Played embarrassingly bad on Live At The Bike $5-10 NLHE

I played $1-3 PLO last Tuesday on Live At The Bike and then $5-10 NLHE last night. I got made fun of for my PLO play, which I didn’t care about because I hadn’t played PLO in six years and was never very good at it.

Last night, though, I was very embarrassed by my play. I played really horribly. (Here’s the LATB website; you have to pay a monthly membership fee to see old episodes.) A bit of it was due to my anxiety and a bit of it was due to drinking a couple glasses of red wine on an empty stomach. I’d also taken some Lorazepam for my anxiety, which I shouldn’t have been mixing with alcohol. Looking back, I’m pretty angry at myself for drinking, considering how harshly I knew I’d probably be judged for not playing well. To be honest, at the time I found it tempting to drink to quell my nerves and also because everyone else was drinking wine provided by the hosts, so part of it was just me wanting to fit in socially.

I butchered two of the few hands I played. The first hand was when I had JJ (this is about 2:17:00 into the broadcast footage) and flop Jh 8d 8c versus Matt Salsburg, who was the pre-flop raiser. I was honestly pretty cloudy-headed at this point and knew by then that drinking the wine had been a bad idea. For some reason, I thought Salsburg had me covered by like a grand, because I thought he’d sat down with a lot more than me. I guess he had lost a good amount of it and I hadn’t really noticed, nor did I even apparently bother to glance over at his chip stack. (Yes, I know this is pathetic to admit.)

Anyway, at this point in the show, I had a very nitty image because I’d played very few hands, and I thought my best course would be to slowplay my hand all the way until the end, just as an exploitative route to optimize Salsburg trying to bluff/thin-value bet me. Might not be the best strategy but considering my image I thought that Salsburg could easily bail from the hand at any sign of aggression from me on that board, with all but his monster hands.

I checked and Salsburg bets $50. I call.

The turn is an Ad, putting a flush draw out. I check again, Matt bets $130, I call. I still think checking the next street is a good strategy because he can feel pretty good betting all his bluffs and feel good getting value with AK or AQ if I check the river. I feel like my hand range is very wide to him at this point.

The river is a Qh. I check again and Salsburg bets $400. This was my big mistake because I was assuming (not even looking, like an idiot) that Salsburg had like another grand behind and that there really wasn’t value to me raising because he can get away from most hands to me and the only hand likely calling me is AA. (I didn’t factor in how many 8s were likely in his range at this point, either. I might have been called by A8, which is more likely than AA so I should have been technically happy shoving.) But the really stupid thing was that he actually only had $200 behind, so it was an obvious shove for me. But thinking he had like a grand behind, I opted to just call.

So then everyone laughed at me, which I admittedly deserved. One guy on Twitter later said “This guy wrote a book on tells and can’t even tell how many chips his opponent has.” Touche.

The other hand I butchered was with the aggressive LATB regular Harry. He was to my right. I’d played some $5-10 NLHE with him a little earlier in the day and seen him make a few big bluffs, and I’d seen him do similar stuff on LATB before. This kind of threw me off a bit. I knew he viewed me as weak, with my little (by the table’s average stack that night) stack. Still, I admittedly badly misplayed this hand, too, regardless of this history/knowledge.

Harry raised pre-flop to $30, I reraised to $90 with AK. It’s heads-up. (This is about 2:47:00 in the broadcast.) Flop is Qc 7d 4d. He checks, I bet $120, he calls.

The turn is 4s. He checks, and I check behind.

The river is the 5d. Harry bets $200.

Obviously this is usually a spot where Harry either has a Queen or he’s made his flush. Or he’s decided to value-bet a hand like JJ or TT, or he’s hit A4 or something. This was all obvious to me at the time and I knew it was a horrible call, but I still made the call. Don’t ask me why. I guess I have to blame it on my nervousness, and the wine, and the effect of knowing everyone was watching me and not wanting to get “bullied”, and me being affected by Harry’s aggression earlier in the day when he bluffed me out of a pot. All in all, it was just a horrible call with no logical sense behind it. The odds of Harry floating me with nothing and then betting the river are very, very low; stupidest thing was that I was aware of all that when I made the call.

The rest of the time of this episode, I felt really card dead and really felt short-stacked compared to everyone else’s big stacks. The game was pretty maniacal and I felt like tight was right, at least assuming I wasn’t going to buy in for substantially more than I was willing to. (I had another 1.5K in my pocket in case I got stacked; that was my budget for the show and I didn’t expect everyone to have such huge stacks.) The first two hands at the table were completely insane, and they weren’t broadcast. Basically, the first two hands had Lilly and Sarkis going crazy with huge bets, basically in some big establishing-dominance kind of show. Lilly had dropped something like 1.2K in three hands and Sarkis had 3-bet shipped like 5K on the flop in the second hand. So the audience didn’t see those, but it basically set the tone that if you were gonna enter a pot you were going to have to be willing to face some huge aggression. Considering that, I opted for a lay-low, tight strategy, with the side goal of trying to get in some pots versus Lilly with position if I could. But I didn’t find very good opportunities for myself.

