Saturday, September 6, 2008

If It’s Friday…

Home Game last night. I went late for the cash game segment, for as I have mentioned before, I am dead money in the tournament portion of the evening. I counted six cars in the drive, considerably fewer cars than usual, and walked into a seven-handed game. Maybe a lot of people had already busted out and gone home. Nope, and for some reason the blinds were still at 100/200 two and one half hours after the game was supposed to begin. Things felt off-kilter. L, King of All Donks, was, for the moment, killing the table with his usual any two cards.

I arrived just in time to see the host, R, bust out with AKs against L’s A3h when L picked up a 3. R was miffed, not only because it was L, but I also suspect because he is almost always in the money, maybe 90% of the time. R does not like to lose. I know, who does, yet when it is to L, you can see the ire rise. His face turns red, which is really quite a sight to see, the flush against his snow-white hair and full beard, like a pimple in reverse. To R’s credit, he went for a walk and cooled off a bit. He is, after all, the gracious host.

R had been sitting at the head of the table and L was to his right. I took the seat just to watch, and see every hand that L had in the hole. I watched him play both 82s and 82 off, successfully stealing a pot on the flop with the latter from the BB when it was just he and the SB in the hand. How, then, would he play the AJ off from UTG with four players left? He limped. The Button, P, raised 3 x BB, the blinds folded and L called. J on the flop and L shoves. The button calls and has L covered. AA holds up.

The sad part is that L left shortly thereafter. I was hoping for a repeat of last week’s game in which his stack became mine. I continued to watch the game and to watch P eventually win, and soon thereafter we sat down to a short-handed cash game.

By the time the cash game started, things were pretty loose, in more ways than one, yet probably all ways related. There’s alcohol involved: P drinks 16-oz cans of Busch Light (I know, yuk); F was drinking Fat Tire; I had one bottle of Stella Artois left in the fridge from last week’s game; R rarely drinks while playing and wasn’t tonight; F’s cousin was nursing a Snapple; and the kid at the table, B, wasn’t drinking either. P and F drove the action.

I had R to my right and F’s cousin to my left, which is the way I wanted it. I can read both of them fairly well. R gives off a vibe that telegraphs his hand in a way that is hard to describe. It’s a subtle shift in his demeanor. F’s cousin plays ABC poker and is a bit of a chaser. You know when he has a big hand and you know when he’s on a draw. The kid, B, wears his hand on his sleeve, so there’s no problem there either. P and F are a little harder to figure out. No, make that a lot harder, and add to that the fact that they’ll play marginal hands preflop without a second thought.

I was holding my own. I was up about 50% with some good postflop play and a pair of Ks that went uncontested postflop. A $6 raise in this .50/1.00 game is seen as a challenge to call. And now that I think back on the evening, it’s seen as an indication that a player has a middle pocket pair. I know this because after a big hand, a discussion often ensues.

Because this game has pretty much the same cast of characters each week, there is a level of comfort and familiarity that, in the end, makes the game a little more challenging. As a hand is being played, the peanut gallery often chimes in with their reads. I don’t like this aspect, and don’t indulge, yet I keep quiet about it. I have already made my feelings known about rat holing, and had the house rules changed, so I had changed enough. I did note, however, if F didn’t like the chorus during a hand he was in, he spoke up. Too late. Nor did it subside.

F felted R, which was all the R could handle and he silently went to bed. The kid had bought in for $20 and was soon gone, leaving a four-handed game. I thought we might call it a night, but no, we were just getting started. M showed up to the game, a bit tipsy from a birthday party and was ready to throw some cash around. We now had three loose players at the table.

I began to take some hits. P called my raise and hit a K with his K7h to my AJs, I had a gutshot on the flop. He called my C-bet, I fired another bullet on the turn when it paired the board. He wasn’t budging and I gave up the ghost. UTG I pick up AQ and limp, knowing that if I were to raise, I’m going to get 3 callers. I’ll hope to hit the flop and go from there. M has different ideas. From the SB and with three limps behind him, he raises to $6. I’m his only caller. The flop is all small and M fires out $10. I figure with two overcards, I’ll see another card. The turn is small again and M bets $20. I fold. He shows A8c. OK… He may have had a gutshot.

I use this information to my advantage. I am in two more hands HU with M. Kings in the hole and he doesn’t believe me (remember, middle pair) and I take a portion of his stack. Then a nut flush river. He went into the tank with my value bet. No dice. He had caught an A on the flop, the turn paired my Kc and had it kept me in the hand. He showed his Ace with a 5s. I am now back above even.

It’s getting late. I have chores in the morning but I don’t want to leave the game just yet. I decide instead to shift my usual tight play into a limpfest. I’m up $12 and I’ll use that to see any two cards twelve times and then go home. Seven hands into this strategy I pick up 10s from UTG and bet $6, the reminder of my profit. As anticipated, I get two callers, P and F. (M is nursing his last $15.) The flop is Q 10 3, all hearts. F is the BB and bets $10 into a $18.50 pot. I re-raise another $20. I have $27 behind. F goes into the tank, P remarks that it is obvious I don’t want a call, F says he’s getting 3 to 1 to call, fiddles with his stack of $5 chips, and I’m kicking myself in the ass for not shoving. I had thought that putting in three times his bet would be enough of a psychological deterrent; instead, he’s doing the math. F calls. I know what F has. He has the Ah with a Q. I want F to know what I have too, loud and clear, and I shove the rest of my stack in blind.

The turn is a blank. He goes in the tank again, still shuffling those green chips. He mutters “6 to 1” and P is egging him on to call. I’m silently begging for mercy. After at least four minutes of this, F folds and asks for a rabbit hunt. Another blank. Oh well. I’m happy with the outcome. Yet, I have to think back over the hand. Had I shoved the flop, he may have folded and I’d be out an additional $20. Had I shoved the flop and, as unlikely as it was, he held two hearts, I’d be screwed. My raise on the flop was to find out where I was at and to send a message. The problem was that I was then left with so little behind that I was at his mercy. I am left thinking that I played the hand marginally well and got marginally lucky.

I stayed for another orbit and, having nearly doubled up, called it a night around 2am, only to come home and, before going to bed, flop quad Jacks on Poker Academy. My HU opponent boated up on the turn.

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