real problem controlling tilt lately, and I'm not sure what it is. I have a theory that it's money. Before I was paying attention to my real-world finances outside of poker, I'd go busto, reload, build my bankroll up, take money out for real-life things, whatever. My bankroll wasn't really a solid thing, just another fluid place to park money. Now that I'm trying to be more conscientious about my household finances, and now that my freelance writing money has dipped by at least $10K this year, I'm much more conscious of not going broke. And I think it's fucking up my game. A lot. I'm pretty sure that contributed to me playing like scared money in W-Vegas, and I'm pretty sure that's what made me try so hard Saturday night to force things to go my way. So I'm gonna take some time this week to try and figure out where my head is at about bankroll before I go off with the other mastodons this weekend.
And I apologize to the people who had to put up with my tilt Saturday night. It felt as bad to me as it did to you, I promise.