Quitting as a skill and a hand

I had a short session at Tulalip tonight, which I ended abruptly after losing a big pot where I got my money in very good and decided to stand up rather than continue to play in a moderately good game.

I like to think I have a pretty strong mental game – I’ve lost enough pots to runner-runner outs and I’ve lost to enough improbable Magic topdecks that it’s no longer novel, I’ve never been an angry or particularly emotional person, and I’ve internalized and really believe in the importance of variance in these games for them to be profitable and popular. No matter how much you’ve seen, however, I think everyone is prone to tilt at times. It happens infrequently for me, but it does happen, and one of the ways I’m improving as a player is I’m getting better at recognizing the warning signs and taking action on them.

Quitting a game is an important skill in poker – playing your best game is important and exploiting other players that are off their game is a key skill to develop an edge. Being able to quit a game is a luxury you don’t get in Magic or in tournament poker so it’s a relatively new skill for me which I’m still working on developing.

Here’s the last hand I played in my session:

  • A player limped in from middle position and I made it $25 from the cutoff with xyz9h. The button and small blind fold, the big blind calls, and so does the limper. We’re $500 effective starting this hand.
    I don’t usually play offsuit ace-rags – a while back I cut them out of my preflop range entirely because I was concerned about domination issues and wasn’t confident I could play them well post flop, since then I haven’t figured out how to fit them profitably into my game but it’s an area I am working on. In this case the limper and the players behind me were all weak players that tended to fold too often post-flop and played fairly transparently, so raising in position with a wide range and then continuation betting appropriate flops is going to show a healthy profit.
    I haven’t played with the limper before tonight, who is a white dude in his late twenties/early thirties who has struck me as being a weak player. The big blind just sat down the previous hand and is a weekend regular that I have played with a number of times before. He thinks a bit about what his opponents may have, but only in the most superficial of ways, he’s generally pretty fit or fold, is prone to overvaluing his hand, and doesn’t think about what his opponent’s bets and calls mean.
  • The flop comes As9d2c. The big blind and the limper both check, I bet $40, the big blind raises to $120 (he takes a moment to figure out what his raise sizing is, but he pretty clearly was intending to check raise), the limper folds, and I call after fake agonizing for a moment.
    I accidentally bet a bit too small of this flop – I forgot that I hade raised to $25 preflop and so I thought that the pot was $58, not $73. I prefer betting two thirds pot here – I think most aces are going to be fairly inelastic to bet sizing when they make their calling decisions. I’m betting the flop to get value from other aces – there shouldn’t be many pairs between tens and kings in my opponents ranges, I don’t expect there to be many nines in my opponents ranges (particularly because I have a blocker), and I don’t expect to get value from most other hands. Even though there are only two aces left in the deck, most players’ preflop ranges are heavily biased towards calling with any ace, so they show up much more often in post-flop ranges.
    When the big blind check raises me here he should have a pretty narrow range that I’m solidly ahead of. I don’t expect him to have many bluffs in his range – there aren’t any good draws to semi-bluff with and he’s not the sort to start out a session on a stone-cold bluff. While sets are in his range we can discount them as he’s going to slowplay a lot of the time. He shouldn’t have a set of aces in his range (I expect him to three bet pre), there’s only one combo of nines left, and three combos of deuces, we can probably discount this to one combo total that he would play this way. I’d expect him to play two pair this way and I’d expect him to play ace king and maybe ace queen this way too. That’s around twelve combos that I’m an 85/15 favorite over and a couple of combos that I’m chopping with.
    So we’re happy getting our entire stack in against our opponent and our primary concern should be figuring out how to do that most effectively. I think calling here is the best way to accomplish our goal – the pot is $300 and we have $360 behind, which means pretty much any turn bet from our opponent is going to commit his stack. He might not be willing to get it in on the flop if we shove, letting a turn card peel off is unlikely to kill our action, and he’s unlikely to improve on the turn.
  • The turn is the Th. He bets $150, I pause for a bit, then raise all-in for $200 more. I spend some time refusing to make eye contact while he talks how I couldn’t have ace ten, then talks himself into a call.
    The turn goes pretty much as we planned out – he bets less than half pot, but it’s “a big bet” and I don’t expect him to actually know the pot size, so I don’t think the sizing means anything.
  • The river is the Ks. He flips over AhKc for the rivered two pair.

Hands like this sometimes set off the tilt in me, and I felt it a bit tonight. I was already planning on making this a short session since I have Sunday morning plans and I kind of wanted to go to the gym anyway, so it was fairly easy to stand up. In the few hours since then I’ve been feeling frustrated and I keep thinking back to the hand – quitting was the right play for me and hopefully there’s a bit of catharsis in writing about it too.