Just before the book’s publication, we spoke with Tommy about it.
“The book is called Painless Poker because most of it takes place at a fictional place called the Painless Poker Clinic,” he explained. “What happens at the clinic is, I’m sitting there alone and seven archetypal poker players beam-in at their moment of greatest pain. Each of them has a story to tell about what they were doing at the moment they got beamed to the clinic.”
Once the players have arrived at the clinic, Tommy teaches “a two-day seminar to them on how to reduce pain — both in poker and in life,” with the different characters representing “all the various types of pain that we experience in poker.”
Today Tommy shares with us one more excerpt from the book, this one describing the “beam-in hand” that brought Charlie, one of the players, to the Painless Poker clinic.
CHARLIE’S BEAM-IN HAND
“Help me understand,” Mr. Lee said. “You moved to Las Vegas to play poker on computer?”
“It does sound funny when you put it like that,” Charlie said.
“You don’t play live at all?” Sonny said.
“I go to Aria maybe twice a month. I actually like playing live, when the mood hits me. But usually it’s an order of magnitude slower than I can bear. One of my roommates grinds live full time. I don’t know how he can stand it.”
“Have you ever ventured outdoors?” Babs waved at Charlie’s bone-white skin.
Charlie looked at the backs of his hands. “I don’t much need to. But yeah, it’s been good in Vegas overall. My blog is gaining notoriety, and I review hands for a few guys. I don’t charge much. I just like doing it. And it helps my game. But who knows. Could lead to something. Look at you.”
I clasped my hands eagerly. “But what the crowd wants to know is, what were you doing when you beamed to the clinic?”
“Okay. Here it is.” Charlie looked down to tug at the sleeve of his wrinkled T-shirt. “I was home alone. My roommates were out playing poker or partying or whatever, and Vegas got hit by this gigantic storm.”
“In the middle of the desert?” Victor said.
“It is true,” Alfonzo said. “Las Vegas is a land of high winds, and the occasional thunderstorm.”
“I’d seen a handful in three years,” Charlie said. “But nothing like this. I was in my room, 12-tabling $2/4 and $3/6 no-limit, and I ran into a horrific run of coolers. I burned through 12.4% of my BR running 6 buy-ins under EV.”
Mr. Lee laughed at the language. Alfonzo looked at Charlie and said, “You should endeavor to be more parseable.”
And then Alfonzo translated for Mr. Lee. “He said he was running bad.”
“And that’s when you came to clinic?” Mr. Lee asked.
Charlie’s puffy shoulders closed in. “Not eeeven close.”
I felt the group slump with dread. We all knew this story all too well. Charlie detailed the blows…
“I was so rattled, I quit all my tables and hopped into a headsup $25/50 game, with some lunatic gamblero named TESTING.”
“You jumped from $3/6 hold’em to $25/50 pot-limit Omaha?” Alfonzo said. “This is not the act of a rational man.”
“Bankroll tilt,” I said.
“That was me,” Charlie said. “Bankroll tilted. First time in months.”
“And just how much bankroll are we talking about here?” Victor said.
“My roll was approximately $25,000.”
“Why PLO?” I asked. “Why not hold’em?”
“More all-ins,” said Charlie. “And I’ve never studied PLO, so I can’t accurately analyze how badly I play.”
“Crafty!” I said.
“I thought you’d appreciate that.” His shoulders opened up a bit. “So, I sit down with TESTING, and I buy in for the maximum, $5,000.”
“There will be blood,” Victor said.
“With no waiting,” Charlie said. “Right on the very first hand I flopped the nut straight with the nut flush draw. We got all-in, and of course the board paired, and just like that I was stuck 5K. That’s 100 hours of grinding $2/4 and $3/6, gone.”
“Fifty per hour is your typical earn rate?” I said.
“After you factor for tilt? Yes.”
“Sorry, keep going.”
“Then came what will always be one of the most epically brutal hands ever. I flopped quads, and somehow I lost to a straight draw.”
“You gotta love Omaha,” said Babs.
“I had AA22, TESTING had 5433, and the flop was 6-2-2.”
“Oh my god,” Victor said. “Running threes?”
“He flopped a straight draw on a paired board,” Charlie said. “Dangerous, but not terrible headsup. And he had every right to fall in love with his hand on the turn when he spiked a three for threes full. That’s when we got all-in. When I still had him nutted up.”
“Nearly nutted,” Alfonzo said.
