The Most Dangerous Mistake

Archive for February, 2011

Casino Player February 2011

February 05th, 2011 | Category: Magazine Articles

HEAD: The Most Dangerous Mistake

SUB: The story of how a little blonde girl dethroned two kings

“Comments like that used to tilt me. Now, I embrace them. It is to my advantage that I am underestimated.”

Parents put their children in sports, acting classes and teach them cards games with no intentions of having their child choose these hobbies as career paths. I can only imagine the fear and anxiety my parents experienced when their baby girl told them, she had quit university to pursue poker full time!

Years ago my dad visited me in Las Vegas. While sitting at Starbucks he met a friend of the deceased Stu Ungar. When my dad mentioned that I was a poker player the gentlemen told him:

"Make no mistake, your daughter will go broke. She will call you, collect from Las Vegas, begging for money and help. Stewie the greatest poker player of all time, died broke with no assets to his name."

Not exactly what I wanted my parents to hear. I was still trying to convince them that poker is a game of skill, not a gambling addiction. I knew then, that I had burned any bridge of ever getting financial help from my parents. I made a vow to myself, if I ever went broke, that would be the end of my poker career. Some players negotiate backing or borrow money. I would do neither. I would move back to Canada and find a job. By making this vow I forced myself to manage my bankroll wisely.

Last summer my parents were in town visiting me and were occupying themselves, while I played poker online. After only thirty minutes I came upstairs and asked what everyone's plans were for dinner. Surprised to see me, my dad asked, "Why aren't you playing?" "I'm done. I'm not playing well. I'm over confident, and I can feel it affecting my game," I responded. That was it. We went out for dinner and I didn't play again that night.

Months later I was on the phone with my dad when he asked me; "Do you remember the comment from Stu Ungar's friend, that you will go broke?" "How could I forget!" I exclaimed. "After watching you quit playing because you were over confident I knew I didn't have to worry about you going broke. You are aware of your mental state and abilities. You are in control." Well known Pros tell me I am a good player, "and you never tilt" they often add.

I do feel my face getting flushed and my breathing getting shallower. The second this happens I cash out. I do tilt, but I never play when I am tilting. This makes me a profitable player. My father's comment was very astute. He summed up the difference between winning skillful players, and skillful players that are actually long-term loosing players.

Dan Bilzerian is a High Stakes player and Victory sponsored Pro. Each time I've played Dan in the past, he buys in for 100k, spews out thousands of chips, pulls out more cash, looses more, swears some, and then leaves. This particular 10-20 NL game, Dan sat down with 5000x big blinds making a very clear statement. Lee Markholt also a Team Victory Pro had been playing solid, nitty poker for the last hour, when a run of bad luck caused Lee to be stuck 10 dimes. Seeing Dan as a chance to recoup his loses, Lee topped up his stack to over 20K.

The action pre-flop began with Lee raising UTG to $100, two players called and Dan in the small blind raised to $500. Lee re-raised to $1000 isolating Dan. Dan tanked for a while and then called. Flop came down Qh 9c 10h. Dan checked, Lee bet $1500, Dan raised to $3000, then Lee called. Turn was a blank, Dan checked again, Lee bet 5K, Dan raised all-in. Lee began thinking out loud. "I know you have a made hand. There's no way you bluff in this scenario. I know you're not on a draw."

His voice was anguished. There was a possibility that Dan had a huge draw. Lee knew that Dan was capable of pushing on a semi-bluff. However, he reasoned it out that Dan wasn't bluffing. Even so, he made the call with his pocket kings, only to see Dan's set of tens and watch him rake in a $40K pot.

The way Dan played this hand was creative, indicative of a great poker player. Slightly star struck I told him, "I love the way you check-raised both the flop and the turn. It was risky checking the turn." "He had to bet the turn..." Dan replied "He had an over pair and there were so many draws out there." Dan knew what Lee held and maximized his value by anticipating Lee's actions.

Lee may have laid the hand down had he not already been stuck $10k. Instead he made the call and was now stuck $30k, a very difficult sum to redeem at 10-20.

Dan played that hand beautifully and continued to play great poker throughout the session. He left with a nice profit. Surprised, I jokingly commented, "Wow Dan, I've never seen you have a winning session before."

He explained to me that if he loses a big pot at the beginning of the session he starts obsessing that he will not be able to recoup his loses at these stakes, and in turn he tilts and loses more. Being aware of your mental mindset is a fundamental step in being a winning player. Examine your mental state regularly. If you're feeling over confident, extremely unlucky, or that it's impossible to get back to even, just walk away.

The great thing about cash game poker is you are your own boss. You can come and go as you please. Use this freedom to be a winning player.