If at first you don’t succeed…

January 28, 2014

I am writing just after the conclusion of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure where I got knocked out of the Main Event. It wasn’t the greatest start to the year, but the story has a good ending as I immediately went from the Bahamas to Atlantic City for the Borgata Winter Open where I managed to finish second in one of the prelims, a $100,000 guaranteed event that drew over 800 entrants.

Obviously not just the Team PokerStars Pros but all poker players look forward to the PCA as an opportunity to get the new year off to a good start. It happens every year, and everyone wants especially to do well in the Main Event as a way to get the year going in the right direction.

I was psyched and playing well early on in the Main Event. I was at a really great table, too, and so was feeling good. But then I took a horrible beat that cost about 25% of my chips that stopped my momentum.

It was a five-way pot. I had A♠9♠ on the button where I called the raise, then the flop came [9][9][A]. I’m like “Wow, this is great!” There were two of the same suit out there, and when it checked around to me I checked as well, not wanting to scare anyone. There were a couple of not-so-great players involved, and I figured I’d give them a chance to catch something.

The turn brought an offsuit [J]. The small blind pushed out a bet and the big blind called. It folded to me and I thought at least one of them probably had an ace, and if I were lucky perhaps one of them had a nine. So I threw out a big raise — three times the bet — and the small blind (who I later found out did have an ace) folded. But the big blind called with what turned out to be [J][2]-offsuit!

Needless to say, a [J] fell on the river and again I’m thinking “Wow,” but this time I’m a little disheartened. “How worse can it get?” I thought, and in fact later looked it up to find that after the flop I had been something like 99.7% to win against his hand!

I immediately thought back to last year’s PCA Main Event where I’d gotten knocked out with aces in a three-way hand. My Team PokerStars Pro teammate Joe Cada had flopped a king-high flush draw and folded, but another player who’d flopped a queen-high flush draw and who had about the same-sized stack as me decided to stay in and he hit his flush and I went home.

“Here we go again,” I thought. But I didn’t get down. As I said, the table was a good one — there were definitely going to be opportunities against those opponents. And sure enough I managed to work my stack back up to above chip average again.

Then came a hand in which I was dealt pocket aces. I raised and a pro reraised me, and I thought he probably didn’t have anything — possibly a suited-connector-type hand. So when it folded back to me I just called, wanting to keep him in the hand.

The flop came [A][9][6] with two diamonds, giving me a set of aces. I checked, he bet, and I check-raised. Now since he reraised me preflop, this is where he made a big mistake, in my opinion. If I’m check-raising him in this spot, I definitely have a monster. He’s not getting me off my hand. But he proceeded to reraise me, which meant with the hand he had — it was 8♦7♦ for both an open-ended straight draw and flush draw — he was forced to go with it.

When he reraised back, I actually thought he wouldn’t be doing that with a flush draw, and that in fact he might have a set himself (of nines or sixes). So I didn’t mess around and decided to go all in — a huge over-raise — because I didn’t want a third diamond to come to slow down the action. He called, a diamond came on the turn to complete his flush, and the river didn’t pair the board.

So I was out of the Main Event again, this time thanks to a couple of pretty tough hands including a bustout hand that was very similar to the one from the year before. After that I bubbled a $2K side event after running queens into aces, and so that was my PCA.

It was a disappointing way to start the year, but I got right back on the horse at the Borgata and jumped into a deep-stacked $400 event. It was kind of like the old days with that huge field of more that 800 and a schedule having us play all of the way to a winner in just one day. We started at 11 a.m. and went until the next morning when I made it to heads-up although with a chip disadvantage, and I ended up taking second for about $37K.

I was really happy with that result, and it helped confirm for me that despite the results not coming at the PCA, I was playing well and making correct decisions, and I knew that as long as I kept doing that, I stood a good chance of getting rewarded. It was nice, of course, to have the reward come so quickly.

Even though we all tend to put a lot of stock in doing well in that first big tourney of the year, those of us who have been doing this for a while understand that it doesn’t make sense to get too caught up in results as long as you’re playing solid poker.

That’s true of even a single session or tourney where you might lose the first significant hand — kind of like I lost that one after flopping nines full of aces. When that happens, it doesn’t have to spell doom for you going forward.

Rather if you suffer an early setback, don’t follow it up by taking unwarranted gambles in an effort to get back what you lost quickly. Calm down, get yourself thinking clearly, and continue to play your best game. My friend Phil Hellmuth will walk away from the table for an orbit when he senses he’s about to go on tilt. If that’s what it takes, maybe it’s a good idea to give yourself a one-round penalty (so to speak) to get your emotions under control.

If your first hand or session or tourney doesn’t go well, it doesn’t have to affect what comes next in a negative way. Try to be consistent and play your best regardless of how things start out for you.

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Chad Brown is a member of Team PokerStars Pro

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