Losing Poker Sessions

In a recent blog post I enthused about a mixed games cash game in Casino Malta that runs every Thursday night. It is a great mix of limit and pot limit games and really enjoyable but recently I had two losing poker sessions in consecutive weeks. I thought it would be interesting to discuss some of the aspects of running bad. Some of the hands are reconstructed here using cards, chips and felt I have at home!

Week 1

It started reasonably well and I was up a few dozen big blinds. Then I tried but failed with a double barrel bluff in a hand of 5 card pot limit omaha. Right then a guy sat at the table who was clearly here for the gamble. In his first hand he cold 4bet / got it in with a decent enough hand, something like AKJ97 with a suit. He agreed to run it twice against his sole opponent, who held AA742 with two red suits. Both boards ran out with 653xx in some order or other and the aces held, or rather the 74 gave the opponent the nuts both times.

Good Spot Turns Bad

Undaunted, our new guy pulled up another 200 big blinds. And in the very next hand he put in a cold 4bet against the same guy who just held aces. Next to act, I looked down at…

Pocket aces, nut diamonds, queen high spades, loads of connectivity.

This is going to be a good spot for me… I cold 4 bet and got it in against the gambler and we ran it twice. He held KKT76 with K high spades. The first board gave him trip 6s. The second we both caught a spade flush, good for him. Nice hand sir.

So I reload. And from there on I barely won a pot. I managed my situation well. As things were going badly I sensed the players were anticipating some tilt from me and I tightened my ranges. I folded plenty of hands and in between watched good spots turn into garbage as I bricked out and my opponents kept catching favourable boards.

False Dawn

There was a brief respite in a round of limit 7 card stud hilo. I won or chopped all but one of the pots. But none of the pots that I scooped got too big as my board ran out strong and my opponents ran for the hills.

Seven card stud poker t-shirt
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Strategy When Stuck

Once that round of seven card stud hilo was over the frustrations returned. My good spots turned into trouble time after time. No big pots were played but my stack was gradually reduced as I gave up on hands that went sour. I was becoming visibly frustrated.

Poker players can lose track of their table image at times. I can remember a friend whose “A” game is just awesome having a tilty time during a losing poker session. He lost over 3000 big blinds in a home game in about an hour. He pushed hard at every pot and found the rest of us taking it in turns to cash in.

For my part, when I feel frustrated by the way I am running and I know others can see it I anticipate that they will seek to exploit my frustration by getting into pots with me. I counter this by sticking to strong starting hands and playing them aggressively. Get the money in while ahead.

The Best Laid Plans…

So I stuck to this strategy. Nothing I could do had any effect. At the end of the evening I had lost two buy-ins.

Getting it Back in Other Poker

That weekend I had an online session where I won back half of the money I had lost on the first of these losing poker sessions. In fact, by the time Thursday came around again I had made it all back and a bit more.

Most of the money I made was on the Pokio app where my favourite game, sviten special (known on the app as drawmaha) was particularly good to me. Other contributions came from a session of limit omaha hilo on Poker Stars and in a Pot Limit Omaha cash game in a bar near where I live.

screenshot of an online pofer hand showing two weak hands that played for a lot of money
Sviten special (drawmaha) hand played out on the Pokio app. 224 big blinds scooped by a queen high draw hand! Softest game around? Player identities hidden. Click on the photo to learn more and join the action.

Losing Poker Session – Number 2

The following Thursday I was back where the previous week’s bad run had hit me. One of the better players was absent through sickness, so without him at the table I was feeling a little optimistic.

