Gavin Griffin: From Poker High Roller to Low Stakes Grinder
Poker's First Triple Crown Winner Swallows Pride To Rebuild His Bankroll
Monte Carlo – April 2, 2007
Starting the hand roughly 100 big blinds deep, I raise the button (small blind) with K 5 to 150k with blinds of 25k-50k. Marc Karam three bets out of the BB to 400k. If this were today I would either reraise or fold. I’m a much better tournament player now than I was back then. In addition, this was the fifth day of a grueling and extremely high pressure tournament with a $1 million difference between first and second, I was sick, and Marc was annoying the hell out of me by playing really well. I make a small mistake and just call. The flop is 4-3-2 rainbow.
Marc leads for 500k. There really aren’t many better flops for me in the deck. I have, at the very worst, eight outs. More likely I have 11. This also isn’t the type of flop that smashes Marc’s range. I decide I’m ready to play for stacks if he’s willing. I put in half my stack, 2 million. He moves in very quickly and I get a count to make sure I didn’t misread our stacks. It’s about 2.5 million more, so I call.
His face dropped. “You call?”
“Don’t worry, you have the best hand.” I said.
He shows 7-4 offsuit and I couldn’t be happier. I have 14 outs and a nearly dead heat. This is the biggest moment of my life up to this point but I feel calm and collected. I have nothing left to do. They do the obligatory pause before dealing the turn, a board pairing trey. Things are slightly worse now, I’m a 3-to-2 dog with one card to come.
The dealer pauses for an eternity, burns one, and turns over a life changing K. One small fist pump and I shake Marc’s hand and congratulate him. He played a super tough match. I head over to my girlfriend Amy, now my wife, for a big hug and a bit of a cry.
The rest of the night is, oddly, crystal clear. Fireworks at the trophy ceremony. Pictures for an hour. Interviews. A press conference? More pictures. Filling out paperwork. Begrudgingly going to the bar (remember I was sick and we had a 6 a.m. flight home). Champagne poured on my head. Flaming shots.
Los Angeles – Jan 4, 2012
It’s my first time in this poker room with the beach murals on the walls. I came here to avoid familiar faces. I’m embarrassed. 2011 shattered many of my dreams and most of my ego. I was in a bad place mentally all year and that made for some bad decisions in my poker career. I managed my bankroll poorly and by the end of the year was playing some uninspired poker. I need to find a way to fix this. So, I’ve decided to drop down in limits, fix my game, and rebuild.
It’s humbling to be where I’m at but I got here through my own doing and I’m going to get myself out. I put my name on the board for $8-$16 Omaha eight-or-better and take an empty seat in $8-$16 hold ‘em. I’m grateful for some things. I’m grateful that I’m not a specialist. I am competent at all of the games and very good at some of them. I have the luxury of varied game selection and I plan to use it.
I’ve given myself some questions to ask each day.
1. How well did I control my emotions?
2. Everyone makes mistakes, but did I learn from the mistakes I made?
3. Did I game and seat select aggressively?
4. Did I honestly evaluate my mental state and energy level?
5. Did I go on “auto pilot” at any point or did I actively think about decisions?
These are important pieces of information to consider during and after each session. There can be no improvement without thought about the things we plan to do and reflection on the things we have done.
I’ve also committed to transcribing every hand I play during the day. Of course, there are some that I miss because I raise and the blinds fold or because I play a significant and interesting pot and then lose the next hand I play in the shuffle as I attempt to record the details and thoughts of the previous hand. Nonetheless, it’s a struggle to train myself to record all of these hands. Not to mention the fact that they are somewhat hard to record because low limit games tend to have more multiway pots that make transcribing much harder. Another factor that I didn’t consider is that as the night goes on and I’m feeling tired or losing focus, the hands get harder to transcribe.
I take my seat in the Omaha eight-or-better game after playing a few uninteresting orbits of hold ‘em. Not surprisingly, I’m the youngest in the game by 20-plus years. The Omaha table at your local casino is usually populated by the oldest and crankiest individuals in the room. I’m not sure whether Omaha draws these types or if you just age faster and get crankier the more you play the game. Luckily though, this game is not filled with your usual group of curmudgeons.
Before long I’m reminded of the main difference of high and low limit Omaha and most games in general. The game is slower paced, less aggressive by an order of magnitude and multiway action is the norm. This is the type of game where drawing to anything other than the nuts is death, a bet on the river means a real hand and a raise on the river means you should fold. Surprisingly, given that information, people call the river way too often. I saw a second overcall on an A-8-6-8-6 board by A-J-5-2 when there had been a bet and call four or five ways on every street.
My plans to take advantage of these weaknesses are to value bet the river thinner and bluff in key spots when heads up because I’m quite sure these players are vastly inexperienced at playing heads up.
My life journey has brought me through some incredible times and into dark days. I had incredible poker success at a very young age when I became the youngest World Series of Poker bracelet winner ever at the time. Then I went on to add an EPT and WPT championship to my resume, making me the first Triple Crown winner ever. Not long after that I was brought on by PokerStars to be a Team Pro. After a couple years of less than stellar performance, we parted ways. Now I’m working with a startup poker site and trying to restart my game. I’m going into this year with a plan that I expect to execute to the best of my ability. I’m going to work my way through these lower limits and share the things I learn with Card Player readers in an interest to better my game and yours. Here’s to a knowledge filled new year. ♠
Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG
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