On a sunny January day in the Bahamas, I took my seat for Day One of the annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, somewhat ready to play in the biggest $10,000 no-limit hold 'em tournament of the year outside of the World Series of Poker Main Event. I say "somewhat" ready because the Atlantis Resort and Casino on Paradise Island is insanely beautiful and rests on a white sand beach. I had never been to Nassau before, and my desire to sit in a chair and work was nearly overshadowed by my desire to sit in the sand and drink $8 Kalik beers.
Several hours into the action, not much good had happened to me, and I was sitting with 25,000 of my original 30,000 in chips. Playing 150-300 blinds with a 25 ante, everybody folded to an aggressive player in the small blind, and once again he raised, making it 900 to go. I had A-Q offsuit and re-raised to 2,400. He then re-raised me to 7,000.
This player had been very active, and I thought my hand was probably better than his, but players generally don't put that much money into the pot with nothing. I could fold, leaving myself with 22,600 -- plenty of chips to work with at these small blind levels. Calling wasn't really a good option, because then there would be 14,225 in the pot, and I'd have 18,000 in my stack. If he was screwing around, I didn't want to give him a free shot to hit a flop. I could shove all-in, either making 7,225 when he folded or finding my tournament life at risk. If he called, that would either put me at more than 50,000 if I won or put me on the beach, both of which sounded much better than folding.
The problem was that I was allowing outside influences to skew my perception of what was going on at the table.
Let's assume that he was four-betting and calling a shove with a range of hands that included pocket 9s or any higher pair, or A-Q offsuit or better.
If I shoved and was called, I'd be in pretty bad shape, only having 35.6 percent equity versus that range. That means he would have to be making bad four-bet/folds often enough to compensate for my equity disparity against his range.
I had no good reason to think that he was messing around enough to make going all-in profitable for me, but I shoved anyway because I wanted to either double up or hit the beach, and I let that mindset cloud my judgment.
He called with A-K offsuit, and soon I was walking outside into the Caribbean breeze, wishing I hadn't been so stupid. I opened losers lounge on the beach, had a fun night and enjoyed the rest of the trip, but I blew my chance to make the trip profitable, and my consequences were a $10,000 deficit and an expensive hotel bill to start off the year.
I learned a lesson though: I shouldn't be playing poker when my head isn't in the game. You have to want to play poker. It doesn't matter if you're playing for pennies or Porches, if you're an amateur or a pro. To get what you want out of our game, you have to be happy sitting in that chair playing cards.
Bryan Devonshire is a professional poker player from Las Vegas. He has amassed more than $1 million in career earnings.