Knowing your limits

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Knowing your limits by AVP Resident Pro Benton Blakeman

Knowing your limits by AVP Resident Pro Benton Blakeman

I recently made a trip to Los Angeles to play in the LAPC and thought I'd share some thoughts about my trip in this article. While I was in LA I played in two tournaments as well as a mega satellite for the main event. I also spent 40 hours or so at the cash game tables while I was there. This trip was not a profitable one at all and I'd like to talk a little this week about why I feel I made mistakes and what could have been done differently.

The trip started on a positive note with me booking a small but solid win in a semi tough $5-$10 NL game. After I finished my session I went sit behind my friend and great player Joe Tehan and watched him play in a $100-$200 limit mixed game with the likes of Men "The Master" Nguyen and Barry Greenstein. I enjoyed watching him play, felt like a learned a little about games that I was pretty unfamiliar with like Baducy and Badacy. While its good to learn I think this was my first mistake. Watching him for an hour or so gave me some kind of false confidence that I thought I'd be able to be a favorite in this game. Boy, was I wrong.

The following day was spent in the Eternament, a very interesting tournament which started with 340 chips and 5-10 blinds with 2 hour levels. It was Tournament director Matt Savages way of letting the tournament world know that more chips doesn't make a better structure, but a slow blind increase with small level jumps are what really matters. I chipped up quickly to 900 or so by the first break. Eventually after 12 hours or so the money bubble burst and we made the money and the final table. Unfortunately when we returned to ay the next day I found TT under the gun plus one and moved all in for 12 big blinds over an under the gun min raise. He called with A5 off suit and the board ran J75-A-8 sending me out in 8th place for a rather meager payday. The rest of the day was a disaster! I immediately late reg'd for a noon $1100 Mega satellite to the $10k main event. This was a mistake. It was nearing 1:30 when I registered and would have been better served waiting until the 5pm mega but I was impatient. Mistake #1 for the day. I lasted until 3pm or so before busting the mega satellite. After busting I immediately went to the cash game are and hopped in a $5-$10 NL game. I won a few pots but then lost a big one with AA on an AT5hhh-3x-9x board where I paid off a $400 river bet when it was very obvious my opponent flopped a flush. I normally don't advocate folding top set, but this was an easy spot to fold based on the action. This "tilt" call took me from a modest winner to a loser in the game. Mistake #2 here was clearly sitting down to play in the first place when I should have just went to the room and regrouped after busting two tourneys back to back. Realizing my situation, I decided to take a several hour break at this point and hang out with a friend. Later that night I returned to the $5-$10 NL game and lost a few hundred more. This wasn't due to bad play but just variance as I played pretty well but just missed every flop and couldn't find any profitable spots to bluff. Hey, it happens! But then I made mistake #3, which was by far my worst of the trip....

I should have known better and called it a day. I mean I had busted two tourneys, had two losing sessions playing $5-$10 NL, had spent nearly ten hours at the table, and had been up for about 14 hours total. You think a same person would say that I had worked enough for one day. But the allure of a white chip ($100 chip at Commerce) game was too much to pass up. Taking my limited knowledge from watching Joe play a few nights prior, I wandered over to the high limit section "just to see what was going on." What was going on was a lot of mixed game action, dominated by triple draw games like Baducy, Badacy, and Badugi which are not my strong suit. Somehow in my mind I justified sitting down at the $100-$200 limit mixed game to try my luck against Men The Master and his cronies. Mistake, correction- HUGE MISTAKE, #3. I justified it because along with the $100-$200 game there was a $200-$400, $300-$600, and $600-$1200 game running, so I thought how tough can the $100-$200 game really be with all those bigger games running. Of course as it turned out the game was tough, I missed every big draw, and my opponents made their draws against my mediocre pat hands. What was already a bad day turned into a miserable day. I aced for a few hours, lost 15 bets or so and luckily got up from the table with some of my buy in and a little of my dignity, but not much left in the confidence department. Don't get me wrong, I've played bigger mixed games than this, up to $200-$400, but they were on my terms with games that I feel I'm very proficient in- HORSE and 2-7 triple draw. For some reason my demons took over and I felt the need to play in a game that I knew was above my skill level, and my bankroll to be honest. But most importantly, I knew it was a bad spot and still sat, and at this point in my career of 8+ years as a professional I should know better. I had a tough time sleeping that nit knowing that I screwed up. So what next?

From that point on I feel like my mistakes were very limited. I got back to grinding $5-$10 NL and showed a profit the next two sessions. I was where I needed to be. I played in one more tournament which was the $2080 6-max No Limit event. While it wasn't a great spot I don't regret playing it. I had a terrible table draw with Joseph Cheong, Tom Marchese, Tyler Patterson, and Aaron Jones. A killer line up to say the least. I built my starting stack of 20k to a high of 32k before dwindling down and eventually a getting AQ all in against my opponents AK. I didn't get there and was out the door in 40th or so place out of 110 entrants. Correctly this time I took the rest of the night off and went to sleep early with plans of continuing the grind the next day.

