“Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.”
I finally had that big night. It’s probably the competitor in me, but whenever I see a good player leaving the table carrying 5 racks of chips, I was always a little jealous that I’d never been able to do the same. Last night I finally did it, crushing my all time record by pulling in $1100 in 7 hours at the loose-passive $6-12 game. My big hands (except for Aces) held up, and the deck was hitting me in the face. My bankroll has never been healthier, and I’m having trouble finding a virgin to offer up to the poker gods as thanks.
I found this quote in an entry from June 20th, after my last big win ($600 in an all day session):
“It sure feels good to wake up after a big win. You grind, grind, grind, and always there is one player filling his 5 racks after catching cards all night, while you sit there with your 2 big bets per hour. And then finally, your hands hold up for once, and it’s you bringing your tower of chips to the cashier with a big smile, and that smile just keeps on goin until the next day.”
This time I won almost twice as much, so I guess my smile was twice as big.
The night started out innocently enough. Arriving at HP after work, I had planned to meet up with Victor, a $15-30 player on PartyPoker who had flown in from Miami that morning. I got there first, and sat down at a $100 NL while I waited for a juicy $6-12 to open up. One the funniest things at Hollywood Park is the difference in demographic between the No-Limit tables and the limit tables. The average age at the NL tables is somewhere around 23, compared to about 50 at the limit tables. The NL games are relatively tight (these are college kids with no money), depending on the time of the day and day of the week. The first hand I was dealt was AK, and managed to take $50 after calling a $20 bet preflop and checkraising the flop when a king flopped. Not a bad start.
A seat at the $6-12 table of dreams opened up, and I watched as 7 players consistently limped in preflop, and 4 or 5 would call the bettor down to the river. It’s pretty much a blur now, but I remember taking my first couple pots with top pair-top kicker, and the night was off to a good start. Victor showed up and turned out to be a very nice, intelligent guy (I was suspicious since he logs a lot of hours on Party, and he had crushed me in a heads-up pot in a shorthanded game the night before). He went to go sit the $15-30 game, and I went back to winning.
The hands are a blur, but I remember my premium hands holding up, and hitting a couple draws on the river for big pots. At one point the players at the table (some of them the same people who sucked out on me all weekend) were grumbling about me taking all their money, and for the first time I can remember, I couldn’t keep track of my chip stacks any longer. Victor was planning on playing the 7:15 NL tourney, and I debated if I should join him. At around 6:45 I counted up my chips, and found I was up $750 after two and a half hours (I recounted them in disbelief). I didn’t win too many pots, but the ones I won were huge. I decided I would protect my winnings by playing in the tourney, an $80 buy in along with $200 other players.
Tourneys are a bit too high-variance for me, but I have to admit that they are a blast. I paid my fee and drew seat 1, table 1, and Victor told me that it was a sign of good things to come. 210 players were in, and 5 of the players at my table had been watching a little too much WPT. The other 5 were pretty solid (a young asian guy on my left ended up winning the whole thing), and I knew if I could get some decent cards early I would be in excellent shape.
Alas, I was tired after getting up early for work, and I just didn’t feel as focused as I did the previous Sunday, where I finished 10th. I’ve often heard that a single mistake in a tourney is one too many, and I made 3 mistakes.
Mistake #1: Very early on, I get QQ in the BB. A tight player with about half my chips raises 100 chips UTG (blinds are 15-30), and I’m almost sure he has either AA, KK, or AK. Everyone folds to me, and I raise it to 300. He pushes all in, but I sense weakness. Must be AK. I call, and the King hits on the turn, doubling him up. I think a better play here is to call the flop bet, and then put a big bet out on the harmless flop. I win less here, but it’s much less risky in the early stages in the tourney. Sigh. My tournament game needs work.
Mistake #2: Blinds up to 25-50, and I raise to 150 UTG with AQo– people are playing junk and I need to pick up chips, so I think this play is reasonable here. A mysterious player who’d been playing a lot of hands goes all in from Middle position and I put him on a middle pair. Folding leaves me with about 500 chips, so I throw my chips in thinking it’ll be a coin flip. He turns over AK, but I hit the queen on the river for the bad beat and double up. Back in business. Maybe Mistake 2 and Mistake 1 cancel each other out here, but it was still a bad play by me.
Mistake #3: Blinds still at 25-50, a player who has won 3 hands in a row tries a steal raise from the button. I see AJ in the BB, and call 100 more chips to see a flop, planning to make a move on any slightly favorable flop. Flop is J T rag, with 2 diamonds. I check, he bets 150, and I raise it to 600 (about half my stack). He calls, and I’m thinking he has overcards or a flush draw. The river is a 7, and I push. He beats me into the pot with 98o for the gutshot, and I’m gone.
Not my best tourney, but I don’t mind the way I played. A big stack at that table would have gone a long way (in fact, the kid who did accumulate chips ended up winning the whole thing), so the extra risk early on seemed like the best move. In general I try to survive early and make moves in the middle stages, but with a big field and a relatively small stack, I changed my strategy.
