Monday, July 14, 2008

Got gamble?

Posted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 7:40 pm
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Mason Malmuth, in his Poker Essays Vol. III, writes that a serious beginner should look to move out of the lower limit games as quickly as he or she can. The thinking behind this is that as one’s game improves, one can also begin to develop some bad habits in the lower rooms that will not fly against better players. In effect, the longer one plays lower limit games, the greater the chance is that one will begin to consistently play poorly. At the end of the cautionary advice, he says that as soon as one’s bankroll can handle it, move on.

With a bum leg and a forecast of rain limiting my involvement with farm duties, I went back to the casino for another marathon session Thursday night through Friday. This time, I was not going to repeat the same performance I had a couple weeks ago of playing long past my bedtime. I rented a room for the night so I could take a break, catch a session of “Poker After Dark” and get some sleep.

It took a while for a $1/2 table to start up Thursday, but after about a 2 hour wait, a new table started and nine players set down with new stacks ranging from $40 to the full buy-in of $200. There were some regulars (first name basis with the dealers), a husband and wife tourist team, and a couple other folks I’d played with before. This is my eighth visit to the casino, and much to my surprise, many of the dealer now used my first name. (My wife says this is because I am a good tipper, which I am.)

The game is friendly. A lot of chatter. Too friendly. I put on my iPod to try and remove myself from the banter. There is nothing special about this game except the tourist wife, who obviously has not played much, takes down a few good-sized pots while her husband struggles to catch a flop, and an older guy who is a calling station. The latter manages quad aces at one point, builds a good-sized stack, donks it off and re-buys. I patiently wait for a hand.

Kings in the small blind with several limpers. I bet $15, and everyone folds except the station. Flop is all low and he goes all in with about $80. I say, “I’m probably beat but I have to call. He flips over AJ unsuited. Turn and river more blanks. He says, “Well, I have to go home anyway.” I think to myself, what a dumb move, but a couple minutes later it dawns on me: he was hoping to spike an ace! Sonuvabitch!

The rest of the night goes fairly well. I continue to play tight against some of the LAGs that tend to show up around 11:00 pm and end up about $160. Bedtime.

Friday morning I’m up and ready to go by 9:00. There’s a tourney about to start and the rest of the tables are playing Limit. I sign up for $1/2 NL and prepare to wait a while with a coffee in hand and my choice of slots. Fek the slots. I sign up for a $2/4 Limit and catch a seat fairly quickly. It’s a walk in the sunshine with my wife, hand in hand, not a care in the world. I make $20 in short order and get called for a new $1/2 table.

This table is a lot different from the night before. For one, it’s all men. The testosterone is thick. There are the usuals: the old guy who knows how to play and is aggressive, the young guns who never crack a smile, the yakker LAG whom I’ve played numerous times, some touristy/bookish types and the mouth breather with gastric problems.

The game starts off just fine. In fact, I’m doing quite well. My AK, AA and KK hold up, I limp with 8 5 suited late and take a sizable pot, and I begin to envision myself as the one to beat at the table. Of course, that then becomes a problem: I am the one to beat at the table. Soon my raises get four callers. My AK doesn’t hit; my JJ UTG gets the same treatment, and so begins my decline.

JJ UTG. I bet $12. I know it says big pocket pair. Flop come KK4. I check and fold as the old guys shows pocket 9s. I limp from early position with pocket 3s. Mouthbreather raises to $7 from middle position and gets three callers, including me. Flop gives me a set with an A on the board and I end up taking about $100 from him with his AQ. He’s pissed. A few hands later I get KK in the Big Blind, raise it up to $15 after 3 limpers, Mouthbreather calls. Flop is 23J. I bet the pot and he calls, asking, “You have pocket 3’s again? He calls. Turn is a blank and I fire again. I bet about a third of the pot and he calls. I put him on AJ. River is a J, I check and fold, saying, “You got me sport” as I flip over my kings.

Some time goes by and I get those damn kings again, this time in the small blind. I raise it up and get four limpers cum callers again. Mouthbreather is again one of them. Flop comes A J 10. Sheesh. Four callers, one of them has the ace for sure, another probably hit their straight, and there’s 2 clubs out there, which I have none. I make a small bet and get 2 callers and Mouthman raises. I fold and he gets two callers. Turn is a king and I kick myself, but not too hard as I was probably beat anyway. River is another 10. Mouthman wins it 10s over Jacks. I’m sick. It was a huge pot.

Actually, this was the second time I’d missed out on a huge pot. I was in the small blind with A9 clubs. Two people had come in for $7. I call and the Big Blind raises. He’s a solid player, works in the lodge at the casino in housekeeping, and we’ve gotten friendly. (He is also the guy who folded his draw to my big pair in an earlier episode of this diary, stating that he knew I was a solid player.) He gets two callers and I fold. Flop comes with two clubs. I silently curse. Long story short, he hits a set of Jacks, I would have hit a nut flush and after going all-in, he takes down about $250. There was plenty of gamble left in the other callers.

Well, I’d told my wife I’d leave at 6:00 pm and the time was nigh. The last hour and a half I played fairly tight. Nothing hit for me, my stack continued to dwindle and my raises got beat, my limps with suited connector didn’t pan out, and my day was done. I looked around the table to see huge stacks and wondered: where was my share? The LAGs had cleaned up, the AA of other players had garnered huge pots, and even the mouthbreather, who after losing $200 early on, and who in my estimation was not such a great player had lucked his way to up about $150. My only consolation was that I wasn’t the old guy who’d lost a huge huge huge pot when his KKKAA was beat by AAAKK. He then went on to lose another 2 buy-ins in fairly short order.

I had a lot to think about on the ride home. What was I doing wrong? And, if I was doing as much wrong as I thought I was, should I even bother playing poker? Eventually, it came to me: my bankroll of $1200 or so cannot gamble. Had I played the hands I wanted to more aggressively, I would have come home with $1,000 or so. Instead, I came home just above even for the two days. Even the hands I won, I did not win as much as I could because I either played too aggressively in order to take to pot ASAP, or played them too cautiously, allowing for draws all the while worrying that I might somehow be beat already. No fun, this scared money play.

So, do I have gamble? No. Do I need gamble to play successful poker? Apparently so. What sayeth the community?

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