“Running Bad”

Let’s do some quick probability exercises.

Say I give you a standard six-sided die, and tell you that every time you roll a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, I will pay you one dollar. Every time you roll a 1, you will have to pay me three dollars. Obviously, you would want to roll the die as many times as possible.

Now I give you a coin that has been warped so that when it is flipped, it comes up heads 55% of the time. Every time you flip heads, I will pay you a dollar; every time you flip tails, you pay me a dollar. Though not as great as the die example above, this is still profitable, and you would want to flip it as much as you could.

When I’m playing poker online, I’m basically looking for scenarios like the above — trying to roll that die and flip that coin as many times as I can. So I generally make money. But invariably, the percentages have their way with you, and your series of die-rolls ends up looking something like 13141151621, and you want to chuck your laptop at your dog.

Some examples, please:

In this case, “all the money went in preflop,” meaning that before any of the community cards were turned over, he had bet all of his chips:

I am an overwhelming favorite to win. He needs a miracle to win the pot. What’s that? It’s the director saying “Cue the miracle!”

Those three clubs give him a flush, and he wins the hand. This is a “bad beat,” which I wrote about a while back. This is like rolling a 1 on that imaginary die. And I’ve been rolling lots of 1’s lately. Not that it’s unheard of; probability simply happens. Eventually, that chimp will complete Hamlet’s soliloquy, word for word. (I’ve also been losing a lot of those coin flips — typically two high cards versus a lower pair [like AK vs. 99] but those are more common and not as gasp-inducing).

Suffering a shitload of bad beats is just part of “running bad,” which, in the poker lexicon, means exactly what it sounds like. When you’re running bad, everything that can go wrong does go wrong. That chimp is now shopping his draft of The Great American Novel to publishers around New York.

Hands like this happen a lot, too — when you play a hand well, and are beaten by someone’s ineptitude.

(my opponent’s cards are still unseen). Before the “flop,” I made a big raise with my hand of AQ — pretty standard stuff. A couple of people called the bet and saw the flop you see above. That flop is terrific for AQ; in all probability we are ahead in the hand. I lead out for a fairly big bet, and everyone folds except for one dude who raises all-in. He had a short stack (not much more for me to call — in other words, there’s no way I’m folding), so I quickly called, and to my horror, saw:

… and of course, lost the hand. (What makes hands like these so hard to swallow: the guy doesn’t have much money in front of him, but he’s calling big raises with junky hands like Q-5. Terrible, terrible play).

Then there are the big losers, the “coolers.” In this hand, I had my eyes on this joker across the table from me for some time. He was a bad player running hot, and had amassed a big stack (bigger than mine). I’m sitting there praying I can get a hand to bust him with before someone else does, when I am dealt 2-2. He makes a standard opening raise pre-flop, and I call. My hope here is that a 2 will come on the flop, and that he has a big pair like AA or KK. The odds against that 2 flopping are roughly 7.5 : 1, but if it does hit, and he has a big pair, I am going to win well more than 7.5 times that opening raise (because most players will never, ever fold AA or KK). So, it’s a good investment.

BOOOO-YAHHH. Okay, I check, and he naturally bets out. I raise (called a check-raise), and he immediately throws out more money, and before you know it, my whole stack is on the table along with the same amount from him. Big pot.

I’ve seen this script before, and it’s any poker player’s bread-and-butter. Busting aces with a small pair. Cuz that’s what he has to have, right? Maybe kings, but… oh shit…

Noooooooooooo!!!!!! Oh, what a punch to the gut that is.

Well, I played the hand perfectly. I doubt there are many players who wouldn‘t go broke that hand. These are things that just happen in poker. When their frequency, however, goes through the fucking roof, it gets hard to stay level-headed — this can lead to going “on tilt,” when people get mad, and aggressive, and start really losing money. Not me, though (well, most of the time). I take a little time out and go to wherever Snoots is and just basically collapse on him. He always turns that frown upside down.

Anyhoo, after a week of this kind of emotional abuse (in spite of five days’ worth of this B.S. I actually, miraculously, made a tiny sum of money), I need a vacation. So on Thursday Snooty and I are headed down to Virginia for a nice, relaxing holiday. The laptop is coming down, as is the camera, so hopefully the weather will cooperate and we can share some pictures of my favorite place on Earth.



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2 responses to ““Running Bad”

  1. Wendy

    I don’t know what to say, other than have fun in Virginia!

  2. nana Debi

    Maybe you should consider another way to make money? I know not by business here, but hey, you wrote in your blog, you put it out there so I am just saying….

    Enjoy your visit to VA, supposed to be really beautiful all over the mid west and east coast, gonna be 82 here in the ‘Ville today, whooopeee!!!

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