Alexander Pope, the famed British poet (1688-1744) wrote the oft-quoted saying, “to err is human.”
I know I am only human. And I proved it to myself while playing in a $4-8 limit hold’em game at a local casino. Up until that evening, I had been having a great season, winning over 85% of my sessions this year. And then: WHAM! A big loss! I don’t think it was because I got over-confident.
Where did I err?
Perhaps I should have been more thoughtful. After playing a while, I was about even when I found myself getting rivered over and over. It happened four out of six hands that I lost. A few were even outright bad beats; the opponent had no business calling on the river with so few outs. That was costly.
Second-best hand is quite expensive. At first I simply shrugged it off, assuring myself my luck was bound to change. It did not. Before I knew it, I had lost my original buy-in and bought more – and more – chips as I suffered the consequences.
By the way, after several rivered hands, I noticed my bluffs were called more often. I suspect it has to do with my table image: I was now a “loser,” confirmed by my having to buy more and more chips as the game progressed.
“I’m entitled to my share of good luck,” I reassured myself. Yes, it is true I never made a flush after flopping four-to-a-flush several times; nor did I fill up after flopping a set or two-pair.
After losing more chips than I should have permitted myself to “invest,” I finally got up and went home. Tomorrow will be another day – another chance to add to my poker winnings. Meanwhile, I salved my conscience by reminding myself that, while I was a big loser that evening, I was still well ahead for the year.
Then I realized the truth.
But that loss gnawed at me. I kept thinking about my “bad luck.” It wasn’t until the following day I realized the truth of the matter. It was sort of an epiphany! My loss was my own fault! How is that?
Getting rivered so often simply means I am playing at a table with too many calling-stations. These are card-chasers – players who are inclined to call all the way to the end, no matter the amount of betting or raising.
They don’t bother or, more likely, they don’t know how to estimate their card odds vs. the pot odds. That’s probably why an opponent with 4-3 suited in the hole, had the utter gall to stay in against my set of Queens on the flop – calling all bets and raises – and get lucky by catching runner-runner diamonds to make his flush.
Famed poker player Phil Hellmuth would scowl and shout aloud at such a player, “You idiot!” And, quite frankly, he would be correct. But, like it or not, we must realize there are such poker players. And if you have several such idiots (calling-stations/card-chasers) at your table, getting rivered is bound to happen more often than you would like.
What should I have done?
You don’t have to be a poker genius to know the answer to this question. But you do need to give it due deliberation – serious thought. Take a break; go outside to breathe some fresh air. Clear the cobwebs – and ask yourself: “Hey, what is going on here? Why have I been rivered so often?”
Then you, too, may realize: There are too many calling-stations/card-chasers at your table!
With that thought in mind, the solution is quite obvious: Change tables. Alternatively, you might take a long break, hoping the texture of the table changes during your absence. Best would be to make the table change where your opponents have not already sized you up as a loser.
Undoubtedly that is the image you had earned at your table. Get a fresh start. Then calmly play your A-game to win back your losses, and sooner better than later.
“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].