I have finally found the courage to share the tale of my first official poker tournament!
My father has been nagging me to write about it and share my thoughts with all of you for well over the last few months. I say courage because I cannot help but compare myself to my father’s unique and amazing storytelling and writing abilities and I don’t want to let him down.
... hold onto your royal flushes: here we go!
I cannot help but share with everyone the fact that I would begrudgingly take my father to the Amtrak at midnight in Charleston, S.C. every other Friday or so for many months, only to pick him up at 3 a.m.
He would journey back and forth partaking in what I have always considered debaucherous spending to play at BestBet, a poker room in Jacksonville, Fl. I never really had the desire to go with him until recently.
You see, after playing in an APA pool league for the second session in a row, I found out that one of my teammates has an ongoing poker night every Wednesday. My father, who had taken a change of scenery as he loves to do every couple of years or so...
...journeyed back to Phoenix for a while after moving with me to Charleston about a year ago. He decided to come back to Charleston, SC to visit us about four months ago.
Finding out about this little poker game gathering had my father foaming at the mouth and I decided: ''Why the hell not play too?''
The fact is:
I love poker!
My father taught me to play five card draw at the age of six and I have always found a fascination in the world of card games. I haven’t hardly played since mainly out of fear if not lack of real game access...
...but it always seemed the games I do play I tend to piss many off as long as real money isn’t involved.
When it's REAL money, I seemed to always lose very quickly.
My father’s faith in my abilities has been such a consistent blessing. At the age of 43, a severe inferiority complex for the past 40 years had taken a huge toll on my belief in myself to become a real poker player.
I am an Aries as well: very inpatient, risky, stubborn, and a true megalomaniac competitive player in any challenge. From my standpoint, probably not the best traits to genesis into becoming a really good poker player.
...I recently realized that these traits just may have a more positive potential than I ever thought!
When it comes to playing poker, my father has the patience and perseverance of a sloth. I would be considered more like the Tasmanian Devil.
To hear about and then finally be able to watch him play in real cash games is truly like a work of art and I feel very lucky to have him as a mentor. I have learned so much from him through the years by his stories and the few times I have gotten to see him in action and playing in this tournament he put me in was an epiphany of epic proportions.
For some reason...
...I felt that playing for fun always led to better outcomes for me than when money was involved.
I now realize that the limits of my perception was why this happened, along with many other recent revelations. So, when after our first poker game together at my teammate's house led to a good showdown (The pot had to be divided by midnight since everyone else but my father had to be up at the crack of dawn to work their blue collar jobs)...
...my father stated he was going to put me in a tournament in Jacksonville! He asked me when could I get the weekend off at work to go with him?
I was not only stunned -- I was foaming at the mouth to make sure that was going to happen as soon as I could make it.
After playing just a few games with him, I found my fear subsiding at losing. I realized my lack of focus and began understanding my fear that my three of a kind might not beat those three clubs post flop when a flush developed and I failed to fill up.
I realized that even though I threw away a 2-7 of suite only to see a 2 -7- 7 on the post flop, it was still the right thing to do even as my teeth ground to the bone at the loss of a huge pot to someone who bluffed everyone else to fold leading to a no show on cards.
The winner should have been me!
Fundamentals, practice, position, risk, skill, luck. That is the order in which we must allow ourselves to evolve as learning to play better poker I believe, but I am still a baby. So for now this is what I think.
Along with reading one of Dad's highly recommended poker playing books on the four hour drive to Jacksonville...
...I was feeling a little more confident in not looking like a complete idiot and losing all my $50 buy in chips before the first five minutes of the tournament. I didn't want to let down my father although he would never make me feel that way even if I had. As the tournament began, and I had to force myself to breathe and not pass out due to the mindblowing adrenaline rush I was experiencing.
It didn't help to notice I was the only woman among men who probably had played amongst one another for years. Not only did I manage to remember statistical playable hands and the right way to play them leading to at least three large pot wins...
...I realized I was starting to innately discover some very important psychological fundamentals to the game of Texas Hold’Em. And for at least one hand, pure Lady luck was on my side, I just had to break through the fear of playing among very good players where money was involved, and knowing I belonged at that table.
The three best hands that most evolved out of these fundamentals was my most statistically significant hand, even though it did not play out until the last card was out on the river. I knew I had to be fully aggressive and not give into the pounding fear in my chest when I knew I possibly had to hold out until the last card was out on the river and still not get that beautiful flush!
