My Biggest Mental Game Mistake

I’m happy to say I was successful in completing all four of my goals this week. On a more negative note, I did book my biggest single loss of all time of just under $1500, which I was a little bummed about. This occurred at 2-5 though, so it wasn’t like spewed off 500 BB’s at 1-3. I basically ran into the tops of my opponent’s ranges when bluffing and didn’t make more than a couple hands I could value bet, so I’m chalking it up mostly to negative variance. Despite this loss, I was fortunate enough to still be able to book another winning week. Speaking of my results, you guys probably noticed I haven’t been providing you with my exact profits and losses. This was a decision I made in regards to taxes, so please don’t think I’m holding out on you or that things have been going poorly. From now on, I’ll simply let you all know whether I had a winning or losing week.

I played a lot of 2-5 this week and the games were surprisingly good. Usually, 2-5 at the Jack is made up of the same faces out of a 20-30ish player pool, but this week was different. Many non-regs and a couple huge whales were present, which made the games way more profitable than they usually are. I’m not sure what the reason for this was, but if things continue to go the way they were this week, I could see myself transitioning to mainly playing 2-5 when it runs.

I’m disappointed and honestly a little bit embarrassed to admit I made a massive mental-game mistake in one of my sessions that I want to touch on a little bit:

Game: 2/5 NL, 6 handed. At this point, the game was made up of three other pros, one serious recreational player, and one loose-passive fish who only had about $250 in front of him. Needless to say, the game had gone to shit (as a result of some of the other fish migrating to a newly opened PLO game) and I had planned on this being my last orbit at the table before I moved to a 1-3 game.

Hero: (1400) with QhQs Likely viewed as competent and somewhat aggressive, possibly a bit on the TAG side in the eyes of villain. Villain also knows hero is a 1-3 reg and possibly suspects hero is “shot-taking” in this game.

Villain: (1000) Pro LAG player who is back in his hometown for the holidays. Villain used to be a 2-5 reg at the Jack a couple years ago when it ran more consistently, but has since moved to Baltimore where he plays full time at the Horseshoe.  

Preflop: Villain opens to 20 UTG, hero 3bets to 70, all fold back to villain who thinks for 15-20 seconds and calls.

Flop (140): Kh2hKs

Villain checks, Hero checks.

I think I played this street fine, but in hindsight I also don’t mind betting here for value from his smaller pairs, some protection vs his A-highs, and also to possibly induce some bluffs. In game, I felt this hand wasn’t strong enough to go for three streets of value, which I still think is true, so I planned on checking to allow villain to bluff the turn. If villain checked the turn, I planned on value-betting turn and river.

Turn (140) 2c

Villain checks, hero bets 75, villain raises to 225, hero tanks and folds… :(

This was a massive mistake and the result of a pretty big lapse in my mental game. In game, my thoughts were something like this: “Well, I’ve already done pretty well and have the opportunity to lock up a nice 150 BB win if I fold now. By folding, I can avoid putting myself in a potentially tough and high variance spot on the river if I face another big bet, which I think will happen very frequently.”

I’m very unhappy with this line of thinking, however. In poker, we should always be focused on making the most +EV decisions and not let the fear of losing a massive pot some smallish percentage of the time affect the lines we take. This is a spot where we’re very close to the top of our range and facing a raise vs. an opponent who’s known to bluff frequently and who possibly views hero as someone who isn’t likely to call him down without the nuts. I think a much more profitable line to take in this spot would have been to call turn with the plan to call basically any river bet. Villain probably doesn't have a ton of Kx here, as I think he's likely to lead a lot of them on the turn once I check behind on the flop. I think he's probably check-raising a lot of his A-high hands as they block my AK's, and may even be over-bluffing by turning his small PP's into bluffs as well.

I think part of the reason I folded was out of fear of potentially losing a 2k pot, but things like that really shouldn’t be affecting the decisions I make, especially when I’m properly bankrolled to play in a game of this magnitude. I guess I may still be getting used to the feeling of playing with a $1k+ stack in front of me, but as a professional, detaching myself from the monetary value of my chips is something I definitely need to work on. So, that’s it for now. I’ll talk to you all next week. Until then, peace and much love!