…Fool me twice, I’m an idiot

Let me tell you why I suck at Texas Hold ‘Em.

Texas Hold ‘Em is a simple game, but the strategy is quite detailed. The only way to get better is to see as many hands as possible. That’s why I generally buy back in if when I’m bankrupted from the game. I have to lose before I can win. So I play some cards.

Last week, my roommates and I had a game. I was the 3rd to bust out among the six players. I don’t really remember many of the good hands I’ve played and won, but like every poker player, I remember every bad beat. Last week, I had played my worst hand ever, letting my roommate play a straight draw from the Flop to the Turn without betting when I had top two pair on the flop. Naturally, he pulled the straight on the River. Being blinded by my “sure win”, I bet into his straight because I wasn’t paying attention. I never recovered in the game.

Monday, I told some friends about my horrible play, laughing as I swore I’d never make that mistake again.

Early in tonight’s game, I drew the following pocket cards:

I raised aggressively into the big blind before the flop, just to let everyone know that I was serious. A few players called my raise, while a few folded. That was exactly what I wanted.

The flop came out:

I bet into the pot again, hoping to buy the pot or gamble my way into the flush. Two of the other three remaining players called. I made a silent wish for another spade. The Turn came out:

I made my flush. This is the time to bet into the pot, most likely with an all-in to let the other players know that they had better have a strong flush. I checked to play it “cool” and pretend that I didn’t have the flush. Why I played it that way, I don’t know. What was I waiting for? I had the Jack-high flush. All I could do is let someone make the stronger flush. But I checked. Everyone checked behind me. The River came out:

I had a sinking feeling as I realized that I’d possibly let someone draw to a flush with only one spade in their pocket cards. I checked, knowing I’d messed up. It was too late to play it, so I decided to let the cards play out. As the bet went around the table, I assessed that only one card could beat me. If one of the other two players had it, I’d lose the hand.

After the betting was through, we flipped over our cards. My brother, one of the remaining players, saw that I had the Jack and sighed. I relaxed, expecting to win. The other remaining player, who’d never played before, had been tentative the entire hand and hadn’t bet into the flush when the Ace came out. With my pocket cards and the community cards, I knew 7 of the 52 cards in the deck. That meant that, with 45 cards unknown to me, only the Queen of spades could beat my flush.

She flipped over her cards and looked for help. I saw her cards and immediately knew I’d lost:

Despite vowing that I’d never make that mistake again, I made that mistake again. I let an opponent draw into the best hand without having to bet to see it. I busted out two hands later.

I’d say I’ll never make that mistake again, but I’m not confident about it now. I suspect that I’ll overplay that situation a few times before I balance out into the right strategy. Playing more cards is the only way I’m going to get better and not make the stupid mistakes. That doesn’t make tonight any less frustrating.

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