Flop a Set... Get away from it? Part 1

Finally scratched my name into the cashes at the Bayou Challenge in perhaps the least possible way. I min-cashed a min-tournament for the minimum amount against nearly the minimum amount of competitors. I’m making minimum wage or should I say I’m paying nearly maximum rake considering I had a “result.”

Of course that nightly Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament was the one event my aces held. That was fun. Had them twice and took me from a tiny short stack warrior to average in chips. Just in time to overtly attack the bubble, with the image of me folding for four hours fresh in my table mates heads.

I can't seem to get my decent hands to do anything for me in a meaningful tournament but they sure come fast and furious and act like the Incredible Hulk in the lesser buy-ins. ReidG and I have discussed this important aspect of poker, more importantly live poker, and luck isn’t about winning your big hands, it’s all about winning them in the proper context.

Let's take a lifetime of poker on average you'll win far more often with a hand like pocket aces than you'll lose with them. Let's say you play them pretty well and mitigate those huge pots where you lose a ton with them by extracting a lot out of those hands you win. So despite the maxim “Aces will either win you a small pot or lose you a big one,” you are a good enough poker player to be way up with the hand.

So, for a lifetime of playing you're up significantly with that hand. Still, I could argue for certain players that hand could be an unlucky one. Let's say AA comes in those critical moments... a big money jump, two big stacks colliding head first on the money bubble, or sitting deep in your cash game colliding with two other HUGE stacks at the table and in every one of those pivotal hands you lose. Can AA be unlucky for you? Sure. Wouldn’t you rather trade all those blind stealing wins for those massive wins.

This is where I think there is an ignored element of luck. How many times will you find yourself in life changing money opportunities in poker? A limited amount, at best, even more limited when you hold a huge starting hand. So even, if your sample size for holding pocket Aces is gigantic (let’s say you are a career poker player), your sample size for those spots is tiny. Even if long run you win at an appropriate clip if you can't stand the heat in the short run you are screwed.

Let's look at the Phil Ivey vs. Darvin Moon hand. AQ v. AK with Ivey dominating the rookie logger, yet the Queen hits. Considering the amount of hands Ivey has played the AQ has probably come back to beat his AK almost at exactly the percentage a computer spits out at you when you have the odds to win that hand. However, how many times will Ivey slog through a field that gigantic to get his money in that good at the WSOP final table? Probably once, twice or thrice in a lifetime?

Now, I'm certainly not saying Phil Ivey is unlucky, but in that spot he was. Well, just to make it to that spot required incredible luck and skill. However, in that moment I’m sure Ivey would have traded all his skill for the luck of Joe Cada on that day.

More to come…

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