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The Education of a Poker Player
Installment #15:
Analysis of Failure
By Greg Mallon

It had to happen. I couldn't just go on winning forever, so I expected this was coming. Last night my poker career came back to earth. I played two tournaments and came in 7th in both of them. Seventh! I was really surprised by these results when up til now I had been, I suppose, successful. Maybe I was running into players who knew less than I did or maybe I played well. As I have reviewed my previous successes, I still believe that I did indeed play well, most of the time. As I disected the successful games and tournaments I found that it really comes down to playing solid poker on each given hand. The reason for previous success, I believe, was that I stayed true to my "starting requirements", really did not try to bluff anyone, and as a result played very few hands. The hands I did choose to play, I played aggressively when the flop supported it. So what happened last night? Let's take a look.

I chose to play in two tournaments last night, first a $5 NL single table tournament, and next a $10 version of the same thing. After losing the first, I wondered whether the players at the $5 version were different than the $10 version and was curious if I would fair better at a higher level. Short answer - "no". What I have done after each tournament or ring game is to review my game play and determine what I did correctly and what mistakes I made. I found dumb mistakes even in some of the past winning sessions. So let's begin with the first $5 game and see what hands I chose to play and see if I could have played better.

The following is a list of the hands I chose to get involved with and what happened at each street.

Hand Hole Cards Chip Cnt Action Flop Result Analysis of Play Corrective Action
1 2h 3s 800 FOLD       NONE
2 2s 5h 785 called 5 in SB Jd, Ts, Jh Check, Check, Fold Correct Called in SB - ok - no corrective action
3 2d 8c   FOLD       NONE
4 5s Th   FOLD       NONE
5 Kh 6h   FOLD       NONE
6 2s 9h   FOLD       NONE
7 Ks Kh 770 Raised 5x BB preflop NONE All Folded Too Aggressive? Can't scare everyone. Just make standard raise and hope for no aces. Adjust raises to 2-3x BB. I am looking to get some participation. Use standard raise.
8 9h Qc   FOLD       NONE
9 2h Qd   FOLD       NONE
10 Ts Kh   Called 5 in SB, Bet out 15 Post Flop 5h, Kd, Js WON 195 Just OK. OK to play since discounted. Top pair warrants a bet to win this pot NONE - correct to go after this pot. But we wary of heavy resistance - go to check call mode if necessary.
11 3d 9s   FOLD       NONE
12 9s Qc   FOLD       NONE
13 9c 9s 885 Raised 60, called Reraise 6d, 7h, 2d LOST by Folding to Reraise post flop Had TOP PAIR, should have pushed? But early in tournament. Should have gone over the top on his bet post flop Tough Hand to play: but in this case I should not play so weak - espcially if I have position.
14 Kh 5d   FOLD       NONE
15 9s Js   FOLD       NONE
16 8h Tc   FOLD       NONE
17 Jh 5c   FOLD       NONE
18 Qc 5d   FOLD       NONE
19 7c 3h   FOLD       NONE
20 Ad 9c   FOLD       Pay cheap to See the flop??? But could get into trouble
21 2c Ts   FOLD       NONE
22 Ac 2c   FOLD       Only good if flop the WHEEL
23 Qs Kc   FOLD       NONE
24 5h 6h   FOLD       NONE
25 Qh 9s 690 Raised to 100, folded after opponent bet out on flop 9c, Jc, Kd LOST by folding Bottom Pair against ONE player All folded except ONE GUY, I raised pre-flop and called. He BET OUT post flop. Two OVER CARDS on flop made me think I could be easily beat if he pressed me. I could have gone OTT and laid down if I got resistance. Low pair and gut-shot straight draw - Lonnie would play this I think. One opponent but with 2 over cards I think this was a correct move. Draws are DEATH in tournament poker.
26 Jh 8h   FOLD       NONE
27 5h 5d   FOLD       NONE
28 Jh Tc   FOLD       NONE
29 Kc Ad   Raised to 100 NONE WON 175 OK Normal Acceptable Play (in position - especially if many folders in front)
30 9c 7s   FOLD       NONE
31 4s 6d   FOLD       NONE
32 6c 7s 590 Bet Out 100 Post Flop 6h, Kh, 3s WON 400 OK, but a bit desperate. Really should not have played this hand, but table looked WEAK with many folding and ONE opponent left. OK. Took a stab at this with MIDDLE PAIR and me in BB.
Opponent CHECKED to me - so I took it. (mild aggression)
33 5h Qc   FOLD       NONE
34 5s 2d   FOLD       NONE
35 3d 7c   FOLD       NONE
36 Tc 8h   FOLD       NONE
37 Qs 3h   FOLD       NONE
38 7c Qd   FOLD       NONE
39 Kh 4h   FOLD       NONE
40 3h 8d   FOLD       NONE
41 8h 8s 590 ALL-IN 590 Qd, Ah, Ks GONE ALL-IN preflop and was a GOOD FAVORITE. Not a BAD PLAY. Opponent only had A7 but took the risk and it PAID OFF for him. Maybe I should not have gone ALL-IN, but I did not to be contested. I think this was a GOOD PLAY. Blinds at 100/200 with me at 590. One opponent in and 2 left to call - Decent chance to take the blinds. Race situation this late considering blinds and my stack - acceptable play. Early this would be INCORRECT I think.
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