The one hand that might have slightly redeemed me was at the beginning of the show but was going on as they panned around to introduce the players; in that hand I called a $300 bluff from Lilly on the river with second pair. It wasn’t a super-impressive call, considering Lilly’s aggression so far, but there was some interesting table talk involved that just really made me very certain I was good and I pretty much snap-called. I was kind of wishing that hand would have been shown because I wanted to study what she was saying and how she was acting there a little more. It was also what made me want to try to get in more pots versus Lilly, because I felt I had a good handle on her; but alas I was not successful at getting into any more pots with her.

All in all, I’m just really angry at myself for drinking and for not being at my peak performance. Considering that people will judge the quality of the things I do based on this kind of public performance, it was really stupid of me to drink, especially considering how much I know I have problems concentrating and staying focused to begin with. So if you’re thinking about going on Live at the Bike, maybe learn something from me and strive to be at your peak performance.

(Also, if anyone is going to Los Angeles to play poker, I stayed at someone’s place that I found on It was only a few minutes from the Bike and Commerce and was like $60/night. As long as you don’t mind having roommates and sharing a bathroom. If you want details, let me know.)

  • scott

    Takes alot of character to put this lesson out there so bluntly and honestly. Thanks for doing what you do. I have to extinguish many of these flames you speak of here.

  • Arty Lee

    The self-loathing is strong in this one.
    I just watched the jacks full hand. You obviously butchered it, but I’m not convinced that beating yourself up over it is particularly useful. You obviously weren’t playing your A-game at that point (probably for a mixture of the myriad reasons you’ve mentioned) but I hope you found it beneficial to write about it, in order to learn from the experience and be more prepared next time.

    • Zachary Elwood

      Yeah I have a lot of frequent self-loathing, to be honest. Seems like I’m always making the same mistakes. For instance, I’ve long had a no-drinking policy when playing. Then for some reason I throw that out the window when I know everyone’s judging my play. Got to wonder what the hell’s wrong with me sometimes.

  • Aesah

    you didn’t even play that bad bro. I’ve done 100000000x worse on LATB

    • Zachary Elwood

      Thanks man. And it was nice meeting you!

  • Arty Lee

    FWIW, Zach, I’m similarly self-critical. It’s a double-edged sword when it comes to poker, I think. Being able to spot your own mistakes is a crucial skill if you want to improve your game, but it can also hold you back from moving up if you suffer from low self-confidence, or spend too much time beating yourself up about your mistakes.

    • Zachary Elwood

      Yeah, I am admittedly self-critical and prone to getting anxious and losing focus when things are high-tension (apart from any alcohol). It’s one of the reasons I have always known I wasn’t cut out for being a poker player. But it is very frustrating for me to handicap myself in such a way for no reason. Thanks, though.

      • UnknownV

        I was the same way for a long time. More focused on what others thought of me, how long I was taking, etc, instead of hand reading. I feel like I’ve overcome that thanks in the past year thanks to taking a break from poker / life in general. I’ll be playing at LATB in September (2014— not sure how long this blog is). If you ever want to meet up, I could always use a pokerfriend.

  • Chris Clough

    Look at the positives:

    1. The amount you actually lost by misplaying the JJ hand isn’t very much. It’s not like you left $1000 on the table or anything.
    2. You can figure out ways to use to your advantage the image you have cultivated by making these plays for the next time you’re playing these players.
    3. You are now almost certainly much less likely to make the mistake of drinking excessively during a session, so this experience ought to improve your future results. If you’d got drunk, run like God, and won handsomely then that could have been a much worse result in the long term.

    In general, I think a session where afterwards you can immediately think of several bad mistakes (and I’ve had plenty of them) – especially where those bad mistakes have had a noticeable effect on your results – can end up being a positive. It means the next session ought to be much more focused, and the mistakes are a good deal less likely to be repeated.

    • Zachary Elwood

      Yeah, it all just sucked to be making such simple technical mistakes in front of an audience, apart from results. Thanks a lot.

  • Tom Robertson

    “I played $1-3 PLO last Tuesday on Live At The Bike and then $5-10 NLHE last night. I got made fun of for my PLO play, which I didn’t care about because I hadn’t played PLO in six years and was never very good at it.”—This is your first TELL, that you are making Bad decisions, and sure enough, you followed that up with a series of Bad decisions. You sat in a game($1-$3 PLO, that you had no business sitting in, as you commented that you hadn’t played the game in 6 years, and you were never very good at it!) Are you really that desperate for TV time, that you would set yourself up for failure? Poker is all about DECISIONS, and you failed miserably at the Basics. You deserve everything you got, but I do admire you for being forthright and honest about that experience.

    • Zachary Elwood

      Calm down; it was just $1-3. I wouldn’t have sat in it if it was any higher. It was fun and I don’t regret that part.

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