Sticking to the Plan
So even though the World Series of Poker is going on right now, I'm sure that many of you remember the incredible hand from the European Poker Tour grand final in Monaco this year. It was at the final table, Johnny Lodden raises preflop with a pair of 5's... (All the readers say, "Oh man - I loved that hand."). If you haven't seen it, watch for yourself here:
Here's the key point: Johnny Lodden set a deep, multi-street trap for Adrian Mateos. Adrian walked right up to the edge of it, but just when Johnny was going to pull the rope and drop Adrian in the hole, Johnny deviated from his plan, and let Adrian get away (with a bunch of his chips). If you've never seen the hand (or even if you have) watch it - you even get commentary by Daniel Negreanu - it is truly great poker.
Anyway, the day after that, I was getting ready to fly out of Monaco - I went out to the airport shuttle van and out jumps Johnny Lodden. I offered him congratudolences, as you do to somebody who has just won €379k, but came very close to winning triple that. But Johnny's smile was as bright as the Mediterranean sun. I told him I loved the big hand and I was so impressed with the way he had set it up. Johnny just laughed. "Lee Jones! I set a trap and then walked into it myself! I even picked up the chips on the turn so I wouldn't talk myself out of calling on the river." [It's true - watch carefully on the video]
And that reminded me of a story, which I proceeded to relate to the two or three people in the airport shuttle...
It was 5-6 years ago - I don't know and it doesn't matter. We were playing poker at Rory's flat, above the sushi restaurant (yes, the perfect poker venue if ever there was one). I guess it was $1-2 hold'em and I had about $300 in front of me. I wake up with pocket kings in relatively early position and make it $7 to go. It gets over to Kenny and he makes it $20 straight.
Gotta tell you about Kenny. A gentleman and fine human being in every respect. He's been in Asheville, North Carolina forever - a semi-retiree from the cold north, though his New York accent has never left him. Kenny settled into the Blue Ridge Mountains like an October fog and lives nice and easy, going to concerts, drinking coffee at local cafes, and beating up on the visitors to the mountains in the $2-5 games down at Harrah's in Cherokee.
Kenny, he's reliable like a sunrise - if you get to the home game and Kenny's not already there with his coffee, people start mumbling about calling the hospitals. And he's reliable with his bets. If he bets on the river and gets raised, he'll hem and haw, curse his terrible luck, and flat call. With the second nuts.
So there I am looking at kings, Kenny (who has me covered) has just three-bet me - he might do that with jacks, but he probably wouldn't.
Folds back around to me, and I need a plan.
Okay, I got a plan. I'm going to make it $70. If Kenny five-bets, we're back in 1986 and it's aces every single time. At which point I'll fold. I'll give a speech, fold face-up. Kenny will go on epic tilt, the guys around the table will give me a standing ovation and probably put a brass plaque at my seat.
I make it $70. Kenny pauses, sighs, and says "I guess I'm all in."
Now, as I told this story in the airport shuttle, Johnny Lodden said, "Wait - he sighed? He sighed!?!?!?! That's a snap fold!" Then, his eyes narrowed a bit as he was looking at me. "You called, didn't you?"
Yeah, Johnny - I called. I don't know why - maybe it was his pause. Maybe it was because I've never laid down kings before. And lord knows it's not likely I'll have the chance again. But I came up with the plan, and executed it perfectly... right up until the last step.
So I had a lot of empathy for Johnny Lodden. I mean, I could never come up with a plan as clever and sophisticated as he did there against Adrian Mateos, but even my little simple plans, sometimes even they are more than I can follow through.
The difficulty with life is recognizing when you need to deviate from the plan you had, as opposed to the times when you say to yourself "That was my plan, it's still my plan, and we're going with it."
Damn interesting, this poker (and life) is.
Lee Jones is the Director of Poker Communications at PokerStars and has been part of the professional poker world for over 25 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.