Online meltdown

A moment of madness gets Mark Stuart thinking about how to avoid online blow-ups

I sat in my seat… absolutely gutted that I’d blown-up from such a promising situation

It’s 2am, I’ve got work in the morning, and my eyelids are getting heavy. But I’m playing in Full Tilt’s FTOPS series, and with a $1.5m guaranteed prize pool, now is not the time to worry about turning up for work an hour late. I’m playing in the same field as Mike Matusow, Huck Seed, Erick Lindgren, and a host of other Full Tilt pros.

What’s more, I’ve got double the average chip stack with just 900 or so players left from a starting field of over 2,500. The prize money starts at 400 places and, it’s fair to say, I’m getting very excited about the prospect of going deep.

But then, without warning, I’m suddenly given a sickening reminder of why it’s dangerous to play when tired, and how no-limit Hold’em is such a difficult game to master. A mid-position player makes a standard raise to 720 (blinds 120/240). I’m on the button and wake up to Jacks. I figure with my big stack (nearly 15,000) a decent raise will probably take this pot down, so I raise to 2000. Everyone folds round to Original Raiser, who now re-raises to 5000. The re-reraise was screaming monster hand, but my tired, addled brain was thinking, ‘How dare he! My Jacks are a BIG pair – he’s just making a tricky play…’

So – you guessed it – I instantly maxed the betting tracker slidey thing, before confirming that I did indeed want to go ‘all-in’. Of course, he had Kings and called, nobody improved, and I was out – he had me covered by a measly few hundred. I sat in my seat in complete shock, absolutely gutted that I’d blown-up from such a promising situation. I then tried to reason why I’d made such a ridiculous move – I was tired, I was overconfident, I overestimated my opponent, I underestimated my opponent, I was impetuous. But the overriding feeling I had at the time was that it felt like someone else had grabbed my hand and made me press the all-in button.

I came to the conclusion that playing on the internet engenders these kinds of rash plays from time to time. My job now is to stop it happening again.

Computer error

I should say I’m talking solely about internet play here because it’s far easier and more common when sitting behind a computer screen with no one watching to just blow up and hit the all-in button; when someone’s staring you down in a cardroom it’s a bit harder to shove all your chips across the line. So, in an attempt to take more time in tough situations when playing online I’ve come up with some suggestions to avoid no-limit meltdown.

1. Take your hand off the mouse. With your grubby mitts still attached to the mouse, it’s so easy to make a rash decision. But if you place your hand on your lap after every hand, and have to physically move it to the mouse in order to check/bet/fold you give your brain some thinking time, eradicating split-second decisions.

2. Play with real chips. Former world snooker champion Steve Davis, who managed to cash in the WSOP Main Event last year, recommends having chips in front of you while you play at your computer. That way you place bets with your real chips first, then click on the action you want to take.

This also gives some perspective to how big your stack is and how much you’re putting in the pot, rather than just seeing numbers on a screen.

3. Take a screenshot of the last big mistake you made – and set it as your desktop wallpaper. Then, every time you have a do-or-die decision to make, take a look at it and ask yourself if the move you’re about to make really is what you want to do. This gives you some time to think before making a costly error.

4. One last thing to bear in mind when playing online is that most of the time players are telling you, via their betting, what they have got. Usually, big bets mean big hands. Of course, sometimes you’ll be bluffed, but that’s okay. What really counts is that when it comes to the big decisions – the ones that make or break your tournament – you assess the situation calmly in your mind instead of hitting the all-in button and undoing hours of hard work.

If only I’d thought of that before…

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