[ Adventures ]
tick. tick. tick.
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In that case, I was happy with how things have worked out. I always find it easier to be patient when I have a lot of chips because my riches seem to reassure me: See, you do have control over your destiny. Play a hand, and rake in the chips. Play again, and rake in some more. And if you have to wait a little longer than you’d ideally like to, no worries. You have plenty to get you through.
Deciding when to wield the knife and when to remain within the netting: that’s the art of patience.What’s harder is maintaining this attitude of abundance during times of scarcity. Sooner or later, the blinds and antes go just a little too high for comfort, and all of a sudden, instead of a comfortable 60 or 50 or 40 big blinds, I have only 30, or 25, or, God forbid, 15. Below 30 big blinds, the knife edge beckons, time to make a move, to choose between alternatives, each of which is imperfect, ugly, undesirable, but it doesn’t matter: At some points, making a bad move is worse than standing still, while at other points, any move is better than doing nothing. Deciding when to wield the knife and when to remain within the netting: that’s the art of patience.
That art failed me yesterday, as my stack, which had once made me chip leader at the table, dwindled. I picked a player to make a move on. However, due to my impatience, I failed to notice a critical detail, and instead of moving in on him when I had the best opportunity to succeed, I picked a situation in which my play was likely to fail. Instead of taking the risk with the highest possible chance of success, I just ended up doing something stupid. One lapse in focus negated six hours of good play.
Why hadn’t I waited just a little longer? I wasn’t desperate; I could easily have held on for a few more rounds, waiting for a better spot to show itself. The Beowulf Buddy is an old college friend who now teaches literature; he’s been my writing consultant, editor, and literature comrade for my entire adult life, and ever since I started playing poker I’ve also relied on him for sports wisdom. His favorite poker advice comes from his sons’ soccer coach: “Let the game come to you.” But to sit and do nothing, not passively, but actively; to let the game come to you and be ready when it comes; to invite good situations and calmly refuse bad ones, well, that requires patience.
Today, I’m even more angry with myself, because this afternoon when I went to the Venetian, directly, this time, as there was no WSOP event to bust out of, I started off playing great. I was patient, calm, skillful, and aggressive, and when I was moved to a new table, I almost immediately pulled off such an enormous bluff that I increased my stack by about fifty percent, just because I knew, the gift of live tournaments!, that I could push the other guy off his hand.
That would have been all right if I had just stopped there, but I didn’t. For some reason, I kept making more and more moves. It was all very confusing, because I was also getting good hands, and playing them with correct aggression, which, correctly, drove some of my opponents crazy. People hate it when you push them around, which I guess is understandable, but I still have a hard time handling their anger and frustration. Middle-aged men, especially, seem way beyond ordinarily distressed at encountering my fairly standard poker moves, with a kind of enraged helplessness that suggests the ultimate betrayal. “That’s what you bet with? Then all this time, you’ve been stealing!” one man told me when I was forced to show down a bad hand. Uh, yeah, I thought. I was bluffing—ever hear of it? “This was a friendly game till you got here,” another man huffed. Sorry, boys. I guess I spoiled it.