I woke up at about 10am the following morning very excited about getting back to work and knowing that I would be disciplined and play within my means and skill set. I was at the table for 11am and started grinding the $5-$10 NL game. I bought in for $1500 and played great. Unfortunately I was dealt 44 and called an early position raiser $35 open from middle late position. The blind also called and we took the flop three handed. It came 7s4s2d. The raiser checked and I made a small bet of $65 in to the $105 pot. I was hoping this would look like a stab with a hand like 55 or 54 suited and maybe get played back at. To my delight the small blind check raised to $165. The raiser folded and now I had a decision. I decided to make a large re raise to keep my range wide enough to include both sets and draws, like 65 or the nut spade draw. I made it $500 to go and my opponent shoved all in and had me covered. I called and he showed me 77 for top set and just like that I was down $1500. I kept my cool, took a deep breath and rebought. Immediately after rebuying I was moved to another table as my original game was a must move game. Not long after sitting I looked down at AA in the small blind. Under the gun had limped as well as a late position player. I opened the pot to $65 and both limpers called. The flop was Q55 rainbow. I led $75 in to the nearly $200 pot. I did this for a few reasons. First is that when I'm bluffing I want to keep my flop c bet bluffs cheap so this balances that. Secondly, the 55 on the board helps my hand tremendously as I don't need to be worried about someone with KQ or QJ turning two pair as I still beat those hands. Lastly I wanted to always give people room to make a foolish bluff. Anyway, the under the gun limper called the $75 and the button folded. The turn was a 2. I made a mistake here and bet a little too small in retrospect, only betting $100, but at the time I bet that amount for the same reasons that I bet the flop small. Anyway, the under the gun player min raised to $200. I had a sinking feeling that he had a 5 but folding here would have been a mistake. I decide to call and re evaluate the river. The river came an off suit 3 and I checked to my opponent. He fired out $500. I didn't like it one bit and decided that I was going to fold. But before I did I asked my opponent "how about you let me see a card?" Surprisingly he obliged and let me pick one. It was the Ace of spades. Ok, that makes sense, A5 suited and he limped under the gun. Not a play that I advocate but its very plausible. That is until I looked at the board again and realized that the 5 of spades was on the flop. Now it turned a fold into a snap call knowing that the only hand that beat me is A5 off suit. Would this player really open limp under the gun and then call a raise with A5 off suit? I made him to be a good player so I figured this not be be likely. Wrong. I called the $500 and he turned over the off suit 5 for trips. Rather than rebuying I headed back to the room. I had only payed a few hours and was down nearly two buy ins. Normally this wouldn't bother me but the mistakes of the previous days were weighing on me and it was too much to handle at the table. I took the afternoon off and tried to regroup but I think my confidence was shaken by that point. I played two more sessions, losing a buy in again at $5-$10 and winning a buy in at $5-$5 NL. I skipped the last tourney I planned on playing which was the $2080 8 game mix. It drew a field of 32 tough players and I saw zero value in it for me or my investors. That was a smart decision.

Since the trip I have booked two winning sessions and one losing session but feel confident and good about my game. I hope that I can take these lessons about knowing my limit and apply them in the future. Playing above your skill level, when tired, and when your confidence is low is a sure way to dig yourself into a deeper hole than necessary, and a pitfall I hope we can all avoid in the future. Like Knish from Rounders said to Mike McDermott, "I'm giving you the play book I put together off my own beats." I hope it helps!

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  1. A very good article Benton. This should be a must read for any AVPer. Congrats on the final table. Sorry the trip didn't go better overall.

  2. I can definitely appreciate the theme of this particular article Benton.

    I just got back from a recent Vegas trip. The night before I left, I was up late hosting my weekly home game. I had my biggest win in over a year in my home game. Sadly, I booked the cheapest flight out to Vegas and I had to be up at 3:30 to shower and get to the airport for my flight. Although I lay in bed for about three hours, I literally didn't sleep between re-living the glory of hands well player and excited about a Vegas trip that was only hours away.

    Not surprisingly, I dropped $450 in my first day in Vegas. Amongst my mistakes, I folded the winning hand AFTER calling a river bet, to lose a $150 pot :sleeping: thought I held trip Jacks, Ace kicker, not realizing that the third Spade that hit the river not only game my opponent a flush... which I saw... but also gave me the full house). Just crazy insane stupidity on my own behalf. Would I have made such a bad play more awake? Quite possibly, I can be that stupid. But quite possibly not, as well.

    I did get a nice 8 hours of sleep the next night. I played 3 more sessions after this, all of which were small. But, all in all, I recovered about $350 of my losses. Reflecting on the trip, the fact that I played poorly and lost money on my first day was not surprising at all. I know that I don't play well without sleep, yet I booked a trip that was going to require me to get up at 3:30 AM in the morning to catch a flight. That is poor planning. And that is not knowing my own limits.

    Here's to learning from our mistakes, however disasterously simple and obvious they are.