“Obviously,” said Charlie. “When the three paired on the river, it never occurred to me that I could lose this hand. So when the pot went to him, I was in shock. Then I saw his quad threes and wow, I mean, of all the times for a hand like this to happen? When I’m on full tilt playing $25/50?” Charlie’s leg was shaking so hard I could hear it.
“I know what you mean.” Sonny Moon twirled a strand of blond hair sticking out from under his cap. “It’s like the cards are out to destroy you.”
“So now I was stuck ten thousand,” Charlie said. “That’s two fifths of my starting bankroll, in case anyone lost track. So I did what any loony tune would do and I reloaded one more time, for another $5,000. And the very next hand I got A-A-J-10, double suited.”
“A proper hand to take to the felt, to be sure,” Alfonzo said.
“What happened was almost worse,” Charlie said. “I raised, and TESTING folded before the flop. So I won a whopping big blind with that hand.” Charlie sighed. “Although the way I was running, he probably would have sucked out again.”
“I was thinking same,” Mr. Lee said.
“The weird this is, I didn’t feel all that bad, even though I was in the middle of a total meltdown. I felt safe actually.”
“Because you were at your loss limit?” I said.
“That must have been it,” Charlie said. “I knew I’d quit if I blew this 5K. I’d still have 10K, enough to survive on, and build back up from. This wasn’t my first trip down this road.”
“Amen to that,” said Sonny.
“Then came the final fiasco. Preflop, I raised and TESTING called. I flopped the nut flush and bet half pot. He called. The turn was a blank. I bet the pot and he called. The river was another blank. I still had the nuts.
“I had $3,350 left and the pot was $3,300. I bet the pot thinking finally I was going to win a meaningful pot. About friggin time.
“You know those thunderclaps that start slow and build? Like they are tearing the sky in two? And then blow it up? That was the scene outside. Inside, it was $3,300 for him to call, and happy days, he went all-in, so now it was $50 more to me, and right then — Ka-POW! — it felt like the house got hit by a meteor.”
Charlie held his closed hands out and shook his forearms.
“I have this MC Escher print,” he said. “The one with the two hands drawing themselves? It fell off the wall. Huge crash. Glass everywhere. But that was nothing. The time bar had stopped. My game was frozen. Ten grand in the pot, and all I had to do to win it was call my last $50. But I couldn’t. I was disconnected.”
“You lost internet in middle of hand?” Mr. Lee asked.
“Yes sir,” Charlie said.
“And you have to fold?”
“At the site I was on, you get 90 seconds to reconnect. If you don’t make it back online in time, your hand is automatically folded.”
“Even with the nuts?”
Charlie’s voice rose. “Why do you think you are hearing this story?”
“Sorry,” Mr. Lee said. “Please, what happen next?”
“I opened the clock app on my phone because it shows seconds. And then the rain hit, all at once, deafening. For all I knew there was a hole in the roof and the upstairs was flooding. But I wasn’t going anywhere. I was frozen, like my computer. I just sat there, watching my 90 seconds tick away, praying for a miracle.
“And then — Ka-BLAM! A palm tree blew over and smashed into some power lines. Took down two telephone poles, along with a transformer that hit the ground with a massive explosion.”
“You saw this?” Sonny said.
“Right out my window.”
“That must have been awesome!”
“Any other day it would have been.” Charlie took a chug from his Mountain Dew. “Darn palm trees. They just planted them. That must be what hit the house. Must have snapped the cable.”
We were all listening to Charlie think out loud.
“But after that transformer went kapooey…”
Charlie’s leg stopped.
“…all hope was most definitely lost that I might get reconnected in 40 seconds, 39, 38. The only light anywhere was from the numbers counting down on my phone. I was devastated. I donked off 15 grand in 15 minutes. That is one heckuva sum of money in the hands of someone like me. And now I’m starting over from the same spot I dropped down to last time this happened, and oh yeah, the time before that. Criminy. How many more times? I mean, what’s the point of even trying to build up a bankroll?”
“Beam me up, Tommy,” Babs said.
Charlie nodded and wiped his eyes.
World-class coach and author, Tommy Angelo is considered a modern master of poker’s mental game, and has helped pros and rec players alike achieve less tilt and more focus. Called “the seminal poker text of the 21st century” by The London Times, Angelo’s Elements of Poker has revolutionized how serious players approach the game. His latest book, Painless Poker, already a bestseller, can be found on Amazon.com. Connect with Tommy on Twitter @TheTommyAngelo, and visit his website: tommyangelo.com.