I'd rather be lucky AND good, by Vanessa Selbst
by Vanessa Selbst
As poker players, we know theoretically that there are many factors beyond our control that are subject to luck, but we never really dissect just how they come into play. We lament the two-outers we suffer and celebrate the flushes that come in on the river. But luck is so much more than just how the cards play out. I must be blessed, because I had luck on my side throughout the Partouche Poker Tour main event in Cannes, and that is how I won. Here is a list of just some of the lucky things that happened for me at that tournament a few days ago:
1. I heard about the tournament at the last minute, and only played it because I was on vacation at the time, and was going to be in nearby Barcelona one day before the tournament anyway.
2. I managed to get a seat during Day 1A, which was the same day all the satellite qualifiers played, and I had many of them at my table.
3. I got KQ vs. a bad player's 8 on a 7-9-2-J-T board, with no flush possible, on Day 1. That pot was one of many to vault me into the chip lead.
4. On Day 3, I got seated at the table with three of the top ten chip stacks. The other very big stack, who had position on me, got repeatedly bad beat by the fish at the table, on whom I had position.
5. On Day 4, I cold 4-bet and then 6-bet all in with A-3s and did not run into a monster hand. The 5-bettor folded.
6. Despite threats of airport closures due to strikes, I made it back to Cannes completely stress-free for the final table.
7. There was a cheating scandal and it turned out that one of the players at the final table had cheated his way to get there. He was one of very few players that I never played with throughout the tournament.
8. At the final table, I had a mediocre seat draw. Fabrice Soulier, a good player, was two to my left with a lot of chips, and Tobias Reinkemeier, also a good player, was on my immediate left. Tobias busted first at the final table. Fabrice got coolered or bad beat repeatedly, and he could never put his stack to use against me. All of a sudden, my seat draw became amazing.
9. Speaking of which, I coolered Fabrice with 8-8 vs K-T on a KT48 board, at the final table.
10. I ran K-K into A-A 5-handed on the button versus the cut-off, when we had a very aggressive dynamic together. Because it was the first hand back from dinner break, I was suspicious of the 4-bet and thought A-A was a strong possibility, so I did not get the money in pre-flop. An ace came on the flop and saved me my stack. Any other time during the final table, I'd have gone broke.
11. Heads-up, I had a very good feeling that Raphael would 5-bet me if I 4-bet his first 3-bet. I knew he did not want to be run over and thought I would try to run him over, and I knew he would try to establish that early. I was NOT planning on 4-bet bluffing his first 3-bet. My luckiest hand might have been picking up Q-Q on the 5th hand of heads-up play, having him randomly decide THAT was the hand to 3-bet K-6o, and then having him 5-bet bluff shove 80BB with it. If I pick up Q-Q even the second time he 3-bets, I think he just folds to my 4-bet. But I got it the first time, and I won the tournament with it.
12. During the two-month break (there was a break before the final table played out), the Euro improved dramatically against the dollar, and I made over $150,000 more than I would have in September.
When I look back on all the luck I had in this and ANY tournament, and just all the ways there are to be lucky or unlucky, it's much easier to stomach the bad beats that come from the cards. The cards are just a small part of the game, which includes every factor present during the entire course of a tournament, whether it's your personal life, your table position, or the weather outside.
So the next time you get aces versus kings all-in preflop and the king comes, just consider it a cooler rather than a bad beat. You could have had the kings where no king came, and you would have lost your money just the same. And think about the different factors playing to your advantage to get you to that point in the first place. It's an interesting perspective if nothing more, but a little humility can go a long way towards giving you the impetus to improve your game.
At the very least, it might make you think twice before telling that next bad beat story. Trust me, the player sitting next to you at the poker table will thank me.