For all you celebrity poker fans, Michael Ian Black was at the table next to me, and ended up finishing somewhere around 15th. Seemed like a good guy.
I went back to the $6-12 and tipped the floorman $5 to get me back on the juicy table I had been at before. Meanwhile I checked in on Victor, who had a decent sized stack and seemed to be playing well. I eventually got back to my table, but first had this hand at a new table that had just opened up: I have J8o in the BB (this seems to be my lucky hand, although I don’t really believe in such things). Several limpers, and the flop is J88. Late position guy bets out, and I call along with another player. Turn is another Jack, and I think it’s the first time I’ve had double trips on the same hand (or should we call this an overflowing house?). I raise him on the river and he calls, showing me AA. UTG had AK, and said he almost raised. If he had raised, then late position American Airlines would have 3 bet me out. But it was my lucky night.
I moved back to the other table, but first checked on Victor to see that he had nearly tripled up, and was in good chip position. About 60 players left, and he seemed to be above average. I won a couple pots (and I finally got rivered holding AA) and realized that I had a shot at winning $1K for the first time ever. I told myself to just play my hands and not worry about it, but the arbitrary discrete number was lodged in the back of my mind.
A guy with a familiar face took the seat to my left, just as I was dealt KK for the 3rd time that night. As I raked the pot, he asked me if I was Henry, and I realized that this was the infamous OJ, who is now a dealer there. Turns out that dealer’s have the option of playing while they’re on the clock, so he had a pretty good thing going on. After not catching cards all night, I saw him win 2 hands in a row and then scoop a monster pot with AA before checking out. If you can ride out the variance, you will make a killing in these games.
Victor seemed to have more chips every time I checked, and soon the tourney was down to 20 players. 1st paid something like 7K, so I was rooting on my man, thinking of the party afterwards if he managed to win the thing. Did I mention this was his first live tournament? But his all in with pocket 8s was unlucky enough to go against KK, and he was down to only a few chips. Somehow he hung on, and made the final table with a single chip.
I gave him the old “chip and a chair” pep talk, and UTG he was all in with KJo. Called by A9, and he was able to double up. Next hand he’s able to call two raisers with KK in the BB, and he triples up. I go back to my game, wondering if it’ll be a chip and a chair story like Jack Straus’. Not much action for a while, but then Vic takes a stand with K8s in the BB from a big stack who has been stealing all day. Big stack raises from the button and Vic can only survive one more round of blinds, and Vic shoves his chips and hopes to see QJ or JT. But big stack rolls over Acey-Deucy, and the race is on. An 8 flops and the tension builds, but I know there’s only 3 cards in the deck that beat him, so I’m not worried. Until an Ace hits on the river and it’s over.
But hey, 10th place out of 210 in your first live tourney ain’t bad.
We end up sitting together at $6-12 and I win a couple pots to push me over the $1K mark. I drop Vic off and say my goodbyes, cruising home to the sounds of Uncle Tupelo in a tired but happy bliss.
So how’d I do it? Great play? Great cards? Divine intervention? Sadly, it was none of those. The $6-12 at HP is monkey poker, much like the .50-1 on Party. Odds and Implied Odds are the only thing that matter at loose-passive tables, and the pots are so big that you end up having to call if you catch any bit of the flop. Here are my tips for beating these no fold-em loose-passive LA games:
1. Nearly any starter is playable for 1 bet, since you are getting somewhere around 20-1 or better on your call. 6 or 7 players preflop (7 small bets) plus 4 or 5 callers on the flop (5 small bets) plus 3 or 4 who will follow you to the river (total of 6-12 BBs, or 12-24 SBs depending if you can get a raise in). So that’s an average of around 28 Small bets in the pot on the river. So if you can limp in, you’re getting (optimistically) something like 28-1 on your money. Suited Aces and Kings are big hands here, and suited one gappers are definitely playable. I’ll often play suited 2 gappers if I have position, or any connecting cards above 65. Of course, if you don’t dump your hand if you catch some of the flop, it’s going to cost you a lot of money.
2. Bet counting is important, since odds calculation is impossible without knowing the number of bets in the pot. It’s often correct to call with bottom pair, since you probably have enough money in the pot to draw to your 5 outer. Calling with overcards is rarely good, since there are so many in that most likely it will give somebody else two pair.
3. Ramming and Jamming is key, and you should maximize the money in the pot with your flush and straight draws. See Izmet for more.
4. I discussed this in my last post, but determining whether to check or bet for value is very difficult in these games. Try to read your player, and remember that the pot is so big at this point that crying calls are almost mandatory.
It’s nice to have a big night, but it would be much nicer to know that skill, knowledge, and good play was what gets the money, rather than being able to count bets and compute odds. But I’ll get there soon enough…