The bad run that I had experienced for the last few hours the previous week continued from the start. I watched guys splashing around with cards that barely qualify for the title “poker hand” and catching perfect cards. A few examples of beats and coolers:

  • Limit 7 card stud hilo: on 4th street I have TT\AA (the tens are only visible to me) and there were no tens on anyone else’s board. My opponents look like they are all going for low. I was right, but one had paired his 4 on 4th street giving him 45\64. By 7th street he had made 4s full of fives and I hadn’t improved. To be honest, though he was lucky to win the high hand, he had started with a great holding.
From this …
… to this
  • Badugi: I start with As4h5c and the 7h and only the big blind called, who drew 2. I get the 3h and bet, he calls and again discards 2. I toss the 4h and get the 2h. Check – bet – call. He draws two I throw the 3h and get another heart, much bigger, maybe the J. He bets! I make a crying call. Although I don’t expect to win too often it is a spot where he should have some bluffs. He can also value bet some worse 3 card badugis. He shows me a rough 9 badugi.
Nice start…
…disappointing end
  • 2-7 triple draw: after two draws I have 85432 and checkraise versus the button who had led the action all the way. The small blind had already called but I expected he was still drawing – he had just taken two cards. Both these players called my raise. My feeling was that I was way ahead of the button’s range. At the last draw we ALL stand pat. Now the small blind leads. Knowing that player I should probably fold here but I did call. The button says “what’s going on here?” and makes the call. I tell the small blind to show us the nuts and he says “yes, I have” and tables the 75432.
  • Sviten special: I started with a four card straight flush draw – I think it was 89TJ all hearts. It is a great starting hand. It will improve to at least a straight for the draw hand more than 50% of the time. As an Omaha hand it is also pretty good. I decide to limp in the cutoff position. The button had been splashing around all night and I expected him to put in a raise, which he did. He was never going to fold to any aggression and there were three other players in the hand. I decided to play my hand for its implied odds and just called. The flop gave me a bottom end wrap and there were no hearts: QTx. A great flop for my hand in some ways. Although I did not complete a hand yet I have some outs and there was only one Q and no hearts taking away from my draw hand equity. I continued with my plan to play for implied odds and check/called the inevitable continuation bet. No one looked strong at the draw but my hand never improved and I went to the turn with something like JT986. The turn paired the Q and I had to check/fold versus the splashy button.
Promising… one card please, dealer!
I fold!

Small Mercies

There were only two pots that contained more than about 30 big blinds that I won. Both these illustrate how my opponents were playing hands suboptimally:

  • Courchevel hilo 1: I raised preflop on the button in a limped pot. I had QJT94 including two hearts when the spit card was the Jh and got three callers. The flop gave me two pair – (J)74 rainbow and I decided to check back. The turn (K) gave me a wrap and put out a diamond flush draw I didn’t have. I bet when checked to and got two callers. The river 4d completed the flush as well as my full house. The second caller bet. I decided not to raise because I didn’t expect to get called by a worse hand than my full house. If I call, the other player might feel confident enough to call with a flush. He had no flush – he folded and tabled T7653, all cards except one black, and moaned that he had missed a “huge wrap.” The bettor declared a flush and I tabled my full house. What do we think about the preflop call with T7653 when the spit card is J? His call on the turn is also questionnable as he can usually expect to get only half the pot if he hits a straight – and his hand is no good if the river card is a diamond.
  • Courchevel hilo 2: Again I am on the button and this time I have AA4xx. The spit card is 9 and there is a raise and a couple of callers before me. I decide to play my positional advantage and call, as does the big blind. The flop is (9)A2 rainbow and after it is checked to me I bet about 3/4 pot. Only one player called – NOT the original raiser but the guy immediately behind him. Turn 2 it goes check – bet pot – call. River 6 check – pot – call. He has no low but shows me exactly what I thought he had – 99. I scoop the pot. Preflop he flat called the raise when a pot reraise is going to get me to fold AAxxx. Against some players I wouldn’t fold but I have played loads of hands with this guy and his raise, coupled with the fact that the original raiser might want to repot, would have been enough to make me fold.

When The Smoke Cleared

At the end of the evening I was down a little more than 2 buy ins, slightly the worse of these two losing poker sessions.

Am I Unlucky?

There seemed to be nothing I could do in these sessions to avoid ending with less money than I had started with. But that’s poker! Every poker player is lucky and unlucky in equal measure in terms of the way the cards run out.

Actually, I am extremely lucky and this might well apply to you, dear reader. I was born in a time and place that meant I am able to safely spend loads of hours on leisure pursuits including playing poker. Both online and live.

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