Monday, June 05, 2006

I'll take a shot

Online Poker

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Is it hot or is the heater on?

I played at Sandia Casino and Resort last week while in Albuquerque on business and while sitting in a 1/2 NLHE game, I heard a fellow make an interesting comment. I should probably fill you in on a bit of detail so you can understand the significance of his comment.

The game was mostly tight with a maybe three loose cannons in the game (myself being one of the three). The game being 1/2 NL had a min buy in of $50 and a max of $200. The table was being fed by a must move game, so the stacks were relatively large compared to the must move table. I think most players had $400+ in front of them. The gentleman in question was definitely a solid player with plenty of experience. When I came to the table, he was the chip leader with about $900 in front of him. He wore glasses and a ball cap, and his facial features were so similar to a celebrity that a new player that took a seat next to me asked me; “Are we playing celebrity poker?”. I asked him why and he said, “Cause that guy down there looks just like Steve Martin.” Looking again, I had to agree with him, he did look like Steve Martin. He certainly seemed to have the demeanor of Steve Martin, constantly smiling and joking. Except for the fact that he had all of the money on the table, I think he was a pretty likable fellow.

Steve Martin seemed to make some pretty remarkable connections too. For example, he top pair, but made a gut shot straight on the river while an opponent had flopped top two pair. He later made another straight on the turn when his opponent had flopped a set of Aces. Resistance is futile and their stacks were assimilated. Sitting on about, $1500 now, he was all smiles.

The fellow beside him is a regular at this casino, I’ve played with him on every business trip to Albuquerque now. He is an average player in my opinion, who’s strongest point is playing aggressively in position. He leans over to Steve Martin and says, “You’re pretty lucky tonight. It’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of luck.” Steve Martin turns and says, “I think people make their own luck.”

Later that night, I sat and pondered on that statement, “… people make their own luck.” After some reflection and observations, I am inclined to agree with Steve, at least in part. People do make their own luck, good or bad.

The statement is true in everything, not just poker. Take if you will a person who loses their luggage on a flight. Bad luck, right? Maybe. I fly quite often and every once in a while, my bag is mishandled. In fact, on the return trip from Albuquerque, I sat at the carousel to no avail. My bag was somewhere in baggage land. My wife says that I am unlucky as my bag does seem to get mishandled a lot. But, am I unlucky or not? If I didn’t check my bag, there is a very good likelihood that my bag will not get lost. However, I chose to check my bag, therefore I provided the opportunity for it to get lost. Additionally, I fly a lot more than the casual flyer, therefore, there is a greater likelihood that my bag will get lost because I fly more often. Additionally, I had a connection in DFW. Anytime you fly with a connection, and especially in a major airport, you again increase your likelihood to have a bag get lost. So was I unlucky? Probably; but I suspect not as unlucky as one might think.

In poker, a player can influence how their game is going to be just by their demeanor and table image to the other players. If I bet more aggressively and with such authority that I instill fear in my opponents (because “he must have the nuts”) I have a much greater likelihood of winning this hand and the next with this image. However, on the flip side, if I am making crying calls and show a sullen despondent table image, I am more likely going to lose as weaker hands who would otherwise have folded now are inclined to call.

Have you ever been on a Heater? You know; when it doesn’t matter what cards you have, you are going to win this hand and the next 4 of 5 hands. Is it luck? Maybe. A skilled player will recognize when the conditions are ripe for a player to go on a heater. It usually happens when there is a large pot and the player who is a severe underdog to win the hand, makes an incredible call to win a huge pot. Was he lucky? Maybe, or maybe he had the right pot odds to call. In either case, he is setting the stage to go on a heater. After winning a large pot, he plays the next hand regardless of what it is. He catches a bit of the board and bets aggressively. He narrowly wins, but wins this pot all the same. All of a sudden the chemistry is just right for a heater to happen. Players are back on their heels; the hero has a large infusion of confidence and bets accordingly. Others who enter the pot on draws throw away piles of chips when their draws don’t come to fruition. Starting hands of the opponents are less than desirable, so they start to tighten up and start mucking more often. Yet the guy on the heater continues to gain more confidence and bets even more aggressively. Both have the effect of reducing the field and increasing the chances of winning. He continues to win pot after pot. The next thing you know, he wins like 8 out of the next 10 pots and his chip stack grows exponentially. It happens, I’ve been on them, I’ve seen others on them. But why does it happen? Is it just dumb luck? Or maybe the player made his own luck by being aggressive, narrowing the playing field, and making draws exceedingly expensive to try and hit. What do you think?