My hand dealt was a A-Q of spades. I wish I could remember the exact flop, but just rest assured the first three were spades and I knew no matter what I was in, calling, raising just enough to not let anyone get wind of my nuts.
That was when the table grew animated. It was like watching a horse race. The entire table was stupefied with who had the nut flush. Before the end of the battle, I put one of the guys all in and I had a confidence I had not felt yet to know I won the hand even before the only other player laid his cards over with three of a kind. I felt like I had broke through that proverbial seal to begin to realize the humanity of the game, the losses we will all have as well as the victories.
There was so much back and forth playing. Even though I had a large stack and was still glowing from that huge win that shook the men at that table to their very core, I found out first handedly how misplaced confidence will lead to knee jerk mistakes very quickly. I realize without continual practicing and forcing myself to understand and learn statistical combinations and knowing when to use the button, when to fish, when to fold even with a great hand before losing too many chips.
Wow, what a blow to the ego!
I was in one pot the queen of the table garnering respect, and catapulted in a quick downward spiral to become the court jester in about 30 minutes or less. I had the last of my chips left, maybe $1000 or less. All I remember is that...
...all the other players had stacks like the Eiffel tower compared to me and I was in last place. I knew intuitively I had to go all in very soon if I was going to stay in the battle to make it to the final table.
I was dealt a Q-8 of clubs, the only time I got my Lady Luck hand, going all in without hesitation lead to a huge calling battle amongst everyone else, this is my meditative hand, I knew once again I would win the pot no matter what. I got a full house one the last card. I won the pot to the admiration of some and I am sure nuisance to others and I am sure the one that I put out of the game only to have him come back with another buy-in of chips five minutes later.
The next step was grabbing a card from a pile spread out by the dealer. I was confused but I was then told I had earned a seat at the final table next, and the seat was pulled out gently for me to be escorted to a seat at the final table, which my father had been at for some time.
My father was beaming with pride at me as I sat three seats down from him. I lost out after another 30 minutes but I wasn’t the first one out! My favorite hand was actually was the second one I played at the final table. I had a pair of 10’s and decided to ride it out to get dealt a third one on the flop. The only taker was my father and that SOB called me!
It was our first showdown and I couldn’t believe my father and I were at each other’s throats. I made him go all the way and I beat him on his two pair! It was a thing of true beauty and my father’s reaction of complete dumbfoundedness of me beating him with three 10’s was worth its weight in gold. His even more beaming pride was almost too much to handle.
I hungrily listened to my father’s debriefing on the way home the next day. I realized that the other players highly enjoyed my playing style, they couldn’t ever pin me down I guess, being an Aries has it’s merits in poker I guess. I am the immature baby warrior. I live to take risks, but I am inpatient, and think I know better. I never sign my name the same way either.
Everything I thought when I was younger that I was too afraid to own that I knew makes a good player has started to resonate in myself. I realized I love to bluff as it stirs my adrenaline and makes me feel naughty even more, but I don’t often which is good, I love to go all in with a pair of 6’s with low chips because of some symbolic desperation, but it’s even rarer now thank God!
I learned that using the button is crucial especially when fishing out a hand, and even then you need to just play random hand now and again to regain the mysteriousness that poker represents when you feel stuck. Realizing that losing hands may be due to not see too clearly when you feel you got the nuts and get so tunnel-visioned we don’t look at the bigger picture and the rest of the table.
Consistency in learning patience, focusing on the flop and taking my own hand out of my deductions is starting to lead to a better consciousness of the statistical potential hands that will beat me at the end even especially with me a pair of 6’s versus that player calling me and there’s three spades in the river. We all know where that hand went and it wasn’t to my three 6’s.
I realized so much in those three hours. People are readable if you take the time to read them. Many I realized have their heads down and guards up like Joan of Arc fighting for France. But they still don’t realize that I am watching them see those first cards, it is sometimes easy to fake having a good or bad hand. Sometimes it is impossible.
People get tired, they get hungry, they get tipsy, they get angry, they get lost, they can’t stay static forever. I realize patience is the first step. Starting to learn patience in myself has led to a new found faith that I can do this and so can you! Never give up in your skill and fundamental development!
Don’t get overwhelmed on the statistics and math of hand pairing and potentials! That will come with practice and more practice.
Mindfulness in player behavior and patience is a good place to start for beginners like myself. I have begun a journey I hope I can take to levels I never dreamt, I know it is possible to go all the way with poker for me now if I keep faith and keep playing. It is true for any of us.
Author: Rossana Lawrenzi
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