This is a plan that can backfire—small games can be some of the most frustrating and unpredictable games out there, which may not be good for a person who has just become less convinced of the stability of poker (and rightfully so). The advantage is, of course, that by playing the smaller games, I’m not putting myself in a position to get upset if things don’t go well, since I’m not playing for an amount of money I could really get upset about. I figured it was the best way to go...
Anyway, sometimes you find the answers where you least expect them. I realized by my second or third $5 sit-n-go that I was impatient, irritable, etc. I wasn’t dealing well with seeing my opponents get away with their mistakes, which is something that usually makes me smile. I’m typically happy when a bad player gets a lot of chips, because I know that if I wait him out, I’ll end up taking them from him. But on this day, I was just frustrated to see people going all in with QJ off or calling off their entire stack on a straight draw. I didn’t feel like I had any chance to win any hands, which is definitely very bad—good thing I was only playing for 5 bucks!
I started making some ridiculous plays, and after one of these plays, I finally had somewhat of a moment of clarity. I raised UTG with AK and was called by the big stack on my left. The flop came 7 high and I made a reasonable bet, which he called. I decided he had a medium-high pocket pair (9’s-J’s) and would not bet his hand out of fear that I was stronger. The turn card came a Q, and I checked. He checked behind me, and the river came another low card. Now I figured the Q was an overcard to his pair, and I knew he wasn’t that strong to begin with, so I made a big bet, which he called immediately, showing pocket 10’s.
Perfect read, right? Wrong. I knew what he had, yes, but I didn’t apply my knowledge of the player to my decision about how to play the hand. Some players just cannot be bluffed, and to play aggressively against them just does not make sense. I know he’s going to call me down when I have a hand, so why waste my chips trying to push him out of pots?
The answer is really just impatience. The mistake I made, which is one so many of us often make, was wanting to win that pot right now, rather than waiting for a better opportunity. We get tired of playing solid poker and want to push our opponents around. Well, in some games that works, but in a $5 sit-n-go, I might as well just be throwing $5 into a slot machine. This guy wasn’t going to fold his 10’s if the board came K J J Q Q, and I just needed to recognize this and not throw any more money into the pot until I could be sure I was ahead.
This whole scenario may seem trivial to most, since we’re talking about a game that can’t be seriously considered as a viable source of income—I’d be hard pressed to find anyone making a living off $5 sit-n-go’s. But the truth is, I run into this type of player in bigger games all the time. They’re all over the place in $20, $30, and $50 sit-n-go’s, and I typically even find at least a few of my opponents to be playing this way in the Sunday $200 tournaments.
The truth is, these fabled “calling stations” are everywhere, and if I can’t figure out who they are and be disciplined enough not to bet into them without a hand, then I know who the donkey is—it’s me. Poker isn’t just about playing the cards. You also need to be able to determine how your opponents will respond to your bets. I think my bad run affected my ability to do that properly.
So I’m making a note to myself to remember, regardless of what I’m playing, to be patient. Even in a game with solid opponents who are much more willing to fold decent hands, I still need to wait for the right opportunities to pick up pots.
I took a step back after my failed bluff attempt and promised myself that if I’m going to lose any more money, it’s going to be on bad beats, not bad plays. I can’t recoup all my losses in one hand, but if I can stay patient and consistently make the right plays, I’ll be back on the winning track before I know it.